Search Results: "tina"

17 July 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Script for weather reporting in Waybar

While I was living in Argentina, we (my family) found ourselves checking for weather forecasts almost constantly weather there can be quite unexpected, much more so that here in Mexico. So it took me a bit of tinkering to come up with a couple of simple scripts to show the weather forecast as part of my Waybar setup. I haven t cared to share with anybody, as I believe them to be quite trivial and quite dirty. But today, V ctor was asking for some slightly-related things, so here I go. Please do remember I warned: Dirty. Forecast I am using OpenWeather s open API. I had to register to get an APPID, and it allows me for up to 1,000 API calls per day, more than plenty for my uses, even if I am logged in at my desktops at three different computers (not an uncommon situation). Having that, I set up a file named /etc/get_weather/, that currently reads:
# Home, Mexico City
LAT=19.3364
LONG=-99.1819
# # Home, Paran , Argentina
# LAT=-31.7208
# LONG=-60.5317
# # PKNU, Busan, South Korea
# LAT=35.1339
#LONG=129.1055
APPID=SomeLongRandomStringIAmNotSharing
Then, I have a simple script, /usr/local/bin/get_weather, that fetches the current weather and the forecast, and stores them as /run/weather.json and /run/forecast.json:
#!/usr/bin/bash
CONF_FILE=/etc/get_weather
if [ -e "$CONF_FILE" ]; then
    . "$CONF_FILE"
else
    echo "Configuration file $CONF_FILE not found"
    exit 1
fi
if [ -z "$LAT" -o -z "$LONG" -o -z "$APPID" ]; then
    echo "Configuration file must declare latitude (LAT), longitude (LONG) "
    echo "and app ID (APPID)."
    exit 1
fi
CURRENT=/run/weather.json
FORECAST=/run/forecast.json
wget -q "https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/weather?lat=$ LAT &lon=$ LONG &units=metric&appid=$ APPID " -O "$ CURRENT "
wget -q "https://api.openweathermap.org/data/2.5/forecast?lat=$ LAT &lon=$ LONG &units=metric&appid=$ APPID " -O "$ FORECAST "
This script is called by the corresponding systemd service unit, found at /etc/systemd/system/get_weather.service:
[Unit]
Description=Get the current weather
[Service]
Type=oneshot
ExecStart=/usr/local/bin/get_weather
And it is run every 15 minutes via the following systemd timer unit, /etc/systemd/system/get_weather.timer:
[Unit]
Description=Get the current weather every 15 minutes
[Timer]
OnCalendar=*:00/15:00
Unit=get_weather.service
[Install]
WantedBy=multi-user.target
(yes, it runs even if I m not logged in, wasting some of my free API calls but within reason) Then, I declare a "custom/weather" module in the desired position of my ~/.config/waybar/waybar.config, and define it as:
"custom/weather":  
    "exec": "while true;do /home/gwolf/bin/parse_weather.rb;sleep 10; done",
"return-type": "json",
 ,
This script basically morphs a generic weather JSON description into another set of JSON bits that display my weather in the way I prefer to have it displayed as:
#!/usr/bin/ruby
require 'json'
Sources =  :weather => '/run/weather.json',
           :forecast => '/run/forecast.json'
           
Icons =  '01d' => ' ', # d   day
         '01n' => ' ', # n   night
         '02d' => ' ',
         '02n' => ' ',
         '03d' => ' ',
         '03n' => ' ',
         '04d'  => ' ',
         '04n' => ' ',
         '09d' => ' ',
         '10n' =>  '  ',
         '10d' => ' ',
         '13d' => ' ',
         '50d' => ' '
         
ret =  'text': nil, 'tooltip': nil, 'class': 'weather', 'percentage': 100 
# Current weather report: Main text of the module
begin
  weather = JSON.parse(open(Sources[:weather],'r').read)
  loc_name = weather['name']
  icon = Icons[weather['weather'][0]['icon']]   ' ' + f['weather'][0]['icon'] + f['weather'][0]['main']
  temp = weather['main']['temp']
  sens = weather['main']['feels_like']
  hum = weather['main']['humidity']
  wind_vel = weather['wind']['speed']
  wind_dir = weather['wind']['deg']
  portions =  
  portions[:loc] = loc_name
  portions[:temp] = '%s  %2.2f C (%2.2f)' % [icon, temp, sens]
  portions[:hum] = '  %2d%%' % hum
  portions[:wind] = ' %2.2fm/s %d ' % [wind_vel, wind_dir]
  ret['text'] = [:loc, :temp, :hum, :wind].map   p  portions[p] .join(' ')
rescue => err
  ret['text'] = 'Could not process weather file (%s   %s: %s)' % [Sources[:weather], err.class, err.to_s]
end
# Weather prevision for the following hours/days
begin
  cast = []
  forecast = JSON.parse(open(Sources[:forecast], 'r').read)
  min = ''
  max = ''
  day=Time.now.strftime('%Y.%m.%d')
  by_day =  
  forecast['list'].each_with_index do  f,i 
    by_day[day]  = []
    time = Time.at(f['dt'])
    time_lbl = '%02d:%02d' % [time.hour, time.min]
    icon = Icons[f['weather'][0]['icon']]   ' ' + f['weather'][0]['icon'] + f['weather'][0]['main']
    by_day[day] << f['main']['temp']
    if time.hour == 0
      min = '%2.2f' % by_day[day].min
      max = '%2.2f' % by_day[day].max
      cast << '          min: <b>%s C</b> max: <b>%s C</b>' % [min, max]
      day = time.strftime('%Y.%m.%d')
      cast << '        <b>%04d.%02d.%02d</b>  ' %
              [time.year, time.month, time.day]
    end
    cast << '%s   %2.2f C    %2d%%   %s %s' % [time_lbl,
                                                f['main']['temp'],
                                                f['main']['humidity'],
                                                icon,
                                                f['weather'][0]['description']
                                               ]
  end
  cast << '          min: <b>%s</b> C max: <b>%s C</b>' % [min, max]
  ret['tooltip'] = cast.join("\n")
  
rescue => err
  ret['tooltip'] = 'Could not process forecast file (%s   %s)' % [Sources[:forecast], err.class, err.to_s]
end
# Print out the result for Waybar to process
puts ret.to_json
The end result? Nothing too stunning, but definitively something I find useful and even nicely laid out: Screenshot Do note that it seems OpenWeather will return the name of the closest available meteorology station with (most?) recent data for my home, I often get Ciudad Universitaria, but sometimes Coyoac n or even San ngel Inn.

9 July 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: Raising Steam

Review: Raising Steam, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #40
Publisher: Anchor Books
Copyright: 2013
Printing: October 2014
ISBN: 0-8041-6920-9
Format: Trade paperback
Pages: 365
Raising Steam is the 40th Discworld novel and the third Moist von Lipwig novel, following Making Money. This is not a good place to start reading the series. Dick Simnel is a tinkerer from a line of tinkerers. He has been obsessed with mastering the power of steam since the age of ten, when his father died in a steam accident. That pursuit took him deeper into mathematics and precision, calculations and experiments, until he built Iron Girder: Discworld's first steam-powered locomotive. His early funding came from some convenient family pirate treasure, but turning his prototype into something more will require significantly more resources. That is how he ends up in the office of Harry King, Ankh-Morpork's sanitation magnate. Simnel's steam locomotive has the potential to solve some obvious logistical problems, such as getting fish from the docks of Quirm to the streets of Ankh-Morpork before it stops being vaguely edible. That's not what makes railways catch fire, however. As soon as Iron Girder is huffing and puffing its way around King's compound, it becomes the most popular attraction in the city. People stand in line for hours to ride it over and over again for reasons that they cannot entirely explain. There is something wild and uncontrollable going on. Vetinari is not sure he likes wild and uncontrollable, but he knows the lap into which such problems can be dumped: Moist von Lipwig, who is already getting bored with being a figurehead for the city's banking system. The setup for Raising Steam reminds me more of Moving Pictures than the other Moist von Lipwig novels. Simnel himself is a relentlessly practical engineer, but the trains themselves have tapped some sort of primal magic. Unlike Moving Pictures, Pratchett doesn't provide an explicit fantasy explanation involving intruding powers from another world. It might have been a more interesting book if he had. Instead, this book expects the reader to believe there is something inherently appealing and fascinating about trains, without providing much logic or underlying justification. I think some readers will be willing to go along with this, and others (myself included) will be left wishing the story had more world-building and fewer exclamation points. That's not the real problem with this book, though. Sadly, its true downfall is that Pratchett's writing ability had almost completely collapsed by the time he wrote it. As mentioned in my review of Snuff, we're now well into the period where Pratchett was suffering the effects of early-onset Alzheimer's. In that book, his health issues mostly affected the dialogue near the end of the novel. In this book, published two years later, it's pervasive and much worse. Here's a typical passage from early in the book:
It is said that a soft answer turneth away wrath, but this assertion has a lot to do with hope and was now turning out to be patently inaccurate, since even a well-spoken and thoughtful soft answer could actually drive the wrong kind of person into a state of fury if wrath was what they had in mind, and that was the state the elderly dwarf was now enjoying.
One of the best things about Discworld is Pratchett's ability to drop unexpected bits of wisdom in a sentence or two, or twist a verbal knife in an unexpected and surprising direction. Raising Steam still shows flashes of that ability, but it's buried in run-on sentences, drowned in cliches and repetition, and often left behind as the containing sentence meanders off into the weeds and sputters to a confused halt. The idea is still there; the delivery, sadly, is not. This is the first Discworld novel that I found mentally taxing to read. Sentences are often so overpacked that they require real effort to untangle, and the untangled meaning rarely feels worth the effort. The individual voice of the characters is almost gone. Vetinari's monologues, rather than being a rare event with dangerous layers, are frequent, rambling, and indecisive, often sounding like an entirely different character than the Vetinari we know. The constant repetition of the name any given character is speaking to was impossible for me to ignore. And the momentum of the story feels wrong; rather than constructing the events of the story in a way that sweeps the reader along, it felt like Pratchett was constantly pushing, trying to convince the reader that trains were the most exciting thing to ever happen to Discworld. The bones of a good story are here, including further development of dwarf politics from The Fifth Elephant and Thud! and the further fallout of the events of Snuff. There are also glimmers of Pratchett's typically sharp observations and turns of phrase that could have been unearthed and polished. But at the very least this book needed way more editing and a lot of rewriting. I suspect it could have dropped thirty pages just by tightening the dialogue and removing some of the repetition. I'm afraid I did not enjoy this. I am a bit of a hard sell for the magic fascination of trains I love trains, but my model railroad days are behind me and I'm now more interested in them as part of urban transportation policy. Previous Discworld books on technology and social systems did more of the work of drawing the reader in, providing character hooks and additional complexity, and building a firmer foundation than "trains are awesome." The main problem, though, was the quality of the writing, particularly when compared to the previous novels with the same characters. I dragged myself through this book out of a sense of completionism and obligation, and was relieved when I finished it. This is the first Discworld novel that I don't recommend. I think the only reason to read it is if you want to have read all of Discworld. Otherwise, consider stopping with Snuff and letting it be the send-off for the Ankh-Morpork characters. Followed by The Shepherd's Crown, a Tiffany Aching story and the last Discworld novel. Rating: 3 out of 10

1 July 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: Snuff

Review: Snuff, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #39
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: October 2011
Printing: January 2013
ISBN: 0-06-221886-7
Format: Mass market
Pages: 470
Snuff is the 39th Discworld novel and the 8th (and last) Watch novel. This is not a good place to start reading. Sam Vines has been talked, cajoled, and coerced into taking a vacation. Since he is now the Duke of Ankh, he has a country estate that he's never visited. Lady Sybil is insistent on remedying this, as is Vetinari. Both of them may have ulterior motives. They may also be colluding. It does not take long for Vimes to realize that something is amiss in the countryside. It's not that the servants are uncomfortable with him talking to them, the senior servants are annoyed that he talks to the wrong servants, and the maids turn to face the wall at the sight of him. Those are just the strange customs of the aristocracy, for which he has little understanding and even less patience. There's something else going on. The nobility is wary, the town blacksmith is angry about something more than disliking the nobles, and the bartender doesn't want to get involved. Vimes smells something suspicious. When he's framed for a murder, the suspicions seem justified. It takes some time before the reader learns what the local nobility are squirming about, so I won't spoil it. What I will say is that Snuff is Pratchett hammering away at one of his favorite targets: prejudice, cruelty, and treating people like things. Vimes, with his uncompromising morality, is one of the first to realize the depth of the problem. It takes most of the rest longer to come around, even Sybil. It's both painful, and painfully accurate, to contemplate how often recognition of other people's worth only comes once they do something that you recognize as valuable. This is one of the better-plotted Discworld novels. Vimes starts out with nothing but suspicions and stubbornness, and manages to turn Snuff into a mystery novel through dogged persistence. The story is one continuous plot arc with the normal Pratchett color (Young Sam's obsession with types of poo, for example) but without extended digressions. It also has considerably better villains than most Pratchett novels: layers of foot soldiers and plotters, each of which have to be dealt with in a suitable way. Even the concluding action sequences worked for me, which is not always a given in Discworld. The problem, unfortunately, is that the writing is getting a bit wobbly. Pratchett died of early-onset Alzheimer's in 2015, four years after this book was first published, and this is the first novel where I can see some early effects. It mostly shows up in the dialogue: it's just a bit flabby and a bit repetitive, and the characters, particularly towards the end of the book, start repeating the name of the person they're talking to every other line. Once I saw it, I couldn't unsee it, and it was annoying enough to rob a bit of enjoyment from the end of the book. That aside, though, this was a solid Discworld novel. Vimes testing his moral certainty against the world and forcing it into a more ethical shape is always rewarding, and here he takes more risks, with better justification, than in most of the Watch novels. We also find out that Vimes has a legacy from the events of Thud!, which has interesting implications that I wish Pratchett had more time to explore. I think the best part of this book is how it models the process of social change through archetypes: the campaigner who knew the right choice early on, the person who formed their opinion the first time they saw injustice, the person who gets there through a more explicit moral code, the ones who have to be pushed by someone who was a bit faster, the ones who have to be convinced but then work to convince others, and of course the person who is willing to take on the unfair and far-too-heavy burden of being exceptional enough that they can be used as a tool to force other people to acknowledge them as a person. And, since this is Discworld, Vetinari is lurking in the scenery pulling strings, balancing threats, navigating politics, and giving Vimes just enough leeway to try to change the world without abusing his power. I love that the amount of leeway Vimes gets depends on how egregious the offense is, and Vetinari calibrates this quite carefully without ever saying so openly. Recommended, and as much as I don't want to see this series end, this is not a bad entry for the Watch novels to end on. Followed in publication order by Raising Steam. Rating: 8 out of 10

21 June 2024

Gunnar Wolf: A new RISC-V toy... requiring almost no tinkering

Shortly before coming back from Argentina, I got news of a very interesting set of little machines, the MilkV Duo. The specs looked really interesting and fun to play with, particularly those of the bigger model, Milk-V DUO S Some of the highlights: Milk-V Duo S Naturally, for close to only US$12 (plus shipping) for the configuration I wanted I bought one, and got it delivered in early May. The little box sat on my desk for close to six weeks until I had time to start tinkering with it I must say I am surprised. Not only the little bugger delivers what it promises, but it is way more mature than what I expected: It can be used right away without much tinkering with! I mean, I have played with it for less than an hour by now, and I ve even managed to get (almost) regular Debian working. Milk-V distributes a simple, 58.9MB compressed Linux image, based on Buildroot, a simple Linux image generator mostly used for embedded applications, as well as its source tree. I thought that would be a good starting point to work on setting up a minimal Debian filesystem, as I did with the CuBox-i4Pro ten years ago, and maybe even to grow towards a more official solution, akin to what we currently have for the Raspberry Pi family Until I discovered what looks like a friendly and very active online community of Milk-V users! I haven t yet engaged in it, but I stumbled across a thread announcing the availability of Debian images for the Milk-V family. And yes, it feels like a very normal Debian system. /etc/apt/sources.list does point to a third-party repository, but it s for only four packages, all related to pinmux controlfor CVITEK chips. It does feel like a completely normal Debian system! It is not as snappy and fast to load as Buildroot, but given Debian s generality, that s completely as expected. Even the wireless network, one of the usual pain points, works just out of the box! The Debian images can be built or downloaded from this Git repository. In case you wonder how is this system booting or what hardware it detects, I captured two boot logs:

27 May 2024

Sahil Dhiman: A Late, Late Debconf23 Post

After much procrastination, I have gotten around to complete my DebConf23 (DC23), Kochi blog post. I lost the original etherpad which was started before DebConf23, for jotting down things. Now, I have started afresh with whatever I can remember, months after the actual conference ended. So things might be as accurate as my memory. DebConf23, the 24th annual Debian Conference, happened in Infopark, Kochi, India from 10th September to 17th September 2023. It was preceded by DebCamp from 3rd September to 9th September 2023. First formal bid to host DebConf in India was made during DebConf18 in Hsinchu, Taiwan by Raju Dev, which didn t came our way. In next DebConf, DebConf19 in Curitiba, Brazil, another bid was made by him with help and support from Sruthi, Utkarsh and the whole team.This time, India got the opportunity to host DebConf22, which eventually became DebConf23 for the reasons you all know. I initially met the local team on the sidelines of DebConf20, which was also my first DebConf. Having recently switched to Debian, DC20 introduced me to how things work in Debian. Video team s call for volunteers email pulled me in. Things stuck, and I kept hanging out and helping the local Indian DC team with various stuff. We did manage to organize multiple events leading to DebConf23 including MiniDebConf India 2021 Online, MiniDebConf Palakkad 2022, MiniDebConf Tamil Nadu 2023 and DebUtsav Kochi 2023, which gave us quite a bit of experience and workout. Many local organizers from these conferences later joined various DebConf teams during the conference to help out. For DebConf23, originally I was part of publicity team because that was my usual thing. After a team redistribution exercise, Sruthi and Praveen moved me to sponsorship team, as anyhow we didn t had to do much publicity and sponsorship was one of those things I could get involved remotely. Sponsorship team had to take care of raising funds by reaching out to sponsors, managing invoices and fulfillment. Praveen joined as well in sponsorship team. We also had international sponsorship team, Anisa, Daniel and various Debian Trusted Organizations (TO)s which took care of reaching out to international organizations, and we took care of reaching out to Indian organizations for sponsorship. It was really proud moment when my present employer, Unmukti (makers of hopbox) came aboard as Bronze sponsor. Though fundraising seem to be hit hard from tech industry slowdown and layoffs. Many of our yesteryear sponsors couldn t sponsor. We had biweekly local team meetings, which were turned to weekly as we neared the event. This was done in addition to biweekly global team meeting. Pathu
Pathu, DebConf23 mascot
To describe the conference venue, it happened in InfoPark, Kochi with the main conference hall being Athulya Hall and food, accommodation and two smaller halls in Four Point Hotel, right outside Infopark. We got Athulya Hall as part of venue sponsorship from Infopark. The distance between both of them was around 300 meters. Halls were named Anamudi, Kuthiran and Ponmudi based on hills and mountain areas in host state of Kerala. Other than Annamudi hall which was the main hall, I couldn t remember the names of the hall, I still can t. Four Points was big and expensive, and we had, as expected, cost overruns. Due to how DebConf function, an Indian university wasn t suitable to host a conference of this scale. Infinity Pool at Night
Four Point's Infinity Pool at Night
I landed in Kochi on the first day of DebCamp on 3rd September. As usual, met Abraham first, and the better part of the next hour was spent on meet and greet. It was my first IRL DebConf so met many old friends and new folks. I got a room to myself. Abraham lived nearby and hadn t taken the accommodation, so I asked him to join. He finally joined from second day onwards. All through the conference, room 928 became in-famous for various reasons, and I had various roommates for company. In DebCamp days, we would get up to have breakfast and go back to sleep and get active only past lunch for hacking and helping in the hack lab for the day, followed by fun late night discussions and parties. Nilesh, Chirag and Apple at DC23
Nilesh, Chirag and Apple at DC23
The team even managed to get a press conference arranged as well, and we got an opportunity to go to Press Club, Ernakulam. Sruthi and Jonathan gave the speech and answered questions from journalists. The event was covered by media as well due to this. Ernakulam Press Club
Ernakulam Press Club
During the conference, every night the team use to have 9 PM meetings for retrospection and planning for next day, which was always dotted with new problems. Every day, we used to hijack Silent Hacklab for the meeting and gently ask the only people there at the time to give us space. DebConf, it itself is a well oiled machine. Network was brought up from scratch. Video team built the recording, audio mixing, live-streaming, editing and transcoding infrastructure on site. A gaming rig served as router and gateway. We got internet uplinks, a 1 Gbps sponsored leased line from Kerala Vision and a paid backup 100 Mbps connection from a different provider. IPv6 was added through HE s Tunnelbroker. Overall the network worked fine as additionally we had hotel Wi-Fi, so the conference network wasn t stretched much. I must highlight, DebConf is my only conference where almost everything and every piece of software in developed in-house, for the conference and modified according to need on the fly. Even event recording cameras, audio check, direction, recording and editing is all done on in-house software by volunteer-attendees (in some cases remote ones as well), all trained on the sideline of the conference. The core recording and mixing equipment is owned by Debian and travels to each venue. The rest is sourced locally. Gaming Rig which served as DC23 gateway router
Gaming Rig which served as DC23 gateway router
It was fun seeing how almost all the things were coordinated over text on Internet Relay Chat (IRC). If a talk/event was missing a talkmeister or a director or a camera person, a quick text on #debconf channel would be enough for someone to volunteer. Video team had a dedicated support channel for each conference venue for any issues and were quick to respond and fix stuff. Network information. Screengrab from closing ceremony
Network information. Screengrab from closing ceremony
It rained for the initial days, which gave us a cool weather. Swag team had decided to hand out umbrellas in swag kit which turned out to be quite useful. The swag kit was praised for quality and selection - many thanks to Anupa, Sruthi and others. It was fun wearing different color T-shirts, all designed by Abraham. Red for volunteers, light green for Video team, green for core-team i.e. staff and yellow for conference attendees. With highvoltage
With highvoltage
We were already acclimatized by the time DebConf really started as we had been talking, hacking and hanging out since last 7 days. Rush really started with the start of DebConf. More people joined on the first and second day of the conference. As has been the tradition, an opening talk was prepared by the Sruthi and local team (which I highly recommend watching to get more insights of the process). DebConf day 1 also saw job fair, where Canonical and FOSSEE, IIT Bombay had stalls for community interactions, which judging by the crowd itself turned out to be quite a hit. For me, association with DebConf (and Debian) started due to volunteering with video team, so anyhow I was going to continue doing that this conference as well. I usually volunteer for talks/events which anyhow I m interested in. Handling the camera, talkmeister-ing and direction are fun activities, though I didn t do sound this time around. Sound seemed difficult, and I didn t want to spoil someone s stream and recording. Talk attendance varied a lot, like in Bits from DPL talk, the hall was full but for some there were barely enough people to handle the volunteering tasks, but that s what usually happens. DebConf is more of a place to come together and collaborate, so talk attendance is an afterthought sometimes. Audience in highvoltage's Bits from DPL talk
Audience in highvoltage's Bits from DPL talk
I didn t submit any talk proposals this time around, as just being in the orga team was too much work already, and I knew, the talk preparation would get delayed to the last moment and I would have to rush through it. Enrico's talk
Enrico's talk
From Day 2 onward, more sponsor stalls were introduced in the hallway area. Hopbox by Unmukti , MostlyHarmless and Deeproot (joint stall) and FOSEE. MostlyHarmless stall had nice mechanical keyboards and other fun gadgets. Whenever I got the time, I would go and start typing racing to enjoy the nice, clicky keyboards. As the DebConf tradition dictates, we had a Cheese and Wine party. Everyone brought in cheese and other delicacies from their region. Then there was yummy Sadya. Sadya is a traditional vegetarian Malayalis lunch served over banana leaves. There were loads of different dishes served, the names of most I couldn t pronounce or recollect properly, but everything was super delicious. Day 4 was day trip and I chose to go to Athirappilly Waterfalls and Jungle safari. Pictures would describe the beauty better than words. The journey was bit long though. Athirappilly Falls
Athirappilly Falls

Pathu Pathu Tea Gardens
Tea Gardens
Late that day, we heard the news of Abraham gone missing. We lost Abraham. He had worked really hard all through the years for Debian and making this conference possible. Talks were cancelled for the next day and Jonathan addressed everyone. We went to Abraham s home the next day to meet his family. Team had arranged buses to Abraham s place. It was an unfortunate moment that I only got an opportunity to visit his place after he was gone. Days went by slowly after that. The last day was marked by a small conference dinner. Some of the people had already left. All through the day and next, we kept saying goodbye to friends, with whom we spent almost a fortnight together. Athirappilly Falls
Group photo with all DebConf T-shirts chronologically
This was 2nd trip to Kochi. Vistara Airway s UK886 has become the default flight now. I have almost learned how to travel in and around Kochi by Metro, Water Metro, Airport Shuttle and auto. Things are quite accessible in Kochi but metro is a bit expensive compared to Delhi. I left Kochi on 19th. My flight was due to leave around 8 PM, so I had the whole day to myself. A direct option would have taken less than 1 hour, but as I had time and chose to take the long way to the airport. First took an auto rickshaw to Kakkanad Water Metro station. Then sailed in the water metro to Vyttila Water Metro station. Vyttila serves as intermobility hub which connects water metro, metro, bus at once place. I switched to Metro here at Vyttila Metro station till Aluva Metro station. Here, I had lunch and then boarded the Airport feeder bus to reach Kochi Airport. All in all, I did auto rickshaw > water metro > metro > feeder bus to reach Airport. I was fun and scenic. I must say, public transport and intermodal integration is quite good and once can transition seamlessly from one mode to next. Kochi Water Metro
Kochi Water Metro

Scenes from Kochi Water Metro Scenes from Kochi Water Metro
Scenes from Kochi Water Metro
DebConf23 served its purpose of getting existing Debian people together, as well as getting new people interested and contributing to Debian. People who came are still contributing to Debian, and that s amazing. Streaming video stats
Streaming video stats. Screengrab from closing ceremony
The conference wasn t without its fair share of troubles. There were multiple money transfer woes, and being in India didn t help. Many thanks to multiple organizations who were proactive in helping out. On top of this, there was conference visa uncertainty and other issues which troubled visa team a lot. Kudos to everyone who made this possible. Surely, I m going to miss the name, so thank you for it, you know how much you have done to make this event possible. Now, DebConf24 is scheduled for Busan, South Korea, and work is already in full swing. As usual, I m helping with the fundraising part and plan to attend too. Let s see if I can make it or not. DebConf23 Group Photo
DebConf23 Group Photo. Click to enlarge.
Credits - Aigars Mahinovs
In the end, we kept on saying, no DebConf at this scale would come back to India for the next 10 or 20 years. It s too much trouble to be frank. It was probably the peak that we might not reach again. I would be happy to be proven wrong though :)

20 May 2024

Debian Brasil: MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 - um breve relato

De 27 a 30 de abril de 2024 foi realizada a MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 no Campus Pampulha da UFMG - Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, em Belo Horizonte - MG. MiniDebConf BH 2024 banners Esta foi a quinta vez que uma MiniDebConf (como um evento presencial exclusivo sobre Debian) aconteceu no Brasil. As edi es anteriores foram em Curitiba (2016, 2017, e 2018), e em Bras lia 2023. Tivemos outras edi es de MiniDebConfs realizadas dentro de eventos de Software Livre como o FISL e a Latinoware, e outros eventos online. Veja o nosso hist rico de eventos. Paralelamente MiniDebConf, no dia 27 (s bado) aconteceu o FLISOL - Festival Latino-americano de Instala o de Software Livre, maior evento da Am rica Latina de divulga o de Software Livre realizado desde o ano de 2005 simultaneamente em v rias cidades. A MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 foi um sucesso (assim como as edi es anteriores) gra as participa o de todos(as), independentemente do n vel de conhecimento sobre o Debian. Valorizamos a presen a tanto dos(as) usu rios(as) iniciantes que est o se familiarizando com o sistema quanto dos(as) desenvolvedores(as) oficiais do projeto. O esp rito de acolhimento e colabora o esteve presente em todos os momentos. MiniDebConf BH 2024 flisol N meros da edi o 2024 Durante os quatro dias de evento aconteceram diversas atividades para todos os n veis de usu rios(as) e colaboradores(as) do projeto Debian. A programa o oficial foi composta de: MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra Os n meros finais da MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 mostram que tivemos um recorde de participantes. Dos 224 participantes, 15 eram contribuidores(as) oficiais brasileiros sendo 10 DDs (Debian Developers) e 05 (Debian Maintainers), al m de diversos(as) contribuidores(as) n o oficiais. A organiza o foi realizada por 14 pessoas que come aram a trabalhar ainda no final de 2023, entre elas o Prof. Lo c Cerf do Departamento de Computa o que viabilizou o evento na UFMG, e 37 volunt rios(as) que ajudaram durante o evento. Como a MiniDebConf foi realizado nas instala es da UFMG, tivemos a ajuda de mais de 10 funcion rios da Universidade. Veja a lista com os nomes das pessoas que ajudaram de alguma forma na realiza o da MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024. A diferen a entre o n mero de pessoas inscritas e o n mero de pessoas presentes provavelmente se explica pelo fato de n o haver cobran a de inscri o, ent o se a pessoa desistir de ir ao evento ela n o ter preju zo financeiro. A edi o 2024 da MiniDebconf Belo Horizonte foi realmente grandiosa e mostra o resultado dos constantes esfor os realizados ao longo dos ltimos anos para atrair mais colaboradores(as) para a comunidade Debian no Brasil. A cada edi o os n meros s aumentam, com mais participantes, mais atividades, mais salas, e mais patrocinadores/apoiadores. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo

MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Atividades A programa o da MiniDebConf foi intensa e diversificada. Nos dias 27, 29 e 30 (s bado, segunda e ter a-feira) tivemos palestras, debates, oficinas e muitas atividades pr ticas. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra J no dia 28 (domingo), ocorreu o Day Trip, um dia dedicado a passeios pela cidade. Pela manh sa mos do hotel e fomos, em um nibus fretado, para o Mercado Central de Belo Horizonte. O pessoal aproveitou para comprar v rias coisas como queijos, doces, cacha as e lembrancinhas, al m de experimentar algumas comidas locais. MiniDebConf BH 2024 mercado Depois de 2 horas de passeio pelo Mercado, voltamos para o nibus e pegamos a estrada para almo armos em um restaurante de comida t pica mineira. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra Com todos bem alimentados, voltamos para Belo Horizonte para visitarmos o principal ponto tur stico da cidade: a Lagoa da Pampulha e a Capela S o Francisco de Assis, mais conhecida como Igrejinha da Pampulha. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra Voltamos para o hotel e o dia terminou no hacker space que montamos na sala de eventos para o pessoal conversar, empacotar, e comer umas pizzas. MiniDebConf BH 2024 palestra Financiamento coletivo Pela terceira vez fizemos uma campanha de financiamento coletivo e foi incr vel como as pessoas contribu ram! A meta inicial era arrecadar o valor equivalente a uma cota ouro de R$ 3.000,00. Ao atingirmos essa meta, definimos uma nova, equivalente a uma cota ouro + uma cota prata (R$ 5.000,00). E novamente atingimos essa meta. Ent o propusermos como meta final o valor de uma cota ouro + prata + bronze, que seria equivalente a R$ 6.000,00. O resultado foi que arrecadamos R$ 7.239,65 com a ajuda de mais de 100 pessoas! Muito obrigado as pessoas que contribu ram com qualquer valor. Como forma de agradecimento, listamos os nomes das pessoas que doaram. MiniDebConf BH 2024 doadores Bolsas de alimenta o, hospedagem e/ou passagens para participantes Cada edi o da MiniDebConf trouxe alguma inova o, ou algum benef cio diferente para os(a) participantes. Na edi o deste ano em Belo Horizonte, assim como acontece nas DebConfs, oferecemos bolsas de alimenta o, hospedagem e/ou passagens para ajudar aquelas pessoas que gostariam de vir para o evento mas que precisariam de algum tipo de ajuda. No formul rio de inscri o, colocamos a op o para a pessoa solicitar bolsa de alimenta o, hospedagem e/ou passagens, mas para isso, ela deveria se identificar como contribuidor(a) (oficial ou n o oficial) do Debian e escrever uma justificativa para o pedido. N mero de pessoas beneficiadas: A bolsa de alimenta o forneceu almo o e jantar todos os dias. Os almo os inclu ram pessoas que moram em Belo Horizonte e regi o. J o jantares foram pagos para os(as) participantes que tamb m receberam a bolsa de hospedagem e/ou passagens. A hospedagem foi realizada no Hotel BH Jaragu . E as passagens inclu ram de avi o ou de nibus, ou combust vel (para quem veio de carro ou moto). Boa parte do dinheiro para custear as bolsas vieram do Projeto Debian, principalmente para as passagens. Enviamos um or amento o ent o l der do Debian Jonathan Carter, e ele prontamente aprovou o nosso pedido. Al m deste or amento do evento, o l der tamb m aprovou os pedidos individuais enviados por alguns DDs que preferiram solicitar diretamente para ele. A experi ncia de oferecer as bolsas foi realmente muito boa porque permitiu a vinda de v rias pessoas de outras cidades. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Fotos e v deos Voc pode assistir as grava es das palestras nos links abaixo: E ver as fotos feitas por v rios(as) colaboradores(as) nos links abaixo: Agradecimentos Gostar amos de agradecer a todos(as) os(as) participantes, organizadores(as), volunt rios(as), patrocinadores(as) e apoiadores(as) que contribu ram para o sucesso da MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024. MiniDebConf BH 2024 grupo Patrocinadores Ouro: Prata: Bronze: Apoiadores Organiza o

22 April 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: The Stars, Like Dust

Review: The Stars, Like Dust, by Isaac Asimov
Series: Galactic Empire #2
Publisher: Fawcett Crest
Copyright: 1950, 1951
Printing: June 1972
Format: Mass market
Pages: 192
The Stars, Like Dust is usually listed as the first book in Asimov's lesser-known Galactic Empire Trilogy since it takes place before Pebble in the Sky. Pebble in the Sky was published first, though, so I count it as the second book. It is very early science fiction with a few mystery overtones. Buying books produces about 5% of the pleasure of reading them while taking much less than 5% of the time. There was a time in my life when I thoroughly enjoyed methodically working through a used book store, list in hand, tracking down cheap copies to fill in holes in series. This means that I own a lot of books that I thought at some point that I would want to read but never got around to, often because, at the time, I was feeling completionist about some series or piece of world-building. From time to time, I get the urge to try to read some of them. Sometimes this is a poor use of my time. The Galactic Empire series is from Asimov's first science fiction period, after the Foundation series but contemporaneous with their collection into novels. They're set long, long before Foundation, but after humans have inhabited numerous star systems and Earth has become something of a backwater. That process is just starting in The Stars, Like Dust: Earth is still somewhere where an upper-class son might be sent for an education, but it has been devastated by nuclear wars and is well on its way to becoming an inward-looking relic on the edge of galactic society. Biron Farrill is the son of the Lord Rancher of Widemos, a wealthy noble whose world is one of those conquered by the Tyranni. In many other SF novels, the Tyranni would be an alien race; here, it's a hierarchical and authoritarian human civilization. The book opens with Biron discovering a radiation bomb planted in his dorm room. Shortly after, he learns that his father had been arrested. One of his fellow students claims to be on Biron's side against the Tyranni and gives him false papers to travel to Rhodia, a wealthy world run by a Tyranni sycophant. Like most books of this era, The Stars, Like Dust is a short novel full of plot twists. Unlike some of its contemporaries, it's not devoid of characterization, but I might have liked it better if it were. Biron behaves like an obnoxious teenager when he's not being an arrogant ass. There is a female character who does a few plot-relevant things and at no point is sexually assaulted, so I'll give Asimov that much, but the gender stereotypes are ironclad and there is an entire subplot focused on what I can only describe as seduction via petty jealousy. The writing... well, let me quote a typical passage:
There was no way of telling when the threshold would be reached. Perhaps not for hours, and perhaps the next moment. Biron remained standing helplessly, flashlight held loosely in his damp hands. Half an hour before, the visiphone had awakened him, and he had been at peace then. Now he knew he was going to die. Biron didn't want to die, but he was penned in hopelessly, and there was no place to hide.
Needless to say, Biron doesn't die. Even if your tolerance for pulp melodrama is high, 192 small-print pages of this sort of thing is wearying. Like a lot of Asimov plots, The Stars, Like Dust has some of the shape of a mystery novel. Biron, with the aid of some newfound companions on Rhodia, learns of a secret rebellion against the Tyranni and attempts to track down its base to join them. There are false leads, disguised identities, clues that are difficult to interpret, and similar classic mystery trappings, all covered with a patina of early 1950s imaginary science. To me, it felt constructed and artificial in ways that made the strings Asimov was pulling obvious. I don't know if someone who likes mystery construction would feel differently about it. The worst part of the plot thankfully doesn't come up much. We learn early in the story that Biron was on Earth to search for a long-lost document believed to be vital to defeating the Tyranni. The nature of that document is revealed on the final page, so I won't spoil it, but if you try to think of the stupidest possible document someone could have built this plot around, I suspect you will only need one guess. (In Asimov's defense, he blamed Galaxy editor H.L. Gold for persuading him to include this plot, and disavowed it a few years later.) The Stars, Like Dust is one of the worst books I have ever read. The characters are overwrought, the politics are slapdash and build on broad stereotypes, the romantic subplot is dire and plays out mainly via Biron egregiously manipulating his petulant love interest, and the writing is annoying. Sometimes pulp fiction makes up for those common flaws through larger-than-life feats of daring, sweeping visions of future societies, and ever-escalating stakes. There is little to none of that here. Asimov instead provides tedious political maneuvering among a class of elitist bankers and land owners who consider themselves natural leaders. The only places where the power structures of this future government make sense are where Asimov blatantly steals them from either the Roman Empire or the Doge of Venice. The one thing this book has going for it the thing, apart from bloody-minded completionism, that kept me reading is that the technology is hilariously weird in that way that only 1940s and 1950s science fiction can be. The characters have access to communication via some sort of interstellar telepathy (messages coded to a specific person's "brain waves") and can travel between stars through hyperspace jumps, but each jump is manually calculated by referring to the pilot's (paper!) volumes of the Standard Galactic Ephemeris. Communication between ships (via "etheric radio") requires manually aiming a radio beam at the area in space where one thinks the other ship is. It's an unintentionally entertaining combination of technology that now looks absurdly primitive and science that is so advanced and hand-waved that it's obviously made up. I also have to give Asimov some points for using spherical coordinates. It's a small thing, but the coordinate systems in most SF novels and TV shows are obviously not fit for purpose. I spent about a month and a half of this year barely reading, and while some of that is because I finally tackled a few projects I'd been putting off for years, a lot of it was because of this book. It was only 192 pages, and I'm still curious about the glue between Asimov's Foundation and Robot series, both of which I devoured as a teenager. But every time I picked it up to finally finish it and start another book, I made it about ten pages and then couldn't take any more. Learn from my error: don't try this at home, or at least give up if the same thing starts happening to you. Followed by The Currents of Space. Rating: 2 out of 10

18 April 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: Unseen Academicals

Review: Unseen Academicals, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #37
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: October 2009
Printing: November 2014
ISBN: 0-06-233500-6
Format: Mass market
Pages: 517
Unseen Academicals is the 37th Discworld novel and includes many of the long-standing Ankh-Morpork cast, but mostly as supporting characters. The main characters are a new (and delightful) bunch with their own concerns. You arguably could start reading here if you really wanted to, although you would risk spoiling several previous books (most notably Thud!) and will miss some references that depend on familiarity with the cast. The Unseen University is, like most institutions of its sort, funded by an endowment that allows the wizards to focus on the pure life of the mind (or the stomach). Much to their dismay, they have just discovered that an endowment that amounts to most of their food budget requires that they field a football team. Glenda runs the night kitchen at the Unseen University. Given the deep and abiding love that wizards have for food, there is both a main kitchen and a night kitchen. The main kitchen is more prestigious, but the night kitchen is responsible for making pies, something that Glenda is quietly but exceptionally good at. Juliet is Glenda's new employee. She is exceptionally beautiful, not very bright, and a working class girl of the Ankh-Morpork streets down to her bones. Trevor Likely is a candle dribbler, responsible for assisting the Candle Knave in refreshing the endless university candles and ensuring that their wax is properly dribbled, although he pushes most of that work off onto the infallibly polite and oddly intelligent Mr. Nutt. Glenda, Trev, and Juliet are the sort of people who populate the great city of Ankh-Morpork. While the people everyone has heard of have political crises, adventures, and book plots, they keep institutions like the Unseen University running. They read romance novels, go to the football games, and nurse long-standing rivalries. They do not expect the high mucky-mucks to enter their world, let alone mess with their game. I approached Unseen Academicals with trepidation because I normally don't get along as well with the Discworld wizard books. I need not have worried; Pratchett realized that the wizards would work better as supporting characters and instead turns the main plot (or at least most of it; more on that later) over to the servants. This was a brilliant decision. The setup of this book is some of the best of Discworld up to this point. Trev is a streetwise rogue with an uncanny knack for kicking around a can that he developed after being forbidden to play football by his dear old mum. He falls for Juliet even though their families support different football teams, so you may think that a Romeo and Juliet spoof is coming. There are a few gestures of one, but Pratchett deftly avoids the pitfalls and predictability and instead makes Juliet one of the best characters in the book by playing directly against type. She is one of the characters that Pratchett is so astonishingly good at, the ones that are so thoroughly themselves that they transcend the stories they're put into. The heart of this book, though, is Glenda.
Glenda enjoyed her job. She didn't have a career; they were for people who could not hold down jobs.
She is the kind of person who knows where she fits in the world and likes what she does and is happy to stay there until she decides something isn't right, and then she changes the world through the power of common sense morality, righteous indignation, and sheer stubborn persistence. Discworld is full of complex and subtle characters fencing with each other, but there are few things I have enjoyed more than Glenda being a determinedly good person. Vetinari of course recognizes and respects (and uses) that inner core immediately. Unfortunately, as great as the setup and characters are, Unseen Academicals falls apart a bit at the end. I was eagerly reading the story, wondering what Pratchett was going to weave out of the stories of these individuals, and then it partly turned into yet another wizard book. Pratchett pulled another of his deus ex machina tricks for the climax in a way that I found unsatisfying and contrary to the tone of the rest of the story, and while the characters do get reasonable endings, it lacked the oomph I was hoping for. Rincewind is as determinedly one-note as ever, the wizards do all the standard wizard things, and the plot just isn't that interesting. I liked Mr. Nutt a great deal in the first part of the book, and I wish he could have kept that edge of enigmatic competence and unflappableness. Pratchett wanted to tell a different story that involved more angst and self-doubt, and while I appreciate that story, I found it less engaging and a bit more melodramatic than I was hoping for. Mr. Nutt's reactions in the last half of the book were believable and fit his background, but that was part of the problem: he slotted back into an archetype that I thought Pratchett was going to twist and upend. Mr. Nutt does, at least, get a fantastic closing line, and as usual there are a lot of great asides and quotes along the way, including possibly the sharpest and most biting Vetinari speech of the entire series.
The Patrician took a sip of his beer. "I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of course it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining on mother and children. And that's when I first learned about evil. It is built into the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior."
My dissatisfaction with the ending prevents Unseen Academicals from rising to the level of Night Watch, and it's a bit more uneven than the best books of the series. Still, though, this is great stuff; recommended to anyone who is reading the series. Followed in publication order by I Shall Wear Midnight. Rating: 8 out of 10

9 April 2024

Gunnar Wolf: Think outside the box Welcome Eclipse!

Now that we are back from our six month period in Argentina, we decided to adopt a kitten, to bring more diversity into our lives. Perhaps this little girl will teach us to think outside the box! Yesterday we witnessed a solar eclipse Mexico City was not in the totality range (we reached ~80%), but it was a great experience to go with the kids. A couple dozen thousand people gathered for a massive picnic in las islas, the main area inside our university campus. Afterwards, we went briefly back home, then crossed the city to fetch the little kitten. Of course, the kids were unanimous: Her name is Eclipse.

29 March 2024

Ravi Dwivedi: A visit to the Taj Mahal

Note: The currency used in this post is Indian Rupees, which was around 83 INR for 1 US Dollar as that time. I and my friend Badri visited the Taj Mahal this month. Taj Mahal is one of the main tourist destinations in India and does not need an introduction, I guess. It is in Agra, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, 188 km from Delhi by train. So, I am writing a post documenting useful information for people who are planning to visit Taj Mahal. Feel free to ask me questions about visiting the Taj Mahal.
Our retiring room at the Old Delhi Railway Station.
We had booked a train from Delhi to Agra. The name of the train was Taj Express, and its scheduled departure time from Hazrat Nizamuddin station in Delhi is 07:08 hours in the morning, and its arrival time at Agra Cantt station is 09:45. So, we booked a retiring room at the Old Delhi railway station for the previous night. This retiring room was hard to find. We woke up at 05:00 in the morning and took the metro to Hazrat Nizamuddin station. We barely reached the station in time, but anyway, the train was not yet at the station; it was late. We reached Agra at 10:30 and checked into our retiring room, took rest and went out for Taj Mahal at 13:00 in the afternoon. Taj Mahal s outer gate is 5 km away from the Agra Cantt station. As we were going out of the railway station, we were chased by an autorickshaw driver who offered to go to Taj Mahal for 150 INR for both of us. I asked him to bring it down to 60 INR, and after some back and forth, he agreed to drop us off at Taj Mahal for 80 INR. But I said we won t pay anything above 60 INR. He agreed with that amount but said that he would need to fill up with more passengers. When we saw that he wasn t making any effort in bringing more passengers, we walked away. As soon as we got out of the railway station complex, an autorickshaw driver came to us and offered to drop us off at Taj Mahal for 20 INR if we are sharing with other passengers and 100 INR if we reserve the auto for us. We agreed to go with 20 INR per person, but he started the autorickshaw as soon as we hopped in. I thought that the third person in the auto was another passenger sharing a ride with us, but later we got to know he was with the driver. Upon reaching the outer gate of Taj Mahal, I gave him 40 INR (for both of us), and he asked to instead give 100 INR as he said we reserved the auto, even though I clearly stated before taking the auto that we wanted to share the auto, not reserve it. I think this was a scam. We walked away, and he didn t insist further. Taj Mahal entrance was like 500 m from the outer gate. We went there and bought offline tickets just outside the West gate. For Indians, the ticket for going inside the Taj Mahal complex is 50 INR, and a visit to the mausoleum costs 200 INR extra.
Security outside the Taj Mahal complex.
This red colored building is entrance to where you can see the Taj Mahal.
Taj Mahal.
Shoe covers for going inside the mausoleum.
Taj Mahal from side angle.
We came out of the Taj Mahal complex at 18:00 and stopped for some tea and snacks. I also bought a fridge magnet for 30 INR. Then we walked back towards Agra Cantt station, as we had a train for Jaipur at midnight. We were hoping to find a restaurant along the way, but we didn t find any that we found interesting, so we just ate at the railway station. During the return trip, we noticed there was a bus stand near the station, which we didn t know about. It turns out you can catch a bus to Taj Mahal from there. You can click here to check out the location of that bus stand on OpenStreetMap.

Expenses These were our expenses per person Retiring room at Delhi Railway Station for 12 hours 131 Train ticket from Delhi to Agra (Taj Express) 110 Retiring room at Agra Cantt station for 12 hours 450 Auto-rickshaw to Taj Mahal 20 Taj Mahal ticket (including going inside the mausoleum): 250 Food 350

Important information for visitors
  • Taj Mahal is closed on Friday.
  • There are plenty of free-of-cost drinking water taps inside the Taj Mahal complex.
  • Ticket price for Indians is 50, for foreigners and NRIs it is 1100, and for people from SAARC/BIMSTEC is 540. 200 extra for the mausoleum for everyone.
  • A visit inside the mausoleum requires covering your shoes or removing them. Shoe covers costs 10 per person inside the complex, but are probably involved free of charge in foreigner tickets. We could not find a place to keep our shoes, but some people managed to enter barefoot, indicating there must be some place to keep your shoes.
  • Mobile phones and cameras are allowed inside the Taj Mahal, but not eatables.
  • We went there on March 10th, and the weather was pleasant. So, we recommend going around that time.
  • Regarding the timings, I found this written near the ticket counter: Taj Mahal opens 30 minutes before sunrise and closes 30 minutes before sunset during normal operating days, so the timings are vague. But we came out of the complex at 18:00 hours. I would interpret that to mean the Taj Mahal is open from 07:00 to 18:00, and the ticket counter closes at around 17:00. During the winter, the timings might differ.
  • The cheapest way to reach Taj Mahal is by bus, and the bus stop is here
Bye for now. See you in the next post :)

18 March 2024

Gunnar Wolf: After miniDebConf Santa Fe

Last week we held our promised miniDebConf in Santa Fe City, Santa Fe province, Argentina just across the river from Paran , where I have spent almost six beautiful months I will never forget. Around 500 Kilometers North from Buenos Aires, Santa Fe and Paran are separated by the beautiful and majestic Paran river, which flows from Brazil, marks the Eastern border of Paraguay, and continues within Argentina as the heart of the litoral region of the country, until it merges with the Uruguay river (you guessed right the river marking the Eastern border of Argentina, first with Brazil and then with Uruguay), and they become the R o de la Plata. This was a short miniDebConf: we were lent the APUL union s building for the weekend (thank you very much!); during Saturday, we had a cycle of talks, and on sunday we had more of a hacklab logic, having some unstructured time to work each on their own projects, and to talk and have a good time together. We were five Debian people attending: santiago debacle eamanu dererk gwolf @debian.org. My main contact to kickstart organization was Mart n Bayo. Mart n was for many years the leader of the Technical Degree on Free Software at Universidad Nacional del Litoral, where I was also a teacher for several years. Together with Leo Mart nez, also a teacher at the tecnicatura, they contacted us with Guillermo and Gabriela, from the APUL non-teaching-staff union of said university. We had the following set of talks (for which there is a promise to get electronic record, as APUL was kind enough to record them! of course, I will push them to our usual conference video archiving service as soon as I get them)
Hour Title (Spanish) Title (English) Presented by
10:00-10:25 Introducci n al Software Libre Introduction to Free Software Mart n Bayo
10:30-10:55 Debian y su comunidad Debian and its community Emanuel Arias
11:00-11:25 Por qu sigo contribuyendo a Debian despu s de 20 a os? Why am I still contributing to Debian after 20 years? Santiago Ruano
11:30-11:55 Mi identidad y el proyecto Debian: Qu es el llavero OpenPGP y por qu ? My identity and the Debian project: What is the OpenPGP keyring and why? Gunnar Wolf
12:00-13:00 Explorando las masculinidades en el contexto del Software Libre Exploring masculinities in the context of Free Software Gora Ortiz Fuentes - Jos Francisco Ferro
13:00-14:30 Lunch
14:30-14:55 Debian para el d a a d a Debian for our every day Leonardo Mart nez
15:00-15:25 Debian en las Raspberry Pi Debian in the Raspberry Pi Gunnar Wolf
15:30-15:55 Device Trees Device Trees Lisandro Dami n Nicanor Perez Meyer (videoconferencia)
16:00-16:25 Python en Debian Python in Debian Emmanuel Arias
16:30-16:55 Debian y XMPP en la medici n de viento para la energ a e lica Debian and XMPP for wind measuring for eolic energy Martin Borgert
As it always happens DebConf, miniDebConf and other Debian-related activities are always fun, always productive, always a great opportunity to meet again our decades-long friends. Lets see what comes next!

10 March 2024

Thorsten Alteholz: My Debian Activities in February 2024

FTP master This month I accepted 242 and rejected 42 packages. The overall number of packages that got accepted was 251.

This was just a short month and the weather outside was not really motivating. I hope it will be better in March. Debian LTS This was my hundred-sixteenth month that I did some work for the Debian LTS initiative, started by Raphael Hertzog at Freexian. During my allocated time I uploaded: I also started to work on qtbase-opensource-src (an update is needed for ELTS, so an LTS update seems to be appropriate as well, especially as there are postponed CVE). Debian ELTS This month was the sixty-seventth ELTS month. During my allocated time I uploaded: The upload of bind9 was a bit exciting, but all occuring issues with the new upload workflow could be quickly fixed by Helmut and the packages finally reached their destination. I wonder why it is always me who stumbles upon special cases? This month I also worked on the Jessie and Stretch updates for exim4. I also started to work on an update for qtbase-opensource-src in Stretch (and LTS and other releases as well). Debian Printing This month I uploaded new upstream versions of: This work is generously funded by Freexian! Debian Matomo I started a new team debian-matomo-maintainers. Within this team all matomo related packages should be handled. PHP PEAR or PECL packages shall be still maintained in their corresponding teams. This month I uploaded: This work is generously funded by Freexian! Debian Astro This month I uploaded a new upstream version of: Debian IoT This month I uploaded new upstream versions of:

8 March 2024

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

My brain is currently suffering from an overload caused by grading student assignments. In search of a somewhat productive way to procrastinate, I thought I would share a small script I wrote sometime in 2023 to facilitate my grading work. I use Moodle for all the classes I teach and students use it to hand me out their papers. When I'm ready to grade them, I download the ZIP archive Moodle provides containing all their PDF files and comment them using xournalpp and my Wacom tablet. Once this is done, I have a directory structure that looks like this:
Assignment FooBar/
  Student A_21100_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student A's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student A's perfectly named assignment.xopp
  Student B_21094_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student B's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student B's perfectly named assignment.xopp
  Student C_21093_assignsubmission_file
    graded paper.pdf
    Student C's perfectly named assignment.pdf
    Student C's perfectly named assignment.xopp
 
Before I can upload files back to Moodle, this directory needs to be copied (I have to keep the original files), cleaned of everything but the graded paper.pdf files and compressed in a ZIP. You can see how this can quickly get tedious to do by hand. Not being a complete tool, I often resorted to crafting a few spurious shell one-liners each time I had to do this1. Eventually I got tired of ctrl-R-ing my shell history and wrote something reusable. Behold this script! When I began writing this post, I was certain I had cheaped out on my 2021 New Year's resolution and written it in Shell, but glory!, it seems I used a proper scripting language instead.
#!/usr/bin/python3
# Copyright (C) 2023, Louis-Philippe V ronneau <pollo@debian.org>
#
# This program is free software: you can redistribute it and/or modify
# it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as published by
# the Free Software Foundation, either version 3 of the License, or
# (at your option) any later version.
#
# This program is distributed in the hope that it will be useful,
# but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of
# MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.  See the
# GNU General Public License for more details.
#
# You should have received a copy of the GNU General Public License
# along with this program.  If not, see <http://www.gnu.org/licenses/>.
"""
This script aims to take a directory containing PDF files exported via the
Moodle mass download function, remove everything but the final files to submit
back to the students and zip it back.
usage: ./moodle-zip.py <target_dir>
"""
import os
import shutil
import sys
import tempfile
from fnmatch import fnmatch
def sanity(directory):
    """Run sanity checks before doing anything else"""
    base_directory = os.path.basename(os.path.normpath(directory))
    if not os.path.isdir(directory):
        sys.exit(f"Target directory  directory  is not a valid directory")
    if os.path.exists(f"/tmp/ base_directory .zip"):
        sys.exit(f"Final ZIP file path '/tmp/ base_directory .zip' already exists")
    for root, dirnames, _ in os.walk(directory):
        for dirname in dirnames:
            corrige_present = False
            for file in os.listdir(os.path.join(root, dirname)):
                if fnmatch(file, 'graded paper.pdf'):
                    corrige_present = True
            if corrige_present is False:
                sys.exit(f"Directory  dirname  does not contain a 'graded paper.pdf' file")
def clean(directory):
    """Remove superfluous files, to keep only the graded PDF"""
    with tempfile.TemporaryDirectory() as tmp_dir:
        shutil.copytree(directory, tmp_dir, dirs_exist_ok=True)
        for root, _, filenames in os.walk(tmp_dir):
            for file in filenames:
                if not fnmatch(file, 'graded paper.pdf'):
                    os.remove(os.path.join(root, file))
        compress(tmp_dir, directory)
def compress(directory, target_dir):
    """Compress directory into a ZIP file and save it to the target dir"""
    target_dir = os.path.basename(os.path.normpath(target_dir))
    shutil.make_archive(f"/tmp/ target_dir ", 'zip', directory)
    print(f"Final ZIP file has been saved to '/tmp/ target_dir .zip'")
def main():
    """Main function"""
    target_dir = sys.argv[1]
    sanity(target_dir)
    clean(target_dir)
if __name__ == "__main__":
    main()
If for some reason you happen to have a similar workflow as I and end up using this script, hit me up? Now, back to grading...

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

Valhalla's Things: Denim Waistcoat

Posted on March 8, 2024
Tags: madeof:atoms, craft:sewing, FreeSoftWear
A woman wearing a single breasted waistcoat with double darts at the waist, two pocket flaps at the waist and one on the left upper breast. It has four jeans buttons. I had finished sewing my jeans, I had a scant 50 cm of elastic denim left. Unrelated to that, I had just finished drafting a vest with Valentina, after the Cutters Practical Guide to the Cutting of Ladies Garments. A new pattern requires a (wearable) mockup. 50 cm of leftover fabric require a quick project. The decision didn t take a lot of time. As a mockup, I kept things easy: single layer with no lining, some edges finished with a topstitched hem and some with bias tape, and plain tape on the fronts, to give more support to the buttons and buttonholes. I did add pockets: not real welt ones (too much effort on denim), but simple slits covered by flaps. a rectangle of pocketing fabric on the wrong side of a denim
piece; there is a slit in the middle that has been finished with topstitching.
To do them I marked the slits, then I cut two rectangles of pocketing fabric that should have been as wide as the slit + 1.5 cm (width of the pocket) + 3 cm (allowances) and twice the sum of as tall as I wanted the pocket to be plus 1 cm (space above the slit) + 1.5 cm (allowances). Then I put the rectangle on the right side of the denim, aligned so that the top edge was 2.5 cm above the slit, sewed 2 mm from the slit, cut, turned the pocketing to the wrong side, pressed and topstitched 2 mm from the fold to finish the slit. a piece of pocketing fabric folded in half and sewn on all 3
other sides; it does not lay flat on the right side of the fabric because the finished slit (hidden in the picture) is pulling it.
Then I turned the pocketing back to the right side, folded it in half, sewed the side and top seams with a small allowance, pressed and turned it again to the wrong side, where I sewed the seams again to make a french seam. And finally, a simple rectangular denim flap was topstitched to the front, covering the slits. I wasn t as precise as I should have been and the pockets aren t exactly the right size, but they will do to see if I got the positions right (I think that the breast one should be a cm or so lower, the waist ones are fine), and of course they are tiny, but that s to be expected from a waistcoat. The back of the waistcoat, The other thing that wasn t exactly as expected is the back: the pattern splits the bottom part of the back to give it sufficient spring over the hips . The book is probably published in 1892, but I had already found when drafting the foundation skirt that its idea of hips includes a bit of structure. The enough steel to carry a book or a cup of tea kind of structure. I should have expected a lot of spring, and indeed that s what I got. To fit the bottom part of the back on the limited amount of fabric I had to piece it, and I suspect that the flat felled seam in the center is helping it sticking out; I don t think it s exactly bad, but it is a peculiar look. Also, I had to cut the back on the fold, rather than having a seam in the middle and the grain on a different angle. Anyway, my next waistcoat project is going to have a linen-cotton lining and silk fashion fabric, and I d say that the pattern is good enough that I can do a few small fixes and cut it directly in the lining, using it as a second mockup. As for the wrinkles, there is quite a bit, but it looks something that will be solved by a bit of lightweight boning in the side seams and in the front; it will be seen in the second mockup and the finished waistcoat. As for this one, it s definitely going to get some wear as is, in casual contexts. Except. Well, it s a denim waistcoat, right? With a very different cut from the get a denim jacket and rip out the sleeves , but still a denim waistcoat, right? The kind that you cover in patches, right? Outline of a sewing machine with teeth and crossed bones below it, and the text  home sewing is killing fashion / and it's illegal And I may have screenprinted a home sewing is killing fashion patch some time ago, using the SVG from wikimedia commons / the Home Taping is Killing Music page. And. Maybe I ll wait until I have finished the real waistcoat. But I suspect that one, and other sewing / costuming patches may happen in the future. No regrets, as the words on my seam ripper pin say, right? :D

2 March 2024

Ravi Dwivedi: Malaysia Trip

Last month, I had a trip to Malaysia and Thailand. I stayed for six days in each of the countries. The selection of these countries was due to both of them granting visa-free entry to Indian tourists for some time window. This post covers the Malaysia part and Thailand part will be covered in the next post. If you want to travel to any of these countries in the visa-free time period, I have written all the questions asked during immigration and at airports during this trip here which might be of help. I mostly stayed in Kuala Lumpur and went to places around it. Although before the trip, I planned to visit Ipoh and Cameron Highlands too, but could not cover it during the trip. I found planning a trip to Malaysia a little difficult. The country is divided into two main islands - Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo. Then there are more islands - Langkawi, Penang island, Perhentian and Redang Islands. Reaching those islands seemed a little difficult to plan and I wish to visit more places in my next Malaysia trip. My first day hostel was booked in Chinatown part of Kuala Lumpur, near Pasar Seni LRT station. As soon as I checked-in and entered my room, I met another Indian named Fletcher, and after that we accompanied each other in the trip. That day, we went to Muzium Negara and Little India. I realized that if you know the right places to buy what you want, Malaysia could be quite cheap. Malaysian currency is Malaysian Ringgit (MYR). 1 MYR is equal to 18 INR. For 2 MYR, you can get a good masala tea in Little India and it costs like 4-5 MYR for a masala dosa. The vegetarian food has good availability in Kuala Lumpur, thanks to the Tamil community. I also tried Mee Goreng, which was vegetarian, and I found it fine in terms of taste. When I checked about Mee Goreng on Wikipedia, I found out that it is unique to Indian immigrants in Malaysia (and neighboring countries) but you don t get it in India!
Mee Goreng, a dish made of noodles in Malaysia.
For the next day, Fletcher had planned a trip to Genting Highlands and pre booked everything. I also planned to join him but when we went to KL Sentral to take the bus, his bus tickets were sold out. I could take a bus at a different time, but decided to visit some other place for the day and cover Genting Highlands later. At the ticket counter, I met a family from Delhi and they wanted to go to Genting Highlands but due to not getting bus tickets for that day, they decided to buy a ticket for the next day and instead planned for Batu Caves that day. I joined them and went to Batu Caves. After returning from Batu Caves, we went our separate ways. I went back and took rest at my hostel and later went to Petronas Towers at night. Petronas Towers is the icon of Kuala Lumpur. Having a photo there was a must. I was at Petronas Towers at around 9 PM. Around that time, Fletcher came back from Genting Highlands and we planned to meet at KL Sentral to head for dinner.
Me at Petronas Towers.
We went back to the same place as the day before where I had Mee Goreng. This time we had dosa and a masala tea. Their masala tea from the last day was tasty and that s why I was looking for them in the first place. We also met a Malaysian family having Indian ancestry dining there and had a nice conversation. Then we went to a place to eat roti canai in Pasar Seni market. Roti canai is a popular non-vegetarian dish in Malaysia but I took the vegetarian version.
Photo with Malaysians.
The next day, we went to Berjaya Time Square shopping place which sells pretty cheap items for daily use and souveniers too. However, I bought souveniers from Petaling Street, which is in Chinatown. At night, we explored Bukit Bintang, which is the heart of Kuala Lumpur and is famous for its nightlife. After that, Fletcher went to Bangkok and I was in Malaysia for two more days. Next day, I went to Genting Highlands and took the cable car, which had awesome views. I came back to Kuala Lumpur by the night. The remaining day I just roamed around in Bukit Bintang. Then I took a flight for Bangkok on 7th Feb, which I will cover in the next post. In Malaysia, I met so many people from different countries - apart from people from Indian subcontinent, I met Syrians, Indonesians (Malaysia seems to be a popular destination for Indonesian tourists) and Burmese people. Meeting people from other cultures is an integral part of travel for me. My expenses for Food + Accommodation + Travel added to 10,000 INR for a week in Malaysia, while flight costs were: 13,000 INR (Delhi to Kuala Lumpur) + 10,000 INR (Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok) + 12,000 INR (Bangkok to Delhi). For OpenStreetMap users, good news is Kuala Lumpur is fairly well-mapped on OpenStreetMap.

Tips
  • I bought local SIM from a shop at KL Sentral station complex which had news in their name (I forgot the exact name and there are two shops having news in their name) and it was the cheapest option I could find. The SIM was 10 MYR for 5 GB data for a week. If you want to make calls too, then you need to spend extra 5 MYR.
  • 7-Eleven and KK Mart convenience stores are everywhere in the city and they are open all the time (24 hours a day). If you are a vegetarian, you can at least get some bread and cheese from there to eat.
  • A lot of people know English (and many - Indians, Pakistanis, Nepalis - know Hindi) in Kuala Lumpur, so I had no language problems most of the time.
  • For shopping on budget, you can go to Petaling Street, Berjaya Time Square or Bukit Bintang. In particular, there is a shop named I Love KL Gifts in Bukit Bintang which had very good prices. just near the metro/monorail stattion. Check out location of the shop on OpenStreetMap.

12 February 2024

Andrew Cater: Lessons from (and for) colleagues - and, implicitly, how NOT to get on

I have had excellent colleagues both at my day job and, especially, in Debian over the last thirty-odd years. Several have attempted to give me good advice - others have been exemplars. People retire: sadly, people die. What impression do you want to leave behind when you leave here?Belatedly, I've come to realise that obduracy, sheer bloody mindedness, force of will and obstinacy will only get you so far. The following began very much as a tongue in cheek private memo to myself a good few years ago. I showed it to a colleague who suggested at the time that I should share it to a wider audience.

SOME ADVICE YOU MAY BENEFIT FROM

Personal conduct
  • Never argue with someone you believe to be arguing idiotically - a dispassionate bystander may have difficulty telling who's who.
  • You can't make yourself seem reasonable by behaving unreasonably
  • It does not matter how correct your point of view is if you get people's backs up
  • They may all be #####, @@@@@, %%%% and ******* - saying so out loud doesn't help improve matters and may make you seem intemperate.

Working with others
  • Be the change you want to be and behave the way you want others to behave in order to achieve the desired outcome.
  • You can demolish someone's argument constructively and add weight to good points rather than tearing down their ideas and hard work and being ultra-critical and negative - no-one likes to be told "You know - you've got a REALLY ugly baby there"
  • It's easier to work with someone than to work against them and have to apologise repeatedly.
  • Even when you're outstanding and superlative, even you had to learn it all once. Be generous to help others learn: you shouldn't have to teach too many times if you teach correctly once and take time in doing so.

Getting the message across
  • Stop: think: write: review: (peer review if necessary): publish.
  • Clarity is all: just because you understand it doesn't mean anyone else will.
  • It does not matter how correct your point of view is if you put it across badly.
  • If you're giving advice: make sure it is:
  • Considered
  • Constructive
  • Correct as far as you can (and)
  • Refers to other people who may be able to help
  • Say thank you promptly if someone helps you and be prepared to give full credit where credit's due.

Work is like that
  • You may not know all the answers or even have the whole picture - consult, take advice - LISTEN TO THE ADVICE
  • Sometimes the right answer is not the immediately correct answer
  • Corollary: Sometimes the right answer for the business is not your suggested/preferred outcome
  • Corollary: Just because you can do it like that in the real world doesn't mean that you can do it that way inside the business. [This realisation is INTENSELY frustrating but you have to learn to deal with it]
  • DON'T ALWAYS DO IT YOURSELF - Attempt to fix the system, sometimes allow the corporate monster to fail - then do it yourself and fix it. It is always easier and tempting to work round the system and Just Flaming Do It but it doesn't solve problems in the longer term and may create more problems and ill-feeling than it solves.

    [Worked out for Andy Cater for himself after many years of fighting the system as a misguided missile - though he will freely admit that he doesn't always follow them as often as he should :) ]


Gunnar Wolf: Heads up! A miniDebConf is approaching in Santa Fe, Argentina

I realize it s a bit late to start publicly organizing this, but better late than never I m happy some Debian people I have directly contacted have already expressed interest. So, lets make this public! For all interested people who are reasonably close to central Argentina, or can be persuaded to come here in a month s time You are all welcome! It seems I managed to convince my good friend Mart n Bayo (some Debian people will remember him, as he was present in DebConf19 in Curitiba, Brazil) to get some facilities for us to have a nice Debian get-together in Central Argentina.

Where? We will meet at APUL Asociaci n de Personal no-docente de la Universidad Nacional del Litoral, in downtown Santa Fe, Argentina.

When? Saturday, 2024.03.09. It is quite likely we can get some spaces for continuing over Sunday if there is demand.

What are we planning? We have little time for planning but we want to have a space for Debian-related outreach (so, please think about a topic or two you d like to share with general free software-interested, not too technical, audience). Please tell me by mail (gwolf@debian.org) about any ideas you might have. We also want to have a general hacklab-style area to hang out, work a bit in our projects, and spend a good time together.

Logistics I have briefly commented about this with our dear and always mighty DPL, and Debian will support Debian-related people interested in attending; please check personally with me for specifics on how to handle this case by case. My intention is to cover costs for travel, accomodation (one or two nights) and food for whoever is interested in coming over.

More information As I don t want to direct people to keep an eye on my blog post for updates, I ll copy this information (and keep it updated!) at the Debian Wiki / DebianEvents / ar / 2024 / MiniDebConf / Santa Fe please refer to that page!

Contact

Codes of Conduct DebConf and Debian Code of Conduct apply. See the DebConf Code of Conduct and the Debian Code of Conduct.

Registration Registration is free, but needed. See the separate Registration page.

Talks Please, send your proposal to gwolf@debian.org

2 February 2024

Ian Jackson: UPS, the Useless Parcel Service; VAT and fees

I recently had the most astonishingly bad experience with UPS, the courier company. They severely damaged my parcels, and were very bad about UK import VAT, ultimately ending up harassing me on autopilot. The only thing that got their attention was my draft Particulars of Claim for intended legal action. Surprisingly, I got them to admit in writing that the disbursement fee they charge recipients alongside the actual VAT, is just something they made up with no legal basis. What happened Autumn last year I ordered some furniture from a company in Germany. This was to be shipped by them to me by courier. The supplier chose UPS. UPS misrouted one of the three parcels to Denmark. When everything arrived, it had been sat on by elephants. The supplier had to replace most of it, with considerable inconvenience and delay to me, and of course a loss to the supplier. But this post isn t mostly about that. This post is about VAT. You see, import VAT was due, because of fucking Brexit. UPS made a complete hash of collecting that VAT. Their computers can t issue coherent documents, their email helpdesk is completely useless, and their automated debt collection systems run along uninfluenced by any external input. The crazy, including legal threats and escalating late payment fees, continued even after I paid the VAT discrepancy (which I did despite them not yet having provided any coherent calculation for it). This kind of behaviour is a very small and mild version of the kind of things British Gas did to Lisa Ferguson, who eventually won substantial damages for harassment, plus 10K of costs. Having tried asking nicely, and sending stiff letters, I too threatened litigation. I would have actually started a court claim, but it would have included a claim under the Protection from Harassment Act. Those have to be filed under the Part 8 procedure , which involves sending all of the written evidence you re going to use along with the claim form. Collating all that would be a good deal of work, especially since UPS and ControlAccount didn t engage with me at all, so I had no idea which things they might actually dispute. So I decided that before issuing proceedings, I d send them a copy of my draft Particulars of Claim, along with an offer to settle if they would pay me a modest sum and stop being evil robots at me. Rather than me typing the whole tale in again, you can read the full gory details in the PDF of my draft Particulars of Claim. (I ve redacted the reference numbers). Outcome The draft Particulars finally got their attention. UPS sent me an offer: they agreed to pay me 50, in full and final settlement. That was close enough to my offer that I accepted it. I mostly wanted them to stop, and they do seem to have done so. And I ve received the 50. VAT calculation They also finally included an actual explanation of the VAT calculation. It s absurd, but it s not UPS s absurd:
The clearance was entered initially with estimated import charges of 400.03, consisting of 387.83 VAT, and 12.20 disbursement fee. This original entry regrettably did not include the freight cost for calculating the VAT, and as such when submitted for final entry the VAT value was adjusted to include this and an amended invoice was issued for an additional 39.84. HMRC calculate the amount against which VAT is raised using the value of goods, insurance and freight, however they also may apply a VAT adjustment figure. The VAT Adjustment is based on many factors (Incidental costs in regards to a shipment), which includes charge for currency conversion if the invoice does not list values in Sterling, but the main is due to the inland freight from airport of destination to the final delivery point, as this charge varies, for example, from EMA to Edinburgh would be 150, from EMA to Derby would be 1, so each year UPS must supply HMRC with all values incurred for entry build up and they give an average which UPS have to use on the entry build up as the VAT Adjustment. The correct calculation for the import charges is therefore as follows: Goods value divided by exchange rate 2,489.53 EUR / 1.1683 = 2,130.89 GBP Duty: Goods value plus freight (%) 2,130.89 GBP + 5% = 2,237.43 GBP. That total times the duty rate. X 0 % = 0 GBP VAT: Goods value plus freight (100%) 2,130.89 GBP + 0 = 2,130.89 GBP That total plus duty and VAT adjustment 2,130.89 GBP + 0 GBP + 7.49 GBP = 2,348.08 GBP. That total times 20% VAT = 427.67 GBP As detailed above we must confirm that the final VAT charges applied to the shipment were correct, and that no refund of this is therefore due.
This looks very like HMRC-originated nonsense. If only they had put it on the original bills! It s completely ridiculous that it took four months and near-litigation to obtain it. Disbursement fee One more thing. UPS billed me a 12 disbursement fee . When you import something, there s often tax to pay. The courier company pays that to the government, and the consignee pays it to the courier. Usually the courier demands it before final delivery, since otherwise they end up having to chase it as a debt. It is common for parcel companies to add a random fee of their own. As I note in my Particulars, there isn t any legal basis for this. In my own offer of settlement I proposed that UPS should:
State under what principle of English law (such as, what enactment or principle of Common Law), you levy the disbursement fee (or refund it).
To my surprise they actually responded to this in their own settlement letter. (They didn t, for example, mention the harassment at all.) They said (emphasis mine):
A disbursement fee is a fee for amounts paid or processed on behalf of a client. It is an established category of charge used by legal firms, amongst other companies, for billing of various ancillary costs which may be incurred in completion of service. Disbursement fees are not covered by a specific law, nor are they legally prohibited. Regarding UPS disbursement fee this is an administrative charge levied for the use of UPS deferment account to prepay import charges for clearance through CDS. This charge would therefore be billed to the party that is responsible for the import charges, normally the consignee or receiver of the shipment in question. The disbursement fee as applied is legitimate, and as you have stated is a commonly used and recognised charge throughout the courier industry, and I can confirm that this was charged correctly in this instance.
On UPS s analysis, they can just make up whatever fee they like. That is clearly not right (and I don t even need to refer to consumer protection law, which would also make it obviously unlawful). And, that everyone does it doesn t make it lawful. There are so many things that are ubiquitous but unlawful, especially nowadays when much of the legal system - especially consumer protection regulators - has been underfunded to beyond the point of collapse. Next time this comes up I might have a go at getting the fee back. (Obviously I ll have to pay it first, to get my parcel.) ParcelForce and Royal Mail I think this analysis doesn t apply to ParcelForce and (probably) Royal Mail. I looked into this in 2009, and I found that Parcelforce had been given the ability to write their own private laws: Schemes made under section 89 of the Postal Services Act 2000. This is obviously ridiculous but I think it was the law in 2009. I doubt the intervening governments have fixed it. Furniture Oh, yes, the actual furniture. The replacements arrived intact and are great :-).

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16 January 2024

Russ Allbery: Review: Making Money

Review: Making Money, by Terry Pratchett
Series: Discworld #36
Publisher: Harper
Copyright: October 2007
Printing: November 2014
ISBN: 0-06-233499-9
Format: Mass market
Pages: 473
Making Money is the 36th Discworld novel, the second Moist von Lipwig book, and a direct sequel to Going Postal. You could start the series with Going Postal, but I would not start here. The post office is running like a well-oiled machine, Adora Belle is out of town, and Moist von Lipwig is getting bored. It's the sort of boredom that has him picking his own locks, taking up Extreme Sneezing, and climbing buildings at night. He may not realize it, but he needs something more dangerous to do. Vetinari has just the thing. The Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork, unlike the post office before Moist got to it, is still working. It is a stolid, boring institution doing stolid, boring things for rich people. It is also the battleground for the Lavish family past-time: suing each other and fighting over money. The Lavishes are old money, the kind of money carefully entangled in trusts and investments designed to ensure the family will always have money regardless of how stupid their children are. Control of the bank is temporarily in the grasp of Joshua Lavish's widow Topsy, who is not a true Lavish, but the vultures are circling. Meanwhile, Vetinari has grand city infrastructure plans, and to carry them out he needs financing. That means he needs a functional bank, and preferably one that is much less conservative. Moist is dubious about running a bank, and even more reluctant when Topsy Lavish sees him for exactly the con artist he is. His hand is forced when she dies, and Moist discovers he has inherited her dog, Mr. Fusspot. A dog that now owns 51% of the Royal Bank and therefore is the chairman of the bank's board of directors. A dog whose safety is tied to Moist's own by way of an expensive assassination contract. Pratchett knew he had a good story with Going Postal, so here he runs the same formula again. And yes, I was happy to read it again. Moist knows very little about banking but quite a lot about pretending something will work until it does, which has more to do with banking than it does with running a post office. The bank employs an expert, Mr. Bent, who is fanatically devoted to the gold standard and the correctness of the books and has very little patience for Moist. There are golem-related hijinks. The best part of this book is Vetinari, who is masterfully manipulating everyone in the story and who gets in some great lines about politics.
"We are not going to have another wretched empire while I am Patrician. We've only just got over the last one."
Also, Vetinari processing dead letters in the post office was an absolute delight. Making Money does have the recurring Pratchett problem of having a fairly thin plot surrounded by random... stuff. Moist's attempts to reform the city currency while staying ahead of the Lavishes is only vaguely related to Mr. Bent's plot arc. The golems are unrelated to the rest of the plot other than providing a convenient deus ex machina. There is an economist making water models in the bank basement with an Igor, which is a great gag but has essentially nothing to do with the rest of the book. One of the golems has been subjected to well-meaning older ladies and 1950s etiquette manuals, which I thought was considerably less funny (and somewhat creepier) than Pratchett did. There are (sigh) clowns, which continue to be my least favorite Ankh-Morpork world-building element. At least the dog was considerably less annoying than I was afraid it was going to be. This grab-bag randomness is a shame, since I think there was room here for a more substantial plot that engaged fully with the high weirdness of finance. Unfortunately, this was a bit like the post office in Going Postal: Pratchett dives into the subject just enough to make a few wry observations and a few funny quips, and then resolves the deeper issues off-camera. Moist tries to invent fiat currency, because of course he does, and Pratchett almost takes on the gold standard, only to veer away at the last minute into vigorous hand-waving. I suspect part of the problem is that I know a little bit too much about finance, so I kept expecting Pratchett to take the humorous social commentary a couple of levels deeper. On a similar note, the villains have great potential that Pratchett undermines by adding too much over-the-top weirdness. I wish Cosmo Lavish had been closer to what he appears to be at the start of the book: a very wealthy and vindictive man (and a reference to Cosimo de Medici) who doesn't have Moist's ability to come up with wildly risky gambits but who knows considerably more than he does about how banking works. Instead, Pratchett gives him a weird obsession that slowly makes him less sinister and more pathetic, which robs the book of a competent antagonist for Moist. The net result is still a fun book, and a solid Discworld entry, but it lacks the core of the best series entries. It felt more like a skit comedy show than a novel, but it's an excellent skit comedy show with the normal assortment of memorable Pratchettisms. Certainly if you've read this far, or even if you've only read Going Postal, you'll want to read Making Money as well. Followed by Unseen Academicals. The next Moist von Lipwig book is Raising Steam. Rating: 8 out of 10

14 January 2024

Debian Brasil: MiniDebConf BH 2024 - abertura de inscri o e chamada de atividades

MiniDebConf BH 2024 Est aberta a inscri o de participantes e a chamada de atividades para a MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024 e para o FLISOL - Festival Latino-americano de Instala o de Software Livre. Veja abaixo algumas informa es importantes: Data e local da MiniDebConf e do FLISOL A MiniDebConf acontecer de 27 a 30 de abril no Campus Pampulha da UFMG - Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais. No dia 27 (s bado) tamb m realizaremos uma edi o do FLISOL - Festival Latino-americano de Instala o de Software Livre, evento que acontece no mesmo dia em v rias cidades da Am rica Latina. Enquanto a MiniDebConf ter atividades focados no Debian, o FLISOL ter atividades gerais sobre Software Livre e temas relacionados como linguagem de programa o, CMS, administra o de redes e sistemas, filosofia, liberdade, licen as, etc. Inscri o gratuita e oferta de bolsas Voc j pode realizar a sua inscri o gratuita para a MiniDebConf Belo Horizonte 2024. A MiniDebConf um evento aberto a todas as pessoas, independente do seu n vel de conhecimento sobre Debian. O mais importante ser reunir a comunidade para celebrar um dos maiores projeto de Software Livre no mundo, por isso queremos receber desde usu rios(as) inexperientes que est o iniciando o seu contato com o Debian at Desenvolvedores(as) oficiais do projeto. Ou seja, est o todos(as) convidados(as)! Este ano estamos ofertando bolsas de hospedagem e passagens para viabilizar a vinda de pessoas de outras cidades que contribuem para o Projeto Debian. Contribuidores(as) n o oficiais, DMs e DDs podem solicitar as bolsas usando o formul rio de inscri o. Tamb m estamos ofertando bolsas de alimenta o para todos(as) os(as) participantes, mesmo n o contribuidores(as), e pessoas que moram na regi o de BH. Os recursos financeiros s o bastante limitados, mas tentaremos atender o m ximo de pedidos. Se voc pretende pedir alguma dessas bolsas, acesse este link e veja mais informa es antes de realizar a sua inscri o: A inscri o (sem bolsas) poder ser feita at a data do evento, mas temos uma data limite para o pedido de bolsas de hospedagem e passagens, por isso fique atento(a) ao prazo final: at 18 de fevereiro. Como estamos usando mesmo formul rio para os dois eventos, a inscri o ser v lida tanto para a MiniDebConf quanto para o FLISOL. Para se inscrever, acesse o site, v em Criar conta. Criei a sua conta (preferencialmente usando o Salsa) e acesse o seu perfil. L voc ver o bot o de Se inscrever. https://bh.mini.debconf.org Chamada de atividades Tamb m est aberta a chamada de atividades tanto para MiniDebConf quanto para o FLISOL. Para mais informa es, acesse este link. Fique atento ao prazo final para enviar sua proposta de atividade: at 18 de fevereiro. Contato Qualquer d vida, mande um email para contato@debianbrasil.org.br Organiza o Debian Brasil Debian Debian MG DCC

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