Search Results: "vivi"

21 July 2020

Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (May and June 2020)

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months: The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months: Congratulations!

26 May 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January

Review: The Ten Thousand Doors of January, by Alix E. Harrow
Publisher: Redhook
Copyright: September 2019
ISBN: 0-316-42198-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 373
In 1901, at the age of seven, January found a Door. It was barely more than a frame in a ruined house in a field in Kentucky, but she wrote a story about opening it, and then did.
Once there was a brave and temeraryous (sp?) girl who found a Door. It was a magic Door that's why it has a capital D. She opened the Door.
The Door led to a bluff over the sea and above a city, a place very far from Kentucky, and she almost stayed, but she came back through the Door when her guardian, Mr. Locke, called. The adventure cost her a diary, several lectures, days of being locked in her room, and the remnants of her strained relationship with her father. When she went back, the frame of the Door was burned to the ground. That was the end of Doors for January for some time, and the continuation of a difficult childhood. She was cared for by her father's employer as a sort of exotic pet, dutifully attempting to obey, grateful for Mr. Locke's protection, and convinced that he was occasionally sneaking her presents through a box in the Pharaoh Room out of some hidden kindness. Her father appeared rarely, said little, and refused to take her with him. Three things helped: the grocery boy who smuggled her stories, an intimidating black woman sent by her father to replace her nurse, and her dog.
Once upon a time there was a good girl who met a bad dog, and they became the very best of friends. She and her dog were inseparable from that day forward.
I will give you a minor spoiler that I would have preferred to have had, since it would have saved me some unwarranted worry and some mental yelling at the author: The above story strains but holds. January's adventure truly starts the day before her seventeenth birthday, when she finds a book titled The Ten Thousand Doors in the box in the Pharaoh Room. As you may have guessed from the title, The Ten Thousand Doors of January is a portal fantasy, but it's the sort of portal fantasy that is more concerned with the portal itself than the world on the other side of it. (Hello to all of you out there who, like me, have vivid memories of the Wood between the Worlds.) It's a book about traveling and restlessness and the possibility of escape, about the ability to return home again, and about the sort of people who want to close those doors because the possibility of change created by people moving around freely threatens the world they have carefully constructed. Structurally, the central part of the book is told by interleaving chapters of January's tale with chapters from The Ten Thousand Doors. That book within a book starts with the framing of a scholarly treatment but quickly becomes a biography of a woman: Adelaide Lee Larson, a half-wild farm girl who met her true love at the threshold of a Door and then spent much of her life looking for him. I am not a very observant reader for plot details, particularly for books that I'm enjoying. I read books primarily for the emotional beats and the story structure, and often miss rather obvious story clues. (I'm hopeless at guessing the outcomes of mysteries.) Therefore, when I say that there are many things January is unaware of that are obvious to the reader, that's saying a lot. Even more clues were apparent when I skimmed the first chapter again, and a more observant reader would probably have seen them on the first read. Right down to Mr. Locke's name, Harrow is not very subtle about the moral shape of this world. That can make the early chapters of the book frustrating. January is being emotionally (and later physically) abused by the people who have power in her life, but she's very deeply trapped by false loyalty and lack of external context. Winning free of that is much of the story of the book, and at times it has the unpleasantness of watching someone make excuses for her abuser. At other times it has the unpleasantness of watching someone be abused. But this is the place where I thought the nested story structure worked marvelously. January escapes into the story of The Ten Thousand Doors at the worst moments of her life, and the reader escapes with her. Harrow uses the desire to switch scenes back to the more adventurous and positive story to construct and reinforce the emotional structure of the book. For me, it worked extremely well. It helps that the ending is glorious. The payoff is worth all the discomfort and tension-building in the first half of the book. Both The Ten Thousand Doors and the surrounding narrative reach deeply satisfying conclusions, ones that are entangled but separate in just the ways that they need to be. January's abilities, actions, and decisions at the end of the book were just the outcome that I needed but didn't entirely guess in advance. I could barely put down the last quarter of this story and loved every moment of the conclusion. This is the sort of book that can be hard to describe in a review because its merits don't rest on an original twist or easily-summarized idea. The elements here are all elements found in other books: portal fantasy, the importance of story-telling, coming of age, found family, irrepressible and indomitable characters, and the battle of the primal freedom of travel and discovery and belief against the structural forces that keep rulers in place. The merits of this book are in the small details: the way that January's stories are sparse and rare and sometimes breathtaking, the handling of tattoos, the construction of other worlds with a few deft strokes, and the way Harrow embraces the emotional divergence between January's life and Adelaide's to help the reader synchronize the emotional structure of their reading experience with January's.
She writes a door of blood and silver. The door opens just for her.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January is up against a very strong slate for both the Nebula and the Hugo this year, and I suspect it may be edged out by other books, although I wouldn't be unhappy if it won. (It probably has a better shot at the Nebula than the Hugo.) But I will be stunned if Harrow doesn't walk away with the Mythopoeic Award. This seems like exactly the type of book that award was created for. This is an excellent book, one of the best I've read so far this year. Highly recommended. Rating: 9 out of 10

25 May 2020

Russ Allbery: Review: The Last Emperox

Review: The Last Emperox, by John Scalzi
Series: Interdependency #3
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: April 2020
ISBN: 0-7653-8917-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 318
This is the conclusion of the Interdependency trilogy, which is a single story told in three books. Start with The Collapsing Empire. You don't want to read this series out of order. All the pieces and players are in place, the causes and timeline of the collapse of the empire she is accidentally ruling are now clear, and Cardenia Wu-Patrick knows who her friends and enemies are. What she doesn't know is what she can do about it. Her enemies, unfettered Cardenia's ethics or desire to save the general population, have the advantage of clearer and more achievable goals. If they survive and, almost as important, remain in power, who cares what happens to everyone else? As with The Consuming Fire, the politics may feel a bit too on-the-nose for current events, this time for the way that some powerful people are handling (or not handling) the current pandemic. Also as with The Consuming Fire, Scalzi's fast-moving story, likable characters, banter, and occasional humorous descriptions prevent those similarities from feeling heavy or didactic. This is political wish fulfillment to be sure, but it doesn't try to justify itself or linger too much on its improbabilities. It's a good story about entertaining people trying (mostly) to save the world with a combination of science and political maneuvering. I picked up The Last Emperox as a palate cleanser after reading Gideon the Ninth, and it provided exactly what I was looking for. That gave me an opportunity to think about what Scalzi does in his writing, why his latest novel was one of my first thoughts for a palate cleanser, and why I react to his writing the way that I do. Scalzi isn't a writer about whom I have strong opinions. In my review of The Collapsing Empire, I compared his writing to the famous description of Asimov as the "default voice" of science fiction, but that's not quite right. He has a distinct and easily-recognizable style, heavy on banter and light-hearted description. But for me his novels are pleasant, reliable entertainment that I forget shortly after reading them. They don't linger or stand out, even though I enjoy them while I'm reading them. That's my reaction. Others clearly do not have that reaction, fully engage with his books, and remember them vividly. That indicates to me that there's something his writing is doing that leaves substantial room for difference of personal taste and personal reaction to the story, and the sharp contrast between The Last Emperox and Gideon the Ninth helped me put my finger on part of it. I don't feel like Scalzi's books try to tell me how to feel about the story. There's a moment in The Last Emperox where Cardenia breaks down crying over an incredibly difficult decision that she's made, one that the readers don't find out about until later. In another book, there would be considerably more emotional build-up to that moment, or at least some deep analysis of it later once the decision is revealed. In this book, it's only a handful of paragraphs and then a few pages of processing later, primarily in dialogue, and less focused on the emotions of the characters than on the forward-looking decisions they've made to deal with those emotions. The emotion itself is subtext. Many other authors would try to pull the reader into those moments and make them feel what the characters are feeling. Scalzi just relates them, and leaves the reader free to feel what they choose to feel. I don't think this is a flaw (or a merit) in Scalzi's writing; it's just a difference, and exactly the difference that made me reach for this book as an emotional break after a book that got its emotions all over the place. Calling Scalzi's writing emotionally relaxing isn't quite right, but it gives me space to choose to be emotionally relaxed if I want to be. I can pick the level of my engagement. If I want to care about these characters and agonize over their decisions, there's enough information here to mull over and use to recreate their emotional states. If I just want to read a story about some interesting people and not care too much about their hopes and dreams, I can choose to do that instead, and the book won't fight me. That approach lets me sidle up on the things that I care about and think about them at my leisure, or leave them be. This approach makes Scalzi's books less intense than other novels for me. This is where personal preference comes in. I read books in large part to engage emotionally with the characters, and I therefore appreciate books that do a lot of that work for me. Scalzi makes me do the work myself, and the result is not as effective for me, or as memorable. I think this may be part of what I and others are picking up on when we say that Scalzi's writing is reminiscent of classic SF from decades earlier. It used to be common for SF to not show any emotional vulnerability in the main characters, and to instead focus on the action plot and the heroics and martial virtues. This is not what Scalzi is doing, to be clear; he has a much better grasp of character and dialogue than most classic SF, adds considerable light-hearted humor, and leaves clear clues and hooks for a wide range of human emotions in the story. But one can read Scalzi in that tone if one wants to, since the emotional hooks do not grab hard at the reader and dig in. By comparison, you cannot read Gideon the Ninth without grappling with the emotions of the characters. The book will not let you. I think this is part of why Scalzi is so consistent for me. If you do not care deeply about Gideon Nav, you will not get along with Gideon the Ninth, and not everyone will. But several main characters in The Last Emperox (Mance and to some extent Cardenia) did little or nothing for me emotionally, and it didn't matter. I liked Kiva and enjoyed watching her strategically smash her way through social conventions, but it was easy to watch her from a distance and not get too engrossed in her life or her thoughts. The plot trundled along satisfyingly, regardless. That lack of emotional involvement precludes, for me, a book becoming the sort of work that I will rave about and try to press into other people's hands, but it also makes it comfortable and gentle and relaxing in a way that a more emotionally fraught book could not be. This is a long-winded way to say that this was a satisfying conclusion to a space opera trilogy that I enjoyed reading, will recommend mildly to others, and am already forgetting the details of. If you liked the first two books, this is an appropriate and fun conclusion with a few new twists and a satisfying amount of swearing (mostly, although not entirely, from Kiva). There are a few neat (albeit not horribly original) bits of world-building, a nice nod to and subversion of Asimov, a fair bit of political competency wish fulfillment (which I didn't find particularly believable but also didn't mind being unbelievable), and one enjoyable "oh no she didn't" moment. If you like the thing that Scalzi is doing, you will enjoy this book. Rating: 8 out of 10

12 May 2020

Daniel Silverstone: The Lars, Mark, and Daniel Club

Last night, Lars, Mark, and I discussed Jeremy Kun's The communicative value of using Git well post. While a lot of our discussion was spawned by the article, we did go off-piste a little, and I hope that my notes below will enlighten you all as to a bit of how we see revision control these days. It was remarkably pleasant to read an article where the comments section wasn't a cesspool of horror, so if this posting encourages you to go and read the article, don't stop when you reach the bottom -- the comments are good and useful too.
This was a fairly non-contentious article for us though each of us had points we wished to bring up and chat about it turned into a very convivial chat. We saw the main thrust of the article as being about using the metadata of revision control to communicate intent, process, and decision making. We agreed that it must be possible to do so effectively with Mercurial (thus deciding that the mention of it was simply a bit of clickbait / red herring) and indeed Mark figured that he was doing at least some of this kind of thing way back with CVS. We all discussed how knowing the fundamentals of Git's data model improved our ability to work wih the tool. Lars and I mentioned how jarring it has originally been to come to Git from revision control systems such as Bazaar (bzr) but how over time we came to appreciate Git for what it is. For Mark this was less painful because he came to Git early enough that there was little more than the fundamental data model, without much of the porcelain which now exists. One point which we all, though Mark in particular, felt was worth considering was that of distinguishing between published and unpublished changes. The article touches on it a little, but one of the benefits of the workflow which Jeremy espouses is that of using the revision control system as an integral part of the review pipeline. This is perhaps done very well with Git based workflows, but can be done with other VCSs. With respect to the points Jeremy makes regarding making commits which are good for reviewing, we had a general agreement that things were good and sensible, to a point, but that some things were missed out on. For example, I raised that commit messages often need to be more thorough than one-liners, but Jeremy's examples (perhaps through expedience for the article?) were all pretty trite one-liners which perhaps would have been entirely obvious from the commit content. Jeremy makes the point that large changes are hard to review, and Lars poined out that Greg Wilson did research in this area, and at least one article mentions 200 lines as a maximum size of a reviewable segment. I had a brief warble at this point about how reviewing needs to be able to consider the whole of the intended change (i.e. a diff from base to tip) not just individual commits, which is also missing from Jeremy's article, but that such a review does not need to necessarily be thorough and detailed since the commit-by-commit review remains necessary. I use that high level diff as a way to get a feel for the full shape of the intended change, a look at the end-game if you will, before I read the story of how someone got to it. As an aside at this point, I talked about how Jeremy included a 'style fixes' commit in his example, but I loathe seeing such things and would much rather it was either not in the series because it's unrelated to it; or else the style fixes were folded into the commits they were related to. We discussed how style rules, as well as commit-bisectability, and other rules which may exist for a codebase, the adherence to which would form part of the checks that a code reviewer may perform, are there to be held to when they help the project, and to be broken when they are in the way of good communication between humans. In this, Lars talked about how revision control histories provide high level valuable communication between developers. Communication between humans is fraught with error and the rules are not always clear on what will work and what won't, since this depends on the communicators, the context, etc. However whatever communication rules are in place should be followed. We often say that it takes two people to communicate information, but when you're writing commit messages or arranging your commit history, the second party is often nebulous "other" and so the code reviewer fulfils that role to concretise it for the purpose of communication. At this point, I wondered a little about what value there might be (if any) in maintaining the metachanges (pull request info, mailing list discussions, etc) for historical context of decision making. Mark suggested that this is useful for design decisions etc but not for the style/correctness discussions which often form a large section of review feedback. Maybe some of the metachange tracking is done automatically by the review causing the augmentation of the changes (e.g. by comments, or inclusion of design documentation changes) to explain why changes are made. We discussed how the "rebase always vs. rebase never" feeling flip-flopped in us for many years until, as an example, what finally won Lars over was that he wants the history of the project to tell the story, in the git commits, of how the software has changed and evolved in an intentional manner. Lars said that he doesn't care about the meanderings, but rather about a clear story which can be followed and understood. I described this as the switch from "the revision history is about what I did to achieve the goal" to being more "the revision history is how I would hope someone else would have done this". Mark further refined that to "The revision history of a project tells the story of how the project, as a whole, chose to perform its sequence of evolution." We discussed how project history must necessarily then contain issue tracking, mailing list discussions, wikis, etc. There are exist free software projects where part of their history is forever lost because, for example, the project moved from Sourceforge to Github, but made no effort (or was unable) to migrate issues or somesuch. Linkages between changes and the issues they relate to can easily be broken, though at least with mailing lists you can often rewrite URLs if you have something consistent like a Message-Id. We talked about how cover notes, pull request messages, etc. can thus also be lost to some extent. Is this an argument to always use merges whose message bodies contain those details, rather than always fast-forwarding? Or is it a reason to encapsulate all those discussions into git objects which can be forever associated with the changes in the DAG? We then diverted into discussion of CI, testing every commit, and the benefits and limitations of automated testing vs. manual testing; though I think that's a little too off-piste for even this summary. We also talked about how commit message audiences include software perhaps, with the recent movement toward conventional commits and how, with respect to commit messages for machine readability, it can become very complex/tricky to craft good commit messages once there are multiple disparate audiences. For projects the size of the Linux kernel this kind of thing would be nearly impossible, but for smaller projects, perhaps there's value. Finally, we all agreed that we liked the quote at the end of the article, and so I'd like to close out by repeating it for you all... Hal Abelson famously said:
Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute.
Jeremy agrees, as do we, and extends that to the metacommit information as well.

13 April 2020

Shirish Agarwal: Migrant worker woes and many other stories

I was gonna use this blog post to share about the migrant worker woes as there has been multiple stories doing the rounds. For e.g. a story which caught the idea of few people but most of us, i.e. middle-class people are so much into our own thing that we care a fig leaf about what happens to migrants. This should not be a story coming from a humane society but it seems India is no different than any other country of the world and in not a good way. Allow me to share
Or for those who don t like youtube, here s an alternative link https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=JGEgZq_1jmc Now the above two editorial shares two stories, one of Trump retaliatory threat to India in the Q&A of the journalist. In fact, Trump has upped the ante on visa sanctions as India buckled so easily under pressure. There have been other stories doing the rounds how people who have illnesses who need HCQ in India are either dying or are close to death because of unavailability of HCQ in the medicine shop. There have been reports in Pune as well as South Mumbai (one of the poshest localities in Mumbai/Bombay) that medicine shops are running empty or emptier. There have been so many stories on that, with reporters going to shops and asking owners of the medicine shops and shop-owners being clueless. I think the best article which vividly describes the Government of India (GOI) response to the pandemic is the free-to-read article shared by Arundhati Roy in Financial Times. It has reduced so much of my work or sharing that it s unbelievable. And she has shared it with pictures and all so I can share other aspects of how the pandemic has been affecting India and bringing the worst out in the Government in its our of need. In fact, not surprisingly though, apparently there was also a pro-Israel similar thing which happened in Africa too . As India has too few friends now globally, hence it decided to give a free pass to them.

Government of India, news agencies and paid News One of the attempts the state tried to do, although very late IMHO is that it tried to reach out to the opposition i.e. Congress party and the others. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, who is the Congress president asked that the Government should not run any of its ads on private television channels for a period of two years. There had been plenty of articles, both by medianama and others who have alleged that at least from the last 6 odd years, Government ads. comprise of almost 50-60% advertising budget of a channel advertising budget. This has been discussed also in medianama s roundtable on online content which happened few months back. While an edited version is out there on YT, this was full two day s event which happened across two different cities.
or the alternative to youtube https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=c1PhWR1-Urs It was as if the roundtable discussions were not enough, Mrs. Gandhi clarion call was answered by News Broadcaster s Association (NBA) and this is what they had to say
News Broadcasters Association reply to Mrs. Gandhi
To put it simply, NBA deplored the suggestion by Mrs. Gandhi and even called the economy in recession and all they had were the Government s own advertising budget to justify their existence. The statements in themselves are highly pregnant and reveal both the relationship that the media, print or mainstream news channels have with the Government of India. Now if you see that, doesn t it make sense that media always slants the story from the Government s perspective rather than remaining neutral. If my bread basket were on the onus of me siding with the Govt. that is what most sane persons would do, otherwise they would resign and leave which many reporters who had a conscience did. Interestingly enough, the NBA statement didn t just end there but also used the word recession , this is the term that Government of India (GOI) hates and has in turn has been maintaining the word, terminology slowdown . While from a layman s perspective the two terms may seem to be similar, if India has indeed been in recession then the tools and the decisions that should have been taken by GOI should have been much different than what they took. Interestingly, enough GOI has refrained from saying anything on the matter which only reveals their own interests in the matter. Also if an association head is making the statement, it is more than likely that he consulted a lawyer or two and used application of mind while drafting the response. In other words, or put more simply, this was a very carefully drafted letter because they know that tomorrow the opposition party may come into power so they don t want to upset the power dynamics too much.

Privacy issues arising due to the Pandemic On the same Financial Times, two stories which dealt with the possible privacy violations due to the Pandemic have been doing the rounds. The first one, by Yuval Noah Harari is more exploratory by nature and makes some very good points without going far too deep into specific instances of recent times but rather goes into history and past instances where Governments have used the pandemics to exert more control over their populace and drive their agenda. I especially liked the last few lines which he shared in his op-ed Even if the current administration eventually changes tack and comes up with a global plan of action, few would follow a leader who never takes responsibility, who never admits mistakes, and who routinely takes all the credit for himself while leaving all the blame to others. Yuval Noah Harari . The whole statement could right fit onto the American President which he was talking about while at the same time, fits right into the current Indian Prime Minister, Boris Johnson of UK and perhaps Jair Bolsanaro of Brazil. All these three-four individuals have in common is that most of them belong to right-wing and hence cater only to the rich industrialist s agenda. While I don t know about Jair Bolsanaro much, at least three out of four had to turn to socialism and had to give some bailout packages to the public at large, even though continuing to undermine their own actions. More on this probably a bit down the line. The second story shared by Nic Fildes and Javier Espinoza who broke the story of various surveillance attempts and the privacy concerns that people have. Even the Indian PMO has asked this data and because there was no protest by the civil society, a token protest was done by COAI (Cellular Operator Association of India) but beyond that nothing, I am guessing because the civil society didn t make much noise as everybody is busy with their own concerns of safety and things going on, it s possible that such data may have gone to the Government. There is not much new here that people who had been working on the privacy issues know, it s just how easy Governments are finding to do it. The part of informed consent is really a misnomer . Governments lie all the time, for e.g. in the UK, did the leave party and people take informed consent, no they pushed their own agenda. This is and will be similar in many countries of the world.

False Socialism by RW parties In at least the three countries I have observing, simply due to available time, that lot of false promises are being made by our leaders and more often than not, the bailouts will be given to already rich industrialists. An op-ed by Vivek Kaul, who initially went by his handle which means somebody who is educated but unemployed. While Vivek has been one-man army in revealing most of the Government s mischiefs especially as fudging numbers are concerned among other things, there have been others too. As far as the US is concerned, an e-zine called free press (literally) has been sharing Trump s hollowness and proclamations for U.S. . Far more interestingly, I found New York times investigated and found a cache of e-mails starting from early January, which they are calling Red Dawn . The cache is undeniable proof that medical personnel in the U.S. were very much concerned since January 2020 but it was only after other countries started lock-down that U.S. had to follow suit. I am sure Indian medical professionals may have done similar mail exchanges but we will never know as the Indian media isn t independent enough.

Domestic violence and Patriarchy There have been numerous reports of domestic violence against women going up, in fact two prominent publications have shared pieces about how domestic violence has gone up in India since the lockdown but the mainstream press is busy with its own tropes, the reasons already stated above. In fact, interestingly enough, most women can t wear loose fitting clothes inside the house because of the near ones being there 24 7 . This was being shared as India is going through summer where heat waves are common and most families do not have access to A/C s and rely on either a fan or just ventilation to help them out. I can t write more about this as simply I m not a woman so I haven t had to face the pressures that they have to every day. Interestingly though, there was a piece shared by arre. Interestingly, also arre whose content I have shared a few times on my blog has gone from light, funny to be much darker and more serious tone. Whether this is due to the times we live in is something that a social scientist or a social anthropologist may look into in the times to come. One of the good things though, there hasn t been any grid failures as no industrial activity is happening (at all). In fact SEB s (State Electricity Boards) has shown a de-growth in electricity uptake as no industrial activity has been taken. While they haven t reduced any prices (which they ideally should have) as everybody is suffering.

Loot and price rise Again, don t think it is an Indian issue but perhaps may be the same globally. Because of broken supply chains, there are both real and artificial shortages happening which is leading to reasonable and unreasonable price hikes in the market. Fresh veggies which were normally between INR 10/- to INR 20/- for 250 gm have reached INR 40/- 50/- and even above. Many of the things that we have to become depend upon are not there anymore. The shortage of plastic bottles being case in point.
Aryan Plastic bottle
This and many others like these pictures have been shared on social media but it seems the Government is busy doing something else. The only thing we know for sure is that the lock-down period is only gonna increase, no word about PPE s (Personal Protection Equipment) or face masks or anything else. While India has ordered some, those orders are being diverted to US or EU. In fact, many doctors who have asked for the same have been arrested, sacked or suspended for asking such inconvenient questions, although whether in BJP ruled states or otherwise. In fact, the Centre has suspended MPLADS funds , members of parliament get funds which they can use to provide relief work or whatever they think the money is best to spend upon.

Conditions of Labor in the Pandemic Another sort of depressing story has been how the Supreme Court CJI Justice SA Bobde has made statements and refrained from playing any role in directing the Center to provide relief to the daily wage laborers. In fact, Mr. Bobde made statements such as why they need salaries if they are getting food. This was shared by barandbench, a site curated by lawyers and reporters alike. Both livelaw as well as barandbench have worked to enhance people s awareness about the legal happenings in our High Courts and Supreme Court. And while sadly, they cannot cover all, they at least do attempt to cover a bit of what s hot atm. The Chief Justice who draws a salary of INR 250,000 per month besides other perks is perhaps unaware or doesn t care about fate of millions of casual workers, 400 460 million workers who will face abject poverty and by extension even if there are 4 members of the family so probably 1.2 billion people will fall below the poverty line. Three, four major sectors are going to be severely impacted, namely Agriculture, Construction and then MSME (Micro, small and medium enterprises) which cover everything from autos, industrial components, FMCG, electronics, you name it, it s done by the MSME sector. We know that the Rabi crop, even though it was gonna be a bumper crop this year will rot away in the fields. Even the Kharif crop whose window for sowing is at the most 2-3 weeks will not be able to get it done in time. In fact, with the extended lockdown of another 21 days, people will probably return home after 2 months by which time they would have nothing to do there as well as here in the cities. Another good report was done by the wire, the mainstream media has already left the station.

Ministry of Public Health There was an article penned by Dr. Edmond Fernandes which he published last year. The low salary along with the complexities that Indian doctors are and may face in the near future are just mind-boggling.

The Loss Losses have already started pouring in. Just today Air Deccan has ceased all its operations. I had loved Mr. Gopinath s airline which was started in the early 2000 s. While I won t bore you with the history, most of it can be seen from simplify Deccan . This I believe is just the start and it s only after the few months after the lock-down has been lifted would we really know the true extent of losses everywhere. And the more lenghthier the lockdown, the more difficult it would be businesses to ramp back. People have already diagnosed at the very least 15-20 sectors of the economy which would be hit and another similar or more number of sectors which will have first and second-order of losses and ramp-downs. While some guesses are being made, many are wildly optimistic and many are wildly pessimistic, as shared we would only know the results when the lockdown is opened up.

Predictions for the future While things are very much in the air, some predictions can be made or rationally deduced. For instance, investments made in automation and IT would remain and perhaps even accelerate a little. Logistics models would need to be re-worked and maybe, just maybe there would be talk and action in making local supply chains a bit more robust. Financing is going to be a huge issue for at least 6 months to a year. Infrastructure projects which require huge amount of cash upfront will either have to be re-worked or delayed, how they will affect projects like Pune Metro and other such projects only time will tell.

Raghuram Rajan Raghuram Rajan was recently asked if he would come back and let bygones be bygones. Raghuram in his own roundabout way said no. He is right now with Chicago Booth doing the work that he always love. Why would he leave that and be right in the middle of the messes other people have made. He probably gets more money, more freedom and probably has a class full of potential future economists. Immigration Control, Conferences and thought experiment There are so many clueless people out there, who don t know why it takes so long for any visa to be processed. From what little I know, it is to verify who you say you are and you have valid reason to enter the country. The people from home ministry verify credentials, as well as probably check with lists of known criminals and their networks world-wide. They probably have programs for such scenarios and are part and parcel of their everyday work. The same applies to immigration control at Airports. there has been a huge gap at immigration counters and the numbers of passengers who were flying internationally to and fro from India. While in India, we call them as Ministry of Home Affairs, in U.S. it s Department of Homeland security, other countries using similar jargons. Now even before this pandemic happened, the number of people who are supposed to do border control and check people was way less and there have been scenes of Air rage especially in Indian airports after people came after a long-distance flight. Now there are couple of thought experiments, just day before yesterday scientists discovered six new coronaviruses in bats and scientists in Iceland found 40 odd mutations of the virus on people. Now are countries going to ban people from Iceland as in time the icelandic people probably would have anti-bodies on all the forty odd mutations. Now if and when they come in contact onto others who have not, what would happen ? And this is not specifically about one space or ethnicity or whatever, microbes and viruses have been longer on earth than we have. In our greed we have made viruses resistant to antibiotics. While Mr. Trump says as he discovered it today, this has been known to the medical fraternity since tht 1950 s. CDC s own chart shows it. We cannot live in fear of a virus, the only way we can beat it is by understanding it and using science. Jon Cohen shared some of the incredible ways science is looking to beat this thing
or as again an alternative to youtube https://www.invidio.us/watch?v=MPVG_n3w_vM One of the most troubling question is how the differently-abled communities which don t have media coverage at the best of times, haven t had any media coverage at all during the pandemic. What are their stories and what they are experiencing ? How are they coping ? Are there anyways we could help each other ? By not having those stories, we perhaps have left them more vulnerable than we intend. And what does that speak about us, as people or as a community or a society ?

Silver Linings While there is not a lot to be positive about, one interesting project I came about is openbreath.tech . This is an idea, venture started by IISER (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research) , IUCAA (Inter-University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics). They are collaborating with octogeneraian Capt (Retd) Rustom Barucha from Barucha Instrumentation and Control, besides IndoGenius, New Delhi, and King s College, London. The first two institutes are from my home town, Pune. While I don t know much of the specifics of this idea other than that there is an existing Barucha ventilator which they hope to open-source and make it easier for people to produce their own. While I have more questions than answers at this point, this is something hopefully to watch out for in the coming days and weeks. The other jolly bit of good news has come from Punjab where after several decades, people in Northern Punjab are finally able to see the Himalayas or the Himalayan mountain range.
Dhauladhar range Northern Punjab Copyright CNN.Com
There you have it, What I have covered is barely scratching the surface. As a large section of the media only focuses on one narrative, other stories and narratives are lost. Be safe, till later.

6 November 2017

Andreas Bombe: Reviving GHDL in Debian

It has been a few years since Debian last had a working VHDL simulator in the archive. Its competitor Verilog has been covered by the iverilog and verilator simulator packages, but GHDL was the only option for VHDL in Debian and that has become broken, orphaned and was eventually removed. I have just submitted an ITP to make my work on it official. A lot has changed since the last Debian upload of GHDL. Upstream development is quite active and it has gained free reimplementations of the standard library definitions (the lack of which frustrated at least two attempts at adoption of the Debian package). It has gained additional backends, in addition to GCC it can now also use LLVM and its own custom mcode (x86 only) code generator. The mcode backend should provide faster compilation at the expense of lacking sophisticated optimization, hence it might be preferable over the other two for small projects. My intentions are to provide all three backends in separate packages which would also offer easier backend troubleshooting a user experiencing problems can simply install another package to try a different backend. The problem with that idea is that GHDL is not designed for that kind of parallel installation. The backend is chosen at build configure time and that configuration is built and installed. Parallel installation will probably need some development but if that would turn out to be much work I could always have the packages conflicting initially. Given all these changes I am redoing the Debianization from ground up and maybe take bits and pieces from the old packaging where suitable. Right now I m building the different backends to compare and see what files are backend specific and what can go into a common package.

15 October 2017

Iain R. Learmonth: Free Software Efforts (2017W41)

Here s my weekly report for week 41 of 2017. In this week I have explored some Java 8 features, looked at automatic updates in a few Linux distributions and decided that actually I don t need swap anymore.

Debian The issue that was preventing the migration of the Tasktools Packaging Team s mailing list from Alioth to Savannah has now been resolved. Ana s chkservice package that I sponsored last week has been ACCEPTED into unstable and since MIGRATED to testing.

Tor Project I have produced a patch for the Tor Project website to update links to the Onionoo documentation now this has moved (#23802 ). I ve updated the Debian and Ubuntu relay configuration instructions to use systemctl instead of service where appropriate (#23048 ). When a Tor relay is less than 2 years old, an alert will now appear on Atlas to link to the new relay lifecycle blog post (#23767 ). This should hopefully help new relay operators understand why their relay is not immediately fully loaded but instead it takes some time to ramp up. I have gone through the tickets for Tor Cloud and did not find any tickets that contain any important information that would be useful to someone reviving the project. I have closed out these tickets and the Tor Cloud component no longer has any non-closed tickets (#7763, #8544, #8768, #9064, #9751, #10282, #10637, #11153, #11502, #13391, #14035, #14036, #14073, #15821 ). I ve continued to work on turning the Atlas application into an integrated part of Tor Metrics (#23518 ) and you can see some progress here. Finally, I ve continued hacking on a Twitter bot to tweet factoids about the public Tor network and you can now enjoy some JavaDoc documentation if you d like to learn a little about its internals. I am still waiting for a git repository to be created (#23799 ) but will be publishing the sources shortly after that ticket is actioned.

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

7 September 2017

Gunnar Wolf: It was thirty years ago today... (and a bit more): My first ever public speech!

I came across a folder with the most unexpected treasure trove: The text for my first ever public speech! (and some related materials)
In 1985, being nine years old, I went to the IDESE school, to learn Logo. I found my diploma over ten years ago and blogged about it in this same space. Of course, I don't expect any of you to remember what I wrote twelve years ago about a (then) twenty years old piece of paper! I add to this very old stuff about Gunnar the four pages describing my game, Evitamono ("Avoid the monkey", approximately). I still remember the game quite vividly, including traumatic issues which were quite common back then; I wrote that the sprites were accidentally deleted twice and the game once . I remember several of my peers telling about such experiences. Well, that is good if you account for the second system syndrome! I also found the amazing course material for how to program sound and graphics in the C64 BASIC. That was a course taken by ten year old kids. Kids that understood that you had to write [255,129,165,244,219,165,0,102] (see pages 3-5) into a memory location starting at 53248 to redefine a character so it looked as the graphic element you wanted. Of course, it was done with a set of POKEs, as everything in C64. Or that you could program sound by setting the seven SID registers for each of the three voices containing low frequency, high frequency, low pulse, high pulse, wave control, wave length, wave amplitude in memory locations 54272 through 54292... And so on and on and on... And as a proof that I did take the course: ...I don't think I could make most of my current BSc students make sense out of what is in the manual. But, being a kid in the 1980s, that was the only way to get a computer to do what you wanted. Yay for primitivity! :-D
AttachmentSize
Speech for "Evitamono"1.29 MB
Coursee material for sound and graphics programming in C64 BASIC15.82 MB
Proof that I was there!4.86 MB

1 August 2017

Russell Coker: QEMU for ARM Processes

I m currently doing some embedded work on ARM systems. Having a virtual ARM environment is of course helpful. For the i586 class embedded systems that I run it s very easy to setup a virtual environment, I just have a chroot run from systemd-nspawn with the --personality=x86 option. I run it on my laptop for my own development and on a server my client owns so that they can deal with the hit by a bus scenario. I also occasionally run KVM virtual machines to test the boot image of i586 embedded systems (they use GRUB etc and are just like any other 32bit Intel system). ARM systems have a different boot setup, there is a uBoot loader that is fairly tightly coupled with the kernel. ARM systems also tend to have more unusual hardware choices. While the i586 embedded systems I support turned out to work well with standard Debian kernels (even though the reference OS for the hardware has a custom kernel) the ARM systems need a special kernel. I spent a reasonable amount of time playing with QEMU and was unable to make it boot from a uBoot ARM image. The Google searches I performed didn t turn up anything that helped me. If anyone has good references for getting QEMU to work for an ARM system image on an AMD64 platform then please let me know in the comments. While I am currently surviving without that facility it would be a handy thing to have if it was relatively easy to do (my client isn t going to pay me to spend a week working on this and I m not inclined to devote that much of my hobby time to it). QEMU for Process Emulation I ve given up on emulating an entire system and now I m using a chroot environment with systemd-nspawn. The package qemu-user-static has staticly linked programs for emulating various CPUs on a per-process basis. You can run this as /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static ./staticly-linked-arm-program . The Debian package qemu-user-static uses the binfmt_misc support in the kernel to automatically run /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static when an ARM binary is executed. So if you have copied the image of an ARM system to /chroot/arm you can run the following commands like the following to enter the chroot: cp /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static /chroot/arm/usr/bin/qemu-arm-static
chroot /chroot/arm bin/bash Then you can create a full virtual environment with /usr/bin/systemd-nspawn -D /chroot/arm if you have systemd-container installed. Selecting the CPU Type There is a huge range of ARM CPUs with different capabilities. How this compares to the range of x86 and AMD64 CPUs depends on how you are counting (the i5 system I m using now has 76 CPU capability flags). The default CPU type for qemu-arm-static is armv7l and I need to emulate a system with a armv5tejl. Setting the environment variable QEMU_CPU=pxa250 gives me armv5tel emulation. The ARM Architecture Wikipedia page [2] says that in armv5tejl the T stands for Thumb instructions (which I don t think Debian uses), the E stands for DSP enhancements (which probably isn t relevant for me as I m only doing integer maths), the J stands for supporting special Java instructions (which I definitely don t need) and I m still trying to work out what L means (comments appreciated). So it seems clear that the armv5tel emulation provided by QEMU_CPU=pxa250 will do everything I need for building and testing ARM embedded software. The issue is how to enable it. For a user shell I can just put export QEMU_CPU=pxa250 in .login or something, but I want to emulate an entire system (cron jobs, ssh logins, etc). I ve filed Debian bug #870329 requesting a configuration file for this [1]. If I put such a configuration file in the chroot everything would work as desired. To get things working in the meantime I wrote the below wrapper for /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static that calls /usr/bin/qemu-arm-static.orig (the renamed version of the original program). It s ugly (I would use a config file if I needed to support more than one type of CPU) but it works. #include <stdio.h>
#include <unistd.h>
#include <stdlib.h> int main(int argc, char **argv)

if(setenv("QEMU_CPU", "pxa250", 1))

printf("Can't set $QEMU_CPU\n");
return 1;

execv("/usr/bin/qemu-arm-static.orig", argv);
printf("Can't execute \"%s\" because of qemu failure\n", argv[0]);
return 1;

23 July 2017

Norbert Preining: Gaming: Refunct

A lovely little game, Refunct, just crossed my Steam installation. A simple platformer developed with much love. The game play consists of reviving a lost area by stepping on towers, finding buttons, and making more towers appear through this. The simple game play idea is enriched with wonderful lightening due to the movement of the sun. I really enjoyed the changing of environment and mood that was created by this effect.
Although not terrible useful by now, one can also swim and dive and enjoy the world from below, which is just an added nice bonus.
The game is currently (till Monday night as far as I see) on sale on Steam for 149 Yen, i.e., slightly above a Euro/Dollar. Well worth the investment for about 1h of game play. Addition: The fastest run at the moment is at 2:46.57, that is under 3min! I managed barely under 25min. Incredible.

20 July 2017

Benjamin Mako Hill: Testing Our Theories About Eternal September

Graph of subscribers and moderators over time in /r/NoSleep. The image is taken from our 2016 CHI paper.
Last year at CHI 2016, my research group published a qualitative study examining the effects of a large influx of newcomers to the /r/nosleep online community in Reddit. Our study began with the observation that most research on sustained waves of newcomers focuses on the destructive effect of newcomers and frequently invokes Usenet s infamous Eternal September. Our qualitative study argued that the /r/nosleep community managed its surge of newcomers gracefully through strategic preparation by moderators, technological systems to reign in on norm violations, and a shared sense of protecting the community s immersive environment among participants. We are thrilled that, less a year after the publication of our study, Zhiyuan Jerry Lin and a group of researchers at Stanford have published a quantitative test of our study s findings! Lin analyzed 45 million comments and upvote patterns from 10 Reddit communities that a massive inundation of newcomers like the one we studied on /r/nosleep. Lin s group found that these communities retained their quality despite a slight dip in its initial growth period. Our team discussed doing a quantitative study like Lin s at some length and our paper ends with a lament that our findings merely reflected, propositions for testing in future work. Lin s study provides exactly such a test! Lin et al. s results suggest that our qualitative findings generalize and that sustained influx of newcomers need not doom a community to a descent into an Eternal September. Through strong moderation and the use of a voting system, the subreddits analyzed by Lin appear to retain their identities despite the surge of new users. There are always limits to research projects work quantitative and qualitative. We think the Lin s paper compliments ours beautifully, we are excited that Lin built on our work, and we re thrilled that our propositions seem to have held up! This blog post was written with Charlie Kiene. Our paper about /r/nosleep, written with Charlie Kiene and Andr s Monroy-Hern ndez, was published in the Proceedings of CHI 2016 and is released as open access. Lin s paper was published in the Proceedings of ICWSM 2017 and is also available online.

4 June 2017

Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppArmadillo 0.7.900.2.0

armadillo image The new RcppArmadillo release 0.7.900.2.0 is now on CRAN, and the Debian package was just updated as well. Armadillo is a powerful and expressive C++ template library for linear algebra aiming towards a good balance between speed and ease of use with a syntax deliberately close to a Matlab. RcppArmadillo integrates this library with the R environment and language--and is widely used by (currently) 350 other packages on CRAN---an increase of 32 since the last CRAN release of 0.7.800.2.0 in April! With the 7.900.* series of Armadillo, Conrad has started to more fully utilize OpenMP (also see Wikipedia on OpenMP) for operations that can be parallelized. To use this in your package you need to update its src/Makevars ,.win file similarly to what the skeleton default now uses
PKG_CXXFLAGS = $(SHLIB_OPENMP_CXXFLAGS) 
PKG_LIBS = $(SHLIB_OPENMP_CFLAGS) $(LAPACK_LIBS) $(BLAS_LIBS) $(FLIBS)
and you may want to enable C++11 while you are at it---though this may pose issues with older-than-ancient RHEL installations which are still (way too) pervasive so we do not do it by default (yet). Here, we once again rely on the build infrastructure automagically provided by R itself: if and when OpenMP is available, R will use it via $(SHLIB_OPENMP_CXXFLAGS) etc; see the fine WRE manual for details. That said, some operating systems make this harder than other, and macOS usually takes the crown. See for example this blog post by James for surviving in that environment. I am a little short of details because on Linux these things just work, and have for well over a decade. The rcpp-devel mailing list will be the best place for questions. Changes in this release relative to the previous CRAN release are as follows:

Changes in RcppArmadillo version 0.7.900.2.0 (2017-06-02)
  • Upgraded to Armadillo release 7.900.2 (Evil Banana Republic)
    • Expanded clamp() to handle cubes
    • Computationally expensive element-wise functions (such as exp(), log(), cos(), etc) can now be automatically sped up via OpenMP; this requires a C++11/C++14 compiler with OpenMP 3.0+ support for GCC and clang compilers
    • One caveat: when using GCC, use of -march=native in conjunction with -fopenmp may lead to speed regressions on recent processors
  • Added gcc 7 to support compiler check (James Balamuta in #128 addressing #126).
  • A unit test helper function for rmultinom was corrected (#133).
  • OpenMP support was added to the skeleton helper in inline.R

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is a diffstat report. More detailed information is on the RcppArmadillo page. Questions, comments etc should go to the rcpp-devel mailing list off the R-Forge page.

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

9 May 2017

Benjamin Mako Hill: Surviving an Eternal September: How an Online Community Managed a Surge of Newcomers

Attracting newcomers is among the most widely studied problems in online community research. However, with all the attention paid to challenge of getting new users, much less research has studied the flip side of that coin: large influxes of newcomers can pose major problems as well! The most widely known example of problems caused by an influx of newcomers into an online community occurred in Usenet. Every September, new university students connecting to the Internet for the first time would wreak havoc in the Usenet discussion forums. When AOL connected its users to the Usenet in 1994, it disrupted the community for so long that it became widely known as The September that never ended . Our study considered a similar influx in NoSleep an online community within Reddit where writers share original horror stories and readers comment and vote on them. With strict rules requiring that all members of the community suspend disbelief, NoSleep thrives off the fact that readers experience an immersive storytelling environment. Breaking the rules is as easy as questioning the truth of someone s story. Socializing newcomers represents a major challenge for NoSleep.
Number of subscribers and moderators on /r/NoSleep over time.
On May 7th, 2014, NoSleep became a default subreddit i.e., every new user to Reddit automatically joined NoSleep. After gradually accumulating roughly 240,000 members from 2010 to 2014, the NoSleep community grew to over 2 million subscribers in a year. That said, NoSleep appeared to largely hold things together. This reflects the major question that motivated our study: How did NoSleep withstand such a massive influx of newcomers without enduring their own Eternal September? To answer this question, we interviewed a number of NoSleep participants, writers, moderators, and admins. After transcribing, coding, and analyzing the results, we proposed that NoSleep survived because of three inter-connected systems that helped protect the community s norms and overall immersive environment. First, there was a strong and organized team of moderators who enforced the rules no matter what. They recruited new moderators knowing the community s population was going to surge. They utilized a private subreddit for NoSleep s staff. They were able to socialize and educate new moderators effectively. Although issuing sanctions against community members was often difficult, our interviewees explained that NoSleep s moderators were deeply committed and largely uncompromising. That commitment resonates within the second system that protected NoSleep: regulation by normal community members. From our interviews, we found that the participants felt a shared sense of community that motivated them both to socialize newcomers themselves as well as to report inappropriate comments and downvote people who violate the community s norms. Finally, we found that the technological systems protected the community as well. For instance, post-throttling was instituted to limit the frequency at which a writer could post their stories. Additionally, Reddit s Automoderator , a programmable AI bot, was used to issue sanctions against obvious norm violators while running in the background. Participants also pointed to the tools available to them the report feature and voting system in particular to explain how easy it was for them to report and regulate the community s disruptors.

This blog post was written with Charlie Kiene. The paper and work this post describes is collaborative work with Charlie Kiene and Andr s Monroy-Hern ndez. The paper was published in the Proceedings of CHI 2016 and is released as open access so anyone can read the entire paper here. A version of this post was published on the Community Data Science Collective blog.

16 April 2017

Shirish Agarwal: single person cult-based political parties

Summer heat

Summer heat

I would like to start with sharing is the mercury has been shot in recent times to record temperatures. For instance, Pune has been recording temperatures between 41 and 43 degrees consistently. The result of that has been a massive reduction in volunteer activity on my part as well as some reduction in work activity. The body wants and needs to conserve energy. Even my mobile phone s lithium-ion battery becomes too hot and I have to turn it off in the crucial time from 12 17:00 hrs after which the weather cools down a bit. I am curious to know if I m the only one or there are others like me. I have seen quite a few construction, re-construction and renovation projects taking quite a hit by this incredible heat wave. If it isn t climate change then I don t know what is. And this is not limited to Pune but the whole of Western Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and quite a few parts of North India too. In Pune we are expecting it to hit 45 degrees pretty soon. And I don t see this ending anytime soon, at least till July when the rains comes and we have some relief from this weather. Balasaheb Thackeray, Founder Shiv Sena Balasaheb Thakre/Thackeray founded the Shiv Sena in/around 1966. While he was cartoonist by trade, most of his cartoons were anti-migrant in nature. The target was the urban, unemployed Marathi youth based mostly in Mumbai and the suburbs. The Shiv Sena vandalized properties run by South Indian businessman, Gujaratis. The Shiv Sena and Balasaheb Thackeray were also responsible in part due to the massive closure of cloth mills in South Mumbai. While the workers struggled to make ends meet, some whose wife and children died, fell into prostitution, drugs or whatever they could to make ends meet while the party and more important Mr. Balasahab Thackeray prospered. In spite of the many threats, there are and were many South Indians who prospered inspite of Shiv Sena s threats. Gujaratis on the other hand went back to Gujarat and now Surat rivals Mumbai. Another decade or so and Surat and not Mumbai would be the financial capital of India, the way Gujaratis are working towards it. Then in the 90 s people from U.P. and Bihar came in search of livelihood, again the same rhetoric and even attacks were done against people from U.P. and Bihar. The only thing that was missing for all these people is a domicile certificate which you can get only after living 15 years in Mumbai. The only thing that they and other political parties have been successful is murdering journalists. I m sad to report that Maharashtra, my home state has a very bad report card in preventing such murders. And it s both the State and the Centre who have to share the blame equally. Come to 2017 and Shiv Sena doesn t have a leg to stand on. Balasaheb Thackeray is no more, his son didn t inherit Balasaheb s fiery character and the nephew has now another outfit called Maha Navnirman Sena. Also, all those who were one-time outsiders are now residents of Mumbai (with the domicile certificate) and hence registered voters. There is another angle to it as well, Marathas for far too long thought that people they will elect from their community will do something from their community just like auto rickshaw drivers thought that educated unemployed youth from their community would be better than the agents who rip them off whenever they have some work in the local R.T.O. (Road Transport Office) . Similar to auto rickshaw drivers, the Marathas realized that none of the leaders whom they elected would ever do the work. This is why when last year there were huge Maratha rallies all over the state (peaceful demonstrations all around though). I just shared Pune as am most concerned with my city although similar rallies were held in Mumbai (Khargar), Nagpur, Solapur among other places that I know of. But as shown on youtube there was no central leadership (a.k.a. leaders) and still they were the most disciplined lot. While the Marathas may say one thing, in part they are also culprits of their own past. My interactions with few Marathas was that they are still smitten by what happened in the second and the third Anglo-Maratha War . It is sad because I do see them adding lot of value provided they keep a cool head as I have seen some do. Business or service is the game only for cooler heads. Things came to a head though about couple of weeks back when Mr. Ravindra Gaikwad, a Shiv Sena M.P. assaulted some elderly Air India Staff. While things have cooled down since then, it only belittles both the person and the party. If anything, Air India can be accused of being to gentleman like in the whole case. The only crime of its own making is it has been looted since the beginning by Indian MP s and their relatives with over-staffing and old age of the planes and being over-priced in an extremely price sensitive market. It doesn t have any low-cost options but all of that is another story altogether. Converse to this, the current Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi and Malcolm Turnbull enjoyed the ride of the Delhi Metro. In Politics as well as in life, symbolism scores big. That showed where Mr. Modi s priorities lie and where Mr. Gaikwad s. In the end, the writing seems to be on the wall for not just the Shiv Sena but I would say all single-personality based parties. They need to widen both their political scope and activities and have prominent personalities with strong leadership taking the country along rather than being petty-minded.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #17th century, #Air India, #anti-migrant policy, #Indian Summer, #Maratha, #Maratha History, #Me Maratha, #Me Maratha rallies, #planet-debian

21 February 2017

Shirish Agarwal: The Indian elections hungama

a person showing s(he) showing s(he) Before I start, I would like to point out #855549 . This is a normal/wishlist bug I have filed against apt, the command-line package manager. I sincerely believe having a history command to know what packages were installed, which were upgraded, which were purged should be easily accessible, easily understood and if the output looks pretty, so much the better. Of particular interest to me is having a list of new packages I have installed in last couple of years after jessie became the stable release. It probably would make for some interesting reading. I dunno how much efforts would be to code something like that, but if it works, it would be the greatest. Apt would have finally arrived. Not that it s a bad tool, it s just that it would then make for a heck of a useful tool. Coming back to the topic on hand, Now for the last couple of weeks we don t have water or rather pressure of water. Water crisis has been hitting Pune every year since 2014 with no end in sight. This has been reported in newspapers addendum but it seems it has been felling on deaf ears. The end result of it is that I have to bring buckets of water from around 50 odd metres. It s not a big thing, it s not like some women in some villages in Rajasthan who have to walk in between 200 metres to 5 odd kilometres to get potable water or Darfur, Western Sudan where women are often kidnapped and sold as sexual slaves when they get to fetch water. The situation in Darfur has been shown quite vividly in Darfur is Dying . It is possible that I may have mentioned about Darfur before. While unfortunately the game is in flash as a web resource, the most disturbing part is that the game is extremely depressing, there is a no-win scenario. So knowing and seeing both those scenarios, I can t complain about 50 metres. BUT .but when you extrapolate the same data over some more or less 3.3-3.4 million citizens, 3.1 million during 2011 census with a conservative 2.3-2.4 percent population growth rate according to scroll.in. Fortunately or unfortunately, Pune Municipal Corporation elections were held today. Fortunately or unfortunately, this time all the political parties bought majorly unknown faces in these elections. For e.g. I belong to ward 14 which is spread over quite a bit of area and has around 10k of registered voters. Now the unfortunate part of having new faces in elections, you don t know anything about them. Apart from the affidavits filed, the only thing I come to know is whether there are criminal cases filed against them and what they have shown as their wealth. While I am and should be thankful to ADR which actually is the force behind having the collated data made public. There is a lot of untold story about political push-back by all the major national and regional political parties even when this bit of news were to be made public. It took major part of a decade for such information to come into public domain. But for my purpose of getting clean air and water supply 24 7 to each household seems a very distant dream. I tried to connect with the corporators about a week before the contest and almost all of the lower party functionaries hid behind their political parties manifestos stating they would do the best without any viable plan. For those not knowing, India has been blessed with 6 odd national parties and about 36 odd regional parties and every election some 20-25 new parties try their luck every time. The problem is we, the public, don t trust them or their manifestos. First of all the political parties themselves engage in mud-slinging as to who s copying whom with the manifesto.Even if a political party wins the elections, there is no *real* pressure for them to follow their own manifesto. This has been going for many a year. OF course, we the citizens are to also blame as most citizens for one reason or other chose to remain aloof of the process. I scanned/leafed through all the manifestos and all of them have the vague-wording we will make Pune tanker-free without any implementation details. While I was unable to meet the soon-to-be-Corporators, I did manage to meet a few of the assistants but all the meetings were entirely fruitless. Diagram of Rain Water Harvesting I asked why can t the city follow the Chennai model. Chennai, not so long ago was at the same place where Pune is, especially in relation to water. What happened next, in 2001 has been beautifully chronicled in Hindustan Times . What has not been shared in that story is that the idea was actually fielded by one of Chennai Mayor s assistants, an IAS Officer, I have forgotten her name, Thankfully, her advise/idea was taken to heart by the political establishment and they drove RWH. Saying why we can t do something similar in Pune, I heard all kinds of excuses. The worst and most used being Marathas can never unite which I think is pure bullshit. For people unfamiliar to the term, Marathas was a warrior clan in Shivaji s army. Shivaji, the king of Marathas were/are an expert tactician and master of guerilla warfare. It is due to the valor of Marathas, that we still have the Maratha Light Infantry a proud member of the Indian army. Why I said bullshit was the composition of people living in Maharashtra has changed over the decades. While at one time both the Brahmins and the Marathas had considerable political and population numbers, that has changed drastically. Maharashtra and more pointedly, Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have become immigrant centres. Why just a decade back, Shiv Sena, an ultra right-wing political party used to play the Maratha card at each and every election and heckle people coming from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, this has been documented as the 2008 immigrants attacks and 9 years later we see Shiv Sena trying to field its candidates in Uttar Pradesh. So, obviously they cannot use the same tactics which they could at one point of time. One more reason I call it bullshit, is it s a very lame excuse. When the Prime Minister of the country calls for demonetization which affects 1.25 billion people, people die, people stand in queues and is largely peaceful, I do not see people resisting if they bring a good scheme. I almost forgot, as an added sweetener, the Chennai municipality said that if you do RWH and show photos and certificates of the job, you won t have to pay as much property tax as otherwise you would, that also boosted people s participation. And that is not the only solution, one more solution has been outlined in Aaj Bhi Khade hain talaab written by just-deceased Gandhian environmental activist Anupam Mishra. His Book can be downloaded for free at India Water Portal . Unfortunately, the said book doesn t have a good English translation till date. Interestingly, all of his content is licensed under public domain (CC-0) so people can continue to enjoy and learn from his life-work. Another lesson or understanding could be taken from Israel, the father of the modern micro-drip irrigation for crops. One of the things on my bucket lists is to visit Israel and if possible learn how they went from a water-deficient country to a water-surplus one. India labor Which brings me to my second conundrum, most of the people believe that it s the Government s job to provide jobs to its people. India has been experiencing jobless growth for around a decade now, since the 2008 meltdown. While India was lucky to escape that, most of its trading partners weren t hence it slowed down International trade which slowed down creation of new enterprises etc. Laws such as the Bankruptcy law and the upcoming Goods and Services Tax . As everybody else, am a bit excited and a bit apprehensive about how the actual implementation will take place. null Even International businesses has been found wanting. The latest example has been Uber and Ola. There have been protests against the two cab/taxi aggregators operating in India. For the millions of jobless students coming out of schools and Universities, there aren t simply enough jobs for them, nor are most (okay 50%) of them qualified for the jobs, these 50 percent are also untrainable, so what to do ? In reality, this is what keeps me awake at night. India is sitting on this ticking bomb-shell. It is really, a miracle that the youths have not rebelled yet. While all the conditions, proposals and counter-proposals have been shared before, I wanted/needed to highlight it. While the issue seems to be local, I would assert that they are all glocal in nature. The questions we are facing, I m sure both developing and to some extent even developed countries have probably been affected by it. I look forward to know what I can learn from them. Update 23/02/17 I had wanted to share about Debian s Voting system a bit, but that got derailed. Hence in order not to do, I ll just point towards 2015 platforms where 3 people vied for DPL post. I *think* I shared about DPL voting process earlier but if not, would do in detail in some future blog post.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #Anupam Mishra, #Bankruptcy law, #Chennai model, #clean air, #clean water, #elections, #GST, #immigrant, #immigrants, #Maratha, #Maratha Light Infantry, #migration, #national parties, #Political party manifesto, #regional parties, #ride-sharing, #water availability, Rain Water Harvesting

1 February 2017

Antoine Beaupr : Testing new hardware with Stressant

I got a new computer and wondered... How can I test it? One of those innocent questions that brings hours and hours of work and questionning...

A new desktop: Intel NUC devices After reading up on Jeff Atwood's blog and especially his article on the scooter computer, I have discovered a whole range of small computers that could answer my need for a faster machine in my office at a low price tag and without taking up too much of my precious desk space. After what now seems like a too short review I ended up buying a new Intel NUC device from NCIX.com, along with 16GB of RAM and an amazing 500GB M.2 hard drive for around 750$. I am very happy with the machine. It's very quiet and takes up zero space on my desk as I was able to screw it to the back of my screen. You can see my review of the hardware compatibility and installation report in the Debian wiki. I wish I had taken more time to review the possible alternatives - for example I found out about the amazing Airtop PC recently and, although that specific brand is a bit too expensive, the space of small computers is far and wide and deserves a more thorough review than just finding the NUC by accident while shopping for laptops on System76.com...

Reviving the Stressant project But this, and Atwood's Is Your Computer Stable? article, got me thinking about how to test new computers. It's one thing to build a machine and fire it up, but how do you know everything is actually really working? It is common practice to do a basic stress test or burn-in when you get a new machine in the industry - how do you proceed with such tests? Back in the days when I was working at Koumbit, I wrote a tool exactly for that purpose called Stressant. Since I am the main author of the project and I didn't see much activity on it since I left, I felt it would be a good idea to bring it under my personal wing again, and I have therefore moved it to my Gitlab where I hope to bring it back to life. Parts of the project's rationale are explained in an "Intent To Package" the "breakin" tool (Debian bug #707178), which, after closer examination, ended up turning into a complete rewrite. The homepage has a bit more information about how the tool works and its objectives, but generally, the idea is to have a live CD or USB stick that you can just plugin into a machine to run a battery of automated tests (memtest86, bonnie++, stress-ng and disk wiping, for example) or allow for interactive rescue missions on broken machines. At Koumbit, we had Debirf-based live images that we could boot off the network fairly easily that we would use for various purposes, although nothing was automated yet. The tool is based on Debian, but since it starts from boot, it should be runnable on any computer. I was able to bring the project back to life, to a certain extent, by switching to vmdebootstrap instead of debirf for builds, but that removed netboot support. Also, I hope that Gitlab could provide with an autobuilder for the images, but unfortunately there's a bug in Docker that makes it impossible to mount loop images in Docker images (which makes it impossible to build Docker in Docker, apparently).

Should I start yet another project? So there's still a lot of work to do in this project to get it off the ground. I am still a bit hesitant in getting into this, however, for a few reasons:
  1. It's yet another volunteer job - which I am trying to reduce for health and obvious economic reasons. That's a purely personal reason and there isn't much you can do about it.
  2. I am not sure the project is useful. It's one thing to build a tool that can do basic tests on a machine - I can probably just build an live image for myself that will do everything I need - it's another completely different thing to build something that will scale to multiple machines and be useful for more various use cases and users.
(A variation of #1 is how everything and everyone is moving to the cloud. It's become a common argument that you shouldn't run your own metal these days, and we seem to be fighting an uphill economic battle when we run our own datacenters, rack or even physical servers these days. I still think it's essential to have some connexion to metal to be autonomous in our communications, but I'm worried that focusing on such a project is another of my precious dead entreprises... ) Part #2 is obviously where you people come in. Here's a few questions I'd like to have feedback on:
  1. (How) do you perform stress-testing of your machines before putting them in production (or when you find issues you suspect to be hardware-related)?
  2. Would a tool like breakin or stressant be useful in your environment?
  3. Which tools do you use now for such purposes?
  4. Would you contribute to such a project? How?
  5. Do you think there is room for such a project in the existing ecology of projects) or should I contribute to an existing project?
Any feedback here would be, of course, greatly appreciated.

30 January 2017

Shirish Agarwal: Different strokes

Delhi Metro - courtesy wikipedia.org Statutory warning It s a long read. I start by sharing I regret, I did not hold onto the Budget and Economics 101 blog post for one more day. I had been holding/thinking on to it for almost couple of weeks before posting, if I had just waited a day more, I would have been able to share an Indian Express story . While I thought that the work for the budget starts around 3 months before the budget, I came to learn from that article that it takes 6 months. As can be seen in the article, it is somewhat of a wasted opportunity, part of it probably due to the Government (irrespective of any political party, dynasty etc.) mismanagement. What has not been stated in the article is what I had shared earlier, reading between the lines, it seems that the Government isn t able to trust what it hears from its advisers and man on the street. Unlike Chanakya and many wise people before him who are credited with advising about good governance, that a good king is one who goes out in disguise, learns how his/er subjects are surviving, seeing what ills them and taking or even not taking corrective steps after seeing the problem from various angles. Of course it s easier said then done, though lot of Indian kings did try and ran successful provinces. There were also some who were more interested in gambling, women and threw/frittered away their kingdoms. The 6-month things while not being said in the Express article is probably more about checking and re-checking figures and sources to make sure they are able to read whatever pattern the various Big Businesses, Industry, Social Welfare schemes and people are saying I guess. And unless mass digitalization as well as overhaul of procedures, Right to Information (RTI) happens, don t see any improvement in the way the information is collected, interpreted and shared with the public at large. It would also require people who are able to figure out how things work sharing the inferences (right or wrong) through various media so there is discussion about figures and policy-making. Such researchers and their findings are sadly missing in Indian public discourses and only found in glossy coffee table books :(. One of the most basic question for instance is, How much of any policy should be based on facts and figures and how much giving fillip to products and services needed in short to medium term ? Also how much morality should play a part in Public Policy ? Surprisingly, or probably not, most Indian budgets are populist by nature with some scientific basis but most of the times there is no dialog about how the FM came to some conclusion or Policy-making. I am guessing a huge part of that has also to do with basic illiteracy as well as Economic and Financial Illiteracy. Just to share a well-known world-over example, one of the policies where the Government of India has been somewhat lethargic is wired broadband penetration. As have shared umpteen times, while superficially broadband penetration is happening, most of the penetration is the unreliable and more expensive mobile broadband penetration. While this may come as a shock to many of the users of technology, BSNL, a Government company who provides broadband for almost 70-80% of the ADSL wired broadband subscribers gives 50:1 contention ratio to its customers. One can now understand the pathetic speeds along with very old copper wiring (20 odd years) on which the network is running. The idea/idiom of running network using duct-tape seems pretty apt in here  Now, the Government couple of years ago introduced FFTH Fiber-to-the-home but because the charges are so high, it s not going anywhere. The Government could say 10% discount in your Income Tax rates if you get FFTH. This would force people to get FFTH and would also force BSNL to clean up its act. It has been documented that a percentage increase in broadband equals a similar percentage rise in GDP. Having higher speeds of broadband would mean better quality of streaming video as well as all sorts of remote teaching and sharing of ideas which will give a lot of fillip to all sorts of IT peripherals in short, medium and long-term as well. Not to mention, all the software that will be invented/coded to take benefit of all that speed. Although, realistically speaking I am cynical that the Government would bring something like this  Moving on Behind a truck - Courtesy TheEconomist.com Another interesting story which I had shared was a bit about World History Now the Economist sort of confirmed how things are in Pakistan. What is and was interesting that the article is made by a politically left-leaning magazine which is for globalization, business among other things . So, there seem to be only three options, either I and the magazine are correct or we both are reading it wrong. The third and last option is that the United States realize that Pakistan can no longer be trusted as Pakistan is siding more and more with Chinese and Russians, hence the article. Atlhough it seems a somewhat far-fetched idea as I don t see the magazine getting any brownie points with President Trump. Unless, The Economist becomes more hawkish, more right-wingish due to the new establishment. I can t claim to have any major political understanding or expertise but it does seem that Pakistan is losing friends. Even UAE have been cautiously building bridges with us. Now how this will play out in the medium to long-term depends much on the personal equations of the two heads of state, happenings in geopolitics around the world and the two countries, decisions they take, it is a welcome opportunity as far they (the Saudis) have funds they want to invest and India can use those investments to make new infrastructure. Now, I need a bit of help of Java and VCS (Version control system) experts . There is a small game project called Mars-Sim. I asked probably a few more questions than I should have and the result was that I was made a member of the game team even though I had shared with them that I m a non-coder. I think such a game is important as it s foss. Both the game itself is foss as well as its build-tools with a basic wiki. Such a game would be useful not only to Debian but all free software distributions. Journeying into the game Unfortunately, the game as it is currently, doesn t work with openjdk8 but private conversations with the devs. have shared they will work on getting it to work on OpenJDK 9 which though is sometime away. Now as it is a game, I knew it would have multiple multimedia assets. It took me quite sometime to figure out where most of the multimedia assets are. I was shocked to find that there aren t any tool/s in Debian as well a GNU/Linux to know about types of content is there inside a directory and its sub-directories. I framed it in a query and found a script as an answer . I renamed the script to file-extension-information.sh (for lack of imagination of better name). After that, I downloaded a snapshot of the head of the project from https://sourceforge.net/p/mars-sim/code/HEAD/tree/ where it shows a link to download the snapshot. https://sourceforge.net/code-snapshots/svn/m/ma/mars-sim/code/mars-sim-code-3847-trunk.zip unzipped it and then ran the script on it [$] bash file-extension-information.sh mars-sim-code-3846-trunk
theme: 1770
dtd: 31915
py: 10815
project: 5627
JPG: 762476
fxml: 59490
vm: 876
dat: 15841044
java: 13052271
store: 1343
gitignore: 8
jpg: 3473416
md: 5156
lua: 57
gz: 1447
desktop: 281
wav: 83278
1: 2340
css: 323739
frag: 471
svg: 8948591
launch: 9404
index: 11520
iml: 27186
png: 3268773
json: 1217
ttf: 2861016
vert: 712
ogg: 12394801
prefs: 11541
properties: 186731
gradle: 611
classpath: 8538
pro: 687
groovy: 2711
form: 5780
txt: 50274
xml: 794365
js: 1465072
dll: 2268672
html: 1676452
gif: 38399
sum: 23040
(none): 1124
jsx: 32070
It gave me some idea of what sort of file were under the repository. I do wish the script defaulted to showing file-sizes in KB if not MB to better assess how the directory is made up but not a big loss . The above listing told me that at the very least theme, JPG, dat, wav, png, ogg and lastly gif files. For lack of better tools and to get an overview of where those multimedia assets used ncdu [shirish@debian] - [~/games/mars-sim-code-3846-trunk] - [10210]
[$] ncdu mars-sim/
--- /home/shirish/games/mars-sim-code-3846-trunk/mars-sim --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
46.2 MiB [##########] /mars-sim-ui
15.2 MiB [### ] /mars-sim-mapdata
8.3 MiB [# ] /mars-sim-core
2.1 MiB [ ] /mars-sim-service
500.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-main
188.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-android
72.0 KiB [ ] /mars-sim-network
16.0 KiB [ ] pom.xml
12.0 KiB [ ] /.settings
4.0 KiB [ ] mars-sim.store
4.0 KiB [ ] mars-sim.iml
4.0 KiB [ ] .project
I found that all the media is distributed randomly and posted a ticket about it. As I m not even a java newbie, could somebody look at mokun s comment and help out please ? On the same project, there has been talk of migrating to github.com Now whatever little I know of git, it makes a copy of the whole repository under .git/ folder/directory so having multimedia assets under git is a bad, bad idea, as each multimedia binary format file would be unique and no possibility of diff. between two binary files even though they may be the same file with some addition or subtraction from earlier version. I did file a question but am unhappy with the answers given. Can anybody give some definitive answers if they have been able to do how I am proposing , if yes, how did they go about it ? And lastly Immigrants of the United States in 2000 by country of birth America was founded by immigrants. Everybody knows the story about American Indians, the originals of the land were over-powered by the European settlers. So any claim, then and now that immigration did not help United States is just a lie. This came due to a conversation on #debconf by andrewsh
[18:37:06] I d be more than happy myself to apply for an US tourist not transit visa when I really need it, as a transit visa isn t really useful, is just as costly as a tourist visa, and nearly as difficult to get as a tourist visa
[18:37:40] I m not entirely sure I wish to transit through the US in its Trumplandia incarnation either
[18:38:07] likely to be more difficult and unfun
FWIW I am in complete agreement with Andrew s assessment of how it might be with foreigners. It has been on my mind and thoughts for quite some time although andrewsh put it eloquently. But as always I m getting ahead of myself. The conversation is because debconf this year would be in Canada. For many a cheap flight, one of the likely layovers/stopover can be the United States. I actually would have gone one step further, even if it was cheap transit visa, it would equally be unfun as it would discriminate. About couple of years back, a friend of mine while explaining what visa is, put it rather succinctly the visa officer looks at only 3 things a. Your financial position something which tells that you can take care of your financial needs if things go south b. You are not looking to settle there unlawfully c. You are not a criminal. While costs do matter, what is disturbing more is the form of extremism being displayed therein. While Indians from the South Asian continent in US have been largely successful, love to be in peace (one-off incidents do and will happen anywhere) if I had to take a transit or tourist visa in this atmosphere, it would leave a bad taste in the mouth. When one of my best friends is a Muslim, 20% of the population in India is made of Muslims and 99% of the time both of us co-exist in peace I simply can t take any alternative ideology. Even in Freakonomics 2.0 the authors when they shared that it s less than 0.1 percent of Muslims who are engaged in terrorist activities, if they were even 1 percent than all the world s armed forces couldn t fight them and couldn t keep anyone safe. Which simply means that 99.99% of even all Muslims are good. This resonates strongly with me for number of reasons. One of my uncles in early to late 80 s had an opportunity for work to visit Russia for official work. He went there and there were Secret Police after him all the time. While he didn t know it, I later read it, that it was SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) when all and any foreigners came visiting the country, and not just foreigners, they had spies for their own citizens. Russka a book I read several years ago explained the paranoia beautifully. While U.S. in those days was a more welcoming place for him. I am thankful as well as find it strange that Canada and States have such different visa procedures. While Canada would simply look at the above things, probably discreetly inquire about you if you have been a bad boy/girl in any way and then make a decision which is fine. For United States, even for a transit visa I probably would have to go to Interview where my world view would probably be in conflict with the current American world view. Interestingly, while I was looking at conversations on the web and one thing that is missing there is that nobody has talked about intelligence community. What Mr. Trump is saying in not so many words is that our intelligence even with all the e-mails we monitor and everything we do, we still can t catch you. It almost seems like giving a back-handed compliment to the extremists saying you do a better job than our intelligence community. This doesn t mean that States doesn t have interesting things to give to the world, Star Trek conventions, Grand Canyon (which probably would require me more than a month or more to explore even a little part), NASA, Intel, AMD, SpaceX, CES (when it s held) and LPC (Linux Plumber s conference where whose who come to think of roadmap for GNU/Linux). What I wouldn t give to be a fly in the wall when LPC, CES happens in the States. What I actually found very interesting is that in the current Canadian Government, if what I read and heard is true, then Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada made 50 of his cabinet female. Just like in the article, studies even in Indian parliament have shown that when women are in power, questions about social justice, equality, common good get asked and policies made. If I do get the opportunity to be part of debconf, I would like to see, hear, watch, learn how the women cabinet is doing things. I am assuming that reporting and analysis standards of whatever decisions are more transparent and more people are engaged in the political process to know what their elected representatives are doing. Mountain biking in British Columbia, Canada - source wikipedia.org One another interesting point I came to know is that Canada is home to bicycling paths. While I stopped bicycling years ago  as it has been becoming more and more dangerous to bicycle here in Pune as there is no demarcation for cyclists, I am sure lot of Canadians must be using this opportunity fully. Lastly, on the debconf preparation stage, things have started becoming a bit more urgent and hectic. From a monthly IRC meet, it has now become a weekly meet. Both the wiki and the website are slowly taking up shape. http://deb.li/dc17kbp is a nice way to know/see progress of the activities happening . One important decision that would be taken today is where people would stay during debconf. There are options between on-site and two places around the venue, one 1.9 km around, the other 5 km. mark. Each has its own good and bad points. It would be interesting to see which place gets selected and why.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: #budget, #Canada, #debconf organization, #discrimination, #Equal Opportunity, #Fiber, #svn, #United States, #Version Control, Broadband, Git, Pakistan, Subversion

26 January 2017

John Goerzen: What is happening to America?

I still remember vividly my first visit to Europe, back in 2010. I had just barely gotten off a plane in Hamburg and on to a bus to Lubeck, and struck up a conversation with a friendly, well-educated German classical musician next to me. We soon started to discuss politics and religion. Over the course of the conversation, in response to his questions, I explained I had twice voted against George W. Bush, that I opposed the war in Iraq for many reasons, that I did thought there was an ethical imperative to work to defeat climate change, that I viewed health care as an important ethical and religious issue, that I thought evolution was well-established, and that I am a Christian. Finally, without any hint of insult intended, and rather a lot of surprise written all over his face, he said: Wow. You re an American, and a Christian, and you re so . normal! This, it seems to me, has a lot to do with Trump. Ouch It felt like a punch to the gut. The day after the election, having known that a man that appeared to stand for everything that honorable people are against won the election, like people all around the world, I was trying to make sense of how could this happen? As I ve watched since, as he stacks government with wealthy cronies with records nearly as colorful as his own, it is easy to feel even more depressed. Based on how Trump spoke and acted, it would be easy to conclude that the deplorables won the day that he was elected by a contingent of sexists or racists ascendent in power. But that would be too simple an explanation. This is, after all, the same country that elected Barack Obama twice. There are a many people that voted twice for a black man, and then for Trump. Why? Racism, while doubtless a factor, can t explain it all. How Trump could happen Russ Allbery made some excellent points recently:
[Many Americans are] hurt, and they re scared, and they feel like a lot of the United States just slammed the door in their faces. The status quo is not working for people. Technocratic government by political elites is not working for people. Business as usual is not working for people. Minor tweaks to increasingly arcane systems is not working for people. People are feeling lost in bureaucracy, disaffected by elections that do not present a clear alternate vision, and depressed by a slow slide into increasingly dismal circumstances. Government is not doing what we want it to do for us. And people are getting left behind. The left in the United States (of which I m part) has for many years been very concerned about the way blacks and other racial minorities are systematically pushed to the margins of our economy, and how women are pushed out of leadership roles. Those problems are real. But the loss of jobs in the industrial heartland, the inability of a white, rural, working-class man to support his family the way his father supported him, the collapse of once-vibrant communities into poverty and despair: those problems are real too. The status quo is not working for anyone except for a few lucky, highly-educated people on the coasts. People, honestly, like me, and like many of the other (primarily white and male) people who work in tech. We are one of the few beneficiaries of a system that is failing the vast majority of people in this country.
Russ is, of course, right. The Democrats have been either complicit in policies damaging to many, or ineffective in preventing them. They have often appeared unconcerned with the plight of people outside cities (even if that wasn t really the case). And it goes deeper. When s the last time you visited Kansas? I live in Kansas. The nearest paved road is about a 3-mile drive from my home. The nearest town, population 600, is a 6-mile drive. My governor whom I did not vote for cut taxes on the wealthy so much that our excellent local schools have been struggling for years. But my community is amazing, full of loving and caring people, the sort of people who you know you ll be living with for 40 years, and so you make sure you get along well with. I have visited tourist sites in Berlin, enjoyed an opera and a Broadway show in New York, taken a train across the country to Portland, explored San Francisco. I ve enjoyed all of them. Many rural people do get out and experience the world. I have been in so many conversations where I try to explain where I live to people that simply cannot fathom it. I have explained how the 18 acres I own is a very small amount where I am. How, yes, I do actually have electricity and Internet. How a bad traffic day is one where I have to wait for three cars to go past before turning onto the paved road. How I occasionally find a bull in my front yard, how I can walk a quarter mile and be at the creek on the edge of my property, how I can get to an airport faster than most New Yorkers and my kids can walk out the front door and play in a spot more peaceful than Central Park, and how all this is way cheaper than a studio apartment in a bad part of San Francisco. It is rare indeed to see visitors actually traveling to Kansas as a destination. People have no concept of the fact that my mechanic would drop everything and help me get my broken-down car to the shop for no charge, that any number of neighbors or uncles would bring a tractor and come plow the snow off my 1/4-mile driveway out of sheer kindness, that people around here really care for each other in a way you don t see in a city. There are people that I know see politics way differently than me, but I know them to be good people. They would also do anything for a person in need, no matter who they are. I may find the people that they vote for to be repugnant, but I cannot say I ve looked this person in the eyes and they are nothing but deplorable. And so, people in rural areas feel misunderstood. And they are right. Some perspectives on Trump As I ve said, I do find Trump to be deplorable, but not everyone that voted for him is. How, then, do people wind up voting for him? The New Yorker had an excellent story about a man named Mark Frisbie, owner of a welding and fab shop. The recession had been hard on his business. His wife s day-care center also closed. Health care was hard to find, and the long, slow decline had spanned politicians of every stripe. Mark and his wife supposedly did everything they were supposed to: they worked hard, were honest, were entrepreneurial, and yet he had lost his business, his family house, his health coverage, everything. He doesn t want a handout. He wants to be able to earn a living. Asked who he d vote for, he said, Is none of the above an option? The Washington Post had another insightful article, about a professor from Madison, WI interviewing people in rural areas. She said people would often say: All the decisions are made in Madison and Milwaukee and nobody s listening to us. Nobody s paying attention, nobody s coming out here and asking us what we think. Decisions are made in the cities, and we have to abide by them. She pushed back, hard, on the idea that Trump supporters are ignorant, and added that liberals that push that line of thinking are only making the problem worse. I would agree; seeing all the talk about universities dis-inviting speakers that don t hew to certain political views doesn t help either. A related article talks about the lack of empathy for Trump voters. And then we have a more recent CNN article: Where Tump support and Obamacare use soar together, explaining in great detail how it can be logical for someone to be on Obamacare but not like it. We can all argue that the Republicans may have as much to do with that as anything, but the problem exists. And finally, a US News article makes this point:
His supporters realize he s a joke. They do not care. They know he s authoritarian, nationalist, almost un-American, and they love him anyway, because he disrupts a broken political process and beats establishment candidates who ve long ignored their interests. When you re earning $32,000 a year and haven t had a decent vacation in over a decade, it doesn t matter who Trump appoints to the U.N., or if he poisons America s standing in the world, you just want to win again, whoever the victim, whatever the price. According to the Republican Party, the biggest threat to rural America was Islamic terrorism. According to the Democratic Party it was gun violence. In reality it was prescription drug abuse and neither party noticed until it was too late.
Are we leaving people out? All this reminded me of reading about Donald Knuth, the famous computer scientist and something of the father of modern computing, writing about his feelings of trepidation about sharing with his university colleagues that he was working on a project related to the Bible. I am concerned about the complaints about the PC culture , because I think it is good that people aren t making racist or anti-semitic jokes in public anymore. But, as some of these articles point out, in many circles, making fun of Christians and conservatives is still one of the accepted targets. Does that really help anything? (And as a Christian that is liberal, have all of you that aren t Christians so quickly forgotten how churches like the Episcopals blazed the way for marriage equality many years ago already?) But they don t get a free pass I have found a few things, however, absolutely scary. One was an article from December showing that Trump voters actually changed their views on Russia after Trump became the nominee. Another one from just today was a study on how people reacted when showed inauguration crowd photos. NPR ran a story today as well, on how Trump is treating journalists like China does. Chilling stuff indeed. Conclusion So where does this leave us? Heading into uncertain times, for sure, but perhaps just maybe with a greater understanding of our neighbors. Perhaps we will all be able to see past the rhetoric and polarization, and understand that there is something, well, normal about each other. Doing that is going to be the only way we can really take our country back.

30 December 2016

Antoine Beaupr : My free software activities, November and December 2016

Debian Long Term Support (LTS) Those were 8th and 9th months working on Debian LTS started by Raphael Hertzog at Freexian. I had trouble resuming work in November as I had taken a long break during the month and started looking at issues only during the last week of November.

Imagemagick, again I have, again, spent a significant amount of time fighting the ImageMagick (IM) codebase. About 15 more vulnerabilities were found since the last upload, which resulted in DLA-756-1. In the advisory, I unfortunately forgot to mention CVE-2016-8677 and CVE-2016-9559, something that was noticed by my colleague Roberto after the upload... More details about the upload are available in the announcement. When you consider that I worked on IM back in october, which lead to an upload near the end of November covering around 80 more vulnerabilities, it doesn't look good for the project at all. Of the 15 vulnerabilities I worked on, only 6 had CVEs assigned and I had to request CVEs for the other 9 vulnerabilities plus 11 more that were still unassigned. This lead to the assignment of 25 distinct CVE identifiers as a lot of issues were found to be distinct enough to warrant their own CVEs. One could also question how many of those issues affect the fork, Graphicsmagick. A lot of the vulnerabilities were found through fuzzing searches that may not have been tested on Graphicsmagick. It seems clear to me that a public corpus of test data should be available to test regressions and cross-project vulnerabilities. It's already hard enough to track issues withing IM itself, I can't imagine what it would be for the fork to keep track of those issues, especially since upstream doesn't systematically request CVEs for issues that they find, a questionable practice considering the number of issues we all need to keep track of.

Nagios I have also worked on the Nagios package and produced DLA 751-1 which fixed two fairly major issues (CVE-2016-9565 and CVE-2016-9566) that could allow remote root access under certain conditions. Fortunately, the restricted permissions setup by default in the Debian package made both exploits limited to information disclosure and privilege escalation if the debug log is enabled. This says a lot about how proper Debian packaging can help in limiting the attack surface of certain vulnerabilities. It was also "interesting" to have to re-learn dpatch to add patches to the package: I regret not converting it to quilt, as the operation is simple and quilt is so much easier to use. People new to Debian packaging may be curious to learn about the staggering number of patching systems historically used in Debian. On that topic, I started a conversation about how much we want to reuse existing frameworks when we work on those odd packages, and the feedback was interesting. Basically, the answer is "it depends"...

NSS I had already worked on the package in November and continued the work in December. Most of the work was done by Raphael, which fixed a lot of issues with the test suite. I tried to wrap this up by fixing CVE-2016-9074, the build on armel and the test suite. Unfortunately, I had to stop again because I ran out of hours and the fips test suite was still failing, but fortunately Raphael was able to complete the work with DLA-759-1. As things stand now, the package is in better shape than in other suites as tests (Debian bug #806639) and autopkgtest (Debian bug #806207) are still not shipped in the sid or stable releases.

Other work For the second time, I forgot to formally assign myself a package before working on it, which meant that I wasted part of my hours working on the monit package. Those hours, of course, were not counted in my regular hours. I still spent some time reviewing mejo's patch to ensure it was done properly and it turned out we both made similar patches working independently, always a good sign. As I reported in my preliminary November report, I have also triaged issues in libxml2, ntp, openssl and tiff. Finally, I should mention my short review of the phpMyAdmin upload, among the many posts i sent to the LTS mailing list.

Other free software work One reason why I had so much trouble getting paid work done in November is that I was busy with unpaid work...

manpages.debian.org A major time hole for me was trying to tackle the manpages.debian.org service, which had been offline since August. After a thorough evaluation of the available codebases, I figured the problem space wasn't so hard and it was worth trying to do an implementation from scratch. The result is a tool called debmans. It took, obviously, way longer than I expected, as I experimented with Python libraries I had been keeping an eye on for a while. For the commanline interface, I used the click library, which is really a breeze to use, but a bit heavy for smaller scripts. For a web search service prototype, I looked at flask, which was also very interesting, as it is light and simple enough to use that I could get started quickly. It also, surprisingly, fares pretty well in the global TechEmpower benchmarking tests. Those interested in those tools may want to look at the source code, in particular the main command (using an interesting pattern itself, __main__.py) and the search prototype. Debmans is the first project for which I have tried the CII Best Practices Badge program, an interesting questionnaire to review best practices in software engineering. It is an excellent checklist I recommend every project manager and programmer to get familiar with. I still need to complete my work on Debmans: as I write this, I couldn't get access to the new server the DSA team setup for this purpose. It was a bit of a frustrating experience to wait for all the bits to get into place while I had a product ready to test. In the end, the existing manpages.d.o maintainer decided to deploy the existing codebase on the new server while the necessary dependencies are installed and accesses are granted. There's obviously still a bunch of work to be done for this to be running in production so I have postponed all this work to January. My hope is that this tool can be reused by other distributions, but after talking with Ubuntu folks, I am not holding my breath: it seems everyone has something that is "good enough" and that they don't want to break it...

Monkeysign I spent a good chunk of time giving a kick in the Monkeysign project, with the 2.2.2 release, which features contributions from two other developers, which may be a record for a single release. I am especially happy to have adopted a new code of conduct - it has been an interesting process to adapt the code of conduct for such a relatively small project. Monkeysign is becoming a bit of a template on how to do things properly for my Python projects: documentation on readthedocs.org including a code of conduct, support and contribution information, and so on. Even though the code now looks a bit old to me and I am embarrassed to read certain parts, I still think it is a solid project that is useful for a lot of people. I would love to have more time to spend on it.

LWN publishing As you may have noticed if you follow this blog, I have started publishing articles for the LWN magazine, filed here under the lwn tag. It is a way for me to actually get paid for some of my blogging work that used to be done for free. Reports like this one, for example, take up a significant amount of my time and are done without being paid. Converting parts of this work into paid work is part of my recent effort to reduce the amount of time I spend on the computer. An funny note: I always found the layout of the site to be a bit odd, until I looked at my articles posted there in a different web browser, which didn't have my normal ad blocker configuration. It turns out LWN uses ads, and Google ones too, which surprised me. I definitely didn't want to publish my work under banner ads, and will never do so on this blog. But it seems fair that, since I get paid for this work, there is some sort of revenue stream associated with it. If you prefer to see my work without ads, you can wait for it to be published here or become a subscriber which allows you to get rid of the ads on the site. My experience with LWN is great: they're great folks, and very supportive. It's my first experience with a real editor and it really pushed me in improving my writing to make better articles that I normally would here. Thanks to the LWN folks for their support! Expect more of those quality articles in 2017.

Debian packaging I have added a few packages to the Debian archive:
  • magic-wormhole: easy file-transfer tool, co-maintained with Jamie Rollins
  • slop: screenshot tool
  • xininfo: utility used by teiler
  • teiler (currently in NEW): GUI for screenshot and screencast tools
I have also updated sopel and atheme-services.

Other work Against my better judgment, I worked again on the borg project. This time I tried to improve the documentation, after a friend asked me for help on "how to make a quick backup". I realized I didn't have any good primer to send regular, non-sysadmin users to and figured that, instead of writing a new one, I could improve the upstream documentation instead. I generated a surprising 18 commits of documentation during that time, mainly to fix display issues and streamline the documentation. My final attempt at refactoring the docs eventually failed, unfortunately, again reminding me of the difficulty I have in collaborating on that project. I am not sure I succeeded in making the project more attractive to non-technical users, but maybe that's okay too: borg is a fairly advanced project and not currently aimed at such a public. This is yet another project I am thinking of creating: a metabackup program like backupninja that would implement the vision created by liw in his A vision for backups in Debian post, which was discarded by the Borg project. Github also tells me that I have opened 19 issues in 14 different repositories in November. I would like to particularly bring your attention to the linkchecker project which seems to be dead upstream and for which I am looking for collaborators in order to create a healthy fork. Finally, I started on reviving the stressant project and changing all my passwords, stay tuned for more!

2 December 2016

Shirish Agarwal: Air Congestion and Politics

Confession time first I am not a frequent flyer at all. My first flight was in early late 2006. It was a 2 hour flight from Bombay (BOM) to Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore, BLG) . I still remember the trepidation, the nervousness and excitement the first time I took to air. I still remember the flight very vividly, It was a typical humid day for Bombay/Mumbai and we (me and a friend) had gone to Sahar (the domestic airport) to take the flight in the evening. Before starting the sky had turned golden-orange and I was wondering how I would feel once I would be in air.We started at around 20:00 hours in the evening and as it was a clear night were able to see the Queen s necklace (Marine Drive) in all her glory. The photographs on the wikipedia page don t really do justice to how beautiful the whole boulevard looks at night, especially how it looks from up there. While we were seeing, it seemed the pilot had actually banked at 45 degrees angle so we can have the best view of the necklace OR maybe the pilot wanted to take a photo OR ME being in overdrive (like Robin Williams, the Russian immigrant in Moscow on the Hudson experiences the first time he goes to the mall ;)) In either way, this would be an experience I would never forget till the rest of my life. I remember I didn t move an inch (even to go the loo) as I didn t want to let go of the whole experience. While I came back after 3-4 days, I still remember re-experiencing/re-imagining the flights for a whole month each time I went to sleep. While I can t say it has become routinised, but have been lucky to have the opportunity to fly domestic around the country primarily for work. After the initial romanticism wears off, you try and understand the various aspects of the flight which are happening around you. These experiences are what lead to file/share today s blog post. Yesterday, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, one of the leaders of the Opposition cried wolf because the Aircraft was circling the Airport. Because she is the Chief Minister she feels she should have got precedent or at least that seems to be the way the story unfolded on TV. I have been about 15-20 times on flight in the last decade for work or leisure. Almost all the flights I have been, it has been routine that the flights fly around the Airport for 15-20 minutes before landing. This is routine . I have seen Airlines being stacked (remember the scene from Die Hard 2 where Holly Mclane, John Mclane s wife looks at different aircraft at different altitudes from her window seat) this is what an Airport has to do when it doesn t have enough runaways. In fact just read few days back MIAL is going for an emergency expansion as they weren t expecting as many passengers as they did this year as well as last. In fact the same day there was a near-miss between two aircraft in Mumbai airport itself. Because of Ms. Mamata s belligerence, this story didn t even get a mention in the TV mainstream media. The point I wanna underscore is that this is a fact of life and not just in India, world-over it seems hubs are being busier than ever, for instance Heathrow has been also a busy bee and they will to rework air operations as per a recent article . In India, Kolkata is also one of the busier airports . If anything, I hope it teaches her the issues that plague most Indian airports and she works with the Government in Center so the Airport can expand more. They just got a new terminal three years back. It is for these issues that the Indian Government has come with the Regional Connectivity Scheme . Lastly, a bit of welcome news to people thinking to visit India, the Govt. of the day is facilitating easier visa norms to increase tourism and trade to India. Hope this is beneficial to all and any Debian Developers who wanna come visit India I do hope that we also do get reciprocity from those countries as well.
Filed under: Miscellenous Tagged: # Domestic Flights, #Air Congestion, #Airport Expansion, #Kolkata, #near-miss, #Visa for tourists

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