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Bits from Debian: New Debian Developers and Maintainers (July and August 2019)

17 September, 2019 - 22:30

The following contributors got their Debian Developer accounts in the last two months:

  • Keng-Yu Lin (kengyu)
  • Judit Foglszinger (urbec)

The following contributors were added as Debian Maintainers in the last two months:

  • Hans van Kranenburg
  • Scarlett Moore

Congratulations!

Antoine Beaupré: FSF resignations

17 September, 2019 - 21:58

I have been hesitant in renewing my membership to the Free Software Foundation for a while, but now I never want to deal with the FSF until Richard Stallman, president and founder of the free software movement, resigns. So, like many people and organizations, I have written this letter to cancel my membership. (Update: RMS resigned before I even had time to send this letter, but I publish here to share my part of this story.)

My encounters with a former hero

I had the (mis)fortune of meeting rms in person a few times in my life. The first time was at an event we organized for his divine visit to Montreal in 2005. I couldn't attend the event myself, but I had the "privilege" of having dinner with rms later during the week. Richard completely shattered any illusion I had about him as a person. He was arrogant, full of himself, and totally uninterested in the multitude of young hackers he was meeting in his many travels, apart from, of course, arguing with them about proper wording and technicalities. Even though we brought him to the fanciest vegetarian restaurant in town, he got upset because the restaurant was trying to make "fake meat" meals. Somehow my hero, who wrote the GNU manifesto that inspired me to make free software a life goal, has spoiled a delicious meal by being such an ungrateful guest. I would learn later that Stallman has rock star level requirements, with "vegetarian meals served just so" being only one exception out of many. (I don't mind vegetarians of course: I've been a vegetarian for more than 20 years now, but I will never refuse vegetarian food given to me.)

The second time was less frustrating: it was in 2006 during the launch of the GPLv3 discussion draft, an ambitious project to include the community in the rewrite of the GPLv2. Even though I was deeply interested in the legal implications of the changes, everything went a bit over my head and I felt left out of a process that was supposedly designed to include legal geeks like me. At best, I was able to assist Stallman's assistant as she skidded over icy Boston sidewalks with a stereotypical (and maybe a little machismo, I must admit) Canadian winter assurance. At worst, I burned liters of fuel to drive me and some colleagues over the border to see idols speak on a stage.

Finally, I somehow got tangled up with rms in a hallway conversation about open hardware and wireless chipsets at LibrePlanet 2017, the FSF's yearly conference. I forgot the exact details, but we were debating whether or not legislation that forbids certain wireless chipsets to be open was legitimate or not.

(For some reason, rms has ambiguous opinions about "hardware freedom" and sees a distinction between software that runs on a computer (as "in the CPU") and software that is embedded in the hardware, etched into electronic circuits. The fact that this is a continuum that has various in-between incarnations ("firmware", ASIC, FPGA) seems to escape his analysis. But that is besides the point here.)

We "debated" this for a while, but for people who don't know, debating with rms is a little bit like talking with a three year old: they have their deeply rooted opinion, they might recognize you have one as well (if your lucky), but they will generally ignore whatever it is you non-sensical adult are saying because it's incomprehensible anyways. With a three year old, it's kind of hilarious (until they spill an bottle full of vanilla on the floor), but with an adult, it's kind of aggravating and makes you feel like an idiot for even trying.

I mention this anecdote because it's a good example of how Stallman doesn't think rules apply to him. Simple, informal rules like listening to people you're talking to seem like basic courtesy, but rms is above such mundane things. If this was just a hallway conversation, I wouldn't mind that much: after all, I don't need to talk to Richard Stallman. But at LibrePlanet (and in fact anywhere), he believes it is within his prerogative to interrupt any discussion or talk around him . I was troubled by the FSF's silence on Eric Schultz's request for safety at Libre Planet: while I heard the FSF privately reached out to Eric, nothing seemed to have been done to curb Stallman's attitude in public. This is the reason why I haven't returned to Boston for LibrePlanet since then, even though I have dear friends that live there and were deeply involved in the organization.

The final straw before this week's disclosurse was an event in Quebec city where Stallman was speaking at a conference. A friend of mine asked a question involving his daughter as an example user. Stallman responded to the question by asking my friend if he could meet his (underage) daughter, with obvious obscene undertones. Everyone took this as a joke, but, in retrospect, it was just horrible and I had come to conclude that Stallman was now a liability to the free software movement. I just didn't know what to do back then. I wish I had done something.

Why I am resigning from the FSF

Those events at LibrePlanet were the first reason why I haven't renewed my membership yet. But now I want to formally cancel my membership with the FSF because its president went over his usual sexism and weird pedophilia justification from the past. I first treated those as an abhorrent eccentricity or at best an unfortunate intellectual posture, but rms has gone way beyond this position now. Now rms has joined the rank of rape apologists in the Linux kernel development community, an inexcusable position in our community that already struggles too much with issues of inclusion, respect, and just being nice with each other. I am not going to go into details that are better described by this courageous person, but needless to say that this kind of behavior is inexcusable from anyone, and particularly from an historical leader. Stallman did respond to the accusations, but far from issuing an apology, he said his statements were "mischaracterised"; something that looks to me like a sad caricature.

I do not want to have anything to do with the FSF anymore. I don't know if they would be able to function without Stallman, and frankly at this point, I don't care: they have let this gone on for too long. I know how much rms contributed to the free software movement: he wrote most of Emacs, GCC and large parts of the GNU system so many people use on their desktops. I am grateful for that work, but that was a long time ago and this is now. As others have said, we don't need to replace rms. We need a world where such leaders are not necessary, because rock stars too easily become abusers.

Stallman is just the latest: our community is filled with obnoxious leaders like this. It seems our community leaders are (among other things) either assholes, libertarian gun freaks, or pedophilia apologists and sexists. We tolerate their abuse because we somehow believe they are technically exceptional. They aren't: they're just hard-working and privileged. But even if they would be geniuses, but as selamie says:

For a moment, let’s assume that someone like Stallman is truly a genius. Truly, uniquely brilliant. If that type of person keeps tens or even hundreds of highly intelligent but not ‘genius’ people out of science and technology, then they are hindering our progress despite the brilliance.

Or, as Banksy says:

We don't need any more heroes.

We just need someone to take out recycling.

I wish Stallman would just retire already. He's done enough good work for a lifetime, now he's bound to just do more damage.

Update: Richard Stallman resigned from the FSF and from MIT ("due to pressure on MIT and me"), still dodging responsability and characterizing the problem as "a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations". Obviously, this man cannot be reformed and we need to move on. Those events happened before I even had time to actually send this letter to the FSF, so I guess I might renew my membership after all. I'll hold off until LibrePlanet, however, we'll see what happens there... In the meantime, I'll see how I can help my friends left the FSF because they must be living through hell now.

Molly de Blanc: Thinkers

17 September, 2019 - 16:16

Free and open source software, ethical technology, and digital autonomy have a number of great thinkers, inspiring leaders, and hard working organizations. I see two discussions occurring now that I feel the need to address: What will we do next? Who will our new great leader be?

The thing is, we don’t need to do something new next, and we don’t need to find new leader.

Organizations and individuals have been doing amazing work in our sphere for more than thirty years. We only need to look at the works of groups like Public Labs, OpenStreetMap, and Wikimedia to see where the future of our work lies: applying the principles of user freedom to create demonstrable change, build equity, and fight for justice. I am positively inspired by the GNOME community and their dedication to building software for people in every country, of every ability, and of every need. Outreachy and projects and companies that participate in Outreachy internships are working hard to build the future of community that we want to see.

Deb Nicholson recently reminded me that we cannot build a principled future where people are excluded from the process of building it. She also pointed out that once we’ve have a techno-utopia, it will include everyone, because it needs to. This utopia is built on ideas, but it is also built by plumbers — by people doing work on the ground with those ideas.

Deb Nicholson is another inspiration to me. I’ve been lucky enough to know her since 2010, when she graciously began to mentor me. I now consider her both a mentor and a dear friend. Her ideas are innovative, her principles hard, and her vision wide.

Deb is one of the many  people who have helped and continue to help shape my ideas, teach me things. Allison Randall, Asheesh Laroia, Christopher Lemmer-Webber, Daniel Khan Gilmore, Elana Hashman, Gabriella Coleman, Jeffrey Warren, Karen Sandler, Karl Fogel, Stefano Zacchiroli — these are just a few of the individuals who have been necessary figures in my life.

We don’t need to find new leaders and thinkers because they’re already here. They’ve been here, thinking, writing, speaking, and doing for years.

What we need to do is listen to their voices.

As I see people begin to discuss the next president of the Free Software Foundation, they do so in a context of asking who will be leading the free software movement. The free software movement is more than the FSF and it’s more than any given individual. We don’t need to go in search of the next leader, because there are leaders who work every day not just for our digital rights, but for a better world. We don’t need to define a movement by one man, nor should we do so. We instead need to look around us and listen to what is already happening.

Steve Kemp: A slack hack

17 September, 2019 - 04:00

So recently I've been on-call, expected to react to events around the clock. Of course to make it more of a challenge alerts are usually raised via messages to a specific channel in slack which come from a variety of sources. Let's pretend I'm all retro/hip and I'm using IRC instead.

Knowing what I'm like I knew there was essentially zero chance a single beep on my phone, from the slack/irc app, would wake me up. So I spent a couple of hours writing a simple bot:

  • Connect to the server.
  • Listen for messages.
  • When an alert is posted in the channel:
    • Trigger a voice-call via the twilio API.

That actually worked out really, really, really well. Twilio would initiate a call to my mobile which absolutely would, could, and did wake me up. I did discover a problem pretty quickly though; too many phone-calls!

Imagine something is broken. Imagine a notice goes to your channel, and then people start replying to it:

  Some Bot: Help! Stuff is broken!  I'm on Fire!!  :fire: :hot: :boom:
  Colleague Bob: Is this real?
  Colleague Ann: Can you poke Chris?
  Colleage Chris: Oh dears, woe is me.

The first night I was on call I got a phone call. Then another. Then another. Even I replied to the thread/chat to say "Yeah I'm on it". So the next step was to refine my alerting:

  • If there is a message in the channel
    • Which is not from Bob
    • Which is not from Steve
    • Which is not from Ann
    • Which is not from Chris
    • Which doesn't contain the text "common false-positive"
    • Which doesn't contain the text "backup completed"
  • Then make a phone-call.

Of course the next problem was predictable enough, so the rules got refined:

  • If the time is between 7PM and 7AM raise the alert.
  • Unless it is the weekend in which case we alert regardless of the time of day.

So I had a growing set of rules. All encoded in my goloang notification application. I moved some of them to JSON (specificially a list of users/messages to ignore) but things like the time of day were harder to move.

I figured I shouldn't be hardwiring these things. So last night put together a simple filter-library, an evaluation engine, in golang to handle them. Now I can load a script and filter things out much more dynamically. For example assume I have the following struct:

type Message struct {
    Author  string
    Channel string
    Message string
    ..
}

And an instance of that struct named message, I can run a user-written script against that object:

 // Create a new eval-filter
 eval, er := evalfilter.New( "script goes here ..." )

 // Run it against the "message" object
 out, err := eval.Run( message )

The logic of reacting now goes inside that script, which is hopefully easy to read - but more importantly can be edited without recompiling the application:

//
// This is a filter script:
//
//   return false means "do nothing".
//   return true means initiate a phone-call.
//

//
// Ignore messages on channels that we don't care about
//
if ( Channel !~ "_alerts" ) { return false; }

//
// Ignore messages from humans who might otherwise write in our channels
// of interest.
//
if ( Sender == "USER1" ) { return false; }   // Steve
if ( Sender == "USER2" ) { return true; }    // Ann
if ( Sender == "USER3" ) { return false; }   // Bob


//
// Is it a weekend? Always alert.
//
if ( IsWeekend() ) { return true ; }

//
// OK so it is not a weekend.
//
// We only alert if 7pm-7am
//
// The WorkingHours() function returns `true` during working hours.
//
if ( WorkingHours() ) { return false ; }

//
// OK by this point we should raise a call:
//
// * The message was NOT from a colleague we've filtered out.
// * The message is upon a channel with an `_alerts` suffix.
// * It is not currently during working hours.
//   * And we already handled weekends by raising calls above.
//
return true ;

If the script returns true I initiate a phone-call. If the script returns false we ignore the message/event.

The alerting script itself is trivial, and probably non-portable, but the filtering engine is pretty neat. I can see a few more uses for it, even without it having nested blocks and a real grammar. So take a look, if you like:

Neil McGovern: GNOME relationship with GNU and the FSF

17 September, 2019 - 01:05

On Saturday, I wrote an email to the FSF asking them to cancel my membership. Other people who I greatly respect are doing the same. This came after the president of the FSF made some pretty reprehensible remarks saying that the “most plausible scenario” is that Epstein’s underage victims were “entirely willing” while being trafficked. This isn’t the only incident, but it is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

In my capacity as the Executive Director of the GNOME Foundation, I have also written to the FSF. One of the most important parts of my role is to think of the well being of our community and the GNOME mission. One of the GNOME Foundation’s strategic goals is to be an exemplary community in terms of diversity and inclusion. I feel we can’t continue to have a formal association with the FSF or the GNU project when its main voice in the world is saying things that hurt this aim.

I greatly admire the work of FSF staffers and volunteers, but have now reached the point of concluding that the greatest service to the mission of software freedom is for Richard to step down from FSF and GNU and let others continue in his stead. Should this not happen in a timely manner, then I believe that severing the historical ties between GNOME, GNU and the FSF is the only path forward.

Sven Hoexter: ansible scp_if_ssh: smart debugging

16 September, 2019 - 23:16

I guess that is just one of the things you've to know, so maybe it helps someone else.

We saw some warnings in our playbook rollouts like

[WARNING]: sftp transfer mechanism failed on [192.168.23.42]. Use
ANSIBLE_DEBUG=1 to see detailed information

They were actually reported for sftp and scp usage. If you look at the debug output it's not very helpful for the average user, similar if you go to verbose mode with -vvv. The later one at least helped to see parameters passed to sftp and scp, but you still see no error message. But if you set

scp_if_ssh: True

or

scp_if_ssh: False

you will suddenly see the real error message

fatal: [docker-023]: FAILED! => {"msg": "failed to transfer file to /home/sven/testme.txt /home/sven/
.ansible/tmp/ansible-tmp-1568643306.1439135-27483534812631/source:\n\nunknown option -- A\r\nusage: scp [-346BCpqrv]
[-c cipher] [-F ssh_config] [-i identity_file]\n           [-l limit] [-o ssh_option] [-P port] [-S program] source
... target\n"}

Lesson learned, as long as ansible is running in "smart" mode it will hide all error messages from the user. Now we could figure out that the culprit is the -A for AgentForwarding, which is for obvious reasons not available in sftp and scp. One can move it to group_vars ansible_ssh_extra_args. The best documentation regarding this, beside of the --help output, seems to be the commit message of 3ad9b4cba62707777c3a144677e12ccd913c79a8.

Sam Hartman: Free as in Sausage Making: Inside the Debian Project

16 September, 2019 - 09:30

Recently, we’ve been having some discussion around the use of non-free software and services in doing our Debian work. In judging consensus surrounding a discussion of Git packaging, I said that we do not have a consensus to forbid the use of non-free services like Github. I stand behind that consensus call. Ian Jackson, who initially thought that I misread the consensus later agreed with my call.


I have been debating whether it would be wise for me as project leader to say more on the issue. Ultimately I have decided to share my thoughts. Yes, some of this is my personal opinion. Yet I think my thoughts resonate with things said on the mailing list; by sharing my thoughts I may help facilitate the discussion.


We are bound together by the Social Contract. Anyone is welcome to contribute to Debian so long as they follow the Social Contract, the DFSG, and the rest of our community standards. The Social Contract talks about what we will build (a free operating system called Debian). Besides SC #3 (we will not hide problems), the contract says very little about how we will build Debian.


What matters is what you do, not what you believe. You don’t even need to believe in free software to be part of Debian, so long as you’re busy writing or contributing to free software. Whether it’s because you believe in user freedom or because your large company has chosen Debian for entirely pragmatic reasons, your free software contributions are welcome.


I think that is one of our core strengths. We’re an incredibly diverse community. When we try to tie something else to what it means to be Debian beyond the quality of that free operating system we produce, judged by how it meets the needs of our users, we risk diminishing Debian. Our diversity serves the free software community well. We have always balanced pragmatic concerns against freedom. We didn’t ignore binary blobs and non-free firmware in the kernel, but we took the time to make sure we balanced our users’ needs for functional systems against their needs for freedom. By being so diverse, we have helped build a product that is useful both to people who care about freedom and other issues. Debian has been pragmatic enough that our product is wildly popular. We care enough about freedom and do the hard work of finding workable solutions that many issues of software freedom have become mainstream concerns with viable solutions.


Debian has always taken a pragmatic approach to its own infrastructure and to how Debian is developed. The Social Contract requires that the resulting operating system be 100% free software. But that has never been true of the Debian Project nor of our developers.



  • At the time the Social contract was adopted, uploading a package to Debian involved signing it with the non-free PGP version 2.6.3. It was years later that GnuPG became commonly used.

  • Debian developers of the day didn’t use non-free tools to sign the Social Contract. They didn’t digitally sign it at all. Yet their discussions used the non-free Qmail because people running the Debian infrastructure decided that was the best solution for the project’s mailing lists.


“That was then,” you say.



  • Today, some parts of security.debian.org redirect to security-cdn.debian.org, a non-free web service

  • Our recommended mirror (deb.debian.org) is backed by multiple non-free CDN web services.

  • Some day we may be using more non-free services. If trends in email handling continue, we may find that we need to use some non-free service to get the email we send accepted by major email providers. I know of no such plan in Debian today, but I know other organizations have faced similar choices.


Yet these choices to use non-free software and non-free services in the production of Debian have real costs. Many members of our community prefer to use free software. When we make these choices, we can make it harder for people to contribute to Debian. When we decline to use free software we may also be missing out on an opportunity to improve the free software community or to improve Debian itself. Ian eloquently describes the frustrations those who wish to use only free software face when faced with choices to use non-free services.


As alternatives to non-free software or services have become available, we as a project have consistently moved toward free options.


Normally, we let those doing the work within Debian choose whether non-free services or software are sufficiently better than the free alternatives that we will use them in our work. There is a strong desire to prefer free software and self-hosted infrastructure when that can meet our needs.


For individual maintainers, this generally means that you can choose the tools you want to do your Debian work. The resulting contributions to Debian must themselves be free. But if you want to go write all your Debian packaging in Visual Studio on Windows, we’re not going to stop you, although many of us will think your choices are unusual.


And my take is that if you want to store Debian packages on Github, you can do that too. But if you do that, you will be making it harder for many Debian contributors to contribute to your packages. As Ian discussed, even if you listen to the BTS, you will create two classes of contributors: those who are comfortable with your tools and those who are not. Perhaps you’ve considered this already. Perhaps you value making things easier for yourself or for interacting with an upstream community on Github over making it easier for contributors who want to use only free tools. Traditionally in Debian, we’ve decided that the people doing the work generally get to make that decision. Some day perhaps we’ll decide that all Debian packaging needs to be done in a VCS hosted on Debian infrastructure. And if we make that decision, we will almost certainly choose a free service to host. We’re not ready to make that change today.


So, what can you do if you want to use only free tools?



  • You could take Ian’s original approach and attempt to mandate project policy. Yet each time we mandate such policy, we will drive people and their contributions away. When the community as a whole evaluates such efforts we’ll need to ask ourselves whether the restriction is worth what we will lose. Sometimes it is. But unsurprisingly in my mind, Debian often finds a balance on these issues.


  • You could work to understand why people use Github or other non-free tools. As you take the time to understand and value the needs of those who use non-free services, you could ask them to understand and value your needs. If you identify gaps in what free software and services offer, work to fix those gaps.


  • Specifically in this instance, I think that setting up easy ways to bidirectionally mirror things between Github and services like Salsa could really help.



Conclusions

  1. We have come together to make a free operating system. Everything else is up for debate. When we shut down that debate—when we decide there is one right answer—we risk diluting our focus and diminishing ourselves.

  2. We and the entire free software community win through the Debian Project’s diversity.

  3. Freedom within the Debian Project has never been simple. Throughout our entire history we’ve used non-free bits in the sausage making, even though the result consists (and can be built from) entirely free bits.

  4. This complexity and diversity is part of what allows us to advocate for software freedom more successfully. Over time, we have replaced non-free software that we use with free alternatives, but those decisions are nuanced and ever-changing.

Shirish Agarwal: Freedom, Chandrayaan 2 and Corporations in Space.

16 September, 2019 - 04:15

Today will be a longish blogpost so please excuse if you do not want to read a long article.

While today is my birthday, I don’t feel at all like celebrating. When 8 million Kashmiris are locked down in Kashmir and 19 million to be sent in detention camp, the number may increase, how one one feel happy? Sadly, many people disregard that illegal immigration is everywhere. Whether it is UK or US, Indians too have illegally immigrated. If you look at the comments either in US or UK papers is just as toxic as you would find in twitter in India. Most of the people are uninformed of the various reasons that people choose to take a dangerous path to make home a new country. Alliances are also divided because the children grow up in another culture and then they will be ‘corrupted’ especially if women are sent back to India. The situation in India have never been as similar as they are today, see this from Najam Sethi, an internationally known left-leaning journalist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCcrobZMy7A
and similarly you can see how Indian and US Investigative journalism is having a slow death in both India and U.S.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65P44plUCng

You can also see how similar the societies are going into with this conversations
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieWZi4gm_yE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_1oJui2Zq8

There are good moments too as can be seen here –

People going to Ganesh Visarjan and Muharram, Hyderabad.

We always say we are better than Pakistan but we seem to be going down to the same road and that can’t be good. Forget politics, even human right issues are not being tackled sensitively by our Supreme Court. Just today there came an incident involving one of the victims of the Muzaffarpur Shelter Home being allegedlly raped in a moving car. The case has been pending in the Supreme Court for quite sometime but no action being taken so far. Journalists either in Uttar Pradesh or Haryana are being booked for showing the truth. I have been trying to engage with people from across the political divide, i.e. the ones who support BJP. Majority of them are don’t have jobs and this is the only way they can get their frustration out. Also the dissonance in political message is such they feel that their jobs are being taken by outsiders. Ironically the Ministers get away with saying things like ‘North Indians lack qualifications’ . It shows lack of empathy on the Minister’s part. If they are citizens of the state, then it is the state’s responsibility of making sure they are skilled. If they are not skilled, then it is the Central Government and State Governments responsibility. Most of the States in the North are governed by BJP. I could share more but then it will all be about BJP only and nothing about the Chandrayaan 2 mission.

Chandrayaan 2 and Corporate Interests

Before we get to Chandrayaan 2, there are few interesting series I want to talk about, share about. The first one is AltBalaji’s Mission Over Mars which in some ways is similar to Mars 6-part series Docu-drama made by National Geographic and lot of movies, books etc. read over years. In both these and other books, movies etc. it has been shown how Corporate Interests win over science and exploration which the motives of such initiatives were and are. The rich become richer and richer while the poor become more poorer.

There has been also lot of media speculation that ISRO should be privatized similar to how NASA is and people saying that NASA’s importance has not lessened even though they couldn’t have been more wrong. Take the Space Launch System . It was first though of in the 2010 after the NASA Authorization Act of 2010 came into being. When it was shared or told it was told that it would be ready somewhere in 2016. Now it seems it won’t be ready until 2025. And who is responsible for this, the same company which has been responsible for lot of bad news in the international aviation business Boeing. The auditor’s report for NASA while blaming NASA for oversight also blames Boeing for not doing things right. And from what we have come to know that in the american system of self-regulation leaves much to be desired. More so, when an ex-employee of Boeing is exercising his fifth Amendment rights which raises the suspicion that there is more than just simply an oversight issue. Boeing also is a weapons manufacturer but that’s another story altogether. For people interested in the arms stuff, a wired article published 2 years back gives enough info. as to how America is good bad or Arms sale.

I know the whole thing gives a rather complex picture but that is the nature of things. The only thing I would say is we should be very careful in privatizing ISRO as the same issues are bound to happen sooner or later, the more private and non-transparent things become. We, the common citizens would never come to know if any sort of national or industrial espionage is happening and of course all profits would be of corporates while losses will be public as seen can be nowadays. Doesn’t leave a good taste in the mouth.

Vikram Lander

Now while the jury is still out as to what happened or might have happened and we hope that Vikram does connect within the 14 days there are lots of theories as to what could have gone wrong. While I’m no expert, I do find it hard to take the statement that probably ISRO saw an image of Chandrayaan 2 lander, at least not a single image has been released in the public. What ISRO has shared in its updates is that it located a lander which doesn’t tell much. While the Chandrayaan 2 orbitor started at 100 km. lunar orbit it probably would have some deviations to make sure that the orbiter itself doesn’t get into Moon’s gravity and crash-lands on the moon itself. The lens which probably would have been used would be to take panaromic shots and not telescopic in nature. As to what happened, we just don’t know as of yet. There are probably a dozen or two probabilities. One of the most simplest explanation to my mind could be some space rock could have crashed into the lander when it was landing. The dark side of the moon has more impacts than the one which we face so it’s entirely possible that the lander got hit by a space rock or lava. From what little I have been able to learn, the lander doesn’t seem to have any A.I. to manoeuver if such a scenario happens. Also any functioning A.I. would probably need more energy and for space missions energy, weight, electrical interference, contamination are all issues that Space Agencies have to deal with it. The other is of course, sensor failure, wrong calculation or a rough spot where it landed and broke the antennae. Till ISRO doesn’t share more details with us, we have only conjecture to help us.

Chandrayaan 2 Imaging

While we await news about the lander, would be curious to know about the images that Chandrayaan 2 is getting. Sadly, none of the images have made it to the public domain as of yet. Whether the images are in FITS or RAW format and whatever spectrum, (Chandrayaan 2 is going to image in a wide range of spectrum.) . Like Spirit and Opportunity did for NASA, I hope ISRO does show renderings of Moon as captured by the Orbitor, even though its lifeless so people, especially children get enthused about getting into Space Sciences .

Molly de Blanc: Free software activities (August 2019)

15 September, 2019 - 21:34

August was really marked by traveling too much. I took the end of the month off from non-work activities in order to focus on GUADEC and GUADEC-follow up.

Personal

  • The Debian Community Team (CT) had a meeting where we discussed some of our activities, including potential new team members!
  • CT team members went on VAC, so we took a bit of a break in the second half of the month.
  • The OSI standing committee and board had meetings.
  • I handled some paperwork in my capacity as president.
  • I had regular meetings with the OSI general manager.
  • I gave a keynote at FrOSCon on “Open source citizenship for everyone!” TL;DR: We have rights and responsibilities as people participating in free software and the open source ecosystem — “we” here includes corporate actors.
  • I bought a really sweet pair of GNOME socks. Do recommend.

Professional

  • The LAS sponsorship team met and handled the creation of some important paperwork, and discussed fundraising strategy for the event.
  • I attended the GNOME Advisory Board meeting, where I got to meet and speak with the Foundation Board and the Advisory Board about activities over the past year, plans for the future, and the needs of the communities of AdBoard members. It was really educational and a lot of fun.
  • I attended my first GUADEC! it was amazing. I wrote a trip report over on the GNOME Engagement Blog.
  • At GUADEC, I spent some time helping out with basic operations, including keeping time in sessions.
  • We, the staff and board, did a Q&A at the Annual General Meeting.
  • I drank a lot of coffee. Like, a lot.

Dirk Eddelbuettel: pinp 0.0.9: Real Fix and Polish

15 September, 2019 - 20:46

Another pinp package release! pinp allows for snazzier one or two column Markdown-based pdf vignettes, and is now used by a few packages. A screenshot of the package vignette can be seen below. Additional screenshots are at the pinp page.

This release comes exactly one week (i.e. the minimal time to not earn a NOTE) after the hot-fix release 0.0.8 which addressed breakage on CRAN tickled by changed in TeX Live. After updating the PNAS style LaTeX macros, and avoiding the issue with an (older) custom copy of titlesec, we now have the real fix, thanks to the eagle-eyed attention of Javier Bezos. The error, as so often, was simple and ours: we had left a stray \makeatother in pinp.cls where it may have been in hiding for a while. A very big Thank You! to Javier for spotting it, to Norbert for all his help and to James for double-checking on PNAS.

The good news in all of this is that the package is now in better shape than ever. The newer PNAS style works really well, and I went over a few of our extensions (such as papersize support for a4 as well as letter), direct on/off off a Draft watermark, a custom subtitle and more—and they all work consistently. So happy vignette or paper writing!

The NEWS entry for this release follows.

Changes in pinp version 0.0.9 (2019-09-15)
  • The processing error first addressed in release 0.0.8 is now fixed by removing one stray command; many thanks to Javier Bezos.

  • The hotfix of also installing titlesec.sty has been reverted.

  • Processing of the 'papersize' and 'watermark' options was updated.

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is a comparison to the previous release. More information is on the tint page. For questions or comments use the issue tracker off the GitHub repo.

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

Didier Raboud: miniDebConf19 Vaumarcus – Oct 25-27 2019 – Call for Presentations

15 September, 2019 - 19:06
Talks wanted We’re opening the Call for Presentations for the miniDebConf19 Vaumarcus now, until October 20, so please contribute to the MiniDebConf by proposing a talk, workshop, birds of feather (BoF) session, etc, directly on the Debian wiki: /Vaumarcus/TalkSubmissions We are aiming for talks which are somehow related to Debian or Free Software in general, see the wiki for subject suggestions. We expect submissions and talks to be held in English, as this is the working language in Debian and at this event. Registration is also still open; through the Debian wiki: Vaumarcus/Registration. Debian Sprints are welcome The place is ideal for a 2 days’ sprint; so we encourage teams to assemble and gather in Vaumarcus! More sponsors and more hands wanted We’re looking for more sponsors willing to help making this event possible; to help making it easier for anyone interested to attend. Things are on a good track, but we need more help. Specifically, Attendee support would benefit from more hands. Get in touch We gather on the #debian.ch channel on irc.debian.org and on the debian-switzerland@lists.debian.org list. For more private matters, talk to minidebconf19@debian.ch! Thank you already! Sponsors Supporters See ya! We’re looking forward to seeing a lot of you in Vaumarcus! (This was also sent to debian-devel-announce@l.d.o, amongst other lists)

Matthew Garrett: It's time to talk about post-RMS Free Software

14 September, 2019 - 18:57
Richard Stallman has once again managed to demonstrate incredible insensitivity[1]. There's an argument that in a pure technical universe this is irrelevant and we should instead only consider what he does in free software[2], but free software isn't a purely technical topic - the GNU Manifesto is nakedly political, and while free software may result in better technical outcomes it is fundamentally focused on individual freedom and will compromise on technical excellence if otherwise the result would be any compromise on those freedoms. And in a political movement, there is no way that we can ignore the behaviour and beliefs of that movement's leader. Stallman is driving away our natural allies. It's inappropriate for him to continue as the figurehead for free software.

But I'm not calling for Stallman to be replaced. If the history of social movements has taught us anything, it's that tying a movement to a single individual is a recipe for disaster. The FSF needs a president, but there's no need for that person to be a leader - instead, we need to foster an environment where any member of the community can feel empowered to speak up about the importance of free software. A decentralised movement about returning freedoms to individuals can't also be about elevating a single individual to near-magical status. Heroes will always end up letting us down. We fix that by removing the need for heroes in the first place, not attempting to find increasingly perfect heroes.

Stallman was never going to save us. We need to take responsibility for saving ourselves. Let's talk about how we do that.

[1] There will doubtless be people who will leap to his defense with the assertion that he's neurodivergent and all of these cases are consequences of that.

(A) I am unaware of a formal diagnosis of that, and I am unqualified to make one myself. I suspect that basically everyone making that argument is similarly unqualified.
(B) I've spent a lot of time working with him to help him understand why various positions he holds are harmful. I've reached the conclusion that it's not that he's unable to understand, he's just unwilling to change his mind.

[2] This argument is, obviously, bullshit

comments

Dirk Eddelbuettel: ttdo 0.0.3: New package

14 September, 2019 - 06:29

A new package of mine arrived on CRAN yesterday, having been uploaded a few days prior on the weekend. It extends the most excellent (and very minimal / zero depends) unit testing package tinytest by Mark van der Loo with the very clever and well-done diffobj package by Brodie Gaslam. Mark also tweeted about it.

The package was written to address a fairly specific need. In teaching STAT 430 at Illinois, I am relying on the powerful PrairieLearn system (developed there) to provides tests, quizzes or homework. Alton and I have put together an autograder for R (which is work in progress, more on that maybe another day), and that uses this package to provides colorized differences between supplied and expected answers in case of an incorrect answer.

Now, the aspect of providing colorized diffs when tests do not evalute to TRUE is both simple and general enough. As our approach works rather well, I decided to offer the package on CRAN as well. The small screenshot gives a simple idea, the README.md contains a larger screenshoot.

The initial NEWS entries follow below.

Changes in ttdo version 0.0.3 (2019-09-08)
  • Added a simple demo to support initial CRAN upload.
Changes in ttdo version 0.0.2 (2019-08-31)
  • Updated defaults for format and mode to use the same options used by diffobj along with fallbacks.
Changes in ttdo version 0.0.1 (2019-08-26)
  • Initial version, with thanks to both Mark and Brodie.

Please use the GitHub repo and its issues for any questions.

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

Norbert Preining: Gaming: Puzzle Agent

13 September, 2019 - 20:36

Two lovely but short puzzle games: Puzzle Agent and Puzzle Agent II, follow agent Nelson Tethers in his quest to solve an obscure case in Scoggins, Minnesota: The erasers factory delivering to the White House stopped production – a dangerous situation for the US and the world. Tethers embarks on a wild journey.

Starting in his office, agent Tethers is used to office work solving puzzles, mostly inspired by chewing gum. Until a strange encounter and a phone call kicks him out in to the wild.

The game is full of puzzles, most of them rather easy, some of them tricky. One can use the spare chewing gums to get a hint in case one gets stuck. Chewing gums are rare in Scoggins, so agent Tethers needs to collect used gums from all kind of surfaces.

Solved puzzles are sent to evaluation, also showing the huge amount of money one single FBI agent costs. After that the performance of agent Tethers is evaluated based on the amount of hints (chewing gums) and false submissions.

The rest are dialog trees to collect information, and driving around in the neighborhood of Scoggins. The game shines by the well balanced list of puzzles to be solved, the quirky dialogs with quirky people of Scoggins.

The game is beautifully drawn in cartoon-style, far from the shine ray-tracing world, but this particularly adds a lot of charme to the game.

A simply, but very enjoyable pair of games. Unfortunately there is not much of replay value. Still, worth getting them when there are on sale.

Jonas Meurer: debian lts report 2019.08

12 September, 2019 - 20:13
Debian LTS report for August 2019

This month I was allocated 10 hours. Unfortunately, I didn't find much time to work on LTS issues, so I only spent 0.5 hours on the task listed below. That means that I carry over 9.5 hours to September.

  • Triaged CVE-2019-13640/qbittorrent: After digging through the code, it became obvious that qbittorrent 3.1.10 in Debian Jessie is not affected by this vulnerability as the affected code is not present yet.
Links

Ben Hutchings: Debian LTS work, August 2019

12 September, 2019 - 19:45

I was assigned 20 hours of work by Freexian's Debian LTS initiative and worked all those hours this month.

I prepared and, after review, released Linux 3.16.72, including various security and other fixes. I then rebased the Debian package onto that. I uploaded that with a small number of other fixes and issued DLA-1884-1. I also prepared and released Linux 3.16.73 with another small set of fixes.

I backported the latest security update for Linux 4.9 from stretch to jessie and issued DLA-1885-1 for that.

Thomas Lange: FAI.me service now support backports for Debian 10 (buster)

12 September, 2019 - 14:36

The FAI.me service for creating customized installation and cloud images now supports a backports kernel for stable release Debian 10 (aka buster). If you enable the backports option, you will currently get kernel 5.2. This will help you if you have newer hardware that is not support by the default kernel 4.19. The backports option is also still available for the images when using the old Debian 9 (stretch) release.

The URL of the FAI.me service is

https://fai-project.org/FAIme/

FAI.me

Norbert Preining: TeX Services at texlive.info

12 September, 2019 - 08:20

I have been working over the last weeks to provide four more services for the TeX (Live) community: an archive of TeX Live’s network installation directory tlnet, a git repository of CTAN, a mirror of the TeX Live historic archives, and a new tlpretest mirror. In addition to the services that have already been provided before on my server, this makes a considerable list, and I thought it is a good idea to summarize all of the services.

Overview of the services

New services added recently are marked with an asterisk (*) at the end.

For the git services, anonymous checkouts are supported. If a developer wants to have push rights, please contact me.

tlnet archive

TeX Live is distributed via the CTAN network in CTAN/systems/texlive/tlnet. The packages there are updated on a daily basis according to updates on CTAN that make it into the TeX Live repository. This has created some problems for distributions requiring specific versions, as well as problems with rollbacks in case of buggy packages.

Starting with 2019/08/30, for each day rsync backups of the tlnet directory are done, and they are available at https://www.texlive.info/tlnet-archive/YYYY/MM/DD/tlnet.

CTAN git repository

The second big item is putting CTAN into a git repository. In a perfect world I could get git commits for each single package update, but that would need a lot of collaboration with the CTAN Team (and maybe this will happen in the future), but for now there is one rsync of the CTAN a day committed after the sync.

Considering the total size of CTAN (currently around 40G), we decided to ignore file types that provide no useful information when put into git, mostly large binary files. The concrete list is tar, zip, pkg, cab, jar, dmg, rpm, deb, tgz, iso, exe, cab, as well as files containing one of these extensions (that means that files foobar.iso.gz will be ignored, too). This allows to keep the size of the .git directory for now at something reasonable amount (a few Gb).

We will see how the git repository grows over time, and whether we can support this on a long term time range.

While we exclude the above files from being recorded in the git repository, the actual CTAN directory is complete and contains all files, meaning that rsync checkout contains everything.

Access to these services is provided as follows:

TeX Live historic archives

The TeX Live historic archives hierarchy contains various items of interest in TeX history, from individual files to entire systems. See the article by Ulrik Vieth at https://tug.org/TUGboat/tb29-1/tb91vieth.pdf for an overview.

We provide a mirror available via rsync://texlive.info/historic/.

tlpretest mirror

During preparation of a new TeX Live release (the pretest phase) we are distributing preliminary builds via a few tlpretest mirrors. The current server will provide access to tlpretest, too:

TeX Live svn/git mirror

Since I prefer to work with git, and developing new features with git on separate branches is so much more convenient than working with subversion, I am running a git-svn mirror of the whole TeX Live subversion repository. This repo is updated every 15min with the latest changes. There are also git branches matching the subversion branches, and some dev/ branches where I am working on new features. The git repository carries, similar to the subversion, the full history back to our switch from Perforce to Subversion in 2005.This repository is quite big, so don’t do a casual checkout (checked out size currently close to 40Gb):

TeX Live contrib

The TeX Live Contrib repository is a companion to the core TeX Live (tlnet) distribution in much the same way as Debian’s non-free tree is a companion to the normal distribution. The goal is not to replace TeX Live: packages that could go into TeX Live itself should stay (or be added) there. The TeX Live Contrib is simply trying to fill in a gap in the current distribution system by providing ready made packages for software that is not distributed in TeX Live proper due to license reasons, support for non-free software, etc.:

TeX Live GnuPG

Starting with release 2016, TeX Live provides facilities to verify authenticity of the TeX Live database using cryptographic signatures. For this to work out, a working GnuPG program needs to be available. In particular, either gpg (version 1) or gpg2 (version 2). To ease adoption of verification, this repository provides a TeX Live package tlgpg that ships GnuPG binaries for Windows and MacOS (universal and x86_64). On other systems we expect GnuPG to be installed.

Supporting these services

We will try to keep this service up and running as long as server space, connectivity, and bandwidth allows. If you find them useful, I happily accept donations via PayPal or Patreon to support the server as well as my time and energy!

Benjamin Mako Hill: How Discord moderators build innovative solutions to problems of scale with the past as a guide

11 September, 2019 - 10:04

Introducing new technology into a work place is often disruptive, but what if your work was also completely mediated by technology? This is exactly the case for the teams of volunteer moderators who work to regulate content and protect online communities from harm. What happens when the social media platforms these communities rely on change completely? How do moderation teams overcome the challenges caused by new technological environments? How do they do so while managing a “brand new” community with tens of thousands of users?

For a new study that will be published in CSCW in November, we interviewed 14 moderators of 8 “subreddit” communities from the social media aggregation and discussion platform Reddit to answer these questions. We chose these communities because each community had recently adopted the real-time chat platform Discord to support real-time chat in their community. This expansion into Discord introduced a range of challenges—especially for the moderation teams of large communities.

We found that moderation teams of large communities improvised their own creative solutions to challenges they faced by building bots on top of Discord’s API. This was not too shocking given that APIs and bots are frequently cited as tools that allow innovation and experimentation when scaling up digital work. What did surprise us, however, was how important moderators’ past experiences were in guiding the way they used bots. In the largest communities that faced the biggest challenges, moderators relied on bots to reproduce the tools they had used on Reddit. The moderators would often go so far as to give their bots the names of moderator tools available on Reddit. Our findings suggest that support for user-driven innovation is important not only in that it allows users to explore new technological possibilities but also in that it allows users to mine their past experiences to introduce old systems into new environments.

What Challenges Emerged in Discord?

Discord’s text channels allow for more natural, in the moment conversations compared to Reddit. In Discord, this social aspect also made moderation work much more difficult. One moderator explained:

“It’s kind of rough because if you miss it, it’s really hard to go back to something that happened eight hours ago and the conversation moved on and be like ‘hey, don’t do that.’ ”

Moderators we spoke to found that the work of managing their communities was made even more difficult by their community’s size:

On the day to day of running 65,000 people, it’s literally like running a small city…We have people that are actively online and chatting that are larger than a city…So it’s like, that’s a lot to actually keep track of and run and manage.”

The moderators of large communities repeatedly told us that the tools provided to moderators on Discord were insufficient. For example, they pointed out tools like Discord’s Audit Log was inadequate for keeping track of the tens of thousands of members of their communities. Discord also lacks automated moderation tools like the Reddit’s Automoderator and Modmail leaving moderators on Discord with few tools to scale their work and manage communications with community members. 

How Did Moderation Teams Overcome These Challenges?

The moderation teams we talked with adapted to these challenges through innovative uses of Discord’s API toolkit. Like many social media platforms, Discord offers a public API where users can develop apps that interact with the platform through a Discord “bot.” We found that these bots play a critical role in helping moderation teams manage Discord communities with large populations.

Guided by their experience with using tools like Automoderator on Reddit, moderators working on Discord built bots with similar functionality to solve the problems associated with scaled content and Discord’s fast-paced chat affordances. This bots would search for regular expressions and URLs that go against the community’s rules:

“It makes it so that rather than having to watch every single channel all of the time for this sort of thing or rely on users to tell us when someone is basically running amuck, posting derogatory terms and terrible things that Discord wouldn’t catch itself…so it makes it that we don’t have to watch every channel.”

Bots were also used to replace Discord’s Audit Log feature with what moderators referred to often as “Mod logs”—another term borrowed from Reddit. Moderators will send commands to a bot like “!warn username” to store information such as when a member of their community has been warned for breaking a rule and automatically store this information in a private text channel in Discord. This information helps organize information about community members, and it can be instantly recalled with another command to the bot to help inform future moderation actions against other community members.

Finally, moderators also used Discord’s API to develop bots that functioned virtually identically to Reddit’s Modmail tool. Moderators are limited in their availability to answer questions from members of their community, but tools like the “Modmail” helps moderation teams manage this problem by mediating communication to community members with a bot:

“So instead of having somebody DM a moderator specifically and then having to talk…indirectly with the team, a [text] channel is made for that specific question and everybody can see that and comment on that. And then whoever’s online responds to the community member through the bot, but everybody else is able to see what is being responded.”

The tools created with Discord’s API — customizable automated content moderation, Mod logs, and a Modmail system — all resembled moderation tools on Reddit. They even bear their names! Over and over, we found that moderation teams essentially created and used bots to transform aspects of Discord, like text channels into Mod logs and Mod Mail, to resemble the same tools they were using to moderate their communities on Reddit. 

What Does This Mean for Online Communities?

We think that the experience of moderators we interviewed points to a potentially important underlooked source of value for groups navigating technological change: the potent combination of users’ past experience combined with their ability to redesign and reconfigure their technological environments. Our work suggests the value of innovation platforms like APIs and bots is not only that they allow the discovery of “new” things. Our work suggests that these systems value also flows from the fact that they allow the re-creation of the the things that communities already know can solve their problems and that they already know how to use.

Both this blog post and the paper it describes are collaborative work by Charles Kiene, Jialun “Aaron” Jiang, and Benjamin Mako Hill. For more details, check out check out the full 23 page paper. The work will be presented in Austin, Texas at the ACM Conference on Computer-supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW’19) in November 2019. The work was supported by the National Science Foundation (awards IIS-1617129 and IIS-1617468). If you have questions or comments about this study, contact Charles Kiene at ckiene [at] uw [dot] edu.

Markus Koschany: My Free Software Activities in August 2019

11 September, 2019 - 05:37

Welcome to gambaru.de. Here is my monthly report that covers what I have been doing for Debian. If you’re interested in Java, Games and LTS topics, this might be interesting for you.

Debian Games Debian Java Misc
  • I fixed two minor CVE in binaryen, a compiler and toolchain infrastructure library for WebAssembly, by packaging the latest upstream release.
Debian LTS

This was my 42. month as a paid contributor and I have been paid to work 21,75 hours on Debian LTS, a project started by Raphaël Hertzog. In that time I did the following:

  • From 12.8.2019 until 18.08.2019 and from 09.09.2019 until 10.09.2019 I was in charge of our LTS frontdesk. I investigated and triaged CVE in kde4libs, apache2, nodejs-mysql, pdfresurrect, nginx, mongodb, nova, radare2, flask, bundler, giflib, ansible, zabbix, salt, imapfilter, opensc and sqlite3.
  • DLA-1886-2. Issued a regression update for openjdk-7. The regression was caused by the removal of several classes in rt.jar by upstream. Since Debian never shipped the SunEC security provider SSL connections based on elliptic curve algorithms could not be established anymore. The problem was solved by building sunec.jar and its native library libsunec.so from source. An update of the nss source package was required too which resolved a five year old bug. (#750400).
  • DLA-1900-1. Issued a security update for apache2 fixing 2 CVE, three more CVE did not affect the version in Jessie.
  • DLA-1914-1. Issued a security update for icedtea-web fixing 3 CVE.
  • I have been working on a backport of opensc, a set of libraries and utilities to access smart cards that support cryptographic operations, from Stretch which will fix more than a dozen CVE.
ELTS

Extended Long Term Support (ELTS) is a project led by Freexian to further extend the lifetime of Debian releases. It is not an official Debian project but all Debian users benefit from it without cost. The current ELTS release is Debian 7 „Wheezy“. This was my fifteenth month and I have been assigned to work 15 hours on ELTS of which I used 10 of them.

  •  I was in charge of our ELTS frontdesk from 26.08.2019 until 01.09.2019 and I triaged CVE in dovecot, libcommons-compress-java, clamav, ghostscript, gosa as end-of-life because security support for them has ended in Wheezy. There were no new issues for supported packages. All in all this was a rather unspectacular week.
  • ELA-156-1. Issued a security update for linux fixing 9 CVE.
  • ELA-154-2. Issued a regression update for openjdk-7 and nss because the removed classes in rt.jar caused the same issues in Wheezy too.

Thanks for reading and see you next time.

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