Experiences in the community

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mtpfs, feh and not being able to share the debconf experience.

I have been sick for about 2 weeks now hence haven’t written. I had joint pains and still am weak. There has been lot of reports of malaria, chikungunya and dengue fever around the city. The only thing I came to know is how lucky I am to be able to move around on 2 legs and how powerless and debilitating it feels when you can’t move. In the interim I saw ‘Me Before You‘ and after going through my most miniscule experience, I could relate with Will Taylor’s character. If I was in his place, I would probably make the same choices.

But my issues are and were slightly different. Last month I was supposed to share my debconf experience in the local PLUG meet. For that purpose, I took some pictures from my phone on a pen-drive to share. But when reached the venue, found out that I had forgotten to take the pen-drive. What I had also done is used the mogrify command from the imagemagick stable to lossy compress the images on the pen-drive so it is easier on image viewers.

But that was not to be and at the last moment had to use my phone plugged into the USB drive of the lappy and show some pictures. This was not good. I had known that it was mounted somewhere but hadn’t looked at where.

After coming back home, it took me hardly 10 minutes to find out where it was mounted. It is not mounted under /media/shirish but under /run/user/1000/gvfs . If I do list under it shows mtp:host=%5Busb%3A005%2C007%5D .

I didn’t need any packages under debian to make it work. Interestingly, the only image viewer which seems to be able to work with all the images is ‘feh’ which is a command-line image viewer in Debian.

[$] aptitude show feh
Package: feh
Version: 2.16.2-1
State: installed
Automatically installed: no
Priority: optional
Section: graphics
Maintainer: Debian PhotoTools Maintainers
Architecture: amd64
Uncompressed Size: 391 k
Depends: libc6 (>= 2.15), libcurl3 (>= 7.16.2), libexif12 (>= 0.6.21-1~), libimlib2 (>= 1.4.5), libpng16-16 (>= 1.6.2-1), libx11-6, libxinerama1
Recommends: libjpeg-progs
Description: imlib2 based image viewer
feh is a fast, lightweight image viewer which uses imlib2. It is commandline-driven and supports multiple images through slideshows, thumbnail
browsing or multiple windows, and montages or index prints (using TrueType fonts to display file info). Advanced features include fast dynamic
zooming, progressive loading, loading via HTTP (with reload support for watching webcams), recursive file opening (slideshow of a directory
hierarchy), and mouse wheel/keyboard control.
Homepage: http://feh.finalrewind.org/

I did try various things to get it to mount under /media/shirish/ but as of date have no luck. Am running Android 6.0 – Marshmallow and have enabled ‘USB debugging’ with help from my friend ‘Akshat’ . I even changed the /etc/fuse.conf options but even that didn’t work.

#cat /etc/fuse.conf
[sudo] password for shirish:
# /etc/fuse.conf - Configuration file for Filesystem in Userspace (FUSE)

# Set the maximum number of FUSE mounts allowed to non-root users.
# The default is 1000.
mount_max = 1

# Allow non-root users to specify the allow_other or allow_root mount options.
user_allow_other

One way which I haven’t explored is adding/making an entry into /etc/fstab. If anybody knows of a solution which doesn’t involve changing content of /etc/fstab. At the same time you are able to get the card and phone directories mounted under /media// , in my case /media/shirish would be interested to know. I would like the /etc/fstab to remain as it is.

I am using Samsung J5 (unrooted) –

Btw I tried all the mtpfs packages in Debian testing but without any meaningful change😦

Look forward to tips.

The road to TOR

Happy Independence Day to all. I had been looking forward to this day so I can use to share with my brothers and sisters what little I know about TOR . Independence means so many things to many people. For me, it means having freedom, valuing it and using it to benefit not just to ourselves but to people at large. And for that to happen, at least on the web, it has to rise above censorship if we are to get there at all. I am 40 years old, and if I can’t read whatever I want to read without asking the state-military-Corporate trinity than be damned with that. Debconf was instrumental as I was able to understand and share many of the privacy concerns that we all have. This blog post is partly a tribute to being part of a community and being part of Debconf16.

So, in that search for privacy couple of years ago, I came across TOR . TOR stands for ‘The Onion Router’ project. Explaining tor is simple. Let us take the standard way in which we approach the website using a browser or any other means.

a. We type out a site name, say debian.org in the URL/URI bar .
b. Now the first thing the browser would do is look into its DNS Cache to see if the name/URL has been used before. If it is something like debian.org which has been used before and is *fresh* and there is content already it would serve the content from the cache there itself.
c. In case, if it’s not or the content is stale or something, it would generate a DNS lookup through the various routing tables till the DNS IP Address is found and information relayed to the browser.
d. The browser takes the IP Address and opens a TCP connection to the server, you have the handshake happen and after that it’s business as usual.
e. In case if it doesn’t work, you could get errors like ‘Could not connect to server xyz’ or some special errors with error codes.

This is a much simplified version of what happens or goes through normally with most/all of the browsers.

One good way to see how the whole thing happens is to use traceroute and use the whois service.

For e.g. –

[$] traceroute debian.org

and then

[$] whois 5.153.231.4 | grep inetnum
inetnum: 5.153.231.0 - 5.153.231.255

Just using whois IP Address gives much more. I just shared a short version because I find it interesting that Debian has booked all 255 possible IP Addresses but speculating on that would be probably be a job for a different day.

Now the difference when using TOR are two things –

a. The conversation is encrypted (somewhat like using https but encrypted through the relays)
b. The conversation is relayed over 2-3 relays and it will give a somewhat different identification to the DNS server at the other end.
c. It is only at the end-points that the conversation will be in plain text.

For e.g. the TOR connection I’m using atm is from me – France (relay) – Switzerland (relay) – Germany (relay) – WordPress.com . So wordpress thinks that all the connection is happening via Germany while I’m here in India. It would also tells that I’m running MS-Windows some version and a different browser while I’m from somewhere in India, on Debian, using another browser altogether🙂

There are various motivations for doing that. For myself, I’m just a private person and do not need or want that any other person/s or even the State should be looking over my shoulder as to what I’m doing. And the argument that we need to spy on citizens because Terrorists are there doesn’t hold water over me. There are many ways in which they can pass messages even without tor or web. The Government-Corporate-Military just get more powerful if and when they know what common people think, do, eat etc.

So the question is how does you install tor if you a private sort of person . If you are on a Debian machine, you are one step closer to doing that.

So the first thing that you need to do is install the following –

$ sudo aptitude install ooniprobe python-certifi tor tor-geoipdb torsocks torbrowser-launcher

Once the above is done, then run torbrowser-launcher. This is how it would work out the first time it is run –

[$] torbrowser-launcher

Tor Browser Launcher
By Micah Lee, licensed under MIT
version 0.2.6
https://github.com/micahflee/torbrowser-launcher
Creating GnuPG homedir /home/shirish/.local/share/torbrowser/gnupg_homedir
Downloading and installing Tor Browser for the first time.
Downloading https://dist.torproject.org/torbrowser/update_2/release/Linux_x86_64-gcc3/x/en-US
Latest version: 6.0.3
Downloading https://dist.torproject.org/torbrowser/6.0.3/tor-browser-linux64-6.0.3_en-US.tar.xz.asc
Downloading https://dist.torproject.org/torbrowser/6.0.3/tor-browser-linux64-6.0.3_en-US.tar.xz
Verifying signature
Extracting tor-browser-linux64-6.0.3_en-US.tar.xz
Running /home/shirish/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/start-tor-browser.desktop
Launching './Browser/start-tor-browser --detach'...

As can be seen above, you basically download the tor browser remotely from the website. Obviously, for this port 80 needs to be opened.

One of the more interesting things is that it tells you where it installs the browser.

/home/shirish/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/start-tor-browser and then detaches.

The first time the TOR browser actually runs it looks something similar to this –

Torbrowser picture

Torbrowser picture

Additionally it would give you 4 choices. Depending on your need for safety, security and convenience you make a choice and live with it.

Now the only thing remaining to do is have an alias for your torbrowser. So I made

[$] alias tor

tor=/home/shirish/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/start-tor-browser

It is suggested that you do not use the same usernames on the onion network.

Also apart from the regular URL addresses such as ‘flossexperiences.wordpress.com’ you will also see sites such as https://www.abc12defgh3ijkl.onion.to (fictional address)

Now there would be others who would want to use the same/similar settings say as there are in their Mozilla Firefox installation.

To do that do the following steps –

a. First close down both Torbrowser and Mozilla Firefox .
b. Open your file browser and go to where your mozilla profile details are. In typical Debian installations it is at

~/.mozilla/firefox/5r7t1r92.default

In the next tab, navigate to –

~/.local/share/torbrowser/tbb/x86_64/tor-browser_en-US/Browser/TorBrowser/Data/Browser/profile.default

c. Now copy the following files over from your mozilla profile to your tor browser profile and you can resume where you left off.

    cert8.db
    chromeappsstore.sqlite
    content-prefs.sqlite
    cookies.sqlite
    formhistory.sqlite
    key3.db
    logins.json (Firefox 32 and above)
    mimeTypes.rdf
    permissions.sqlite
    persdict.dat
    places.sqlite
    signons3.txt (if exists)
    webappsstore.sqlite

and the following folders/directories

    bookmarkbackups
    chrome (if it exists)
    searchplugins (if it exists)

Once the above is done, fire up your torbrowser with the alias shared. This is usually put it in your .bashrc file or depending on whatever terminal interpreter you use, wherever the config file will be.

Welcome to the world of TOR. Now, after a time if you benefit from tor and would like to give back to the tor community, you should look up tor bridges and relay. As the blog post has become long enough, I would end it now and hopefully we can talk about tor bridges and relay some other day.

Doha and the Supreme Court of DFSG Free

Hi,

I am in two minds of what to write about Doha. My job has been vastly simplified by a friend when he shared with me https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdrAd-44LW0 . That video is more relevant and more closer to the truth than whatever I can share. As can be seen it is funny but more sad the way Qatarians are trying to figure out how things will be and as can be seen it seems to heading towards a ‘real estate bubble’ . They would have to let go of the Sharia if they are thinking of wealthy westerners coming to stay put. I am just sad to know that many of my country-men are stuck there and although I hope the best for them, I dread it may turn out the way it has turned out for many people of Indians, and especially from Kerala in Saudi Arabia. I would touch about the Kerala situation probably in another blog post as this time is exclusively for legal aspects which were discussed in Debconf.

A bit of backgrounder here, one part of my family is lawyers which means I have somewhat notion of law as practiced in our land. As probably everybody knows, India was ruled by the British for around 150 odd years. One of the things that they gave while leaving was/is the IPC (Indian Penal Code) and is practiced with the common law concept. The concept means precedence of any judgement goes quite some way in framing rulings and law of the land as time goes on besides the lobbying and the politics which happens in any democracy.

Free software would not have been there without the GPL – The General Public License. And the license is as much a legal document as it’s something that the developers can work without becoming deranged, as it is one of the more simpler licenses to work with.

My own understanding of the legal, ethical and moral issues around me were framed by two-three different TV shows, books (fiction and non-fiction alike) apart from what little news I heard in family. One was ‘M*A*S*H* (with Alan Alda and his frailness, anarchism, humanism, civil rights), the ‘Practise’ and ‘Boston Legal’ which does lay bare the many grey areas that lawyers have to deal with (‘The Practice’ also influenced a lot of civil rights understanding and First amendment, but as it is a TV show, how much of it is actually practiced for lawyers and how much moral dilemma they are can only be guessed at.) . In books it is artists like John Grisham, Michael Connelly as well as Perry Mason – Agatha Christie. In non-fiction look at the treasures under bombayhighcourt e-books corner and series of Hamlyn Lectures. I would have to warn that all of the above are major time-sinks but rewarding in their own way. Also haven’t read all of them as time and interests are constrained but do know they are good for understanding bit of our history. I do crave for a meetup kind of scenario when non-lawyers can read and discuss about facets of law .

All that understanding was vastly amplified by Groklaw.net which made non-lawyers at the very least be able to decipher and understand what is going on in the free software world. After PJ (Pamela Jones) closed it in 2013 due to total surveillance by the Free World (i.e. the United States of America, NSA) we have been thirsty. We do get occasionally somewhat mildly interesting articles in lwn.net or arstechnica.net but nowhere the sheer brilliance of groklaw.

So, it was a sheer stroke of luck that I met Mr. Bradley M. Kuhn who works with Karen Sandler on Software Conservancy. While I wanted to be there for his presentation, it was just one of those days which doesn’t go as planned. However, as we met socially and over e-mail there were two basic questions which I asked him which also imbibes why we need to fight for software freedom in the court of law. Below is a re-wording of what he shared .

Q1. why do people think that GPL still needs to be challenged in the court of law while there are gpl-violations which has been more or less successfully defended in the court of law ?

Bradley Kuhn – the GPL violations is basically a violation of one or more clauses of the GPL license and not the GPL license as a whole and my effort during my lifetime would be to make/have such precedents that the GPL is held as a valid license in the court of law.

Q2. Let’s say IF GPL is held to be valid in the court of law, would FSF benefit monetarily, at least to my mind it might be so, as more people and comapnies could be convinced to use strong copyleft licenses such as GPLv3 or AGPLv3 .

Bradley Kuhn – It may or may not. It is possible that even after winning, that people and especially companies may go for weak copyleft licenses if it suits them. The only benefit would probably would be to those people who are already using GPLv3 as the law could be used to protect them as well. Although we would want and welcome companies who would use strong copyleft license such as the GPL, the future is ‘in future’ and hence uncertain. Both possibilities co-exist.

While Bradley didn’t say it, I would add further here it probably would mean also moving from being a more offensive mode (which GPL-violations is based upon where a violation occurs and somebody either from the victim’s side or a by-stander notices the violation, brings it to the notice of the victim and the GPL-volations team.) to perhaps it being defended by the DMCA people themselves, once GPL is held as a valid license in the eyes of law. Although should you use the DMCA or not is a matter of choice, personal belief system as well as your legal recourses.

I have to share that the FSF and the GPL-violations team are probably very discerning when they take up the fight as most of the work done by them is pro-bono (i.e. they don’t make a single penny/paisa from the work done therein.) and hence in view of scarce resources, it makes sense to go only for the biggest violators in the hopes that you can either make them agree to compensate and agree to the terms of license of any software/hardware combination or sue them and take a bigger share of the reward/compensation awarded by the Court to help the defendant and maybe some of the proceeds donated by the defendant and people like you and me to make sure that Conservancy and the GPL-violations team is still around to help the next time something similar happens.

Bradley Kuhn presenting at #Debconf 16

Bradley Kuhn presenting at #Debconf 16

Now, as far as his presentation is concerned, whose video can be seen at http://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2016/debconf16/The_Supreme_Court_of_DFSGFree.webm , I thought it was tame. While he talked about ‘gaming the system’ in some sense, he was sharing that the system debian-legal works (most-of-the-time). The list actually works because many far more brilliant people than me take time to understand the intricacies of various licenses and how they should be interpreted through the excellently written Debian Free Software Guidelines and whether the license under discussion contravenes the DFSG or is part of it. I do agree with his point though that the ftp-master/s and the team may not be the right person to judge the license in adherence to the DFSG, or her/is not giving a reason for rejecting a package to not entering into the package archive.

I actually asked the same question on debian-legal and while I had guessed, it seems there is enough review of the licenses per-se as answer from Paul Wise shows. Charles Pessley also shared an idea he has documented which probably didn’t get much traction as involves more ‘work’ on DD’s without any benefit to show for it. All in all I hope it sheds some light on why there is need to be more aware of law in software freedom. Two Organizations which work on software freedom from legal standpoint are SFLC  (Delhi) headed by the charming Mr. Eben Moglen  and ALF (Bangalore). I do hope more people, especially developers take a bit more interest in some of the resources mentioned above.

Doha and the past year in APT

A week has gone by and another small sharing about Doha and one package that quite a few of us use everyday but don’t think much of them.

Let’s start with Doha with these two pictures which tells/shares a bit about what the Doha of today is like –

qatar-1

qatar-2

While I have more than a dozen snapshots of Doha, all of them show same thing, all are huge skyscrapers and overall Doha seems to be aping Dubai and is in a frenzy as World Cup 2022 is around the corner. We did see a few of the older places but these seemed to be more done for ‘tourists’ rather than the real thing. We saw stuff like –

wooden_ship

This was a picture taken by Ritesh Raj Saraff, a friend and a DD whom I met while I was going to Debconf. The place where this picture has been taken is known as a ‘Souk’ or what we know as market-place. This was a place where you could get spices. Quite a few of the spices that we get and use in India were bought from Middle-East in the olden times. In fact, it has been argued that the whole ‘Mughlai’ food that is part of Indian culture was imported from Middle-East when we were trading them before India or ‘Akhand Bharat’ was invaded. What was interesting to both of us is that we could perceive that most of the buildings had a sort of fakeness to it, they tried to show that it had a lot of detailed work on the buildings but we could see it was all done recently so not that old as being led to believe.

One of the other interesting bits that we came to know throughout our stay in Qatar that almost 80-90% of the staff we met inside Qatar airport as well as in the ‘Souk’ were people from Asian sub-continent and more specifically from South India.

I had few interesting conversations with some of the people who were managing the shops were that almost of them were just employees while the owners were ‘Qataris’ . I could understand this as the distance and flight between Qatar and India is hardly 3 hours. It seemed very similar to how Mexicans look for work in United States. The most expensive thing there was ‘water’ as it’s desert other than housing and most workers seemed to have shared accommodation from anywhere between 5-15 people in one room. It’s only the relative strength of the Qatari Rial which probably compels them to be there. The temperature was around 45 degrees with a bit of humidity as it’s next to the Ocean. For all the money in the world, I wouldn’t work there. It is true that you know your city’s worth only when you go outside🙂

I do have some more stories about Qatar but that would have to wait for another day now. Also, I really don’t want to talk much about this part as it’s part depressing but probably would explore it a bit in a further blog-post.

One of the more interesting topics that I attended was the ‘apt’ talk . There are 3-4 tools in the Debian world i.e. apt, aptitude, apt-get, dpkg and dselect. More often than not people know aptitude and apt-get whereas the rest of the packages are not thought so much about. What I somewhat suspected about the history of apt was revealed to be true today, courtesy David K.

julias-andreas-klose-year-in-apt

You can see the talk/video about apt at http://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2016/debconf16/The_past_year_in_APT.webm.

I had been curious about apt,libapt,dpkg and the entire tool-chain which goes into updating packages and like. I had a couple of conversations here in India before on mail, in person and IRC as well as couple of conversations in South Africa as well before the APT talk where it was told that packages are not signed or it’s not easy to figure out the integrity. Being a Debian fan-boy I could not believe this to be true. Hence I asked and to my dismay found it to be true😦 . I also then asked the same with a bit more background on the mailing list as well and got to know that this has been a concern since 2005. As I do not have the requisite skills and the person would require probably knowledge of dpkg internals as well as have probably good social skills to have at least 1-2 DD’s help her/im to work on it and have probably some server space where even some partial archive is re-built using debian packages which use dpkg-sig . I also had some concerns that even if somebody did do the work, it might come in the way of the reproducible builds concept where Neils shared ways in which it could be overcome. Having said the above, it is totally doable if somebody has the will, skills and the patience to do it.

Just look at the amazing work done by the team which re-built almost all the archive using clang. See clang.debian.net for the amazing work that they have done.

Now, one of the issues in India which comes in popularizing Debian or in fact any free software distribution in India is the bandwidth issue or rather the lack of it or how expensive it is. The situation for better lack of term is ‘pathetic’. While nothing can be done till the time the Govt. gives limited term oligopoly licenses to telecom operators and they have a cabal (cabal – closed team where decisions and policies are made without any knowledge of and to other stakeholders.) we need to find ways to make the best of the situation. Anyways, while there are some ideas to tackle that but that’s a long-term goal and I will share some aspects of it in probably another blog post. In the interim somethings can definitely be made better. Now one of the issues that is there for most people is getting the package updates. Before updating the packages, the package index needs to be updated. Now, both in home and work environments most people are cautious to update the package index. But many times, either due to bandwidth issues or some other issue which is outside your control,  your package index is corrupted. I have put both the possible reasons of why and how the package index corruption takes place and a probable work-around of in the deity mail post. I do hope to put in a more coherent state by probably making smaller bug issues so they could be tackled or answered one by one. Any improvements would be better for stability of debian infrastructure only. If anybody does do the required work and need a guinea pig for testing, count me in. Just holler and share you will be working on this aspect and at least one of my workstations would definitely take part in seeing if its better or not. Even if you are able to just provide a way to make a copy of /var/lib/apt/lists after every successful update and do the comparison with time-stamp on next run and only change the copy when a successful update occurs, that will be a huge help in itself.

Look forward to hearing form one and all.

Debconf 16 and My Experience with Debian

It has been often said that you should continually try new things in life so that

a. Unlike the fish you do not mistake the pond to be the sea.

b. You see other people, other types and ways of living and being which you normally won’t in your day-to-day existence.

With both of those as mantras I decided to take a leap into the unknown. I was unsure both about the visa process as well as the travel bit as I was traveling to an unknown place and although I had done some research about the place I was unsure about the authenticity of whatever is/was shared on the web.

During the whole journey both to and fro, I couldn’t sleep a wink. The Doha airport is huge. There are 5 Concourses, A, B , C, D, E and around 30+ gates in each Concourse. The ambition of the small state is something to be reckoned with. Almost 95% of the blue workers in the entire airport were of Asian sub-continent. While the Qatari Rial is 19 times stronger to us, the workers I suspect are worse-off than people doing similar things back home. Add to that the sharia law, even for all the money in the world, I wouldn’t want to settle therein.

Anyways, during the journey, a small surprise awaited me, Ritesh Raj Saraff, a DD was also traveling to Debconf. We bumped into each other while going to see the Doha City, courtesy Al-Hamad International Airport. I would probably share a bit more about Doha and my experiences with the city in upcoming posts.

Cut to Cape Town, South Africa, we landed in the city half an hour after our scheduled time and then we sped along to University of Cape Town (UCT) which was to become our home for the next 13 odd days.

The first few days were a whirlwind as there were new people to meet, old people whom I knew only as an e-mail id or an IRC nickname turned out to be real people and you have to try to articulate yourself in English, which is not a native language of mine. During Debcamp I was fortunate to be able visit some of the places and the wiki page had a lot of places which I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete unless I had 15 days unlimited time and money to go around so didn’t even try.

I had gone with few goals in mind :-

a. Do some documentation of the event – In this I failed completely as just the walk from the venue to where the talks were energy-draining for me. Apart from that, you get swept in meeting new people and talking about one of million topics in Debian which interest you or the other person and while they are fulfilling, it is and was both physically and emotionally draining for me (in a good way). Bernelle (one of the organizers) had warned us of this phenomenon but you disregard it as you know you have a limited time-frame in which to meet and greet people and it is all a over-whelming experience.

b. Another goal was to meet my Indian brethren who had left the country around 60~100 years mostly as slaves of East India company – In this I was partially successful. I met a couple of beautiful ladies who had either a father or a mother who was Indian while the other was of African heritage. It seemed in them a yearning to know the culture but from what little they had, only Bollywood and Indian cuisine was what they could make of Indian culture. One of the girls, ummm… women to be more truer, shared a somewhat grim tale. She had both an African boyfriend as well as Indian boyfriend in her life and in both cases, she was rejected by the boy’s parents because she wasn’t pure enough. This was deja vu all over again as the same thing can be seen here happening in casteism so there wasn’t any advice I could give but just nod in empathy. What was sort of relevation was when their parents or grandparents came, the name and surnames were thrown off and the surname was just the place from where they belong. From the discussions it emerged that there were also lot of cases of forced conversions to Christianity during that era as well as temptations of a better life.

As shared, this goal succeeded partially, as I was actually interested in their parents or grand-parents to know the events that shaped the Indian diaspora over there. While the children know only of today, yester-years could only be known by those people who made the unwilling perilous journey to Africa. I had also wanted to know more about Gandhiji’s role in that era but alas, that part of history would have to wait for another day as I guess, both those goals would only have met had I visited Durban but that was not to be.

I had applied for one talk ‘My Experience with Debian’ and one workshop for Installation of Debian on systems. The ‘My Experience with Debian’ was aimed at newbies and I had thought of using show-and-tell to share the differences between proprietary Operating Systems and a FOSS distribution such as Debian. I was going to take simple things such as changelogs, apt-listbugs, real-time knowledge of updates and upgrades as well as /etc/apt/sources.list to share both the versatility of the Debian desktop and real improvements than what proprietary Operating Systems had to offer. But I found myself engaging with Debian Developers (DD’s) rather than the newbies so had to change the orientation and fundamentals of the talk on the fly. I knew or suspected rather that the old idea would not work as it would just be repeating to the choir. With that in the back of mind, and the idea that perhaps they would not be so aware of the politics and events which happened in India over the last couple of decades, I tried to share what little I was able to recollect what little I was able to remember about those times. Apart from that, I was also highly conscious that I had been given just the before lunch slot aka ‘You are in the way of my lunch’ slot. So I knew I had to speak my piece as quickly as possible being as clear as can be. Later, I did get feedback that I was fast and seeing it through couple of times, do agree that I could have done a better job. What’s done is done and the only thing I could do to salvage it a bit is to make a presentation which I am sharing as below.

my_experience_with_debian

Would be nice if somebody could come up with a lighter template for presentations. For reference the template I have taken it from is shared at https://wiki.debian.org/Presentations . Some pictures from the presentation.

vlcsnap-00004

me_sharing

my_experience_with_debian

You can find the video at http://meetings-archive.debian.net/pub/debian-meetings/2016/debconf16/My_Experience_with_Debian.webm

This is by no means the end of the Debconf16 experience, but actually the starting. I hope to share more of my thoughts, ideas and get as much feedback from all the wonderful people I met during Debconf.

Medical awareness, terrorism, racism and Debconf

Hi to all the souls on planet.debian.org🙂 . I hope to meet many of you in Debconf16 which is being held at UCT (University of Cape Town), Rhondenbosch, South Africa and am excited to be part of it. I pushed a blog post about my journey to debconf till date.

I express my sympathy and condolences to all the people who died in the cowardly shooting spree done by a madman in Orlando😦 . I have been upset about this development but as what’s done is done, it’s best to just keep moving.

Closer to my own reality, I was shocked to discover during my whole visa experience that nowhere there is any knowledge about vaccinations that people should have when they are traveling internationally. I was kinda rudely awakened by this mail which prompted me to take Hep A shot and also start a thread on the mailing list. The more comprehensive info. I got was at the CDC site . It seems to be a go-to site to find about what is recommended. While I will not be taking any shots now as it’s nearing to the date of travel, if I had known before, it would have been a valuable resource in itself. Definitely something to be bookmarked if you are going overseas and are worried or have health concerns.

On another note, About few days back, there was a discussion as recently, travel advisories have been issued about possible terror action in South Africa by various embassies due to the holy month of Ramadan.

And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did and guns and more security and not the answer.

My take on it some would describe as simplistic, there are things which you can control, there are things beyond your control. No security agency, no country can guarantee it. By being either home or away, you can’t wish you will not get bitten. Got images of Final Destination invoked when I was sharing that, for as an Indian, do believe a bit on fate and karma. Also, me being single also plays a part, perhaps I would have been more cautious or have different motivations if I had a family so I do understand some of the concerns which have been raised by people in that thread. At the end of it, it really is a non-choice in my book.

If you don’t take part due to fear,uncertainty of a possible attack, you have already given in to fear and uncertainty and I believe this goes against the very philosophy of what Debian stands for, being bold, taking chances and having trust in your fellow men. If we haven’t allowed proprietary, commercial software to win over us, how can we allow less than 0.1% radically motivated people to scare us ? And the recent attack just proves that it takes just one twisted personality with a perverse sense of justice or whatever s/he/ thinks as just to do what s/he did. More guns and more security are certainly not the answer here.

A more troubling part is not terrorism but caste-ism and racism which have been also making news (not in a good way) in India. Now while I cannot claim to have any knowledge about Africans apart from 2-3 conversations which didn’t go anywhere, two-three preconceived notions about them can easily be countered. As far as drugs are concerned, IF some Africans are doing drugs smuggling, it would be wrong to pin all of it onto them. India has been fighting drugs smuggling from the 70’s itself. From what we know and have learnt over the years from consuming media, India shares porous borders with almost all our neighbors. Of those, Pakistan is supposed to be the largest grower and supplier and then Nepal where young boys are used as Traffickers. The recent film ‘Rocky Handsome‘ and the recent upcoming controversial movie ‘Udta Punjab‘ are trying to explore these issues. As far as drinking in open is concerned, I have seen and been part of Punjabi parties where both men and women drink without abandon in farm parties. Russians, Germans and Israelis can also out-drink a person on their day/mood. As far as sexuality is concerned, we are the second most populous country in the world, so the less said the better🙂 .

I believe though that underneath this racism is money, greed, phobia, language barriers and just maybe some lifestyle choices as well. I have seen North-Eastern, Chinese, Buddhist people being colored with the same brush. The more interesting case is with the Buddhist as can be seen in Himachal Pradesh, where locals feel they are deprived as Europeans come and indulge Buddhists for their monasteries and their way of life while locals don’t get much money from them. This is partly true, but also due to our own short-comings in dealing with westerners. I have never seen my own countrymen going out of their way to make westerners or any tourists for that matter feel welcome in a genuine way. More often, the behavior is between hostility, jealousy and a perverted sense of hero-worship due to the color of skin. As far as being racist and bigoted are concerned, it seems we are not alone, just day before came across this news from Malaysia which is interesting in the sense that how people from different communities frame their own history and people around them, forget that is false and misleading to what we in India know to be the truth, it probably is/would be interesting for somebody who does comparative history, myth and folklore analysis. I was actually planning to talk about some of the talks I am looking forward to hearing and seeing on Debconf but guess that will have to wait for few more days. Hope to publish one more before actually flying to Debconf. Till later.

The road to debconf 2016, tourism and arts.

A longish blog post, please bear, a second part of the blog post would be published in few days from now. My fixed visa finally arrived, yeah🙂 But this story doesn’t start here, it starts about a year back. While I have been contributing to Debian in my free time over the years, and sometimes paid time as well, I had never thought of going overseas as the experiences I knew from friends and relatives, it isn’t easy to get all the permissions and paperwork done to say the least (bureaucracy @ work). But last year, when Debconf 15 was being launched, there are/were 2-3 friends of mine who are studying, doing their Ph.D. in some computer/web stuff, living in Germany currently that they goaded me to apply. The first few times I gave some standard excuses, but when they kept on for a while, just to shut them up I applied to the debconf team applying for food, accommodation and travel sponsorship.

I didn’t have high hopes as there obviously are many more talented peers around me who understand FOSS and Debian at a much more fundamental, philosophical as well as technical level than me. Much to my surprise though, about a month (and around two or three weeks just before the event was about to take place) I got the bursary/sponsorships for food, accommodation as well as travel. I was unsure that the remaining time was enough to get a visa hence declined that time around.

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Observations of a Nouveau Traveller.

Am currently in the visa no man’s land (application given and awaiting result) for debconf 2016 which means it is the perfect opportunity to share whatever I have been learning about South Africa and drawing parallels with India.
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GTK 3.20 breakage in Debian, GDM3, Wayland and Technical Debt.

For about a month and a half now, GTK 3.20 has come in Debian testing. While this is good as GNOME 3.20 was released about couple of months back it broke the themes that are in Debian. A bug has been filed for that .

There has been little in way of documentation about how to fix the themes which reminds me of how Pulseaudio was off-putting when it first came to most people due to incomplete documentation, the breakage and not knowing where to look to fix things or even look up unit-tests, functional tests to understand where the breakage was happening.

It does seem that the GNOME team dropped the ball on this release. A more interesting read of the issue can be seen in this bug thread . I especially like the answer that Michael gave which does tell how much undocumented it really is.

Although if you read Mathias MClasen’s blog post it seems more or less in-line with how regular CSS web-development takes place, so pretty much in-line with GNOME’s stated goals of making GNOME very much a web-development platform so more web-developers could write and support GNOME rather than having to learn C or some other language to write for it. This has been their one of the stated goals from long back, I think circa 2012 or even before.

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using GPS without license – jail for 7 years -2

About couple of weeks back I posted a blog post about how the new regulations would affect us. Few days back a friend of mine sent me this YouTube link . Please see this video while I share a small anecdote with you about 20-25 years back.

During that time, I was a college student from a middle-class family. My college was half an hour walk from my home and I use to walk up and down to the college daily. I used to take various routes to reach the college as you become bored with one route daily. One of those routes used to pass through marriage halls. As a First year college student, I didn’t need money much so used to carry around Rs. 10/20 – for having chai and some street food for friends. That amount used to go quite some distance in those days. Me and My friends saw many a movie @ Rs. 10/- Saturday morning movies by bunking college and we used to enjoy that like anything.

One day, I *think* it was a holiday and I was supposed to meet a friend who was living in college hostel or around that, while going, I took the route which went nearby the marriage halls. I should state that time I wasn’t fat as I am today but was around 50-55 kg. as I used to walk quite a bit and used to be with friends so energy was dissipated all the time, the relevance of this statement will be known as I unravel the true story as it happened. While I was walking, I saw a young girl (maybe 3-4 years old) bawling her heart out. She looked from a well-to-do home from her clothes. I asked in my broken Marathi what happened and she said she lost her parents. I used the top of my lungs and asked if her parents are around. I asked her name and shouted 2-3 times using her name but of no avail. Then I asked as to where she lived. She said, just round the corner. So I gave her my pinky finger and went to the lane. The road on which these marriage halls are, there are many lanes which are in Z shape with most of them ending in a dead-end. So I took her and when we reached the dead-end she stopped and said this isn’t it. I naively thought it might be one of the other lanes and one-by-one I went through all the lanes which had a dead-end. I had explicitly asked her and she said that the lane ended at her house. After just couple of lanes, she was tired and I had to offer to carry her. Somehow I carried her for couple of hours and when all the dead-end lanes were done, I realized that the girl was truly lost. A part of me wanted to leave her but I couldn’t leave her like that. Using 90 percent of the money I had on me, we had a cold-drink each at one of the shops as she was thirsty as was I. I asked people around me that such a situation has arisen and what should I do ? I was told that my best bet would be to call the police station. I called up 100 number and probably the exchange transferred me to the nearest Police Station. I told the cop the situation and told them where I am. The cop answered, bring the girl and yourself to the Police Station and we will sort it out. I couldn’t understand why the cop could not come and pick us up when I’m giving the address of the place. I had no idea of prank calls as well as the plight of the cops themselves as shared much later in Satyamev Jayate. It took me couple of hours as I had to constantly shift her, take breaks in-between and then start again. Finally after reaching the Station, they took my statement. Shortly afterwards the child’s family also came. They were asked if they wanted to file any sort of criminal charges against me (which was a shock to me), as they didn’t know me they let me go.

Now apart from my naive behavior, if the police had location-aware technology they would have known where I am speaking from (it was a land-line as cellular phones were unheard of that point in time.) From what little I have observed, the private and community maps (where there is a true community around mapping) are far-far better than the maps than the Government does. While we really should have and ask a 911 kinda service which connects to all sorts of law and order issues (domestic abuse, violence, bullying etc.) medical emergencies (heart attack or any life-threatening issues), Disaster relief (Floods,landslides etc.) . Such services can only rely when you have both public, community and private initiatives work together.

If mapping would only be something that only the Government and big moneyed people can do, it will lead to laziness, as sooner or later there would be monopolies or at the most duopoly in many of the places in India which would be bad for us.

Look forward to our countrymen to advise the country to give community mapping also some breathing space in whatever new regulation comes without resorting to heavy-handedness of licensing.

A simple rice-veggie recipe and procedure for getting RWH Rebate

First and foremost the Rice and veggies recipe (This is for 2 persons) :-

Ingredients :-

1. 150 gms. Rice (Best is Basmati whole or whatever rice you have)
2. Onion cut into small pieces (1/4th of onion is enough.)
2. Cut into small pieces all Veggies (Anything goes, at the simplest ladyfinger,Capsicum)
3. Salt
4. Turmeric
5. 1 tbsp Cumin seeds
6. Ghee or Oil whatever you have
7. Water (300 ml).
8. chilli powder

Procedure –

01. Wash rice in water
02. Put 400 gms of water in Rice in some container and let it soak for around 30 mins.
03. Put onion pieces and stir fry for couple of mins.
04. Put whatever veggies you have in water for chemicals to be released as well to let the veggies become a bit soft and also retain bit of water (30 mins is good.)
05. Take a pressure cooker, put a bit of oil or ghee on it, only little so that it moistens the whole of the surface area of the cooker and a bit more. Put the gas on full flame.
06. Take 1 tbsp of Cumin seeds and put it when you see the steam coming from the ghee or OIl
07. Fry the cumin seeds till they are a bit more brownish. Make sure the flame is now on medium flame. At the most 1 or 2 minutes, not more.
08. Put all the veggies you have at your disposal. Ladyfinger,Capsicum,Brinjal,Tomatoes and all and any green leafy vegetables are all good.
09. Fry for couple of minutes, you should be able to smell the veggies good as they are being cooked.
10. Put rice in (taking out the water in a glass or something else). Make sure that the water is 300ml or the same as you had put it before. Some varieties of rice take more water, while others do not.
11. Put 1 tbps of salt, bit of turmeric powder and bit of chilli powder to taste.
12. Fry for a minute or two. You should be getting good smells now.
13. Put the 300 ml of water and close the lid of the pressure cooker and top, put it on high flame.
14. After couple of whistles, close the gas.
15. Let the rice and veggies be cooked inside.
16. After 15-20 minutes the veggie-rice is ready to be served.

It can be served with variety of chutneys, curd, pickle and papad.

Now today I got the following in one of the mailing lists I follow :-

Since I am working on this for my society and this is where Swaraj Abhiyan intends assisting people, I am sending this as in incentive for people to do this in their societies before the monsoons, do have a look and bring this up to your society

The 5% rebate is for life and not a one time thing, which is a pretty good incentive

Please find with this email attached documents required to apply for PMC tax rebate:

1. Cover letter with application
2. List of Property Tax Account Numbers of all Residents of the Society.
3. A few photographs of the installation.
4. Certificate from RWH Agency that installed the setup.

Please make 2 sets of each of the above documents. The application has to be submitted at PMC Building Department, Mr. Ingale. An inwarding stamp is to be taken.

After application is submitted, PMC official has to visit the property and counter check. He then gives his report and passes on the documents to the Tax department where the account numbers are then filled into the PMC system. The application has to be given every year in Dec so that by next financial year the rebate can be provided.

The above is a provisional process which has not succeeded many times. To change this we need to get the responsible department to sign off on the process in black and white so that there is no scope for discretion.

They also have to give a mechanism to confirm that the tax rebate has been provided. There is no such feedback loop.

——————–
Contacts for getting RWH installed in your building / society

1. Era Hydro Biotech – Mr.Sandeep Bhosale – 8928698997.
2. Shreeji Aqua Treatment – 9823053532 sunil mehta santosh sharma

3. Deccan Water Treatment Pvt Ltd – Abhishek Joshi – 9860180144. Give them ( Vikram Sanghras) reference.

4. Ibrahim 9921927967- he will be the most reasonable, i think in terms of cost, and he is part of Swaraj Abhiyan

5.Udhyam Gokhale – 9822556670- Does big projects so good for bigger societies
6. Rahul Bakre- 7774034634/7774036236- give him Mihir Dudhats reference from SULINS

After reading the above, I am still wondering why are not more societies going for it. 5% tax rebate is not a small amount and that too every year. The investment should be recoverable in reasonable time. The only thing I expect restricts is getting all the house-owners to get together to pay for it, as well as doing the application work, although that should be done by the building secretary.

In Pune, less than 5% of building owners, societies go for Rainwater Harvesting.

using GPS without license – jail for 7 years.

Just to add/clear up from last blog post amateur rocketry, while it can reach the height of 32000 ft., cruising altitude of most Civilian Commercial Airplanes, In United States and Europe the amateur rocketry community do co-ordinate with the local authorities to know which is good time to fly the rockets, even though rocket hitting a Commercial Airline is rare and less risk-prone than Bird-hits which is more dangerous for Commercial Airline Pilots.

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Science Day 2016 at GMRT, Khodad and learning.

Hi all,
First things, first. I haven’t been blogging for number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is basically I need a place to put up the photos and for that I need to pay. Most of the free sites where you are able to upload pictures have a limit like 1 GB or something while at the same time privacy, copyrights are both issues at least on the free sites so it’s demotivating to blog without pictures.
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Gitstats – the easiest way to see stats.

Hi all,
This will be a shortish take on an application called gitstats which I found few months back.

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Are Indian FOSS communities closed-source ?

Hi all,
This will hopefully be a short read as how Indian communities specially product-based communities are opaque in functioning.
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