WordPress.com tracking pictures and a minidebconf in Pune

This would be a big longish post.

I have been a wordpress.com user for a long time and before that blog post for a long long time. Sometime back on few blog posts I began to notice that on planet.debian.org the pictures were not appearing. I asked the planet maintainers what was going on. They in turn shared with me a list of filters that they were using as a default. While I’m not at liberty to share any of the filters, it did become clear from reading of the regular expressions of the filters and conversations with the planet maintainers that wordpress.com was at fault and not Planet.debian. I tried to see if there was anything as a content producer I could do but apparently nothing. The only settings for media or even for general has no settings through which I could stop tracking.

Sharing a screenshot below –

Media settings in normal wordpress.com account.

Sp while there’s nothing I can do atm, I can share about the Debian event that we did in reserved-bit about couple of months ago. Before I start, here’s a small brief about reserved bit, it’s a makerspace right next to where all the big IT companies are and where they come to pass the time after work. It’s on top of a mall.

Reserved-bit is run jointly by Siddhesh and Nisha Poyarekar husband-wife duo. Siddhesh was working with Redhat and now does his own thing. Works with Linaro and is a glibc maintainer and I read somewhere that he was even a releaser of couple of glibc releases (Update = actually 2.25 and 2.26 of glibc which is wow and also a big responsibility.) Pune is to India what Detroit was to the States. We have number of automobile companies and siddesh did share he was working on the glibc variants for the automobile, embedded market.

Nisha on the other hand is more on the maker side of the things, his better half and I believe she knows quite a bit of Aurdino. I believe there was a workshop yesterday on aurdino but due to time and personal constraints was not able to attend it or would have got more to share. She is the one who is looking at the day-to-day operations of maker-bit and Siddhesh chips in as and when he can.

Because of the image issue, I had been dragging my feet to post about the event for more than couple of months now. I do have access of a debconf gallery instance but was not comfortable for this. If I do attend a debconf then probably that would be the place for that.

Anyways, about 3 months back Gaurav shared an e-mail on the local LUG mailing list . We were trying to get the college where the LUG meets as it is one of the central parts of the city but then due to scheduling changes it was decided to be held at reserved-bit. I had not talked with Praveen for some time but had an inkling that he might be bringing one of the big packages which has a lot of dependencies on them which I shared in an email . As can be seen, I also shared the immense list that Paul always has and as can be seen free software is just growing leaps and bounds, what we are missing are more packagers and maintainers.

I also thought that it is possible that somebody might want to install debian and hence shared about that as well.

As I wasn’t feeling strong enough, I decided to forgo taking the lappy along. Fortunately, a friend arrived and we were together able to reach the venue on time. We probably missed about 10 minutes which probably was the introduction session a bit.

Image of Praveen talking about various software

Image – courtesy Gaurav Sitlani

Praveen is in middle, somewhat like me with the beard, and white t-shirt.

I had mentally prepared myself for newbie questions but refreshingly, even though there were lot of amateurs, most of them had used Debian for sometime. So instead of talking about why we need to have Debian as a choice or why X disto is better than Y we had more pointed topical questions. There were questions about privacy as well where Debian is strong and looking to set the bar even higher. I came to know much later than Kali people are interested in porting most of their packages and maintain it in main, more eyes to see the code, a larger superset of people would use the work they do than those who would only use kali and in time higher quality of packages which is win-win to all the people concerned.

As I had suspected Praveen shared two huge lists of potentials software that needs to be packaged. Before starting he took some of the introductory part of the npm2deb tutorial. I had played with build programs before but npm2deb seemed a bit more automated than others, specifically with the way it picks up the metadata about software to be packaged. I do and did realize that npm2deb is for specific bits only and probably that is the reason that it could be a bit more automated than something like makefile, cmake, premake but then the latter are more generic in nature, they are not tied to a specific platform or way of doing things.

He showed a demo of npm2deb, the resultant deb package, ran lintian on top of it . He did share the whole list of software that needs to be packaged in order to see npm come into Debian. He and Shruti also did a crowdfunding for it sometime back.

I am not sure how many people noticed but from what I recollect both nodejs and npm came around June/July 2017 in Debian. While I don’t know it seemed Praveen and Shruti did the boring yet hard work to bring both the biggish packages into Debian. There may be some people involved as well which I might not know about but that is unintentional. If anybody knows any better feel free to correct me and will update it here as well.

Then after a while Raju shared the work he has been doing with Hamara but not in great detail as still lot of work is yet to be done. There were questions about rolling release and how often people update packages, while both Praveen and Raju pointed out that they did monthly updates, I am more of a weekly offender. I usually use debdelta to update packages and its far much easier to track and have the package diffs cheaply without affecting the bandwidth too much.

I wanted to share about adequate as I think it’s one of the better tools but as it has been orphaned and nobody has stepped up, it seems it will die a death after sometime. What a waste of a useful tool.

What we hadn’t prepared for that somebody had actually wanted to install Debian on their laptop then and there. I just had the netinstall usb stick by chance but the person who wanted to install debian had not done the preparatory work which needs to be done before setting up Debian. We had to send couple of people to get a spare external hdd which took time, copying the person’s data and then formatting that partition, sharing the different ways that Debian could be installed onto the system. There was a bit of bike-shedding there as there are just too many ways. I am personally towards have a separate / , /boot (part of it I am still unable to resolve under the whole Windows 10 nightmare, /home, /logs and swap. There was also a bit of discussion about swap as the older model of 1:1 memory doesn’t hold much water in the 8 GB RAM+ scenario.

By the time the external hdd came, we were able to download a CD .iso and show a minimal desktop installation. We had discussions about the various window managers and desktop environments, the difference and the similarities. IIRC, CD 1 has just LXDE as none of the other desktop environments can fit on CD1. I also shared about my South African Debconf experience as well the whole year-long preparation it takes to organize Debconf. IIRC, I *think* I shared having a conference like that costs north of USD 100,000 (it costed that much for South Africa, beautiful country) – the Canadian one might have costed more and the Taiwan one happening coming July would cost the same even though accommodation is free. I did share that we had something like 300+ people for the conference, the Germany one the year before had 500 so for any Indian bid we would have to grow up a whole lot more before we think of getting anywhere of hosting a debconf in India.

There was interest from people to contribute to Debian but this is where it gets a bit foggy, while some of the students want/ed to contribute they were not clear as to where they could contribute. I think we shared with them the lists, shared/showed them IRC/Matrix and sort of left them to their own devices. I do think we did mention #debian-welcome and #debian-mentors at possible points of contact. As all of us are busy with our lives, work etc. it does become hard to tell/advise people. Over the years we have realized that its much better to just share the starting info. and let them find if there is something that interests them.

There was also discussion about different operating systems and how the work culture and things differed from the debian perspective. For e.g. I shared how we have borrowed quite a bit of security software from the BSD stable and some plausible reasons of where BSD has made it big and where it sort of failed. The same was dissected for other operating systems too who are in the free software space and quite a few students realized it’s a big universe out there. We shared about devuan and how a group of people who didn’t like systemd did their own thing but at the same they realized the amount of time it takes to maintain a distro. In many a ways, it is a miracle that Debian is able to be independent and have its own morals and compasses. We also shared bits of the Debian constitution and Manifesto but not too much otherwise it would have become too preachy.

Coming towards the end, it gives me quite a bit of pleasure to share that Debian would be taking part in Outreachy and GSOC at the same time. While the projects seem to be different, I do have some personal favorites. The most exciting to me as a user are –

1. Wizard/GUI helping students/interns apply and get started – While they have narrow-cased it, it should help almost everybody who has to get over the learning curve to make her/is contribution to Debian. Having all the tools configured and ready to work would make the job of on boarding on to Debian a whole lot easier.

2. Firefox and Thunderbird plugins for free software habits – It’s always a good idea to start of with privacy tools, it would make the journey of free software much easier and enjoyable.

3. Android SDK Tools in Debian – This I think would be a multi-year project for as long as Android is there as a competitor in the mobile space. Especially for Pune students doing work with Android might lead to upstream work with Linaro who have been working with companies and various stake-holders to have more homogeneity to a kernel which would make it more secure, more maintainable in the short and long run.

4. Open Agriculture Food Computer – This probably would be a bit difficult but for colleges like COEP who have CNC lathes and 3-d printer and a benefactor in Sharad Pawar and other people who are interested in Agriculture, Nitin Gadkari . The TED link shared and reproduced below does give some idea. Vandana Shiva, who has been a cultural force and has a seed bank so we have culture, recipes and food for generations would be pretty much appropriate for the problems we face. It actually ties in with another ted talk which is also a global concern, the shortage of water and recycling of water.

This again from what I could assess with my almost non-existent agricultural skills, would be multi-year project as the science and understanding of it are in early stages. People from agriculture, IT, Atmospheric Science etc. all would have a role in a project like this. The interesting part of it is that from what has been shared, it seems there are lots that can be done in that arena.

Lastly, I would like some of the more privacy consciously people to weigh in on 1322748. I have used all the addons which have been mentioned on the bugzilla one time or the other and am stymied as my web experience is poorer as I cannot know who to trust and who to not without the info. about what ciphers the webmasters are using. Public pressure can only work when that info. is available.

I am sure I missed a lot, but that’s all I could cover. If people have some more ideas or inputs, feel free to suggest in the comments and I will see if I can incorporate them in the blog post if need be.


Debian contributions and World History

Beware, this would be slightly longish.

Debian Contributions

In the last couple of weeks, was lucky to put up a patch against debian-policy which had been bothering me for a long-long time.

The problem statement is simple, man-pages historically were made by software engineers for software-engineers. The idea, probably then was you give the user some idea of what the software does and the rest the software engineer would garner from reading the source-code. But over period of time, the audience has changed. While there are still software engineers who use GNU/Linux for the technical excellence, the man-pages have not kept up with this new audience who perhaps are either not technically so sound that or they do not want to take the trouble to reading the source-code to understand how things flow. An ‘example’ or ‘examples’ in a man-page gives us (the lesser mortals) some insight as how the command works, how the logic flows.

A good example of a man-page is the ufw man-page –

Deny all access to port 53:

ufw deny 53

Allow all access to tcp port 80:

ufw allow 80/tcp

Allow all access from RFC1918 networks to this host:

ufw allow from
ufw allow from
ufw allow from

Deny access to udp port 514 from host

ufw deny proto udp from to any port 514

Allow access to udp port 5469 from port 5469:

ufw allow proto udp from port 5469 to port 5469

Now if we had man-pages like the above which give examples, then the user at least can try to accomplish whatever s/he is trying to do. I truly believe not having examples in a man-page kills 50% of your audience and people who could potentially use your tool.

Personal wishlist – The only thing (and this might be my failure) is we need a good way to search through a man-page. The only way I know is using ‘/’ and try to give a pattern. Lots of times it fails because I, the user doesn’t know the exact keyword which the documenter was using. What would be nice, great if we do have some sort of parser where I tell it, ‘$this is what I’m looking for’ and the parser tries the pattern + all its synonyms and whatever seems to be most relevant passage from the content, in this case – a manpage it tells me. It would make my life a lot easier while at the same time force people to document more and more.

I dunno if there has been any research or study of the relationship between good documentation and popularity of a program. I know there are lots of different tiny bits which make or break a program, one of which would definitely be documentation and in that a man-page IF it’s a command-line tool.

A query on Quora gives some indication https://www.quora.com/How-comprehensible-do-you-find-Unix-Linux-Man-pages although the low response rate tells its own story.

there have been projects like man2html and man2pdf and others which try to make the content more accessible to people who are not used to the man-page interface but till you don’t have ‘Examples’ the other things can work only so far. Also if anybody talks about X project which claims to solve this problem they will have to fight manpages who have been around like forever.

As can be seen in the patch, did some rookie mistakes as can be seen. I also filed a lintian bug at the same time. Hope the patch does get merged at some point in debian-policy and then a check introduced in lintian in some future release. I do agree with anarcat’s assertion that it should be at the level of the manpage missing level.

I am no coder but finding 14,000 binary packages without a manpage left me both shocked and surprised.

I came to know about manpage-alert from the devscripts package to know which all binary packages that have been installed but not have man-pages.

I hope to contribute a manpage or two if I across a package I’m somewhat comfortable with. I have made a beginning of sorts by running manpage alert and putting the output in a .txt file which I would grep through manually and see if something interesting jumps at me.

The learning garnered from putting the patch to the debian package resulted in another patch but this time for an upstream project altogether. As can be seen all are just baby-steps that even a non-coder can take.

Another couple of bugs I filed which were fixed were of a sim called ‘unknown-horizons’ . A 2D realtime strategy simulation. I had filed three bugs, two of which were fixed in 2 days, the 3rd I hope is also fixed soonish.

Lastly, I spent most of the week-end poring over packages who have left files in /etc/bash_completion.d/ . I spent almost 4-5 odd hours as each package in question as well as entries found in /etc/bash-completion.d/$filename I had to find which package it belonged to first –

[$] dpkg -S /etc/bash_completion.d/git-prompt

git: /etc/bash_completion.d/git-prompt

I know that dpkg-query also does the same –

[$] dpkg-query -S /etc/bash_completion.d/git-prompt

git: /etc/bash_completion.d/git-prompt

But I am used to plain dpkg although do know that dpkg-query can do lot more intimate searching in various ways than dpkg can.

Once the package name was established, first simulate the purge –

[$] sudo aptitude -s purge git

[sudo] password for shirish:
The following packages will be REMOVED:
0 packages upgraded, 0 newly installed, 1 to remove and 14 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B of archives. After unpacking 29.5 MB will be freed.
The following packages have unmet dependencies:
libgit-wrapper-perl : Depends: git but it is not going to be installed
git-extras : Depends: git (>= 1.7.0) but it is not going to be installed
bup : Depends: git but it is not going to be installed
git-remote-gcrypt : Depends: git but it is not going to be installed
git-svn : Depends: git (> 1:2.11.0) but it is not going to be installed
Depends: git ( 1:2.11.0) but it is not going to be installed
Depends: git (= 1:1.8.1) but it is not going to be installed
git-core : Depends: git (> 1: but it is not going to be installed
The following actions will resolve these dependencies:

Remove the following packages:
1) bup [0.29-2 (now, testing, unstable)]
2) fdroidserver [0.7.0-1 (now, testing, unstable)]
3) git-annex [6.20161012-1 (now, testing)]
4) git-core [1:2.11.0-2 (now, testing, unstable)]
5) git-extras [4.2.0-1 (now, testing, unstable)]
6) git-remote-gcrypt [1.0.1-1 (now, testing, unstable)]
7) git-repair [1.20151215-1 (now, unstable)]
8) git-svn [1:2.11.0-2 (now, testing, unstable)]
9) gitk [1:2.11.0-2 (now, testing, unstable)]
10) libgit-wrapper-perl [0.047-1 (now, testing, unstable)]
11) python3-git [2.1.0-1 (now, testing, unstable)]
12) svn2git [2.4.0-1 (now, testing, unstable)]

Leave the following dependencies unresolved:
13) devscripts recommends libgit-wrapper-perl
14) dh-make-perl recommends git
15) fdroidserver recommends git
16) git-annex recommends git-remote-gcrypt (>= 0.20130908-6)
17) gplaycli recommends fdroidserver
18) python-rope recommends git-core

Accept this solution? [Y/n/q/?] q
Abandoning all efforts to resolve these dependencies.

Then I made a note of all the packages being affected, saw purging all of them wouldn’t call others (the Package dependency Hell), made the purge and then reinstalled anew.

The reason I did this is that many a times during upgrade, either during update/upgrade sometimes the correct action doesn’t happen. To take the git’s example itself, there were two files git-extras and git-prompt which were in /etc/bash_completion.d/ both of which were showing their source as git. Purging git and installing git afresh removed git-extras file and git-prompt is the only one remaining.

While blogging about the package, did try to grep through changelog.Debian.gz and changelog.gz in git –

┌─[shirish@debian] - [/usr/share/doc/git] - [10046]
└─[$] zless changelog.gz

and similarly –

┌─[shirish@debian] - [/usr/share/doc/git] - [10046]
└─[$] zless changelog.Debian.gz

But failed to find any mention of the now gone git-extras. Doing this with all the packages took considerable time as didn’t want to deal with any potential fallout later on. For instance, ufw (uncomplicated firewall) also had an entry in /etc/bash_completion.d/, hence before purging ufw, took backup of all the rules I have made, did a successful simulation

[$] sudo aptitude -s purge ufw gufw

The following packages will be REMOVED:
gufw{p} ufw{p}
0 packages upgraded, 0 newly installed, 2 to remove and 14 not upgraded.
Need to get 0 B of archives. After unpacking 4,224 kB will be freed.

Note: Using 'Simulate' mode.
Do you want to continue? [Y/n/?] y
Would download/install/remove packages.

purged the packages, reinstalled it and then re-added all the rules. Doing it all for various sundry packages, had to do it manually as there is no one size fits all solution.

A sensitive one was grub which still has an entry in /etc/bash_completion.d/grub. Doing it wrong could have resulted in a non-bootable situation. There are workarounds for that, but it would have taken quite a bit of time, energy, notes and bit of recall factor what I did the last time something like that happened. Doing it manually, being present meant I could do it rightly the first time.

So, was it worth it – It would be if the package maintainers do the needful and the remaining entries are moved out of /etc/bash_completion.d/ to /usr/share/bash-completions and some to my favourite /usr/share/zsh/vendor-completions/ – for instance –

┌─[shirish@debian] - [/usr/share/zsh/vendor-completions] - [10064]
└─[$] ll -h _youtube-dl

-rw-r--r-- 1 root root 3.2K 2016-12-01 08:48 _youtube-dl

But trying to get all or even major packages to use zsh-completions would be hard work and would take oodles of time and this concerns upstream stuff, also very much outside what I was sharing.

World History

Before, during and even after South-African experience, I was left wondering why India and South Africa, two countries who had similar histories at least the last couple of hundred years or more, the final result of Independence was so different for both the countries. It took me quite sometime to articulate that in a form of question , while the answers were interesting, from what little I know of India itself, if I were an Englishman I would never leave ‘Hindustan’. What the people answering failed to take into account was that in that era it was ‘Hindustan’ or un-divided India.

Pre-partition map of India
Pre-partition map of India

This map can be found at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:British_Indian_Empire_1909_Imperial_Gazetteer_of_India.jpg and is part of quite a few Indian articles. I would urge people to look at the map in-depth. Except for the Central India Agency and Central India Provinces, most of the other regions were quite comfortable weather-wise.

Hence I can’t help but feel the assertion that Britishers didn’t like India (as to live here) slightly revolting. See the excerpt/take on Dale Kennedy ‘s The Magic Mountains: Hill Stations and the British Raj. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. xv + 264 pp. . A look at the list of hill stations of divided India is enough to tell that there were lot of places which either were founded by the Britishers or they chose to live there. And this is not all, there are supposed to lot of beautiful places even in Pakistan, especially in North East Frontier, Swat for instance. While today it’s infamous for Taliban and Islamic Terrorism, there was a time it was known for its beauty.

The second most difficult mountain in the world - K2, Pakistan
The second most difficult mountain in the world – K2, Pakistan

Trivia – After Everest, K2 is the smaller one although whatever I have read of people’s accounts, most people who ascended all 14 8,000 metre peaks say K2 is technically more tougher than Everest and after Everest has the highest casualty rate.

Also places like the disputed North half of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Gilgit–Baltistan, Extreme northern Punjab of Pakistan , Northern half of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa province and Northern Balochistan all of these places would have been more than conducive to the Britishers as it is near to the British climate (snow and pleasant weather all year round). It really is a pity that Pakistan chose to become a terrorist state where it could have become one of the more toured places of Asia. I really feel nauseous and sad at the multiple chances that Pakistan frittered away, it could have been something else.

changing water pipe and adequate

Hi all,
This would be a sorta longish post with bits about both the red-tape and policy issues while changing a water pipe and later about a QA tool called adequate which entered debian archives quite some time before.
Continue reading “changing water pipe and adequate”