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Archive for the tag “#debian”

Science Day at GMRT, Khodad 2017

The whole team posing at the end of day 2

The above picture is the blend of the two communities from foss community and mozilla India. And unless you were there you wouldn’t know who is from which community which is what FOSS is all about. But as always I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

Akshat, who works at NCRA as a programmer, the standing guy on the left shared with me in January this year that this year too, we should have two stalls, foss community and mozilla India stalls next to each other. While we had the banners, we were missing stickers and flyers. Funds were and are always an issue and this year too, it would have been emptier if we didn’t get some money saved from last year minidebconf 2016 that we had in Mumbai. Our major expenses included printing stickers, stationery and flyers which came to around INR 5000/- and couple of LCD TV monitors which came for around INR 2k/- as rent. All the labour was voluntary in nature, but both me and Akshat easily spending upto 100 hours before the event. Next year, we want to raise to around INR 10-15k so we can buy 1 or 2 LCD monitors and we don’t have to think for funds for next couple of years. How will we do that I have no idea atm.

Printing leaflets

Me and Akshat did all the printing and stationery runs and hence had not been using my lappy for about 3-4 days.

Come to the evening before the event and the laptop would not start. Coincidentally, or not few months or even last at last year’s Debconf people had commented on IBM/Lenovo’s obsession with proprietary power cords and adaptors. I hadn’t given it much thought but when I got no power even after putting it on AC power for 3-4 hours, I looked up on the web and saw that the power cord and power adaptors were all different even in T440 and even that under existing models. In fact I couldn’t find mine hence sharing it via pictures below.

thinkpad power cord male

thinkpad power adaptor female

I knew/suspected that thinkpads would be rare where I was going, it would be rarer still to find the exact power cord and I was unsure whether it was the power cord at fault or adaptor or whatever goes for SMPS in laptop or memory or motherboard/CPU itself. I did look up the documentation at support.lenovo.com and was surprised at the extensive documentation that Lenovo has for remote troubleshooting.

I did the usual take out the battery, put it back in, twiddle with the little hole in the bottom of the laptop, trying to switch on without the battery on AC mains, trying to switch on with battery power only but nothing worked. Couple of hours had gone by and with a resigned thought went to bed, convincing myself that anyways it’s good I am not taking the lappy as it is extra-dusty there and who needs a dead laptop anyways.

Update – After the event was over, I did contact Lenovo support and within a week, with one visit from a service engineer, he was able to identify that it was a faulty cable which was at fault and not the the other things which I was afraid of. Another week gone by and lenovo replaced the cable. Going by service standards that I have seen of other companies, Lenovo deserves a gold star here for the prompt service they provided. I probably would end up subscribing to their extended 2-year warranty service when my existing 3 year warranty is about to be over.

Next day, woke up early morning, two students from COEP hostel were volunteering and we made our way to NCRA, Pune University Campus. Ironically, though we were under the impression that we would be the late arrivals, it turned out we were the early birds. 5-10 minutes passed by and soon enough we were joined by Aniket and we played catch-up for a while. We hadn’t met each other for a while so it was good to catch-up. Then slowly other people starting coming in and around 07:10-07:15 we started for GMRT, Khodad.

Now I had been curious as had been hearing for years that the Pune-Nashik NH-50 highway would be concreted and widened to six-lane highways but the experience was below par. Came back and realized the proposal has now been pushed back to 2020.

From the mozilla team, only Aniket was with us, the rest of the group was coming straight from Nashik. Interestingly, all the six people who came, came on bikes which depending upon how you look at it was either brave or stupid. Travelling on bikes on Indian highways you either have to be brave or stupid or both, we have more than enough ‘accidents’ due to quality of road construction, road design, lane-changing drivers and many other issues. This is probably not the place for it hence will use some other blog post to rant about that.

We reached around 10:00 hrs. IST and hung around till lunch as Akshat had all the marketing material, monitors etc. The only thing we had were couple of lappies and couple of SBC’s, an RPI 3 and a BBB.

Aarti Kashyap sharing something about SBC

Our find for the event was Aarti Kashyap who you can see above. She is a third-year student at COEP and one of the rare people who chose to interact with hardware rather than software. From last several years, we had been trying, successfully and unsuccessfully to get more Indian women and girls interested into technology. It is a vicious circle as till a girl/woman doesn’t volunteer we are unable to share our knowledge to the extent we can which leads them to not have much interest in FOSS or even technology in general.

While there are groups are djangogirls, Pyladies and railgirls and even Outreachy which tries to motivate getting girls into computing but it’s a long road ahead.

We are short of both funds and ideas as to how to motivate more girls to get into computing and then to get into playing with hardware. I don’t know where to start and end for whoever wants to play with hardware. From SBC’s, routers to blade servers the sky is the limit. Again this probably isn’t the place for it, hence probably we can chew it on more at some other blog post.

This year, we had a lowish turnout due to the fact that the 12th board exams 1st paper was on the day we had opened. So instead of 20-25k, we probably had 5-7k fewer people pass through. There were two-three things that we were showing, we were showing Debian on one of the systems, we were showing the output from the SBC’s on the other monitor but the glare kept hitting the monitors.

While the organizers had done exemplary work over last year. They had taped the carpets on the ground so there was hardly any dust moving around. However, I wished the organizers had taken the pains to have two cloth roofs over our head instead of just one, the other roof head could be say 2 feet up, this would have done two things –

a. It probably would have cooled the place a bit more as –

b. We could get diffused sunlight which would have lessened the glare and reflection the LCD’s kept throwing back. At times we also got people to come to our side as can be seen in Aarti’s photo as can be seen above.

If these improvements can be made for next year, this would result in everybody in our ‘Pandal’ would benefit, not just us and mozilla. This would be benefiting around 10-15 organizations which were within the same temporary structure.

Of course, it depends very much on the budget they are able to have and people who are executing, we can just advise.

The other thing which had been missing last year and this year is writing about Single Board Computers in Marathi. If we are to promote them as something to replace a computer or something for a younger brother/sister to learn computing upon at a lower cost, we need leaflets written in their language to be more effective. And this needs to be in the language and mannerisms that people in that region understand. India, as probably people might have experienced is a dialect-prone country. Which means every 2-5 kms, the way the language is spoken is different from anywhere else. The Marathi spoken by somebody who has lived in Ravivar Peth for his whole life and a person who has lived in say Kothrud are different. The same goes from any place and this place, Khodad, Narayangaon would have its own dialect, its own mini-codespeak.

Just to share, we did have one in English but it would have been a vast improvement if we could do it in the local language. Maybe we can discuss about this and ask for help from people.

Outside, Looking in

Mozillians helping FOSS community and vice-versa

What had been interesting about the whole journey were the new people who were bringing all their passion and creativity to the fore. From the mozilla community, we had Akshay who is supposed to be a wizard on graphics, animation, editing anything to do with the visual medium. He shared some of the work he had done and also shared a bit about how blender works with people who wanted to learn about that.

Mayur, whom you see in the picture pointing out something about FOSS and this was the culture that we strove to have. I know and love and hate the browser but haven’t been able to fathom the recklessness that Mozilla has been doing the last few years, which has just been having one mis-adventure after another.

For instance, mozstumbler was an effort which I thought would go places. From what little I understood, it served/serves as a user-friendly interface to a potential user while still sharing all the data with OSM . They (Mozilla) seems/seemed to have a fatalistic take as it provided initial funding but then never fully committing to the project.

Later, at night we had the whole ‘free software’ and ‘open-source’ sharings where I tried to emphasize that without free software, the term ‘open-source’ would not have come into existence. We talked and talked and somewhere around 02:00 I slept, the next day was an extension of the first day itself where we ribbed each other good-naturedly and still shared whatever we could share with each other.

I do hope that we continue this tradition for great many years to come and engage with more and more people every passing year.

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The $100 used laptop and getting riled up.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 - Source - Wikimedia commons

Lenovo-ThinkPad-T500 – Source – Wikimedia commons

I was reading a thread on phoronix where a student was sharing that it is or can be expensive to get even a used laptop and he shared his predicament and was hammered a bit for it to some going to the extent of questioning his life-choices.

While I’m not a student it still triggered something in me. I am not dirt poor but neither am I insanely rich. The same questions he has, similar questions I have had. While in his case he is probably in his early to late 20’s, I am pushing 40. Most of the money I make goes in for everyday purchases, veggies, house-rent, electricity, landline, broadband and cell phone bills. What little is left is most of the time kept for a rainy day as there is no Government pension.

From what I have heard and read on the web, in the west specifically in the States, if I buy a used laptop, I usually get a 6 months – 1 year warranty . Here, while you could get a used laptop for around INR 10k there is no warranty/guarantee, so I never get into that. It’s ‘buyer’s beware’ all the time.

For people who like/want FOSS or specifically something like Free DOS (like me), I had to wait for almost 6 years to get a model I was happy with, with the specs. I was ok with.

Was really lucky enough to get a Thinkpad T440 with 8 GB of RAM for around INR 80k/- with Free DOS.

The specs –

T440 Core I 5 (4300) / Dos (NEW MODEL)

20B7A1SD00

Intel Core i5 – 4300M (2.5 GHz / 3 MB / 5 GT/s) / Intel QM87 Chipset / Integrated 802.11 n WIFI LAN + Bluetooth 4.0 / 8GB DDR III Memory (2 DIMM SLOT) / 500 GB SATA HDD @ 7200 RPM / 14.0 HDy / FPR / Dos / 2 USB , VGA Port , RJ 45 Port /GB LAN /Track Point with 5 button Glass Touch Pad /Stereo Speakers with Dolby Enhanced Audio / 6 Cell Battery /Approx 2.14KG/

While it is/was actually pretty expensive but then wanted something which can take a beating, deal with all the heat, noise and dust (specifically where I live, right in the middle of the city).

The reason I used the word lucky is that now there is no model in the T-series range which has FreeDOS on it. Of course, I hopefully will use it for another 4-5 years at the very least depending on how much it cooperates with me, I have heard that Thinkpads function for a long period of time even in dusty environments so banking on that. 🙂

What probably pissed me is the condensing note in the comment, how does he know what pressures an another individual might be in. It’s almost like saying “You are refugee because you made a wrong life choice” or something to that effect which again is stupid.

I actually feel/felt embarrassed to bring this up as I truly am lucky to be safe, secure, have food on the table, am able to sleep on a bed at night, have a workstation AND a laptop, have somewhat of a sound mind 🙂 and a body which is able to move around without any hassles. Add to that, incredibly as it may sound, was also able to see another country for a few days

In relation to people being persecuted and having to run off to save their own lives or even people living on the streets, I am actually living in luxury. While I can’t go through life feeling guilty for all the good things that have happened with me, I do feel disgusted when I see some people put blinding statements like that.

One of the biggest reasons that GNU/Linux and Debian in particular gelled with me was that it’s incredibly flexible and generous. Nobody tells me which packages I should or shouldn’t have. I do right things, good, I do something wrong, an opportunity to learn and hopefully learn from my mistakes. In either case, one of the most forgiving kind of system to learn and hack on.

While speaking of mistakes, could somebody look at #849684 . It almost feels like a tennis match going between the maintainers concerned. While I don’t have the technical skills to ascertain who’s right and who is not, it would be nice if some cooler heads can make sense and see if a way could be found out. Can somebody help ?

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 –

EXAMPLES
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 10.0.0.0/8
ufw allow from 172.16.0.0/12
ufw allow from 192.168.0.0/16

Deny access to udp port 514 from host 1.2.3.4:

ufw deny proto udp from 1.2.3.4 to any port 514

Allow access to udp 1.2.3.4 port 5469 from 1.2.3.5 port 5469:

ufw allow proto udp from 1.2.3.5 port 5469 to 1.2.3.4 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:
git{p}
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 (> 1:1.7.0.2) 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.
Abort.

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.

The Anti-Pollito squad – arrest and confession

Disclaimer – This is an attempt at humor and hence entirely fictional in nature. While some incidents depicted are true, the context and the story woven around them are by yours truly. None of the Mascots of Debian were hurt during the blog post ;). I also disavow any responsibility for any hurt (real or imagined) to any past, current and future mascots. The attempt should not be looked upon as demeaning people who are accused of false crimes, tortured and confessions eked out of them as this happens quite a lot (In India for sure, but guess it’s the same world over in various degrees). The idea is loosely inspired by Chocolate:Deep Dark Secrets. (2005)

On a more positive note, let’s start –

Being a Sunday morning woke up late to find incessant knocking on the door, incidentally mum was not at home. Opening the door, found two official looking gentleman. They asked my name, asked my credentials, tortured and arrested me for “Group conspiracy of Malicious Mischief in second and third degrees” .

The torture was done by means of making me forcefully watch endless reruns of ‘Norbit‘ . While I do love Eddie Murphy, this was one of his movies he could have done without :(. I guess for many people watching it once was torture enough. I *think* they were nominated for razzie awards dunno if they won it or not, but this is beside the point.

Unlike the 20 years it takes for a typical case to reach to its conclusion even in the smallest court in India, due to the torture, I was made to confess (due to endless torture) and was given summary judgement. The judgement was/is as follows –

a. Do 100 hours of Community service in Debian in 2017. This could be done via blog posts, raising tickets in the Debian BTS or in whichever way I could be helpful to Debian.

b. Write a confessional with some photographic evidence sharing/detailing some of the other members who were part of the conspiracy in view of the reduced sentence.

So now, have been forced to write this confession –

As you all know, I won a bursary this year for debconf16. What is not known by most people is that I also got an innocuous looking e-mail titled ‘ Pollito for DPL ‘. While I can’t name all the names as investigation is still ongoing about how far-reaching the conspiracy is . The email was purportedly written by members of ‘cabal within cabal’ which are in Debian. I looked at the email header to see if this was genuine and I could trace the origin but was left none the wiser, as obviously these people are far more technically advanced than to fall in simple tricks like this –

Anyways, secretly happy that I have been invited to be part of these elites, I did the visa thing, packed my bags and came to Debconf16.

At this point in juncture, I had no idea whether it was real or I had imagined the whole thing. Then to my surprise saw this –

evidence of conspiracy to have Pollito as DPL, Wifi Password

Just like the Illuminati the conspiracy was for all to see those who knew about it. Most people were thinking of it as a joke, but those like me who had got e-mails knew better. I knew that the thing is real, now I only needed to bide my time and knew that the opportunity would present itself.

And few days later, sure enough, there was a trip planned for ‘Table Mountain, Cape Town’ . Few people planned to hike to the mountain, while few chose to take the cable car till up the mountain.

First glance of the cable car with table mountain as background

Quite a few people came along with us and bought tickets for the to and fro to the mountain and back.

Ticket for CPT Table mountain car cable

Incidentally, I was thinking if the South African Govt. were getting the tax or not. If you look at the ticket, there is just a bar-code. In India as well as the U.S. there is TIN – Tax Identification Number –

TIN displayed on an invoice from channeltimes.com

Few links to share what it is all about . While these should be on all invoices, need to specially check when taking high-value items. In India as shared in the article the awareness, knowledge leaves a bit to be desired. While I’m drifting from the incident, it would be nice if somebody from SA could share how things work there.

Moving on, we boarded the cable car. It was quite spacious cable car with I guess around 30-40 people or some more who were able to see everything along with the controller.

from inside the table mountain cable car 360 degrees

It was a pleasant cacophony of almost two dozen or more nationalities on this 360 degrees moving chamber. I was a little worried though as it essentially is a bucket and there is always a possibility that a severe wind could damage it. Later somebody did share that some frightful incidents had occurred not too long ago on the cable car.

It took about 20-25 odd minutes to get to the top of table mountain and we were presented with views such as below –

View from Table Mountain cable car looking down

The picture I am sharing is actually when we were going down as all the pictures of going up via the cable car were over-exposed. Also, it was pretty crowded on the way up then on the way down so handling the mobile camera was not so comfortable.

Once we reached up, the wind was blowing at incredible speeds. Even with my jacket and everything I was feeling cold. Most of the group around 10-12 people looked around if we could find a place to have some refreshments and get some of the energy in the body. So we all ventured to a place and placed our orders –

the bleh... Irish coffee at top of Table Mountain

I was introduced to Irish Coffee few years back and have had some incredible Irish Coffees in Pune and elsewhere. I do hope to be able to make Irish Coffee at home if and when I have my own house. This is hotter than brandy and is perfect if you are suffering from cold etc if done right, really needs some skills. This is the only drink which I wanted in SA which I never got right 😦 . As South Africa was freezing for me, this would have been the perfect antidote but the one there as well as elsewhere were all …bleh.

What was interesting though, was the coffee caller besides it. It looked like a simple circuit mounted on a PCB board with lights, vibrations and RFID and it worked exactly like that. I am guessing as and when the order is ready, there is an interrupt signal sent via radio waves which causes the buzzer to light and vibrate. Here’s the back panel if somebody wants to take inspiration and try it as a fun project –

backpanel of the buzz caller

Once we were somewhat strengthened by the snacks, chai, coffee etc. we made our move to seeing the mountain. The only way to describe it is that it’s similar to Raigad Fort but the plateau seemed to be bigger. The wikipedia page of Table Mountain attempts to share but I guess it’s more clearly envisioned by one of the pictures shared therein.

table mountain panaromic image

I have to say while Table Mountain is beautiful and haunting as it has scenes like these –

Some of the oldest rocks known to wo/man.

There is something there which pulls you, which reminds you of a long lost past. I could have simply sat there for hours together but as was part of the group had to keep with them. Not that I minded.

The moment I was watching this, I was transported to some memories of the Himalayas about 20 odd years or so. In that previous life, I had the opportunity to be with some of the most beautiful women and also been in the most happening places, the Himalayas. I had shared years before some of my experiences I had in the Himalayas. I discontinued it as I didn’t have a decent camera at that point in time. While I don’t wanna digress, I would challenge anybody to experience the Himalayas and then compare. It is just something inexplicable. The beauty and the rawness that Himalayas shows makes you feel insignificant and yet part of the whole cosmos. What Paulo Cohello expressed in The Valkyries is something that could be felt in the Himalayas. Leh, Ladakh, Himachal , Garwhal, Kumaon. The list will go on forever as there are so many places, each more beautiful than the other. Most places are also extremely backpacker-friendly so if you ask around you can get some awesome deals if you want to spend more than a few days in one place.

Moving on, while making small talk @olasd or Nicolas Dandrimont , the headmaster of our trip made small talk to each of us and eked out from all of us that we wanted to have Pollito as our DPL (Debian Project Leader) for 2017. Few pictures being shared below as supporting evidence as well –

The Pollito as DPL cabal in action

members of the Pollito as DPL

where am I or more precisely how far am I from India.

While I do not know who further up than Nicolas was on the coup which would take place. The idea was this –

If the current DPL steps down, we would take all and any necessary actions to make Pollito our DPL.

Pollito going to SA - photo taken by Jonathan Carter This has been taken from Pollito’s adventure

Being a responsible journalist, I also enquired about Pollito’s true history as it would not have been complete without one. This is the e-mail I got from Gunnar Wolf, a friend and DD from Mexico 🙂

Turns out, Valessio has just spent a week staying at my house 🙂 And
in any case, if somebody in Debian knows about Pollito’s
childhood… That is me.

Pollito came to our lives when we went to Congreso Internacional de
Software Libre (CISOL) in Zacatecas city. I was strolling around the
very beautiful city with my wife Regina and our friend Alejandro
Miranda, and at a shop at either Ramón López Velarde or Vicente
Guerrero, we found a flock of pollitos.

http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=17/22.77111/-102.57145

Even if this was comparable to a slave market, we bought one from
them, and adopted it as our own.

Back then, we were a young couple… Well, we were not that young
anymore. I mean, we didn’t have children. Anyway, we took Pollito with
us on several road trips, such as the only time I have crossed an
international border driving: We went to Encuentro Centroamericano de
Software Libre at Guatemala city in 2012 (again with Alejandro), and
you can see several Pollito pics at:

http://gwolf.org/album/road-trip-ecsl-2012-guatemala-0

Pollito likes travelling. Of course, when we were to Nicaragua for
DebConf, Pollito tagged along. It was his first flight as a passenger
(we never asked about his previous life in slavery; remember, Pollito
trust no one).

Pollito felt much welcome with the DebConf crowd. Of course, as
Pollito is a free spirit, we never even thought about forcing him to
come back with us. Pollito went to Switzerland, and we agreed to meet
again every year or two. It’s always nice to have a chat with him.

Hugs!

So with that backdrop I would urge fellow Debianities to take up the slogans –

LONG LIVE THE DPL !

LONG LIVE POLLITO !

LONG LIVE POLLITO THE DPL !

The first step to make Pollito the DPL is to ensure he has a @debian.org (pollito@debian.org)

We also need him to be made a DD because only then can he become a DPL.

In solidarity and in peace 🙂

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.

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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