26 Jul 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Norbert Preining: Software Development as mathematician in academia – everyone bites the dust

Is it possible to do software development, mathematical or not, as mathematician in academics? This is a question I was asking myself recently a lot, seeing my own development from logician at a state university getting rid of foreigners to software developer. And then, a friend pointed me to this very depressing document: The origins of SageMath by William Stein, the main developer of SageMath. And I realized that it seems to be a global phenomenon that mathematicians who are interested in software development have to leave academics. What a sad affair.

SageMath has a clear mission:

Creating a viable free open source alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab.

All the "Ma"-software packages are commercial, and expensive. On the other hand they often have very good algorithms implemented. The Sage developers invested lots of time, energy, and brain power to develop excellent algorithm in an open source project for the mathematical researcher, but this investment wasn't honored in academic life. To quote from the presentation:

Issues with software dev in academia

  • Hard money for software development is virtually nonexistent: I can't think of anyone I know who got tenured based on his or her software.
  • Researchers on soft money are systematically discriminated against in favor of tenure-track and tenured faculty.
  • Researchers are increasingly evaluated solely on bibliometric counts rather than an informed assessment of their overall portfolio of papers, code, software, industry engagement, or student supervision.

The origins of SageMath, p.31

I can fully agree to this. Both from my own experience as well as from those around me. The presentation slides are full of other examples, from the developers of NumPy, Jupyter, as well as statements by Stephen Wolfram from Mathematica about this issue. A textbook how to not setup academia.

My assumption was that this hits only on non-tenured staff, the academic precariat. It is shocking to see that even William Stein with a tenure position is leaving academics. It seems the times are not ready 🙁

Every great open source math library is built on the ashes of someone's academic career.
The origins of SageMath, p.32

26 Jul 2017 11:29pm GMT

Thomas Lange: Building a Debian Live CD with FAI

In this wiki entry, I describe how to extend a FAI nfsroot, so it can be used as a file system for a diskless client or a Live CD. A host can mount it via NFS when booting via PXE. You can create a Live CD easily by using the command fai-cd.

This works also nicely with a Xfce desktop, and I've prepared a ISO image for easy testing.

You can log in as user demo, and the password is fai.

The next thing is to check, if we can use FAI's dirinstall or install method for creating the same environment, so it will be easy to create customized Live images.


26 Jul 2017 2:34pm GMT

25 Jul 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Norbert Preining: Debian/TeX Live 2017.20170724-1

Yesterday I uploaded the first update of the TeX Live packages in Debian after TeX Live 2017 has entered Debian/unstable. The packages should by now have reached most mirrors. Nothing spectacular here besides a lot of updates and new packages.

If I have to pick one update it would be the one of algorithm2e, a package that has seen lots of use and some bugs due to two years of inactivity. Good to see a new release.


New packages

algolrevived, invoice2, jfmutil, maker, marginfit, pst-geometrictools, pst-rputover, pxufont, shobhika, tikzcodeblocks, zebra-goodies.

Updated packages

acmart, adobemapping, algorithm2e, arabluatex, archaeologie, babel, babel-french, bangorexam, beamer, beebe, biblatex-gb7714-2015, bibleref, br-lex, bxjscls, combofont, computational-complexity, dozenal, draftfigure, elzcards, embrac, esami, factura, fancyhdr, fei, fithesis, fmtcount, fontspec, fonttable, forest, fvextra, genealogytree, gotoh, GS1, l3build, l3experimental, l3kernel, l3packages, latexindent, limap, luapackageloader, lwarp, mcf2graph, microtype, minted, mptopdf, pdfpages, polynom, powerdot, probsoln, pxbase, pxchfon, pythontex, reledmac, siunitx, struktex, tcolorbox, tetex, texdirflatten, uowthesistitlepage, uptex-fonts, xcharter.

25 Jul 2017 11:25pm GMT

Petter Reinholdtsen: Norwegian Bokmål edition of Debian Administrator's Handbook is now available

I finally received a copy of the Norwegian Bokmål edition of "The Debian Administrator's Handbook". This test copy arrived in the mail a few days ago, and I am very happy to hold the result in my hand. We spent around one and a half year translating it. This paperbook edition is available from lulu.com. If you buy it quickly, you save 25% on the list price. The book is also available for download in electronic form as PDF, EPUB and Mobipocket, as can be read online as a web page.

This is the second book I publish (the first was the book "Free Culture" by Lawrence Lessig in English, French and Norwegian Bokmål), and I am very excited to finally wrap up this project. I hope "Håndbok for Debian-administratoren" will be well received.

25 Jul 2017 7:10pm GMT

Reproducible builds folks: Reproducible Builds: week 117 in Buster cycle

Here's what happened in the Reproducible Builds effort between Sunday July 16 and Saturday July 22 2017:

Toolchain development

Bernhard M. Wiedemann wrote a tool to automatically run through different sources of non-determinism, and report which of these caused irreproducibility.

Dan Kegel's patches to fpm were merged.

Bugs filed

Patches submitted upstream:

Patches filed in Debian:

Reviews of unreproducible packages

73 package reviews have been added, 44 have been updated and 50 have been removed in this week, adding to our knowledge about identified issues.

No issue types were updated.

Weekly QA work

During our reproducibility testing, FTBFS bugs have been detected and reported by:

diffoscope development

reprotest development

Ximin also restarted the discussion with autopkgtest-devel about code reuse for reprotest.

Santiago Torres began a series of patches to make reprotest more distro-agnostic, with the aim of making it usable on Arch Linux. Ximin reviewed these patches.


This week's edition was written by Ximin Luo, Bernhard M. Wiedemann and Chris Lamb & reviewed by a bunch of Reproducible Builds folks on IRC & the mailing lists.

25 Jul 2017 5:07pm GMT

Russell Coker: Forking Mon and DKIM with Mailing Lists

I have forked the "Mon" network/server monitoring system. Here is a link to the new project page [1]. There hasn't been an upstream release since 2010 and I think we need more frequent releases than that. I plan to merge as many useful monitoring scripts as possible and support them well. All Perl scripts will use strict and use other best practices.

The first release of etbe-mon is essentially the same as the last release of the mon package in Debian. This is because I started work on the Debian package (almost all the systems I want to monitor run Debian) and as I had been accepted as a co-maintainer of the Debian package I put all my patches into Debian.

It's probably not a common practice for someone to fork upstream of a package soon after becoming a comaintainer of the Debian package. But I believe that this is in the best interests of the users. I presume that there are other collections of patches out there and I hope to merge them so that everyone can get the benefits of features and bug fixes that have been separate due to a lack of upstream releases.

Last time I checked mon wasn't in Fedora. I believe that mon has some unique features for simple monitoring that would be of benefit to Fedora users and would like to work with anyone who wants to maintain the package for Fedora. I am also interested in working with any other distributions of Linux and with non-Linux systems.

While setting up the mailing list for etbemon I wrote an article about DKIM and mailing lists (primarily Mailman) [2]. This explains how to setup Mailman for correct operation with DKIM and also why that seems to be the only viable option.

Related posts:

  1. DKIM and Mailing Lists Currently we have a problem with the Debian list server...
  2. An Update on DKIM Signing and SE Linux Policy In my previous post about DKIM [1] I forgot to...
  3. Installing DKIM and Postfix in Debian I have just installed Domain Key Identified Mail (DKIM) [1]...

25 Jul 2017 2:50pm GMT

Gunnar Wolf: Getting ready for DebConf17 in Montreal!

(image shamelessly copied from Noodles' Emptiness)

This year I will only make it to DebConf, not to DebCamp. But, still, I am very very happy and excited as the travel date looms nearer! I have ordered some of the delicacies for the Cheese and Wine party, signed up for the public bicycle system of Montreal, and done a fair share of work with the Content Team; finally today we sent out the announcement for the schedule of talks. Of course, there are several issues yet to fix, and a lot of things to do before traveling... But, no doubt about this: It will be an intense week!

Oh, one more thing while we are at it: The schedule as it was published today does not really look like we have organized stuff into tracks - But we have! This will be soon fixed, adding some color-coding to make tracks clearer on the schedule.

This year, I pushed for the Content Team to recover the notion of tracks as an organizative measure, and as something that delivers value to DebConf as a whole. Several months ago, I created a Wiki page for the DebConf tracks, asking interested people to sign up for them. We currently have the following tracks registered:

Andreas Tille
Debian Science
Michael Banck
Cloud and containers
Luca Filipozzi
Systems administration, automation and orchestation
Gunnar Wolf

We have two tracks still needing a track coordinator. Do note that most of the tasks mentioned by the Wiki have already been carried out; what a track coordinator will now do is to serve as some sort of moderator, maybe a recurring talkmeister, ensuring continuity and probably providing for some commentary, giving some unity to its sessions. So, the responsibilities for a track coordinator right now are quite similar to what is expected for video team volunteers - but to a set of contiguous sessions.

If you are interested in being the track coordinator/moderator for Embedded or for Systems administration, automation and orchestation or even to share the job with any of the other, registered, coordinators, please speak up! Mail content@debconf.org and update the table in the Wiki page.

See you very soon in Montreal!

25 Jul 2017 3:56am GMT

24 Jul 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Bits from Debian: DebConf17 Schedule Published!

The DebConf17 orga team is proud to announce that over 120 activities have been scheduled so far, including 45- and 20-minute talks, team meetings, and workshops, as well as a variety of other events.

Most of the talks and BoFs will be streamed and recorded, thanks to our amazing video team!

We'd like to remind you that Saturday August 5th is also our much anticipated Open Day! This means a program for a wider audience, including special activities for newcomers, such as an AMA session about Debian, a beginners workshop on packaging, a thoughtful talk about freedom with regard to today's popular gadgets and more.

In addition to the published schedule, we'll provide rooms for ad-hoc sessions where attendees will be able to schedule activities at any time during the whole conference.

The current schedule is available at https://debconf17.debconf.org/schedule/

This is also available through an XML feed. You can use ConfClerk in Debian to consume this, or Giggity on Android devices: https://debconf17.debconf.org/schedule/mobile/

We look forward to seeing you in Montreal!

DebConf17 logo

24 Jul 2017 11:15pm GMT

Norbert Preining: Garmin fenix 5x – broken by design

Some month ago I upgrade my (European) fenix3 to a (Japanese) fenix 5x, looking forward to the built-in maps as well as support for Japanese. I was about to write a great review, how content I have been with the fenix 3 and how much better the 5x is. Well, until I realized that Garmin's engineers seem to be brain-damaged and shipping broken by design devices: Just one word: Set an alarm on the watch, and wonder …

.. because you will never wake up the next day, since the alarm was deleted due to an unattended (so-called) sync operation. Happened to me, several times, worst was when I was with clients working as guide.

So the problem is well known, see this link and this link and this link, and it is not restricted to the fenix. The origin of the problem is that Garmin is incapable of implementing a synchronization protocol. They have three sources of data: The Connect website, the Connect application on the smartphone, and the watch itself. And interestingly they only do pushes from Web to application to device, overwriting settings on the lower end. Which means, any alarm that I create on the watch will be overwritten, ie deleted, on every sync - sorry, not sync, on every forced push from the mobile.

It is a bit depressing, but I think the urgent solution is to exempt alarms from the synchronization completely, and remove them from both the connect web page and the application, until a better, a real, synchronization is implemented.

I found a work-around in one of the threads on the Garmin forum, that is: create an alarm on the web or application, better alarms for each of the times you might need it. These will be synced to the device, and can be activated/deactivated on the device without problems. But to be honest - this is not a solution I can really trust in when I need to get up in the morning.

Besides this issue, which is unfortunately rather severe a restriction for me as mountaineer and mountain guide, I really love the watch and will write a more detailed review soon.

24 Jul 2017 11:11pm GMT

Jonathan McDowell: Learning to love Ansible

This post attempts to chart my journey towards getting usefully started with Ansible to manage my system configurations. It's a high level discussion of how I went about doing so and what I got out of it, rather than including any actual config snippets - there are plenty of great resources out there that handle the actual practicalities of getting started much better than I could.

I've been convinced about the merits of configuration management for machines for a while now; I remember conversations about producing an appropriate set of recipes to reproduce our haphazard development environment reliably over 4 years ago. That never really got dealt with before I left, and as managing systems hasn't been part of my day job since then I never got around to doing more than working my way through the Puppet Learning VM. I do, however, continue to run a number of different Linux machines - a few VMs, a hosted dedicated server and a few physical machines at home and my parents'. In particular I have a VM which handles my parents' email, and I thought that was a good candidate for trying to properly manage. It's backed up, but it would be nice to be able to redeploy that setup easily if I wanted to move provider, or do hosting for other domains in their own VMs.

I picked Ansible, largely because I wanted something lightweight and the agentless design appealed to me. All I really need to do is ensure Python is on the host I want to manage and everything else I can bootstrap using Ansible itself. Plus it meant I could use the version from Debian testing on my laptop and not require backports on the stable machines I wanted to manage.

My first attempt was to write a single Ansible YAML file which did all the appropriate things for the email VM; installed Exim/Apache/Roundcube, created users, made sure the appropriate SSH keys were in place, installed configuration files, etc, etc. This did the job, but I found myself thinking it was no better than writing a shell script to do the same things.

Things got a lot better when instead of concentrating on a single host I looked at what commonality was shared between hosts. I started with simple things; Debian is my default distro so I created an Ansible role debian-system which configured up APT and ensured package updates were installed. Then I added a task to setup my own account and install my SSH keys. I was then able to deploy those 2 basic steps across a dozen different machine instances. At one point I got an ARM64 VM from Scaleway to play with, and it was great to be able to just add it to my Ansible hosts file and run the playbook against it to get my basic system setup.

Adding email configuration got trickier. In addition to my parents' email VM I have my own email hosted elsewhere (along with a whole bunch of other users) and the needs of both systems are different. Sitting down and trying to manage both configurations sensibly forced me to do some rationalisation of the systems, pulling out the commonality and then templating the differences. Additionally I ended up using the lineinfile module to edit the Debian supplied configurations, rather than rolling out my own config files. This helped ensure more common components between systems. There were also a bunch of differences that had grown out of the fact each system was maintained by hand - I had about 4 copies of each Let's Encrypt certificate rather than just putting one copy in /etc/ssl and pointing everything at that. They weren't even in the same places on different systems. I unified these sorts of things as I came across them.

Throughout the process of this rationalisation I was able to easily test using containers. I wrote an Ansible role to create systemd-nspawn based containers, doing all of the LVM + debootstrap work required to produce a system which could then be managed by Ansible. I then pointed the same configuration as I was using for the email VM at this container, and could verify at each step along the way that the results were what I expected. It was still a little nerve-racking when I switched over the live email config to be managed by Ansible, but it went without a hitch as hoped.

I still have a lot more configuration to switch to being managed by Ansible, especially on the machines which handle a greater number of services, but it's already proved extremely useful. To prepare for a jessie to stretch upgrade I fired up a stretch container and pointed the Ansible config at it. Most things just worked and the minor issues I was able to fix up in that instance leaving me confident that the live system could be upgraded smoothly. Or when I want to roll out a new SSH key I can just add it to the Ansible setup, and then kick off an update. No need to worry about whether I've updated it everywhere, or correctly removed the old one.

So I'm a convert; things were a bit more difficult by starting with existing machines that I didn't want too much disruption on, but going forward I'll be using Ansible to roll out any new machines or services I need, and expect that I'll find that new deployment to be much easier now I have a firm grasp on the tools available.

24 Jul 2017 5:41pm GMT

Jonathan Carter: Plans for DebCamp17

In a few days, I'll be attending DebCamp17 in Montréal, Canada. Here are a few things I plan to pay attention to:

24 Jul 2017 9:08am GMT

23 Jul 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Gregor Herrmann: RC bugs 2017/08-29

long time no blog post. - & the stretch release happened without many RC bug fixes from me; in practice, the auto-removals are faster & more convenient.

what I nevertheless did in the last months was to fix RC bugs in pkg-perl packages (it still surprises me how fast rotting & constantly moving code is); prepare RC bug fixes for jessie (also for pkg-perl packages); & in the last weeks provide patches & carry out NMUs for perl packages as part of the ongoing perl 5.26 transition.

23 Jul 2017 7:22pm GMT

Norbert Preining: Gaming: Refunct

A lovely little game, Refunct, just crossed my Steam installation. A simple platformer developed with much love. The game play consists of reviving a lost area by stepping on towers, finding buttons, and making more towers appear through this.

The simple game play idea is enriched with wonderful lightening due to the movement of the sun. I really enjoyed the changing of environment and mood that was created by this effect.

Although not terrible useful by now, one can also swim and dive and enjoy the world from below, which is just an added nice bonus.

The game is currently (till Monday night as far as I see) on sale on Steam for 149 Yen, i.e., slightly above a Euro/Dollar. Well worth the investment for about 1h of game play.

Addition: The fastest run at the moment is at 2:46.57, that is under 3min! I managed barely under 25min. Incredible.

23 Jul 2017 2:19pm GMT

Vincent Fourmond: Screen that hurts my eyes, take 2

Six month ago, I wrote a lengthy post about my new computer hurting my eyes. I haven't made any progress with that, but I've accidentally upgraded my work computer from Kernel 4.4 to 4.8 and the nvidia drivers from 340.96-4 to 375.66-2. Well, my work computer now hurts, I've switched back to the previous kernel and drivers, I hope it'll be back to normal.

Any ideas of something specific that changed, either between 4.4 and 4.8 (kernel startup code, default framebuffer modes, etc ?), or between the 340.96 and the 375.66 drivers ? In any case, I'll try that specific combination of kernels/drivers home to see if I can get it to a useable state.

Update, July 23rd

I reverted to the earlier drivers/kernel, to no avail. But it seems in fact the problem with my work computer is linked to an allergy of some kind, since antihistamine drugs have an effect (there are construction works in my lab, perhaps they are the cause ?). No idea still for my home computer, for which the problem is definitely not solved.

23 Jul 2017 1:21pm GMT

22 Jul 2017

feedPlanet Debian

Sean Whitton: I'm going to DebCamp17, Montréal, Canada

Here's what I'm planning to work on - please get in touch if you want to get involved with any of these items. In rough order of priority/likelihood of completion:

22 Jul 2017 9:38pm GMT

Norbert Preining: Making fun of Trump – thanks France

I mean, it is easy to make fun of Trump, he is just too stupid and incapable and uneducated. But what the French president Emmanuel Macron did on Bastille Day, in presence of the usual Trumpies, was just above the usual level of making fun of Trump. The French made Trump watch a French band playing a medley of Daft Punk. And as we know - Trump seemed to be very unimpressed, most probably because he doesn't have a clue.

I mean, normally you play these pathetic rubbish, look at the average US (or Chinese or North Korean) parades, and here we have the celebration of an event much older then anything the US can put on the table, and they are playing Daft Punk!

France, thanks. You made my day - actually not only one!

22 Jul 2017 12:59pm GMT