02 Aug 2015

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Benjamin Mako Hill: Understanding Hydroplane Races for the New Seattleite

It's Seafair weekend in Seattle. As always, the centerpiece is the H1 Unlimited hydroplane races on Lake Washington.

EllstromManufacturingHydroplaneIn my social circle, I'm nearly the only person I know who grew up in area. None of the newcomers I know had heard of hydroplane racing before moving to Seattle. Even after I explain it to them - i.e., boats with 3,000+ horse power airplane engines that fly just above the water at more than 320kph (200mph) leaving 10m+ (30ft) wakes behind them! - most people seem more puzzled than interested.

I grew up near the shore of Lake Washington and could see (and hear!) the races from my house. I don't follow hydroplane racing throughout the year but I do enjoy watching the races at Seafair. Here's my attempt to explain and make the case for the races to new Seattleites.

Before Microsoft, Amazon, Starbucks, etc., there were basically three major Seattle industries: (1) logging and lumber based industries like paper manufacturing; (2) maritime industries like fishing, shipbuilding, shipping, and the navy; (3) aerospace (i.e., Boeing). Vintage hydroplane racing represented the Seattle trifecta: Wooden boats with airplane engines!

The wooden U-60 Miss Thriftway circa 1955 (Thriftway is a Washinton-based supermarket that nobody outside has heard of) below is a picture of old-Seattle awesomeness. Modern hydroplanes are now made of fiberglass but two out of three isn't bad.

miss_thriftwayAlthough the boats are racing this year in events in Indiana, San Diego, and Detroit in addition to the two races in Washington, hydroplane racing retains deep ties to the region. Most of the drivers are from the Seattle area. Many or most of the teams and boats are based in Washington throughout the year. Many of the sponsors are unknown outside of the state. This parochialness itself cultivates a certain kind of appeal among locals.

In addition to old-Seattle/new-Seattle cultural divide, there's a class divide that I think is also worth challenging. Although the demographics of hydro-racing fans is surprisingly broad, it can seem like Formula One or NASCAR on the water. It seems safe to suggest that many of the demographic groups moving to Seattle for jobs in the tech industry are not big into motorsports. Although I'm no follower of motorsports in general, I've written before cultivated disinterest in professional sports, and it remains something that I believe is worth taking on.

It's not all great. In particular, the close relationship between Seafair and the military makes me very uneasy. That said, even with the military-heavy airshow, I enjoy the way that Seafair weekend provides a little pocket of old-Seattle that remains effectively unchanged from when I was a kid. I'd encourage others to enjoy it as well!

02 Aug 2015 2:45am GMT

01 Aug 2015

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Steve McIntyre: Tracking broken UEFI implementations

There can be issues with shipping installer images including UEFI. But they're mainly due to crappy UEFI implementations that vendors have shipped. It's fairly well-known that Apple have shipped some really shoddy firmware over the years, and to allow people to install Debian on older Apple x86 machines we've now added the workaround of a non-UEFI 32-bit installer image too. But Apple aren't the only folks shipping systems with horrendously buggy UEFI, and a lot of Linux folks have had to deal with this over the last few years.

I've been talking to a number of other UEFI developers lately, and we've agreed to start a cross-distro resource to help here - a list of known-broken UEFI implementations so that we can share our experiences. The place for this in in the OSDev wiki at http://wiki.osdev.org/Broken_UEFI_implementations. We're going to be adding new information here as we find it. If you've got a particular UEFI horror story on your own broken system, then please either add details there or let me know and I'll try to do it for you.

01 Aug 2015 11:40pm GMT

Steve McIntyre: New UEFI team in Debian

We've just started a new team in Debian for maintaining our UEFI packages together, with git repositories in a shared project on alioth etc. We're just working out the exact details of how we're going to manage things, but for now we've moved the following packages under the team's umbrella:

and in the future we'll clearly end up adding more. We've also started a new IRC channel (#debian-efi) on irc.debian.org aka irc.oftc.net. New members always welcome to help with the work here!

01 Aug 2015 11:40pm GMT

Steve McIntyre: Justifying 32-bit UEFI on 64-bit Intel hardware, and tracking broken UEFI implementations

You might have seen some of the posts I've written in the last few months about adding support in Debian for so-called Mixed-EFI systems like the Intel Bay Trail: a 64-bit processor shipped with a 32-bit EFI implementation.

I've finally seen a public justification from Intel evangelist Brian Richardson as to why these systems are crippled^Wconfigured this way, and it's nice to see our guesses confirmed. The reason is simply cost - like most consumer PCs shipped today, they come with Windows. In terms of system design, it's cheaper to just include the limited memory and storage needed for 32-bit Windows. 64-bit Windows takes a lot more storage in particular. And on modern systems 32-bit Windows can only boot using 32-bit UEFI. Fair enough...

However, Brian goes on to state some more things that are simply out of date, saying that "Linux support for UEFI IA32 is still an unanswered question". Ummm, Brian: we've got working 32-bit x86 UEFI support in our standard Jessie (and newer) installation images already, and they work just fine on CD/DVD or USB stick. We've even gone one stage further than anybody else (thus far!) in adding easy support for running a full 64-bit Linux system on top of those 32-bit UEFI implementations.

I say "thus far" here because all the work here here is Free Software. Other folks added the support in Linux for making a 64-bit kernel work with a 32-bit UEFI; I added code in Linux to expose some of the details to userspace, and code in Grub to work with it. My changes have gone upstream already, so I'd expect to see other distros like Fedora or Ubuntu also using them soon.

01 Aug 2015 11:40pm GMT

Francois Marier: Setting the wifi regulatory domain on Linux and OpenWRT

The list of available wifi channels is slightly different from country to country. To ensure access to the right channels and transmit power settings, one needs to set the right regulatory domain in the wifi stack.

Linux

For most Linux-based computers, you can look and change the current regulatory domain using these commands:

iw reg get
iw reg set CA

where CA is the two-letter country code when the device is located.

On Debian and Ubuntu, you can make this setting permanent by putting the country code in /etc/default/crda.

Finally, to see the list of channels that are available in the current config, use:

iwlist wlan0 frequency

OpenWRT

On OpenWRT-based routers (including derivatives like Gargoyle), looking and setting the regulatory domain temporarily works the same way (i.e. the iw commands above).

In order to persist your changes though, you need to use the uci command:

uci set wireless.radio0.country=CA
uci set wireless.radio1.country=CA
uci commit wireless

where wireless.radio0 and wireless.radio1 are the wireless devices specific to your router. You can look them up using:

uci show wireless

To test that it worked, simply reboot the router and then look at the selected regulatory domain:

iw reg get

Scanning the local wifi environment

Once your devices are set to the right country, you should scan the local environment to pick the least congested wifi channel. You can use the Kismet spectools (free software) if you have the hardware, otherwise WifiAnalyzer (proprietary) is a good choice on Android (remember to manually set the available channels in the settings).

01 Aug 2015 8:20pm GMT

Lars Wirzenius: Obnam 1.13 released (backup software)

I have just released version 1.13 of Obnam, my backup program. See the website at http://obnam.org for details on what it does. The new version is available from git (see http://git.liw.fi) and as Debian packages from http://code.liw.fi/debian, and uploaded to Debian, and soon in unstable.

The NEWS file extract below gives the highlights of what's new in this version.

Version 1.13, released 2015-08-01

Bug fixes:

Improvements:

01 Aug 2015 5:07pm GMT

Russ Allbery: Review: The Pyramid Waltz

Review: The Pyramid Waltz, by Barbara Ann Wright

Series: Katya and Starbride #1
Publisher: Bold Strokes
Copyright: September 2012
ISBN: 1-60282-792-3
Format: Kindle
Pages: 264

Princess Katya Nar Umbriel is publicly a bored, womanizing, and difficult daughter to the rulers of Farraday. It's all an act, though, with the full knowledge of her parents. As the second child, she's the leader of the Order of Vestra: the equivalent of the Secret Service, devoted to protecting the royal family and, by extension, the kingdom, particularly against magical attacks.

Starbride is new to court and entirely out of place. From a northern neighboring country, and far more comfortable in practical clothing than the frilled court dresses that her mother wants her to wear, she has been sent to court to make contacts. Her people are getting the bad side of various trade contracts and desperately need some political maneuvering space of their own. Starbride's best hope for this is to study law in the palace library when she can manage to avoid the other courtiers. But then she and Katya stumble across each other, outside of the roles they're playing, and might have an opportunity for a deeper connection. One that neither of them want to entangle in their personal worries.

This is the last of a set of books I picked up while looking for lesbian romance with fantasy or science fiction elements. On the romance front, it's one of the better entries in that set. Both Katya and Starbride are likeable, in large part due to their mutual exasperation with the trappings of the court. (Making the protagonists more serious, thoughtful, and intelligent than the surrounding characters is an old trick, but it works.) Wright has a good ear for banter, particularly the kind when two people of good will are carefully feeling each other out. And despite Katya's need to keep a deep secret from Starbride for some of the book, The Pyramid Waltz mostly avoids irritating communication failures as a plot driver.

The fantasy portion and the plot drivers, alas, are weaker. The world building is not exactly bad, but it's just not that interesting. There are a couple of moderately good ideas, in the form of pyramid magic and secret (and dangerous) magical powers that run in the royal family, but they're not well-developed. Pyramid magic turns out to look much like any other generic fantasy magic system, with training scenes that could have come from a Valdemar or Wheel of Time novel (and without as much dramatic tension). And the royal family's secret, while better-developed and integral to the plot, still felt rather generic and one-sided.

Maybe that's something Wright develops better in future novels in this series, but that was another problem: the ending of The Pyramid Waltz was rather weak. Partly, I think, this is because the cast is too large and not well-developed. I cared about Katya and Starbird, and to a lesser extent their servants and one of the Order members. (Wright has a moderately interesting bit of worldbuilding about how servants work in Starbride's culture, which I wish we'd seen more of.) But there are a bunch of other Order of Vesta members, Katya's family, and various other bits of history and hinted world views, none of which seemed to get much depth. The ending climax involved a lot of revelations and twists that primarily concerned characters I didn't care about. It lost something in the process.

This book is clearly set up for a sequel. There is an ending, but it's not entirely satisfying. Unfortunately, despite liking Katya and Starbird a lot, the rest of the story wasn't compelling enough to make me want to buy it, particularly since the series apparently goes through another three books before reaching a real ending.

I enjoyed parts of this book, particularly Katya and Starbird feeling each other out and discovering similarities in their outlook. Katya teasing Starbird, and Starbird teasing herself, over her mother's choice of her clothing was probably the best part. It's not bad for what it's trying to do, but I think it's a bit too generic and not satisfying enough to really recommend.

Followed by For Want of a Fiend.

Rating: 6 out of 10

01 Aug 2015 6:01am GMT

31 Jul 2015

feedPlanet Debian

Scott Kitterman: Plasma 5 (KDE) In Testing

A few days ago, fellow Qt/KDE team member Lisandro gave an update on the situation with migration to Plasma 5 in Debian Testing (AKA Stretch). It's changed again. All of Plasma 5 is now in Testing. The upgrade probably won't be entirely smooth, which we'll work on that after the gcc5 transition is done, but it will be much better than the half KDE4 SC half Kf5/Plasma 5 situation we've had for the last several days.

The issues with starting kwin should be resolved once users upgrade to Plasma 5. To use the current kwin with KDE SC 4, you will need to add a symlink from /usr/bin/kwin to /usr/bin/kwin_x11. That will be included in the next upload after gcc5.

Systemsettings and plasma-nm now work.

In my initial testing, I didn't see anything major that was broken. One user reported an issue with sddm starting automatically, but it worked fine for me. During the upgrade you should get a debconf prompt asking if you want to use kdm or sddm. Pick sddm.

When I tried to dist-upgrade, apt wanted to remove task-kde-desktop. I let it remove it and some other packages and then in a second step did apt-get install task-kde-desktop. That pulled it back in successfully along with adding and removing a reasonably large stack of packages. Obviously we need to make that work better before Stretch is released, but as long as you don't restart KDE in between those two steps it should be fine. Lastely, I used apt-get autoremove to clear out a lot of no longer needed KDE4 things (when it asks if you want to stop the running kdm, say no).

Here are a few notes on terminology and what I understand of the future plans:

What used to be called KDE is now three different things (in part because KDE is now the community of people, not the software):

KDE Frameworks 5 (Kf5): This is a group of several dozen small libraries that as a group, roughly equate to what used to be kdelibs.

Plasma (Workspaces) 5: This is the desktop that we've just transitioned to.

Applications: These are a mix of kdelibs and Kf5 based applications. Currently in Testing there are some of both and this will evolve over time based on upstream development. As an example, the Kf5 based version of konsole is in Unstable and should transition to Testing shortly.

Finally, thanks to Maximiliano Curia (maxy on IRC) for doing virtually all of the packaging of Kf5, Plasma 5, and applications. He did the heavy lifting, the rest of us just nibbled around the edges to keep it moving towards testing.

31 Jul 2015 8:15pm GMT

Steve McIntyre: Linaro VLANd v0.3

VLANd is a python program intended to make it easy to manage port-based VLAN setups across multiple switches in a network. It is designed to be vendor-agnostic, with a clean pluggable driver API to allow for a wide range of different switches to be controlled together.

There's more information in the README file. I've just released v0.3, with a lot of changes included since the last release:

VLANd is Free Software, released under the GPL version 2 (or any later version). For now, grab it from git; tarballs will be coming shortly.

31 Jul 2015 4:04pm GMT

Raphal Hertzog: My Free Software Activities in July 2015

My monthly report covers a large part of what I have been doing in the free software world. I write it for my donators (thanks to them!) but also for the wider Debian community because it can give ideas to newcomers and it's one of the best ways to find volunteers to work with me on projects that matter to me.

Debian LTS

This month I have been paid to work 15 hours on Debian LTS. In that time I did the following:

Kali Linux / Debian Stretch work

kaliKali Linux wants to experiment something close to Debian Constantly Usable Testing: we have a kali-rolling release that is based on Debian Testing and we want to take a new snapshot every 4 months (in order to have 3 releases per year).

More specifically we have a kali-dev repository which is exactly Debian Stretch + our own Kali packages (the kali package take precedence) updated 4 times a day, just like testing is. And we have a britney2 setup that generates kali-rolling out of kali-dev (without any requirement in terms of delay/RC bugs, it just ensures that dependencies are not broken), also 4 times a day.

We have jenkins job that ensures that our metapackages are installable in kali-dev (and kali-rolling) and that we can build our ISO images. When things break, I have to fix them and I try to fix them on the Debian side first. So here are some examples of stuff I did in response to various failures:

If you analyze this list, you will see that a large part of the issues we had come down to package getting removed from testing due to RC bugs. We should be able to anticipate those issues and monitor the packages that have an impact on Kali. We will probably add new jenkins job that installs all the metapackages and then run how-can-i-help -s testing-autorm --old… I just submitted #794238 as a wishlist against how-can-i-help.

At the same time, there are bugs that make it into testing and that I fix / work around on the Kali side. But those fixes / work around might be more useful if they were pushed to testing via testing-proposed-updates. I tried to see whether other derivatives had similar needs to see if derivatives could join their efforts at this level but it does not look like so for now.

Last but not least, bugs reported on the Kali side also resulted in Debian improvements:

Other Debian work

Sponsorship. I sponsored multiple packages for Daniel Stender who is packaging prospector, a software that I requested earlier (through RFP bug). So I reviewed and uploaded python-requirements-detector, python-setoptconf, pylint-celery and pylint-common. During a review I also discovered a nice bug in dh-python (#793609a comment in the middle of a Build-Depends could break a package). I also sponsored an upload of notmuch-addrlookup (new package requested by a Freexian customer).

Packaging. I uploaded python-django 1.7.9 in unstable and 1.8.3 in experimental to fix security issues. I uploaded a new upstream release of ditaa through a non-maintainer uploaded (again at the request of a Freexian customer).

Distro Tracker. Beside the work to integrate detailed security status, I fixed the code to be compatible with Django 1.8 and modified the tox configuration to ensure that the test suite is regularly run against Django 1.8. I also merged multiple patches of Christophe Siraut (cf #784151 and #754413).

Thanks

See you next month for a new summary of my activities.

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31 Jul 2015 2:45pm GMT

Simon Kainz: DUCK challenge: week 4

The DUCK challenge is making a quite stable progress: in the last 4 weeks there were approximately 12.25 packages fixed and uploaded per week. In the current week the following packages were fixed and uploaded into unstable:

So we had 14 packages fixed and uploaded by 10 different uploaders. A big "Thank You" to you!!

Since the start of this challenge, a total of 49 packages, uploaded by 31 different persons were fixed.

Here is a quick overview:

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7
# Packages 10 15 10 14 - - -
Total 10 25 35 49 - - -

The list of the fixed and updated packages is availabe here. I will try to update this ~daily. If I missed one of your uploads, please drop me a line.

DebConf15 is approaching quite fast, so please get involved: The DUCK Challenge is running until end of DebConf15!

Pevious articles are here: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3.

31 Jul 2015 7:15am GMT

30 Jul 2015

feedPlanet Debian

DebConf team: DebConf15 Schedule Published and Additional Featured Speakers Announced (Posted by DebConf Content Team)

DebConf15 Schedule

The DebConf content team is pleased to announce the schedule of DebConf15, the forthcoming Debian Developers Conference. From a total of nearly 100 talk submissions, the team selected 75 talks. Due to the high number of submissions, several talks had to be shortened to 20 minute slots, of which a total of 30 talks have made it to the schedule.

In addition, around 50 meetings and discussions (BoFs) have been submitted so far, as well as several other events like lightning talk sessions, live demos, a movie screening, a poetry night or stand-up comedy.

The Schedule is available online at the DebConf15 conference site.

Further changes to the schedule can and will be made, but today's announcement represents the first stable version.

Featured Speakers

In addition to the previously announced invited speakers, the content team also announces the following list of additional featured speakers:

The full list of invited and featured speakers, including the invited speakers profiles and the titles of their talks is available here.

30 Jul 2015 7:09pm GMT

Daniel Pocock: Free Real-time Communications (RTC) at DebConf15, Heidelberg

The DebConf team have just published the first list of events scheduled for DebConf15 in Heidelberg, Germany, from 15 - 22 August 2015.

There are two specific events related to free real-time communications and a wide range of other events related to more general topics of encryption and privacy.

15 August, 17:00, Free Communications with Free Software (as part of the DebConf open weekend)

The first weekend of DebConf15 is an open weekend, it is aimed at a wider audience than the traditional DebConf agenda. The open weekend includes some keynote speakers, a job fair and various other events on the first Saturday and Sunday.

The RTC talk will look at what solutions exist for free and autonomous voice and video communications using free software and open standards such as SIP, XMPP and WebRTC as well as some of the alternative peer-to-peer communications technologies that are emerging. The talk will also look at the pervasive nature of communications software and why success in free RTC is so vital to the health of the free software ecosystem at large.

17 August, 17:00, Challenges and Opportunities for free real-time communications

This will be a more interactive session people are invited to come and talk about their experiences and the problems they have faced deploying RTC solutions for professional or personal use. We will try to look at some RTC/VoIP troubleshooting techniques as well as more high-level strategies for improving the situation.

Try the Debian and Fedora RTC portals

Have you registered for rtc.debian.org? It can successfully make federated SIP calls with users of other domains, including Fedora community members trying FedRTC.org.

You can use rtc.debian.org for regular SIP (with clients like Empathy, Jitsi or Lumicall) or WebRTC.

Can't get to DebConf15?

If you can't get to Heidelberg, you can watch the events on the live streaming service and ask questions over IRC.

To find out more about deploying RTC, please see the RTC Quick Start Guide.

Did you know?

Don't confuse Heidelberg, Germany with Heidelberg in Melbourne, Australia. Heidelberg down under was the site of the athlete's village for the 1956 Olympic Games.

30 Jul 2015 9:23am GMT

Steve Kemp: The differences in Finland start at home.

So we're in Finland, and the differences start out immediately.

We're renting a flat, in building ten, on a street. You'd think "10 Streetname" was a single building, but no. It is a pair of buildings: 10A, and 10B.

Both of the buildings have 12 flats in them, with 10A having 1-12, and 10B having 13-24.

There's a keypad at the main entrance, which I assumed was to let you press a button and talk to the people inside "Hello I'm the postmaster", but no. There is no intercom system, instead you type in a magic number and the door opens.

The magic number? Sounds like you want to keep that secret, since it lets people into the common-area? No. Everybody has it. The postman, the cleaners, the DHL delivery man, and all the ex-tenants. We invited somebody over recently and gave it out in advance so that they could knock on our flat-door.

Talking of cleaners: In the UK I lived in a flat and once a fortnight somebody would come and sweep the stair-well, since we didn't ever agree to do it ourselves. Here somebody turns up every day, be it to cut the grass, polish the hand-rail, clean the glass on the front-door, or mop the floors of the common area. Sounds awesome. But they cut the grass, right outside our window, at 7:30AM. On the dot. (Or use a leaf-blower, or something equally noisy.)

All this communal-care is paid for by the building-association, of which all flat-owners own shares. Sounds like something we see in England, or even like Americas idea of a Home-Owners-Association. (In Scotland you own your own flat, you don't own shares of an entity which owns the complete building. I guess there are pros and cons to both approaches.)

Moving onwards other things are often the same, but the differences when you spot them are odd. I'm struggling to think of them right now, somebody woke me up by cutting our grass for the second time this week (!)

Anyway I'm registered now with the Finnish government, and have a citizen-number, which will be useful, I've got an appointment booked to register with the police - which is something I had to do as a foreigner within the first three months - and today I've got an appointment with a local bank so that I can have a euro-bank-account.

Happily I did find a gym to join, the owner came over one Sunday to give me a tiny-tour, and then gave me a list of other gyms to try if his wasn't good enough - which was a nice touch - I joined a couple of days later, his gym is awesome.

(I'm getting paid in UK-pounds, to a UK-bank, so right now I'm getting local money by transferring to my wifes account here, but I want to do that to my own, and open a shared account for paying for rent, electricity, internet, water, & etc).

My flat back home is still not rented, because the nice property management company lost my keys. Yeah you can't make that up can you? With a bit of luck the second set of keys I mailed them will arrive soon and the damn thing can be occupied, while I'm not relying on that income I do wish to have it.

30 Jul 2015 6:15am GMT

28 Jul 2015

feedPlanet Debian

Jonathan Dowland: Sound effect pitch-shifting in Doom

My previous blog posts about deterministic Doom proved very popular.

The reason I was messing around with Doom's RNG was I was studying how early versions of Doom performed random pitch-shifting of sound effects, a feature that was removed early on in Doom's history. By fixing the random number table and replacing the game's sound effects with a sine wave, one second long and tuned to middle-c, I was able to determine the upper and lower bounds of the pitch shift.

Once I knew that, I was able to write some patches to re-implement pitch shifting in Chocolate Doom, which I'm pleased to say have been accepted. The patches have also made their way into the related projects Crispy Doom and Doom Retro.

I'm pleased with the final result. It's the most significant bit of C code I've ever released publically, as well as my biggest Doom hack and the first time I've ever done any audio manipulation in code. There was a load of other notes and bits of code that I produced in the process. I've put them together on a page here: More than you ever wanted to know about pitch-shifting.

28 Jul 2015 5:02pm GMT

Lisandro Damin Nicanor Prez Meyer: Plasma/KF5 : Testing situation

Dear Debian/KDE users,

We are aware that the current situation in testing is very unfortunate, with two main issues:

  1. systemsettings transitioned to testing before the corresponding KDE Control Modules. The result is that systemsettings displays an empty screen. This is tracked in the following bug https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=790703.
  2. plasmoids such as plasma-nm transitioned to testing before plasma-desktop 5. The result is that the plasmoid are no longer displayed in the system tray.


We are working on getting plasma-desktop to transition to testing as soon as possible (hopefully in 2 days time), which will resolve both those issues. We appreciate that the transition to KF5 is much rougher than we would have liked, and apologize to all those impacted.

On behalf of the Qt/KDE team,
Lisandro.

28 Jul 2015 3:19pm GMT