Planet Debian

Syndicate content
Planet Debian -
Updated: 1 day 33 min ago

Thorsten Alteholz: My Debian Activities in December 2014

Thu, 2015-01-01 08:59

FTP assistant

This month at the end of the year has been rather quiet as well. The holiday season is not suited for lots of REJECTs, so all in all I marked 91 packages for accept and rejected only 14 packages. But be aware, the period of grace is over now.

Squeeze LTS

This was my sixth month that I did some work for the Squeeze LTS initiative, started by Raphael Hertzog at Freexian.

This month I got assigned a workload of 20.5h and I spent these hours to upload new versions of:

  • [DLA 99-1] flac security update
  • [DLA 100-1] mutt security update
  • [DLA 101-1] jasper security update
  • [DLA 102-1] tcpdump security update
  • [DLA 105-1] graphviz security update
  • [DLA 107-1] unbound security update
  • [DLA 108-1] nfs-utils security update
  • [DLA 110-1] libyaml security update
  • [DLA 109-1] libyaml-libyaml-perl security update
  • [DLA 117-1] qt4-x11 security update
  • [DLA 121-1] jasper security update
  • [DLA 122-1] eglibc security update
  • [DLA 123-1] firebird2.5 security update
  • [DLA 124-1] unzip security update

This month I also sponsored the upload of [DLA 126-1] ettercap security update. As far as I know, this has been the first time that someone who is not (yet?) involved in Debian as a Debian Maintainer or Debian Developer prepared a patch for Squeeze LTS. So many thanks to Nguyen Cong for doing the work. Thanks to Toshiba as well, who allowed him to work on this package. I am sure there is more to come.

As December is the time of gifts, I also uploaded [DLA 104-1] pdns-recursor security update although no LTS sponsor indicated any interest.

Other packages

Unfortunately the Debian Med Advent Calendar wasn’t as successful as the years before. Only five bugs in packages python-mne, avifile , biomaj-watcher, trimmomatic and uc-echo have been closed. Things can only get better …

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Junichi Uekawa: Hello 2015.

Thu, 2015-01-01 07:04
Hello 2015. Wondering what'll come of this year.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Russ Allbery: Review: Three Parts Dead

Thu, 2015-01-01 01:19

Review: Three Parts Dead, by Max Gladstone

Series: Craft #1 Publisher: Tor Copyright: October 2012 ISBN: 1-4668-0203-0 Format: Kindle Pages: 336

Tara Abernathy was a student in the Hidden Schools, learning Craft, until she was expelled. Literally expelled: thrown from the floating schools to crash painfully to earth in the Badlands, left to return to her family and village and a life of small workings of Craft and contracts on behalf of local farmers. She had largely resigned herself to that life until raiders started killing people. Tara is not the sort of person who could stand by and watch that, or someone to refrain from using Craft to fix the world. The result was undead guardians for the town, perhaps unwisely formed from the town's risen dead, and only a job offer saves Tara from the ungrateful attention of her neighbors.

That's how Tara finds herself employed by the firm of Kelethras, Albrecht, and Ao, in the person of partner Elayne Kevarian. Provisionally, depending on her performance on their job: the investigation of the death of a god.

It's possible to call Three Parts Dead urban fantasy if you squint at it the right way. It is fantasy that takes place largely in cities, it features the investigation of a crime (and, before long, several crimes), and Tara's attitude is reminscent of an urban fantasy heroine. But this is considerably different from the normal fare of supernatural creatures. In this world, magic, called Craft, is an occupation that requires a great deal of precision and careful construction. Small workings are described similar to magic, although with an emphasis on metaphor. Larger workings more often come in the form of energy flows, contracts, and careful hedging, and the large Craft firms bear more resemblence to mergers and acquisitions specialists than to schools of wizards.

This means that the murder investigation of the god of Alt Coulumb involves a compelling mix of danger, magic, highly unusual library investigations, forensic accounting, hidden Craft machinery, unexpected political alliances, and an inhuman police force. Rather than the typical urban fantasy approach of being beaten up until the resolution of the mystery becomes obvious, Tara and her companions do quite a lot of footwork and uncover a more complex political situation than they were expecting. And, in keeping with this take on magic, the story culminates in a courtroom drama (of a sort). I really enjoyed this. It combines the stylistic elements of urban fantasy that I like with some complex and original world-building and a great take on magical contracts. I prefer worlds like this one, where any source of power people have lived with for a long time is surrounded by the controls, formal analysis, and politics that humans create around anything of value.

Tara is also a great protagonist. This is a coming of age story in a sense, and Tara is sometimes unsure of her abilities, but it's refreshingly devoid of worry or angst over new-found abilities. Tara enjoys her work, and approaches it with a well-written mix of uncertainty, impulsiveness, and self-confidence (sometimes warranted, sometimes not). I've read some good stories where the protagonist gets dragged into the story against their will, and some of them are quite good, but it's refreshing to read a book about someone who takes to the story like a duck to water. This is a believable protrayal of a character with a lot of native ability and intelligence, not much wisdom (yet), but a lot of thoughtful enthusiasm. I was disappointed to learn that she isn't the protagonist of the next book in the series.

The biggest flaw I found in this book is that Gladstone doesn't stick reliably to his world conception. At times, Craft collapses into something more like typical fantasy magical battles, instead of legal procedure and contract made concrete. I suppose this makes parts of the book more exciting, but I would have preferred a plot resolution that involved less combat and more argument. This isn't helped by the utterly hissable villain. There's a lot of complexity in understanding what happened and who was going to benefit (and how), but there is absolutely no doubt who the enemy is, and he's essentially without redeeming qualities. I would have preferred more nuance, given how satisfyingly complex the rest of the world-building is.

Three Parts Dead also occasionally suffers from the typical first novel problem of being a bit overstuffed. The world-building comes fast and thick, and nearly everything Tara does involves introducing new concepts. But the world does have a coherent history, and quite a lot of it. It used to be a more typical fantasy world ruled by gods, each with their own territory and worshippers (and Alt Coulumb is a throwback to this era), but an epic war between gods and Craft is in Tara's past, leading to the defeat or destruction of many of the gods. She lives in a time of uneasy truce between human and inhuman powers, featuring some very complex political and economic alliances. There's a lot of material here for an ongoing series.

This is a great first novel. It's not without its flaws, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end, and will definitely keep reading the series. Recommended.

Followed by Two Serpents Rise.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Riku Voipio: Crowdfunding better GCompris graphics

Wed, 2014-12-31 16:29
GCompris is the most established open source kids educational game. Here we practice use of mouse with an Efika smartbook. In this subgame, mouse is moved around to uncover a image behind.

While GCompris is nice, it needs nice graphics badly. Now the GCompris authors are running a indiegogo crowfund exactly for that - to get new unified graphics.

Why should you fund? Apart from the "I want to be nice for any oss project", I see a couple of reasons specific for this crowdfund.

First, to show kids that apps can be changed! Instead of just using existing iPad apps as a consumer, Gcompris allows you to show kids how games are built and modified. With the new graphics, more kids will play longer, and eventually some will ask if something can be changed/added..

Second, GCompris has recently become QT/QML based, making it more portable than before. Wouldn't you like to see it in your Jolla tablet or a future Ubuntu phone? The crowfund doesn't promise to make new ports, but if you are eager to show your friends nice looking apps on your platform, this probably one of the easiest ways to help them happen.

Finally, as a nice way to say happy new year 2015 :)
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Chris Lamb: 2014: Selected highlights

Wed, 2014-12-31 12:23

Previously: 2012 & 2013.


Was lent a 15-course baroque lute.


Grandpa's funeral. In December he was posthumously awarded the Ushakov Medal (pictured) for his service in the Royal Navy's Arctic Convoys during the Second World War.


A lot of triathlon training but also got back into cooking.


Returned to the Cambridge Duathlon.


Raced 50 and 100 mile cycling time trials & visited the Stratford Olympic pool (pictured).


Ironman Austria.


Paced my sister at the Downtow-Upflow Half-marathon. Also released the first version of the Strava Enhancement Suite.


Visited Cornwall for my cousin's wedding (pictured). Another month for sport including my first ultramarathon and my first sub-20 minute 5k.


Entered a London—Oxford—London cycling brevet, my longest single-ride to date (269 km). Also visited the Tour of Britain and the Sri Chomnoy 24-hour endurance race.


London—Paris—London cycling tour (588 km).


Performed Handel's Messiah in Kettering.



Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Wouter Verhelst: Perl 'issues'

Wed, 2014-12-31 11:46

I just watched a CCC talk in which the speaker claims Perl is horribly broken. Watching it was fairly annoying however, since I had to restrain myself from throwing things at the screen.

If you're going to complain about the language, better make sure you actually understand the language first. I won't deny that there are a few weird constructions in there, but hey. The talk boils down to a claim that perl is horrible, because the list "data type" is "broken".

First of all, Netanel, in Perl, lists are not arrays. Yes, that's confusing if you haven't done more than a few hours of Perl, but hear me out. In Perl, a list is an enumeration of values. A variable with an '@' sigil is an array; a construct consisting of an opening bracket ('(') followed by a number of comma- or arrow-separated values (',' or '=>'), followed by a closing bracket, is a list. Whenever you assign more than one value to an array or a hash, you need to use a list to enumerate the values. Subroutines in perl also use lists as arguments or return values. Yes, that last bit may have been a mistake.

Perl has a concept of "scalar context" and "list context". A scalar context is what a sub is in when you assign the return value of your sub to a scalar; a list context is when you assign the return value of your sub to an array or a hash, or when you use the list construct (the thing with brackets and commas) with sub calls (instead of hardcoded values or variables) as the individual values. This works as follows:

sub magic { if (wantarray()) { print "You're asking for a list!"; return ('a', 'b', 'c'); } else { print "You're asking for a scalar!"; return 'a'; } } print ("list: ", magic(), "\n"); print "scalar: " . magic() . "\n";

The above example will produce the following output:

You're asking for a list! list: abc You're asking for a scalar! scalar: a

What happens here? The first print line creates a list (because things are separated by commas); the second one does not (the '.' is perl's string concatenation operator; as you can only concatenate scalars, the result is that you call the magic() sub in scalar context).

Yes, seen as how arrays are not lists, the name of the wantarray() sub is horribly chosen. Anyway.

It is documented that lists cannot be nested. Lists can only be one-dimensional constructs. If you create a list, and add another list as an element (or something that can be converted to a list, like an array or a hash), then the result is that you get a flattened list. If you don't want a flattened list, you need to use a reference instead. A reference is a scalar value that, very much like a pointer in C, contains a reference to another variable. This other variable can be an array, a hash, or a scalar. But it cannot be a list, because it must be a variable -- and lists cannot be variables.

If you need to create multi-dimensional constructs, you need to use references. Taking a reference is done by prepending a backslash to whatever it is you're trying to take a reference of; or, in the case of arrays of hashes, one can create an anonymous array or hash with [] resp {}. E.g., if you want to add a non-flattened array to a list, you instead create a reference to an array, like so:

$arrayref = [ 'this', 'is', 'an', 'anonymous', 'array'];

you can now create a multi-dimensional construct:

@multiarray = ('elem1', $arrayref);

Or you can do that in one go:

@multiarray = ('elem1', [ 'this', 'is', 'an', 'anonymous', 'array']);

Alternatively, you can create a non-anonymous array first:

@onedimarray = ('this', 'is', 'not', 'an', 'anonymous', 'array'); @multiarray = ('elem1', \@onedimarray);

In perl, curly brackets can be used to create a reference to anonymous hashes, whereas square brackets can be used to create a reference to anonymous arrays. This is all a basic part of the language; if you don't understand that, you simply don't understand Perl. In other words, whenever you see someone doing this:

%hash = {'a' => 'b'};


@array = [ '1', '2' ];

you can say that they don't understand the language. For reference, the assignment to %hash will result in an (unusable) hash with a single key that is a reference to an anonymous hash (which cannot be accessed anymore) and a value of undef; the assignment to @array will result in a two-dimensional array with one element in the first dimension, and two elements in the second.

The fix which Natanel dismisses in the Q&A part of the talk as a "warning" which won't help (because it would be too late) is actually a proper fix, which should warn people in all cases. That is, if you do this:

%hash = { 'name' => $name, 'password' => $cgi->param('password') };

then's param() sub will notice that it's being called in list context, and issue a warning -- regardless of whether the user is passing one or two password query-parameters. It uses the wantarray() sub, and produces a warning if that returns true.

In short, Perl is not the horribly broken construct that Natanel claims it to be. Yes, there are a few surprises (most of which exist for historical reasons), and yes, those should be fixed. This is why the Perl community has redone much of perl for Perl 6. But the fact that there are a few surprises doesn't mean the whole language is broken. There are surprises in most languages; that is a fact of life.

Yes, the difference between arrays and hashes on the one hand, and lists on the other hand, is fairly confusing; it took me a while to understand this. But once you get the hang of it, it's not all that difficult. And then these two issues that Natanel found (which I suppose could be described as bugs in the core modules) aren't all that surprising anymore.

So, in short:

  • Don't stop using Perl. However, do make sure that whenever you use a language, you understand the language, first, so you don't get bitten by its historical baggage. This is true for any language, not just Perl.
  • Don't assume that just because you found issues with core modules, the whole language is suddenly broken.

What I do agree with is that if you want to use a language, you should understand its features. Unfortunately, this single line in the final slide of Natanel's talk is just about the only thing in the whole talk that sortof made sense to me.

Ah well.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Dirk Eddelbuettel: digest 0.6.8

Wed, 2014-12-31 07:12

Release 0.6.8 of digest package is now on CRAN and will get to Debian shortly.

This release opens the door to also providing the digest functionality at the C level to other R packages. Wush Wu is going to use the murmurHash C implementation in his recently-created FeatureHashing package.

We plan to export the other hashing function as well. Another small change attempts to overcome a build limitation on that other largely-irrelevant-but-still-check-by-CRAN OS.

CRANberries provides the usual summary of changes to the previous version.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Michal Čihař: No Windows builds for Gammu and Wammu

Wed, 2014-12-31 06:00

For quite some time I used to produce Windows builds for both Wammu and Gammu using cross compiling on Linux. But this has proven to produce some errors and needed my time to maintain the cross compilation environment. I've decided to stop producing Windows binaries and I don't expect to get back to that anytime soon.

This is actually no news for Wammu, where I've removed Windows builds some about two years ago as they proven to be too broken for normal usage, but for Gammu it's new as previous release had Windows builds. I've lost the cross compilation environment due to hard drive failure and restoring it is simply too much of work and still will not allow me to build complete release (I've not managed to build Python modules properly).

So if anybody is interested in Windows binaries, he needs to produce them on Windows. I can help with fixing code or existing setup scripts (they probably need adjustments as they were tweaked for cross compiling), but somebody has to setup the environment with all dependencies and test the build on Windows.

Filed under: English Gammu Wammu | 0 comments | Flattr this!

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Petter Reinholdtsen: Updated version of the Norwegian web service FiksGataMi

Tue, 2014-12-30 11:55

I am very happy that we in the Norwegian Unix User group (NUUG), spearheaded by Marius Halden from NUUG and Matthew Somerville from mySociety, finally managed to upgrade the code base for the Norwegian version of FixMyStreet. This was the first major update since 2011. The refurbished FiksGataMi is already live, and seem to hold up the pressure. The press release and announcement went out this morning.

FixMyStreet is a web platform for allowing the citizens to easily report problems with public infrastructure to the responsible authorities. Think of it as a shared mail client with map support, allowing everyone to see what already was reported and comment on the reports in public.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Niels Thykier: Status on Jessie (December 2014)

Tue, 2014-12-30 05:55

Here is a slightly overdue status on Jessie.


  • We are not ready to set a date on a Jessie release yet.  Even if we were, it would be unlikely that said date would be in January.  Accordingly, it is safe to assume that the rapid automatic removals clause of the freeze policy will be applied before our release.  If your package (or a package you use) depend on any package in this list, then they are at risk.
  • It is unclear to me whether our CD1s are able to contain all the necessary packages.  This was a major issue for Wheezy.  So far I have only done some minor prodding here.  However, I really want this item done soon as it can easily take a month or more to resolve this.
  • While the release notes have been improved quite a bit, I am certain that there are more cases we can cover.  As an example, I am looking for input on #773386.
  • Despite the declining number of RC bugs, we still have some particular unhealthy ones left.  E.g. #759530.  There is also a view of some of the known unfixed Jessie blockers.
  • We have had a number of issues with APT and dpkg (e.g. trigger cycles, APT breaking under puppet) that caused upgrade failures or were a severe regression.  Most of these have been resolved now.  There are some trigger issues left and I have pushed for a fixed dpkg at the cost of possibly removing some packages. See #772866 (among others).
Stricter freeze policy per January 5th

The next timed change of the freeze policy will apply per January 5th.  After that date, we will only accept RC bugs fixes.  Which means it is final chance for translation updates.

More on RC bugs

In absolute numbers, the RC bugs have declined quite well.  We are below 150 now.  We lost quite a bit of traction in December compared to November. However, November was an extremely efficient month.  However, we still need the final push here.

Debian installer release pending

Yesterday, we received a list of packages that needed to be unblocked for d-i with a remark that a release of d-i might follow.  Based on what we have unblocked previously, it will likely contain some (improved?) UEFI support.

Pending Debian 7.8 release

While not directly relevant to Jessie, we also got a pending Wheezy release planned for the 10th of January. The window for getting changes into the 7.8 release closes this weekend.

Want to help?
  • File bugs against release-notes (source at [RN source]) and installation-guide for missing or outdated documentation.  Patches and drafts especially welcome.
  • Fix RC bugs – especially the known Jessie blockers.
  • Test upgrade paths and installation media.  Although in both cases, you may want to wait a bit (for the new dpkg to migrate and for the new debian-installer release respectively).
  • Consider offering your help to teams such as the CD team or debian-installer team.

Thank you,

[RN source]:

svn co

Git Repo:


Filed under: Debian, Release-Team
Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Michael Prokop: Installing Debian in UEFI mode with some stunts

Tue, 2014-12-30 05:51

For a recent customer setup of Debian/wheezy on a IBM x3630 M4 server we used my blog entry “State of the art Debian/wheezy deployments with GRUB and LVM/SW-RAID/Crypto” as a base. But this time we wanted to use (U)EFI instead of BIOS legacy boot.

As usual we went for installing via Grml and grml-debootstrap. We started by dd-ing the Grml ISO to a USB stick (‘dd grml64-full_2014.11.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=1M‘). The IBM server couldn’t boot from it though, as far as we could identify it seems to be related to a problem with the IBM server not being able to properly recognize USB sticks that are registering themselves as mass storage device instead of removable storage devices (you can check your device via the /sys/devices/…/removable setting). So we enabled Legacy Boot and USB Storage in the boot manager of the server to be able to boot Grml in BIOS/legacy mode from this specific USB stick.

To install the GRUB boot loader in (U)EFI mode you need to be able to execute ‘modprobe efivars’. But our system was booted via BIOS/legacy and in that mode the ‘modprobe efivars’ doesnt work. We could have used a different USB device for booting Grml in UEFI mode but because we are lazy sysadmins and wanted to save time we went for a different route instead:

First of all we write the Grml 64bit ISO (which is (U)EFI capable out-of-the-box, also when dd-ing it) to the local RAID disk (being /dev/sdb in this example):

root@grml ~ # dd if=grml64-full_2014.11.iso of=/dev/sdb bs=1M

Now we should be able to boot in (U)EFI mode from the local RAID disk. To verify this before actually physically rebooting the system (and possibly getting into trouble) we can use qemu with OVMF:

root@grml ~ # apt-get update root@grml ~ # apt-get install ovmf root@grml ~ # qemu-system-x86_64 -bios /usr/share/qemu/OVMF.fd -hda /dev/sdb

The Grml boot splash comes up as expected, perfect. Now we actually reboot the live system and boot the ISO from the local disks in (U)EFI mode. Then we put the running Grml live system into RAM to not use and block the local disks any longer since we want to install Debian there. This can be achieved not just by the toram boot option, but also by executing grml2ram on-demand as needed from user space:

root@grml ~ # grml2ram

Now having the local disks available we verify that we’re running in (U)EFI mode by executing:

root@grml ~ # modprobe efivars root@grml ~ # echo $? 0

Great, so we can install the system in (U)EFI mode now. Starting with the according partitioning (/dev/sda being the local RAID disk here):

root@grml ~ # parted /dev/sda GNU Parted 3.2 Using /dev/sda Welcome to GNU Parted! Type 'help' to view a list of commands. (parted) mklabel gpt (parted) mkpart primary fat16 2048s 4095s (parted) name 1 "EFI System" (parted) mkpart primary 4096s 100% (parted) name 2 "Linux LVM" (parted) print Model: IBM ServeRAID M5110 (scsi) Disk /dev/sda: 9000GB Sector size (logical/physical): 512B/4096B Partition Table: gpt Disk Flags: Number Start End Size File system Name Flags 1 1049kB 2097kB 1049kB fat16 EFI System 2 2097kB 9000GB 9000GB Linux LVM (parted) quit Information: You may need to update /etc/fstab.

Then setting up LVM with a logical volume for the root fs and installing Debian via grml-debootstrap on it:

root@grml ~ # pvcreate /dev/sda2 Physical volume "/dev/sda2" successfully created root@grml ~ # vgcreate vg0 /dev/sda2 Volume group "vg0" successfully created root@grml ~ # lvcreate -n rootfs -L16G vg0 Logical volume "rootfs" created root@grml ~ # grml-debootstrap --target /dev/mapper/vg0-rootfs --password secret --hostname foobar --release wheezy [...]

Now finally set up the (U)EFI partition and properly install GRUB in (U)EFI mode:

root@grml ~ # mkfs.fat -F 16 /dev/sda1 mkfs.fat 3.0.26 (2014-03-07) WARNING: Not enough clusters for a 16 bit FAT! The filesystem will be misinterpreted as having a 12 bit FAT without mount option "fat=16". root@grml ~ # mount /dev/mapper/vg0-rootfs /mnt root@grml ~ # grml-chroot /mnt /bin/bash Writing /etc/debian_chroot ... (foobar)root@grml:/# mkdir -p /boot/efi (foobar)root@grml:/# mount /dev/sda1 /boot/efi (foobar)root@grml:/# apt-get install grub-efi-amd64 [...] (foobar)root@grml:/# grub-install /dev/sda Timeout: 10 seconds BootOrder: 0003,0000,0001,0002,0004,0005 Boot0000* CD/DVD Rom Boot0001* Hard Disk 0 Boot0002* PXE Network Boot0004* USB Storage Boot0005* Legacy Only Boot0003* debian Installation finished. No error reported. (foobar)root@grml:/# ls /boot/efi/EFI/debian/ grubx64.efi (foobar)root@grml:/# update-grub [...] (foobar)root@grml:/# exit root@grml ~ # umount /mnt/boot/efi root@grml ~ # umount /mnt/ root@grml ~ # vgchange -an 0 logical volume(s) in volume group "vg0" now active

That’s it. Now rebooting the system should bring you to your Debian installation running in (U)EFI mode. You can verify this before actually rebooting into the system by using the qemu/OVMF trick from above once again.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

MJ Ray: GPG Transition Statement

Tue, 2014-12-30 05:34

Rather late but I guess that just confirms it’s really me, right? The signed text and IDs should be at

Thank you if you help me out here I’ll resign keys in a while.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Michal Čihař: Gammu 1.34.0

Tue, 2014-12-30 04:00

Gammu 1.34.0 has been just released. It has been more than year from last Gammu release and it's time to release all new features and bugfixes.

Full list of changes:

  • Add phone power ON/OFF function.
  • Removed deprecated Python modules gammu.Data and gammu.Worker.
  • Store network name and code in SMSD tables.
  • Fixed build with recent clang compiler.
  • Fixed several possible issues found by Coverity scan.
  • Fixed possible crash on SMSD startup.
  • Fixed decoding unicode SMS messages.
  • Added identification for several Nokia phones.
  • Fixed compilation issues on various platforms.
  • SMSD now honors loglevel for all logging targets.
  • SMSD can automatically hangup incoming calls.
  • Correctly detect Network errors.

You can download it from

I will not make any promises for future releases (if there will be any) as the tool is not really in active development.

Filed under: English Gammu Wammu | 0 comments | Flattr this!

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Benjamin Mako Hill: Consider the Redirect

Mon, 2014-12-29 22:05

In wikis, redirects are special pages that silently take readers from the page they are visiting to another page. Although their presence is noted in tiny gray text (see the image below) most people use them all the time and never know they exist. Redirects exist to make linking between pages easier, they populate Wikipedia’s search autocomplete list, and are generally helpful in organizing information. In the English Wikipedia, redirects make up more than half of all article pages.

Over the years, I’ve spent some time contributing to to Redirects for Discussion (RfD). I think of RfD as like an ultra-low stakes version of Articles for Deletion where Wikipedians decide whether to delete or keep articles. If a redirect is deleted, viewers are taken to a search results page and almost nobody notices. That said, because redirects are almost never viewed directly, almost nobody notices if a redirect is kept either!

I’ve told people that if they want to understand the soul of a Wikipedian, they should spend time participating in RfD. When you understand why arguing about and working hard to come to consensus solutions for how Wikipedia should handle individual redirects is an enjoyable way to spend your spare time — where any outcome is invisible — you understand what it means to be a Wikipedian.

That said, wiki researchers rarely take redirects into account. For years, I’ve suspected that accounting for redirects was important for Wikipedia research and that several classes of findings were noisy or misleading because most people haven’t done so. As a result, I worked with my colleague Aaron Shaw at Northwestern earlier this year to build a longitudinal dataset of redirects that can capture the dynamic nature of redirects. Our work was published as a short paper at OpenSym several months ago.

It turns out, taking redirects into account correctly (especially if you are looking at activity over time) is tricky because redirects are stored as normal pages by MediaWiki except that they happen to start with special redirect text. Like other pages, redirects can be updated and changed over time are frequently are. As a result, taking redirects into account for any study that looks at activity over time requires looking at the text of every revision of every page.

Using our dataset, Aaron and I showed that the distribution of edits across pages in English Wikipedia (a relationships that is used in many research projects) looks pretty close to log normal when we remove redirects and very different when you don’t. After all, half of articles are really just redirects and, and because they are just redirects, these “articles” are almost never edited.

Another puzzling finding that’s been reported in a few places — and that I repeated myself several times — is that edits and views are surprisingly uncorrelated. I’ll write more about this later but the short version is that we found that a big chunk of this can, in fact, be explained by considering redirects.

We’ve published our code and data and the article itself is online because we paid the ACM’s open access fee to ransom the article.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Steve Kemp: Reducing, or redirecting at least, charitable donations.

Mon, 2014-12-29 19:00

This is the time of year when there are lots of adverts shown on TV solicating donations for charities, which frequently end with the two words "thank you".

I've always felt there were too many charities in the world, and that it was hard to half-heartedly give money to one charity this month, one the next, and still another next year. On that basis I decided long ago to give my money solely to three charities. If I had money that was spare, or I felt generous that month, I would give it to one of "my" charities. Any other appeals I just ignored (with minor exceptions for one-off events like tsunamis, etc).

I won't claim credit for this idea, it came directly from my mom who does the same thing. I've given money to the same three charities for twenty years now. Maybe not thousands, but hopefully enough to be useful. Certainly more than I'd have given if my donation were split between more recipients.

Now I'm changing. As of next year only one charitable organization will get my pennies. The other two haven't done anything bad, wrong, or failed/succeeded (sadly), but it feels better for me to stick to a single recipient.

Happy Christmas.

(Details shouldn't matter, but to answer the obvious question the charity I've kept is the RNLI.)

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Lunar: Reproducible builds against RC bugs

Mon, 2014-12-29 11:15

One way of working on reproducible builds is to look at packages which fail to build reproducibly on our continuous integration platform. Looking at the output of debbindiff often makes it possible to spot common problems.

Sometimes, issues are more singular. and codesearch are amazing helps to skim over the source code trying to figure out what is happening.

When I started to work on reproducible builds for Debian a year and a half ago, I never thought it would be useful to find actual release critical bugs. Until I had a look at libical debbindiff output.

Can you understand the issue and how bad it is?

Answer is in bug #773916.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Neil Williams: OpenTAC hardware in manufacture

Mon, 2014-12-29 09:19

A bit of news on the development of OpenTAC – the Open Hardware Test Automation Controller. I’ve talked about this at the MiniDebConf 2014 in Cambridge. (Video available). The development is being tracked on the Vero-Apparatus wiki and as this is Open Hardware, the files are attached to the wiki (All files are CC BY-SA 4.0).

Andy completed the schematics at the start of November, allowing work to start on the routing. With routing completed, orders were placed for manufacture of the first PCBs on the 19th December 2014. Whilst waiting for the PCBs to arrive we’re working on the device tree database (my first real experience with creating a device tree) which will underpin the PDU and serial console services available to the user as well as the admin interface for control of the USB subsystems, fan control, power control and thermal monitoring. The first thing we need to do is create a data dictionary – a table to correlate software identifiers with the real hardware pins. We’ll then follow that through with a default device tree overlay that will leave all the associated I/O lines in a safe initial state.

Once we have some code, I’ll be pushing to a branch on GitHub. We’ve also got an internal git repo on vero-apparatus for OpenTAC files which we will add to in due course.

Image of the board as rendered prior to prototype production:

More to come once we have the hardware on the desk …

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Michal Čihař: Wammu 0.38

Mon, 2014-12-29 08:50

It seems that the 0.37 release was not that good as I hoped for, so here comes another bugfix release. So here comes Wammu 0.38.

The list of changes is not really huge:

  • Compatibility with latest wxPython releases.
  • Fixed corrupted appdata metadata.
  • Fixed broken desktop file due to Chinese translation.
  • Translation updates.

I will not make any promises for future releases (if there will be any) as the tool is not really in active development.

Filed under: English Gammu Wammu | 0 comments | Flattr this!

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Jingjie Jiang: Week2-Week3 OPW Journey.

Mon, 2014-12-29 08:36
The Tropy

In this period, I have tackled several bugs and got them finally about to be merged in the codebase. Namely, they are:
#761121 allow symbolic links within same version, #761861 override detected language type. I also spent some time on making debsouces runnable on
But still there is some db related problem on it. I am not quite familiar with psql, and kinda at a loss as what to do. Zack said he would take it over and I shall focus on what really I likes. Cool.

For some non-code tasks, I have a detailed read on “machine-readable debian/copyright”. The other task is on “flask blueprint”. The idea of “flask blueprint”, as far as I am concerned, is sort of what apps are in django.

Zack has drafted a specification on debian/copyright which serves as the goal of Combined with the above reading knowledge, and with the help of Flask expert matthieu, I will get my hands dirty in the comming weeks to create a fantastic new site, aka, copyright.d.n. Stay tuned.

some thought

I did spend some time learning how to use git, and read quite a lot of materials. But, I shamely forgot most of them. So when I am frequently using git these days, I feel kinda incompetent and sometimes awkward. I am thinking now, maybe I shall stop overlearn some technology that I might never use. Only real usage and practice could help me get comfort with those tools. Overlearn something which I am not currently using and either won’t in the future might just be a waste of time.

and finally, I spent a great Christmas. Wish everyone happy, and merry Christmas!

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets

Dirk Eddelbuettel: rfoaas 0.0.5

Mon, 2014-12-29 06:17

A new version of rfoaas is now on CRAN. The rfoaas package provides an interface for R to the most excellent FOAAS service--which provides a modern, scalable and RESTful web service for the frequent need to tell someone to eff off.

This version aligns the rfoaas version number with the (at long last) updated upstream version number, and brings a change suggested by Richie Cotton to set the encoding of the returned object.

As usual, CRANberries provides a diff to the previous release. Questions, comments etc should go to the GitHub issue tracker off the GitHub repo.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Categories: FLOSS Project Planets