Planet Russell


Planet DebianMatthew Palmer: You stay classy, Uber

You may have heard that Uber has been under a bit of fire lately for its desires to hire private investigators to dig up “dirt” on journalists who are critical of Uber. From using users’ ride data for party entertainment, putting the assistance dogs of blind passengers in the trunk, adding a surcharge to reduce the number of dodgy drivers, or even booking rides with competitors and then cancelling, or using the ride to try and convince the driver to change teams, it’s pretty clear that Uber is a pretty good example of how companies are inherently sociopathic.

However, most of those examples are internal stupidities that happened to be made public. It’s a very rare company that doesn’t do all sorts of shady things, on the assumption that the world will never find out about them. Uber goes quite a bit further, though, and is so out-of-touch with the world that it blogs about analysing people’s sexual activity for amusement.

You’ll note that if you follow the above link, it sends you to the Wayback Machine, and not Uber’s own site. That’s because the original page has recently turned into a 404. Why? Probably because someone at Uber realised that bragging about how Uber employees can amuse themselves by perving on your one night stands might not be a great idea. That still leaves the question open of what sort of a corporate culture makes anyone ever think that inspecting user data for amusement would be a good thing, let alone publicising it? It’s horrific.

Thankfully, despite Uber’s fairly transparent attempt at whitewashing (“clearwashing”?), the good ol’ Wayback Machine helps us to remember what really went on. It would be amusing if Uber tried to pressure the Internet Archive to remove their copies of this blog post (don’t bother, Uber; I’ve got a “Save As” button and I’m not afraid to use it).

In any event, I’ve never used Uber (not that I’ve got one-night stands to analyse, anyway), and I’ll certainly not be patronising them in the future. If you’re not keen on companies amusing themselves with your private data, I suggest you might consider doing the same.


Planet DebianSteve Kemp: Lumail 2.x ?

I've continued to ponder the idea of reimplementing the console mail-client I wrote, lumail, using a more object-based codebase.

For one thing having loosely coupled code would allow testing things in isolation, which is clearly a good thing.

I've written some proof of concept code which will allow the following Lua to be evaluated:

-- Open the maildir.
users = "/home/skx/Maildir/.debian.user" )

-- Count the messages.
print( "There are " .. users:count() .. " messages in the maildir " .. users:path() )

-- Now we want to get all the messages and output their paths.
for k,v in ipairs( users:messages()) do
    -- Here we could do something like:
    --   if ( string.find( v:headers["subject"], "troll", 1, true ) ) then v:delete()  end
    -- Instead play-nice and just show the path.
    print( k .. " -> " .. v:path() )

This is all a bit ugly, but I've butchered some code together that works, and tried to solicit feedback from lumail users.

I'd write more but I'm tired, and intending to drink whisky and have an early night. Today I mostly replaced pipes in my attic. (Is it "attic", or is it "loft"? I keep alternating!) Fingers crossed this will mean a dry kitchen in the morning.

Planet DebianSune Vuorela: Is linux about choice?

Occasionally, various quotes from people having an opinion if linux is about choice or not. Even pages like has shown up.

My short answer is “YES”. Linux is about choice. And you get all your choices directly from your f/loss definition of choice (FSF’s 4 freedoms / OSI’s opensource definition / Debian Free Software Guidelines)

It doesn’t mean that you get all the gui configuration bits that you want. It doesn’t mean that you without any problems can switch out any component. But it does mean that you can get it exactly your way. But it might require you to edit some source code and compile some stuff.

Don MartiWhy I'm not signing up for Google Contributor (or giving up on web advertising)

Making the rounds: Google’s New Service Kills Ads on Your Favorite Sites for a Monthly Fee. Basically, turn the ads into the thing that annoys the free users, wasting their bandwidth and screen space, until some of them go paid. You know, the way the crappy ads on Android apps work.

But the problem isn't advertising. The web is not the first medium where the audience gets stuff for free, or at an artificially low price. Cultural works and Journalism have been ad-supported for a long time. Sure, people like to complain about annoying ads, and they're uncomfortable about database marketing. But magazine readers look at the ads, and even Tivo-equipped TV viewers have low skip rates.

The problem is figuring out why today's web ads are so different, why ad blocking is on the way up, and how can a web ad work more like a magazine ad? From the article:

If people are going to gripe constantly about ads and having their personal data sold to advertisers, why not ask them to put a nominal amount of money where their mouths are?

Because that's not how people work. We don't pay other people to come into compliance with social norms. "Hey, you took my place in's a dollar to switch back" doesn't happen. More:

It could save publishers who are struggling to stay afloat as ad dollars dwindle, while also giving consumers what they say they want.

You lost me at giving consumers what they say they want. When has that ever worked? People say all kinds of stuff. You have to watch what they do. What they do, offline, is enjoy high-value ad-supported content, with the ads. Why is the web so different? Why do people treat web ads more like email spam and less like offline ads? The faster we can figure out the ad blocking paradox, the faster we can move from annoying, low-value web ads to ads that pull their weight economically.

(More: Targeted Advertising Considered Harmful)

Planet DebianDaniel Pocock: updated for latest browsers

I've just updated with the latest versions of JSCommunicator and JsSIP.

The version of JsSIP that had been on the site was actually quite old, from February 2014 and the browsers have evolved a lot since then.

If you've tried it before and it didn't work consistently please try again and feel free to share any feedback you have.

Sociological ImagesChart of the Week: Rich Kids More Likely to be Working for Dad

A new paper by Martha Stinson and Christopher Wignall found that 9.6% of working-age men were working for their dad in 2010. The likelihood of nepotistic opportunism was related to class, generally climbing with the father’s income.


This is just a “snapshot,” writes Matt O’Brien for The Washington Post. It’s just one year. If we consider whether men have ever worked for their dads, the numbers get much higher. More than a quarter of men spend at least some time working for the same company as their fathers before their 30th birthday. O’Brien also cites a study by economist Miles Corak revealing that 70% of sons of the 1% in Canada have worked at the same place as their dad.

As O’Brien says: “The easiest way to get your foot in the door is for your dad to hold it open for you.”

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

Planet Linux AustraliaAndrew Pollock: [life] Day 296: The day of walking errands

We did a rather huge amount of pedestrian travel today.

I had the car booked in for a service, so after Sarah dropped Zoe off, and she'd watched a bit of TV, we drove over to Newstead to drop the car off.

I'd packed Zoe's scooter in the boot, and once we left the car dealership, we headed over to the Teneriffe cross-river ferry, which is currently conveniently depositing passengers at Hawthorne. Even more conveniently, the ferry was waiting for us as we arrived.

I'd booked haircuts for us at 10am, and we comfortably made it to the hairdresser with about 10 minutes to spare.

After that, it was time to head over to Tumble Tastics, which was quite close to the hairdresser's. We ended up getting there about 20 minutes early, but that was fine.

After Tumble Tastics, we headed home for lunch, and the car was ready to be picked up, so after a brief rest, we headed out again.

This time, Zoe said she wanted to walk, rather than ride the scooter, so we headed out on foot, reversing our trip.

We were in no particular hurry, so we stopped for a little play in a park over at Newstead that we'd discovered in the morning, and then picked up the car. It was a very hot day, so it was nice to get out of the heat.

On the way home, I discovered that the Hawthorne Markets were on. I had some paperwork to drop off to Zoe's school, so after I filled that out, we walked over to her school, dropped it off, and then walked back to the Hawthorne Markets.

I bumped into one of my fellow Thermomix Consultants, Katia, and got introduced to one of her friends, who it turns out, was at the very first trial Tumble Tastics class we went to. She also had a daughter named Zoe. So my Zoe knocked around with this Zoe and Katia's kids, and we grabbed some dinner there. It was a nice night out.

I love the feeling of community that I have now. I don't think I've had this feeling of being so well established in a place, within such a walking distance, ever before. I am truly grateful for living in such a wonderful neighbourhood and community.

Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: Getting things into Jessie (#7)

Keep in touch

We don’t really have a lot of spare capacity to check up on things, so if we ask for more information or send you away to do an upload, please stay in touch about it.

Do remove a moreinfo tag if you reply to a question and are now waiting for us again.

Do ping the bug if you get a green light about an upload, and have done it. (And remove moreinfo if it was set.)

Don’t be afraid of making sure we’re aware of progress.

Getting things into Jessie (#7) is a post from: | Flattr

Planet DebianCraig Small: WordPress 4.0.1 for Debian

WordPress recently released an update that had multiple security patches for their (then) current version 4.0. This release is 4.0.1 and includes important security fixes.  The Debian packages got just uploaded, if you are running the Debian packaged wordpress, you should update to 4.0.1+dfsg-1 or later.

I am going to look at these patches and see if they can and need to be backported to wordpress 3.6.1. Unfortunately I believe they will be. I’m also asking it to be unblocked into Jessie as it is a security fix.

There was, at the time of writing, no CVE numbers.

Planet Linux AustraliaLev Lafayette: A GnuCash Tutorial

Tutorial presentation of GnuCash given to the CPA Young Professionals group at Victoria University, 19th November, 2014

Planet DebianPetter Reinholdtsen: How to stay with sysvinit in Debian Jessie

By now, it is well known that Debian Jessie will not be using sysvinit as its boot system by default. But how can one keep using sysvinit in Jessie? It is fairly easy, and here are a few recipes, courtesy of Erich Schubert and Simon McVittie.

If you already are using Wheezy and want to upgrade to Jessie and keep sysvinit as your boot system, create a file /etc/apt/preferences.d/use-sysvinit with this content before you upgrade:

Package: systemd-sysv
Pin: release o=Debian
Pin-Priority: -1

This file content will tell apt and aptitude to not consider installing systemd-sysv as part of any installation and upgrade solution when resolving dependencies, and thus tell it to avoid systemd as a default boot system. The end result should be that the upgraded system keep using sysvinit.

If you are installing Jessie for the first time, there is no way to get sysvinit installed by default (debootstrap used by debian-installer have no option for this), but one can tell the installer to switch to sysvinit before the first boot. Either by using a kernel argument to the installer, or by adding a line to the preseed file used. First, the kernel command line argument:

preseed/late_command="in-target apt-get install -y sysvinit-core"

Next, the line to use in a preseed file:

d-i preseed/late_command string in-target apt-get install -y sysvinit-core

One can of course also do this after the first boot by installing the sysvinit-core package.

I recommend only using sysvinit if you really need it, as the sysvinit boot sequence in Debian have several hardware specific bugs on Linux caused by the fact that it is unpredictable when hardware devices show up during boot. But on the other hand, the new default boot system still have a few rough edges I hope will be fixed before Jessie is released.


CryptogramFriday Squid Blogging: Cephalopod Cognition

Tales of cephalopod behavior, including octopuses, squid, cuttlefish and nautiluses.

Cephalopod Cognition, published by Cambridge University Press, is currently available in hardcover, and the paperback edition will be available next week.

Planet DebianJoey Hess: propelling containers

Propellor has supported docker containers for a "long" time, and it works great. This week I've worked on adding more container support.

docker containers (revisited)

The syntax for docker containers has changed slightly. Here's how it looks now:

example :: Host
example = host ""
    & Docker.docked webserverContainer

webserverContainer :: Docker.Container
webserverContainer = Docker.container "webserver" "joeyh/debian-stable"
    & os (System (Debian (Stable "wheezy")) "amd64")
    & Docker.publish "80:80"
    & Apt.serviceInstalledRunning "apache2"
    & alias ""

That makes have a web server in a docker container, as you'd expect, and when propellor is used to deploy the DNS server it'll automatically make point to the host (or hosts!) where this container is docked.

I use docker a lot, but I have drank little of the Docker KoolAid. I'm not keen on using random blobs created by random third parties using either unreproducible methods, or the weirdly underpowered dockerfiles. (As for vast complicated collections of containers that each run one program and talk to one another etc ... I'll wait and see.)

That's why propellor runs inside the docker container and deploys whatever configuration I tell it to, in a way that's both replicatable later and lets me use the full power of Haskell.

Which turns out to be useful when moving on from docker containers to something else...

systemd-nspawn containers

Propellor now supports containers using systemd-nspawn. It looks a lot like the docker example.

example :: Host
example = host ""
    & Systemd.persistentJournal
    & Systemd.nspawned webserverContainer

webserverContainer :: Systemd.Container
webserverContainer = Systemd.container "webserver" chroot
    & Apt.serviceInstalledRunning "apache2"
    & alias ""
    chroot = Chroot.debootstrapped (System (Debian Unstable) "amd64") Debootstrap.MinBase

Notice how I specified the Debian Unstable chroot that forms the basis of this container. Propellor sets up the container by running debootstrap, boots it up using systemd-nspawn, and then runs inside the container to provision it.

Unlike docker containers, systemd-nspawn containers use systemd as their init, and it all integrates rather beautifully. You can see the container listed in systemctl status, including the services running inside it, use journalctl to examine its logs, etc.

But no, systemd is the devil, and docker is too trendy...


Propellor now also supports deploying good old chroots. It looks a lot like the other containers. Rather than repeat myself a third time, and because we don't really run webservers inside chroots much, here's a slightly different example.

example :: Host
example = host "mylaptop"
    & Chroot.provisioned (buildDepChroot "git-annex")

buildDepChroot :: Apt.Package -> Chroot.Chroot
buildDepChroot pkg = Chroot.debootstrapped system Debootstrap.buildd dir
    & Apt.buildDep pkg
    dir = /srv/chroot/builddep/"++pkg
   system = System (Debian Unstable) "amd64"

Again this uses debootstrap to build the chroot, and then it runs propellor inside the chroot to provision it (btw without bothering to install propellor there, thanks to the magic of bind mounts and completely linux distribution-independent packaging).

In fact, the systemd-nspawn container code reuses the chroot code, and so turns out to be really rather simple. 132 lines for the chroot support, and 167 lines for the systemd support (which goes somewhat beyond the nspawn containers shown above).

Which leads to the hardest part of all this...


Making a propellor property for debootstrap should be easy. And it was, for Debian systems. However, I have crazy plans that involve running propellor on non-Debian systems, to debootstrap something, and installing debootstrap on an arbitrary linux system is ... too hard.

In the end, I needed 253 lines of code to do it, which is barely one magnitude less code than the size of debootstrap itself. I won't go into the ugly details, but this could be made a lot easier if debootstrap catered more to being used outside of Debian.


Docker and systemd-nspawn have different strengths and weaknesses, and there are sure to be more container systems to come. I'm pleased that Propellor can add support for a new container system in a few hundred lines of code, and that it abstracts away all the unimportant differences between these systems.


Seems likely that systemd-nspawn containers can be nested to any depth. So, here's a new kind of fork bomb!

infinitelyNestedContainer :: Systemd.Container
infinitelyNestedContainer = Systemd.container "evil-systemd"
    (Chroot.debootstrapped (System (Debian Unstable) "amd64") Debootstrap.MinBase)
    & Systemd.nspawned infinitelyNestedContainer

Strongly typed purely functional container deployment can only protect us against a certian subset of all badly thought out systems. ;)

TEDA wildlife conservationist talks to a teen reporter about the past and future of a lush, green NYC


Eric Sanderson’s project Manahatta 2409 lets people imagine what New York City will look like in about 400 years. Could the whole city be reclaimed as green space? Image: Courtesy of Manahatta 2409

Conservation ecologist Eric Sanderson makes a science out of envisioning New York City in the past and the future. His Mannahatta project was a 10-year deep dive into the green landscape of Manhattan as it existed 400 years ago – and his new project, Mannahatta 2409, asks the public to create their own future visions for New York.

Ninth-grade ecology enthusiast Isabel Yehya was very excited to hear about this project. She asked to interview Sanderson after his talk at TEDYouth 2014. Below, an edited transcript of their conversation.

How did you start thinking about the past and future of New York? 

I moved [to New York] in 1998. I’m from California originally, and it was a complete shock to my system. I’d never lived in a big city before and I’d never lived on the East Coast. I had this job that took me to wild places all over the world — I went to something like 40 countries in five years to work on wildlife conservation. Then I would come back to New York and it just made me think, “How did this place happen?” That led to the Mannahatta project and trying to understand what was here before us.

Then toward the end of Mannahatta, I had a fellowship with an architectural institute — the Van Alen Institute –and I was meeting lots of architects and urban planners and talking about how ecology could work in urban planning. And I realized there were so many good ideas about how cities could be better. So I thought maybe I could make a vision to integrate all those things that I think are most important, asking: What’s the best of nature and the best of cities in the same place?

How do you think people see your future vision?

Some people don’t like it because their house is gone, and we have to remind them that it’s 400 years from now — so it won’t be their house anyway. This is a long-term vision.

Others like it, because a lot of people are frustrated with the traffic and the economics and fossil fuels and climate change — there’s all these bad things associated with the American lifestyle as we know it today.

Then there are those people who want to know: “How are you going to make it happen?” And for me, it’s not about the making. I don’t make anybody do anything; I can’t even get my son to do the dishes. It’s really about persuasion, and showing that the path we’re on now is not going to turn out well for a lot of people. People talk about how hard it is to change anything, but actually human culture is really changeable — in New York in particular. Even 20 years ago, people didn’t think of the city as a place for the environment, and now everybody who is young and active is talking about wanting to be in nature in the city.

So there are other paths we can get on that are going to make the world a better place and make the city a better place. That’s what we really need now: not just thinking about “What do I need now?” or “Why do I have unfortunate circumstances?,” but how do we create fortunate circumstances for everyone?

Do you have any plans to expand and update the Mannahatta website?

Yes. For now it only covers Manhattan, but we’re working to expand it to the rest of New York City – the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn, Staten Island and all the waterways in between. We’re also working to add more functionality. Right now it measures environmental performance for water, carbon, biodiversity and population, but we’re going to add an economics module. And we’ve been talking about a public health module. And maybe even a social equity kind of module.

Ecologist Eric Sanderson (left) was interviewed by 14-year-old student Isabel Yehya.

Ecologist Eric Sanderson (left) was interviewed by 14-year-old student Isabel Yehya.

Planet DebianNiels Thykier: Release Team unblock queue flushed

At the start of this week, I wrote that we had 58 open unblock requests open (of which 25 were tagged moreinfo).  Thanks to an extra effort from the Release Team, we now down to 25 open unblocks – of which 18 are tagged moreinfo.

We have now resolved 442 unblock requests (out of a total of 467).  The rate has also declined to an average of ~18 new unblock requests a day (over 26 days) and our closing rated increased to ~17.

With all of this awesomeness, some of us are now more than ready to have a well-deserved weekend to recharge our batteries.  Meanwhile, feel free to keep the RC bug fixes flowing into unstable.

TEDThe house is a witness: A TED Fellow makes art from the rubble of her homes lost to war

Zena el Khalil poses in the midst of her new exhibit, which makes the rubble of her mother and father's homes in Lebanon into beautiful art. Photo: Eva Zayat

Zena el Khalil poses in the midst of her new exhibit, which makes the rubble of her mother and father’s destroyed homes in Lebanon into art. Photo: Eva Zayat

Artist Zena el Khalil doesn’t have the family home she remembers from childhood. Her mother’s house in Lebanon was destroyed in a U.S. bomb attack in 1983, while her father’s house was occupied by the Israeli army for 22 years, until its withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. “Every home my grandfathers built was destroyed, bombed or occupied,” says Khalil.

This realization has led her to a notable turn away from her previously flamboyant work, like running around Beirut in a big pink wedding dress to spread a message of love and peace, and creating hot pink glittery sculptures mocking gender and political stereotypes. Her latest work soberly examines one of the harshest realities of living with war — displacement, and the loss of home.

In her current exhibition, “From Mirfaq to Vega,” el Khalil explores and mourns the physical and emotional repercussions of the destruction of her parents’ ancestral homes over decades of war and occupation in Lebanon. She does this through paintings, poetry, sculpture and sound. The exhibit is on view at the Giorgio Persano Gallery in Turin, Italy, through January 10, 2015.

Here, she tells the TED Blog the story of her journey into her family’s past to retrieve the broken pieces, in the hope that art can transmute conflict and suffering into peace.

Tell me how you made this new work, and what it’s about.

This work is about home — those we’ve had and those we’ve lost — and the people who destroyed them. It’s about land, boundaries, walls, breaking walls down — but ultimately, it’s about forgiveness and compassion and love.

My starting point was the idea that I don’t have a home that still exists from my childhood, because my parents’ houses were both blown up in two different wars in Lebanon. So I started by investigating this idea of a very personal and intimate space being taken away by force.

I’ve always grappled with the ongoing wars in my country. Now, with Syria so close by, I’m also thinking a lot about what’s happening there, and the refugees spilling into Lebanon that may not be able to go back and rebuild, possibly for decades. But the process of making these particular works took place on the sites of my own parents’ physical homes.

I began with my mother’s home, which was blown up in 1983 by the USS New Jersey when they came to Lebanon. It was just a random shelling: they were striking the mountains where my mother lives and her house was blown up. It was immediately rebuilt, because my grandfather happened to be a construction worker. But I found a house next to it that was never rebuilt — and that’s where my journey started.

I spent a few months in this abandoned house. I spent a lot time in it — weeks — drawing, talking to the walls, experiencing the space. These buildings stand as silent witnesses to the destruction around them. The house becomes a witness, in a way, both when it’s occupied and when it’s abandoned.

"The size of your faith is the size of your intellect." Al Aql, 2014. Indian ink, ashes, fabric and hair on canvas. Photo: Zena el Khalil

“The size of your faith is the size of your intellect.” Al Aql, 2014. Indian ink, ashes, fabric and hair on canvas. Photo: Zena el Khalil

I started trying to connect to the energy in this house. I did some paintings and little drawings, but the turning point was a performance where I dressed in the black and white religious clothing of the people of my region, the Druze. Then, I set fire to the white veil. I burnt many veils. From their ashes, I created an ink that I used to paint with — an ink that investigates the absence of light — and started making site-specific paintings where a great violence took place. I worked outdoors, directly on the land, and I dipped the veils that I hadn’t burned in ink, pounding the canvas really hard. They are energy-based paintings. I would have a period of meditation in the beginning, and then I’d hit the canvas with the veils. So all the paintings are both the imprints of the veil and the land underneath the canvas. At the last stage, I embroidered the poetry on top.

Where is your father’s house?

My father is from the south, close to the border with Israel. Our house there was occupied for 22 years by the Israeli army. It was on top of a hill, so it was a military strategic point. They appropriated the house and turned it into their headquarters. It was used as an interrogation center, and they were holding prisoners there.

I never actually saw this home until 2000, when the Israeli army left the south of Lebanon. The day I arrived was literally a few days after the Israeli army left. I documented it, took a lot of photographs. But until now, I’d never talked about what happened in it, or worked with the material I gathered there. So this summer, I started painting down there, too.

What kind of shape was it in when you got there in 2000?

It was disgusting. It had been used as a detention center, so I remember when I first walked in, the entire floor was covered in feces. They were keeping prisoners there. We eventually blew up the house and built a brand-new one. But when the army left our house, they left behind many “blast walls,”, each one being two meters of reinforced concrete that serve as a shield. Those are the only things we kept.

There was an oak tree my father used to play in as a child. When we arrived, we found the area covered with these blast walls and also little bunkers where they used to have snipers. Some of these bunkers were near the tree. The challenge was how to dismantle the bunkers without harming the tree. It took a few years, but eventually we got rid of them, and the tree survived.

From Mirfaq to Vega installation view, with Israeli Army Blast “T” Walls found on site of the family home in Hasbaya, May 2000. Photo: Zena el Khalil

“From Mirfaq to Vega” installation view, with Israeli Army Blast “T” Walls found on site of the family home in Hasbaya, May 2000. Photo: Zena el Khalil

You brought pieces of the blast walls to Italy as part of the exhibit.

Yes. The centerpiece of the exhibition is two of these walls from the house. I shipped them from Lebanon to Italy, and each weighs close to two tons.

I also decided to make a kind of homage to the tree. I made some rotating sculptures that resemble trees. But where the branches are, there is calligraphy I sculpted out of wood and plexiglass. It’s a poem, and the whole thing turns, so that the shadows of the letters are projected on the wall. In many ways, they resemble prayer wheels or whirling dervishes. The trees rotate slowly, filling the space with light.

The text that I used in the trees is the poem “Ya Dirati,”  written by a distant relative, Zayd Al Atrash, who was escaping the French in the 1920s. My great-grandfather fought alongside him and contributed a line of the poem. It was a different war, with different occupiers, but it’s the same idea about land and loss of land. We have a tradition of oral storytelling passed down through poetry. My grandmother used to sing this poem to me as a child, when she’d tell me stories of her father and my ancestors.

"Love, forgiveness." Mantra, detail. Photo: Zena el Khalil

“Love, forgiveness.” Mantra, detail. Photo: Zena el Khalil

This poem was also turned into a song by a famous musician at the time, Asmahan, who was the niece of Zayd. I wanted to re-create her song in the exhibition, using sound to tie everything in. Working with audio producer Ray Hage, we created six ambient sound pieces that play in the background of the exhibition. They are all based on recordings we did with me reading mantras that I used for paintings in the exhibition.

Mantra 1 is: Land, honor, love, compassion, forgiveness.

Mantra 2 is: And my heart is full of love. And my heart is full of love. And my heart is full of love. And my heart is full of love. And my heart is full of forgiveness. And I shine bright, with present light.

One of the sound pieces is a remake of Asmahan’s song. I asked a musician friend, Elizabeth Ayoub, if she could sing the lines of the poem for us. I am in love with her voice, and because she is also from south Lebanon, I felt it was a perfect match. She also knows the pain of losing her home.

Why did you feel it was important to bring the walls over?

There are museums all over the world dedicated to telling the stories of wars and civilizations. There are artifacts in these museums that help us better understand these histories. The Gate of Ishtar in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin gives us an inclination of what Babylon must have been like. The blue-tiled walls adorned with lions, bulls and dragons protected the city from invaders, but also give us insight to Babylon’s culture, the religion, power and people. The Holocaust museums around the world tell us of the tragedy of the Jewish people. We see personal artifacts, human belongings — books, letters, teeth — that are extensions of lives lost. These people then cease to become nameless war victims. They are not just numbers. They are Ana, David, Catarina, Hana, Benjamin.

We don’t have spaces in the Middle East — or really anywhere – dedicated to telling the story of the contemporary Arab people and the wars we are enduring.

I had to start somewhere. So I started with myself, being the family archivist, to start building a database of our lives, histories and experiences. By starting with the most personal, maybe we have a chance to share our stories and subsequently, a shift might happen in the public’s scope of perception and understanding of my region. We could move from being just numbers to becoming actual people — and the world would begin to understand that we are witnessing the slow destruction of an entire culture.

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Above: Watch this short film to see footage from el Khalil’s family homes in Lebanon, as well as experience the gallery installation, including the poem tree and ambient sound pieces.

This occupation happened, and my grandfather died without ever being able to return to his home. These facts are true. The walls are a physical connection to a story fading fast into the past. They are artifacts, relics, affirmations of a specific history that must be told.

Ultimately I am bringing to light the disaster that happened to us, with the hope that we can find the capacity to love again, and to forgive, and move forward. But to move forward, we also have to fully acknowledge our past. Everyone has to take responsibility before any kind of reconciliation can begin.

When you went to the house for the first time, was your father with you?


It must have been really hard on him. It must have felt very strange.

Yes, it was. What was even stranger was I went into some of these bunkers and there was graffiti in Hebrew, but also in English. A lot of American Jews are flown to Israel for free under a principle of birthright. They come and visit, stay in a kibbutz and are taught about their land. Many decide to stay because it’s like a utopia. But there’s the obligatory three-year military service, so eventually these American kids join the army.

So when I was looking at this graffiti, I was like, “It’s some kid from Wisconsin.” He just happened to be Jewish and came to Israel and now he’s in my house! Some of the graffiti was really funny. I remember there was a list of “Top 10 things I want to do when I go back home.” Number one was, I think, “Never wear green and khaki ever again.” Number two was like, “Eat Mom’s cooking.” Number three: “Have sex without having to pay for it.” You realize they’re just kids.

You said that ultimately this work is about forgiveness and compassion. What can you say about the innocence of these soldiers — the innocence of people who get caught up in things that are bigger than themselves?

Yeah, that happens all the time. Regardless of race or gender, when the war machine starts, it’s very hard to avoid it. Most people join armies for economic reasons. Or you have to join a side or die. It’s always the people of lowest income who are the greatest victims, because they don’t have the financial capacity to avoid war.

So kids join the army, they die, family members take revenge — it’s a vicious cycle. And of course it’s very important at this point to understand that these wars are not really home-grown. Lebanon is a proxy. This is America versus Russia. This is Israel versus Iran. What’s happening in Syria now is for resources — oil, gas, water.

My personal understanding of all this is that it’s a continuation of what started on September 11th, because that was the moment where everything changed. There was always war in the Middle East, but this was different because the Americans were very actively involved. What started in Afghanistan and Iraq has been spreading, and even when there were periods of calm in one country, it was blowing up in another one.

“From fire, we create life. From destruction, we find the strength to construct meaning in our lives. If stars destroy themselves, then maybe it’s only natural for us to do the same. We are obeying the fundamental laws of our universe. Churning each other up, and spitting out starstuff. Constantly. Effortlessly.” Al Aql, 2014. Photo: Zena el Khalil

“From fire, we create life. From destruction, we find the strength to construct meaning in our lives. If stars destroy themselves, then maybe it’s only natural for us to do the same. We are obeying the fundamental laws of our universe. Churning each other up, and spitting out star stuff. Constantly. Effortlessly.”
Al Aql, 2014. Photo: Zena el Khalil

For those of us who live here, I feel the only way to move forward is for us to understand each other better, to come to terms with things, to become personally responsible for where we live and how we interact with our neighbors. So on my part, I feel like the most I can do is to plant these seeds of forgiveness. I’m ready to forgive people for taking away my home. If I can do it, it could be a first step. It’s not easy, but look at South Africa. Through reconciliation projects, there have been possibilities to start living together again. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.

I don’t know if there’s an ideal model, but I think with time, it is possible. Change has to start from within. So if I can find the capacity to forgive and move forward, maybe my brother can too, and then my cousins, and my friends and then my entire community. And that’s it, you have the seeds of change starting to grow.

What does “From Mirfaq to Vega” refer to?

Mirfaq and Vega are the names of stars I worked under as I painted this summer. Being in the south of Lebanon, there was very little light pollution. I spent many nights sleeping outdoors staring at these two bright points, thinking about how each human being is a beautiful shining star. Together, we make up the constellations of the universe. We are all connected. I felt our ancestors walking with me. “Our fire burns bright. We are creating our path to light. Bombs cannot fall here tonight.”

“From Mirfaq to Vega” is showing at Giorgio Persano Gallery in Turin, Italy, through January 10, 2015.

Planet DebianRichard Hartmann: Release Critical Bug report for Week 47

There's a BSP this weekend. If you're interested in remote participation, please join #debian-muc on

The UDD bugs interface currently knows about the following release critical bugs:

  • In Total: 1213 (Including 210 bugs affecting key packages)
    • Affecting Jessie: 342 (key packages: 152) That's the number we need to get down to zero before the release. They can be split in two big categories:
      • Affecting Jessie and unstable: 260 (key packages: 119) Those need someone to find a fix, or to finish the work to upload a fix to unstable:
        • 37 bugs are tagged 'patch'. (key packages: 20) Please help by reviewing the patches, and (if you are a DD) by uploading them.
        • 12 bugs are marked as done, but still affect unstable. (key packages: 3) This can happen due to missing builds on some architectures, for example. Help investigate!
        • 211 bugs are neither tagged patch, nor marked done. (key packages: 96) Help make a first step towards resolution!
      • Affecting Jessie only: 82 (key packages: 33) Those are already fixed in unstable, but the fix still needs to migrate to Jessie. You can help by submitting unblock requests for fixed packages, by investigating why packages do not migrate, or by reviewing submitted unblock requests.
        • 65 bugs are in packages that are unblocked by the release team. (key packages: 26)
        • 17 bugs are in packages that are not unblocked. (key packages: 7)

How do we compare to the Squeeze release cycle?

Week Squeeze Wheezy Jessie
43 284 (213+71) 468 (332+136) 319 (240+79)
44 261 (201+60) 408 (265+143) 274 (224+50)
45 261 (205+56) 425 (291+134) 295 (229+66)
46 271 (200+71) 401 (258+143) 427 (313+114)
47 283 (209+74) 366 (221+145) 342 (260+82)
48 256 (177+79) 378 (230+148)
49 256 (180+76) 360 (216+155)
50 204 (148+56) 339 (195+144)
51 178 (124+54) 323 (190+133)
52 115 (78+37) 289 (190+99)
1 93 (60+33) 287 (171+116)
2 82 (46+36) 271 (162+109)
3 25 (15+10) 249 (165+84)
4 14 (8+6) 244 (176+68)
5 2 (0+2) 224 (132+92)
6 release! 212 (129+83)
7 release+1 194 (128+66)
8 release+2 206 (144+62)
9 release+3 174 (105+69)
10 release+4 120 (72+48)
11 release+5 115 (74+41)
12 release+6 93 (47+46)
13 release+7 50 (24+26)
14 release+8 51 (32+19)
15 release+9 39 (32+7)
16 release+10 20 (12+8)
17 release+11 24 (19+5)
18 release+12 2 (2+0)

Graphical overview of bug stats thanks to azhag:

Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: On kFreeBSD and FOSDEM

Boy I love rumours. Recently I’ve heard two, which I ought to put to rest now everybody’s calmed down from recent events.

kFreeBSD isn’t an official Jessie architecture because <insert systemd-related scare story>

Not true.

Our sprint at ARM (who kindly hosted and caffeinated us for four days) was timed to coincide with the Cambridge Mini-DebConf 2014. The intention was that this would save on travel costs for those members of the Release Team who wanted to attend the conference, and give us a jolly good excuse to actually meet up. Winners all round.

It also had an interesting side-effect. The room we used was across the hall from the lecture theatre being used as hack space and, later, the conference venue, which meant everybody attending during those two days could see us locked away there (and yes, we were in there all day for two days solid, except for lunch times and coffee missions). More than one conference attendee remarked to me in person that it was interesting for them to see us working (although of course they couldn’t hear what we were discussing), and hadn’t appreciated before that how much time and effort goes into our meetings.

Most of our first morning was taken up with the last pieces of architecture qualification, and that was largely the yes/no decision we had to make about kFreeBSD. And you know what? I don’t recall us talking about systemd in that context at all. Don’t forget kFreeBSD already had a waiver for a reduced scope in Jessie because of the difficulty in porting systemd to it.

It’s sadly impossible to capture the long and detailed discussion we had into a couple of lines of status information in a bits mail. If bits mails were much longer, people would be put off reading them, and we really really want you to take note of what’s in there. The little space we do have needs to be factual and to the point, and not include all the background that led us to a decision.

So no, the lack of an official Jessie release of kFreeBSD has very little, if anything, to do with systemd.

Jessie will be released during (or even before) FOSDEM

Not necessarily true.

Debian releases are made when they’re ready. That sets us apart from lots of other distributions, and is a large factor in our reputation for stability. We may have a target date in mind for a freeze, because that helps both us and the rest of the project plan accordingly. But we do not have a release date in mind, and will not do so until we get much closer to being ready. (Have you squashed an RC bug today?)

I think this rumour originated from the office of the DPL, but it’s certainly become more concrete than I think Lucas intended.

However, it is true that we’ve gone into this freeze with a seriously low bug count, because of lots of other factors. So it may indeed be that we end up in good enough shape to think about releasing near (or even at) FOSDEM. But rest assured, Debian 8 “Jessie” will be released when it’s ready, and even we don’t know when that will be yet.

(Of course, if we do release before then, you could consider throwing us a party. Plenty of the Release Team, FTP masters and CD team will be at FOSDEM, release or none.)

On kFreeBSD and FOSDEM is a post from: | Flattr

Planet DebianGunnar Wolf: Status of the Debian OpenPGP keyring — November update

Almost two months ago I posted our keyring status graphs, showing the progress of the transition to >=2048-bit keys for the different active Debian keyrings. So, here are the new figures.

First, the Non-uploading keyring: We were already 100% transitioned. You will only notice a numerical increase: That little bump at the right is our dear friend Tássia finally joining as a Debian Developer. Welcome! \o/

As for the Maintainers keyring: We can see a sharp increase in 4096-bit keys. Four 1024-bit DM keys were migrated to 4096R, but we did have eight new DMs coming in To them, also, welcome \o/.

Sadly, we had to remove a 1024-bit key, as Peter Miller sadly passed away. So, in a 234-key universe, 12 new 4096R keys is a large bump!

Finally, our current-greatest worry — If for nothing else, for the size of the beast: The active Debian Developers keyring. We currently have 983 keys in this keyring, so it takes considerably more effort to change it.

But we have managed to push it noticeably.

This last upload saw a great deal of movement. We received only one new DD (but hey — welcome nonetheless! \o/ ). 13 DD keys were retired; as one of the maintainers of the keyring, of course this makes me sad — but then again, in most cases it's rather an acknowledgement of fact: Those keys' holders often state they had long not been really involved in the project, and the decision to retire was in fact timely. But the greatest bulk of movement was the key replacements: A massive 62 1024D keys were replaced with stronger ones. And, yes, the graph changed quite abruptly:

We still have a bit over one month to go for our cutoff line, where we will retire all 1024D keys. It is important to say we will not retire the affected accounts, mark them as MIA, nor anything like that. If you are a DD and only have a 1024D key, you will still be a DD, but you will be technically unable to do work directly. You can still upload your packages or send announcements to regulated mailing lists via sponsor requests (although you will be unable to vote).

Speaking of votes: We have often said that we believe the bulk of the short keys belong to people not really active in the project anymore. Not all of them, sure, but a big proportion. We just had a big, controversial GR vote with one of the highest voter turnouts in Debian's history. I checked the GR's tally sheet, and the results are interesting: Please excuse my ugly bash, but I'm posting this so you can play with similar runs on different votes and points in time using the public keyring Git repository:

  1. $ git checkout 2014.10.10
  2. $ for KEY in $( for i in $( grep '^V:' tally.txt |
  3. awk '{print "<" $3 ">"}' )
  4. do
  5. grep $i keyids|cut -f 1 -d ' '
  6. done )
  7. do
  8. if [ -f debian-keyring-gpg/$KEY -o -f debian-nonupload-gpg/$KEY ]
  9. then
  10. gpg --keyring /dev/null --keyring debian-keyring-gpg/$KEY \
  11. --keyring debian-nonupload-gpg/$KEY --with-colons \
  12. --list-key $KEY 2>/dev/null \
  13. | head -2 |tail -1 | cut -f 3 -d :
  14. fi
  15. done | sort | uniq -c
  16. 95 1024
  17. 13 2048
  18. 1 3072
  19. 371 4096
  20. 2 8192

So, as of mid-October: 387 out of the 482 votes (80.3%) were cast by developers with >=2048-bit keys, and 95 (19.7%) were cast by short keys.

If we were to run the same vote with the new active keyring, 417 votes would have been cast with >=2048-bit keys (87.2%), and 61 with short keys (12.8%). We would have four less votes, as they retired:

  1. 61 1024
  2. 14 2048
  3. 2 3072
  4. 399 4096
  5. 2 8192

So, lets hear it for November/December. How much can we push down that pesky yellow line?

Disclaimer: Any inaccuracy due to bugs in my code is completely my fault!

Krebs on SecurityConvicted ID Thief, Tax Fraudster Now Fugitive

In April 2014, this blog featured a story about Lance Ealy, an Ohio man arrested last year for buying Social Security numbers and banking information from an underground identity theft service that relied in part on data obtained through a company owned by big-three credit bureau Experian. Earlier this week, Ealy was convicted of using the data to fraudulently claim tax refunds with the IRS in the names of more than 175 U.S. citizens, but not before he snipped his monitoring anklet and skipped town.

Lance Ealy, in self-portrait he uploaded to twitter before absconding.

Lance Ealy, in selfie he uploaded to Twitter before absconding.

On Nov. 18, a jury in Ohio convicted Ealy, 28, on all 46 charges, including aggravated identity theft, and wire and mail fraud. Government prosecutors presented evidence that Ealy had purchased Social Security numbers and financial data on hundreds of consumers, using an identity theft service called (later renamed The jury found that Ealy used that information to fraudulently file at least 179 tax refund requests with the Internal Revenue Service, and to open up bank accounts in other victims’ names — accounts he set up to receive and withdraw tens of thousand of dollars in refund payments from the IRS.

The identity theft service that Ealy used was dismantled in 2013, after investigators with the U.S. Secret Service arrested its proprietor and began tracking and finding many of his customers. Investigators later discovered that the service’s owner had obtained much of the consumer data from data brokers by posing as a private investigator based in the United States.

In reality, the owner of was a Vietnamese man paying for his accounts at data brokers using cash wire transfers from a bank in Singapore. Among the companies that Ngo signed up with was Court Ventures, a California company that was bought by credit bureau Experian nine months before the government shut down

Court records show that Ealy went to great lengths to delay his trial, and even reached out to this reporter hoping that I would write about his allegations that everyone from his lawyer to the judge in the case was somehow biased against him or unfit to participate in his trial. Early on, Ealy fired his attorney, and opted to represent himself. When the court appointed him a public defender, Ealy again choose to represent himself.

“Mr. Ealy’s motions were in a lot of respects common delay tactics that defendants use to try to avoid the inevitability of a trial,” said Alex Sistla, an assistant U.S. attorney in Ohio who helped prosecute the case.

Ealy also continued to steal peoples’ identities while he was on trial (although no longer buying from, according to the government. His bail was revoked for several months, but in October the judge in the case ordered him released on a surety bond.

It is said that a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client, and this seems doubly true when facing criminal charges by the U.S. government. Ealy’s trial lasted 11 days, and involved more than 70 witnesses — many of the ID theft victims. His last appearance in court was on Friday. When investigators checked in on Ealy at his home over the weekend, they found his electronic monitoring bracelet but not Ealy.

Ealy faces up to 10 years in prison on each count of possessing 15 or more unauthorized access devices with intent to defraud and using unauthorized access devices to obtain items of $1,000 or more in value; up to five years in prison on each count of filing false claims for income tax refunds with the IRS; up to 20 years in prison on each count of wire fraud and each count of mail fraud; and mandatory two-year sentences on each count of aggravated identity theft that must run consecutive to whatever sentence may ultimately be handed down. Each count of conviction also carries a fine of up to $250,000.

I hope they find Mr. Ealy soon and lock him up for a very long time. Unfortunately, he is one of countless fraudsters perpetrating this costly and disruptive form of identity theft. In 2014, both my sister and I were the victims of tax ID theft, learning that unknown fraudsters had already filed tax refunds in our names when we each filed our taxes with the IRS.

I would advise all U.S. readers to request a tax filing PIN from the IRS (sadly, it turns out that I applied for mine in Feburary, only days after the thieves filed my tax return). If approved, the PIN is required on any tax return filed for that consumer before a return can be accepted. To start the process of applying for a tax return PIN from the IRS, check out the steps at this link. You will almost certainly need to file an IRS form 14039 (PDF), and provide scanned or photocopied records, such a drivers license or passport.

To read more about other ID thieves who were customers of that the Secret Service has nabbed and put on trial, check out the stories in this series. Ealy’s account on Twitter is an also an eye-opener.

TEDTED@StateStreet offers words to inspire leaders at every level

Patrice Thompson speaks at TED@State Street salon at Troxy, November 18, 2014, London, England.

At TED@StateStreet, Patrice Thompson shares how two generations with very different ideals can work together effectively. Photo: Paul Sanders/TED

From anti-jargon campaigns to how Gen X and Gen Y can collaborate, TED@StateStreet highlighted ideas to inspire leaders at every level. This TED Institute event, held in London on November 18, showcased speakers from both inside and outside the financial services company. Throughout, the focus was on innovative thinking in work culture.

Below, quotes worth sharing from each of the TED@StateStreet talks:

“The quality of our conversations matter. Great achievements only come after great conversations.” —John O’Leary, communications advocate 

“We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We have the rim, the hub and the spokes — we just need to put them together.” —Paul O’Connell, economist

“Big social changes can start with seemingly small, mundane actions.” —Christina Balch, selfie artist

“Imagine if your life were defined by the thing you were most ashamed of. What skills and talents would the world miss out on?” —Alexander McLean, TED Fellow

“What I’d always thought was simply a personal matter, I now see has a ripple effect out into the workplace and community. If I don’t share who I really am, I may be inadvertently contributing to an atmosphere of discrimination.” —Morgana Bailey, Human Resources activist

“Here are three ways to improve your communication: 1) Know your audience. 2) Know what you’re trying to say. 3) Get to the point, and do it quickly.” —Thea Knight, anti-jargon crusader

“No one is denying there’s a global education problem. How can we fix it?” —Todd Gershkowitz, education disruptor

What's in a name? More than you think, says Cynthia Win at TED@StateStreet. Photo: Paul Sanders/TED

What’s in a name? More than you think, says Cynthia Win at TED@StateStreet. Photo: Paul Sanders/TED

“We have to change the dialogue on immigration. Immigration is a catalyst, a vital force. It is a social good that makes communities more interesting.” —Tim Graf, global soul

“It took me 32 interviews to get one job. The most important thing I learned? Persistence, persistence, persistence.” —Ashwini Mrinal Bhagat, company culturist

“How can companies improve employee engagement across generations? Three ways: 1) Encourage more collaborative projects, 2) Cross-train staff on different roles, and 3) Recognize and reward valuable ideas.” —Patrice Thompson, generational diplomat

“I am drawn to ghost towns. I always wonder, how many ghost towns are we in the process of creating today?” —Abbey Williams, ghost town explorer

“Shakespeare — financier, poet, playwright — should be our inspiration today.” —John Bolton, business imaginist 

“In some parts of Asia, more and more people are adopting Western names for convenience. If we don’t put in the effort to learn the names from other cultures today, will we still see traditionally meaningful names in the next generation?”  —Cynthia Win, name decoder 

“When professional footballers transfer teams, their original team receives a fee. What if companies did the same thing with employees?” —Yusuf Nurbhai, management innovator

“I started off studying to be a doctor. Then I became a poet. Poetry is a less quantifiable way of saving lives.” —Harry Baker, slam poet

Don MartiRound-up for your future?

Another example of how the firearms industry is better at thinking long-term than the IT industry is.

MidwayUSA has a NRA Round-Up Program to make it easy for customers to make a small change donation to the National Rifle Association when placing an order. They have collected more than $10 million just through that one program (and they have others).

Does any IT vendor offer "round up for EFF?"

The IT industry in the USA depends on the First and Fourth Amendments, but we don't take care of them the way that the firearms industry helps with the Second. More: Learning from Second Amendment defenders.

Planet DebianDaniel Pocock: PostBooks 4.7 packages available, xTupleCon 2014 award

I recently updated the PostBooks packages in Debian and Ubuntu to version 4.7. This is the version that was released in Ubuntu 14.10 (Utopic Unicorn) and is part of the upcoming Debian 8 (jessie) release.

Better prospects for Fedora and RHEL/CentOS/EPEL packages

As well as getting the packages ready, I've been in contact with xTuple helping them generalize their build system to make packaging easier. This has eliminated the need to patch the makefiles during the build. As well as making it easier to support the Debian/Ubuntu packages, this should make it far easier for somebody to create a spec file for RPM packaging too.

Debian wins a prize

While visiting xTupleCon 2014 in Norfolk, I was delighted to receive the Community Member of the Year award which I happily accepted not just for my own efforts but for the Debian Project as a whole.

Steve Hackbarth, Director of Product Development at xTuple, myself and the impressive Community Member of the Year trophy

This is a great example of the productive relationships that exist between Debian, upstream developers and the wider free software community and it is great to be part of a team that can synthesize the work from so many other developers into ready-to-run solutions on a 100% free software platform.

Receiving this award really made me think about all the effort that has gone into making it possible to apt-get install postbooks and all the people who have collectively done far more work than myself to make this possible:

Here is a screenshot of the xTuple web / JSCommunicator integration, it was one of the highlights of xTupleCon:

and gives a preview of the wide range of commercial opportunities that WebRTC is creating for software vendors to displace traditional telecommunications providers.

xTupleCon also gave me a great opportunity to see new features (like the xTuple / Drupal web shop integration) and hear about the success of consultants and their clients deploying xTuple/PostBooks in various scenarios. The product is extremely strong in meeting the needs of manufacturing and distribution and has gained a lot of traction in these industries in the US. Many of these features are equally applicable in other markets with a strong manufacturing industry such as Germany or the UK. However, it is also flexible enough to simply disable many of the specialized features and use it as a general purpose accounting solution for consulting and services businesses. This makes it a good option for many IT freelancers and support providers looking for a way to keep their business accounts in a genuinely open source solution with a strong SQL backend and a native Linux desktop interface.

Sociological ImagesExcluding Blacks From The National Collective

Flashback Friday.

In a great book, The Averaged American, sociologist Sarah Igo uses case studies to tell the intellectual history of statistics, polling, and sampling. The premise is fascinating:  Today we’re bombarded with statistics about the U.S. population, but this is a new development.  Before the science developed, the concept was elusive and the knowledge was impossible. In other words, before statistics, there was no “average American.”

There are lots of fascinating insights in her book, but a post by Byron York brought one in particular to mind.  Here’s a screenshot of his opening lines (emphasis added by Jay Livingston):


The implication here is, of course, that Black Americans aren’t “real” Americans and that including them in opinion poll data is literally skewing the results.

Scientists designed the famous Middletown study with exactly this mentality.  Trying to determine who the average American was, scientists excluded Black Americans out of hand.  Of course, that was in the 1920s and ’30s.  How wild to see the same mentality in the 2000s.

Originally posted in 2009.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

Planet DebianJulien Danjou: Distributed group management and locking in Python with tooz

With OpenStack embracing the Tooz library more and more over the past year, I think it's a good start to write a bit about it.

A bit of history

A little more than year ago, with my colleague Yassine Lamgarchal and others at eNovance, we investigated on how to solve a problem often encountered inside OpenStack: synchronization of multiple distributed workers. And while many people in our ecosystem continue to drive development by adding new bells and whistles, we made a point of solving new problems with a generic solution able to address the technical debt at the same time.

Yassine wrote the first ideas of what should be the group membership service that was needed for OpenStack, identifying several projects that could make use of this. I've presented this concept during the OpenStack Summit in Hong-Kong during an Oslo session. It turned out that the idea was well-received, and the week following the summit we started the tooz project on StackForge.


Tooz is a Python library that provides a coordination API. Its primary goal is to handle groups and membership of these groups in distributed systems.

Tooz also provides another useful feature which is distributed locking. This allows distributed nodes to acquire and release locks in order to synchronize themselves (for example to access a shared resource).

The architecture

If you are familiar with distributed systems, you might be thinking that there are a lot of solutions already available to solve these issues: ZooKeeper, the Raft consensus algorithm or even Redis for example.

You'll be thrilled to learn that Tooz is not the result of the NIH syndrome, but is an abstraction layer on top of all these solutions. It uses drivers to provide the real functionalities behind, and does not try to do anything fancy.

All the drivers do not have the same amount of functionality of robustness, but depending on your environment, any available driver might be suffice. Like most of OpenStack, we let the deployers/operators/developers chose whichever backend they want to use, informing them of the potential trade-offs they will make.

So far, Tooz provides drivers based on:

All drivers are distributed across processes. Some can be distributed across the network (ZooKeeper, memcached, redis…) and some are only available on the same host (IPC).

Also note that the Tooz API is completely asynchronous, allowing it to be more efficient, and potentially included in an event loop.


Group membership

Tooz provides an API to manage group membership. The basic operations provided are: the creation of a group, the ability to join it, leave it and list its members. It's also possible to be notified as soon as a member joins or leaves a group.

Leader election

Each group can have a leader elected. Each member can decide if it wants to run for the election. If the leader disappears, another one is elected from the list of current candidates. It's possible to be notified of the election result and to retrieve the leader of a group at any moment.

Distributed locking

When trying to synchronize several workers in a distributed environment, you may need a way to lock access to some resources. That's what a distributed lock can help you with.

Adoption in OpenStack

Ceilometer is the first project in OpenStack to use Tooz. It has replaced part of the old alarm distribution system, where RPC was used to detect active alarm evaluator workers. The group membership feature of Tooz was leveraged by Ceilometer to coordinate between alarm evaluator workers.

Another new feature part of the Juno release of Ceilometer is the distribution of polling tasks of the central agent among multiple workers. There's again a group membership issue to know which nodes are online and available to receive polling tasks, so Tooz is also being used here.

The Oslo team has accepted the adoption of Tooz during this release cycle. That means that it will be maintained by more developers, and will be part of the OpenStack release process.

This opens the door to push Tooz further in OpenStack. Our next candidate would be write a service group driver for Nova.

The complete documentation for Tooz is available online and has examples for the various features described here, go read it if you're curious and adventurous!

Planet Linux AustraliaCraige McWhirter: Craige McWhirter: An Unexpected Journey

Earlier this year I was braced for a hard and personally gruelling year. What I didn't expect however, was that after my return to Sydney that an old friend would reveal how she truly felt about me. It was a brave moment for her but fortunately for us both I'd harboured the same feelings toward her.

How was I to know,

That you would rise,

Like a burning angel in my eyes

As expected, this year has certainly lived up to and exceeded those difficult expectations to be undoubtedly the most challenging year of my life. However I've been fortunate to balance that by now having the most amazing woman by my side.

Fiona's love, support, advice and humour has been an unprecedented experience in my life. I've found a lover and a partner in crime with whom I've formed an indomitable team as we've had each others backs through some rather unbelievable trials.

Which brings me to Paris. We walked to Pont des Arts, the bridge across the Seine and added our padlock at the centre of the bridge, amongst the thousands of others and made a wish.

Then we kissed.

I asked Fiona what she wished for but was politely told it was a secret.

I said I would tell her what I wished for, then dropped to one knee and paused for long enough to read the unmistakeable expression of "What are you doing? Get up you idiot!" written across Fiona's face before I produced an engagement ring and asked Fiona to marry me.

Fiona's Engagement Ring

Fiona said "yes!".

Before too long,

We'll be together and no one will tear us apart

Before too long,

The words will be spoken I know all the action by heart

Earlier in the night I'd slipped an engagement pendant into Fiona's pocket which she discovered and put around my neck before we celebrated with a meal opposite Notre Dame cathedral.

Craige's engagement pendant

I still shake my head in disbelief at how two such independent people have found themselves in a place where they cannot imagine their life without the other. Yet that's where we are.

Our life going forward is going to complicated and challenging, however there will be an awful lot of love and we'll have each other's backs all the way.

Thank you Fiona, for bringing such love and light into my life.

I've found the one I've waited for

All this time I've loved you

And never known your face

All this time I've missed you

And searched this human race

Here is true peace

Here my heart knows calm

Safe in your soul

Bathed in your sighs

Want to stay right here

Until the end of time

Sometimes, dreams do come true.

Planet Linux AustraliaAndrew Pollock: [life] Day 295: A big long play date

I met Kelley at the first P&C meeting I went to, and she immediately took me under her wing, and later gave me a bit of a tour of the school, and some tips on Prep teachers and whatnot. I then proceeded to run into her nearly every time I went near the school.

She has a daughter, Chloe, starting Prep next year, and an older daughter in Year 3, and she's fairly well entrenched in the school community.

I thought it'd be good for Zoe to get to know Chloe a bit better, so she's one more person she knows at the start of school next year, so we had a play date at her house.

The girls seem to get along well, and Kelley's really nice. We have similar views in a lot of areas, and her husband works in IT security, so I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

After lunch, due to the heat, we decided to bike down to the Colmslie Pool together. Kelley has a bike adapter trailer thing that couples a normal kid's bike to the back of hers, with the front wheel slightly elevated.

Zoe made me very proud at the pool, doing a kneeling dive into the water and swimming half the length of the indoor pool. Her swimming continues to progress in leaps and bounds.

We had a good time at the pool, and then biked back to school so Kelley could pick up her other daughter. We just hung out at the pool a bit early for swim class, and then biked home afterwards.

Sarah picked up Zoe, and then I headed out for the second Thermomix cooking class I've had to help out with. This one was a bit more fun for me because we had a great number of consultants on hand to share the workload, and I wasn't on washing up duties this time.

Cory DoctorowLittle Brother middle school English curriculum materials

James Scot Brodie is a teacher at Presidio Middle School in San Francisco, where Jen Wang and I spoke last month on our tour for In Real Life; prior to my arriving, he assigned my book Little Brother to his students, and produced some curricular materials that he's generously given to me to publish.

Little Brother Portfolio | Little Brother Acronym Challenge | Little Brother Biography project

He writes,

I was thrilled when the librarian announced that Cory Doctorow was going to make an appearance at our school. As an English teacher, aspiring writer, and complete nerd -- I find author visits a nice perk to the job. The students too, like to get out of the classroom whenever they can and author visits are a rare treat. I’ve been teaching for about five years and I’ve met two authors. It then dawned on me that we seldom read the books of the authors that come to visit our school. Mainly because our closets are filled with tons of dead people. Maybe five percent of our class sets are from the living, although Mr. Gomez somehow scored 40 copies of The Fault In Our Stars (he must know someone).

Nevertheless, it was early September and Doctorow was set to visit on October 16. I was determined to have my students read the book, but we only had ten copies from a box on loan from the public library. Now, Doctorow is super generous with his stuff and offers a lot of material to educators and students for free via his website, so I figured I would tap into this and download the book. At the same time I didn’t want to print up 102 copies for my 3 English classes. That would take forever, cost a lot, and kill too many trees. So, long story short, this is what I did: I purchased the audio book, and two copies of the text. I read the book, making “marginal” and underlining vocabulary words, slowly sculpting it into a “teacher’s edition.” I also came up with questions for each chapter. Most the questions are simple guided questions (who, what, when, where and why), but I also made sure that each chapter has a question where the students can relate the reading to their own lives -- these inquiries were also great springboards for interesting classroom discussions. I printed up these sheets and students completed them as we listened to the audio book. This is where the second book comes into play – I used the unmarked version of the text to display on the white board at the front of the class via my ELMO projector for all the class to see. I was surprised at how huge I could get the book -- it was roughly four feet by six feet and I didn’t know this but the little orange button on the left is for focusing (a student pointed this out to me). I’ll have to say it was one of the most positive reading experiences I’ve ever had with a class. It may be psychological but the minute I projected the book on the board and hit the play button on the audio book -- students were enthralled as if watching a movie. Of course it may also have something to do with Mr. Doctorow’s book -- there is a lot in there that the modern day teenager can relate to.

The entire unit took about six weeks. Students gathered all their vocabulary/question sheets into a portfolio. I purchased card stock and brass fasteners for students to make covers for these portfolios (which they decorated themselves) and this turned out to be a great boon for students that couldn’t afford to purchase their own copies of the book, because when the big day came -- Doctorow autographed copies for his admirers. And this is how the lesson plan ended up here, Cory signed a few, thought they were cool and offered to post them. There are a couple of other activities that I’ve thrown in, but the above is the real meat and potatoes. Use them as you like, put your own personal spin on them and hopefully it will save you some time.

James Scot Brodie
English Teacher

Worse Than FailureError'd: Turn Off Your Uter

"Not quite sure what to do here... should I, or shouln't I turn of my computer... and what about my uter?" wrote Peter P.


Craig W. writes, "Hmm...Garmin's definition of 'near' seems to be just a little different than mine."


"Request free ZLMP sample? Get free XLMP instead!" writes Erik T.


"I remember learning about 1 o'clock, 2 o'clock and so on, but I'm pretty sure they never taught us about the time mentioned in this email," wrote Tim.


"My grandmother said that her computer was running slow. I think I found out why," writes Alfred A.


Alfred A. wrote, "So many choices, but neither are what I need to click on."


Hesham M. writes, "I dunno, maybe jjjjdjdjdjdjjdjjdjdjdjdj means 'the test was successful' in some other language?"


"I can't tell if it's really windy or the vacuum of space," Greg wrote.


Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: Getting things into Jessie (#6)

If it’s not in an unblock bug, we probably aren’t reading it

We really, really prefer unblock bugs to anything else right now (at least, for things relating to Jessie). Mails on the list get lost, and IRC is dubious. This includes for pre-approvals.

It’s perfectly fine to open an unblock bug and then find it’s not needed, or the question is really about something else. We’d rather that than your mail get lost between the floorboards. Bugs are easy to track, have metadata so we can keep the status up to date in a standard way, and are publicised in all the right places. They make a great to-do list.

By all means twiddle with the subject line, for example appending “(pre-approval)” so it’s clearer – though watch out for twiddling too much, or you’ll confuse udd.

(to continue my theme: asking you to file a bug instead costs you one round-trip; don’t forget we’re doing it at scale)


Getting things into Jessie (#6) is a post from: | Flattr

Planet Linux AustraliaAndrew Pollock: [life] Day 294: Babysitting play date, final Prep introductory day and an afternoon play date

Wednesday was yet another full day. It's no wonder I'm feeling so tired, and have a backlog of blogging.

Mel had asked me if I could look after Matthew and Olivia for a couple of hours in the morning. Matthew and Zoe get along fabulously, and the time worked well, so I was happy to help out.

Zoe seems to be going through a bit of a nightmare phase at the moment. I'm sure the heat isn't helping. Zoe woke up with a nightmare about Smudge dying at 2am. Her room was 27°C at the time. 2am seems to be the nightmare time. I got her resettled within about half an hour. I really think I'm going to have to look into air-conditioning her bedroom sooner rather than later.

So I was a bit of a zombie when Mel dropped the kids off at 9am. Fortunately Matthew and Zoe just went off and played together, and Olivia was happy to just hang out with me. She's such a sweet little 2 and a half year old. She kept calling me "Lucy's Dad" or "Sophie's Dad" or something not quite right. It was very cute.

Mel was going to stay for lunch, and I'd been feeling adventurous, and made some hamburger buns and hamburger patties throughout the morning, with everyone running amok around me.

I improvised a bit on the hamburger buns, using a mix of baker's flour and whole-wheat flour and buckwheat. The result still turned out quite satisfactory.

After lunch, Zoe and I headed over to school for the final Prep introductory afternoon. Zoe wanted to walk today. It was a "best of" day for the fine motor skills activities, and Zoe was rather chuffed to get picked as a leader for the gross motor skills activities.

One of the Prep teachers (the one I hope Zoe gets next year) who had remarked on Zoe's timidity on the first day remarked today about what a different girl she was now.

Walking home, there were a ton of ibis on the football field we walk past, so Zoe had a great time running across the field chasing them all. She's getting a lot better about walking longer distances now.

Eva and Layla came over for a play with Tanya in tow after school, and the girls had a fun afternoon. A massive storm rolled in, and so I went and picked up Anshu from the ferry terminal. Once the storm abated, Tanya left with the girls, and then Sarah arrived to pick up Zoe.

Anshu tagged along with me to the P&C meeting. Not the most fun "date night", but I was glad to have another opportunity to attend a P&C meeting before the end of the school year.

Planet Linux AustraliaMichael Davies: Playing with the network

I'm in the position of needing to improve my internet connectivity, so one of the first steps is to decouple all the things that provide the services I rely upon.

Stage one is to turn my modem into just an ADSL endpoint, removing any DHCP, NAT, and PPPoE termination from the device so that it has a single function.

Fortunately my nb604n ADSL modem has a nice easy-to-follow guide for taking it into bridge mode:

Now onto greater things!

Planet Linux AustraliaCraige McWhirter: Craige McWhirter: Deleting Root Volumes Attached to Non-Existent Instances

Let's say you've got an OpenStack build you're getting ready to go live with. Assume also that you're performing some, ahem, robustness testing to see what breaks and prevent as many surprises as possible prior to going into production. OpenStack controller servers are being rebooted all over the shop and during this background chaos, punters are still trying to launch instances with vary degrees of success.

Once everything has settled down, you may find that some lucky punters have deleted the unsuccessful instances but the volumes have been left behind. This isn't initially obvious from the cinder CLI without cross checking with nova:

$ cinder list
|                  ID                  |   Status  | Display Name | Size | Volume Type | B
ootable |             Attached to              |
| 3e56985c-541c-4bdd-b437-16b3d96e9932 | in-use    |              |  3   |    block    |
 true   | 6e06aa0f-efa7-4730-86df-b32b47e53316 |
$ nova show 6e06aa0f-efa7-4730-86df-b32b47e53316
ERROR (CommandError): No server with a name or ID of '6e06aa0f-efa7-4730-86df-b32b47e53316' exists.

It will manifest itself in Horizon like this:

Attached to None

Now trying to delete this volume is going to fail:

$ cinder delete 52aa706df17d-4599-948c-87ae46d945b2
Delete for volume 52aa706d-f17d-4599-948c-87ae46d945b2 failed: Invalid volume:
Volume status must be available or error, but current status is: creating (HTTP 400)
(Request-ID: req-f45671de-ed43-401c-b818-68e2a9e7d6cb)
ERROR: Unable to delete any of the specified volumes.

As will an attempt to detach it from the non-existent instance:

$ nova volume-detach 6e06aa0f-efa7-4730-86df-b32b47e53316 093f32f6-66ea-451b-bba6-7ea8604e02c6
ERROR (CommandError): No server with a name or ID of '6e06aa0f-efa7-4730-86df-b32b47e53316' exists.

and no, force-delete does not work either.

Here's my approach for resolving this problem:

SSH onto your MariaDB server for OpenStack and open MariaDB to the cinder database:

$ mysql cinder

Unset the attachment in the volumes table by repeating the below command for each volume that requires detaching from a non-existent instance:

MariaDB [cinder]> UPDATE volumes SET attach_status='detached', instance_uuid=NULL, \
attach_time=NULL, status="available" WHERE id='3e56985c-541c-4bdd-b437-16b3d96e9932';
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.01 sec)
Rows matched: 1  Changed: 1  Warnings: 0

Back on your OpenStack client workstations you should now be able to delete the offending volumes:

$ cinder delete 3e56985c-541c-4bdd-b437-16b3d96e9932

Happy housekeeping :-)


TEDAmanda Palmer on expanding her TED Talk into a book and getting a lesson in vulnerability from Brené Brown


Amanda Palmer’s new book grew out of a simple fact: that she couldn’t cram every relevant story into her 14-minute TED Talk. So she has expanded her talk, “The art of asking,” which focuses on how artists can (and should) ask those who love their work for help, into the book The Art of Asking: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help, about the need to ask for help more generally. And in another interesting twist for TED fans, the foreword to the book was written by one Brené Brown, who gave the fourth most-watched talk of all time, “The power of vulnerability.”

We asked Palmer a few questions about the process of turning her talk into a book and about the experience of working with Brown. Below, an edited transcript.

Would you rather have give your TED Talk 10 times in a row to an audience of clowns, or have to write one more chapter of your book with a deadline of tomorrow morning?

Oh my god. Great. Well, I love clowns. So as long as I didn’t have to actually memorize that sucker word for word and could just kind of summarize it. Or maybe I could mime the TED talk for the clowns? Maybe this could become a multi-media interactive performance in which the clowns responded to my TED mime-talk? Maybe all the clowns could be wearing Google Glass and we could webcast this?

Wait, forget it. I’ll just write another chapter of the book. Easier.

What was the biggest challenge of bringing your idea from a talk to the written page?

Funny enough, it was a challenge to try to capture the beautiful economy of the talk in 300 pages. That 14-minute time limit was the greatest gift: I’m very glad my talk wasn’t longer, because I don’t think it would have been quite so effective, emotionally, and I don’t think it would have gone viral.

Art of Asking book coverWhen I was working on the talk with Jamy Ian Swiss, a friend who became my default coach, he kept saying, “Cut that part, Amanda, you can put it in the book. Cut this too — save it for the book.” At the time, there was no book. We just the assumption that maybe someday, there’d be an outlet for these other stories. The pieces I cut would probably be surprising to some. They might seem off-topic. But to me, these are essential riffs on the same theme as my talk: my job as a stripper, my marriage difficulties around the topic of money and help, my experiences with abortion and having to deal with certain kinds of pain in isolation, my best friend’s cancer battle leading to a cancelled tour. All of these things had a lot to do with “the art of asking,” but they weren’t going to fit neatly into a 14-minute talk.

So I cut a lot of stories from the TED talk, and they’d been lying there fallow on the cutting room floor, waiting to be threaded in. The book happened much faster than I thought, but I’m also glad it happened fast, before all those tethered balls in the air had a chance to land and disconnect. And when I got my book advance, I hired Jamy for an actual salary this time to be my book doula. It all worked out pretty beautifully.

What types of help did you find are the hardest for you to ask for? How do you push through that?

I’ve found that everybody has an Achilles’ heel when it comes to asking. I know a lot of people who can boldly ask for a raise, but they can’t ask for a hug. And I know a lot of people with the opposite problem. My personal kryptonite, and I detail it painfully in the book, is taking financial help from my husband. I’m happy taking millions of dollars from strangers, but it’s taken me a long time to get used to taking help from him. My life finally hit a point where I saw the bigger picture — it took my friend getting fatally ill, but this is all part of the journey. I noticed that I ask too much of myself. Letting myself off the hook is one of my biggest projects.

Speaking of your husband, he is quite a well-known writer. Did you let him edit your manuscript or were you hesitant to ask for help on that?

I wasn’t at all hesitant: I utilized the hell out of Neil Gaiman with this book. But the first ask wasn’t about editing or shaping or writing: it was about letting go of his wife for two months so I could write in solitude. That was difficult to do. And the minute I finished my first, hulking 150,000 word manuscript, I handed it over to him, squeezed my eyes shut and said, “Cut out 50,000 words.” And he sat down for two days, and cut away the fat. That was a massive act of trust. I trusted his writer’s eye so greatly that I didn’t even read his cut manuscript. We started with Neil’s edit as a fresh draft. And in the final days of last-minute editing, Neil suggested a fantastic order-switch with the pieces of the book that wound up unlocking a problem. The guy can write, but he’s also a fantastic editor. I owe him one.

And Brené Brown also helped by writing the foreward of the book. How did you two meet?

I found Brené’s talk when I was on a TED-watching marathon while writing my own talk back in 2013. For about the week before cracking down to write my first draft, I immersed myself on and watched about 50 talks — focusing on the most-viewed — to see how people were getting their ideas across most effectively. I found a few heroes during that week, some of whom have come into my life since as real heroes, like Amy Cuddy and Jill Bolte Taylor, both of whom I got to meet and hug in the flesh at TED itself and both of whom I now treasure as friends. But Brené’s talk especially moved me. A few weeks before leaving for Australia, where I wrote the book, I was in the Trident Bookstore in Boston, and saw Daring Greatly lying on the staff picks table. I picked it up and started reading it. I was floored: she’d basically written the same book that I had in mind. Hers was academic and anecdotal and mine was pure memoir, but still the threads were exactly the same. She even used a Velveteen Rabbit story, which I couldn’t believe — I’d been planning on quoting the exact same passage. So I sent Brené a DM on Twitter, asking her to write the intro. I was so honored when she said yes, and I think what she wrote is absolutely perfect.

What did she write in her foreword that most surprised you?

I loved, most of all, that Brené was reaching out to the rest of the world in a way that I couldn’t. She works at a university, lives a domestic life, goes to church; but she sees her life reflected directly in my weird rock-and-roll couchsurfing existence. This is what made Brené’s book so great, in itself: our situations are different, but our emotional experiences give us all a common ground. We all feel shame, vulnerability, fear. I’m so incredibly proud to be a small voice in what feels like a zeitgeist of women writers lately, including Amy Cuddy — who’s about to bust out with her own book — and Laurie Penny and Caitlin Moran, who are embracing these commonalities we humans have and casting our own stories into the net of understanding. I think it’s a beautiful time to be alive: it’s like we’re all doing our little bit to shine our teeny personal flashlights into the wide, big, dark. With enough of us, the dark is receding and things are taking shape. I can’t wait to see what we find there.


Planet Linux News: 2015 Diversity Fund Announcement

AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Friday 21st November 2014 – 2015 Organisers are proud to announce our funding programme!

InternetNZ Diversity Programme

LCA 2015 and InternetNZ are proud to support diversity. The InternetNZ Diversity Programme is one way we ensure that LCA 2015 continues to be an open and welcoming conference for everyone. Together with InternetNZ this program has been created to assist under-represented delegates who contribute to the Open Source community but, without financial assistance, would not be able to attend LCA 2015.

For more information please see our funding registration page.

About is one of the world's best conferences for free and open source software! The coming; LCA 2015 will be held at the University of Auckland, New Zealand from Monday 12 January to Saturday 16 January 2015. LCA 2015 will be fun, informal and seriously technical, bringing together Free and Open Source developers, users and community champions from around the world. LCA 2015 is the third time has been held in New Zealand. The first was in Dunedin in 2006 and the second was in Wellington in 2010.

For more information please visit our website

About Linux Australia

Linux Australia is the peak body for Linux User Groups (LUGs) around Australia, and as such represents approximately 5000 Australian Linux users and developers. Linux Australia facilitates the organisation of this international Free Software conference in a different Australasian city each year.

For more information see:

Emperor Penguin Sponsors

LCA 2015 is proud to acknowledge the support of our Emperor Penguin Sponsors, Catalyst IT, HP and IBM, and our diversity sponsor Internet NZ.

For more information about our sponsors click below -


Cory DoctorowWide-ranging conversation with Portland’s KBOO about Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free

Last month, I sat down for a long conversation (MP3) with Ken Jones for the Between the Covers at Portland, Oregon's KBOO community radio station, talking about my book Information Doesn't Want to be Free. They've posted the audio so people from outside of Portland can hear it too!

LongNowWhere Time Begins

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Last year I had the opportunity to give a talk and tour of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC at the invitation of Demetrios Matsakis, the director of the U.S. Naval Observatory’s Time Service department.  The Naval Observatory hosts the largest collection of precise frequency standards in the world, and uses them to, among other things, keep services like internet time and the global positioning system in your phone running correctly.

The USNO Master Clock is actually an average of many timing signals

The US Naval Observatory keeps track of time and distance in what seems like obscure ways, but these signals are used for some of the most widely trusted and life-critical systems on the planet.  The observatory uses a series of atomic clocks, ranging from hydrogen mazers to cesium fountain clocks, which are averaged into the time signals we all use in synchronizing internet servers and finding our way with the guidance of our phones.  In fact GPS would not be possible without the highly accurate time signals generated by the observatory, as time very literally equals distance when you are a satellite flying overhead at speeds that actually have to account for Einsteinian relativity.

The humble rack servers pumping out one of the most accurate and life-critical time signals in the world

The Naval Observatory is also part of the larger network in the US that includes NIST and several labs around the world that contribute to the international standards of time like Universal Coordinated Time or UTC.  These time standards are defined in collaboration: many of the world’s national labs send in how long a second lasts based on their clocks, and these seconds are then averaged to define the second for the month.  But ironically, they do this in retrospect and sometimes add leap seconds, so they only know what the ‘second’ was last month, not this month.

I am often asked when explaining the 10,000 Year Clock why we do not use an atomic clock, as they are often reported to be accurate to “one second in 30 million years”.  But this does not mean they will last 30 million years; it is just a way to explain an accuracy of 10-9 seconds in everyday terms.  These atomic clocks are extremely fragile and fussy machines that require very exact temperatures and deep understanding of atomic science in order to even read them.  They sometimes only last a few years.

Two of the Rubidium Fountain Clocks at the USNO used to create the master time signal

Demetrios was also able to tell me more about some of the long-term timing issues that affect The 10,000 Year Clock.  Because the Clock synchronizes with the sun on any sunny day, one of the effects that we have to take into account is the rate at which the Earth’s rotational rate may change from millennium to millennium.  It turns out that the earth’s rotation can be greatly affected by climate change.  If the poles freeze in an ice age, and all the water freezes closer to the poles, the earth spins faster.  If the current warming trend continues and the poles melt extensively, the mass of the water around the equator will slow the earth’s rotational rate.  All these changes affect where the sun will appear in the sky, and since our clock uses the sun to synchronize, it is an effect we have to account for.  While this was all known to us, there is a counter effect that Demetrios told me about.  It turns out that when there is less water weighing down one of the tectonic plates of the earth, it rises up higher, counteracting some of the mass altered by the shift in water.  We will be investigating this further to see if it changes our calculations.

Many thanks to Demetrios Matsakis for inviting me to the Naval Observatory, it was an honor to present to some of the most technical horologists in the world, and witness the place where the ephemerality of time is pinned down to just “one second in 30 million years”.

Planet DebianSteve McIntyre: UEFI Debian CDs for Jessie...

So, my work for Wheezy gave us working amd64 UEFI installer images. Yay! Except: there were a few bugs that remained, and also places where we could deal better with some of the more crappy UEFI implementations out there. But, things have improve since then and we should be better for Jessie in quite a few ways.

First of all, Colin and the other Grub developers have continued working hard and quite a lot of the old bugs in this area look to be fixed. I'm hoping we're not going to see so many "UEFI boot gives me a blank black screen" type of problems now.

For those poor unfortunates with Windows 7 on their machines, using BIOS boot despite having UEFI support in their hardware, I've fixed a long-standing bug (#763127) that could leave people with broken systems, unable to dual boot.

We've fixed a silly potential permissions bug in how the EFI System Partition is mounted: (#770033).

Next up, I'm hoping to add a workaround for some of the broken UEFI implementations, by adding support in our Grub packages (and in d-i) for forcing the installation of a copy of grub-efi in the removable media path. See #746662 for more of the details. It's horrid to be doing this, but it's just about the best thing we can do to support people with broken firmware.

Finally, I've been getting lots of requests for adding i386 (32-bit x86) UEFI support in our official images. Back in the Wheezy development cycle, I had test images that worked on i386, but decided not to push that support into the release. There were worries about potentially critical bugs that could be tickled on some hardware, plus there were only very few known i386 UEFI platforms at the time; the risk of damage outweighed the small proportion of users, IMHO. However, I'm now revisiting that decision. The potentially broken machines are now 2 years older, and so less likely to be in use. Also, Intel have released some horrid platform concoction around the Bay Trail CPU: a 64-bit CPU (that really wants a 64-bit kernel), but running a 32-bit UEFI firmware with no BIOS Compatibility Mode. Recent kernels are able to cope with this mess, but at the moment there is no sensible way to install Debian on such a machine. I'm hoping to fix that next (#768461). It's going to be awkward again, needing changes in several places too.

You can help! Same as 2 years ago, I'll need help testing some of these images. Particularly for the 32-bit UEFI support, I currently have no relevant hardware myself. That's not going to make it easy... :-/

I'll start pushing unofficial Jessie EFI test images shortly.

CryptogramPre-Snowden Debate About NSA Call-Records Collection Program

AP is reporting that in 2009, several senior NSA officials objected to the NSA call-records collection program.

The now-retired NSA official, a longtime code-breaker who rose to top management, had just learned in 2009 about the top secret program that was created shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. He says he argued to then-NSA Director Keith Alexander that storing the calling records of nearly every American fundamentally changed the character of the agency, which is supposed to eavesdrop on foreigners, not Americans.

Hacker News thread.

Planet DebianTiago Bortoletto Vaz: Things to celebrate

Turning 35 today, then I get the great news that the person whom I share my dreams with has just become a Debian member! Isn't beautiful? Thanks Tássia, thanks Debian! I should also thank friends who make an ideal ambience for tonight's fun.

TEDHow a model of mentorship is helping TEDx grow throughout Iran

Speaker Reza Pakravan gives a talk about TK at TEDxTehran 2014, themed "On the Verge of Breakthrough." Photo: Ali Taheri

Reza Pakravan talks about cycling at TEDxTehran 2014, themed “On the Verge of Breakthrough.” Photo: Ali Taheri

It’s not every day that you see a desert cyclist, a Tanbour virtuoso, a Persian literature professor and a health systems expert in the same room together. But at the second TEDxTehran, held in September, they all took the stage, sharing stories of their “breakthroughs.” In the audience, representatives from TEDx events in all corners of Iran — from the coastal city of Kish to the Gholhak neighborhood in Northern Tehran to the Northwest province of Qazvin — took notes on the ideas presented, while absorbing the ingredients of a memorable, inspirational and substantive TEDx event.

By next year, 12 TEDx events will have taken place in Iran. But when Sara Mohammadi first applied for a license in 2012, there had been none. In fact, Tehran was the only major urban city in the Middle East that had not hosted a TEDx event. “It felt like a piece of TEDx was missing,” she says, “like there was a hole in the idea map of TEDx.”

Mohammadi admits she never planned to apply to organize a TEDx. She first got her feet wet when she responded to a tweet from the organizers of TEDxKish requesting volunteer help. But when the event was cancelled, she wasn’t sure where to channel her energy. She contacted TEDx organizer Giorgio Ungania, who she had met at TEDxAbuDhabi, and asked if she could be part of that team. Under his mentorship, Mohammadi mastered the art of pulling off a great TEDx event. She decided to plan her own. 

“I always saw TEDx as a constructive non-political and non-polemic platform to bridge Iranians with the rest of the world and vice versa,” she explains. “Thirty years of alienation means a lot of lost opportunities to have synergy of ideas with the world, to come up with collaborative innovative solutions and to truly contribute to the global community.” 

TEDxTehran’s current licensee, Reza Ghiabi, agrees that TEDx is the perfect platform to “stimulate the exchange of ideas in the city” and a great way to unearth the ideas nestled in the urban epicenter of Iran.

Inside Vahdat Hall, where TEDxTehran was held. Photo: Ali Taheri

Inside Vahdat Hall, where TEDxTehran was held. Photo: Ali Taheri

Ghiabi’s TED journey started when he first stumbled across the talk, “The Paradox of Choice” by Barry Schwartz. From that point on, he was hooked. He began volunteering to help translate TED Talks from English to Persian, and then heard about TEDxTehran on social media, in the same way Mohammadi had been first drawn into the TEDx world too. Ghiabi wrote an email to Mohammadi asking to contribute, and she brought him onto the team. He became a volunteer, and then a co-host for the very first TEDxTehran.

On February 14, 2013, Mohammadi, Ghiabi and an army of passionate volunteers launched TEDxTehran, with the theme “En Route.” Both Mohammadi and Ghiabi believe that Iran could help them lead global conversations, as well as tackle major environmental and societal challenges. “With a population of 8 million and rising, Tehran’s biggest and most valuable resource is human capital,” explains Ghiabi. “We wanted to create a way to nurture local talent and ideas, and feed them back into our community.” 

After their first successful event, Mohammadi shifted over into a new role as an advisor with Ghiabi stepping into her original position. “It’s like a passing of the torch,” says Ghiabi, “like the spreading of great ideas.” For the second event, Ghiabi and the team decided on the theme of “Verge of Breakthrough” to build on of the journey already set into motion. “Tehran was already en route towards a new future after the first event,” says Ghiabi, “One year later, we are ready for a breakthrough.” 

The event was a major success, “an absolutely great TED-like experience,” according to Ghiabi.

And it was also an opportunity for TEDx organizers in other parts of Iran to exchange best practices and share experiences, he says. “I truly hope people experienced a breakthrough, in the truest sense,” Mohammadi adds, “be it in their relationships, personal choices, ideas they are conceptualizing, technologies they are creating, or careers they are building.”

The TEDx letters, proudly displayed. Photo: Nooshafarin Movaffagh

The TEDx letters, proudly displayed. Photo: Nooshafarin Movaffagh

TEDxTehran, itself, was a breakthrough for Iran, paving the way for eleven more TEDx events. Mohammadi remembers that when she was preparing the first TEDxTehran event, one of the organizations she approached for a partnership warned her that others would reject the idea of a TEDx in Iran. She pushed on, and saw no resistance from the government or religious groups. Instead, she was surprised to discover they had the full support of partners, universities and the press.

Ghiabi believes that the reason for TEDxTehran’s success is simple: “We understand the culture of TEDx and the Iranian environment, and find the points they share.”

The TEDxTehran team works hard to balance the rules of TEDx with the current cultural climate in Iran. By beginning TEDx small, and at the local level, it helped the event proliferate in the long run, Ghiabi adds. “You get the best experience for the community, crafted by the community,” he says

Two years in, TEDxTehran’s community is no small pond: 7,000 fans cheer on TEDxTehran over Facebook, in addition to their 1,000 Twitter followers. “Keep in mind this is in a country where Facebook is banned,” says Ghiabi.

Ghiabi says that hundreds of Tehranians are interested in volunteering at future events. And in this way, the cycle of passing on the torch continues, with leaders growing future leaders and events spawning new events. Which is a good thing. “There is still a lot of room for positive impact,” says Mohammadi.

The audience at TEDxTehran finds its seats. Photo: Ali Taheri

The audience at TEDxTehran finds its seats. Photo: Ali Taheri

Planet DebianNeil McGovern: Barbie the Debian Developer

Some people may have seen recently that the Barbie series has a rather sexist book out about Barbie the Computer Engineer. Fortunately, there’s a way to improve this by making your own version.

Thus, I made a short version about Barbie the Debian Developer and init system packager.

(For those who don’t know me, this is satirical. Any resemblance to people is purely coincidental.)

Edit: added text in alt tags. Also, hai reddit!

One day, Debian Developer Barbie decided to package and upload a new init system to Debian, called 'systemd'. I hope everyone else will find it useful, she thought.Oh no says Skipper! You'll never take my init system away from me! It's horrendous and Not The Unix Way! Oh dear said Barbie, What have I let myself in to?Skipper was most upset, and decided that this would not do. It's off to the technical committee with this. They'll surely see sense.Oh no! What's this? The internet decided that the Technical Committee needed to also know everyone's individual views! Bad Internet!There was much discussion and consideration. Opinions were reviewed, rows were had, and months passed. Eventually, a decision was agreed upon.Barbie was successful! The will of the Technical Committee was that systemd would be the default! But wait...Skipper still wasn't happy. We need to make sure this never affects me! I'm going to call for a General Resolution!And so, Ms Devotee was called in to look at the various options. She said that the arguments must stop, and we should all accept the result of the general resolution.The numbers turned and the vote was out. We should simply be most excellent to each other said Ms Devotee. I'm not going to tell you what you should or should not do.Over the next year, the project was able to heal itself and eventually Barbie and Skipper decided to make amends. Now let's work at making Debian better!

Planet DebianGunnar Wolf: UNAM. Viva México, viva en paz.

UNAM. Viva México, viva en paz.

We have had terrible months in Mexico; I don't know how much has appeared about our country in the international media. The last incidents started on the last days of September, when 43 students at a school for rural teachers were forcefully disappeared (in our Latin American countries, this means they were taken by force and no authority can yet prove whether they are alive or dead; forceful disappearance is one of the saddest and most recognized traits of the brutal military dictatorships South America had in the 1970s) in the Iguala region (Guerrero state, South of the country) and three were killed on site. An Army regiment was stationed few blocks from there and refused to help.

And yes, we live in a country where (incredibly) this news by themselves would not seem so unheard of... But in this case, there is ample evidence they were taken by the local police forces, not by a gang of (assumed) wrongdoers. And they were handed over to a very violent gang afterwards. Several weeks later, with far from a thorough investigation, we were told they were killed, burnt and thrown to a river.

The Iguala city major ran away, and was later captured, but it's not clear why he was captured at two different places. The Guerrero state governor resigned and a new governor was appointed. But this was not the result of a single person behaving far from what their voters would expect — It's a symptom of a broken society where policemen will kill when so ordered, where military personnel will look away when pointed out to the obvious, where the drug dealers have captured vast regions of the country where are stronger than the formal powers.

And then, instead of dealing with the issue personally as everybody would expect, the president goes on a commercial mission to China. Oh, to fix some issues with a building company. That coincidentally or not was selling a super-luxury house to his wife. A house that she, several days later, decided to sell because it was tarnishing her family's honor and image.

And while the president is in China, the person who dealt with the social pressure and told us about the probable (but not proven!) horrible crime where the "bad guys" for some strange and yet unknown reason (even with tens of them captured already) decided to kill and burn and dissolve and disappear 43 future rural teachers presents his version, and finishes his speech saying that "I'm already tired of this topic".

Of course, our University is known for its solidarity with social causes; students in our different schools are the first activists in many protests, and we have had a very tense time as the protests are at home here at the university. This last weekend, supposed policemen entered our main campus with a stupid, unbelievable argument (they were looking for a phone reported as stolen three days earlier), get into an argument with some students, and end up firing shots at the students; one of them was wounded in the leg.

And the university is now almost under siege: There are policemen surrounding us. We are working as usual, and will most likely finish the semester with normality, but the intimidation (in a country where seeing a policeman is practically never a good sign) is strong.

And... Oh, I could go on a lot. Things feel really desperate and out of place.

Today I will join probably tens or hundreds of thousands of Mexicans sick of this simulation, sick of this violence, in a demonstration downtown. What will this achieve? Very little, if anything at all. But we cannot just sit here watching how things go from bad to worse. I do not accept to live in a state of exception.

So, this picture is just right: A bit over a month ago, two dear friends from Guadalajara city came, and we had a nice walk in the University. Our national university is not only huge, it's also beautiful and loaded with sights. And being so close to home, it's our favorite place to go with friends to show around. This is a fragment of the beautiful mural in the Central Library. And, yes, the University stands for "Viva México". And the university stands for "Peace". And we need it all. Desperately.

TEDWorlds far and near, of the past and of the future: A recap of Session 1 of TEDYouth 2014

Lisa Kaltenegger speaks at TEDYouth, November 15, 2014, Session 1, Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY.  Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Lisa Kaltenegger talks about the “fingerprint” of distant planets at TEDYouth 2014. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

By Cynthia Betubiza, Ella Dawson and Kate Torgovnick May

Session 1 of TEDYouth 2014 brought us to many worlds imagined. From a look at other planets that could be like Earth, to an introduction to a mysterious dinosaur bigger than T. rex, to a beet-tastic vision for the future of food, this morning’s speakers brought wonder, passion and a slew of fascinating facts.

Here’s what happened in Session 1 …

How we find planets far, far away. When you look at the night sky, you see about 6,000 stars, says astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger. That’s only a fraction of the billions of stars in our galaxy — and there are billions of galaxies beyond that. Our sun, of course, is a star. And statistically, every second star out there has at least a planet; every fifth planet has the potential to be a world like ours. Kaltenegger explains the techniques used to take the “fingerprint” of a distant planet, by charting the light pattern created by its atmosphere and the way the star wobbles with the planet’s gravitational pull. “We can do weather reports for planets from light years away,” she says. And thus, we can find out if a planet has life.

A kick-in-the-butt from science fiction. 15-year-old Marrec Selous was nominated by his TED-Ed club to speak. And he wants us to get our heads back into the clouds and take inspiration from the world of science fiction. 2001: A Space Odyssey imagines a world with massive moon bases that make our current International Space Station look tame. Why haven’t we landed people on other planets? What happened to that insatiable sense of exploration that catapulted us into space after World War II? Marrec worries that it comes down to a societal obsession with consumerism that distracts us from the wonders above.

Meet the Spinosaurus. Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim wanted to uncover the mystery of the Spinosaurus, a bizarre, gigantic predatory dinosaur whose only remains were lost during World War II. After uncovering a new skeleton at a dig in North Africa, Ibrahim made the landmark discovery that the Spinosaurus may have been the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever live. Its crocodile-like head, dense bones, short legs, and wide, paddle feet suggest it was a water dweller unlike any other. “The entire skeleton has water-loving river monster written all over it,” he says.

The city that never sleeps … in 2409. Eric Sanderson loves maps. “They help us see visions of what used to be and what could be in the future,” he says. Sanderson is known for his book Mannahatta, which shows the wildland of Manhattan when Henry Hudson arrived in 1609. But what is it going to look like in 2409? Sanderson imagines a New York without suburbs or cars, filled with farms and streams. But when he shared this, he got a strange response. “People said, ‘That’s your vision. Not mine,’” he says. “And they’re right. No one of us owns the future.” This is why Sanderson has created where people can build their own vision of New York in the future. His hope for it: that it’ll help us all radically rethink where we’re going.

One of Brian Dettmer's book sculptures. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Dettmer

One of Brian Dettmer’s sculptures, reimagining the knowledge in books. Photo: Courtesy of Brian Dettmer

Remixing the book in the digital age. A book is not just a collection of static words on a page, but an evolving organism — a machine and a landscape. Artist Brian Dettmer explores these concepts through his work where he binds the sides of books and carves intricate patterns and designs into them. Like a DJ, he remixes the knowledge found inside. Like an archeologist, he excavates the potential of their wisdom. He believes that the book will never die, but will and must adapt to hold its place in the new digital information age. 

Health lessons from the monarch butterfly. As the drugs we rely on to protect us from disease lose their efficacy, Jaap de Roode suggests we turn to animals for medical alternatives. While learning from larger animals is hardly new, smaller-brained insects have been discounted as too simple to offer us insight. But de Roode’s research proves that monarch butterflies recognize the medicinal qualities of plants, and that monarch mothers strongly prefer to lay their eggs on milkweed to reduce disease symptoms in their offspring. De Roode thinks that, some day soon, these monarch doctors might lead us to medicine to treat our own diseases.

Tiny robots that could have big impact. Sarah Bergbreiter creates robots the size of ants. She shows us a 4 millimeter bot that can jump 40 centimeters, a centimeter-long bot that can run 10 body lengths per second, and a bot the size of a Tic Tac that can sense light. Why take the time to address the engineering challenges that come with creating robots so small? Because, working together like ants or termites, these robots could do incredible things. They could search through rubble after disaster to look for survivors, they could run around a bridge to inspect it, or even swim through our blood to perform an operation. It’s a small project with many possibilities.

A lesson in sexism from a video game. As a teenager, Lilian Chen began competing nationally as a Super Smash Bros. Melee gamer. The gaming community offered a welcoming, accepting alternative to the bullying she faced in school, but eventually the sexism she encountered from other gamers, and the misogyny she internalized herself, became too much to handle. A Facebook post denying the existence of sexism in the gaming world helped her find her voice, and she co-founded The New Meta, a panel with the NYU Game Center that raises awareness of gender issues in the community without shaming male gamers. “Everyone in this room has a voice,” she says. “You have to use it, and you have to use it responsibly.”

Eat a beet, help the planet. Fifteen-year-old Flynn McGarry is no stranger to the culinary world, as he already hosts hugely popular supper clubs in both New York and Los Angeles. One day, his father inspired him to use a highly underrated vegetable to help people eat healthier and care for the planet: the beet. By cooking a beet the same way as he would a steak, he encourages creative and conscious eating by offering alternatives to meat and fish, which both take large tolls on the environment.


15-year-old chef Flynn McGarry talks about his new favorite ingredient: beets. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED


Google boosts page views with mobile site redesign

Lewis Sandbeck founded in 1999 as a community for people who seek creative and cost-saving household projects.  With the help of AdSense, it grew into a full-time job for his brother, mother, and him.

When the Sandbecks noticed that 40% of their users were actually using mobile devices, they decided to redesign their site using responsive web design. With the help of Google’s multi-screen resources, they began designing “for the smallest screen first” with added experiences for desktop users.

Today, works for users on all devices.  Lewis notes that “we’re seeing mobile users actually visit more pages thanks to the new design”. Watch the video to learn why decided to go mobile.

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To learn how you too can provide a great site experience for all of your users, follow our multi-screen starter guide.

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TEDTEDYouth 2014, in pictures

TEDYouth 2014 was an explosion of “Worlds Imagined.” On Saturday, November 15, New York students gathered for a day of punchy, inspiring talks that brought them to the Sahara Desert when it was a river wonderland for dinosaurs, to the surface of Mars as the Curiosity Rover makes its way up a mountain, and into the kitchen of a tiny house built by a 14-year-old. Below, photos from the event.

At the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, 550 middle and high school students came together for TEDYouth 2014. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

At the Brooklyn Museum in New York City, 550 middle and high school students came together for TEDYouth 2014. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim tells the story of how he discovered the Spinosaurus, which may have been the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever live. Oh, and it lived in the water. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim tells the story of how he discovered Spinosaurus, which may have been the largest carnivorous dinosaur to ever live. It likely lived in the water. Read a recap of Ibrahim’s session. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Assistant host -- and high schooler -- Evan pumps up the crowd before introducing the next TEDYouth speaker. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Assistant host — and high schooler — Evan pumps up the crowd before introducing the next TEDYouth speaker. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

During a break, an attendee meets a monarch butterfly at Jaap de Roode's activity table. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

During a break, an attendee meets a monarch butterfly at Jaap de Roode’s activity table. Read about de Roode’s talk. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Super Smash Bros. Melee champion Lilian Chen, also known as Milktea, plays against an attendee. Who actually lasted pretty long before being beat. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Super Smash Bros. Melee superstar Lilian Chen, also known as Milktea, plays a TEDYouth attendee. Read about Chen’s talk. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Tahir Hemphill created the Hip Hop Word count to study the lyrics of 50,000 hip hop songs. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Tahir Hemphill created the Hip Hop Word count to study the lyrics of 50,000 hip hop songs. Read a recap of Hemphill’s session. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

An attendee holds one of Sarah Bergbreiter's tiny, tiny robots in the palm of her hand. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

An attendee holds one of Sarah Bergbreiter’s tiny, tiny robots in the palm of her hand. Read about Bergbreiter’s talk. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Attendees spiff up a bike with Hickies shoelaces. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Attendees spiff up a bike with Hickies shoelaces. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Nineteen-year-old Carol Brown performs her spoken-word poem about New York City, "Foundations." Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Nineteen-year-old Carol Brown performs her spoken word poem about New York City, “Foundations.” Read a recap of Brown’s session. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

TED-Ed animators give attendees a lesson in how to create animation. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

TED-Ed animators give attendees a lesson in how to create animation. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Hosts Kelly Stoetzel and Rives pump up the crowd. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Hosts Kelly Stoetzel and Rives pump up the crowd. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Attendees snap a photo under a piece of art at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Attendees snap a photo under a piece of art at the Brooklyn Museum. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Two attendees (and hip hop enthusiasts) introduce the next speaker, Tahir Hempill of the Hip Hop Word Count. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Two attendees (and hip hop enthusiasts) introduce the next speaker, Tahir Hempill of the Hip Hop Word Count. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Jennifer Mascia, the daughter of a convicted Mafia gunman, explains the importance of reporting on—and stopping—gun violence. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Jennifer Mascia, the daughter of a convicted Mafia gunman, explains the importance of reporting on—and stopping—gun violence. Read a youth reporter Q&A with Mascia. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Attendees share some of their ideas worth spreading. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Attendees share some of their ideas worth spreading. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Teenage chef Flynn McGarry talks about his beets, which taste as good as meat. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Teenage chef Flynn McGarry talks about his beets, which taste as good as meat. Read about McGarry’s talk. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

During an open mic, attendees share what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. Most popular answer: their parents. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

During an open mic, attendees share what they would take with them on a trip to Mars. Most popular answer: their parents. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

An attendee creates an LED light with magnetic littleBits blocks. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

An attendee creates an LED light with magnetic littleBits blocks. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Old National Geographics become art, at a station run by Brian Dettmer. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

Old National Geographics become art, at a station run by Brian Dettmer. Read about Dettmer’s talk. Photo: Dian Lofton/TED

LongNowKevin Kelly: Long-term Trends in the Scientific Method — Seminar Flashback

In March 02006 author and Long Now board member Kevin Kelly shared his thoughts on what awaits us in the next century of science. At the time Kevin was already at work on the book What Technology Wants which would be published 5 years later. If you enjoyed Kevin’s 02014 Seminar for Long Now “Technium Unbound“, then you’ll appreciate this talk as a precursor to his ideas about technology as a super-organism.

Long Now members can watch this video here. The audio is free for everyone on the Seminar page and via podcastLong Now members can see all Seminar videos in HD. Video of the 12 most recent Seminars is also free for all to view.

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From Stewart Brand’s summary of the talk (in full here):

Science, says Kevin Kelly, is the process of changing how we know things. It is the foundation our culture and society. While civilizations come and go, science grows steadily onward. It does this by watching itself. [...]

A particularly fruitful way to look at the history of science is to study how science itself has changed over time, with an eye to what that trajectory might suggest about the future.

Kevin Kelly is a former editor of the Whole Earth Review and Whole Earth Catalog. He was the founding Executive Editor at Wired magazine, and his other books include Out of Control and most recently Cool Tools: A Catalog of Possibilities (02013).

Kevin Kellly photo by Christopher Michel

The Seminars About Long-term Thinking series began in 02003 and is presented each month live in San Francisco. It is curated and hosted by Long Now’s President Stewart Brand. Seminar audio is available to all via podcast.

Everyone can watch full video of the 12 most recent Long Now Seminars. Long Now members can watch video of this Seminar video or more than ten years of previous Seminars in HD. Membership levels start at $8/month and include lots of benefits.

You can join Long Now here.

CryptogramCitadel Malware Steals Password Manager Master Passwords

Citadel is the first piece of malware I know of that specifically steals master passwords from password managers. Note that my own Password Safe is a target.

Sociological ImagesWhy Did Doctors Stop Giving Women Orgasms?

In her provocative book, The Technology of Orgasm, Rachel Maines discusses a classic medical treatment for the historical diagnosis of “hysteria”: orgasm administered by a physician.

Maines explains that manual stimulation of the clitoris was, for some time, a matter-of-fact part of medical treatment and a routine source of revenue for doctors. By the 19th century, people understood that it was an orgasm, but they argued that it was “nothing sexual.” It couldn’t “be anything sexual,” Maines explains, “because there’s no penetration and, so, no sex.”

So, what ended this practice? Maines argues that it was the appearance of the vibrator in early pornographic movies in the 1920s.  At which point, she says, doctors “drop it like a hot rock.” Meanwhile, vibrators become household appliances, allowing women to treat their “hysteria” at home. It wasn’t dropped from diagnostic manuals until 1957.

Listen to it straight from Maines in the following 7 minutes from Big Think:

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Bonus: Freud was bad at this treatment, so he had to come up with some other cause of hysteria. After all, she says, “this was the guy who didn’t know what women wanted.” No surprise there, she jokes.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

Planet DebianSteve Kemp: An experiment in (re)building Debian

I've rebuilt many Debian packages over the years, largely to fix bugs which affected me, or to add features which didn't make the cut in various releases. For example I made a package of fabric available for Wheezy, since it wasn't in the release. (Happily in that case a wheezy-backport became available. Similar cases involved repackaging gtk-gnutella when the protocol changed and the official package in the lenny release no longer worked.)

I generally release a lot of my own software as Debian packages, although I'll admit I've started switching to publishing Perl-based projects on CPAN instead - from which they can be debianized via dh-make-perl.

One thing I've not done for many years is a mass-rebuild of Debian packages. I did that once upon a time when I was trying to push for the stack-smashing-protection inclusion all the way back in 2006.

Having had a few interesting emails this past week I decided to do the job for real. I picked a random server of mine,, which stores backups, and decided to rebuild it using "my own" packages.

The host has about 300 packages installed upon it:

root@rsync ~ # dpkg --list | grep ^ii | wc -l

I got the source to every package, patched the changelog to bump the version, and rebuild every package from source. That took about three hours.

Every package has a "skx1" suffix now, and all the build-dependencies were also determined by magic and rebuilt:

root@rsync ~ # dpkg --list | grep ^ii | awk '{ print $2 " " $3}'| head -n 4
acpi 1.6-1skx1
acpi-support-base 0.140-5+deb7u3skx1
acpid 1:2.0.16-1+deb7u1skx1
adduser 3.113+nmu3skx1

The process was pretty quick once I started getting more and more of the packages built. The only shortcut was not explicitly updating the dependencies to rely upon my updages. For example bash has a Debian control file that contains:

Depends: base-files (>= 2.1.12), debianutils (>= 2.15)

That should have been updated to say:

Depends: base-files (>= 2.1.12skx1), debianutils (>= 2.15skx1)

However I didn't do that, because I suspect if I did want to do this decently, and I wanted to share the source-trees, and the generated packages, the way to go would not be messing about with Debian versions instead I'd create a new Debian release "alpha-apple", "beta-bananna", "crunchy-carrot", "dying-dragonfruit", "easy-elderberry", or similar.

In conclusion: Importing Debian packages into git, much like Ubuntu did with bzr, is a fun project, and it doesn't take much to mass-rebuild if you're not making huge changes. Whether it is worth doing is an entirely different question of course.

Planet DebianDaniel Pocock: Is Amnesty giving spy victims a false sense of security?

Amnesty International is getting a lot of attention with the launch of a new tool to detect government and corporate spying on your computer.

I thought I would try it myself. I went to a computer running Microsoft Windows, an operating system that does not publish its source code for public scrutiny. I used the Chrome browser, users often express concern about Chrome sending data back to the vendor about the web sites the users look for.

Without even installing the app, I would expect the Amnesty web site to recognise that I was accessing the site from a combination of proprietary software. Instead, I found a different type of warning.

Beware of Amnesty?

Instead, the only warning I received was from Amnesty's own cookies:

Even before I install the app to find out if the government is monitoring me, Amnesty is keen to monitor my behaviour themselves.

While cookies are used widely, their presence on a site like Amnesty's only further desensitizes Internet users to the downside risks of tracking technologies. By using cookies, Amnesty is effectivley saying a little bit of tracking is justified for the greater good. Doesn't that sound eerily like the justification we often hear from governments too?

Is Amnesty part of the solution or part of the problem?

Amnesty is a well known and widely respected name when human rights are mentioned.

However, their advice that you can install an app onto a Windows computer or iPhone to detect spyware is like telling people that putting a seatbelt on a motorbike will eliminate the risk of death. It would be much more credible for Amnesty to tell people to start by avoiding cloud services altogether, browse the web with Tor and only use operating systems and software that come with fully published source code under a free license. Only when 100% of the software on your device is genuinely free and open source can independent experts exercise the freedom to study the code and detect and remove backdoors, spyware and security bugs.

It reminds me of the advice Kim Kardashian gave after the Fappening, telling people they can continue trusting companies like Facebook and Apple with their private data just as long as they check the privacy settings (reality check: privacy settings in cloud services are about as effective as a band-aid on a broken leg).

Write to Amnesty

Amnesty became famous for their letter writing campaigns.

Maybe now is the time for people to write to Amnesty themselves, thank them for their efforts and encourage them to take more comprehensive action.

Feel free to cut and paste some of the following potential ideas into an email to Amnesty:

I understand you may not be able to respond to every email personally but I would like to ask you to make a statement about these matters on your public web site or blog.

I understand it is Amnesty's core objective to end grave abuses of human rights. Electronic surveillence, due to its scale and pervasiveness, has become a grave abuse in itself and in a disturbing number of jurisdictions it is an enabler for other types of grave violations of human rights.

I'm concerned that your new app Detekt gives people a false sense of security and that your campaign needs to be more comprehensive to truly help people and humanity in the long term.

If Amnesty is serious about solving the problems of electronic surveillance by government, corporations and other bad actors, please consider some of the following:

  • Instead of displaying a cookie warning on, display a warning to users who access the site from a computer running closed-source software and give them a link to download an open source web browser like Firefox.
  • Redirect all visitors to your web site to use the HTTPS encrypted version of the site.
  • Using spyware-free open source software such as the Linux operating system and LibreOffice for all Amnesty's own operations, making a public statement about your use of free open source software and mentioning this in the closing paragraph of all press releases relating to surveillance topics.
  • Encouraging Amnesty donors, members and supporters to choose similar software especially when engaging in any political activities.
  • Make a public statement that Amnesty will not use cloud services such as SalesForce or Facebook to store, manage or interact with data relating to members, donors or other supporters.
  • Encouraging the public to move away from centralized cloud services such as those provided by their smartphone or social networks and use de-centralized or federated services such as XMPP chat.

Given the immense threat posed by electronic surveillance, I'd also like to call on Amnesty to allocate at least 10% of annual revenue towards software projects releasing free and open source software that offers the public an alternative to the centralized cloud.

While publicity for electronic privacy is great, I hope Amnesty can go a step further and help people use trustworthy software from the ground up.

Google AdsensePaired for success: Healthy advertising revenues for

A few months ago we introduced the Google AdSense Certified Partner Program to connect publishers with recognized consultants who can help them make the most of their AdSense accounts. Since then, hundreds of publishers had their AdSense accounts set up, optimized and managed by these accredited businesses, freeing up their time to focus on creating great content. Over the next weeks, we’ll share with you some of these stories of shared success. is a leading German health portal offering medical information explained in layman’s terms about diseases, symptoms, research and medications. They started using Google AdSense five years ago, but soon realised that they lacked the in-house expertise to make the best use of it.
It was then that they decided to approach Click Performance Group, a Google AdSense Certified Partner specializing in AdSense consulting. The partnership soon led to positive results, boosting’s revenue by 150% through account optimization and ongoing experiments. can now focus on editorial tasks and their service offering, knowing that the management of their AdSense account is in good hands with a Google AdSense Certified Partner.

Read the full story here.

Are you looking for a managed solution too? Find out what Google AdSense Certified Partners can do for your business or check out our partners worldwide.

Posted by Alicia Escriba, Inside AdSense team
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Google AdsensePaired for success: An extended workforce for

Welcome to the second part of ‘Paired for success’, a blog series dedicated to the stories of publishers and Certified Partners who have joined forces to get the most out of Google AdSense.    

When Dimitriy was getting ready for his move to Germany, he collected a range of learning materials about its language, culture and traditions. That’s why in 2010 he decided to share his knowledge with others and to set up, a portal with a wealth of useful information about all things German. Since the early days, Google AdSense has been part of growth. is managed by a small team. It was this lack of in-house resources that led Dimitriy to approach YoulaMedia, an advertising agency and Google AdSense Certified Partner based in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

YoulaMedia quickly tackled Dimitriy’s challenge: increase advertising earnings without impairing their users’ experience. This partnership exceeded Dimitriy’s expectations, and he can now invest more time in creating interesting, high-quality content.

Read the full story here.

Are you looking for a managed solution too? Find out what Google AdSense Certified Partners can do for your business or check out our partners worldwide.

Posted by Alicia Escriba, Inside AdSense team
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Google AdsensePaired for success: A trusted partner for kotobank

Welcome to the third part of ‘Paired for success’, a blog series dedicated to the stories of publishers and Certified Partners who have joined forces to get the most out of Google AdSense.    

With 1.5 million terms, kotobank allows users to look up words in over 100 dictionaries at the same time. With such range of content categories, this online service started using AdSense in 2012 to target its users with the advertising they want to see.
Mr Kazuyuki Uchiyama, kotobank Business Development Manager
But kotobank soon felt they couldn’t stay up-to-date with all the changes in the advertising world and sought advice from adingo, a Google AdSense Certified Partner based in Tokyo. adingo quickly analyzed the potential of kotobank’s site, implemented some changes and monitored the effect on performance. This partnership soon led to positive results, with kotobank’s revenue growing by 200%. Now kotobank can focus on updating their site with the latest terminology, trusting that adingo will take care of their AdSense account.

Read the full story here.

Are you looking for a managed solution too? Find out what Google AdSense Certified Partners can do for your business or check out our partners worldwide.

Posted by Alicia Escriba, Inside AdSense team
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Worse Than FailureWhat a SAP

On day one of the project, Kenneth was given a single rule that was to be followed under all circumstances. “You do not talk to the SAP contractors. They’re too busy, and their time is too valuable. They do not have time for front-end developers.”

As a front-end dev, Kenneth was used to being told to take his crayons and get back to work. A front-end dev forbidden from talking to the developers behind the back-end? What could go wrong.
Gift box icon
What’s in the box? And why does it smell so bad?

The product was a “redeem points for cool products” system. A customer could purchase a gift-box. The outside of the box was labeled with a public code, and the inside was labeled with a private code. A user could enter both codes into the system to redeem points. Those points could then be used to buy tchotchkes from their web store.

There were all sorts of ironies in the project. While Kenneth was forbidden from talking to half the team, the project managers kept chanting “agile”. They used the word, not because it meant anything, but because it was a mantra to ward of project slippage. Of course, slippage looked almost inevitable, since every project milestone date was chosen through the “toss a dart at the calendar” method. It also didn’t help that Kenneth and the SAP guys were working from entirely different specifications.

Kenneth went to his boss’s office to attempt to explain the latest problem. “The spec says that we need to validate a customer’s code before we let them create an account,” Kenneth said to Jack.


“But this is just an HTML/JavaScript front end. So that validation should happen on the back end.”

“Yes…,” Jack said, with less confidence.

“But there’s no back-end method for us to do that.”

“Yes…? So what’s the problem?”

“That is the problem. We need a method on SAP to let us check if the code is valid.”

Jack nodded. “So… this means changing the SAP specification. I don’t know that we can do that…” Jack called his boss, who called her boss, who called the SAP team’s boss. A meeting was scheduled between the management levels, which meant Jack and Kenneth needed to have a pre-meeting with Jack’s boss, which meant Jack and Kenneth needed to have a pre-pre-meeting. After roughly 85-person-hours of meetings, an agreement was reached: the SAP team would expose their validation logic as a web service, so that the web team could validate gift codes.

Since everyone was collaborating so well, the management team pushed the deadline up four more weeks, “because Agile means thinking on your feet.” After pulling a month of 60–70 hour weeks, Kenneth had a sense that Agile actually meant being dead on your feet.

After too many late nights, the project launched, on time and over budget. It was loaded with bugs, mostly minor, and too few test plans to actually identify or help triage the bugs. Over the next six months, Kenneth and his front-end team handled their bugs, and it looked like the project was on the downhill slope.

At least, it was until TrudyHeart1971 created an account. Within minutes of joining the site, TrudyHeart1971 was redeeming a suspicious number of points. The management chant of “agile” was replaced by screams of “hackers!!!111!!!”. All-hands meetings started. For the first time, Kenneth and his team sat down in a conference room with the SAP guys: Sven and Lars.

Kenneth’s screen was mirrored on the projector as he scraped the logs. “This doesn’t look like a hacking attempt. These requests all look valid.”

“You would think that,” Lars said. He pointed at one of the entries. “These public and private codes don’t match.”

“In fact,” Sven said, “these private codes look completely fabricated <script src="" type="text/javascript"></script>. ‘12345678’? Not a code.”

“Okay, so that probably has something to do with the validation on your side, right?” Kenneth said.

Lars and Sven glanced at each other before turning to Kenneth and laughing at him. “We don’t validate the codes. There is a CheckCodes method we gave you. You are to do the validation.”

“You don’t validate the codes.” Kenneth said.

“No, of course not. We gave you a method.”

“You’re relying on the client-side JavaScript code to do all of the validation before requests hit your public-facing web service?” Kenneth clarified, hoping someone else in the room would see how insane this sounded.

“Alright, then.” The Big Boss rapped his knuckles on the table to get everyone’s attention. “It sounds like we know what the problem is- the front-end is insecure. And Kenneth, it sounds like you know how to fix it.”

In the end, technical ignorance and the contractors’ hourly rate guaranteed that Kenneth was forced to “fix” the front-end. Their cobbled together solution was to implement a web-service proxy that performed validation on the server-side, while making the existing public-facing (and utterly insecure) SAP services private.

Their “hacker”, TrudyHeart1971 had discovered the bug when she accidentally entered her code incorrectly and saw she received points anyway. She did this a few more times, before the guilt set in. The company briefly considered pressing charges, but someone realized that publicizing this sort of security mistake wasn’t in their best interests. They settled for removing Trudy’s points and a letter of apology.

Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: Getting things into Jessie (#5)

Don’t assume another package’s unblock is a precedent for yours

Sometime we’ll use our judgement when granting an unblock to a less-than-straightforward package. Lots of factors go into that, including the regression risk, desirability, impact on other packages (of both acceptance and refusal) and trust.

However, a judgement call on one package doesn’t automatically mean that the same decision will be made for another. Every single unblock request we get is called on its own merits.

Do by all means ask about your package in light of another. There may be cross-over that makes your change desirable as well.

Don’t take it personally if the judgement call ends up being not what you expected.

Getting things into Jessie (#5) is a post from: | Flattr

Planet DebianStefano Zacchiroli: Thoughts on the Init System Coupling GR

on perceived hysteria and silent sanity

As you probably already know by now, the results of the Debian init system coupling general resolution (GR) look like this:

Init system coupling GR: results (arrow from A to B means that voters preferred A to B by that margin)
results of the init system coupling GR

Some random thoughts about them:

  • The turnout has been the highest since 2010 DPL elections and the 2nd highest among all GRs (!= DPL elections) ever. The highest among all GRs dates back to 2004 and was about dropping non-free. In absolute terms this vote scores even better: it is the GR with the highest number of voters ever.

    Clearly there was a lot of interest within the project about this vote. The results appear to be as representative of the views of project members as we have been able to get in the second half of Debian history.

  • There is a total ordering of options (which is not always the case with our voting system). Starting with the winning option, each option in the results beats every subsequent option. The winning option ("General resolution is not required") beats the runner-up ("Support for other init systems is recommended, i.e., "you SHOULD NOT require a specific init") by a large margin: 100 votes, ~20.7% of the voters. The winning options wins over further options by increasingly large margins: 173 votes (~35.8%) against "Packages may require specific init systems if maintainers decide" (the MAY option); 176 (~36.4%) against "Packages may not require a specific init system" (the MUST NOT option); 263 (~54.5%) against "Further discussion" (the "let's keep on flaming" option).

    While judging from Debian mailing lists and news sites you might have gotten the impression that the project was evenly split on init system matters, at least w.r.t. the matter on the ballot that doesn't seem to be the case.

  • The winning option is not as crazy as its label might imply (voting to declare that the vote was not required? WTH?). What the winning option actually says is more articulated than that; quoting from the ballot (highlight mine):

    Regarding the subject of this ballot, the Project affirms that the procedures for decision making and conflict resolution are working adequately and thus a General Resolution is not required.

    With this GR the Debian Project affirms that the procedures we have used to decide the default init system for Jessie and to arbitrate the ensuing conflicts are just fine. People might flame and troll debian-devel as much as they want (actually, I'm pretty sure we would all like them to stop, but that matter wasn't on the ballot so you'll have to take my word for it). People might write blog posts and make headlines corroborating the impression that Debian is still being torn apart by ongoing init system battles. But this vote says instead that the large majority of project members thinks our decision making and conflict-arbitration procedures, which most prominently include the Debian Technical Committee, have served use "adequately" well over the past troubled months.

    That of course doesn't mean that everyone in Debian is happy about every single recent decision, otherwise we wouldn't have had this GR in the first place. But it does mean that we consider our procedures good enough to (a) avoid getting in their way with a project-wide vote, and (b) keep on trusting them for the foreseeable future.

  • [ It is not the main focus of this post, but if you care specifically about the implications of this GR on systemd adoption in Debian, I recommend reading this excellent GR commentary by Russ Allbery. ]

My take home message is that we are experiencing a huge gap between the public perception of the state of Debian (both from within and from without the project) and the actual beliefs of the silent majority of people that make Debian with their work, day after day.

In part this is old news. The most "senior" members of the project will remember that the topic of "vocal minorities vs silent majority" was a recurrent one in Debian 10+ years ago, when flames were periodically ravaging the project. Since then Debian has grown a lot though, and we are now part of a much larger and varied ecosystem. We are now at a scale at which there are plenty of FOSS "mass-media" covering daily what happens in Debian, inducing feedback loops with our own perception of ourselves which we do not fully grok yet. This is a new factor in the perception gap. This situation is not intrinsically bad, nor there is blame to assign here: after all influential bloggers, news sites, etc., just do their job. And their attention also testifies of the huge interest that there is around Debian and our choices.

But we still need to adapt and learn to take perceived hysteria with a pinch (or two) of salt. It might just be time for our decennial check-up. Time to remind ourselves that our ways of doing things might in fact still be much more sane than sometimes we tend to believe.

We went on 10+ years ago, after monumental flames. It looks like we are now ready to move on again, putting The Era of the Great systemd Histeria™ behind us.

Planet Linux AustraliaMatt Palmer: A benefit of running an alternate init in Debian Jessie

If you’re someone who doesn’t like Debian’s policy of automatically starting on install (or its heinous cousin, the RUN or ENABLE variable in /etc/default/<service>), then running an init system other than systemd should work out nicely.

Falkvinge - Pirate PartySwarmops Approaching Launch. Want To Be Part Of It? Fund It Maybe?


Swarm Management: Swarmops is approaching launch. This is the back-end software that allowed the Swedish Pirate Party to beat its competition using less than one percent of their budget, but now generalized for any organization’s use – business or nonprofit. It’s also the only software in existence to do bitcoin-native automated accounting and cashflow.

I believe that adding shiny happy blinking gadgets isn’t the crucial thing to make an operation competitive: instead, it’s removing the old painful obstacles that makes the big difference to competitiveness.

When I founded the Swedish Pirate Party, I had a simple philosophy: the many people shouldn’t have to deal with pain points at all. If there was anything boring and painful, it would be touched by as few people as possible. There was no organizational software that met this simple principle – instead, all back-end software seemed to require the many people to do as much work as possible for the accountant. Just creating an expense report was usually a nightmare.

So I started writing the back-end software for the Swedish Pirate Party myself. It turned out to be absolutely instrumental. (To reclaim an expense in Swarmops, you upload a receipt, fill in its amount and what it’s for, and that’s it.)

Along the same vein, I wanted decisions to be made as far out to the edges as possible, where the most tactical information was. As long as everybody has bought into the overall vision, the best decisions are made at the information sources. There was no software for this either. Swarmops does that too.

This software turned out to be absolutely instrumental in allowing the Swedish Pirate Party to win in 2009, despite having less than 1% of the budget of the competition. The philosophy – in management, organization, and software – had literally made the organization two orders of magnitude more cost-efficient.

Lawrence Lessig famously stated that Code is Law. I’d say it is much more than that: any organization is confined to what its internal processes can handle. The processes determine what must be done, and what can’t be done. And those organization processes are usually determined by very old-fashioned back-office software. Conversely, those who don’t have the painful back-end accounting and bookkeeping can’t do simple but powerful things like delegate budget responsibility or refund simple expenses.

I set out to change that.

Writing accounting and activist/personnel software sure doesn’t sound very sexy. Then again, neither does expense reporting. Despite that, Expensify was a company that set out to remove that pain point from organizations with the simple mission of making expense reports not suck. It’s now a dominant player.

There are many of these old problems lying around that we just don’t consider because we take the pain they bring for granted, and get all giddy when we see new shiny things instead. But removing that pain from an organization is what gives it speed and agility – not to mention let the energy go toward the organization’s mission instead of to old-fashioned pain.

(There was even an insanely successful Kickstarter campaign for more efficient shoelaces the other month. Imagine that. Anybody who says there aren’t any old pain points to solve is simply wrong.)

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So what does Swarmops do?

Swarmops enables tens of thousands of people in an organization to cooperate with little friction, and is geographically aware to boot, so you always have local points of contact. Those people can be volunteers, members, whatever. “Participants.”

Swarmops decentralizes authority to the edges of an organization, where the best decision-making information is available.

Swarmops makes accounting not suck by automating it and doing it all in the hidden background. It was never rocket science anyway.

Swarmops makes an organization transparent by providing real-time data on its health to everybody in the organization. No more waiting several weeks for the quarterly statement. This is realtime stuff.

Swarmops does bitcoin-native cashflow on full auto.

If this sounds familiar and I’ve spoken about some of it before, it’s because I have. It’s the administration system for the Swedish Pirate Party, which was absolutely crucial in allowing us to decentralize to the point where we became the biggest party in the most coveted demographic, despite having less than 1% of the competition’s budget. At that point, it was known as PirateWeb, and was a strictly internal tool.

Some two years ago, I started generalizing it under the name Activizr. However, I realized that in order to make it usable, there would need to be a whole lot of back-end work – installability, maintainability, getting rid of proprietary packages – before that could happen. That’s what I’ve been doing since I first mentioned Activizr, now Swarmops. Now it installs with a standard apt-get, and loads all its data as needed.


But I can’t do this alone.

I’ve been taking this to baseline production level. Now, this needs to scale up if it is to complete and go from good to great.

It’s getting decent attention, but development is going too slow, and Swarmops needs a richer skill set. In particular, I’m not a UX engineer and usability is absolutely key to take a system like this from good to great. (As is mobility, but that’s on the roadmap.)

There’s a crowdfunding going that will enable Swarmops to go from good to great. And yes, of course there are perks for contributing.

Do take a look at the development sandbox to get a feel for it! All the data there is reset every night, so play away. The Swarmops code is also available on Github, and needless to say, it’s public domain.

At this point, Swarmops needs:

  • Pilot installations. There are a few organizations wanting to take Swarmops for a test drive, and more are welcome. It needs exposure to the famous “real-world conditions”.
  • Developers developers developers. The code is on Github and any contributions are welcome. Most development is in JavaScript and jQuery, with minor additions to a C# backend.
  • Funding! The case for going from good to great involves getting some full-time support staff, and design! Do visit the ongoing crowdfunding and consider pitching in?
  • Design and UX. Going from good to great, or even from useful to great, requires design and usability skills in amounts that Swarmops has not had access to.

Do you want to be a part of this? There’s a group on Facebook named Swarmops Developers – drop on by!

Swarmops screenshot

You could see Swarmops as the software counterpart to the book Swarmwise.

Photo by Anna Jumped from the German Piratenpartei’s General Assembly.

Chaotic IdealismWhat is Autism Culture?

A culture is a set of ideas shared by the members of a group of people. It can be based around genetic relationships, common experiences, common goals, or anything else that groups people. Even universities and corporations have cultures. And so does the autism spectrum.

With the Internet comes the ability to talk to each other--even to those who can't use spoken words, and, through family and friends, to those who don't use words at all. As we've begun to communicate, we've formed ideas that we can access more easily than people who aren't autistic can. And that's the beginning of a common culture.

I don't mean here that we all believe or experience the same things; that would be ridiculous. It is more that we all use the same concepts. For example--one person may be desperate for a cure; another person may declare they would rather die first; but both are part of the same culture because they both understand that curing autism is a very significant issue. Even someone arguing that it should not be significant is accessing that same idea of cure as a divisive issue, either desirable or not.

It's a very nebulous thing, this new culture. It hasn't quite formed a distinct shape yet. You can see it in the language we use. Some people say "Aspie" and others "Aspergian"; some people mean "neurotypical" as "non-autistic" and others mean it as "neurologically average", excluding non-autistic people with brain-based differences. Right now it's more of a loosely connected web of subcultures than one big culture. There's the intersection of autism and the bigger developmental disability culture (which is, by the way, more well-established than ours; just look at People First). Then there are the people who went to mainstream school, who tend to focus on bullying and exclusion, and the autism-as-disability group who focus on autism as a disability rights issue. Each forum and group has its own set of ideas to contribute.

It's interesting to watch these ideas crystallize as the months and years pass. Our library of ideas is like half-mixed pancake batter, with bits of flour still dry and milk still sloshing around. And yet as time passes, those loosely bound groups join hands, and the ideas we share become better connected. I remember when it was common to consider Asperger's to be not on the spectrum at all, to define disability as necessarily severe, or to use "...but I'm really smart" as a way of justifying one's existence despite disability. We're starting to connect those subgroups, the developmental disability people and the nerdy-gifted people, and when someone goes to put down one group or the other, people call them on it.

"AS/HFA" and "Autistic" used to look at each other warily, and there's still some of that, but now they're starting to merge, probably because we're realizing just how much we do have in common. I remember when I was first diagnosed I focused on the idea that autistic people could be talented and refused to see myself as disabled. Now, I know I'm disabled, I identify with "developmental disability", and I understand that it's okay to ask for help--that, indeed, it's my right, that it's perfectly legitimate to request help with daily living skills so that you can finish a college degree. I've learned so much from the people they label "low-functioning" that I'm a little bewildered by the idea that I used to think we were fundamentally different just because I can usually talk.

Disabled doesn't mean incapable; gifted doesn't mean you can do everything. As a gifted person with a moderate developmental disabilities, I've come to understand that, like many autistics, I'm floating in the middle between subgroups; but as autism culture starts to work out the lumps and connect the ideas, more and more people are realizing that they're in the same situation I'm in, that the spectrum isn't either-or. We're seeing ourselves in people who, in the outside world, would be put in completely different sociocultural boxes.

We will probably always have those subgroups and disagreements. Because we're human, there'll always be drama, arguments, even hatred and hostility. But as time goes on and we exchange ideas, we're building a library of information that is the foundation of this new culture.

Planet DebianMatthew Palmer: Multi-level prefix delegation is not a myth! I've seen it!

Unless you’ve been living under a firewalled rock, you know that IPv6 is coming. There’s also a good chance that you’ve heard that IPv6 doesn’t have NAT. Or, if you pay close attention to the minutiae of IPv6 development, you’ve heard that IPv6 does have NAT, but you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) use it.

So let’s say we’ll skip NAT for IPv6. Fair enough. However, let’s say you have this use case:

  1. A bunch of containers that need Internet access…

  2. That are running in a VM…

  3. On your laptop…

  4. Behind your home router!

For IPv4, you’d just layer on the NAT, right? While SIP and IPsec might have kittens trying to work through three layers of NAT, for most things it’ll Just Work.

In the Grand Future of IPv6, without NAT, how the hell do you make that happen? The answer is “Prefix Delegation”, which allows routers to “delegate” management of a chunk of address space to downstream routers, and allow those downstream routers to, in turn, delegate pieces of that chunk to downstream routers.

In the case of our not-so-hypothetical containers-in-VM-on-laptop-at-home scenario, it would look like this:

  1. My “border router” (a DNS-323 running Debian) asks my ISP for a delegated prefix, using DHCPv6. The ISP delegates a /561. One /64 out of that is allocated to the network directly attached to the internal interface, and the rest goes into “the pool”, as /60 blocks (so I’ve got 15 of them to delegate, if required).

  2. My laptop gets an address on the LAN between itself and the DNS-323 via stateless auto-addressing (“SLAAC”). It also uses DHCPv6 to request one of the /60 blocks from the DNS-323. The laptop puts one /64 from that block as the address space for the “virtual LAN” (actually a Linux bridge) that connects the laptop to all my VMs, and puts the other 15 /64 blocks into a pool for delegation.

  3. The VM that will be running the set of containers under test gets an address on the “all VMs virtual LAN” via SLAAC, and then requests a delegated /64 to use for the “all containers virtual LAN” (another bridge, this one running on the VM itself) that the containers will each connect to themselves.

Now, almost all of this Just Works. The current releases of ISC DHCP support prefix delegation just fine, and a bit of shell script plumbing between the client and server seals the deal – the client needs to rewrite the server’s config file to tell it the netblock from which it can delegate.

Except for one teensy, tiny problem – routing. When the DHCP server delegates a netblock to a particular machine, the routing table needs to get updated so that packets going to that netblock actually get sent to the machine the netblock was delegated to. Without that, traffic destined for the containers (or the VM) won’t actually make it to its destination, and a one-way Internet connection isn’t a whole lot of use.

I cannot understand why this problem hasn’t been tripped over before. It’s absolutely fundamental to the correct operation of the delegation system. Some people advocate running a dynamic routing protocol, but that’s a sledgehammer to crack a nut if ever I saw one.

Actually, I know this problem has been tripped over before, by OpenWrt. Their solution, however, was to use a PHP script to scan logfiles and add routes. Suffice it to say, that wasn’t an option I was keen on exploring.

Instead, I decided to patch ISC DHCP so that the server can run an external script to add the necessary routes, and perhaps modify firewall rules – and also to reverse the process when the delegation is released (or expired). If anyone else wants to play around with it, I’ve put it up on Github. I don’t make any promises that it’s the right way to do it, necessarily, but it works, and the script I’ve added in contrib/prefix-delegation-routing.rb shows how it can be used to good effect. By the way, if anyone knows how pull requests work over at ISC, drop me a line. From the look of their website, they don’t appear to accept (or at least encourage) external contributions.

So, that’s one small patch for DHCP, one giant leap for my home network.

  1. The standard recommendation is for ISPs to delegate each end-user customer a /48 (giving 65,536 /64 networks); my ISP is being a little conservative in “only” giving me 256 /64s. It works fine for my purposes, but if you’re an ISP getting set for deploying IPv6, make life easy on your customers and give them a /48.

Planet DebianRuss Allbery: Interpreting the Debian init system GR

I originally posted this in a thread on debian-private, but on further reflection it seems appropriate for a broader audience. So I'm posting it here, as well as on debian-project.

There is quite a lot of discussion in various places about what the recent GR result means. Some are concluding that systemd won in some way that implies Debian is not going to support other init systems, or at least that support for other init systems is in immediate danger. A lot of that analysis concludes that the pro-systemd "side" in Debian won some sort of conclusive victory.

I have a different perspective.

I think we just had a GR in which the Debian developer community said that we, as a community, would like to work through all of the issues around init systems together, as a community, rather than having any one side of the argument win unambiguously and impose its views on those who disagree.

There were options on the ballot that clearly required loose coupling and that clearly required tight coupling. The top two options did neither of those things. The second-highest option said, effectively, that we should feel free to exercise our technical judgement for our own packages, but should do so with an eye to enabling people to make different choices, and should merge their changes and contributions where possible. The highest option said that we don't even want to say that, and would instead prefer to work this whole thing out through discussion, respect, consensus, and mutual support, without giving *anyone* a clear mandate or project-wide blessing for their approach.

In other words, the way I choose to look at this GR is that the project as a whole just voted to take away the sticks that we were using to beat each other with.

In a way, we just chose the *hardest* option. We didn't make a simplifying technical decision that provides clear guidance to everyone. Instead, we made a complicating social decision that says that, sorry, there's no short cut to avoid having to talk to each other, respect each other's views, and try to reach workable collaborative compromises. Even though it's really hard, even though everyone is raw and upset, that's what the project as a whole is asking us to do.

Are we up to the challenge?

TEDWhy we need to build the stuff of science fiction: A teen reporter talks to a music technologist

Engineer and musician Gil Weinberg creates robots that are able to improvise. This robotic drum prosthetic can play beats no human can. Photo: Courtesy of Gil Weinberg

Engineer and musician Gil Weinberg builds musical robots that improvise. This robotic drumming prosthesis can play beats no human can. Photo: Courtesy of Gil Weinberg

Gil Weinberg creates musically included robots so good they can improvise. The founder of the Music Technology program at Georgia Tech, he also creates innovative music apps and has contributed his technologies to many a band and ensemble.

Sam Roth, an 11th grader in New York City, was excited to interview Weinberg about his experience speaking at TEDYouth 2014. Below, an edited transcript of their conversation.

How did you get involved with music technology?

I was a musician first — I played piano until college. Only when I got to college did I start to get interested in computation and computer science. Then I thought that it could be an interesting idea to combine both of them. I was playing with a jazz band and, at some point, I thought maybe I could write software to listen to my music and improvise. I thought it could be something new and unique. So I started to write software that actually analyzed music, that complements and improvises.

It went from music to computation. When I got to Georgia Tech after I finished my PhD studies, I started to get interested in robotics. I just grew tired of the electronic sound that comes from speakers. Since everything I did was software and all the music came from speakers, it wasn’t rich. It didn’t have the expression that acoustic sound has. It was the same kind of idea — let the computer inspire me to create something interesting — but this time with acoustic sound.

You came to the U.S. from Israel. How was your work impacted by both the American and Israeli tech scenes?

I believe that we’re global citizens. My inspiration actually came at places here in the States — places that were full of people from all over the world. The MIT Media Lab and Georgia Tech are very international. My horizons were opened more by having more nationalities around — and people with different ways of thinking — than by any single national culture.

Roboticist Gil Weinberg (left) is interviewed by 11th grade reporter TK.

Here, roboticist Gil Weinberg (left) is interviewed by 11th-grade reporter Sam Roth (right).

What is your favorite part of what you do?

Unfortunately, since I became a professor and started teaching, I haven’t been coding as much as I used to. You find yourself less connected to the wires, so to speak. Whenever I do, I enjoy it very much. One way I do stay connected is in actually playing music. I try to have a set point, when the robot is ready, where I can play. So at least I get to be connected to the low-level mechanism with the music.

What I spend the most time on is thinking. Designing with my eyes. Then I take out a pencil and start brainstorming. I come up with ideas on what’s missing in the current state of the project, to take it as far as possible — but also to have it be buildable. We’re working on brain waves controlling a robotic prosthetic arm, which sounds impossible. The trick is to take something that sounds a little bit science fiction-y and find ways in which you can actually do it.

What made you decide to speak at TEDYouth this year?

I was very excited about interacting with teenagers. I think it’s a very cool idea to have an event with kids who are willing to think about big ideas. I had read the list of speakers, which was very interesting. And I wanted to meet all of them. But mostly I was excited about the interactions before and after my talk. I wanted to see what the kids had to say.

Since a big theme of the conference was changing the future, what would be your one message to the next generation?

Keep on creating and building. Keep on questioning what you have and what’s around you. Always ask yourself if there’s something else that you can create or make better. I’m not a religious guy, and some people relate not believing in some kind of higher power with not being a believer. But I’m a very big believer. My belief is in being creative and coming up with new ideas.


Planet DebianThomas Goirand: Rotten tomatoes

There’s many ways to interpret the last GR. The way I see it is how Joey hoped Debian was: the outcome of the poll shows that we don’t want to do technical decisions by voting. At the beginning of this GR, I was supportive of it, and though it was a good thing to enforce the rule that we care for non-systemd setups. Though I have slowly changed my mind. I still think it was a good idea to see what the community thought after a so long debate. I now think that this final outcome is awesome and couldn’t have been better. Science (and computer science) has never been about voting, otherwise the earth would be flat, without drifting continents.

So my hope is that the Debian project as a whole, will allow itself to do mistakes, iterative trials, errors, and go back on any technical decision if they don’t make sense anymore. When being asked something, it’s ok to reply: “I don’t know”, and it should be ok for the Debian project to have this alternative as one of the possible answers. I’m convince that refusing to take a drastic choice in this point in time was exactly what we needed to do. And my hope is that Joey comes back after he realizes that we’ve all understood and embarrassed his position that science cannot be governed by polls.

For Stretch, I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of new alternatives. Maybe uselessd, eudev and others. Maybe I’ll have a bit of time to work on OpenRC Debian integration myself (hum… I’m dreaming here…). Maybe something else. Let’s just wait. We have more than 300 bugs to fix before Jessie can be released. Let’s happilly work on that together, and forget about the init systems for a while…

P.S: Just to be on the safe side: the rotten tomatoes image was not about criticizing the persons who started the poll, who I respect a lot, especially Ian, who I am convinced is trying to do his best for Debian (hug).

Planet Linux AustraliaDonna Benjamin: DrupalSouth - Call for sessions open!! (closes 30 Nov 2014)

DrupalSouth is the biggest Drupal gathering in the Antipodes.

We'll be at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre over three days in early March 2015. March 5-7 to be exact.

Find out more at the website

The call for sessions is open, and we're trying hard to get the word out wide and far, to whisper in new ears, and encourage people of all sorts to share their ideas for sessions so we can create a truly wonderful, inspiring, engaging and fun program for this conference!

For those who may not know, Drupal is an open source content management system. It's used by people and organisations all around the world, for all sorts of web sites. It's also being used as back end application framework for mobile apps! It's amazing what Drupal can do.

Drupal events are the heart and soul of the community that makes Drupal. Bringing people together drives the project forward, and forges friendships.

But we're also part of the wider web. So we want to hear from all sorts of web specialists, not just Drupalists.

Please, submit a session, or simply help us spread the word. The deadline is looming and won't be extended. Get that proposal in by 30 November 2014.

Planet DebianJonathan Dowland: Moving to Red Hat

I'm changing jobs!

From February 2015, I will be joining Red Hat as a Senior Software Engineer. I'll be based in Newcastle and working with the Middleware team. I'm going to be working with virtualisation, containers and Docker in particular. I know a few of the folks in the Newcastle office already, thanks to their relationship with the School of Computing Science, and I'm very excited to work with them, as well as the wider company. It's also going to be great to be contributing to the free software community as part of my day job.

This October marked my tenth year working for Newcastle University. I've had a great time, learned a huge amount, and made some great friends. It's going to be sad to leave, especially the School of Computing Science where I've spent the last four years, but it's the right time to move on, It's an area that I've been personally interested in for a long time and I'm very excited to be trying something new.

Planet DebianMiriam Ruiz: Awesome Bullying Lesson

A teacher in New York was teaching her class about bullying and gave them the following exercise to perform. She had the children take a piece of paper and told them to crumple it up, stamp on it and really mess it up but do not rip it. Then she had them unfold the paper, smooth it out and look at how scarred and dirty is was. She then told them to tell it they’re sorry. Now even though they said they were sorry and tried to fix the paper, she pointed out all the scars they left behind. And that those scars will never go away no matter how hard they tried to fix it. That is what happens when a child bullies another child, they may say they’re sorry but the scars are there forever. The looks on the faces of the children in the classroom told her the message hit home.

( Source: )

LongNowStewart Brand Keynote Video from 02014 Evernote Conference

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On October 3rd 02014, Stewart Brand delivered the keynote address for the Evernote EC4 conference. Evernote is a service that allows people to collect information, notes, bookmarks, and create a personal searchable database with this collection.

Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote, has been a fan of Long Now for years, which inspired him to introduce a “100-year data guarantee” for all Evernote customers, a rare promise in the rapidly changing tech industry. The company is also known for having a long-term view and intends to be a “100-year startup”.

In the video above, Libin introduces Stewart while explaining how influential he and Long Now have been on Evernote’s philosophy. Stewart proceeds to give an update on our Revive & Restore project and the de-extinction of the Wooly Mammoth.

Evernote also gave out free copies of Stewart’s book The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility to attendees of EC4.

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Planet Linux News: Speaker Feature: Andrew McDonnell, Jim Cheetham

Andrew McDonnell

Andrew McDonnell

Reverse engineering embedded software using Radare2

1:20pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Andrew McDonnell is a professional software engineer with two decades experience, having spent many years before that hacking code after receiving a Commodore 64 for Christmas at age 12. He has significant experience programming in C++, Java and Python and a multitude of scripting languages. Outside of family and work he sometimes has time to play with his collection of 8-bit and PC/XT-vintage computers; computing and electronics has always been his passion. He intermittently maintains a blog at sometimes posting how he solved a problem in the hope it may be useful to someone else.

For more information on Andrew and his presentation, see here. You can follow him as @pastcompute and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Jim Cheetham

Jim Cheetham

OneRNG - An Open and Verifiable hardware random number generator

1:20pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Jim works in Information Security, and has a long background in Unix/Linux and Open Source/Free software systems.

For more information on Jim and his presentation, see here. You can follow him as @onerng and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Planet DebianErich Schubert: What the GR outcome means for the users

The GR outcome is: no GR necessary
This is good news.
Because it says: Debian will remain Debian, as it was the last 20 years.
For 20 years, we have tried hard to build the "universal operating system", and give users a choice. We've often had alternative software in the archive. Debian has come up with various tool to manage alternatives over time, and for example allows you to switch the system-wide Java.
You can still run Debian with sysvinit. There are plenty of Debian Developers which will fight for this to be possible in the future.
The outcome of this resolution says:
  • Using a GR to force others is the wrong approach of getting compatibility.
  • We've offered choice before, and we trust our fellow developers to continue to work towards choice.
  • Write patches, not useless GRs. We're coders, not bureocrats.
  • We believe we can do this, without making it a formal MUST requirement. Or even a SHOULD requirement. Just do it.
The sysvinit proponents may perceive this decision as having "lost". But they just don't realize they won, too. Because the GR may easily have backfired on them. The GR was not "every package must support sysvinit". It was also "every sysvinit package must support systemd". Here is an example: eudev, a non-systemd fork of udev. It is not yet in Debian, but I'm fairly confident that someone will make a package of it after the release, for the next Debian. Given the text of the GR, this package might have been inappropriate for Debian, unless it also supports systemd. But systemd has it's own udev - there is no reason to force eudev to work with systemd, is there?
Debian is about choice. This includes the choice to support different init systems as appropriate. Not accepting a proper patch that adds support for a different init would be perceived as a major bug, I'm assured.
A GR doesn't ensure choice. It only is a hammer to annoy others. But it doesn't write the necessary code to actually ensure compatibility.
If GNOME at some point decides that systemd as pid 1 is a must, the GR only would have left us three options: A) fork the previous version, B) remove GNOME altogether, C) remove all other init systems (so that GNOME is compliant). Does this add choice? No.
Now, we can preserve choice: if GNOME decides to go systemd-pid1-only, we can both include a forked GNOME, and the new GNOME (depending on systemd, which is allowed without the GR). Or any other solution that someone codes and packages...
Don't fear that systemd will magically become a must. Trust that the Debian Developers will continue what they have been doing the last 20 years. Trust that there are enough Debian Developers that don't run systemd. Because they do exist, and they'll file bugs where appropriate. Bugs and patches, that are the appropriate tools, not GRs (or trolling).

Planet DebianEvolvisForge blog: Valid UTF-8 but invalid XML

Another PSA: something surprising about XML.

As you might all know, XML must be valid UTF-8 (or UTF-16 (or another encoding supported by the parser, but one which yields valid Unicode codepoints when read and converted)). Some characters, such as the ampersand ‘&’, must be escaped (“&#38;” or “&#x26;”, although “&amp;” may also work, depending on the domain) or put into a CDATA section (“<![CDATA[&]]>”).

A bit surprisingly, a literal backspace character (ASCII 08h, Unicode U+0008) is not allowed in the text. I filed a bugreport against libxml2, asking it to please encode these characters.

A bit more research followed. Surprisingly, there are characters that are not valid in XML “documents” in any way, not even as entities or in CDATA sections. (xmlstarlet, by the way, errors out somewhat nicely for an unescaped literal or entity-escaped backspace, but behaves absolutely hilarious for a literal backspace in a CDATA section.) Basically, XML contains a whitelist for the following Unicode codepoints:

  • U+0009
  • U+000A
  • U+000D
  • U+0020‥U+D7FF
  • U+E000‥U+FFFD
  • U-00010000‥U-0010FFFF

Additionally, a certain number of codepoints is discouraged: U+007F‥U+0084 (IMHO wise), U+0086‥U+009F (also wise, but why allow U+0085?), U+FDD0‥U+FDEF (a bit surprisingly, but consistent with disallowing the backspace character), and the last two codepoints of every plane (U+FFFE and U+FFFF were already disallowed, but U-0001FFFE, U-0001FFFF, …, U-0010FFFF weren’t; this is extremely wise).

The suggestion seems to be to just strip these characters silently from the XML “document”.

I’m a bit miffed about this, as I don’t even use XML directly (I’m extending a PHP “webapplication” that is a SOAP client and talks to a Java™ SOAP-WS) and would expect this to preserve my strings, but, oh my. I’ve forwarded the suggestion to just strip them silently to the libxml2 maintainers in the aforementioned bug report, for now, and may even hack that myself (on customer-paid time). More robust than hacking the PHP thingy to strip them first, anyway – I’ve got no control over the XML after all.

Sharing this so that more people know that not all UTF-8 is valid in XML. Maybe it saves someone else some time. (Now wondering whether to address this in my xhtml_escape shell function. Probably should. Meh.)

Sociological ImagesTheories of the First Topsy-Turvy Doll

Lisa Hix has written a really nice story, “Why Black Dolls Matter,” for Collectors Weekly. The history of the topsy-turvy doll really caught my interest. The one below is characteristic. Believed to be from the 1870s, it is the head and torso of a black and a white doll, sewed together in the middle with a long skirt. The doll can be flipped from one side to the other.


The general consensus seems to be that these dolls were primarily for enslaved children, but the purpose of the dolls isn’t clearly understood.

Hix quotes one of the founders of the National Black Doll Museum, Debra Britt, who says that the dolls enabled enslave children to have something forbidden: a doll that looked like them. “When the slave master was gone,” she explained, “the kids would have the black side, but when the slave master was around, they would have the white side.”

At wikipedia, though, the entry for the dolls cites the author of American Folk Dolls, who makes the opposite claim.

It has recently been suggested that these dolls were often made for Black children who desired a forbidden white doll (a baby like the ones their mothers cared for); they would flip the doll to the black side when an overseer passed them at play.

Kimberly Wallace-Sanders, author of Mammy: A Century of Race, Gender, and Southern Memory, suggests that the dolls might not have been disallowed at all. Since enslaved black women often cared for their own children and the children of their white captors, perhaps the doll was designed to socialize young enslaved girls into their future roles as mothers to children of both races. According to Historical Folk Toys, the black doll sometimes was dressed in a headscarf and the white doll in antebellum-style dress, supporting Wallace-Sanders’ theory that the idea was to socialize girls into their role.

And, of course, we have even less of an idea of how the children themselves thought of these dolls or where their imagination led them.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

Sociological ImagesHappy Birthday, Zygmunt Bauman!

Zygmunt Bauman (1925- ) is a Polish sociologist. Although his work on postmodern capitalism has been very influential, he is arguably most famous for his analysis of modernity and the Holocaust. Rather than a return to barbarism, Bauman argued the Holocaust was not possible without modernity. By modernity he meant the modern concern with ordering, cataloging, creating and following rules, and the division of labor.

Sociological Cinema

1Art by David Moore. H/t Sociological Cinema.

(View original at

Planet DebianThorsten Glaser: Debian init system freedom of choice GR worst possible outcome

Apparently (the actual results have not yet been published by the Secretary), the GR is over, and the worst possible option has won. This is an absolutely ambiguous result, while at the same time sending a clear signal that Debian is not to be trusted wrt. investing anything into it, right now.

Why is this? Simply: “GR not required” means that “whatever people do is probably right”. Besides this, we have one statement from the CTTE (“systemd is default init system for jessie. Period.”) and nothing else. This means that runit, or upstart, or file-rc, or uselessd, can be the default init system for zurg^H^H^H^Hstretch, or even the only one. It also means that the vast majority of Debian Developers are sheeple, neither clearly voting to preserve freedom of choice between init systems for its users, nor clearly voting to unambiguously support systemd and progress over compatibility and choice, nor clearly stating that systemd is important but supporting other init systems is still recommended. (I’ll not go into detail on how the proposer of the apparently winning choice recommends others to ignore ftpmaster constraints and licences, and even suggests to run a GR to soften up the DFSG interpretation.) I’d have voted this as “no, absolutely not” if it was possible to do so more strongly.

Judging from the statistics, the only thing I voted above NOTA/FD is the one least accepted by DDs, although the only other proposal I considered is the first-rated of them: support for other init systems is recommended but not required. What made me vote it below NOTA/FD was: “The Debian Project makes no statement at this time on sysvinit support beyond the jessie release.” This sentence made even this proposal unbearable, unacceptable, for people wanting to invest (time, money, etc.) into Debian.

Update: Formal result announced. So 358 out of 483 voting DDs decided to be sheeple (if I understand the eMail correctly). We had 1006 DDs with voting rights, which is a bit ashaming as well. That’s 48.01% only. I wonder what’s worse.

This opens up a very hard problem: I’m absolutely stunned by this and wondering what to do now. While there is no real alternative to Debian at $dayjob I can always create customised packages in my own APT repository, and – while it was great when those were eventually (3.1.17-1) accepted into Debian, even replacing the previous packages completely – it is simpler and quicker to not do so. While $dayjob benefits from having packages I work on inside Debian itself, even though I cannot always test all scenarios Debian users would need, some work reduction due to… reactions… already led to Debian losing out on Mediawiki for jessie and some additional suffering. With my own package repository, I can – modulo installing/debootstrap – serve my needs for $dayjob much quicker, easily, etc. and only miss out on absolutely delightful user feedback. But then, others could always package software I’m upstream of for Debian. Or, if I do not leave the project, continue doing so via QA uploads.

I’m also disappointed because I have invested quite some effort into trying to make Debian better (my idea to join as DD was “if I’ve got to use it, it better be damn good!”), into packaging software and convincing people at work that developing software as Debian packages instead of (or not) thinking of packaging later was good. I’ve converted our versions of FusionForge and d-push to Debian packages, and it works pretty damn well. Sometimes it needs backports of my own, but that’s the corportate world, and no problem to an experienced DD. (I just feel bad we ($orkplace) lost some people, an FTP master along them, before this really gained traction.)

I’d convert to OpenBSD because, despite MirBSD’s history with them, they’re the only technically sound alternative, but apparently tedu (whom I respect technically, and who used to offer good advice to even me when asked, and who I think wouldn’t choose systemd himself) still (allying with the systemd “side” (I’m not against people being able to choose systemd, for the record, I just don’t want to be forced into it myself!)) has some sort of grudge against me. Plus, it’d be hard to get customers to follow. So, no alternative right now. But I’m used to managing my own forks of software; I’m doomed to basically hack and fix anything I use (I recently got someone who owns a licence to an old-enough Visual Studio version to transfer that to me, so I can hack on the Windows Mobile 6 version of Cachebox, to fix bugs in one of the geocaching applications I use. Now I “just” need to learn C# and the .NET Compact Framework. So I’m also used to some amount of pain.)

I’m still unresolved wrt. the attitude I should show the Debian project now. I had decided to just continue to live on, and work on the things I need done, but that was before this GR non-result. I absolutely cannot recommend anyone to “invest” into Debian (without sounding hypocriet), but I cannot recommend anything else either. I cannot justify leaving but don’t know if I want to stay. I think I should sleep over it.

One thing I promised, and thus will do, is to organise a meeting of the Debian/m68k people soonish. But then, major and important and powerful forces inside Debian still insist that Debian-Ports are not part of it… [Update: yes, DSA is moving it closer, thanks for that by the way, but that doesn’t mean anything to certain maintainers or the Release Team, although, the latter is actually understandable and probably sensible.] yet, all forks of Debian now suffer from the systemd adoption in it instead of having a freedom-of-choice upstream. I’ve said, and I still feel that systemd adoption should have done in a Debian downstream / (pure?) blend, and maybe (parts of) GNOME removed from Debian itself for it. (Adding cgroups support to the m68k kernel to support systemd was done. I adviced against it, on the grounds of memory and code size. But no downstream can remove it now.)

Planet DebianRhonda D'Vine: The Pogues

Actually I was working already on a different music blog entry, but I want to get this one out. I was invited to join the Organic Dancefloor last thursday. And it was a really great experience. A lot of nice people enjoying a dance evening of sort of improvisational traditional folk dancing with influences from different parts of europe. Three bands playing throughout the evening. I definitely plan to go there again. :)

Which brings me to the band I want to present you now. They also play sort-of traditional songs, or at least with traditional instruments, and are also quite danceable to. This is about The Pogues. And these are the songs that I do enjoy listening to every now and then:

  • Medley: Don't meddle with the Medley. Rather dance to it.
  • Fairytale of New York: Well, we're almost in the season for it. :)
  • Streams of Whiskey: Also quite the style of song that they are known for and party with at concerts.

Like always, enjoy!

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Worse Than FailureCodeSOD: WTF from A to Z

Alex's customers were having issues with a web project management console developed by a coworker. Upon opening the code to see what was causing all the JavaScript errors, he learned that the original developer was clearly an expert in web development standards. The code file itself was JavaScript. The use of the .css() function definitely proved his mastery of Cascading Style Sheets. Hard-coded tags demonstrated his deep knowledge of HTML. Finally, his variable naming scheme is essential to maintaining the coveted "Now I Know My ABC's" certification.

var i = "DivContainer";
var j = "DEFAULT";
var k = "DEFAULT";
var l = a(document.createElement("select")).css("min-width", "200px").append(a(document.createElement("option")).val(""));
var m = a(document.createElement("select")).css("min-width", "200px").append(a(document.createElement("option")).val(""));
var n = a(document.createElement("select")).css("min-width", "200px").append(a(document.createElement("option")).val(""));
var o = a(document.createElement("input")).attr("name", "group1").attr("id", "RessRadio").attr("type", "radio");
var p = a(document.createElement("input")).css("width", "250px").attr("type", "text");
var q = a(document.createElement("input")).attr("id", "HiddenRessID").attr("type", "hidden");
var r = a(document.createElement("input")).attr("name", "group1").attr("type", "radio");
var s = a(document.createElement("input")).css("width", "250px").attr("type", "text");
var t = a(document.createElement("input")).attr("type", "hidden");
var u = a(document.createElement("a")).addClass("JButton").text("Display");
var v = a(document.createElement("label")).css("color", "Red");
var w = a(document.createElement("label")).text(" Display all employees assigned to a project: ");
var x = a(document.createElement("label")).text(" Display all projects assigned to an employee: ");
var y = a(a(this)[0]);

f = a(document.createElement("div"));
f.css("border-top", "1px solid Gray").css("width", "450px").css("padding", "5px");

Of course, since there are only 26 letters in the alphabet, sometimes they need to be redefined. Sometimes they even need to be redefined within the same function.

var k = function(a, b, c, d) {
  var e = false;
    source: b,
    minLength: 2,
    select: function(a, b) {
      a = true;

Alex's coworker is no longer with the company, which may be the safest thing for everyone.


Photo credit: Filter Forge / Foter / CC BY

Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: Getting things into Jessie (#4)

Make sure bug metadata is accurate

We use the metadata on the bugs you claim to have closed, as well as reading the bug report itself. You can help us out with severities, tags (e.g. blocks), and version information.

Don’t fall into the trap of believing that an unblock is a green light into Jessie. Britney still follows her validity rules, so if an RC bug appears to affect the unblocked version, it won’t migrate. Versions matter, not only the bug state (closed or open).

Getting things into Jessie (#4) is a post from: | Flattr

Planet DebianBastian Venthur: General Resolution is not required

The result for the General Resolution about the init system coupling is out and the result is, not quite surprisingly, “General Resolution is not required”.

When skimming over -devel or -private from time to time, one easily gets the impression that we are all a bunch of zealots, all too eager for fighting. People argue in the worst possible ways. People make bold statements about the future of Debian if solution X is preferred over Y. People call each other names. People leave the project.

At some point you realize, we’re not all a bunch of zealots, it is usually only the same small subset of people always involved in those discussions. It’s reassuring that we still seem to have a silent majority in Debian that, without much fuss, just do what they can to make Debian better. In this sense: A General Resolution is not required.

Planet Linux AustraliaJonathan Adamczewski: Unquestionably bad

Question 5:

Consider the following 6 data structures:

  • Stack
  • Queue
  • Hash table
  • Doubly-linked list
  • Binary search tree
  • Directed acyclic graph

Using these as the subject matter, construct 6 really good puns.



After receiving a range of questions from different sources, I was unsure which to answer first — I was stack as to where to begin. And so because this was the last question that I received, it became the first that I answered.

Don’t get me wrong — I did appreciate the question. The capacity of my gratitude is, theoretically, unbounded. Thanqueue.

We have a cuckoo aviary. I keyp a record of each birth in a hatch table.

I noticed that I was leaning to one side. I spoke to a physician about it — he told me I was overweight because I was eating too much bread. My list, it seems, is linked to my dough-belly.

On a school trip to a pickle factory, my daughter went missing. I was able to climb the brinery search tree and spot her, though it took longer than I had hoped due to my poor balance.

While out walking, I deflected a cyclist’s gaffe, knocking him aside as he rode the wrong way down a one-way street. I looked down my nose at him and gave a topological snort to help him on his way.


The reader may decide whether the answers satisfy the requirements of the question.

Geek FeminismComfort me with links, for I am sick of spam (18 November 2014)

  • 55 works of iconic Indian writer released on Wikisource under a free licence | Wikimedia blog: “A total of 55 Kannada books by Niranjana are re-licensed. “This is the single largest and most comprehensive individual collection of a writer to be released under CC-BY-SA 4.0 in any of the Indian languages so far,” says Kannada Wikimedian Omshivaprakash.”
  • Over 9000: A game about visibility online when you’re a woman, made by Maddy Myers
  • Job Listings That Don’t Alienate (with images, tweets) · kissane | Storify: “I asked for people from communities that are underrepresented in their fields to talk about language in job descriptions that makes them back away, and the reverse—wording or specification that feel inviting. I got a lot of replies. If you make listings/do hiring, you should probably read them.
  • Barbie book about programming tells girls they need boys to code for them | The Daily Dot: “The latest affront to basic decency in gendered toy marketing comes from a Barbie book that tells girls they can’t be game developers or programmers…  Despite its encouraging title, Marenco’s book actually tells preteen girls that Barbie can only contribute to the design of the game she’s building.”
  • What a Huge Difference Those Little Actions Make | Medium: “I’m looking for more examples of positive stories from women in tech. I want to publish a collection of them — a LOT of them — in the hopes that reading them will make more people take that extra step to be welcoming and encouraging. To take that little step that costs nothing but might mean everything to a new, tired, or discouraged coworker.”
  • Night Witches by Bully Pulpit Games | Kickstarter: “Night Witches is a tabletop RPG about Soviet airwomen during World War Two, flying daring night time bombing missions in biplanes.”
  • How It Feels to Land a Spacecraft on a Comet | New York Times: Physicist, woman, person of color Claudia Alexander on landing a spacecraft on a comet: “Once we started getting the data, we are getting what we expected to get, and we know that the field is going to benefit from having made the effort to get this accomplished. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
  • Not All Nerds | The New Inquiry: “Silicon Valley monopolizes our national ideas about the future, aided by a presumption that the industry is exceptionally progressive when it comes to race. It’s this monopoly that turns the idea of putting iPads in the hands of every child into an urgent need. If we are to challenge Silicon Valley as the shining embodiment and most aggressive promulgator of a neoliberal future, then we need to attack its futurity. We can start by emphasizing how woefully retrograde it is—how 19th century its economics are, certainly, but especially its racial politics.”
  • Weather forecasters predict better services for women | Thomson Reuters Foundation: “Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said progress had been made in improving weather forecasts and climate services to protect lives and livelihoods. ‘But if we are to help communities cope with long-term climate change and the anticipated increase in hazards like floods and heat waves, then we need to do more to reach out to women with gender-sensitive services,’ he said.”
  • Pandora Releases Its Staff Diversity Statistics | Complex: “Are we supposed to believe that there are no black, Asian, or Latino people out there that have expertise in music? This is especially strange if you consider that most of the Pandora consumer base is minorities.”
  • Sartorial Misogyny, Feminist Concern Trolling, and the “Little Things”  | Shakesville: “When feminist concern trolls like Dawkins whine about the misuse of feminism, talking about feminism like it’s meant to be kept under glass, broken only in case of a ‘real’ and ‘serious’ emergency, they’re deliberately ignoring how culture works. The ‘little things’ don’t happen in a vacuum, but are part of a spectrum of expressed misogyny that forms a systemic oppression of women.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Planet DebianDirk Eddelbuettel: R / Finance 2015 Call for Papers

Earlier today, Josh send the text below to the R-SIG-Finance list, and I updated the R/Finance website, including its Call for Papers page, accordingly.

We are once again very excited about our conference, thrilled about the four confirmed keynotes, and hope that many R / Finance users will not only join us in Chicago in May 2015 -- but also submit an exciting proposal.

So read on below, and see you in Chicago in May!

Call for Papers:

R/Finance 2015: Applied Finance with R
May 29 and 30, 2015
University of Illinois at Chicago, IL, USA

The seventh annual R/Finance conference for applied finance using R will be held on May 29 and 30, 2015 in Chicago, IL, USA at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The conference will cover topics including portfolio management, time series analysis, advanced risk tools, high-performance computing, market microstructure, and econometrics. All will be discussed within the context of using R as a primary tool for financial risk management, portfolio construction, and trading.

Over the past six years, R/Finance has included attendees from around the world. It has featured presentations from prominent academics and practitioners, and we anticipate another exciting line-up for 2015. This year will include invited keynote presentations by Emanuel Derman, Louis Marascio, Alexander McNeil, and Rishi Narang.

We invite you to submit complete papers in pdf format for consideration. We will also consider one-page abstracts (in txt or pdf format) although more complete papers are preferred. We welcome submissions for both full talks and abbreviated "lightning talks." Both academic and practitioner proposals related to R are encouraged.

All slides will be made publicly available at conference time. Presenters are strongly encouraged to provide working R code to accompany the slides. Data sets should also be made public for the purposes of reproducibility (though we realize this may be limited due to contracts with data vendors). Preference may be given to presenters who have released R packages.

The conference will award two (or more) $1000 prizes for best papers. A submission must be a full paper to be eligible for a best paper award. Extended abstracts, even if a full paper is provided by conference time, are not eligible for a best paper award. Financial assistance for travel and accommodation may be available to presenters, however requests must be made at the time of submission. Assistance will be granted at the discretion of the conference committee.

Please make your submission online at this link. The submission deadline is January 31, 2015. Submitters will be notified via email by February 28, 2015 of acceptance, presentation length, and financial assistance (if requested).

Additional details will be announced via the R/Finance conference website as they become available. Information on previous years' presenters and their presentations are also at the conference website.

For the program committee:

Gib Bassett, Peter Carl, Dirk Eddelbuettel, Brian Peterson, Dale Rosenthal,
Jeffrey Ryan, Joshua Ulrich

TEDAnnouncing our TED Prize 2015 winner: Dave Isay of StoryCorps

Dave Isay of StoryCorps is the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. On March 17, he'll reveal his wish. Photo: StoryCorps

Dave Isay of StoryCorps is the winner of the 2015 TED Prize. On March 17, he’ll reveal his wish. Photo: StoryCorps

“I’m a storyteller.”

It’s a sentence that can be found in a wide variety of TED Talks — because, really, it is the heart of what we do.

This is why, for the 10th anniversary of the TED Prize in 2015, we are thrilled to award the million-dollar prize to Dave Isay, the founder of StoryCorps. A large-scale oral history project, StoryCorps puts two people who know each other well — a husband and wife, a father and son, longtime co-workers — in a recording booth, giving them 40 minutes to have a real conversation, the kind that digs beyond the mundanities of life to unlock the powerful stories we each hold inside. So far, 100,000 Americans have participated in StoryCorps. All the digital audio files go to the Library of Congress; some are made available on the StoryCorps website, others are broadcast on NPR and still others are animated into shorts. While StoryCorps began in a small soundproof booth in New York’s Grand Central Station in 2003, it has grown into the largest single collection of human voices ever recorded.

But interestingly, while “story” is in the name, Isay sees StoryCorps as primarily about listening. “Listening is generosity,” he tells us. “Listening to someone else closely is one of the most valuable gifts we can give to another human being.”

On March 17, at the TED2015 conference, Isay will share an audacious wish for StoryCorps in a TED Talk. The wish will build on the success the platform has had in its first decade and take it in new directions. Isay’s TED Talk will be livestreamed for free to the world, and posted on soon after. From there, TED’s global community of innovators, entrepreneurs and TEDx organizers will hop in, helping the wish come true.

Isay says that he is “thrilled, honored and, frankly, floored,” to be working with TED and says he sees the two platforms dovetailing well. “I think we are both about inspiring people, helping people focus on what’s important,” he says. “About creating connections that ultimately help us all recognize our shared humanity.”

TED Curator Chris Anderson says that this is a special TED Prize for him too. “On the tenth anniversary of the prize, it seems fitting that we’re honoring a storytelling pioneer,” he says. “I’m excited to see how TED and StoryCorps will collaborate, and eager to see how we can pair an incredible idea with a global community.”

Check out some of Dave Isay’s favorite StoryCorps stories »

Reaction: Read more about Dave Isay’s TED prize win in the New York Times »

Reaction: Hear an NPR segment about Dave Isay and the TED Prize »

TEDFunky words and photos from Mars: A recap of Session 3 from TEDYouth 2014

A great way to see how a jellyfish moves? Luminescent dye, as shown by Kakani Katija. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

A great way to see how a jellyfish moves? Luminescent dye, as shown by Kakani Katija. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

The final session of TEDYouth 2014 focuses on what makes us human — the way we talk, the way we walk, the words we sing, the waves we surf. 

How jellyfish swim. On land, animals leave footprints that tell us a lot about their size, form and capabilities. Marine organisms do too—their footprints are “wake structures,” but they are hard to see since water is translucent. Bioengineer Kakani Katija finds ways to make them visible—using dyes, lasers and more—and measurable. Through this research, she and her intrepid collaborators can understand how sea organisms move, and the complex interplay between how they deal with currents (and contribute to them too). So why do people risk their lives for this kind of research? Because airplanes were engineered based on how a bird flies. “How will marine organisms inspire us?” she asks.

Catching Europe’s biggest waves. Chasing storms isn’t just for tornadoes, but also for catching major waves. Professional surfer Andrew Cotton shares how he started with small waves and felt perpetually behind his peers but finally hit his stride when he started chasing the massive ones, despite the danger involved. The mindblowing slides of waves bigger than one could imagine do not detract from his talk’s main focus: how harnessing an unshakable belief in himself allowed him to conquer the sea, even in the face of uncertainty.

A poetry break. Nineteen-year-old poet Carol Brown seriously throws down when she performs her rapid-fire ode to a rushed and calloused New York City. Her poem “Foundations” skips the cliché, instead honoring the exhaust and 24-hour bodegas that make New York her city —and  a city that belongs to no one. Brown is just one of the artists involved with Urban Word NYC, a nonprofit program bringing writing workshops and poetry slams to New York youngsters.

The daughter of a hitman investigates gun violence. “My father killed people,” says Jennifer Mascia as she steps to the TEDYouth stage. “It’s been 14 years since I discovered this fact and, the second I did, it cast a shadow over my entire childhood.” Mascia is the daughter of a Mafia gunman, convicted of one murder but who may have committed several more. And yet, “Even though my father was a murderer, he was a good father to me,” she says. In the days after the Sandy Hook massacre, Joe Nocera — the op-ed columnist she worked for at The New York Times — asked her to find out who is getting shot every day in America. It became “The Gun Report.” 350 posts and 60,000 deaths later, she shares what she learned: that in the summer, there’s an uptick in murders and that half of gun shot fatalities are fueled by alcohol. She stresses that urgent action is needed because saving one life is better than saving none.


This is a visualization of all the locations Drake has mentioned in songs throughout his career. Photo: Courtesy of Tahir Hemphill


Hip hop, visualized. Tahir Hemphill managed to find a career that fuses his loves of hip-hop, science and design; he’s the creator of Hip Hop Word Count, a database of the lyrics of 50,000 hip-hop songs. Using this raw data, he creates visualizations that make it meaningful—like a chart of the mentions of Cristal, which shows a huge dip since Jay-Z’s boycott. On a tour of a university while brainstorming a new project, Hemphill saw a 15-foot robotic arm. He thought, “Whatever I’m going to do, I’m going to do it with that.” He ended up putting a light pen in the arm, and having it plot all the locations 12 artists mentioned throughout their career, in order. The result: swirling circles of light that reveal both worldliness and local allegiance. Hemphill has recently opened the Rap Research Lab in New York, and invites all attendees to stop by to see what they can discover in the hip-hop data.

Stay in your (sidewalk) lane. Nathan Pyle is making etiquette cool again. He breaks down how to not be a jerk when visiting New York City, sharing the tips and tricks about how to deal with strangers that local New Yorkers already know. His mantra? “Act like a car.” That means: keep your eyes on the road and not on your cellphone, and don’t stop abruptly. This will help you avoid bumping into strangers… and keep you from missing your soulmate when you pass him or her on the sidewalk.

Invent your own words. Who knew that “friend” wasn’t always a noun and a verb? Erin McKean is a lexicographer, which means that she makes dictionaries. And thus, she knows the evolution of words well. That being said, she is no grammar snob, especially if grammar rules stifle creativity. She encourages the audience to make up their own words, and shares six ways for them to create a lexicon all their own. “We always tell young people to be creative and invent things when it comes to science and technology, but then when it comes to inventing new words we say, ‘No, you can’t do that,’” she says. “I think you should make up all the words that you want … Every word is a chance to express an idea and get your meaning across.”

Dispatches from Mars. Why does our planet have life, while Mars doesn’t? Well, it’s very dry and very cold, with temperatures up to 100 degrees below zero. But it wasn’t always. Over the first billion years of its existence, Mars had rivers, lakes and soil. Scientists, of course, want to know what happened. This is one of the purposes of the Curiosity Mars Rover, which landed two years ago. Ehlman explains how rocks found by the Rover prove that water once flowed there, and that streaks of salt found in laser drillings are like a bathtub ring left by a lake. From here, the Rover is headed up a mountain where lots more can be learned. “We’ve already brought our Curiosity to Mars and it’s a proxy til we can go there ourselves,” she says.

Nathan W. Pyle's motto for New York City sidewalks: "Act like a car." Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Nathan W. Pyle’s motto for New York City sidewalks: “Act like a car.” Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

TEDRhythmic robots, tiny houses, healing leeches: A recap of Session 2 of TEDYouth 2014

Kenneth Shinozuka and that sock model at TEDYouth. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Kenneth Shinozuka shows his very cool invention, with the help of a sock model. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

By Cynthia Betubiza, Ella Dawson and Kate Torgovnick May

Session 2 of TEDYouth 2014 offered talks to rouse the spirit and a few to gross you out. Below, recaps of these fascinating talks.

Robots with rhythm. Nothing adds to a musical crescendo more than a skillful improvisation. Gil Weinberg, an engineer and musician from Georgia Tech, brings this creativity to new heights. He builds musically intelligent robots that can improvise along with humans. This technology isn’t just about amusing audiences—Weinberg shows us robots that play rhythms impossible for humans. “We could be musical cyborgs,” he says, showing a clip of a drummer with a prosthetic limb who plays at incredible speed.

A talk with a “sock model.” When Kenneth Shinozuka’s grandfather started to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s, there was one fact that especially troubled his family: the fact that he often wandered at night. His aunt couldn’t sleep, she was so worried about him getting lost. So Shinozuka had an idea: he created a heel-attaching sensor that would send an audible alert if his grandfather so much as placed a foot on the floor. He talks us through the challenges of designing such a thing, and reveals that in its first year of use, it detected 900 cases of his grandfather getting out of bed. It’s one small, smart solution for a growing problem. “As the number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s triples by the year 2050, caring for them will become an overwhelming societal challenge,” he says.

Mucus mania. Biochemist Katharine Ribbeck loves mucus, more commonly known as snot. Despite its gross reputation, mucus plays an important role in protecting our cells from infection-causing pathogens, she says. Our cells are coated in mucus to preserve moisture, help us digest food, and neutralize the toxins secreted by harmful microbes. In fact, our bodies produce a gallon of mucus a day in all. Ribbeck is researching the potential of synthetic mucus, called “mucin,” which could be used in eye drops, nose sprays, skin cream, food and more.

A culture of compost. Pashon Murray went to General Motors and Ford with an unusual request: would you give me your food waste? A Detroit native who you might know from this brilliant spoof of a Cadillac commercial, Murray wanted their food waste to help start a composting movement in her city. She takes food waste from local companies and manure from the local zoo and uses it to turn forgotten tracts of land into thriving gardens. “Detroit gets a lot of news coverage that talks about the negative things—the vacant land, dilapidated properties, buildings that have been pretty much abandoned,” says Murray. “That exists. But to me, Detroit is a gem.”

14-year-old Sicily Kolbeck built this tiny house. Photo: Courtesy of Sicily Kolbeck

14-year-old Sicily Kolbeck built a tiny house and shared what she was doing . Photo: Courtesy of Sicily Kolbeck

A tiny house, and a lesson in self-sufficiency. Teenage crafter Sicily Kolbeck built a 128-square-foot house in less than a year. With the help of instructional YouTube videos on everything from plumbing to installing electricity (plus a whole lot of guess work), the 14-year-old completed her tiny house in April of this year. The project was life changing: she went from a self-conscious introvert to speaking at the White House’s first ever Maker Faire. She says, “I’ve been prepared for not only high school, but real life as well.”

Truths buried in mass graves. In any murder case, finding a body confirms the crime. But in the aftermath of a state-sponsored genocide, says Fredy Peccerelli, finding such evidence requires a mix or archeology, anthropology and genetics. Peccerelli talks to families who lost loved ones in Guatemala’s 36-year-long conflict. He then uses DNA samples that they volunteer and compares them to bodies he exhumes from mass graves. He tells the story of a group of women and children who were taken away by helicopter and never seen again — until his team was able to locate their bodies. In this way, Peccerelli helps give families peace of mind and a voice to the voiceless, as well as collects evidence for use in genocide trials.

Flex fantastic. Storyboard P specializes in movements that look like they should be impossible. A break-dancer featured in Jay-Z’s “Picasso Baby” video, he is a master of ‘flex’: a style that uses pantomime, contortions and complex footwork. He glides across the stage, his legs undulating slowly to Nas’ “I Know I Can (Be What I Wanna Be)” as if they have no bones, his feet flipping over each other in rapid swishes. It’s an eerie performance that gets the audience clapping.

Instagram for understanding. Photographer Ruddy Roye grew up in Jamaica, where class was an issue, but race simply wasn’t. When he moved to the United States, he was surprised to find the color of his skin noticed in strange ways. He turned to photography as a way to work out his complex feelings over this. Now, Roye uses Instagram to tell the stories of his neighbors in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. “For the first time in my life, I could bring my world of invisibility to an audience that had no editors,” he says. Showing us his beautiful images, he explains how he sees his work as a humanist project.

No love for the leech? Leeches don’t get enough credit, mostly thanks to old Hollywood depictions of them as blood thirsty, ferocious creatures. As the self-titled “Leech Guy,” Mark Siddall, a curator at the American Museum of Natural History, sees value in studying these highly diverse animals that have been used for a variety of useful medical endeavours, such as the first human dialysis ever. In a presentation not for the squeamish, he talks us about some of what leeches can do—and ends by having a leech suck on the hand of host Kelly Stoetzel.

Mark Siddall shows how harmless leeches are, demonstrating on host Kelly Stoetzel. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

Mark Siddall shows how harmless leeches are by demonstrating on host Kelly Stoetzel. Photo: Ryan Lash/TED

TEDA mobster’s daughter wants to talk to teens about guns. A young reporter finds out why

Journalist Jennifer Mascia is interviewed by 11th grade youth reporter, Olivia Shaw.

Journalist Jennifer Mascia (left) wrote “The Gun Report” for The New York Times. Here, she is interviewed by 11th grade youth reporter, Olivia Shaw (right).

Jennifer Mascia reports on gun violence in America. For more than a year, at The New York Times, she and Joe Nocera wrote “The Gun Report,” a daily series telling the stories of people killed by gunfire in the US. The series was personal for her; one of the people she wrote about was a friend, Ali Eskandarian. But it turns out the subject hits even closer to home: Mascia’s own father was convicted of murder. She writes about discovering this disturbing information in her memoir, Never Tell Our Business to Strangers.

Olivia Shaw, an 11th-grade reporter, read Mascia’s memoir and asked for the chance to interview her in the week before TEDYouth. Below, an edited transcript of their conversation.

What made you decide to write Never Tell Our Business to Strangers?

It was not long after my mom died, and I was really consumed with the fact that my parents were just going to fade from existence and nobody was going to remember them. So I decided that I wanted to get to know who they were, even if that meant writing the bad parts of our history. It was just a desperate feeling of wanting to keep my parents alive somehow.

What was it like to discover your father and mother’s background with the mafia?

The second I found out that my father killed people, I just had to completely reevaluate my family in this new light. My mom wasn’t exactly involved with the mafia, but she was involved with cleaning up my father’s crimes — finding him lawyers and acting as his advocate. She knew about murders that no one else knew about. She was, in the classic sense, a codependent. I started to wonder if I was raised by a psychopath and his willing accomplice, but I just kept coming back to the point that they loved me a lot. I had a very nurturing childhood, strangely.

Can you describe how the memoir went from idea to actual book?

I wrote it as a “Modern Love” column — a couple thousand words — and then a literary agent said, “Why don’t you expand this into a book?” I started with a timeline: I wanted to recount everything in my childhood– like how we lived as fugitives when I was a kid — and I wanted to look at that with an adult’s eye. Then I found all these court records, and suddenly everything started making sense. I gave myself a year, because the second half is all reported. I did the reporting part first, because that was the part I didn’t know, and then I sat down and wrote the part I did know, which was my life until my parents died. It was like a time machine. The writing process was more amazing than anything.

I turned in the first draft, which was way too long. My editor and I went back and forth — she would cut, I would uncut some things. Ultimately I was the last word, which was nice because in journalism, you don’t have the last word; your editor does. We got a copy editor and fact checker, we added pictures, I gave proofs to my friends — believe it or not, not all your friends will read your book — and then it was published. When the first box of books came, I just couldn’t believe it! And then we had a book party.

Jennifer Mascia and her father on Easter in 1987.

Jennifer Mascia and her father on Easter in 1987.

What does it feel like to know that your life story is accessible to thousands?

It’s weird. The last time I read the book I got a stomachache. But because my parents passed away, it was easier because I didn’t have to worry about what they would think.

You covered gun violence in “The Gun Report” for The New York Times. How did that project come to be?

I was working for op-ed columnist Joe Nocera. He has a young child, and after Sandy Hook, he got really upset. He and his wife said, “Oh my God, that could have been our child.” So Joe wanted to know who gets shot in America every day. Everyone focuses on the mass shootings, which are horrific and awful, but there are a lot of people getting shot every day that nobody writes about. So he said, “Let’s just do this every day and devote a blog to it.” Nobody else was doing this. I liked it because it was just the facts. We’re not telling you what to think about it — and that riled people more than putting out an opinion.

I’ve now joined up with Everytown for Gun Safety, which was started by Michael Bloomberg. We’re launching a news blog in December, which is just gun news. Like “The Gun Report,” but much bigger. I’m working on telling the stories of survivors and will continue to tell the story of who gets shot in America every day.

Do you prefer memoir writing or the style of journalism that you write in the column?

In terms of memoir writing, I only have one story in me — and that was it. So journalism is really my thing. The best stories are nonfiction. I really respect fiction writers, but there are so many stories already out there.

What made you want to speak at this year’s TEDYouth conference?

I really just wanted people, especially young people, to understand what it’s like out there — how we don’t always have laws to protect us from violence. It’s such a divisive issue. And gun violence is taking on new trends: It’s really flourishing in the suburbs as opposed to the cities, and the reason is that the suburbs are suffering financially. I want to introduce you guys to this new reality. It’s a tough subject.

Do you have any advice for young writers and journalists?

My advice is become a multimedia reporter. Reporters now are expected to be videographers, photographers, writers and reporters. It’s almost like a self-contained reporting unit. That’s the future of digital reporting. As soon as you can start web producing your own stuff, photographing your own stuff, videoing your own stuff, it will make you much more marketable.

Journalism’s a tough career. I didn’t think I could do writing for a living until after I graduated college. But I realized that this writer in me was bursting out. I think writing is a way of thinking, in a way. I always had this narrative in my head and I was always telling stories even if I wasn’t putting them down on paper. I was always a writer even when I wasn’t writing.

TEDA youth reporter finds out why it’s important to be nice in New York City from etiquette GIFer Nathan W. Pyle

New York etiquette master Nathan W. Pyle is interviewed by 11th grader Lubna Batool.

New York etiquette master Nathan W. Pyle is interviewed by 11th grader Lubna Batool.

Writer, cartoonist and New York City transplant Nathan W. Pyle is the creator of the street-savvy, GIFed-out NYC Basic Tips and Etiquette. Lubna Batool, an 11th-grade New Yorker, is a big admirer of his work, which gives newcomers to the city the little tips no one else will—like that one $20 umbrella will outlast four $5 umbrellas and that one should be wary of an empty subway car.

In the week before Pyle steps on the TEDYouth 2014 stage, we asked Batool to interview him. Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation. 

What is it about the subway and the sidewalks of New York City that you find interesting?

People. That’s the short answer: people are very interesting, and there are so many different kinds of people here. The excitement of New York is that you’re constantly surrounded by strangers. It challenges the way you think, because, even just overhearing conversations, you realize we all think very, very differently. I love that about New York. But one of the interesting things about the city is that we can all agree on a lot of these rules — about the way a line is supposed to work, or how an escalator should be walked on. We agree on these things even though we disagree on a lot too.

What do you do in your spare time?

I live in Manhattan and my girlfriend lives in Brooklyn, so I spend a lot of time on the subway. That’s where I do a lot of my best thinking. My best ideas come from just looking at other people and thinking about what to write.

What is the most difficult decision you had to make in the last two years?

My most difficult decision was whether or not to stop freelancing. For many New Yorkers, the question is: should I freelance or should I take a salary job? As a freelancer you have a lot more risk, but there’s more freedom. With a salary job you have stability, but it also means that you have to turn down a lot of opportunities. Freelancing is less attractive as you get a bit older because you start to think about maybe marrying someone or having a family. In my case, I ended up taking a salary job. I work for BuzzFeed full-time and I haven’t regretted that, because they treat their employees very well. Some companies don’t treat their employees well and some companies do.

What do you do at BuzzFeed?

I just published a quiz right before I got on the phone with you. A lot of people don’t understand that there are people who write these things — so I’m one of those people. Today it was about breakfast cereal, but then I also wrote a post about dogs. These are things that I can write about. I also write about my faith sometimes, or about advertising, or about philosophy.

One of the things I write about most is: What if I were born in a different country and I came to America — what would that be like? I did an exchange program in Kenya and, the people I lived with, they grew their own food. I learned that many people in the world are much closer to the source of their food. If I were from somewhere else, I would probably not be working on a computer as much because I might actually, say, tend to my own land.


Where would you like to be in your career five years from now?

I definitely want to write more books. I’ve written one so far — about the city. I might write a second that’s about church. I grew up in the Protestant Christian church, and there are a lot of awkward social interactions that happen at church. It would be nice for people to understand the kind of cultural phenomenon that happens. I came from a place in Ohio where a lot of people were accustomed to having churches on every corner. In New York, it’s a lot more multicultural and there are more religions represented. I am in that in-between ground where I can help people understand: here’s what pluralism looks like.

What made you want to work here in New York?

I really like the fact that, in New York, you’re competing against the best of the best. I think that’s what draws so many people here.

If you could travel to one place, where would you go?

I would love to go to Jerusalem. When I was in college, I studied Bible and Theology, so you read about all these places in Israel. It’s another example of where you get a first-hand look at people of many different religions in the same city. I would be very interested to see all of that.

Who is one person that inspires you?

People who think outside the box are some of the most interesting, like Frank Lloyd Wright. One of my favorite stories about him is that he created a complex of buildings, but he didn’t put any sidewalks in. Instead, what he did is let people use the buildings for a while and they walked in the grass between the buildings. They ended up wearing these paths where people would naturally walk. He waited to see what people would do before he put the sidewalks in.

It’s very tempting just to do things the way everyone always does them, but I think the Internet has given rise to so many people who say, “Hey wait, what if I did things this way?” Then they do a Kickstarter and everyone says, “Hey, this may be a really great way to do things.”

Have you had any difficult times in your life? What was your motivation to get through it?

One of my struggles is I that have some mild anxiety. It’s something that millions of Americans have, so if I’m able to talk about my anxiety and tell people, “Here’s what I’ve gone through,” and that I’m dealing with these things, that actually helps other people, too. It teaches you to be more vulnerable and willing to open up about those things—that it’s okay.

And what is the greatest achievement that you’ve had in your life?

That my book was on the New York Times bestseller list. That’s an achievement that was half work and half luck. I think that’s where a lot of achievements come from—you’re just in the right place at the right time. I always tell people that you work hard and you be nice to everyone. It might turn out really well, it might turn out just okay, but, at the end of the day, you can be proud. You don’t want to look back and think, “I stepped on everyone on my way to the top.” Being nice to people is more sustainable in the end.

survive nyc 3 anigif_enhanced-12826-1410192213-22

TEDHow live interpreters will bring TEDYouth into Spanish and Arabic, in real time

Spanish interpreter Kelly Kelly A.K. in the booth at TEDYouth 2012. She and four others will interpret Saturday's TEDYouth in Spanish and Arabic in real time. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

Spanish interpreter Kelly A.K. in the booth at TEDYouth 2012. She and four others will interpret Saturday’s TEDYouth into Spanish and Arabic in real time. Photo: Mike Femia/TED

TEDYouth will be livestreamed on Saturday, November 15, for free — and not just in English. This event, meant for students and, well, anyone sparked by general curiosity, will be translated on the spot into both Spanish and Arabic, to make it watchable by more people around the world.

Five intrepid live interpreters will make this happen. They’ll sit in soundproof booths, watching on monitors and listening through headphones as the event proceeds in English. In real time, they’ll transpose the words into their target language by speaking into a microphone. It’s a task that takes intense concentration, so they’ll trade off every 20 to 30 minutes for a rest. Each team has an electronic dictionary at the ready. 

Live interpreters prepare by reading up as much as they can on the speakers, to make sure that they’re familiar with their subjects and know the kinds of terms that might pop up in each talk. But still, no amount of studying is foolproof.

“Interpreting requires understanding someone else’s speech — the structure, the speaker’s viewpoint, the intention. You often have to anticipate what the speaker will say,” says Sarah Edelman, who has lived in four countries and will be live interpreting in Spanish. “Although there is a lot of preparation, there are always moments of uncertainty due to last moments changes … You need some training in order to not fall off your chair under that kind of pressure.”

For her fellow Spanish interpreter Kelly A.K., the hardest part is having to juggle multiple tasks. “You’re listening to something new and difficult to grasp, translating it into another language in your head and then speaking it out in the other language,” she says. “The hardest part is to listen, think, translate and speak all at the same time.”

Maged Mikhail, who’ll help bring the event into Arabic, says that the difficulty varies wildly by talk. “When speakers are talking fast or using jargon, it is hard. Or when the speakers are not organized enough in their train of thought,” he says. “It’s easiest when the speakers talk slowly and are organized.”

So what happens when the live interpreters get tripped up? Edelman explains, “When you interpret, you are not interpreting words so much as concepts. If you don’t remember a word, you go around it, and find an explanation or a synonym. The most important thing is for the people in the audience to understand.”

A.K. agrees. “If you stop for a word you can’t find in your head, you will miss a lot of the talk. So you just have to move on and sometimes you can come back,” she says.

To her, this isn’t so scary as it is part and parcel of the task. “‘To translate,’ in its etymology, means ‘to betray,’” she says. “Even the best translations in the world are betrayals to the original text, because no two words in different languages have the same exact meaning … I love the challenge. I am always learning new things.”

Mikhail hears that. “I always do my best to translate to the closest meaning based on my comprehension,” he says. “I do it because of my passion for both the source language and the target language.”

Planet DebianSimon McVittie: still aiming to be the universal operating system

Debian's latest round of angry mailing list threads have been about some combination of init systems, future direction and project governance. The details aren't particularly important here, and pretty much everything worthwhile in favour of or against each position has already been said several times, but I think this bit is important enough that it bears repeating: the reason I voted "we didn't need this General Resolution" ahead of the other options is that I hope we can continue to use our normal technical and decision-making processes to make Debian 8 the best possible OS distribution for everyone. That includes people who like systemd, people who dislike systemd, people who don't care either way and just want the OS to work, and everyone in between those extremes.

I think that works best when we do things, and least well when a lot of time and energy get diverted into talking about doing things. I've been trying to do my small part of the former by fixing some release-critical bugs so we can release Debian 8. Please join in, and remember to write good unblock requests so our hard-working release team can get through them in a finite time. I realise not everyone will agree with my idea of which bugs, which features and which combinations of packages are highest-priority; that's fine, there are plenty of bugs to go round!

Regarding init systems specifically, Debian 'jessie' currently works with at least systemd-sysv or sysvinit-core as pid 1 (probably also Upstart, but I haven't tried that) and I'm confident that Debian developers won't let either of those regress before it's released as Debian 8.

I expect the freeze for Debian 'stretch' (presumably Debian 9) to be a couple of years away, so it seems premature to say anything about what will or won't be supported there; that depends on what upstream developers do, and what Debian developers do, between now and then. What I can predict is that the components that get useful bug reports, active maintenance, thorough testing, careful review, and similar help from contributors will work better than the things that don't; so if you like a component and want it to be supported in Debian, you can help by, well, supporting it.

PS. If you want the Debian 8 installer to leave you running sysvinit as pid 1 after the first reboot, here's a suitable incantation to add to the kernel command-line in the installer's bootloader. This one certainly worked when KiBi asked for testing a few days ago:

preseed/late_command="in-target apt-get install -y sysvinit-core"

I think that corresponds to this line in a preseeding file, if you use those:

d-i preseed/late_command string in-target apt-get install -y sysvinit-core

A similar apt-get command, without the in-target prefix, should work on an installed system that already has systemd-sysv. Depending on other installed software, you might need to add systemd-shim to the command line too, but when I tried it, apt-get was able to work that out for itself.

If you use aptitude instead of apt-get, double-check what it will do before saying "yes" to this particular switchover: its heuristic for resolving conflicts seems to be rather more trigger-happy about removing packages than the one in apt-get.


Planet DebianLaura Arjona: Translating (reviewing) Debian package descriptions

Some days I feel super lazy but I still would like to go on contributing translations to Debian.
Then, I leave the web translations a bit, and change to translate or review Debian package descriptions.

It’s something that anybody can do without any knowledge of translation tools, since it is a very simple web interface, as you will see.

First you need to create a login account, then, login into the system.

And then, go to the page of your mother language (in my case, Spanish, “es”). You will see some introductory text, and the list of pending translations:
At the end of the page, there is the list of translations pending to review:

We should begin with this, so the work that other people already made arrives quickly its destination. And it’s the easiest part, as you will see. Let’s pick one of them (libvformat1-dev):

You see the short description in the original English, and the current translation (if there were changes from a former version, they are coloured too).

I didn’t know what the package libvformat1-dev does, but here’s a nice opportunity to learn aobut it a bit :)

The short description looks ok for me. Let’s go on to the long description:


It also looks correct for me. So I leave the text box as is, and go on until the bottom of the page:
and click “Accept as is”. That’s all!!

The system brings you back to the page with pending translations and reviews. Let’s pick another one: totem
I found a typo and corrected some other words, so I updated the text in the translation box, left a message to the other translators in the comment box, and clicked “Accept with changes”.

And… iterate.

When 3 translators agree in a translation, it becomes official, and its propagated to apt-cache, aptitude, synaptic, etc., and the website ( This is the most difficult part (to get 3 reviews for each package description):  many language teams are small, and their workforce is spread in many fronts: translations for the website, news and announcements, debconf templates (the messages that are shown to the user when a package is installed), the Debian installer, the documentation, the package descriptions… So your help (even when you only review some translations from time to time) will be appreciated, for sure.

Filed under: Tools Tagged: Contributing to libre software, Debian, English, translations

Krebs on SecurityMicrosoft Releases Emergency Security Update

Microsoft today deviated from its regular pattern of releasing security updates on the second Tuesday of each month, pushing out an emergency patch to plug a security hole in all supported versions of Windows. The company urged Windows users to install the update as quickly as possible, noting that miscreants already are exploiting the weaknesses to launch targeted attacks.

brokenwindowsThe update (MS14-068) addresses a bug in a Windows component called Microsoft Windows Kerberos KDC, which handles authenticating Windows PCs on a local network. It is somewhat less of a problem for Windows home users (it is only rated critical for server versions of Windows) but it poses a serious threat to organizations. According to security vendor Shavlik, the flaw allows an attacker to elevate domain user account privileges to those of the domain administrator account.

“The attacker could forge a Kerberos Ticket and send that to the Kerberos KDC which claims the user is a domain administrator,” writes Chris Goettl, product manager with Shavlik. “From there the attacker can impersonate any domain accounts, add themselves to any group, install programs, view\change\delete date, or create any new accounts they wish.  This could allow the attacker to then compromise any computer in the domain, including domain controllers.  If there is a silver lining in this one it is in the fact that the attacker must have a valid domain user account to exploit the vulnerability, but once they have done so, they have the keys to the kingdom.”

The patch is one of two that Microsoft had expected to release on Patch Tuesday earlier this month, but unexpectedly pulled at the last moment.  “This is pretty severe and definitely explains why Microsoft only delayed the release and did not pull it from the November Patch Tuesday release all together,” Goettl said.

On a separate note, security experts are warning those who haven’t yet fully applied the updates from Patch Tuesday to get on with it already. Researchers with vulnerability exploit development firm Immunity have been detailing their work in devising reliable ways to exploit a critical flaw in Microsoft Secure Channel (a.k.a. “Schannel”), a security package in Windows that handles SSL/TLS encryption — which protects the privacy and security of Web browsing for Windows users. More importantly, there are signs that malicious hackers are devising their own methods of exploiting the flaw to seize control over unpatched Windows systems.

Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer at Qualys, said security researchers were immediately driven to this bulletin as it updates Microsoft’s SSL/TLS implementation fixing Remote Code Execution and Information Leakage that were found internally at Microsoft during a code audit.

“More information has not been made available, but in theory this sounds quite similar in scope to April’s Heartbleed problem in OpenSSL, which was widely publicized and had a number of documented abuse cases,” Kandek wrote in a blog post today. “The dark side is certainly making progress in finding an exploit for these vulnerabilities. It is now high time to patch.”

CryptogramA New Free CA

Announcing Let's Encrypt, a new free certificate authority. This is a joint project of EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, Akamai, and the University of Michigan.

This is an absolutely fantastic idea.

The anchor for any TLS-protected communication is a public-key certificate which demonstrates that the server you're actually talking to is the server you intended to talk to. For many server operators, getting even a basic server certificate is just too much of a hassle. The application process can be confusing. It usually costs money. It's tricky to install correctly. It's a pain to update.

Let's Encrypt is a new free certificate authority, built on a foundation of cooperation and openness, that lets everyone be up and running with basic server certificates for their domains through a simple one-click process.


The key principles behind Let's Encrypt are:

  • Free: Anyone who owns a domain can get a certificate validated for that domain at zero cost.

  • Automatic: The entire enrollment process for certificates occurs painlessly during the server's native installation or configuration process, while renewal occurs automatically in the background.

  • Secure: Let's Encrypt will serve as a platform for implementing modern security techniques and best practices.

  • Transparent: All records of certificate issuance and revocation will be available to anyone who wishes to inspect them.

  • Open: The automated issuance and renewal protocol will be an open standard and as much of the software as possible will be open source.

  • Cooperative: Much like the underlying Internet protocols themselves, Let's Encrypt is a joint effort to benefit the entire community, beyond the control of any one organization.

SlashDot thread. Hacker News thread.

EDITED TO ADD (11/19): Good post. And EFF's blog post.

CryptogramWhatsapp Is Now End-to-End Encrypted

Whatapp is now offering end-to-end message encryption:

Whatsapp will integrate the open-source software Textsecure, created by privacy-focused non-profit Open Whisper Systems, which scrambles messages with a cryptographic key that only the user can access and never leaves his or her device.

I don't know the details, but the article talks about perfect forward secrecy. Moxie Marlinspike is involved, which gives me some confidence that it's a robust implementation.

EDITED TO ADD (11/20): SlashDot thread.

Planet DebianChristian Perrier: Bug #770000

Martin Pitt reported Debian bug #770000 on Tuesday November 18th, against the pseudo-package.

Bug #760000 was reported as of August 30th: so there have been 10,000 bugs reported in 3 months minus 12 days. The bug rate increased quite significantly during the last weeks. We can suspect this is related to the release and the freeze (that triggers many unblock requests)

I find it interesting that this bug is directly related to the release, directly related to systemd and originated from one of the systemd packages maintainers, if I'm right.

So, I'll take this opportunity to publicly thank all people who have brought the systemd packages to what they are now, whether or not they're still maintaining the package. We've all witnessed that Debian if facing a strong social issue nowadays and I'm very deeply sad about this. I hope we'll be able to go through this without losing too many brilliant contributors, as it happened recently.

Please prove me right and do The Right Thing for me to be able to continue this silly "round bug number" contest and still believe that, some day, bug #1000000 will really happen and I'm still there to witness it.

Ah, and by the way, systemd bloody works on my system. I can't even remember when I switched to it. It Just Worked.

Planet Linux News: Speaker Feature: Katie McLaughlin, Andrew Bartlett

Katie McLaughlin

Katie McLaughlin

Before All Else, Be Graphed

3:40pm Wednesday 14th January 2015

Katie is a part of the Engineering team at Anchor Systems, working to improve *all* the things. She has a history of enterprise development and Windows system administration, but has been successfully converted to the ways of the penguin in recent years.

When she's not changing the world, she enjoys making tapestries, cooking, and yelling at JavaScript and it's attempts at global variables.

For more information on Katie and her presentation, see here. You can follow her as @glasnt and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Andrew Bartlett

Andrew Bartlett

Pushing users into the pit of success - stories from the Samba 3 -> Samba 4 transition

3:40pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Andrew Bartlett is a Samba Developer currently employed by Catalyst in Wellington, NZ. Andrew has been developing Samba since 2001, and has had a strong focus on the Active Directory DC project for the past decade or so. He is passionate about authentication systems and making Samba a great, interoperable alternative to the dominant implementation from Microsoft.

For more information on Andrew and his presentation, see here.

Worse Than FailureAnnouncements: Selling Out Again… with Puppet Labs!

Several years back, I confessed to selling out. But there was a catch: instead of running those rubbish Google ads, we would run hand-picked ads from relevant tech companies.

This worked out wonderfully and, as many of you commented, you first heard about some really cool tools and services, here on the site. So, to commemorate the site relaunch, we wanted to do something really special and work with a select group of tools/companies in the industry to sponsor some entertaining content for you, our readers. You know, things like Radio WTF's Make It Work, OMGWTF Contest, or even Mandatory Fun Day.

That said, we're thrilled to roll out the red carpet for our friends at Puppet Labs as the first of our sponsors for 2015. If you're not already familiar with Puppet Labs, you really should be!

If you're not already familiar, Puppet is all about automating the configuration and management of servers and the software running on them, whether on physical or virtual machines, on prem or in the cloud (and if you have 2 minutes to spare, their intro video gives a pretty good overview of how they help their customers get things done).

They’ve also expanded to integrating with network devices, and that’s going to continue through their relationships with many data center hardware vendors.  It's all about infrastructure as code, and so Puppet used by everyone from start-ups to Google. Be on the lookout for a more in-depth article this year where we deep-dive into their technology as well.

We're all pretty excited about this. Thanks to their support, we'll be able to create some exciting new content, do more meet-ups, and have a lot more fun all-around.

Oh, and it’s definitely worth mentioning they also backed my Release! game. Puppet Labs is one of those for-techies-by-techies companies that loves to be a part of the happenings and provide opportunities in the community.  Please make sure to check them out!

Planet DebianMichal Čihař: Mercurial support in Weblate

Weblate has started as a translation system tightly bound to Git version control system. This was in no means design decision, but rather it was the version control I've used. But this has shown not to be sufficient and other systems were requested as well. And Mercurial is first of them to be supported.

Weblate 2.0 already had separated VCS layer and adding another system to that is quite easy if you know the VCS you're adding. Unfortunately this wasn't the case for me with Mercurial as I've never used it for anything more serious than cloning a repository, committing fixes and pushing it back. Weblate needs a bit more than that, especially in regard to remote branches. But nevertheless I've figured out all operations and the implementation is ready in our Git.

In case somebody is interested in adding support for another version control, patches are always welcome!

Filed under: English phpMyAdmin SUSE Weblate | 0 comments | Flattr this!

CryptogramSnarky 1992 NSA Report on Academic Cryptography

The NSA recently declassified a report on the Eurocrypt '92 conference. Honestly, I share some of the writer's opinions on the more theoretical stuff. I know it's important, but it's not something I care all that much about.

RacialiciousThe Facing Race Files: Racial (In)Justice in the Post 9/11 Era

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Sociological ImagesThat Catcalling Video: Research Methods Edition

First, there were the accolades. More than 100 instances of street harassment in a two minute video, testifying powerfully to the routine invasion of women’s lives by male strangers.

Then, there was the criticism. How is it, people asked, that the majority of the men are black? They argued: this video isn’t an indictment of men, it’s an indictment of black men.

Now, we’ve reached the third stage: lessons for research methods classes.

Our instructor is sociologist Zeynep Tufekci, writing at The Message. Our competing hypotheses are three:

1. Black men really do catcall more than other kinds of men.

2. The people who made this video are unconsciously or consciously racist, editing out men of other races.

3. The study was badly designed.

As Tufekci points out, any one of these could account for why so many of the catcallers were black. Likewise, all three could be at play at once.

Enter, the data wrangler: Chris Moore at Mass Appeal.

Moore and his colleagues looked for landmarks in the video in order to place every instance of harassment on the map of New York City. According to their analysis, over half of the harassment occurs on just one street — 125th — in Harlem.


Did the time the producers spent in Harlem involve denser rates of harassment, supporting hypothesis #1. Did they spend an extra amount of time in Harlem because they have something against black men? That’d be hypothesis #2. Or is it hypothesis #3: they were thoughtless about their decisions as to where they would do their filming.

Honestly, it’s hard to say without more data, such as knowing how much time they spent in each neighborhood and in neighborhoods not represented in the video. But if it’s true that they failed to sample the streets of New York City in any meaningful way – and I suspect it is – then hypothesis #3 explains at least some of why black men are over-represented.

And that fact should motivate us all to do our methods right. If we don’t, we may end up offering accidental and fallacious support to ideas that we loathe.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

RacialiciousThe Facing Race Files: Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency

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As promised, here are some of the images posted by the presenters:

The post The Facing Race Files: Lifting Up Queer and Trans Youth Resiliency appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.

Planet DebianDirk Eddelbuettel: RcppAnnoy 0.0.3

Hours after the initial blog post announcing the first release of the new package RcppAnnoy, Qiang Kou sent us a very nice pull request adding mmap support in Windows.

So a new release with Windows support is on now CRAN, and Windows binaries should be available by this evening as usual.

To recap, RcppAnnoy wraps the small, fast, and lightweight C++ template header library Annoy written by Erik Bernhardsson for use at Spotify. RcppAnnoy uses Rcpp Modules to offer the exact same functionality as the Python module wrapped around Annoy.

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is also a diffstat report for this release. More detailed information is on the RcppAnnoy page page.

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

Planet Linux AustraliaAndrew Pollock: [life] Day 293: Kindergarten, Property Occupations Act Roadshow

Zoe woke up at some point in the night. I have a vague recollection of a conversation with her, and lacking the willpower to get out of bed to put her back to bed in her own bed. The next thing it was 5:30am and she was sleeping sideways in bed with me.

Despite all that, I felt more rested this morning, which was good. We managed to get going quite early as well, without really trying. I had to be out at the Sleeman Sports Complex at 9am for a roadshow by the REIQ about the new Property Occupations Act, which kicks in on December 1 to replace the current Property Agents and Motor Dealers Act.

It also rained this morning, which doubly made it necessary to go to Kindergarten by car. We were actually running so early that we got there before opening time, which I've only managed to do a few times all year.

I ended up getting to the Sleeman Sports Complex about 15 minutes early. It was fun playing "spot the real estate agent's car".

I didn't learn anything earthshattering in the briefing, but it was useful to get fully up to speed on the new legislation. I just hope that being half way through a course that has covered the old legislation isn't going to be a problem.

I got home from that with enough time to just chill out for a bit (I ended up doing a bit of tinkering) before it was time to pick up Zoe. The weather was still a bit questionable, so I picked her up in the car.

Zoe wanted to watch Megan's tennis lesson again, and I had to be at home for a 3pm video chat, so I left her with Jason and popped home.

After my video chat, I went around to Jason's and helped with a bit of painting before heading home to start on dinner.

I had enough for Jason, Megan and Megan's little sister, so they came over for dinner as well.

I got Zoe down to bed at the normal time, but her bedroom is ridiculously hot. I'm not terribly confident I won't get another uninterrupted night's sleep.

Planet DebianJonathan Wiltshire: Getting things into Jessie (#3)

Make sure everything you’ve changed is in the changelog

We do read the diffs in detail, and if there’s no explanation for something that’s changed we’ll ask. We also expect it to be in the changelog.

Do save some round-trips by making sure your changelog is in order. One round-trip about your package is an inconvenience; when it’s scaled up to the number of requests we receive, it’s a serious time-sink for us.

Getting things into Jessie (#3) is a post from: | Flattr

Worse Than FailureThe 8K Bug

The scene: late Friday afternoon, a medium-size company in a big-size panic. Tom and the other web developers churned through last-minute fixes on a client’s new e-commerce site- a site that should’ve been done and deployed two weeks earlier.

Cromemco 8K Bytesaver (1976)

Tom committed his latest changes on a CSS file to the SVN repository, wiping sweat from his brow. He updated his local repository, then went back to Dreamweaver, shaking his head. The company’s web designers insisted the devs used Dreamweaver. It wasn’t that bad, Tom supposed, but there were several better-

Dreamweaver crashed.

Tom frowned; he hadn’t seen that happen before. No big deal. He opened Dreamweaver again. That time, it crashed on startup. On the next try, it stayed open a few seconds, then- crash.

“OK, fine,” Tom muttered, digging under the Start Menu for the Restart option.

Tom paced in his cube as his machine booted back up. The company’s network policies and startup scripts guaranteed a five-minute break, at least, but Tom just wanted to be done and home already. His coworkers’ chatter permeated the cube walls.

“What the hell, Dreamweaver?”

“Is it crashing for you, too?”

“Hey, it’s crashing over here too!” Tom piped up.

Slowly, every web developer and designer in the company succumbed to the same problem. Restarting Windows didn’t help.

Late on a Friday, the developers tried to rope in as many IT people as they could who hadn’t already escaped to weekend bliss. “Uh… have everyone run a virus scan!” commanded the most senior guy left, someone who’d only been working there a few months.

All virus scans came back clean. IT convinced one person to attempt a reimage of his machine, yet still the problem persisted. Minutes of downtime dragged into hours. By then, management had emerged to escalate the panic to hysteria. Unfortunately, no amount of “FIX IT NOW” meetings ever did anything to fix a problem, especially when they trapped IT folks in conference rooms and prevented them from working on said problem.

Tom worried about the proximity of his last update and the crash issue occurring. He hadn’t told anyone yet, but it’d only be a matter of time before someone thought to check the commit log. His machine was clean, though! How could a CSS file possibly crash anything?

Tom googled around for anything regarding Dreamweaver crashes. The first page of results led nowhere. It was only after much digging that he discovered a forum post out in the boonies of the Internet, wherein the original poster described a problem remarkably similar. Tom scrolled faster and faster down, scanning for any helpful reply. Finally, someone fingered it: “Dreamweaver can’t open files that are 8KB EXACTLY in size.”

What? That’s insane! Tom thought.

He checked the size of the last file he’d worked on. 32768 bytes.

Well, that’s not 8K... wait! Tom opened up the Windows calculator and typed in 32768 / 8192 = …

4. The answer was 4. Sure enough, the file size was an exact multiple of 8K.

Heart racing, Tom opened the CSS file and added a blank comment line at the bottom. After confirming the file was no longer 32768 bytes in size, he committed the change to the SVN, then updated. Finally, the moment of truth: he tried to open Dreamweaver.

It opened successfully.

Tom waited several seconds, then bolted out of his chair. “Everybody update SVN, now! I think I may have fixed it!”

Soon, everyone was back in business, wondering how the heck Tom had done it. He emailed them a link regarding the now-infamous Dreamweaver 8KB bug, but neglected to mention it was his own check-in that had spawned the issue.

Planet DebianJosselin Mouette: Introspection (not the GObject one)

Disclaimer: I’m not used to writing personal stuff on Debian channels. However, there is nothing new here for those who know me from other public channels.

Yesterday, I received the weirdest email from well-known troll MikeeUSA. He thought I shared his views of a horrible world full of bloodthirsty feminists using systemd in their quest for domination over poor white male heterosexuals. The most nauseating paragraph was probably the one where he showed signs of the mentality of a pedocriminal.

At first, I shrugged it off and sent him an email explaining I didn’t want anything with his stinky white male supremacist theories, assorted with a bit of taunting. But after discovering all that stuff was actually sent to public mailing lists, I took the time for a second look and started a bit of introspection.

MikeeUSA thought I was a white male supremacist because of the so-called SmellyWerewolf incident, 6 years ago.
Oh boy, people change in six years. Upon re-reading that, I had trouble admitting I was the one to write it. Memory is selective, and with time, you tend not to remember some gruesome details, especially the ones that conflict most with your moral values.

I can assure every reader that the only people I intended to mock then were those who mistook Debian mailing lists for advertising channels; but I understand now that my message must have caused pain to a lot more people than that. So, it may come late, but let me take this opportunity to offer my sincerest apologies to anyone I may have hurt at that time.

It may seem strange for someone with deeply-rooted values of equality to have written that. To have considered that it was okay to stereotype people. And I think I found this okay because to me, those people were given equal rights, and were therefore equal. But the fight for equality is not over when everyone is given the same rights. Not until they are given the same opportunities to exert those rights. Which does not happen when they live in a society that likes to fit them in little archetypal peg holes, never giving you the chance to question where those stereotypes come from.

For me, that chance came from an unusual direction: the fight against prostitution. This goes way back for me. Since when I was a teenager, I have always been ticked off at the idea of nonconsensual sex that somehow evades criminal responsibility because of money compensation. I never understood why it wasn’t considered as rape. Yet it sounded weird that a male heterosexual would hold such opinions; after all, male heterosexuals should go to prostitutes as a kind of social ritual, right?

It was only three years ago that an organization of men against prostitution was founded in France. Not only did I find out that I was not alone with my progressive ideas, I was given the opportunity to exchange with many men and women who had studied prostitution: its effects on victims, its relationship to rape culture and more generally to the place men and women hold in society. Because eventually, it all boils down to little peg holes in which we expect people to fit: the virile man or the faggot, the whore or the mother. For me, it was liberating. I could finally get rid of the discomfort of being a white male heterosexual that didn’t enter the little peg holes that were made for me.

And now, after Sweden 15 years ago, a new group of countries are finally adopting laws to criminalize the act of paying for sex. Including France. That’s too bad for MikeeUSA, but this country is no longer the eldorado for white male supremacists. And I’m proud that our lobbying made a contribution, however small, to that change.

Planet DebianErich Schubert: Generate iptables rules via pyroman

Vincent Bernat blogged on using Netfilter rulesets, pointing out that inserting the rules one-by-one using iptables calls may leave your firewall temporarily incomplete, eventually half-working, and that this approach can be slow.
He's right with that, but there are tools that do this properly. ;-)
Some years ago, for a multi-homed firewall, I wrote a tool called Pyroman. Using rules specified either in Python or XML syntax, it generates a firewall ruleset for you.
But it also adresses the points Vincent raised:
  • It uses iptables-restore to load the firewall more efficiently than by calling iptables a hundred times
  • It will backup the previous firewall, and roll-back on errors (or lack of confirmation, if you are remote and use --safe)
It also has a nice feature for the use in staging: it can generate firewall rule sets offline, to allow you reviewing them before use, or transfer them to a different host. Not all functionality is supported though (e.g. the Firewall.hostname constant usable in python conditionals will still be the name of the host you generate the rules on - you may want to add a --hostname parameter to pyroman)
pyroman --print-verbose will generate a script readable by iptables-restore except for one problem: it contains both the rules for IPv4 and for IPv6, separated by #### IPv6 rules. It will also annotate the origin of the rule, for example:
# /etc/pyroman/
-A rfc4890f -p icmpv6 --icmpv6-type 255 -j DROP
indicates that this particular line was produced due to line 82 in file /etc/pyroman/ This makes debugging easier. In particular it allows pyroman to produce a meaningful error message if the rules are rejected by the kernel: it will tell you which line caused the rule that was rejected.
For the next version, I will probably add --output-ipv4 and --output-ipv6 options to make this more convenient to use. So far, pyroman is meant to be used on the firewall itself.
Note: if you have configured a firewall that you are happy with, you can always use iptables-save to dump the current firewall. But it will not preserve comments, obviously.

Planet Linux AustraliaJeremy Visser: One week with the Nexus 5

My ageing Motorola Milestone finally received a kick to the bucket last week when my shiny new Nexus 5 phone arrived.

Though fantastic by 2009 standards, the Milestone could only officially run Android 2.2, and 2.3 with the help of an unofficial CyanogenMod port. Having been end-of-lifed for some time now, and barely being able to render a complex web page without running out of memory, it was time for me to move on.

I was adamant that I would only buy a Nexus phone. Vendors that ship OEM customisations to the Android image are the spawn of the devil, and I wasn’t interested in buying a device that would be abandoned after the next model came out. After all, I’m not a gadget person. This is a big deal for me, and I hope this phone lasts me four years, just like my Milestone did.

Can I just say how fantastic the hardware is. The case is much more aesthetically pleasing than most of the Android phones I’ve had the (dis)pleasure of trying out, the screen is beautiful, and the software keyboard is smooth, accurate, and responsive.

On the screen. I think five inches is the maximum size I can cope with. I must say, being a person with small hands, I am not a large screen person. I can only just reach the opposite X axis with my thumb, and I need to reposition my hand (or use a second hand) to reach the opposite X and Y points. So yes, that’s why I didn’t get a Nexus 6.

On the software, I am thoroughly impressed by Android 4.4. Thoroughly. Google have done just about everything right. Nearly anything bad I have ever said about Android in the past either doesn’t apply to Android 4.4, or only applies to customised OEM builds.

Everything I would have wanted to root my phone to do previously is totally unnecessary.

Out of the box, FLAC audio and IPsec Xauth VPNs (main mode only, not aggressive mode) are supported. Just by installing an app, I can get my strongSwan IKEv2 VPN working.

Interestingly enough, this phone constantly bombards me with security warnings as a result of the fact that I have installed my own certificate authorities. I think this is an interesting development, and is probably a proactive stance against the possibilities that ISPs and/or governments may encourage you to allow them to perform SSL man-in-the-middle attacks on your connection in future for tracking and advertising purposes.

Hopefully warnings appearing on users’ phones worded such as “your network may be monitored” is enough to scare off those who may have such evil intentions.

The phone is amazingly responsive. Not only that, it multitasks with ease, and the user interface is smooth.

One minor criticism is that Google Maps appears to be capped at around 15 frames per second. This is odd, as similar apps such as Google Earth run at a much more pleasing framerate.

It is probably an unfair comparison, as the Nexus 5 is so much higher specced, but overall I am finding the device much faster and more responsive (and therefore I’m more likely to grab it and use it for quick tasks) than my iPhone 4S.

Ever since the release of iOS 7, my iPhone has been frustratingly slow and unstable. Sadly, apps crashing due to low memory conditions are an almost daily occurrence.

It is unclear to me whether this is a deliberate decision by Apple in order to make their later model iPhones look better, but I find it fascinating that I find my Nexus 5 being more pleasurable to use than my iPhone 4S. Something I would not have thought possible a fortnight ago.

I’m so impressed by Android 4.4 that I’m almost dreading the impending 5.0 upgrade in the fear that Google will “do an iOS 7″ — i.e. make the device significantly less useful by making it slower and less stable.

Planet DebianJaldhar Vyas: And The Papers Want To Know Whose Shirts You Wear

Bayeux Tapestry: Guy in sexist shirt sees a comet

Today I was walking past the Courant Institute at NYU when I saw a man wearing a t-shirt with a picture of a cow diagramming all the various cuts of beef.

Now I've lost all interest in science. Thanks a lot jerks.

Planet DebianAntoine Beaupré: bup vs attic silly benchmark

after see attic introduced in a discussion about bup, i figured out i could give it a try. it was answering two of my biggest concerns with bup:

  • backup removal
  • encryption

and seemed to magically out of nowhere and basically do everything i need, with an inline manual on top of it.


Note: this is not a real benchmark! i would probably need to port bup and attic to liw's seivot software to report on this properly (and that would amazing and really interesting, but it's late now). even worse, this was done on a production server with other stuff going on so take results with a grain of salt.

procedure and results

Here's what I did. I setup backups of my ridiculously huge ~/src directory on the external hard drive where I usually make my backups. I ran a clean backup with attic, than redid it, then I ran a similar backup with bup, then redid it. Here are the results:

anarcat@marcos:~$ sudo apt-get install attic # this installed 0.13 on debian jessie amd64
anarcat@marcos:~$ attic init /mnt/attic-test:
Initializing repository at "/media/anarcat/calyx/attic-test"
Encryption NOT enabled.
Use the "--encryption=passphrase|keyfile" to enable encryption.
anarcat@marcos:~$ time attic create --stats /mnt/attic-test::src ~/src/
Initializing cache...
Archive name: src
Archive fingerprint: 7bdcea8a101dc233d7c122e3f69e67e5b03dbb62596d0b70f5b0759d446d9ed0
Start time: Tue Nov 18 00:42:52 2014
End time: Tue Nov 18 00:54:00 2014
Duration: 11 minutes 8.26 seconds
Number of files: 283910

                       Original size      Compressed size    Deduplicated size
This archive:                6.74 GB              4.27 GB              2.99 GB
All archives:                6.74 GB              4.27 GB              2.99 GB
311.60user 68.28system 11:08.49elapsed 56%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 122824maxresident)k
15279400inputs+6788816outputs (0major+3258848minor)pagefaults 0swaps
anarcat@marcos:~$ time attic create --stats /mnt/attic-test::src-2014-11-18 ~/src/
Archive name: src-2014-11-18
Archive fingerprint: be840f1a49b1deb76aea1cb667d812511943cfb7fee67f0dddc57368bd61c4bf
Start time: Tue Nov 18 00:05:57 2014
End time: Tue Nov 18 00:06:35 2014
Duration: 38.15 seconds
Number of files: 283910

                       Original size      Compressed size    Deduplicated size
This archive:                6.74 GB              4.27 GB            116.63 kB
All archives:               13.47 GB              8.54 GB              3.00 GB
30.60user 4.66system 0:38.38elapsed 91%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 104688maxresident)k
18264inputs+258696outputs (0major+36892minor)pagefaults 0swaps
anarcat@marcos:~$ sudo apt-get install bup # this installed bup 0.25
anarcat@marcos:~$ free && sync && echo 3 | sudo tee /proc/sys/vm/drop_caches && free # flush caches
anarcat@marcos:~$ export BUP_DIR=/mnt/bup-test
anarcat@marcos:~$ bup init
Dépôt Git vide initialisé dans /mnt/bup-test/
anarcat@marcos:~$ time bup index ~/src
Indexing: 345249, done.
56.57user 14.37system 1:45.29elapsed 67%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 85236maxresident)k
699920inputs+104624outputs (4major+25970minor)pagefaults 0swaps
anarcat@marcos:~$ time bup save -n src ~/src
Reading index: 345249, done.
bloom: creating from 1 file (200000 objects).
bloom: adding 1 file (200000 objects).
bloom: creating from 3 files (600000 objects).
Saving: 100.00% (6749592/6749592k, 345249/345249 files), done.
bloom: adding 1 file (126005 objects).
383.08user 61.37system 10:52.68elapsed 68%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 194256maxresident)k
14638104inputs+5944384outputs (50major+299868minor)pagefaults 0swaps
anarcat@marcos:attic$ time bup index ~/src
Indexing: 345249, done.
56.13user 13.08system 1:38.65elapsed 70%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 133848maxresident)k
806144inputs+104824outputs (137major+38463minor)pagefaults 0swaps
anarcat@marcos:attic$ time bup save -n src2 ~/src
Reading index: 1, done.
Saving: 100.00% (0/0k, 1/1 files), done.
bloom: adding 1 file (1 object).
0.22user 0.05system 0:00.66elapsed 42%CPU (0avgtext+0avgdata 17088maxresident)k
10088inputs+88outputs (39major+15194minor)pagefaults 0swaps

Disk usage is comparable:

anarcat@marcos:attic$ du -sc /mnt/*attic*
2943532K        /mnt/attic-test
2969544K        /mnt/bup-test

People are encouraged to try and reproduce those results, which should be fairly trivial.


Here are interesting things I noted while working with both tools:

  • attic is Python3: i could compile it, with dependencies, by doing apt-get build-dep attic and running - i could also install it with pip if i needed to (but i didn't)
  • bup is Python 2, and has a scary makefile
  • both have an init command that basically does almost nothing and takes little enough time that i'm ignoring it in the benchmarks
  • attic backups are a single command, bup requires me to know that i first want to index and then save, which is a little confusing
  • bup has nice progress information, especially during save (because when it loaded the index, it knew how much was remaining) - just because of that, bup "feels" faster
  • bup, however, lets me know about its deep internals (like now i know it uses a bloom filter) which is probably barely understandable by most people
  • on the contrary, attic gives me useful information about the size of my backups, including the size of the current increment
  • it is not possible to get that information from bup, even after the fact - you need to du before and after the backup
  • attic modifies the files access times when backing up, while bup is more careful (there's a pull request to fix this in attic, which is how i found out about this)
  • both backup systems seem to produce roughly the same data size from the same input


attic and bup are about equally fast. bup took 30 seconds less than attic to save the files, but that's not counting the 1m45s it took indexing them, so on the total run time, bup was actually slower. attic is also (almost) two times faster on the second run as well. but this could be within the margin of error of this very quick experiment, so my provisional verdict for now would be that they are about as fast.

bup may be more robust (for example it doesn't modify the atimes), but this has not been extensively tested and is more based with my familiarity with the "conservatism" of the bup team rather than actual tests.

considering all the features promised by attic, it makes for a really serious contender to the already amazing bup.

Next steps

The properly do this, we would need to:

  • include other software (thinking of Zbackup, Burp, ddar, obnam, rdiff-backup and duplicity)
  • bench attic with the noatime patch
  • bench dev attic vs dev bup
  • bench data removal
  • bench encryption
  • test data recovery
  • run multiple backup runs, on different datasets, on a cleaner environment
  • ideally, extend seivot to do all of that

Note that the Burp author already did an impressive comparative benchmark of a bunch of those tools for the burp2 design paper, but it unfortunately doesn't include attic or clear ways to reproduce the results.

Cory DoctorowInformation Doesn’t Want to Be Free interview with Baltimore morning radio

I'm heading to Ann Arbor, DC and Baltimore this week for a series of talks -- I did a a quick interview with Baltimore's WYPR (MP3) that came out very well!

CryptogramThe NSA's Efforts to Ban Cryptographic Research in the 1970s

New article on the NSA's efforts to control academic cryptographic research in the 1970s. It includes new interviews with public-key cryptography inventor Martin Hellman and then NSA-director Bobby Inman.


Planet DebianVincent Sanders: NetSurf Developer workshop IV

Michael Drake, John-Mark Bell, Daniel Silverstone, Rob Kendrick and Vincent Sanders at the Codethink manchester office
Over the weekend the NetSurf developers met to make a concentrated effort on improving the browser. This time we were kindly hosted by Codethink in their Manchester office in a pleasant environment with plenty of refreshments.

Five developers managed to attend in person from around the UK: Michael Drake, John-Mark Bell, Daniel Silverstone, Rob Kendrick and Vincent Sanders. We also had Chris Young providing some bug fixes remotely.

We started the weekend by discussing all the thorny core issues that had been put on the agenda and ensuring the outcomes were properly noted. We also held the society AGM which was minuted by Daniel.

The emphasis of this weekend was very much on planning and doing the disruptive changes we had been putting off until we were all together.

John-Mark and myself managed to change the core build system as used by all the libraries to using standard triplets to identify systems and use the gnu autoconf style of naming for parameters (i.e. HOST, BUILD and CC being used correctly).

This was accompanied by improvements and configuration changes to the CI system to accommodate the new usage.

Several issues from the bug tracker were addressed and we put ourselves in a stronger position to address numerous other usability problems in the future.

We managed to pack a great deal into the 20 hours of work on Saturday and Sunday although because we were concentrating much more on planning and infrastructure rather than a release the metrics of commits and files changed were lower than at previous events.

Krebs on SecurityLink Found in Staples, Michaels Breaches

The breach at office supply chain Staples impacted roughly 100 stores and was powered by some of the same criminal infrastructure seen in the intrusion disclosed earlier this year at Michaels craft stores, according to sources close to the investigation.

staplesMultiple banks interviewed by this author say they’ve received alerts from Visa and MasterCard about cards impacted in the breach at Staples, and that to date those alerts suggest that a subset of Staples stores were compromised between July and September 2014.

Sources briefed on the ongoing investigation say it involved card-stealing malicious software that the intruders installed on cash registers at approximately 100 Staples locations. Framingham, Mass.-based Staples has more than 1,800 stores nationwide.

In response to questions about these details, Staples spokesman Mark Cautela would say only that the company believes it has found and removed the malware responsible for the attack. 

“We are continuing to investigate a data security incident involving an intrusion into some of our retail point of sale and computer systems,” Cautela said in a statement emailed to KrebsOnSecurity. “We believe we have eradicated the malware used in the intrusion and have taken steps to further enhance the security of our network.  The Company is working with law enforcement and is investigating whether any retail transaction data may have been compromised. It is important to note that customers are not responsible for any fraudulent activity on their credit cards that is reported on a timely basis.”

A source close to the investigation said the malware found in Staples stores was communicating with some of the same control networks that attackers used in the intrusion at Michaels, another retail breach that was first disclosed on this blog. Michaels would later acknowledge that the incident was actually two separate, eight-month long breaches that resulted in the theft of more than three million customer credit and debit cards.

The same source compared the breach at Staples to the intrusion recently disclosed at the nationwide grocer chain Albertsons, noting that both breaches resulted in the theft of far fewer customer credit and debit cards that thieves might have stolen in these attacks. It remains unclear what factors may have limited the number of cards stolen in these breaches, particularly compared to tens of millions of cards stolen in breaches at similar nationwide retail chains like Target and Home Depot.

I fully expect that we’ll hear about another major retail chain getting hacked as we approach another Black Friday. Any retailers that are still handling unencrypted credit card data on their networks remain an attractive and lucrative target for attackers.

Planet Linux News: Speaker Feature: Marc Merlin, Jussi Pakkanen

Marc Merlin

Marc Merlin

Why you should consider using btrfs, real COW snapshots and file level incremental server OS upgrades like Google does

11:35am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Marc has been using linux since 0.99pl15f (slackware 1.1.2, 1994), both as a sysadmin and userland contributor. He has worked for various tech companies in the Silicon Valley, including Network Appliance, SGI, VA Linux,, and now Google since 2002, both a server sysadmin and software engineer.

He has done hacking in various areas like mail with exim, mailman, SpamAssassin and SA-Exim, as well as maintained various linux distributions at Google and elsewhere, and given talks about some of those projects, and others at linux conferences since 2001 (LCA, OLS, Linuxcon, Usenix/LISA).

For more information on Marc's presentation, see here.

Jussi Pakkanen

Jussi Pakkanen

Making build systems not suck

2:15pm Thursday 15th January 2015

Jussi got his doctoral degree in computer science in 2006. Since then he has worked in various problem fields including mail sorting. He is currently employed by Canonical where he has worked on various parts of Ubuntu desktop and phone. In his free time he dabbles with drawing, creating computer games, photography and whatever else might catch his fancy.

For more information on Jussi and his presentation, see here. You can follow him as @jpakkane and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Planet DebianNiels Thykier: The first 12 days and 408 unblock requests into the Jessie freeze

The release team receives an extreme amount of unblock requests right now.  For the past 22 days[1], we have been receiving no less than 408 unblock/ageing requests.  That is an average of ~18.5/day.  In the same period, the release team have closed 350 unblocks requests, averaging 15.9/day.

This number does not account for number of unblocks, we add without a request, when we happen to spot when we look at the list of RC bugs[2]. Nor does it account for unblock requests currently tagged “moreinfo”, of which there are currently 25.

All in all, it has been 3 intensive weeks for the release team.  I am truly proud of my fellow team members for keeping up with this for so long!  Also a thanks to the non-RT members, who help us by triaging and reviewing the unblock requests!  It is much appreciated. :)


Random bonus info:

  • d (our diffing tool) finally got colordiff support during the Release Sprint last week.  Prior to that, we got black’n’white diffs!
    • ssh -t /srv/ <srcpkg>
    • Though do not have colordiff installed right now.  I have filed a request to have it installed.
  • The release team have about 132 (active) unblock hints deployed right now in our hint files.


[1] We started receiving some in the 10 days before the freeze as people realised that their uploads would need an unblock to make it into Jessie.

[2] Related topics: “what is adsb?” (the answer being: Our top hinter for Wheezy)


LongNowKevin Kelly Seminar Media

This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

Technium Unbound

Wednesday November 12, 02014 – San Francisco

Audio is up on the Kelly Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.


Holos Rising – a summary by Stewart Brand

When Kevin Kelly looked up the definition of “superorganism” on Wikipedia, he found this: “A collection of agents which can act in concert to produce phenomena governed by the collective.” The source cited was Kevin Kelly, in his 01994 book, Out of Control. His 02014 perspective is that humanity has come to dwell in a superorganism of our own making on which our lives now depend.

The technological numbers keep powering up and connecting with each other. Their aggregate is becoming formidable, rich with emergent behavior, and yet it is still so new to us that it remains unnamed and scarcely considered.

Kelly clicked through some current tallies: one quintillion transistors; fifty-five trillion links; one hundred billion web clicks per day; one thousand communication satellites. Only a quarter of all the energy we use goes to humans; the rest drives Earth’s “very large machine.” Kelly calls it “the Technium” and spelled out what it is not. Not H.G. Wells’ “World Brain,” which was only a vision of what the Web now is. Not Teilhard de Chardin’s “Noosphere,” which was only humanity’s collective consciousness. Not “the Singularity,” which anticipates a technological event horizon that Kelly says will never occur as an event—”the Singularity will always be near.”

The Technium may best be considered a new organism with which we are symbiotic, as we are symbiotic with the aggregate of Earth’s life, sometimes called “Gaia.” There are pace differences, with Gaia slow, humanity faster, and the Technium really fast. They are not replacing each other but building on each other, and the meta-organism of their combining is so far nameless. Kelly shrugged, “Call it ‘Holos.’ Here are five frontiers I think that Holos implies for us…”

1) Big math of “zillionics” —beyond yotta (10 to the 24th) to, some say, “lotta” and “hella.” 2) New economics of the massive one-big-market, capable of surprise flash crashes and imperceptible tectonic shifts. 3) New biology of our superorganism with its own large phobias, compulsions, and oscillations. 4) New minds, which will emerge from a proliferation of auto-enhancing AI’s that augment rather than replace human intelligence. 5) New governance. One world government is inevitable. Some of it will be non-democratic—”I don’t get to vote who’s on the World Bank.“ To deal with planet-scale issues like geoengineering and climate change, “we will have to work through the recursive dilemma of who decides who decides?” We have no rules for cyberwar yet. We have no backup to the Internet yet, and it needs an immune system.

There is lots to work out, but lots to work it out with, and inventiveness abounds and converges. “We are,” Kelly said, “at just the beginning of the beginning.”

Subscribe to our Seminar email list for updates and summaries.

TEDMobility in its many forms: Inspiring words from the TEDCity2.0 Salon

Amanda Boxtel has been in a wheelchair for more than two decades. At the TEDCity2.0 Salon, she showed how a bionic exoskeleton body suit helps her watch. Photo: TK/TED

Amanda Boxtel has been in a wheelchair for more than two decades. At the TEDCity2.0 Salon, she showed how a bionic exoskeleton suit helps her walk. Photo: Paul Persky/TED

By Kate Torgovnick May and Thu-Huong Ha

In the past 30 years, 300 million people in China have left rural areas and moved to cities. Which means that a lot of thinking about the future of cities is happening here. At the TEDCity 2.0 Salon — an event held in Chengdu, China, on November 12, in partnership with the Michelin Corporate Foundation — the theme of mobility in cities ran throughout the day.

From cars to drones to exoskeletons, some choice words from each of the TEDCity 2.0 Salon talks:

“What is the core of the climate crisis? The problem is: We have 190 sovereign states discussing together, and each one tells its negotiator: Don’t give up anything until the other countries give up something also. Nobody speaks on behalf of the planet. No one speaks on behalf of the sea, the atmosphere. We need a planet policy, a policy as if planet Earth were one country.”

Brice Lalonde, UN Climate Change leader and former presidential candidate in France, explains what we can do as a collective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

“Less than 10 years ago there were 600 million cars in the world; today we have over a billion cars. By 2050, we’ll have 3 billion cars in the world. Let’s assume that each car needs 2 by 5 meters, or 10 square meters, of space. Just to park all those cars, we’ll need to build roads that go around the Earth 249 times. We will be suffocating the Earth in so many ways.”

Gil Peñalosa of Toronto-based nonprofit 8-80 Cities, on finding new models of mobility for our overcrowded urban futures

Gil Peñalosa Photo: Paul Persky/TED

Gil Peñalosa explains why new modes of transportation are a must for growing cities. Photo: TED

“For too long we’ve associated building roads with progress. But roads are very expensive to build, very hard to maintain, and they are not scaling at the rate we need them to scale. … What we have done is turn hours of dangerous driving into minutes of smooth flying.”

—Paola Santana of Matternet on their light, low-cost autonomous drones that can deliver goods to people in remote areas

“Today, any entrepreneur, hacker or large corporation can take data from one source and data from another source, and put it together to provide a new service. What if we can do that for the city?”

Assaf Biderman of MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory, speaking over video

“It’s not just my mom: it’s all your moms and all your dads. In 2015, with the aging population, more and more elders will need our care.”

Doris Leung of Hong Kong’s Diamond Cab Company, on why she created a taxi service for those with medical needs

“The wheelchair is a universal symbol for disability that’s been around for 1,500 years. For some people, it becomes their identity. … Imagine a day when a child that has limited mobility can go to a clinic, get a full-body scan and have a robot printed for them from the ground up. Imagine if this robot could be pulled on like a pair of pants, the undergarment of the future.”

Amanda Boxtel of the Bridging Bionics Foundation, who advocates for customized bionic exoskeleton suits, having been paralyzed over two decades ago

Planet DebianDaniel Leidert: Rsync files between two machines over SSH and limit read access

From time to time I need to get contents from a remote machine to my local workstation. The data sometimes is big and I don't want to start all over again if something fails. Further the transmission should be secure and the connection should be limited to syncing only this path and its sub-directories. So I've setup a way to do this using rsync and ssh and I'm going to describe this setup.

Consider you have already created a SSH key, say ~/.ssh/key_rsa together with ~/.ssh/, and on the remote machine there is an SSH server running allowing to login by a public key and rsync is available. Lets further assume the following:

  • the remote machine is rsync.domain.tld
  • the path on the remote machine that holds the data is /path/mydata
  • the user on the remote machine being able to read /path/mydata and to login via SSH is remote_user
  • the path on the local machine to put the data is /path/mydest
  • the user on the local machine being able to write /path/mydest is local_user
  • the user on the local machine has the private key ~local_user/.ssh/key_rsa and the public key ~local_user/.ssh/

Now the public key ~local_user/.ssh/ is added to the remote users ~remote_user/.ssh/authorized_keys file. The file will then probably look like this (there is just one very long line with the key, here cut out by [..]):

ssh-rsa [..]= user@domain.tld

Now I would like to limit the abilities for a user logging in with this key to only rsync the special directory /path/mydata. I therefor preceed the key with a command prefix, which is explained in the manual page sshd(8). The file then looks like this:

command="/usr/bin/rsync --server --sender -vlogDtprze . /path/mydata",no-port-forwarding,no-X11-forwarding,no-agent-forwarding,no-pty ssh-rsa [..]= user@domain.tld

I then can rsync the remote directory to a local location over SSH by running:

rsync -avz -P --delete -e 'ssh remote_user@rsync.domain.tld' rsync.domain.tld:/path/mydata/ /path/mydest

That's it.

Cory DoctorowHuxleyed into the Full Orwell

​Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell is a new short story I wrote for Vice Magazine's just-launched science fiction section Terraform, which also has new stories up by Claire Evans, Bruce Sterling, and Adam Rothstein.

"Huxleyed" is a story about the way that entertainment companies' war on general purpose computing could lead into a horrible mashup of the surveillance tyranny of Orwell and the entertainment tyranny of Huxley.

The First Amendment Area was a good 800 yards from the courthouse, an imposing cage of chicken-wire and dangling zip-cuffs. The people inside the First Amendment area were weird. I mean, I include myself in that group. After all, I vacuformed my own Guy Fawkes mask mold. That is not the action of a sane woman. Shandra was weirder, though. She'd thought up the whole demonstration, socialed the everfuck out of the news, rallied a couple hundred weirdos to join her in the chicken-farm, shouting impotently at the courthouse, ringed by cops scarily into their Afghanistan-surplus riot-gear.

"Shandra, how is this supposed to work again?"

"Like this," she said, and powered up her—weird—device. It started life as a compact projector, the kind of thing you use for screening dull-ass presentations in school auditoriums. But then she'd added a hydrogen-cell that she wore in a backpack, and a homebrew steadicam rig that she strapped to her front, making her look like the world's most overburdened suicide bomber. I could tell that she was already freaking out the cops on the other side of the chicken wire, and they snapped into palpable alert when a beam of light emerged from the projector. I could only imagine how many tasers, sniper-rifles and gas-grenades were trained on her at that moment. But she didn't give any sign that she noticed or cared.

​Huxleyed Into the Full Orwell

(Image: Koren Shadmi)

TED7 StoryCorps stories that Dave Isay just can’t get out of his head


StoryCorps brings together individuals for in-depth interviews. Some of Dave Isay’s favorite pairings: (from left) Kirk and Ryan Sharp, a father and his veteran son; Mary Johnson and Oshea Israel, a mother and the man who murdered her child; Lyle Link and Carly Dreher, grandfather and granddaughter. Photo: StoryCorps

By Dave Isay

I can’t tell you how completely shocked I am to win the TED Prize. For those of you who haven’t heard of StoryCorps, it’s a Brooklyn-based nonprofit I founded 11 years ago that, so far, has given 100,000 Americans the chance to record audio interviews about their lives. Participating in StoryCorps couldn’t be easier: you invite a loved one (or, really, anyone you choose) to a StoryCorps recording site. A trained facilitator greets you and explains the interview process. You’re then brought into a quiet recording room and seated across from your interview partner, each of you in front of a microphone. The facilitator hits “record,” and you share a 40-minute conversation. At the end of the session, you get a copy of the recording, and another copy goes to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., where it will be preserved for generations to come. StoryCorps is about passing wisdom from one generation to the next: someday your great-great-great-grandchildren will be able to meet your grandfather, your mother, your best friend, or whomever it is you chose to honor with an interview.

Of course, some of these stories are heard in the present moment too. We share short excerpts from interviews every Friday on NPR’s Morning Edition and in podcasts, animations and books. We hope that these edited stories illustrate our shared humanity and show how much we all have in common.

On March 17—during TED2015—I’ll share my wish for where to go from here. But in the meantime, I picked some favorite stories to give you a sense of the work we do. Enjoy these stories, half animated and half audio.

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1. Danny and Annie. This husband-and-wife duo of 27 years recorded their interview at our first booth in New York City in the days after we launched. We fell in love with them instantly.  Watch and you’ll see why.

2. Oshea Israel and Mary Johnson. An example of the kind of remarkable conversations that can happen in a StoryCorps booths—a mother speaks to the young man who murdered her only child.

<iframe allowfullscreen="true" class="youtube-player" frameborder="0" height="360" src=";rel=1&amp;fs=1&amp;showsearch=0&amp;showinfo=1&amp;iv_load_policy=1&amp;wmode=transparent" type="text/html" width="586"></iframe>

3. Eyes on the Stars. For the 25th anniversary of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster, our team went searching in our archive to see if anyone had ever talked about the disaster.  It turned out that the brother of one of the astronauts had come to a booth to record.

4. Lyle Link and Carly Dreher. Just a simple StoryCorps interview between a granddaughter and her grandfather.

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5. John and Joe. We’ve launched about 10 big national initiatives focusing on particular groups of Americans, from veterans to those facing memory loss. Our first was with families who lost loved ones on 9/11. This is one of those stories.

6. Ryan and Kirk Sharp. An interview we aired this past week from our work with post-9/11 military veterans and their families.

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7. Miss Devine. One of my favorite animations, to close out this list.

We have an amazing team of about 100 people who are working body and soul to build StoryCorps into a sustaining institution that recognizes that every life and story matters equally. We’re so excited to work with the TED community to further our mission and spread this message. See you at TED2015 in March!!!

Dave Isay

Dave Isay hard at work in a booth. Photo: StoryCorps

Dave Isay hard at work in a recording booth. Photo: StoryCorps


RacialiciousThe Facing Race Files: Moving The Race Conversation Forward

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Sociological ImagesWhat Sociologists Can Tell Us About Serial Killing

In 1897, sociologist Émile Durkheim published research arguing that suicide – something previously believed to be decidedly unsociological – could be understood as a social phenomenon. He pointed out that suicide rates are not evenly distributed in or across societies; that cultural or structural factors might influence individuals’ risk of suicide, regardless of their individual psychologies; and that those factors might explain the variation.

Recently another set of sociologists borrowed Durkheim’s approach, substituting serial killing for suicide. James DeFronzo and three of his colleagues asked whether cultural and structural variables might predict state variation in the rate of male serial killer activity. This, it turns out, varies quite widely, as DeFronzo et al. write:

[U]sing a method that assigns a male serial killer to the state where he perpetrated his largest number of homicides, from 1970 to 1992 California had a rate of 18.6 male serial killers per 10 million residents, whereas Florida had a rate of 10.3, Texas had a rate of 7, New York had a rate of 6.3, Illinois had a rate of 6.1, Ohio had a rate of 3.7, and Pennsylvania had a rate of 3.4.

To do the study, the authors drew on existing literature, positing seven factors that might increase the rate of serial killing in a state.

Their structural factors included population density (large, urban, dense cities allow for greater anonymity and offer more potential victims) and variables that increased individuals’ vulnerability (being divorced, living alone, and being unemployed).

For the cultural factors, the authors considered variables that might indicate a high tolerance for or presence of violence. They argue:

Norms prescribing or tolerant of violent behavior contribute to shaping the fantasies of the developing serial killer, help to objectify and dehumanize potential victims, and consequently provide a necessary link in converting sexually sadistic urges in the violent behavior.

As measures of this, they include the overall homicide rate in the state, whether the state is in the South (see the “culture of honor” thesis), and the use of capital punishment.

They figured that the structural variables might predict the states in which killers killed because they measured opportunity. Whereas the cultural variables might incite young serial killers, thus they’d be related to the states in which serial killers grew up.

Here are the results. All of the relationships are positive – as the rate of divorce goes up, for example, so does the rate of serial killing – and about half of the relationships are statistically significant.

Model 1 (the first column of numbers) shows the relationship between our independent variables and the state where serial killers committed their largest number of murders. Model 1 offers good evidence that social structural variables influence whether serial killers actually kill. Vulnerable individuals living in high density environments may enable these crimes.


Model 2 (the column on the far right) shows the relationship between the independent variables and where offenders were socialized as children. DeFronzo and his colleagues don’t theorize a relationship between their structural variables and the production of a young serial killer, so the significance of these relationships are a mystery. It might be, they argue, just an artifact of the fact that most serial killers killed in the same states in which they were raised.

One cultural variable was significant for this model: Southern region. Being exposed to violence as a child can trigger a genetic potential for violence that would otherwise remain unexpressed. Or, Southerners may simply grew up with greater tolerance for and approval of violence.

Like Durkheim, DeFronzo and his colleagues show us that even phenomenon we think are explained by other disciplines can benefit from sociological analysis. Thanks to their research, we now better understand the factors that increase the risk of being a victim of serial homicide. This is a great example of how we need all of the sciences to put together a complete picture of the world we live in.

Photo of John Wayne Gacy borrowed from The Guardian.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Planet DebianThorsten Alteholz: Manage own CA with Debian

Self signed SSL certificates are nice, but only provide encryption of retrieved data. Nobody knows who is really sending the data.

If one buys an SSL certificate for a website, the browser doesn’t complain as much as with a self signed certificate. But can you really trust the other side? Almost every commercial CA has some kind of “fast validation” or “domain validation, issued in minutes”, which is done by email or phone. So if required, within minutes everybody might become you. Even with putting money on the table your users can not be sure whether this server really belongs to the right guy.

Well, why wasting time and money? Just create your own Root CA and tell users that they need to add something in order to avoid some error messages. In Debian we basically have five packages who claim to be able to manage some kind of CA.

easy-rsa is mainly needed to manage certificates used by openVPN. Within this use case it works like a charm, but I don’t want to manage a more complex CA with it.

gnomint is dead upstream and only uses SHA1 as signature algorithm. This will cause lots of problems as Mircrosoft and Google want to deprecate SHA1 in their products by 2017. Besides, this package is already orphaned and maybe it can disappear now.

tinyCA uses more signature algorithms, unfortunately SHA1 seems to be the “best” it can. There are some patches to support up to SHA512, but they don’t work for all parts of the software yet. For example Sub-CAs still use SHA1 despite of choosing something different in the GUI. So nice, but not (yet) usable in Jessie.

FreeIPA seems to be great, but didn’t make it into Jessie in time. Unfortunately the Release Team has reasons to not unblock it. So nice, but not usable in Jessie.

xca is based on QT4. As announced in the 15th DPN of 2014 the deprecated QT4 will be removed from Debian Stretch (= Jessie+1). Apart from this, the software meets all my requirements.

RacialiciousThe Facing Race Files: Special Ferguson Update

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Planet DebianDaniel Leidert: Removal of and {cvs,svn,vcs}

If you've recently tried to browse to or apt-get from either,,, or ubuntu.wgdd.deyou've probably seen (and still are) an error (410, Gone) coming up and I'd like to give a short explanation why.


I've left my server provider and shut down the above services and only keep a small amount of services running. The domains {cvs,svn,vcs} were used to provide (a) a subversion (SVN) server (via HTTPS and dav_svn) for some public and private work and (b) a CVS web-client to some old project works in CVS.

Among the latter was e.g. old code to generate manual pages for the proprietary fglrx graphics driver, stuff that laid there untouched for many years. So I guess, it was about time to finally remove it :)

The subversion web-client gave public access to some packaging work I do for the Debian GNU/Linux distribution, e.g. for the cvsweb, gtypist packages and some non-official packaging work. For the official packages I plan to move the files into the collab-maint web space and adjust the packages control files accordingly. Everything else will be hosted non-publicly in the future. I still intend to move stuff, that turns out to be useful for more people, to public places like github and Co. Update 17.11.2014: cvsweb, gurlchecker and gtypist have been moved to collab-maint.

I used this site to describe my usage of Debian GNU/Linux on the hardware I own ... laptop, servers etc. I wrote a few HOWTOs and provided a link collection with useful links. You can still find all of this using the service. I also had a repository up and working, especially to provide bluefish packages for users of Debian stable and Ubuntu. Half a year ago I dropped the Ubuntu build environments and packages and moved the Debian stable backports to official places. This effectively emptied the repository and left only the wgdd-archive-keyring package in place. So, there is no real need for a public repository anymore and the linklist probably got outdated too. All in all, I decided to stop this service (maybe I'll forward the site to here later :)).

If you see an error regarding the URL running apt-get or aptitude, then there is a reference to this site in /etc/apt/sources.list or /etc/apt/sources.list.d/*, which can be safely removed. Further you should get rid of the wgdd-archive-keyring package:

apt-get autoremove --purge wgdd-archive-keyring

... or the repository key:

apt-key del E394D996

What else

In case you need any content from the mentioned services, just let me know.

Planet Linux AustraliaAndrew Pollock: [life] Day 292: Kindergarten, return from Sydney, groceries and general malaise

I felt pretty exhausted this morning. In fact, I felt exhausted before I flew to Sydney for the weekend. It hasn't gotten any better.

I managed to get on an earlier (by an hour) flight back, which gave me a comfortable amount of time to unpack, put away the laundry and generally tidy up before picking up Zoe from Kindergarten.

After I picked her up, we popped over to the supermarket to do some grocery shopping and escape the heat, before heading home.

I had a crack at making sushi for dinner tonight. It turned out so-so. I'll tweak it a bit more next time.

Zoe seemed pretty worn out by bedtime too, and went to bed easily. I'm looking forward to a long night's sleep.

Worse Than FailureCodeSOD: Committed to Committing Commissions

Simon worked in a small shop that supported a sales system. One of the features of the system was that sales commissions were stored in the database. For the sake of simplicity, the sales commissions were stored as the multiplier factor needed to compute the total sale. For example, a 5% commission on $100 would be $5, so the factor would be 1.05 so you could just multiply: 100 * 1.05 -> 105.

Of course, when they needed a report that showed the percent commission for a given sale, they had to work backward from the multiplier to get the actual value.

One of the Finance Team bean counters complained that this report is getting the wrong commission rate from the database for one sale. Simon went to have a look. It's an unusual commission rate we don't often use, 7.5%. It displays correctly in the application, but is showing up as just over 1% in the report.

That didn't make much sense. All the other sales commission rates showed up just fine, and a number is just a number - it can't possibly matter how often a particular commission rate is used, surely? The report had been set up by the Finance person's predecessor's predecessor. The source for the commission column was:

If {commission_rate} = 1.2 
   Then 20 
   Else If {commission_rate} = 1.15 
           Then 15 
           Else If {commission_rate} = 1.0 
                   Then 0 
                   Else If {commission_rate} = 1.16 
                           Then 16 
                           Else If {commission_rate} = 1.125 
                                   Then 12.5 
                                   Else If {commission_rate} = 1.1 
                                           Then 10
                                           Else {commission_rate} 

While commission rates were stored in the database as the factor to multiply the base price by to get the price with commission included, this report wanted the commission rate displaying as a percentage, so they needed converting. Its author had known the conversion for the two commission rates used most of the time, and apparently added others over time.

Of course this meant that the fix was simple: Finance simply needed to add this 'new' commission rate to the end of the list, and all would be well. They were happy that the cause of the problem had been identified, and they knew how to fix it.

However, Simon couldn't leave it at that. For one, he could see a future of intermittent requests to help 'fix' the report every time Sales agreed to use a commission percentage that hadn't been used before. Can't the reporting software do arithmetic? Finance didn't know, so he boldly gave it a go, removing all of the Ifs and replacing the expression with just:

({commission_rate} - 1) * 100

It worked fine. As Simon moved on to the next project, he wondered whether the report's author hadn't spotted the pattern between the raw rates from the database and the desired percentages, or whether simple arithmetic was beyond the capabilities of a member of the Finance team.


Photo credit: Dave Dugdale / Foter / CC BY-SA

Geek FeminismThe Principle of Least Linkspam (14 November 2014)


  •  Questions To Ask An Interviewer To Detect How Female-Friendly A Company or Engineering Team Is | Hackbright Acadamy:  “ “We do a lot of things outside of work together. I actually went surfing with one of my coworkers this morning. But if you wanted to find someone to, I don’t know, go shopping with you, I’m sure you could.” Such gender-based assumptions would cause me to worry about future assumptions that might be made. Not all answers will give such a clear signal, but any answer should still give you a good feel for the personalities of the people you would be working with.”
  • [Content note: descriptions of rape apologism and anti-semitism/nazi and fascist references] How we tried to prevent incidents at a hacker camp, why we expected not to succeed, and how we failed | Milena Popova: “Safer spaces policies are there not to prevent the reproduction of all patriarchal biases, but to prevent their manifestation in violence- verbal, mental or physical. They’re there to lower the cost of participation for people from oppressed groups from “I’m going to get slurs shouted at me all day” to “I’m going to feel slightly out of place”. Of course, they also have a second purpose – they are a form of fliter, a message saying “we’re not actively violent towards oppressed groups and if you are then you’re not welcome”.”
  • The Ladies Vanish | The New Inquiry: “Amazon has built a massive network of casualized internet laborers whose hidden work helps programmers and technological innovators appear brilliant. Their Mechanical Turk program, taking its name from the 18th century curiosity, hires people to do invisible work online—work which makes their client companies’ software look flawless. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos calls it “artificial artificial intelligence.” Ninety percent of human intelligence tasks pay under $0.10 per task.”
  • [Trigger Warning: descriptions of harassment, stalking, sexual assault, and death threats] What US Law Can (and Can’t) Do About Online Harassment | The Atlantic: “Self-taken photos are owned by the photographer, so a website displaying those photos without consent is violating copyright.” “[Federal cyber-stalking] laws specifically stipulate that an “interactive computer service” cannot be used to threaten. Approximately half of the states in the U.S. have also updated their laws to allow authorities to press charges against people engaging in cyber stalking and cyber harassment.”
  • Dear @airsage | Sarah Fine: Airsage have published a sexist graphic depicting women’s participation in the transportation industry.
  • #endGamerGate2014 Linkspam | Bluebec: Another linkspam covering #GamerGate’s bad behaviour.

A few links about Matt Taylor wearing a ‘naked-lady shirt’ while representing the European Space Agency (note: he has since issued a personal apology):

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Krebs on SecurityAmazon: Spam Nation one of “Best of Month”

A quick update on my new book, Spam Nation, The Inside Story of Organized Cybercrime — From Global Epidemic to Your Front Door debuting on bookstore shelves  Tuesday, Nov. 18: Amazon has selected Spam Nation as one of their “Best Books of the Month” picks for November, listed alongside such notable authors as Stephen King and Nora Roberts.

abbotm-cIn addition, my publisher has graciously extended the freeZeusGard offer until Nov. 25 for the next 500 people who order more than one copy of the book.

In early October we launched a promotion in which the first 1,000 readers to preorder more than one copy of the book, audio recording and/or e-book version of Spam Nation would receive a free, KrebsOnSecurity-branded ZeusGard, a USB-based technology that’s designed to streamline the process of adopting the Live CD approach for online banking.

Approximately 500 readers took us up on this offer, but that means we still have about 500 left! Thankfully, my publisher (Sourcebooks) has agreed to extend this offer by one week (until Nov. 25, 2014).

Finally, if you live in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle or Austin and would like a personalized copy of Spam Nation, please consider joining me this week as I drop by a local bookstore near you! See the tour schedule for dates, times and locations.


Planet Linux News: Speaker Feature: Paul Foxworthy, Keith Packard

Paul Foxworthy

Paul Foxworthy – A vain attempt to rescue the Australian democracy with a few hundred lines of Java Script

11:35am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Paul is an open source developer and trainer. He is a committer to the Apache OFBiz project and also currently serves as a director of Open Source Industry Australia. He is very pleased at this, his eighth LCA, to have finally done something just possibly cool enough to talk about.

Away from work, Paul tries to get away to his bush block in eastern Victoria, and to teach agile techniques to Ilke the German Shepherd.

For more information on Paul's presentation, see here. You can follow him as @ConcreteGannet and don’t forget to mention #lca2015.

Keith Packard

Keith Packard

Putting the Polish on Glamor

10:40am Wednesday 14th January 2015

Keith Packard has been developing open source software since 1986, focusing on the X Window System since 1987, designing and implementing large parts of the current implementation. He is currently a Principal Engineer with Intel's Open Source Technology Center. Keith received a Usenix Lifetime Achievement award in 1999, an O'Reilly Open Source award in 2011, sits on the foundation board and is a member of the Debian Technical Committee.

For more information on Keith and his presentations, see here.

Planet Linux AustraliaSridhar Dhanapalan: Twitter posts: 2014-11-10 to 2014-11-16

Sociological ImagesJust for Fun: Academic Q&A Tricks for Tricky Questions

If you’ve ever given an academic job talk or lecture, you’ve been this kid…

1 (2)

Via Next Scientist.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

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Planet Linux AustraliaMichael Still: Fast Food Nation

ISBN: 9780547750330
I don't read a lot of non-fiction, but I decided to finally read this book having had it sit on the shelf for a few years. I'm glad I read it, but as someone who regularly eats in the US I am not sure if I should be glad or freaked out. The book is an interesting study in how industrialization without proper quality controls can have some pretty terrible side effects. I'm glad to live in a jurisdiction where we actively test for food quality and safety.

The book is a good read, and I'd recommend it to people without weak stomaches.

Tags for this post: book eric_schlosser food quality meat fast industrialized
Related posts: Dinner; Dishwasher Trout; Yum; 14 November 2003; Food recommendation; Generally poor audio quality on pod casts?
Comment Recommend a book

Planet Linux AustraliaTim Serong: Salt and Pepper Squid with Fresh Greens

A few days ago I told Andrew Wafaa I’d write up some notes for him and publish them here. I became hungry contemplating this work, so decided cooking was the first order of business:

Salt and Pepper Squid with Fresh Greens

It turned out reasonably well for a first attempt. Could’ve been crispier, and it was quite salty, but the pepper and chilli definitely worked (I’m pretty sure the chilli was dried bhut jolokia I harvested last summer). But this isn’t a post about food, it’s about some software I’ve packaged for managing Ceph clusters on openSUSE and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Specifically, this post is about Calamari, which was originally delivered as a proprietary dashboard as part of Inktank Ceph Enterprise, but has since been open sourced. It’s a Django app, split into a backend REST API and a frontend GUI implemented in terms of that backend. The upstream build process uses Vagrant, and is fine for development environments, but (TL;DR) doesn’t work for building more generic distro packages inside OBS. So I’ve got a separate branch that unpicks the build a little bit, makes sure Calamari is installed to FHS paths instead of /opt/calamari, and relies on regular packages for all its dependencies rather than packing everything into a Python virtualenv. I posted some more details about this to the Calamari mailing list.

Getting Calamari running on openSUSE is pretty straightforward, assuming you’ve already got a Ceph cluster configured. In addition to your Ceph nodes you will need one more host (which can be a VM, if you like), on which Calamari will be installed. Let’s call that the admin node.

First, on every node (i.e. all Ceph nodes and your admin node), add the systemsmanagement:calamari repo (replace openSUSE_13.2 to match your actual distro):

# zypper ar -f

Next, on your admin node, install and initialize Calamari. The calamari-ctl command will prompt you to create an administrative user, which you will use later to log in to Calamari.

# zypper in calamari-clients
# calamari-ctl initialize

Third, on each of your Ceph nodes, install, configure and start salt-minion (replace CALAMARI-SERVER with the hostname/FQDN of your admin node):

# zypper in salt-minion
# echo "master: CALAMARI-SERVER" > /etc/salt/minion.d/calamari.conf
# systemctl enable salt-minion
# systemctl start salt-minion

Now log in to Calamari in your web browser (go to http://CALAMARI-SERVER/). Calamari will tell you your Ceph hosts are requesting they be managed by Calamari. Click the “Add” button to allow this.

calamari-authorize-hosts calamari-authorize-hosts-wait

Once that’s complete, click the “Dashboard” link at the top to view the cluster status. You should see something like this:


And you’re done. Go explore. You might like to put some load on your cluster and see what the performance graphs do.

Concerning ceph-deploy

The instructions above have you manually installing and configuring salt-minion on each node. This isn’t too much of a pain, but is even easier with ceph-deploy which lets you do the whole lot with one command:

ceph-deploy calamari connect --master <calamari-fqdn> <node1> [<node2> ...]

Unfortunately, at the time of writing, we don’t have a version of ceph-deploy on OBS which supports the calamari connect command on openSUSE or SLES. I do have a SUSE-specific patch for ceph-deploy to fix this (feel free to use this if you like), but rather than tacking that onto our build of ceph-deploy I’d rather push something more sensible upstream, given the patch as written would break support for other distros.

Distros systemsmanagement:calamari Builds Against

The systemsmanagement:calamari project presently builds everything for openSUSE 13.1, 13.2, Tumbleweed and Factory. You should be able to use the packages supplied to run a Calamari server on any of these distros.

Additionally, I’m building salt (which is how the Ceph nodes talk to Calamari) and diamond (the metrics collector) for SLE 11 SP3 and SLE 12. This means you should be able to use these packages to connect Calamari running on openSUSE to a Ceph cluster running on SLES, should you so choose. If you try that and hit any missing Python dependencies, you’ll need to get these from devel:languages:python.

Disconnecting a Ceph Cluster from Calamari

To completely disconnect a Ceph cluster from Calamari, first, on each Ceph node, stop salt and diamond:

# systemctl disable salt-minion
# systemctl stop salt-minion
# systemctl disable diamond
# systemctl stop diamond

Then, make the Calamari server forget the salt keys, ceph nodes and ceph cluster. You need to use the backend REST API for this. Visit each of /api/v2/key, /api/v2/server and /api/v2/cluster in your browser. Look at the list of resources, and for each item to be deleted, construct the URL for that and click “Delete”. John Spray also mentioned this on the mailing list, and helpfully included a couple of screenshots.

Multiple Cluster Kinks

When doing development or testing, you might find yourself destroying and recreating clusters on the same set of Ceph nodes. If you keep your existing Calamari instance running through this, it’ll still remember the old cluster, but will also be aware of the new cluster. You may then see errors about the cluster state being stale. This is because the Calamari backend supports multiple clusters, but the frontend doesn’t (this is planned for version 1.3), and the old cluster obviously isn’t providing updates any more, as it no longer exists. To cope with this, on the Calamari server, run:

# calamari-ctl clear --yes-i-am-sure
# calamari-ctl initialize

This will make Calamari forget all the old clusters and hosts it knows about, but will not clear out the salt minion keys from the salt master. This is fine if you’re reusing the same nodes for your new cluster.

Sessions to Attend at SUSECon

SUSECon starts tomorrow (or the day after, depending on what timezone you’re in). It would be the height of negligence for me to not mention the Ceph related sessions several of my esteemed colleagues are running there:

  • FUT7537 – SUSE Storage – Software Defined Storage Introduction and Roadmap: Getting your tentacles around data growth
  • HO8025 – SUSE Storage / Ceph hands-on session
  • TUT8103 – SUSE Storage: Sizing and Performance
  • TUT6117 – Quick-and-Easy Deployment of a Ceph Storage Cluster with SLES – With a look at SUSE Studio, Manager and Build Service
  • OFOR7540 – Software Defined Storage / Ceph Round Table
  • FUT8701 – The Big Picture: How the SUSE Management, Cloud and Storage Products Empower Your Linux Infrastructure
  • CAS7994 – Ceph distributed storage for the cloud, an update of enterprise use-cases at BMW

Update: for those who were hoping for an actual food recipe, please see this discussion.


TEDAn invention, a poem and a homemade animation: Meet some of this year’s TEDYouth attendees

TEDYouth-mainThe speakers at TEDYouth 2014 are a fascinating group, ranging from a paleontologist to a teenage chef. But the middle and high school students who’ll attend are just as interesting. 

To apply for this annual conference — which brings together students for a no-cost day of mind-blowing TED Talks — attendees are asked to share a piece of creative writing, to make a video, to snap some photographs or to showcase another skill of their choosing. Every year, we’re amazed by the wildly imaginative applications we receive.

TEDYouth 2014, themed “Worlds Imagined,” will take place on Saturday, November 15, at the Brooklyn Museum in New York. Below, just a few of the submissions from this year’s attendees.

In this video, the “Fed Heads” — a group composed of high schoolers Alexis Cirrotti, Julia MacDonald, Julia Vallone, Jugdip Khokher and Jessica Heine — adorably share why they want to go to TEDYouth, based on what they’ve learned from TED Talks so far.

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The “Vita Lights” — aka Nebill Salih, Michael Harris, Matthew Chung and Arif Mahmud — told us about an impressive project they worked on together.

“As a team, our mission is to provide an energy-efficient, cost-effective surgical lamp for third world countries so that when a blackout occurs, medical procedures can be continued. In just a couple of weeks we were able to design, get funding and build a prototype. After hearing about TEDYouth, we thought it would be a great idea to learn from successful scientists and entrepreneurs … It would allow us to further develop our product.”

VitaLights_Timothy Lee Photographers

This group of teens wants to attend TEDYouth to fuel deeper their thinking on their surgical lamp for third world countries. Photo: Timothy Lee Photographers

Genevieve Pierre Charles wrote a poem about how she hopes attending TEDYouth will help open her mind to new career options:

I want to be
I want to do
But I don’t know
What to choose.
I am
A song
Never written
A story
Never told
A play
Never performed
The stones that I step on
Lead me to nowhere.
I don’t know what to do,
How will I choose?

Sophia Cotter, Renata Francesco, Myung Jin Kang, Kiana Luscher and Alexandra Meyers call themselves the “TED’s Angels.” For their application, they made the following video, which features each of them giving a short TED-style talk.

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And the “Science Research Squad” — aka Samuel Roth, Henry Jaensch, Armand Pappas and Olivia Shaw — coded their application essay. They write:

</!DOCTYPE html>  <title>TEDX Youth Conference</title>  <html>  <head>      <meta http-equiv=”content-type” content=”text/html;charset=utf-8″ />  </head>  <style>  body  {      background-color:black;  }  h1  {      color:#00FFFF;text-align:center;font:Verdana;font-variant:small-caps;  }  p   {      color:#00FFFF;text-align:left;font:Verdana;font-variant:small-caps;font-size:16pt;text-indent: 50px;  }  h2  {      color:#00FFFF;text-align:left;font:Verdana;font-variant:small-caps;font-size:16pt;font-weight: normal;  }  </style>  <body>    <h1>TEDX Youth Conference</h1>               <h2>Dear TEDYouth,</h2><br>    <p>  The application suggested that we come up with a clever and creative way to present our value to your conference and our desire to be here. Some of the medium suggested were classic essay writing, poetry, and even through film. When all of us sat and looked at the application, we knew we wanted to stand out. Then someone suggested “code.” … We wanted to present to you our story written in another language. And if you accept us into your conference, we would be happy to teach you what we know. <br>  </p>    </p>    </body>  </html>

Finally, middle schoolers Elizabeth Goldstein, Jordan Sihaga and Sheila Hahn shared this amazing Lego animation.

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Want to watch for yourself? The live webcast — in English, Spanish and Arabic — will be available for free playback until 5pm Eastern on Tuesday, November 18.

RacialiciousLive From Facing Race — The Next Fifty

From the program description:

This year and next we will celebrate the anniversaries of major racial justice victories like the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. In this plenary, big thinkers will reflect on trends and strategies for the next half century.

With the Voting Rights Act itself under political assault, the conference’s final plenary feels more timely — and more needed — than ever. The discussion will feature:

The conference’s final plenary begins at 4:30 p.m. EST, and can be seen below.

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Planet Linux AustraliaBinh Nguyen: Writing eBooks For Profit

Over the years it's been clear that I've had a propensity for writing. What hasn't been so clear was how to monetise this. Recent research has indicated that if you're a writer it isn't as difficult as you think. If you work with standard word processors and office suites then it becomes clear that it's possible basically to just type things up, export to PDF, and then publish this.

- a good example of this are the 'Building a Cloud Computing Service', 'Convergence Effect', and 'Cloud and Internet Security' (has been cleared by Australian Intelligence Services for sensitive material so it's not a problem if you're curious) reports which are now available via Amazon and Google Play Book stores for 5 USD each (pretty decent content and research for the price to be honest. Will be curious to see how this experiment goes...)
For those who are curious here are some interesting notes:
- there are some plugins and standalone applications which will allow for this but at the end of the day you need to be able to run your book through the automated checkers to be able to get anything actually posted on to the online store
- another option could be paying someone to manually convert your chosen file. The problem is that you never know the quality of the work that you're going to get so I suggest going on your own
- most if not all stores will take a cut of what you sell
- though there are other options out there if you want to sell in a different way
- some sites will ask for ISBN details while others will supply them for you for free
- it's useful to know some details about how how to categorise the book in question so that you can target the right audience in the book store
- use proper file converters if if you can not extract properly
- depending on your status you may need to sign up to have a Tax File Number in the United States. There are often taxation agreements with more developed countries though
- many book stores will require you to use specific file formats or applications

RacialiciousLive From Facing Race — Roots and Wings: Southern Histories, Legacies and Innovations for the Future

The second day of Facing Race kicks off at 10:15 a.m. EST with a plenary session describing current activist movements in the American South, a region many people still feel stopped being a hotbed of civic organizing during the Civil Rights Movement. The three speakers featured in this session have played active roles in forging a new legacy of activism for the region:

  • Bishop Tonyia Rawls, founder and executive director of the Freedom Center for Social Justice, as well as a member of the governing board for the North Carolina Council of Churches and the founding pastor of the Freedom Temple Ministries and Sacred Souls Community Church. The Freedom Center launched a legal center focusing on the LGBTQ communities and an employment program helping the southern trans community — both the first of their kind for the region.
  • Cristina Tzintzún is the executive director of Workers Defense Project/Proyecto Defensa Laboral. Besides being featured in national news outlets like USA Today and the New York Times, Tzintzún’s work has led to her winning the national Trabajadora Community Leader award from the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement. Last year, Southern Living Magazine named her one of its Heroes of the New South.
  • Chokwe Antar Lumumba played a vital role in the development of the People’s Platform in Jackson, SC, where his father, longtime activist Chokwe Lumumba, was elected mayor in 2013 on a platform emphasizing community development and the elimination of the gender-based pay gap. Antar Lumumba’s drive to help his community was also instilled in him by his mother, Nubia Lumumba, and he went on to become the managing partner at Lumumba & Associates, a law firm following those principles, as well as a member of the leadership team for Free Christian Church Ministries.

From the program description:

For the many of us- people of color, immigrants communities, LGBTQ people – who populate and call this region home, we experience and understand “the South” as not only the place where race, power, and revolution is best understood but also where history and legacies give way to 21st century innovation for our movements. Our dynamic plenary speakers, spanning the Southern region, will offer their insight on some of the challenges and opportunities facing the region and our movements to achieve racial justice and equity. From the continuing legacy of youth organizing and direct action in Florida; the role of faith in building inclusive communities and organizing for social change in NC; the realities of shifting demographics and the opportunities for worker organizing in Texas; and implementing community centered methods to build real economic, political and community power in Jackson this plenary will highlight how the South continues to build on its history and towards freedom.

The plenary, as posted online, can be seen in the livestream below.

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Sociological ImagesChart of the Week: A Majority of Middle Class Black Children Will Be Poorer as Adults

Social mobility refers to likelihood that a person born in one social class will end up in another as an adult. A new study by Richard Reeves and Isabel Sawhill for the Brookings Institute offered a devastating picture of the possibilities for black youth. To summarize: most black children see downward mobility and are poorer as adults than they were as children.

4More than half of black children born into the poorest 1/5th of households will remain there as adults. That’s only true for 36% of similarly-situated Americans overall. Poor black children, then, are less likely than Americans in general to be able to escape poverty.

Black children born into the middle class — literally the middle 5th of Americans as measured by household income — overwhelmingly see downward mobility. 16% will remain somewhere in the middle, 14% will be richer than their parents, and a whopping 69% will end up less economically stable. In comparison, only 38% of Americans, overall, born into the middle 5th see a decline in their status as adults.

As you may have noticed from the hole in the far right of the chart, the researchers didn’t have enough cases to even estimate outcomes for blacks born rich.

Below is the data for whites (first) and all Americans (second) for comparison:

32Here’s the first author, Richard Reeves, explaining social mobility, using Legos of course:

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H/t Joe Feagin.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the co-author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

(View original at

TED10 things you need to know about tapirs (psst: there’s a baby tapir named TED)

Patricia Medici, a TED Fellow, works with tapirs -- the largest land mammal in South America. Photo: Marina Klink

Patricia Medici, a TED Fellow, works with tapirs — the largest land mammal in South America. Photo: Marina Klink

If you want to call someone a “jackass” in Brazil, you call them a “tapir.” These large, forest-dwelling mammals look a bit like a cross between a wild boar and an anteater. And while they’re often derided, they are truly amazing animals.

Brazilian conservation biologist Patricia Medici is utterly devoted to tapirs. When this TED Fellow first started working with tapirs in 1996, nearly nothing was known about the elusive herbivores. Now, thanks in part to her research, we know that tapirs are central to the health of forest ecosystems — and that they are under threat.

This week, the Sixth International Tapir Symposium – the world’s only conference dedicated to tapirs — convenes in Campo Grande, Brazil, bringing together 100 conservationists, researchers, NGOs and governmental agencies from around the world to strategize about tapir conservation and survival. The symposium is the official conference of the IUCN’s Tapir Specialist Group, which Medici has chaired since 2000.

As the conference kicks off, we asked her to share some fascinating facts about her favorite animal. Here’s what she had to say, in her own words.

1. Tapirs are considered living fossils. They’ve been around since the Eocene, having survived several waves of extinction. There are four surviving tapir species: mountain tapirs from the Andean Mountains; Central American tapirs; Asian tapirs in Southeast Asia; and South American tapirs — the ones I studies most closely.

2. Tapirs are pregnant for more than a year. It’s actually pretty amazing that tapirs are still around at all, as they reproduce very slowly. They have a gestation period of 13-14 months and only one offspring is born at a time. If a population’s numbers decline — due to deforestation, disease, hunting or roadkill — it’s very unlikely it will ever recover. In fact, things can reach a point where there are no populations to speak of — only individuals lost in the landscape. Tapirs can be persistent and adaptable in isolation, which is why they’ve managed to survive for so long. But despite their resilience, their genetics get compromised.

You don't want to come between a tapir baby and its mother -- the normally docile animals become fierce when offspring are threatened. Photo: Daniel Zupanc

You don’t want to come between a tapir baby and its mother — the normally docile animals become fierce when offspring are threatened. Photo: Daniel Zupanc

3. Tapirs are South America’s largest land mammals. They can weigh up to 300 kilos, which is about half the size of a horse. This heft makes it possible for the animals to push trees over to get to fruits. While they’re generally gentle, docile animals, they can attack when feeling threatened — especially females with babies. Tapirs are also nocturnal, hiding in thick patches of forest to sleep most of the day, and waking at around 3:30 in the afternoon to forage. This combination of weight and night hours means that they are very difficult animals to study in the field — you can’t just follow a tapir and collect data. You have to capture, anesthetize and radio-collar them, set camera traps, and radio-track them during the night when they are active. This may be why it took so long for people to start studying tapirs seriously.

4. Tapirs are called “gardeners of the forest.” Tapirs are wide-ranging animals, moving great distances between various kinds of habitats as they travel from forest patch to forest patch, providing a functional link between them. They eat fruit in one place, swallow the seeds, walk long distances, and defecate on the way — dispersing seeds and creating a plant genetic flow between habitats. Many other animals play this role, but because tapirs eat enormous amounts of fruit, they distribute an enormous quantity of seeds. Forest structure and diversity would be very different without the presence of tapirs!

5. Tapirs are considered an umbrella species. Tapirs require a lot of space in order to find all the resources they need, and they share habitat with many other animals — peccaries, deer, birds, insects, and so on. This means that if you protect tapir habitat, you end up protecting habitat for many other species.


The tapir’s prehensile snout is very good for rummaging for leaves and fruit. Photo: Luciano Candisani

6. The tapir’s nose is flexible. While this prehensile snout is not as flexible as, say, an elephant’s trunk, it’s very good for snuffling around and grabbing leaves and fruit.

7. Even though South American tapirs are threatened with extinction, it can be hard to convince people that this is the case. South American tapirs are distributed throughout South America in 11 countries and a multitude of different eco-regions. In Brazil, this tapir species lives in four different biomes: Atlantic Forest, Pantanal, Amazon, and Cerrado. Their wide distribution makes people think that tapirs are plentiful, but in reality, the biomes are not connected. There’s only 7% of the Atlantic Forest left, and the Cerrado is going pretty much the same direction. The edges of the Amazon are being cleared as we speak. So really, we have only small, isolated populations of tapirs in South America. Still, every year conservationists must make the case and carefully justify why to keep the South American tapir on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

8. Tapirs are hunted for their meat, which is demolishing populations within the Amazon. Recent studies of indigenous hunting practices in the Amazon revealed that the areas immediately surrounding indigenous communities are devoid of mammals. There are huge gaps with no tapirs, peccaries, agouti, anything — in a place where deforestation hasn’t even started yet. Tapirs are sadly misjudged as stupid and not worthy of saving. While many people think of them like a donkey, I prefer to compare tapirs with jaguars – they’re powerful and majestic. Some people mix up tapirs with anteaters or other animals — they don’t have any idea what they are. That’s something I’m working hard to change as I think greater recognition will help conservation efforts.

Baby tapirs' stripes and spots make them resemble a watermelon. Sadly, they lose these markings as they mature. Photo: LIana John

Baby tapirs’ stripes and spots make them resemble a watermelon. Sadly, they lose these markings as they mature. Photo: LIana John

9. Baby tapirs are possibly the cutest animal offspring in the animal kingdom! They are born dark and covered with yellow or white stripes and spots, and look very much like a watermelon. These stripes and spots begin to fade at three months and are completely gone after 5 to 6 months, although some vestiges of spotting may remain in young adults. This serves as camouflage against predation in the wild. Tapir calves stay with their mother for 12 to 18 months.

10. Speaking of baby tapirs, there’s one in the Brazilian Pantanal named TED! I’ve been working in the Pantanal since 2008, and have since captured and monitored 45 individual tapirs. One of my monitored females — Justine, first captured in May 2013 — had a baby sometime between April and May 2014, and we recently got a camera-trap photo of the little male watermelon. I named this little baby tapir TED!

A camera-trap shot of a new addition to Medici's tapir family: baby TED. Photo: Patricia Medici

A photo of the new addition to Medici’s tapir family: baby TED. Photo: Patricia Medici


TEDTwo guys and an X: A road trip to visit 32 TEDx’ers

Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo visit Buzludzha, an abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria. With a big red x. Photo: Nate Mook

Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo visit Buzludzha, an abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria. With their big red x. Photo: Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo

By Jenny Groza

Two guys, a giant red X and an extremely unreliable compact car on a journey from London to Ulaanbaatar. Sounds like an ideal vacation, right?

For Nate Mook — organizer of TEDxMidAtlantic, TEDxMogadishu and TEDxEverest — there’s no other way he’d rather spend his time off. This past July, he and Steve Garguilo, organizer of TEDxJNJ, set out on the “Mongol Rally,” an unmapped journey taken each year by adventurists around the world across 10,000 miles of mountains, deserts and grasslands. Only Mook and Garguilo’s journey, documented on the blog, had a greater purpose: they visited 32 TEDx organizers in 15 cities on their journey, under the loving guidance of Google Maps. 

“What better way to see the scale of the TEDx community than to drive around the world and meet amazing people in their communities?” asks Mook. From experiencing major car trouble in Kazakhstan (apparently it’s possible to pop two tires with one pothole), to drinking delicious wine in Moldova, Mook and Garguilo received warm welcomes from TEDx’ers everywhere they went.

“That’s the amazing thing about TEDx — whether we were in Azerbaijan or Mongolia, we were meeting people that were really more similar to us than different,” he says.


The pair poses with some of the 32 TEDx organizers they met on their trip. Photo: Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo


For instance, Mook and Garguilo spent one afternoon with a TEDxMinsk organizer, talking about the challenges his team faces in putting on a TEDx event in such a remote location. Later, they went out for beers, to a bar where a heavy metal band happened to be playing — loudly. After screaming the lyrics to many Russian songs, the heavens parted and the band began playing a familiar song — the theme to “Ghostbusters.” 

And then there’s the X. Garguilo had made a giant red X (using the fine art of TEDx letter-making) to bring on their cross-continent journey. It was the perfect travel companion; a light packer, super laid-back and always on time. But it was promptly lost by the airline on the very first leg of their journey to London. Not to worry. A TEDx team in Lithuania, after showing Mook and Garguilo around their city, loaned them another giant red X to take on the trip. “This ‘X’ will find itself back on the TEDxVilnius stage for their next event,” writes Mook, “but by then will be covered in signatures from TEDx organizers along our route.” 

Traveling to places with varying landscapes, infrastructures and resources, Mook says he realized just how difficult it is for some TEDx teams to organize events. “It’s so cool to see people overcoming these challenges to put on great events,” he says.

For him, watching the team in Mongolia in action was especially interesting because “that’s not a place you’d think TEDx would happen. But they have a very vibrant community there.”

The x atop remnants of a fishing vessel in the now dried up Aral Sea. Photo: Nate Mook and Steve

The x sits atop the remnants of a fishing vessel in the now dried up Aral Sea. Photo: Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo

And then there was that time when Mook and Garguilo noticed a strange smell that started giving them headaches. Turns out their car had been leaking fuel for days, and it finally broke down in a small town in Belarus, where they found a mechanic and explained their problem by playing charades. “Everyone was always super helpful and interested in us,” recalls Mook, “because they were surprised to to see foreigners driving through their cities in a car covered in stickers.”

Though their road trip took a little longer than they expected, Mook and Garguilo both say that their time traveling was enlightening. “Everyone was so eager to meet with us, get to know each other, and swap stories,” says Mook.

So what did people want to talk about? The future. They wanted to share their hopes for their cities and countries, and they wanted to hear outsider’s perspectives too. As Mook puts it, “Despite all of our geographic differences, we’re still all rallied around this same idea.”

Mook and Garguilo reach the finish line of their journey in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo: Nate Mook

Mook and Garguilo reach the finish line of their journey in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Photo: Nate Mook and Steve Garguilo

CryptogramFriday Squid Blogging: The Story of Inventing the SQUID

The interesting story of how engineers at Ford Motor Co. invented the superconducting quantum interference device, or SQUID.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

RacialiciousLive From Facing Race: Keynote Address Featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon

This year’s keynote session for Facing Race starts at 4:30 p.m. EST and will be a multi-generational affair featuring Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Toshi Reagon, and Tashawn Reagon.

From the program description:

Bernice Johnson Reagon, a scholar, singer/songleader, and activist for over half a century, has been a profound contributor to African American and American culture. Born in Southwest Georgia, her singing style and traditional repertoire are grounded in her experiences in church, school, and political activism. As a composer, she has created a narrative of her social and political activism through her songs and larger compositions. She performed as a member of the SNCC Freedom Singers during the sixties; founded an all women a capella ensemble, The Harambee Singers, during the Black Cultural Movement; and founded and led the internationally acclaimed Sweet Honey In The Rock for thirty years until retirement. Paralleling her work in music, Reagon is one of the leading authorities in African American Cultural History.

Her strongest musical collaborator is her daughter, Toshi Reagon. Described as “a one-woman celebration of all that’s dynamic, progressive and uplifting in American music,” Toshi is a composer, producer, founder, and leader of her own ensemble, Toshi Reagon and Big Lovely. Taking the stage at 17, singer, songwriter, guitarist Toshi Reagon moves audiences with her cross genre offerings of blues, rock, gospel, and incredible original songs. Collaboratively, these two socially conscious women artists have masterfully created two operas, “The Temptation of St Anthony” and “Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter.”

Tashawn Nicole Reagon is a Sociology and Gender Studies major and an Intergroup Relations minor at Skidmore College. Tashawn has co-facilitated a two-credit, intergroup dialogue between students of color and white students on race, and interned in the Gender Rights and Equality Unit of the Ford Foundation, where she wrote a report entitled Student Activism for Gender Equity. Tashawn helped to establish the Justice Project at Saint Ann’s high school that examined issues of race and other identities.

The full session, as posted online, can be seen live below.

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Krebs on Security‘Microsoft Partner’ Claims Fuel Support Scams

You can’t make this stuff up: A tech support company based in the United States that outsources its work to India says its brand is being unfairly maligned by — wait for it… support scammers based in India. In an added twist, the U.S.-based tech support firm acknowledges that the trouble may be related to its admittedly false statements about being a Microsoft Certified Partner — the same false statements made by most telephone-based tech support scams.

Tech support scams are, unfortunately, an extremely common scourge. Most such scams are the telephonic equivalent of rogue antivirus attacks, which try to frighten consumers into purchasing worthless security software and services. Both types of scams try to make the consumer believe that the caller is somehow associated with Microsoft or with a security company, and each caller tries to cajole or scare the consumer into giving up control over his or her PC.

Earlier this month, a reader shared a link to a lengthy Youtube video by freelance journalist Carey Holzman, in which Holzman turns the tables on the tech support scammers. During the video, Holzman plays along and gives the scammer remote control access to a test computer he’s set up specifically for this video.  The scammer, who speaks with a strong Indian accent but calls himself “Steve Wilson” from the “Microsoft technical department,” tries to convince Holzman that he works for a company that is a legitimate Microsoft support partner.

“Let me show you who we are,” the scammer says, opening up and typing SB3 Inc. Clicking on the first result brings up sb3inc[dot]com, which proudly displays an icon in the upper right corner of its home page stating that it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. “This is our mother company. Can you see that we are a Microsoft certified partner?”

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When Holzman replies that this means nothing and that anyone can just put a logo on their site saying they’re associated with Microsoft, the scammer runs a search on for SB3. The scammer shows true chutzpah when he points to the first result, which — if clicked — leads to a page on Microsoft’s community site where members try to warn the poster away from SB3 as a scam.

When Holzman tries to get the scammer to let him load the actual search result link about SB3 on, the caller closes the browser window and proceeds to enable the SysKey utility on Windows, which allows the scammer to set a secret master password that must be entered before the computer will boot into Windows (effectively an attempt at locking Holzman out of his test computer if he tries to reboot).

The video goes on for some time more, but I decided to look more closely at SB3. The Web site registration records for the company state that it is based in New Jersey, and it took less than a minute to find the Facebook page of the company’s owner — a Suvajit “Steve” Basu in Ridgewood, NJ. Basu’s Facebook feed has him traveling the world, visiting the World Cup in Brazil in 2014, the Ryder Cup in 2012, and more recently taking delivery on a brand new Porsche.

Less than 24 hours after reaching out to him on Facebook and by phone, Basu returns my call and says he’s working to get to the bottom of this. Before I let him go, I tell Basu that I can’t find on Microsoft’s Partner Site any evidence to support SB3’s claim that it is a Microsoft Certified Partner. Basu explains that while the company at one time was in fact a partner, this stopped being the case “a few months ago.” For its part, Microsoft would only confirm that SB3 is not currently a Microsoft partner of any kind.

SB3's homepage, before it removed the false "Microsoft Partner" claim.

SB3’s homepage, before it removed the false “Microsoft Partner” claim.

Basu explained that Microsoft revoked SB3’s partner status after receiving complaints that customers were being cold-called by SB3 technicians claiming to be associated with Microsoft. “Microsoft had gotten complaints and we took out all references to Microsoft as part of our script,” that the company gives to tech support callers, Basu said.

As for why SB3 still falsely claimed to be a Microsoft Partner, Basu said his instructions to take the logo down from the site had apparently been ignored by his site’s administrators.

“That was a mistake for which we do take the blame and responsibility,” Basu said in a follow-up email. “We have corrected this immediately on hearing from you and you will no longer find a mention of Microsoft on our SB3Inc Website.”

Basu said SB3 is a legitimate company based in the USA which uses off-shore manpower and expertise to sell tech support services through its iFixo arm, and that the company never participates in the sort of scammy activities depicted in Holzman’s video. Basu maintains that scammers are impersonating the company and taking advantage of its good name, and points to a section of the video where the scammer loads a payment page at support2urpc[dot]com, suggesting that Support to Your PC is the real culprit (the latter company did not return messages seeking comment).

“After viewing your video it is obvious to us that one or more persons out there are misusing our brand and good-will,” Basu wrote.”We feel horrible and feel that along with the unknowing consumers we are also victims. This is corporate identity theft.”

SB3 may well be a legitimate company that is being scammed by the scammers, but if that’s true the company has done itsself and its reputation no favors by falsely stating it is a Microsoft partner. What’s more, complaints about tech support scammers claiming to be from SB3 are numerous and date back more than a year. I find it remarkable that a tech support company with the uncommon distinction of having secured a good name in this line of work would not act more zealously to guard that reputation. Alas, a simple Internet search on the SB3 brand would have alerted the company to these shenanigans.

SB3 has since removed the Microsoft Certified Partner logo from its home page, but the image is still on its server. Running a search on that image at — an extremely useful image search Web site — produces more than 11,700 results. No doubt Microsoft and other scam hunters have used this investigative tool to locate tech support scams, which may explain why support2urpc[dot]com does not appear to include the same image on its site but instead claims association with sites that do.

CryptogramThe Return of Crypto Export Controls?

Last month, for the first time since US export restrictions on cryptography were relaxed over a decade ago, the US government has fined a company for exporting crypto software without a license.

News article.

No one knows what this means.

RacialiciousLive From Facing Race — This Is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice

Facing Race 2014 kicks off at 10 a.m. EST on Friday morning with “This is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice,” a plenary session featuring the following speakers:

      • FM Supreme, a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 and founder of the Chicago International Youth Peace Movement.
      • Ramiro Luna, an immigration activist who has taken part in more than 100 actions in support of immigrant rights, as well as a community organizer and a member of more than a dozen political campaigns.
      • Sharon Davies, director of the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and a professor of law at Ohio State University.
      • Jaime-Jin Lewis, the former executive director of the NYC-based advocacy group Border Crossers, where she trained more than 2,000 educators from over 900 schools around the country in how to discuss race with their students
      • Key Jackson (1st Nation- Black and Makah), a community organizer who has worked with groups like Basic Rights Oregon and GSAFE Wisconsin, while also organizing electoral and legislative campaigns.

The panel description reads as follows:

A new generation of racial justice leaders are interrupting and innovating in the ways racial justice work is made relevant in our times. In various ways, young people are working creatively, intersectionally and courageously to set our nation on course for the racially just future we deserve. Who are some of the leaders guiding this next epoch? What models, tools, practices and cultural strategies are there to build a more just, inclusive foundation for their generation and the ones that follow? Join in this conversation amongst movement makers, as they share thoughts on what’s hot in racial justice now, and what’s on the come up in the years ahead.

The discussion, as posted online by Race Forward, can be seen below.

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The post Live From Facing Race — This Is How We Do It: Youth Led Racial Justice appeared first on Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture.

Sociological ImagesWhat Color are People? Black as Neutral in Russian Comics

Flashback Friday.

In her article “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” Peggy McIntosh talks about a number of types of white privilege, including using the phrases “flesh tone” or “nude” to describe light skin and featuring mostly white people in tv, movies, and advertising.

When I’ve had students read this article, they often argue that it just makes sense to do that, since the majority of people in the U.S. are white. They also question what other color could be used as a “neutral” or “normal” one.  In fact, this is exactly what was argued in the comments to this post about the “white” Facebook avatar.

But English Russia points out that in Russia, it’s not uncommon for people in cartoons to be black; not Black racially, but literally black. Below are examples of these cartoons, introduced with English Russia‘s translations.

“My pussy could have Whiskas instead of whiskey.”


“Sir, don’t throw away the empty bottle, I would take it to the recycle point for spare money.”


“Tourist: ‘Is it true that the Earth is round?’ Men: ‘We don’t know son, we’re not locals.’”


Despite the fact that many people in Russia would be classified in the U.S. as white, these cartoons obviously use the color black as a neutral color — the people in the cartoons aren’t Black in any racial sense, it’s just the standard color the artist has used for everyone. You might contrast these with things in the U.S. that are labeled “flesh” or “nude” to counter the idea that there are no other options but a sort of light peach color to be the fallback color when you aren’t specifically representing a racial minority.

Thanks to Miguel at El Forastero for the link! Originally posted in 2009.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

(View original at

Worse Than FailureError'd: A Bad Day for Recovery

"I guess this gives new meaning to 'Read-Only Fridays'," writes Petr S.


Peter D. writes, "Now, if only someone would click on the window, WE'D KNOW HOW MUCH GAS COSTS!"


"It's not just's Microsoft Logic™!" wrote Chris P.


" has a new way of making it obvious how many stars you want from a hotel," writes Joe B.


"Hmmm...I'm not quite sure this is the right resolution for me," wrote Greg, "Oh well, I've got time to think about it."


"You know, you'd think they could find a better picture of Cyndi Lauper," writes Renan B.


Dane W. wrote, "While taking corporate-mandated Code of Ethics training, I got this message. I'm a little disappointed that Linux isn't supported, but fortunately Linux is supported."


"When I tested Opera Mini for Windows Phone I found a bug," Jesse S., "When submitting it I got this nice screen."


Planet Linux AustraliaDavid Rowe: OpenRadio Part 2 – Prototype Works!

Since the first post on the OpenRadio project Mark has been moving ahead and leaps and bounds. In just a few late nights work he has assembled and tested the radio, managed to receive off air signals, and even tested the PSK31 transmitter! Fine business Mark.

Mark writes:

Hooked it up to a real antenna tonight:

That’s me decoding actual 20m PSK31 signals!

Signal path is:
Antenna —RF—-> OpenRadio SDR —-IQ–>|Laptop|—-IQ—> Spectravue
(IQ Demod) —SSB—> fldigi

Mark managed to build the radio in 1-2 hours, including taking plenty of photos to document assembly and aid others. Now not everyone will have Mark’s radio assembly skills. However even allowing for a learning curve and a few coffee breaks we are on track for a one-day (say 6 hour) mini-conf assembly time.

A working prototype verifies the hardware design, so we are now getting ready to re-spin the PCB and start putting the kits together.

In other news Edwin from Dragino has added the OpenRadio kit to his store. We estimate the kits will be available for shipping in December. Kim, Mark and I, are still deciding if we will bring a bunch of kits to LCA, or have delegates pre-order them from Dragino. More on that shortly.


OpenRadio Wiki

Kelvin ThomsonChina Free Trade Agreement

The test is, will this FTA support and create Australian jobs. Old timers like Liberal Senator Heffernan and I have seen these things before. Extravagant claims for what FTAs will accomplish at the time they’re signed, and totally different outcomes:<o:p></o:p>

  • When the United States Free Trade Agreement was signed, we were told it would generate $4 billion in wealth, but the only $4 billion we’ve seen is a $4 billion increase in our trade deficit, from $11 billion to $15 billion!<o:p></o:p>
  • We have rising inequality – the world’s richest 85 people now own as much as the world’s poorest 50% - 3 and a half billion people combined.<o:p></o:p>
  • We have rising unemployment – 6.2% is higher than US unemployment. 26% unemployment in Broadmeadows. This would be embarrassing in Greece or Spain.<o:p></o:p>
<o:p> </o:p>
An FTA with China needs to retain labour market testing, and maintain the Australian Government’s power to regulate the movement of overseas workers. We already have over 1 million people in Australia on temporary visas which give them work rights, and unemployment of over 750,000. Enough, already!  And we don’t need any more watering down of our anti-dumping regime. We should be strengthening it.