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De-Orchestrating Freenet with the QUEEN program

So Poul-Henning Kamp thought this just a thought experiment …

In Fosdem2014 Poul-Henning Kamp talked about a hypothetical “Project ORCHESTRA” by the NSA with the goal of disrupting internet security: Information, Slides, Video (with some gems not in the slides).

One of the ideas he mentioned was the QUEEN program: Psy-Ops for Nerds.

I’ve been a contributor to the Freenet Project for several years. And in that time, I experienced quite a few of these hypothetical tactics first-hand.

“If you like what I do, why don’t you help me?”

Almost every free software developer made the experience that many people like his or her work, but very few actually provide help. If you experience this, don’t let it disheart you. Verbal support without practical help sounds inconsistent at first, but it actually is the result of limited time.

Most people who have the skills to help are already committed to other projects, so they cannot actually help you on yours. They can encourage you from the sidelines (“This is cool!

Huge datafiles in free culture projects under GPL

4 ways how large raw artwork files are treated in free culture projects to provide the editable source.1

In the discussion about license compatibility of the creativecommons sharealike license towards the GPL, Anthony asked how the source-requirement is solved for artwork which often has huge raw files. These are the 4 basic ways I described in my answer.


  1. The die was created by Trudy Wenzel (2013) and is licensed under GPLv3 or later. 

shell basics (bash)

These are the notes to a short tutorial I gave to my working group as part of our groundwork group meetings. Some parts here require GNU Bash.

1 Outline

1.1 Outline

  • user-output: echo
  • pipes: |, xargs, - (often stdin)
  • text-processing: cat/tac, sed, grep, cut, head/tail
  • variables (foo=1; echo ${foo})
  • subshell: $(command)
  • loops (for; do; done) (while; do; done)
  • conditionals (if; then; fi)
  • scripts: shebang
  • return values: $?
  • script-arguments: $1, $#, $@ and getopt
  • command chaining: ;, &, && and ||
  • functions and function-arguments
  • math: $((1+2))
  • help: man and info

The assisted brain and the chained brain

PDF (to print)

Org (to change)

Who serves whom? Our tools can be our allies or our masters. Do your tools assist or chain?

The exhaustive guide to German Streets

This is no absolute truth.

complex number compiler and libc bugs (cexp+conj) on OSX and with the intel compiler (icc)

Today a bug in complex number handling surfaced in guile which only appeared on OSX.

This is a short note just to make sure that the bug is reported somewhere.

Test-code (written mostly by Mark Weaver who also analyzed the bug - I only ran the code on a few platforms I happened to have access to):

keep auto-complete from competing with org-mode structure-templates

For a long time it bothered me that auto-complete made it necessary for me to abort completion before being able to use org-mode templates.

I typed <s and auto-complete showed stuff like <string, forcing me to hit C-g before I could use TAB to complete the template with org-mode.

I fixed this for me by adding all the org-mode structure templates as stop-words:

;; avoid competing with org-mode templates.
(add-hook 'org-mode-hook
          (lambda ()
            (make-local-variable 'ac-stop-words)
            (loop for template in org-structure-template-alist do
                  (add-to-list 'ac-stop-words 
                               (concat "<" (car template))))))

Org-mode with Parallel Babel

Babel in Org

Emacs Org-mode provides the wonderful babel-capability: Including code-blocks in any language directly in org-mode documents in plain text.

In default usage, running such code freezes my emacs until the code is finished, though.

Up to a few weeks ago, I solved this with a custom function, which spawns a new emacs as script runner for the specific code:

; Execute babel source blocks asynchronously by just opening a new emacs.
(defun bab/org-babel-execute-src-block-new-emacs ()
  "Execute the current source block in a separate emacs,
so we do not block the current emacs."
  (interactive)
  (let ((line (line-number-at-pos))
        (file (buffer-file-name)))
    (async-shell-command (concat 
                          "TERM=vt200 emacs -nw --find-file " 
                          file 
                          " --eval '(goto-line "
                          (number-to-string line) 
                          ")' --eval "
     "'(let ((org-confirm-babel-evaluate nil))(org-babel-execute-src-block t))' "
                          "--eval '(kill-emacs 0)'"))))

and its companion for exporting to beamer-latex presentation pdf:

; Export as pdf asynchronously by just opening a new emacs.
(defun bab/org-beamer-export-new-emacs ()
  "Export the current file in a separate emacs,
so we do not block the current emacs."
  (interactive)
  (let ((line (line-number-at-pos))
        (file (buffer-file-name)))
    (async-shell-command (concat 
                          "TERM=vt200 emacs -nw --find-file " 
                          file 
                          " --eval '(goto-line " 
                          (number-to-string line) 
                          ")' --eval "
     "'(let ((org-confirm-babel-evaluate nil))(org-beamer-export-to-pdf))' "
                          "--eval '(kill-emacs 0)'"))))

But for shell-scripts there’s a much simpler alternative:

Recursion wins!

I recently read the little schemer and that got me thinking about recursion and loops.

After starting my programming life with Python, I normally use for-loops to solve problems. But actually they are an inferior mechanism when compared to recursion, if the language provides proper syntactic support for that. Since that claim pretty much damns Python on a theoretical level (even though it is still a very good tool in practice and I still love it!), I want to share a simplified version of the code which made me realize this.

Tutorial: Writing scientific papers for ACPD using emacs org-mode

PDF-version (for printing)

orgmode-version (for editing)

Emacs Org mode is an excellent tool for reproducible research,1 but research is only relevant if people learn about it.2 To reach people with scientific work, you need to publish your results in a Journal, so I show here how to publish in ACPD with Emacs Org mode.3

The translation of NSA is Stasi

Just to give you a short note, if you have been surprised by the NSA acting like the Stasi in former DDR (German Democratic Republic).

Here’s the translation of NSA:

  • N: National = Staatlich
  • S: Security = Sicherheit
  • A: Agency = Ministerium

Let’s put that together:

NSA = Staatliches Sicherheitsministerium
(in more regular German: Ministerium für Staatssicherheit)

Well, that’s long. Shorten it to Staatssicherheit. Still to long for casual discussions. So shorten it once more: Stasi.

NSA = Stasi

Do you still wonder why the NSA acts like the Stasi?

git vs. hg - offensive

In many discussions on DVCS over the years I have been fair, friendly and technical while receiving vitriol and misinformation and FUD. This strip visualizes the impression which stuck to my mind when talking to casual git-users.

Update: I found a very calm discussion at a place where I did not expect it: reddit. I’m sorry to you, guys. Thank you for proving that a constructive discussion is possible from both sides! I hope that you are not among the ones offended by this strip.

To Hg-users: There are git users who really understand what they are doing and who stick to arguments and friendly competition. This comic arose from the many frustrating experiences with the many other git users. Please don’t let this strip trick you into going down to non-constructive arguments. Let’s stay friendly. I already feel slightly bad about this short move into competition-like visualization for a topic where I much prefer friendly, constructive discussions. But it sucks to see contributors stumble over git, so I think it was time for this.

»I also think that git isn’t the most beginner-friendly program. That’s why I’m using only its elementary features«

git vs. hg - offensive

To put the strip in words, let’s complete the quote:

»I also think that git isn’t the most beginner-friendly program.
That’s why I’m using only its elementary features«
<ArneBab> I hear that from many git-users…
»oh, maybe I should have another look at hg after all«

Why this?

Because there are far too many Git-Users who only dare using the most basic commands which makes git at best useless and at worst harmful.

This is not the fault of the users. It is the fault of the tool.

This strip is horrible!

If you are offended by this strip: You knew the title when you came here, right?

And if you are offended enough, that you want to make your own strip and set things right, go grab the source-file, fire up krita and give me what I deserve! This strip is free.1

Commentary

If you feel that this strip fits Mercurial and Git perfectly, keep in mind, that this is only one aspect of the situation, and that using Git is still much better than being forced to use centralized or proprietary version tracking (and people who survive the initial phase mostly unscarred can actually do the same with Git as they could with Mercurial).


  1. All the graphics in this strip are available under free licenses: creative-commons attribution or GPLv3 or later — you decide which of those you use. If it is cc attribution, call me Arne Babenhauserheide and link to this article. You’ll find all the sources as well as some preliminary works and SVGs in git-vs-hg-offensive.tar_.gz or git-vs-hg-offensive.zip (whichever you prefer)

    cc by GPLv3

Factual Errors in “Git vs Mercurial: Why Git?” from Atlassian

2 years ago, Atlassian developer Charles O’Farrell published the article Git vs. Mercurial: Why Git? in which he “showed the winning side of Git” as he sees it. This article was part of the Dev Tools series at Atlassian and written as a reply to the article Why Mercurial?. It was spiced with so much misinformation that the comments exploded right away. But the article was never corrected. Just now I was referred to the text again, and I decided to do what I should have done 2 years ago: Write an answer which debunks the myths.

Wicked Words! on Patreon

John Wick is entering the patreon arena with the Wicked Words! Magazine: Adventures, GM Advice, Little Games, Stories, The Works!

There’s an update with a Happy ending on 1w6.org/english/wicked-words-patreon!

  Yay!

This is really good news for online publishing, because it shows by example how roleplaying games and shortstories enter a new stage on the web: Fan-Funded periodicals.

Write multiple images on a single page in org-mode.

How to add show multiple images on one page in the latex-export of emacs org-mode. I had this problem. This is my current solution.

Unicode char \u8:χ not set up for use with LaTeX: Solution (made easy with Emacs)

For years I regularly stumbled over LaTeX-Errors in the form of Unicode char \u8:χ not set up for use with LaTeX. I always took the chickens path and replaced the unicode characters with the tex-escapes in the file. That was easy, but it made my files needlessly unreadable. Today I decided to FIX the problem once and for all. And it worked. Easily.

Firstoff: The problem I’m facing is that my keyboard layout makes it effortless for me to input characters like ℂ Σ and χ. But LaTeX cannot cope with them out-of-the-box.

Publish a single file with emacs org-mode

I often write small articles on some experience I make, and since I want to move towards using static pages more often, I tried using emacs org-mode publishing for that. Strangely the simple usecase of publishing a single file seems quite a bit more complex than needed, so I document the steps here.

This is my first use of org-publish, so I likely do not use it perfectly. But as it stands, it works. You can find the org-publish version of this article at draketo.de/proj/orgmode-single-file.

How to show the abstract before the table of contents in org-mode

I use Emacs Org-Mode for writing all kinds of articles. The standard format for org-mode is to show the table of contents before all other content, but that requires people to scroll down to see whether the article is interesting for them. Therefore I want the abstract to be shown before the table of contents.

Top 5 systemd troubles - a strategic view for distros

systemd is a new way to start a Linux-system with the expressed goal of rethinking all of init. These are my top 5 gripes with it. (»skip the updates«)

Update (2014-12-11): One more deconstruction of the strategies around systemd: systemd: Assumptions, Bullying, Consent. It shows that the attitude which forms the root of the dangers of systemd is even visible in its very source code.

Update (2014-11-19): The Debian General Resolution resulted in “We do not need a general resolution to decide systemd”. The vote page provides detailed results and statistics. Ian Jackson resigned from the Technical Committee: “And, speaking personally, I am exhausted.”

Update (2014-10-16): There is now a vote on a General Resolution in Debian for preserving the ability to switch init systems. It is linked under “Are there better solutions […]?” on the site Shall we fork Debian™? :^|.

Update (2014-10-07): Lennart hetzt (german) describes the rhetoric tricks used by Lennart Poettering to make people forget that he is a major part of the communication problems we’re facing at times - and to hide valid technical, practical, pragmatical, political und strategical criticism of Systemd.

Update (2014-09-24): boycott systemd calls for action with 12 reasons against systemd: “We do recognize the need for a new init system in the 21st century, but systemd is not it.”

Update (2014-04-03): And now we have Julian Assange warning about NSA control over Debian, Theodore Ts’o, maintainer of ext4, complaining about incomprehensible systemd, and Linus Torvalds (you know him, right?) rant against disrupting behavior from systemd developers, going as far as refusing to merge anything from the developers in question into Linux. Should I say “I said so”? Maybe not. After all, I came pretty late. Others saw this trend 2 years before I even knew about systemd. Can we really assume that there won’t be intentional disruption? Maybe I should look for solutions. It could be a good idea to start having community-paid developers.

Update (2014-02-18): An email to the mailing list of the technical committee of debian summarized the strategic implications of systemd-adoption for Debian and RedHat. It was called conspiracy theory right away, but the gains for RedHat are obvious: RedHat would be dumb not to try this. And only a fool trusts a company. Even the best company has to put money before ethics.

Update (2013-11-20): Further reading shows that people have been giving arguments from my list since 2011, and they got answers in the range of “anything short of systemd is dumb”, “this cannot work” (while OpenRC clearly shows that it works well), requests for implementation details without justification and insults and further insults; but the arguments stayed valid for the last 2 years. That does not look like systemd has a friendly community - or is healthy for distributions adopting it. Also an OpenRC developer wrote the best rebuttal of systemd propaganda I read so far: “Alternativlos”: Systemd propaganda (note, though, that I am biased against systemd due to problems I had in the past with udev kernel-dependencies)

Phoronix conclusions distort their results, shown with the example of GCC vs. LLVM/Clang On AMD's FX-8350 Vishera

Phoronix recently did a benchmark of GCC vs. LLVM on AMD hardware. Sadly their conclusion did not fit the data they showed. Actually it misrepresented the data so strongly, that I decided to speak up here instead of having my comments disappear in their forums. This post was started on 2013-05-14 and got updates when things changed - first for the better, then for the worse.

Update 3 (the last straw, 2013-11-09): In the recent most blatant attack by Phoronix on copyleft programs - this time openly targeted at GNU - Michael Larabel directly misrepresented a post from Josh Klint to badmouth GDB (Josh confirmed this1). Josh gave a report of his initial experience with GDB in a Kickstarter Update in which he reported some shortcomings he saw in GDB (of which the major gripe is easily resolved with better documentation2) and concluded with “the limitations of GDB are annoying, but I can deal with it. It's very nice to be able to run and debug our editor on Linux”. Michael Larabel only quoted the conclusion up to “annoying” and abused that to support the claim that game developers (in general) call GDB “crap” and for further badmouthing of GDB. With this he provided the straw which I needed to stop reading Phoronix: Michael Larabel is hostile to copyleft and in particular to GNU and he goes as far as rigging test results3 and misrepresenting words of others to further his agenda. I even donated to Phoronix a few times in the past. I guess I won’t do that again, either. I should have learned from the error of the german pirates and should have avoided reading media which is controlled by people who want to destroy what I fight for (sustainable free software).
Update 2 (2013-07-06): But the next went down the drain again… “Of course, LLVM/Clang 3.3 still lacks OpenMP support, so those tests are obviously in favor of GCC.” — I couldn’t find a better way to say that those tests are completely useless while at the same time devaluing OpenMP support as “ignore this result along with all others where GCC wins”…
Update (2013-06-21): The recent report of GCC 4.8 vs. LLVM 3.3 looks much better. Not perfect, but much better.


  1. Josh Klint from Leadwerks confirmed that Phoronix misrepresented his post and wrote a followup-post: » @ArneBab That really wasn't meant to be controversial. I was hoping to provide constructive feedback from the view of an Xcode / VS user.« » Slightly surprised my complaints about GDB are a hot topic. I can make just as many criticisms of other compilers and IDEs.« » The first 24 hours are the best for usability feedback. I figure if they notice a pattern some of those things will be improved.« » GDB Follwup «@Leadwerks, 2:04 AM - 11 Nov 13, 2:10 AM - 11 Nov 13 and @JoshKlint, 2:07 AM - 11 Nov 13, 8:48 PM - 11 Nov 13

  2. The first-impression criticism from Josh Klint was addressed by a Phoronix reader by pointing to the frame command. I do not blame Josh for not knowing all tricks: He wrote a fair account of his initial experience with GDB (and he said later that he wrote the post after less than 24 hours of using GDB, because he considers that the best time to provide feedback) and his experience can serve as constructive criticism to improve tutorials, documentation and the UI of GDB. Sadly his visibility and the possible impact of his work on free software made it possible for Phoronix to abuse a personal report as support for a general badmouthing of the tool. In contrast the full message of Josh Klint ended really positive: Although some annoyances and limitations have been discovered, overall I have found Linux to be a completely viable platform for application development. — Josh Klint, Leadwerks 

  3. I know that rigging of tests is a strong claim. The actions of Michael Larabel deserve being called rigging for three main reasons: (1) Including compile-time data along with runtime performance without clear distinction between both, even though compile-time of the full code is mostly irrelevant when you use a proper build system and compile time and runtime are completely different classes of results, (2) including pointless tests between incomparable setups whose only use is to relativate any weakness of his favorite system and (3) blatantly lying in the summaries (as I show in this article). 

Making websafe colors safe for colorblind people

I just made the colors of my plotting framework safe for colorblind people (thanks to Paul Tol’s notes) and I want to share a very nice result I got: How to make the really websafe colors safe for colorblind people with minimal changes.

mostly websafe and colorblindsafe websafe but NOT colorblind safe

(the colorblind-safe colors are on the left, the original websafe colors on the right)

To do so, I turned to Color Oracle (for simulation of colorblindness directly on my screen) and Emacs rainbow-mode (for seeing the colors while editing the hex-codes - as shown in the screenshots above) and tweaked the color codes bit by bit, until they were distinguishable in the simulation of Deuteranopia, Protanopia and Tritanopia.

Installing Scipy and PyNIO on a Bare Cluster with the Intel Compiler

2 years ago I had the task of running a python-program using scipy on our university cluster, using the Intel Compiler. I needed all those (as well as PyNIO and some other stuff) for running TM5 with the python shell on the HC3 of KIT.

This proved to be quite a bit more challenging than I had expected - but it was very interesting, too (and there I learned the basics of GNU autotools which still help me a lot).

But no one should have to go to the same effort with as little guidance as I had, so I decided to publish the script and the patches I created for installing everything we needed.1

The script worked 2 years ago, so you might have to fix some bits. I won’t promise that this contains everything you need to run the script - or that it won’t be broken when you install it. Actually I won’t promise anything at all, except that if the stuff here had been available 2 years ago, that could have saved me about 2 months of time (each of the patches here required quite some tracking of problems, experimenting and fixing, until it provided basic functionality - but actually I enjoyed doing that - I learned a lot - I just don’t want to be forced to do it again). Still, this stuff contains quite some hacks - even a few ugly ones. But it worked.

Installing GNU Guix 0.6, easily

Org-Source (for editing)

PDF (for printing)

“Got a power-outage while updating? No problem: Everything still works”

GNU Guix is the new functional package manager from the GNU Project which complements the Nix-Store with a nice Guile Scheme based package definition format.

What sold it to me was “Got a power-outage while updating? No problem: Everything still works” from the Guix talk of Ludovico at the GNU Hacker Meeting 2013. My son once found the on-off-button of our power-connector while I was updating my Gentoo box. It took me 3 evenings to get it completely functional again. This would not have happened with Guix.

Update (2014-05-17): Thanks to zerwas from IRC @ freenode for the patch to guix 0.6 and nice cleanup!

Intro

Installation of GNU Guix is straightforward, except if you follow the docs, but it’s not as if we’re not used to that from other GNU utilities, which often terribly short-sell their quality with overly general documentation ☺

So I want to provide a short guide how to setup and run GNU Guix with ease. My system natively runs Gentoo, My system natively runs Gentoo, so some details might vary for you. If you use Gentoo, you can simply copy the commands here into the shell, but better copy them to a text-file first to ensure that I do not try to trick you into doing evil things with the root access you need.

In short: This guide provides the First Contact and Black Triangle for GNU Guix.

Communicating your project: honest marketing for free software projects

Communicating your project is an essential step for getting users. Here I summarize my experience from working on several different projects including KDE (where I learned the basics of PR - yay, sebas!), the Hurd (where I could really make a difference by improving the frontpage and writing the Month of the Hurd), Mercurial (where I practiced the minimally invasive PR) and 1d6 (my own free RPG where I see how much harder it is to do PR, if the project to communicate is your own).

Since voicing the claim that marketing is important often leads to discussions with people who hate marketing of any kind, I added an appendix with an example which illustrates nicely what happens when you don’t do any PR - and what happens if you do PR of the wrong kind.

If you’re pressed for time and want the really short form, just jump to the questionnaire.

Use the source, Luke! — Emacs org-mode beamer export with images in figure

I just needed to tweak my Emacs org-mode to beamer-latex export to embed images into a figure environment (not wrapfigure!). After lots of googling and documentation reading I decided to bite the bullet and just read the source. Which proved to be much easier than I had expected.

This tutorial requires at least org-mode 8.0 (before that you had to use hacks to get figure without a caption). It is only tested for org-mode 8.0.2: The code you see when you read the source might look different in other versions.

default answer to “I want to connect with you on [hip unfree service]”

I just decided to give a default answer when I get some email from people asking me to connect to them on some new unfree service:

Hello [Person],

You asked me to connect with you on some unfree service. If you still want that, just use a status.net-server. Those are federated, so you can use a number of different providers and still be connected to everyone on any other server.

Surprising behaviour of Fortran (90/95)

1 Introduction

I recently started really learning Fortran (as opposed to just dabbling with existing code until it did what I wanted it to).

Here I document the surprises I found along the way.

As reference: I come from Python, C++ and Lisp, and I actually started to like Fortran while learning it. So the horror-stories I heard while studying were mostly proven wrong. I uploaded the complete code as base60.f90.

timezones of tccon stations

Timezones of most active TCCON stations in UTC+x (without daylight saving time (DST). Because I needed it and could not find a simple list quickly.

anmyondo: +9,
ascension: 0,
bialystok: +1,
bremen: +1,
caltech: -8,
darwin: 9, # Timezones2008 says 9 1/2???

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