There is a thorny topic we have been discussing in nonpublic channels (say, the debian-private mailing list... It is impossible to call it a private list if it has close to a thousand subscribers, but it sometimes deals with sensitive material) for the last week. We have finally confirmation that we can bring this topic out to the open, and I expect several Debian people to talk about this. Besides, this information is now repeated all over the public Internet, so I'm not revealing anything sensitive. Oh, and there is a statement regarding Dmitry Bogatov published by the Tor project — But I'll get to Tor soon.
One week ago, the 25-year old mathematician and Debian Maintainer Dmitry Bogatov was arrested, accused of organizing riots and calling for terrorist activities. Every evidence so far points to the fact that Dmitry is not guilty of what he is charged of — He was filmed at different places at the times where the calls for terrorism happened.
It seems that Dmitry was arrested because he runs a Tor exit node. I don't know the current situation in Russia, nor his political leanings — But I do know what a Tor exit node looks like. I even had one at home for a short while.
What is Tor? It is a network overlay, meant for people to hide where they come from or who they are. Why? There are many reasons — Uninformed people will talk about the evil wrongdoers (starting the list of course with the drug sellers or child porn distributors). People who have taken their time to understand what this is about will rather talk about people for whom free speech is not a given; journalists, political activists, whistleblowers. And also, about regular people — Many among us have taken the habit of doing some of our Web surfing using Tor (probably via the very fine and interesting TAILS distribution — The Amnesiac Incognito Live System), just to increase the entropy, and just because we can, because we want to preserve the freedom to be anonymous before it's taken away from us.
There are many types of nodes in Tor; most of them are just regular users or bridges that forward traffic, helping Tor's anonymization. Exit nodes, where packets leave the Tor network and enter the regular Internet, are much scarcer — Partly because they can be quite problematic to people hosting them. But, yes, Tor needs more exit nodes, not just for bandwidth sake, but because the more exit nodes there are, the harder it is for a hostile third party to monitor a sizable number of them for activity (and break the anonymization).
I am coincidentially starting a project with a group of students of my Faculty (we want to breathe life again into LIDSOL - Laboratorio de Investigación y Desarrollo de Software Libre). As we are just starting, they are documenting some technical and social aspects of the need for privacy and how Tor works; I expect them to publish their findings in El Nigromante soon (which means... what? ☺ ), but definitively, part of what we want to do is to set up a Tor exit node at the university — Well documented and with enough academic justification to avoid our network operation area ordering us to shut it down. Lets see what happens :)
Anyway, all in all — Dmitry is in for a heavy time. He has been detained pre-trial at least until June, and he faces quite serious charges. He has done a lot of good, specialized work for the whole world to benefit. So, given I cannot do more, I'm just speaking my mind here in this space.
People that know me know that I do whatever I can in order to avoid watching videos online if there's any other way to get to the content. It may be that I'm too old-fashioned, or that I have low attention and prefer to use a media where I can quickly scroll up and down a paragraph, or that I feel the time between bits of content is just a useless transition or whatever...
But I bit. And I loved it.
AT&T Archives: The UNIX Operating System, an amazing historic evidence: A 27 minute long documentary produced in 1981 covering... What is Unix. Why Unix is so unique, useful and friendly.
What's the big deal about it? That this document shows first-hand that we are not repeating myths we came up with along the way: The same principles of process composition, of simplicity and robustness, but spoken directly by many core actors of the era — Brian Kernighan (who drove a great deal of the technical explanation), Alfred Aho, Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson... And several more I didn't actually catch the names of.
Of course, the video includes casual shots of life at AT&T, including lots of terminals (even some of which are quite similar to the first ones I used here in Mexico, of course), then-amazing color animation videos showing the state of the art of computer video 35 years ago...
A delightful way to lose half an hour of productivity. And a bit of material that will surely find its way into my classes for some future semester :)
I am trying to get a good way to present the categorization of several cases studied with a fitting graph. I am rating several vulnerabilities / failures according to James Cebula et. al.'s paper, A taxonomy of Operational Cyber Security Risks; this is a somewhat deep taxonomy, with 57 end items, but organized in a three levels deep hierarchy. Copying a table from the cited paper (click to display it full-sized):
My categorization is binary: I care only whether it falls within a given category or not. My first stab at this was to represent each case using a star or radar graph. As an example:
As you can see, to a "bare" star graph, I added a background color for each top-level category (blue for actions of people, green for systems and technology failures), red for failed internal processes and gray for external events), and printed out only the labels for the second level categories; for an accurate reading of the graphs, you have to refer to the table and count bars. And, yes, according to the Engineering Statistics Handbook:
Star plots are helpful for small-to-moderate-sized multivariate data sets. Their primary weakness is that their effectiveness is limited to data sets with less than a few hundred points. After that, they tend to be overwhelming.
I strongly agree with the above statement — And stating that "a few hundred points" can be understood is even an overstatement. 50 points are just too much. Now, trying to increase usability for this graph, I came across the Sunburst diagram. One of the proponents for this diagram, John Stasko, has written quite a bit about it.
So... I set out to find a Gunnar-approved way to display the information I need. Now, as the Protovis documentation says, an icicle is simply a sunburst transformed from polar to cartesian coordinates... But I came to a similar conclusion: The tools I found are not what I need. OK, but an icicle graph seems much simpler to produce — I fired up my Emacs, and started writing using Ruby, RMagick and RVG... I decided to try a different way. This is my result so far:
So... What do you think? Does this look right to you? Clearer than the previous one? Worst? Do you have any idea on how I could make this better?
Oh... You want to tell me there is something odd about it? Well, yes, of course! I still need to tweak it quite a bit. Would you believe me if I told you this is not really a left-to-right icicle graph, but rather a strangely formatted Graphviz non-directed graph using the dot formatter?
I can assure you you don't want to look at my Graphviz sources... But in case you insist... Take them and laugh. Or cry. Of course, this file comes from a hand-crafted template, but has some autogenerated bits to it. I have still to tweak it quite a bit to correct several of its usability shortcomings, but at least it looks somewhat like what I want to achieve.
Anyway, I started out by making a "dear lazyweb" question. So, here it goes: Do you think I'm using the right visualization for my data? Do you have any better suggestions, either of a graph or of a graph-generating tool?
[update] Thanks for the first pointer, Lazyweb! I found a beautiful solution; we will see if it is what I need or not (it is too space-greedy to be readable... But I will check it out more thoroughly). It lays out much better than anything I can spew out by myself — Writing it as a mindmap using TikZ directly from within LaTeX, I get the following result:
Once again, I'm making an announcement mainly for my local circle of friends and (gasp!) followers. For those of you over 100Km away from Mexico City, please disregard this message.
Back in July 2015, and after two years of hard work, my university finished the publishing step of my second book. This is a textbook for the subject I teach at Computer Engineering: Operating Systems Fundamentals.
The book is, from its inception, fully available online under a permissive (CC-BY) license. One of the books aimed contributions is to present a text natively written in Spanish. Besides, our goal (I coordinated a team of authors, working with two colleagues from Rosario, Argentina, and one from Cauca, Colombia) was to provide a book students can easily and legally share with no legal issues.
I have got many good reviews so far, and after teaching based on it for four years (while working on it and after its publication), I can attest the material is light enough to fit in a Bachelors level degree, while it's deep enough to make our students sweat healthily ;-)
Anyway: I have been scheduled to present the book at my university's main book show, 38 Feria Internacional del Libro del Palacio de Minería this Saturday, 2017.03.04 16:00; Salón Manuel Tolsá. What's even better: This time, I won't be preparing a speech! The book will be presented by my two very good friends, José María Serralde and Rolando Cedillo. Both of them are clever, witty, fun, and a real honor to work with. Of course, having them present our book is more than a double honor.
So, everybody who can make it: FIL Minería is always great and fun. Come share the love! Come have a book! Or, at least, have a good time and a nice chat with us!
Very strange. Verrrry strange.
Yesterday I wrote a blog post on spam stuff that has been hitting my mailbox. Nothing too deep, just me scratching my head.
Coincidentally (I guess/hope), I have been getting messages via my Bitlbee to one of my Jabber accounts, offering me ransomware services. I am reproducing it here, omitting of course everything I can recognize as their brand names related URLs (as I'm not going to promote the 3vi1-doers). I'm reproducing this whole as I'm sure the information will be interesting for some.
*BRAND* Ransomware - The Most Advanced and Customisable you've Ever Seen Conquer your Independence with *BRAND* Ransomware Full Lifetime License! * UNIQUE FEATURES * NO DEPENDENCIES (.net or whatever)!!! * Edit file Icon and UAC - Works on All Windows Versions * Set Folders and Extensions to Encrypt, Deadline and Russian Roulette * Edit the Text, speak with voice (multilang) and Colors for Ransom Window * Enable/disable USB infect, network spread & file melt * Set Process Name, sleep time, update ransom amount, Give mercy button * Full-featured headquarter (for Windows) with unlimited builds, PDF reports, charts and maps, totally autonomous operation * PHP Bridges instead of expensive C&C servers! * Automatic Bitcoin payment detection (impossible to bypass/crack - we challege who says the contrary to prove what they say!) * Totally/Mathematically IMPOSSIBLE to DECRYPT! Period. * Award-Winning Five-Stars support and constant updates! * We Have lot vouchs in *BRAND* Market, can check! Watch the promo video: *URL* Screenshots: *URL* Website: *URL* Price: $389 Promo: just $309 - 20% OFF! until 25th Feb 2017 Jabber: *JID*
I think I can comment on this with my students. Hopefully, this is interesting to others.
Now... I had never received Jabber-spam before. This message has been sent to me 14 times in the last 24 hours (all from different JIDs, all unknown to me). I hope this does not last forever :-/ Otherwise, I will have to learn more on how to configure Bitlbee to ignore contacts not known to me. Grrr...
I know spam is spam is spam, and I know trying to figure out any logic underneath it is a lost cause. However... I am curious.
Many spam subjects are seemingly random, designed to convey whatever "information" they contain and fool spam filters. I understand that.
Many spam subjects are time-related. As an example, in the last months there has been a surge of spam mentioning Donald Trump. I am thankful: Very easy to filter out, even before it reaches spamassassin.
Of course, spam will find thousands of ways to talk about sex; cialis/viagra sellers, escort services, and a long list of WTF.
However... Tactical flashlights. Bright enough to blind a bear.
I mean... Truly. Really. WTF‽‽
What does that mean? Why is that even a topic? Who is interested in anything like that? How often does the average person go camping in the woods? Why do we need to worry about stupid bears attacking us? Why would a bear attack me?
The list of WTF questions could go on forever. What am I missing? What does "tactical flashlight" mean that I just fail to grasp? Has this appeared in your spam?
I am sad (but feel my duty) to inform the world that we will not be providing a Drupal 8 package in Debian.
I filed an Intent To Package bug a very long time ago, intending to ship it with Jessie; Drupal 8 was so deep a change that it took their community overly long to achieve and stabilize. Still, Drupal 8 was released over a year ago today.
I started working on debianizing the package shortly afterwards. There is also some online evidence – As my call for help sent through this same blog.
But... Reality bites.
When I started testing my precious package... It broke in horrible ways. Uncomprehensible PHP errors (and I have to add here, I am a PHP newbie and am reluctant to learn better a language that strikes me as so inconsistent, so ugly), which we spent some time tackling... Of course, configuration changes are more than expected...
But, just as we Debianers learnt some important lessons after the way-too-long Sarge freeze (ten years ago, many among you won't remember those frustrating days), Drupal learnt as well. They changed their release strategy — Instead of describing it, those interested can read it at its source.
What it meant for me, sadly, is that this process does not align with the Debian maintenance model. This means: The Drupal API stays mostly-stable between 8.0.x, 8.1.x, 8.2.x, etc. However, Drupal will incorporate new versions of their bundled libraries. I understood the new versions would be incorporated at minor-level branches, but if I read correctly some of my errors, some dependencies change even at patch-level updates.
And... Well, if you update a PHP library, and the invoking PHP code (that is, Drupal) relies in this new version... Sadly, it makes it unmaintainable for Debian.
So, long story short: I have decided to drop Drupal8 support in Debian. Of course, if somebody wants to pick up the pieces, the Git repository is still there (although I do plan on erasing it in a couple of weeks, as it means useless waste of project resources otherwise), and you could probably even target unstable+backports in a weird way (as it's software that, given our constraints, shouldn't enter testing, at least during a freeze).
So... Sigh, a tear is dropped for every lost hour of work, and my depeest regrets to David and Enrique who put their work as well to make D8 happen in Debian. I will soon be closing the ITP and... Forgetting about the whole issue? ☹
At the beginning of this year, Irene Soria invited me to start a series of talks on the topic of hacker ethics, security and surveillance. I presented a talk titled Cryptography and identity: Not everything is anonymity.
The talk itself is recorded and available in archive.org (sidenote: I find it amazing that Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana uses archive.org as their main multimedia publishing platform!)
But as part of this excercise, Irene invited me to write a chapter for a book covering the series. And, yes, she delivered!
So, finally, we will have the book presentation:
I know, not everybody following my posts (that means... Only those at or near Mexico City) will be able to join. But the good news: The book, as soon as it is presented, will be published under a CC BY-SA license. Of course, I will notify when it is ready.
Given that I started the GR process, and that I called for discussion and votes, I feel somehow as my duty to also put a simple wrap-around to this process. Of course, I'll say many things already well-known to my fellow Debian people, but also non-debianers read this.
So, for further context, if you need to, please read my previous blog post, where I was about to send a call for votes. It summarizes the situation and proposals; you will find we had a nice set of messages in firstname.lastname@example.org during September; I have to thank all the involved parties, much specially to Ian Jackson, who spent a lot of energy summing up the situation and clarifying the different bits to everyone involved.
So, we held the vote; you can be interested in looking at the detailed vote statistics for the 235 correctly received votes, and most importantly, the results:
First of all, I'll say I'm actually surprised at the results, as I expected Ian's proposal (acknowledge difficulty; I actually voted this proposal as my top option) to win and mine (repeal previous GR) to be last; turns out, the winner option was Iain's (remain private). But all in all, I am happy with the results: As I said during the discussion, I was much disappointed with the results to the previous GR on this topic — And, yes, it seems the breaking point was when many people thought the privacy status of posted messages was in jeopardy; we cannot really compare what I would have liked to have in said vote if we had followed the strategy of leaving the original resolution text instead of replacing it, but I believe it would have passed. In fact, one more surprise of this iteration was that I expected Further Discussion to be ranked higher, somewhere between the three explicit options. I am happy, of course, we got such an overwhelming clarity of what does the project as a whole prefer.
And what was gained or lost with this whole excercise? Well, if nothing else, we gain to stop lying. For over ten years, we have had an accepted resolution binding us to release the messages sent to debian-private given such-and-such-conditions... But never got around to implement it. We now know that debian-private will remain private... But we should keep reminding ourselves to use the list as little as possible.
For a project such as Debian, which is often seen as a beacon of doing the right thing no matter what, I feel being explicit about not lying to ourselves of great importance. Yes, we have the principle of not hiding our problems, but it has long been argued that the use of this list is not hiding or problems. Private communication can happen whenever you have humans involved, even if administratively we tried to avoid it.
Any of the three running options could have won, and I'd be happy. My #1 didn't win, but my #2 did. And, I am sure, it's for the best of the project as a whole.
For the non-Debian people among my readers: The following post presents bits of the decision-taking process in the Debian project. You might find it interesting, or terribly dull and boring :-) Proceed at your own risk.
My reason for posting this entry is to get more people to read the accompanying options for my proposed General Resolution (GR), and have as full a ballot as possible.
Some weeks ago, Nicolas Dandrimont proposed a GR for declassifying debian-private. In the course of the following discussion, he accepted Don Armstrong's amendment, which intended to clarify the meaning and implementation regarding the work of our delegates and the powers of the DPL, and recognizing the historical value that could lie within said list.  https://www.debian.org/vote/2016/vote_002  https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2016/07/msg00108.html  https://lists.debian.org/debian-vote/2016/07/msg00078.html In the process of the discussion, several people objected to the amended wording, particularly to the fact that "sufficient time and opportunity" might not be sufficiently bound and defined. I am, as some of its initial seconders, a strong believer in Nicolas' original proposal; repealing a GR that was never implemented in the slightest way basically means the Debian project should stop lying, both to itself and to the whole free software community within which it exists, about something that would be nice but is effectively not implementable. While Don's proposal is a good contribution, given that in the aforementioned GR "Further Discussion" won 134 votes against 118, I hereby propose the following General Resolution: === BEGIN GR TEXT === Title: Acknowledge that the debian-private list will remain private. 1. The 2005 General Resolution titled "Declassification of debian-private list archives" is repealed. 2. In keeping with paragraph 3 of the Debian Social Contract, Debian Developers are strongly encouraged to use the debian-private mailing list only for discussions that should not be disclosed. === END GR TEXT === Thanks for your consideration, -- Gunnar Wolf (with thanks to Nicolas for writing the entirety of the GR text ;-) )
Yesterday, I spoke with the Debian project secretary, who confirmed my proposal has reached enough Seconds (that is, we have reached five people wanting the vote to happen), so I could now formally do a call for votes. Thing is, there are two other proposals I feel are interesting, and should be part of the same ballot, and both address part of the reasons why the GR initially proposed by Nicolas didn't succeed:
- Ian Jackson's Acknowledge difficulty of declassifying debian-private makes explicit the role of the listmasters and allows for a formal declassification process to take place, as long as the privacy guarantees we had after the 2005 GR are not diminished.
- Iain Lane's reply to Ian is not yet formally proposed, but makes it spelt out that no declassification should ever occur unless all of the involved authors have explicitly consented
So, once more (and finally!), why am I posting this?
- To invite Iain to formally propose his text as an option to mine
- To invite more DDs to second the available options
- To publicize the ongoing discussion
I plan to do the formal call for votes by Friday 23.
[update] Kurt informed me that the discussion period started yesterday, when I received the 5th second. The minimum discussion period is two weeks, so I will be doing a call for votes at or after 2016-10-03.
For the readers of my blog that happen to be in Mexico City, I was invited to give a talk at Instituto de Ciencias Nucleares, Ciudad Universitaria, UNAM.
I will be at Auditorio Marcos Moshinsky, on August 26 starting at 13:00. Auditorio Marcos Moshinsky is where we met for the early (~1996-1997) Mexico Linux User Group meetings. And... Wow. I'm amazed to realize it's been twenty years that I arrived there, young and innocent, the newest of what looked like a sect obsessed with world domination and a penguin fetish.
As I have said here a couple of times already, I am teaching a diploma course on embedded Linux at UNAM, and one of the modules I'm teaching (with Sandino Araico) is the boot process. We focus on ARM for obvious reasons, and while I have done my reading on the topic, I am very far from considering myself an expert.
So, after attending Martin Michlmayr's «Debian on ARM devices» talk, I decided to do its subtitles as part of my teaching job. This talk gives a great panorama on what actually has to happen in order to get an ARM machine to boot, and how support for new ARM devices comes around to Linux in general and to Debian in particular — Perfect for our topic! But my students are not always very fluent in English, so giving a hand is always most welcome.
In case any of you dear readers didn't know, we have a DebConf subtitling team. Yes, our work takes much longer to reach the public, and we have no hopes whatsoever in getting it completed, but every person lending a hand and subtitling a talk that they thought was interesting helps a lot to improve our talks' usability. Even if you don't have enough time to do the whole talk (we are talking about some 6hr per 45 minute session), adding a bit of work is very very very welcome. So...
- Do you want to follow Martin's talk with subtitles?
- Do you want to help the subtitling effort?
Enjoy — And thanks in advance for your work!
I had my strong doubts as to whether the shipment would be allowed through customs, and was happily surprised by a smiling Graham today before noon. He handed me a smallish box that arrived to his office, containing...
Our fifty C.H.I.P. computers, those I offered to give away at DebConf!
The little machines are quite neat. They are beautiful little devices, including even a plastic back (so you can safely work with it over a conductive surface or things like that). Quite smaller than the usual Raspberry-like format. It has more than enough GPIO to make several of my friends around here drool about the possibilities.
So, what's to this machine besides a nice small ARM CPU, 512MB RAM, wireless connectivity (Wifi and bluetooth)? Although I have not yet looked into them (but intend to do so very soon!), it promises to have the freest available hardware around, and is meant for high hackability!
And not that it matters — But we managed to import them all, legally and completely hassle-free, into South Africa!
That's right — We are all used to the declaring commercial value as one dollar mindset. But... The C.H.I.P.s are actually priced at US$9 a piece. The declared commercial value is US$450. South Africans said all their customs are very hard to clear — But we were able receive 50 legally shipped computers, declared at their commercial value, without any hassles!
(yes, we might have been extremely lucky as well)
Anyway, stay tuned — By Thursday I will announce the list of people that get to take one home. I still have some left, so feel free to mail me at email@example.com.
I'm very happy to inform that the Next Thing Co. has shipped us a pack of 50 C.H.I.P. computers to be given away at DebConf! What is the C.H.I.P.? As their tagline says, it's the world's first US$9 computer. Further details:
All in all, it's a nice small ARM single-board computer; I won't bore you on this mail with tons of specs; suffice to say they are probably the most open ARM system I've seen to date.
So, I agreed with Richard, our contact at the company, I would distribute the machines among the DebConf speakers interested in one. Of course, not every DebConf speaker wants to fiddle with an adorable tiny piece of beautiful engineering, so I'm sure I'll have some spare computers to give out to other interested DebConf attendees. We are supposed to receive the C.H.I.P.s by Monday 4; if you want to track the package shipment, the DHL tracking number is 1209937606. Don't DDoS them too hard!
So, please do mail me telling why do you want one, what your projects are with it. My conditions for this giveaway are:
- I will hand out the computers by Thursday 7.
- Preference goes to people giving a talk. I will "line up" requests on two queues, "speaker" and "attendee", and will announce who gets one in a mail+post to this list on the said date.
- With this in mind, I'll follow a strict "first come, first served".
To sign up for yours, please mail firstname.lastname@example.org - I will capture mail sent to that alias ONLY.
I am submitting a comment to Wen Wen and Chris Forman's Viewpoint on the Communications of the ACM, titled Economic and business dimensions: Do patent commons and standards-setting organizations help navigate patent thickets?. I believe my comment is worth sharing a bit more openly, so here it goes. Nevertheless, please refer to the original article; it makes very interesting and valid points, and my comment should be taken as an extra note on a great text only!
I was very happy to see an article with this viewpoint published. This article, however, mentions some points I believe should be further stressed out as problematic and important. Namely, still at the introduction, after mentioning that patents «are intended to provide incentives for innovation by granting to inventors temporary monopoly rights», the next paragraph continues, «The presence of patent thickets may create challenges for ICT producers. When introducing a new product, a firm must identify patents its product may infringe upon.»
The authors continue explaining the needed process — But this simple statement should be enough to explain how the patent system is broken and needs repair.
A requisite for patenting an invention was originally the «inventive» and «non-obvious» characteristics. Anything worth being granted a patent should be inventive enough, it should be non-obvious to an expert in the field.
When we see huge bodies of awarded (and upheld) patents falling in the case the authors mention, it becomes clear that the patent applications were not thoroughly researched prior to their patent grant. Sadly, long gone are the days where the United States Patent and Trademarks Office employed minds such as Albert Einstein's; nowadays, the office is more a rubber-stamping bureaucracy where most patents are awarded, and this very important requisite is left open to litigation: If somebody is found in breach of a patent, they might choose to defend the issue that the patent was obvious to an expert. But, of course, that will probably cost more in legal fees than settling for an agreement with the patent holder.
The fact that in our line of work we must take care to search for patents before releasing any work speaks a lot about the process. Patents are too easily granted. They should be way stricter; the occurence of an independent developer mistakenly (and innocently!) breaching a patent should be most unlikely, as patents should only be awarded to truly non-obvious solutions.