Older blog entries for pabs3 (starting at number 52)

Migrating from Galeon to Iceweasel/Firefox

I have been a long-time user of the Galeon web browser, which, while powerful for its time, is getting a bit long in the teeth and has been abandoned for a long time. As a result I need to find something new.

As Galeon uses the Mozilla engine I figure switching to Iceweasel/Firefox will be the least amount of pain since they share similar formats for lots of the user configuration and data (with the exception of history). Switching to Firefox also gives me access to a lot of configurability and a vast sea of extensions all written in RDF, JavaScript and zoooool (ahem, XUL). Another plus was that I was already using Firebug for the occasional web development project.

Looking at the Mozilla addons site is like entering someone's shed. There will be the few beautiful unfinished projects still being worked on, one polished finished scuplture gathering dust but still admirable, things with power plugs from a bygone era, some things that have a coin slot on them, some cryptic machines with no visible screws or manuals, some spiders and their cobwebs and a few rats and mice chewing through things. A place where you can find some excellent, well documented, useful and Free Software extensions alongside lots of crud. Luckily for me the good stuff that I wanted to use was already in Debian or the friendly Debian Mozilla extension maintainers team was willing to package them for me.

In my quest for freedom from Galeon I first noticed that there is no up button in Iceweasel. Bummer, I use that a lot so I went searching for extensions. I soon found one extension, but it hadn't kept up with the ever-changing Mozilla APIs so it fell by the wayside. Thanks to the leavers of breadcrumbs I picked up the trail to a new shiny and working extension. Lo-and-behold I found Uppity, which was all about going up and as it turns out, much better at that than Galeon. Thanks to MozExt team, thats solved, next!

The next glaring problem was the lack of Galeon-style smart bookmarks. Before you ask, yes, Firefox smart keyword bookmarks are not the same thing. This was rediculously hard to search for due to the wording used by both projects being same same but different. Some folks switched to Epiphany to get the extra search boxes on their toolbars. Like this guy I was not interested in that, mainly due to the addons I would be missing out on. I tried a few different tacks, even searching for a way to have multiple search boxes in the Firefox toolbars. I soon gave up on finding an extension that would do this like Galeon does so I figured its time to roll up the sleeves and learn some zzzoooool. I already know a little bit about JavaScript and CSS so... First slap a dash of a tutorial about adding toolbar buttons, add a slither of adding extensions without installing them, stare down some Mozilla reference manuals, thrown in a pinch of favicons, give up on a wild goose chase or two, add a big fat blob of zoooool and sautee in fugly hacks. Soon enough you will have something hardcoded that works like Galeon smart bookmarks but looks even better.

A screenshot of hacky galeon smart bookmarks in Iceweasel

I may eventually turn this into a proper and functionally equivalent extension for Galeon-stlye smart bookmarks but for now it will remain a useful hack. If you want to get your hands dirty with zzzoooooool and try this out after modifying it to use your personal search URLs, please feel free to contact me.

For now the only remaining issue I can see is that the forward/back buttons in Iceweasel don't have the explict menu buttons. This is a minor issue for me so now it is time for me to figure out how to migrate my data and config1 before permanently switching away from Galeon.

Wish me luck!

1. Of course the data and config are fugly, but that is a something for another, much broader and more complicated hack

Syndicated 2011-11-04 03:29:09 from Advogato

Convenient login to Debian porterboxen

Whenever I want to login to a Debian porterbox to figure out some architecture-specific issue I typically do not care which particular host I am going to login to, just what architecture the host is.

After discovering that it is not yet easy for the Debian sysadmins (DSA) to add aliases to DNS for this purpose, I whipped up a quick script to grab the relevant data about Debian machines from the Debian LDAP server and work around this in my OpenSSH config.

To use the script you should run the script and place the magic comment lines suggested by the script into your ~/.ssh/config file and then run the script again, which will contact the Debian LDAP server using python-ldap, download the relevant information and replace the relevant part of your ~/.ssh/config file with some OpenSSH configuration directives to map Debian architecture names to hostnames. Within just a few seconds you will be able to login to armel, powerpc.port or kfreebsd-amd64.port.debian.org instead of needing to manually look up which servers to login for a particular architecture.

Syndicated 2011-11-02 05:19:16 from Advogato

Revisiting personal software freedom

Since it was Software Freedom Day again, I figured I should revisit my personal software freedom and see what has changed since my post two years ago. There hasn't been a vrms meme again this year so I don't have anyone else to compare with. A small survey on IRC indicates folks still need non-free nVidia drivers, embedded software, GNU documentation, Java and more.

Since then I have switched my laptop from the Dell Inspiron 6400 to the Thinkpad X201 Tablet. Nothing really changed with my laptop, GNU documentation is still non-free and the new Intel WiFi chip on my new laptop still uses non-free embedded software. To remind myself of the non-free bits embedded in the hardware (CPU microcode, BIOS, EC etc), I have installed intel-microcode and microcode.ctl.

Since then I didn't get any new phone, still the same OpenMoko FreeRunner. I'm now using QtMoko on a 4GB microSD card and Debian and SHR on other cards for testing. QtMoko is based on Debian and is the latest incarnation of Qtopia. It is probably free but I haven't done any audit of it. One interesting thing that changed with the FreeRunner in the past two years is that Harald Welte and friends started OsmocomBB, a project to create free software for the GSM modem built into the FreeRunner and many old feature-phones. I haven't tried it yet due to lack of time. While at the Chaos Communication Camp 2011 I learnt about the blackbox that SIM cards are (video), which hopefully OsmocomBB has a chance to protect against. AFAIK nothing else has changed to improve software freedom on the FreeRunner, the WiFi, GPS and other parts still contain non-free software with no chance of a replacement in sight.

Since then I am still using the same wireless router and ADSL modem and I wasn't brave enough to try replacing their software. I still use gmail out of intertia, but I at least have started using offlineimap to prepare for the day when I will move away from it. I still use Google Maps, mainly for searching for public transport routes. With my recent travels in Europe I encountered many places where OpenStreetMap has much better coverage than Google. One nice thing about Google Maps adding public transport information is that public transport organisations have been publishing public data feeds for Google to consume. Apparently there is also a realtime variant. I also found one website using a JSON API for Google street view. The combination of these gives me hope for better support for spatial data in free software. The data (aerial and streets) will obviously remain a much longer term freeness issue though.

For flash video on the web get-flash-videos appeared and made it even easier to ignore flash, especially since I got a few patches added to it. In addition Swfdec died but Gnash improved enough to replace it. Lightspark was also created but has so far been pretty buggy and unstable. Free RAR v3 format support appeared in the form of TheUnarchiver. The Voxware audio codec and DigiTrakker MDL files are still not supported by Rhythmbox. Unicode has been updated and so now Debian doesn't support every script fully. I still manage to avoid Skype. The nouveau drivers have matured enough to provide 3D support, multi-monitor support and general stability for the one nVidia card I used in the past two years.

Overall, I'm reasonably happy with my level of software freedom. My main strategy for preventing regressions in my software freedom remains to just avoid doing things that require non-free software. The most problematic FLOSS issues for me are embedded software, spatial data support and Flash support. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions.

Happy Software Freedom Day everyone!

Syndicated 2011-09-18 03:59:59 from Advogato

Looking at the logos of Debian derivatives

The logos of the Debian derivatives registered in the derivatives census are overwhelmingly stored in PNG format, with a handful of JPEG and GIF images. One derivative (LMDE) doesn't have a logo registered in the census.

Half of the logo image files have some embedded indication of which program was used to create them or which program they passed through last.

Just over half of these were created with some proprietary Adobe or Macromedia program. The one that surprised me was Emdebian's logo indicating it was created in Adobe Photoshop 3.0, but to be fair it looks like several of the Debian logo files were also created in Adobe Photoshop 3.0 so that might just be copied from the Debian logos. Two of the logos have an easter-egg reminding everyone who looks about the obsession some part of Adobe has with rubber ducks.

Just under half of them were created using Free Software, with most of those being produced in the GIMP and a few in Inkscape.

One of them looks like a derivative work of the KDE logo. Two of them incorporate the Debian swirl indicating their Debian heritage. Two of them in some way incorporate the Tux Linux mascot indicating that they use Linux. One of the logos contains the word Debian and one contains "sid". Three of the logos mention both GNU and Linux and another mentions only GNU. One of them mentions the government organisation sponsoring the distro (LinEx).

A few logos consist solely of text and a few have no text, but most combine both elements. Three have some indication of a URL in them. Several of them have some sort of indication of what the distribution's focus is.

One has Adobe's XMP XML cruft embedded in it indicating document identifiers and two logos have an embedded ICC profile. One logo has the author's name in it.

Syndicated 2011-07-11 16:55:12 from Advogato

Announcing Planet Debian Derivatives!

The first concrete outcome from the Debian derivatives census is the creation of Planet Debian Derivatives. For those of you who are interested in the activites of distributions derived from Debian, it aggregates the blogs and planets of all the distributions represented in the derivatives census. The list of feeds will be expanded semi-automatically as more distributions participate in the census and maintainers of census pages add new blog and planet URLs. Many thanks to Joerg Jaspert for doing the nessecary setup procedures for the addition of the new sub-planet to Planet Debian. I'm glad that it was accepted alongside the sole language-based sub-planet (Planet Debian Spanish).

I plan further integration of informaton about derivatives with Debian infrastructure. My next target will be integration of information about the packages in Debian derivatives into Debian. I hope to work on getting that information into UDD (and rmadison) and the packages.d.o site during DebConf11 and DebCamp. If you are interested in helping out, please add your ideas to the integration wiki page, check out the code and add more scripts to it.

If you have any comments or questions about this or any other activities related to Debian derivatives, please direct them to the debian-derivatives list and the #debian-derivatives IRC channel on OFTC.

Those of you interested in the other side of the software stream might want to take a look at Planet Debian Upstream, which is run by the excellent Joey Hess. He is also on the lookout for interesting blogs by people writing software that is packaged in Debian. The site is created using ikiwiki, hosted on branchable and editable with an OpenID account.

Syndicated 2011-06-16 08:33:26 from Advogato

Debian/Ubuntu games team meeting

The Debian/Ubuntu games team has been less active over the past few years, so we are having an IRC meeting at the end of the week as part of an attempt to revive the team a bit. Some of you might have seen the announcement in the Debian Misc Developer News issue 26. So if you have an interest in gaming and Debian/Ubuntu, please join us on the IRC channel. Gamers and lurkers welcome, come one come all!

The agenda for the meeting is not yet finalised so if you would like to influence it please take a look at the poll. The primary focus of the meeting looks like it will be reviving the team and looking forward to our goals for Debian wheezy.

Syndicated 2011-03-16 04:24:07 from Advogato

Looking towards Debian wheezy

So Debian squeeze has finally been released and it is time to look toward to what we might work on or want to happen for the next release, codenamed Debian wheezy. An informal discussion on IRC mentioned libburnia libraries and apps, finishing DEP5, objnam, wayland, multiarch, Matthew Palmer plans to work on netcfg, ifupdown and the KDE team plan to remove Qt3/KDE3.

I personally plan to work on catching up with my packages, the removal of defoma, boosting the Debian games team, improving collaboration with derivatives, changes to the Debian wiki, reviewing more packages mentioned on debian-mentors and more.

I am really excited to see the cross-distro collaboration of Enrico Zini and others in bringing application management to Linux distributions, the multiarch work by Steve Langasek and others and hopefully optimistic about the recent discussions of automated post-install testing.

I probably will not work on almost all of these but I would like to see multiarch, cross compiliation, widespread systemd integration, netconf revival, porting to phones/tablets, OEM mode and media for d-i, partitioning improvments for d-i, widespread automated post-install testing, expansion of daca, deployment of debexpo, widespread adoption of PET, automated removal of bad packages, better pro-active security measures, building all packages on buildds, migration away from Debian-specific stuff in favour of cross-distro solutions, addition of new UI experiences (like MeeGo, Android, Unity, QtMoko), addition of new APIs for portability (like Android, Khronos, MacOS/iOS stuff), more interesting/weird ports, merging derivatives into Debian, better integration of Debian Pure Blends, removing non-free packages where free alternatives exist, ex-developers and MIA folks returning to Debian, expansion of the backports repository, fixes for lots of bugs and probably other things I forgot.

What are you going to work on? What do you wish you could work on? What work are you hoping others will do? What work are you excited about that others are doing?

Syndicated 2011-02-08 12:10:44 from Advogato

Another year, another log entry

It has been almost a full year since my last log entry. It has been a busy work year, I attended some nice conferences and did minimal FLOSS stuff.

On the work side of things I was a third of an Australian VoIP startup that came and went. I setup Debian servers, installed OpenSIPS and associated software, wrote OpenSIPS scripts, wrote peripheral software and did customer support. We had a good thing going there for a while, some fans on the Whirlpool forums but in the end there wasn't enough money for the requisite marketing and local market circumstances were squeezing Australian VoIP providers anyway.

On the conference side of things I went to LCA 2010, the Thai Mini-DebCamp 2010, DebConf10 and FOSSASIA 2010. Had a great time at all of them.

At LCA 2010 in windy Wellington, New Zealand the distributions summit organised by Martin Krafft was one of the highlights. It was dominated by Debian/Ubuntu talks but there were some other interesting ones, especially the one on GoboLinux's integration of domain-specific package managers. Also excellent were the keynotes given by Gabriella Coleman (Best & worst of times), Mako Hill (Antifeatures) and others, which I felt gave LCA an improved and very welcome focus on software freedom. There were quite a few Debian folks at LCA, it was great to hang out with them during the week and afterwards. Monopedal sumo with mako and others was hilarious fun.

At the Thailand Mini-DebCamp 2010 in Khon Kaen, I was glad to see Andrew Lee (Taiwan) and Christian Perrier (France) again and meet Yukiharu YABUKI (Japan) and Daiki Ueno (Japan). In addition to the five international folks, there were quite a few locals, including Thailand's currently sole Debian member, Theppitak Karoonboonyanan. The event was hosted at Khon Kaen University and opened with my talk about the Debian Social Contract and the Debian Free Software Guidelines. This was followed by a number of talks about Debian package building, a 3-day BSP where we touched 57 bugs, a great day of sightseeing and talks about i18n, derivative distros, keysigning, mirrors, contribution and a discussion about DebConf. During the week there was also the usual beersigning, combined with eating of unfamiliar and "interesting" Thai snacks. After the conference Andrew and I roamed some markets in Bangkok and got Thai massages. Beforehand I also visited a friend from my travels on the RV Heraclitus in Chiang Mai, once again experiencing the awesomeness of trains in Asia, unfortunately during the dry season this time. I took a lot of photos during my time in Thailand and ate a lot of great and spicy food. As a vegetarian I especially appreciated the organiser's efforts to accommodate this during the conference.

At DebConf10 in New York City, by far the highlight was Eben Moglen's vision of the FreedomBox. Negotiating the hot rickety subways was fun, the party at the NYC Resistor space was most excellent, Coney Island was hot and the water a bit yuck, zack threw a ball, the food and campus was really nice. Really enjoyed the lintian BoF, ARM discussions, shy folks, GPLv3 question time, paulproteus' comments & insights, wiki BoF, puppet BoF, derivatives BoF, Sita, astronomy rooftop, cheese, virt BoF, Libravatar, DebConf11, Brave new Multimedia World, bagels for breakfast, CUT, OpenStreetMap & lightning talks. Having my power supply die was not fun at all. Afterwards I hung out with a couple of the exhausted organisers, ate awesome vegan food and fell asleep watching a movie about dreams. One weird thing about DebConf10 was that relatively few folks used the DebConf gallery to host their photos, months later only myself and Aigars Mahinovs posted any photos there.

At FOSSASIA 2010 in Hồ Chí Minh City (HCMC) was a mini-DebConf. I arrived at the HCMC airport and was greeted by Huyen (thanks!!), one of FOSSASIA's numerous volunteers, who bundled me into a taxi bound for the speakers accommodation and pre-event meetup at The Spotted Cow Bar. The next day the conference opened at the Raffles International College and after looking at the schedule I noticed that I was to give a talk about Debian that day. Since I didn't volunteer for such a talk and had nothing prepared, the schedule took me by surprise. So shortly after an awesome lunch of Vietnamese pancakes we gathered some Debian folks and a random Fedora dude and prepared a short intro to Debian. The rest of the day the highlights were the intro, video greetings and the fonts, YaCy and HTML5 talks. The next day the Debian MiniConf began with Arne Goetje and everyone trying to get Debian Live LXDE USB keys booted on as many machines in the classroom as possible (many didn't boot). Once people started showing up we kicked off with Thomas Goirand's introduction to the breadth of Debian. Others talked about Debian pure blends, Gnuk and building community and packages. The second last session was about showing the Vietnamese folks in the room how to do l10n and translation since Debian had only one Vietnamese translator (Clytie Siddall). After manually switching keyboard layouts (seems LXDE doesn't have a GUI for that) on the English LXDE installs, the two Cambodian folks were able to do some Khmer translation too. This was a great session and it resulted in two extra Vietnamese translators joining Debian. It went over time so I didn't end up doing my presentation about package reviewing. We rushed off to a university where the random Fedora ch^Wambassador was hosting a Fedora 14 release party in a huge packed classroom. There were a lot of excited faces, interesting and advanced questions and it was in general a success. Afterwards we had some food, joined up with some other speakers and ended up in a bar in the gross tourist zone. On the final day we hung around in the Debian room, went downstairs for the group photo and final goodbyes. Later we found a place with baked goods, coffee and juices and navigated the crazy traffic to a nice local restaurant. The next morning Arne & I went to the airport, others went on a Mekong Delta tour and Jonas hung out with the organisers. I took less photos than at other events but got a few interesting ones.

I avoided doing a lot of FLOSS stuff over the last year, I hope to work on some things in the coming months;

  • revive various (semi-)abandoned upstream projects
  • do some more work on the Debian wiki
  • contribute to RC bug squashing efforts
  • push the VoIP company patches upstream
  • contribute to debexpo/debshots/lintian/qa
  • contribute to the Debian multimedia/FSO teams
  • promote/organise/rejuvenate the Debian games team
  • announce the Debian derivatives census more widely
  • finish writing a SANE driver for my scanner
  • finish the removal of defoma from Debian
  • watch some videos from LCA and DebConf

I'm also planning some interesting travel and acquiring some new technological goods, more on those in some later posts.

Syndicated 2011-01-07 10:29:19 from Advogato

Another decade, another ...

  • GPG key, better late than never :) Thanks to go to ana for her howto.
  • linux.conf.au, I hear awesome folks are going to be there!
  • battery, sucks to be at a conference with a crap laptop battery
  • regret, using and working on non-free software is driving me insane
  • hope, to meet Debian folks in Thailand again and eat Thai food
  • want, to escape the internets for the sea and local wilderness
  • wish, that there was more time in a decade, year and day

Thanks to all the Debian, FLOSS and Indymedia folks out there, you've made the last decade much more enjoyable.

Syndicated 2010-01-13 15:04:09 from Advogato

Adobe CMap and AGLFN data now free software!

In March 2009 I contacted Adobe about the self-contradictory nature of the license for the Adobe Glyph List For New Fonts (AGLFN) data. I did so because one of the upstreams I am involved in (fonttools) embeds a copy of aglfn.txt and I noticed the license was a bit strange. An Adobe employee by the name of David Lemon replied to say that the license would become less free than it was. I then asked him to consider using a free software license for both the Adobe CMap and AGLFN data. We discussed the benefits and drawbacks of doing this for both Adobe and the free software community. David was initially skeptical about the balance between benefits and drawbacks for Adobe and I was feeling pessimistic about the situation. The conversation ended and several months passed, with me sending the occasional ping and David being busy. Then in June he told me a new license was coming in a month. So I sent another ping on September 20th to find out what the status of that was. A couple of days later I received a mail saying that the Adobe CMap data has now been released under the BSD license and that the Adobe AGLFN data will soon follow! Please note that while this means that modifications are technically allowed, they are still strongly discouraged for compatibility reasons. Adobe has assigned an emailable maintainer (currently Ken Lunde) for these files so there is no reason that modifications should not be done upstream. You can also edit the wiki to document things or post in the forum. If you happen to meet David, Ken or Dave McAllister (who manages the Open@Adobe program) somewhere, please thank them and offer beverages.

So, what does this mean for free software projects? Debian CJK users will be able to read many more PDFs with CJK characters without using any non-free packages once the new CMap files reach main. I will need to package the new AGLFN data for Debian. I will need to remove the embedded AGLFN from fonttools upstream and adapt it to use the packaged one if available or suggest the user download it if not. GNU Classpath and the other software projects using AGLFN data might like to do the same. I may consider writing a library for loading the AGLFN data, mainly as an exercise in learning how to write a good library though.

Oh, and perhaps I can convince 武藤 健志 (Kenshi MUTO) my minimal level of involvement in this is worth a beer if I ever meet him :D

Syndicated 2009-09-24 02:36:06 from Advogato

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