This and That

I haven't blogged anything in months and figured that now might be a good time to get around that. Here it goes:

Free Software

While I occasionally upgrade the packaging of the software I maintain at Debian to keep up with best practices, my activity downsizing goes on. Simply put: I never had any ambition to become a Debian Developer. My involvement has always remained pragmatic and mostly from the perspective of packaging software that I found useful. Even then, my motivation for doing that keeps on dwindling into nothingness, because key pieces of software keep on breaking, whenever someone upstream decides to reinvent the wheel.

For instance, GNOME no longer works at all on Geode chipsets and it barely works on Nouveau chipsets. This happened as soon as GNOME 3.14 was uploaded into unstable, right before the freeze started. Then again, I wouldn't jump to a conclusion that GNOME itself might be at fault, since Plymouth also stopped working on the same two video platforms at the same time. For all we know, this could be caused by some changes in the X.Org server code. Bugs were filed, additional information was provided, but no fix has taken place.

Given how Geode and Nouveau represent 80% of my hardware investment (my Intel laptop being the sole exception), it essentially means that the upcoming Debian "stable" is useless for me. Now try and remain motivated, even just as a mere Free Software end-user. At this point, I'm done.


Finland is holding national elections this April. I still have no idea who I'll vote for this time. The guy I voted for last time has become a career politician with an inflated ego and zero connection to the average Finn's aspirations and worries. Meanwhile, two friends are standing as candidates: one who is a razor-sharp fact finder and who is a proven pragmatic decision-maker, but whose values are slightly off with mine, and one whose actions come straight from the heart but whose concept of today's Finnish reality leaves a lot to be desired.

National Defence

There's been a lot of recent articles about how former hardware and locations of the Finnish defence forces and border guards have been sold, often for peanuts, to Russian interests. In some cases, we're only talking about buildings formerly used for on-site staff accommodations. In other cases, former patrol boats and navy harbours changed hands. Now, to top it all, it appears that our north-western neighbour, Norway, has sold a former submarine base to German investors who, in turn, leased it to – you guessed it – Russian interests.

Looking at Russian actions in Ukraine, I cannot help but feel great concern that strategic locations are falling into potentially dangerous hands. Just seeing the picture of a former navy harbour with a handful of patrol boats on standby, right on the Finnish coastline, half-way between Helsinki and Turku, was a sobering experience. While the whole idea of shooting at people – even invading armies – gives me the creeps, at this point, I cannot help but start pondering whether defending this country might in fact be an occupation worth training for.


It has now been 6 years since I held my last dayjob. Since then, the only thing I've found is an unpaid training in the national bureaucracy. I've also freelanced as an actor and model, but that barely brought me pocket change, if even that. Seeing my face on posters advertising a movie I participated in last year was indeed nice, getting some media attention in connection to that too, but it hasn't lead to additional gigs. As far as I can tell, this was just my Warholian 15 minutes of fame.

However, there's a larger issue at stake. Newspapers recently published an employment statistics map for Nordic countries and the truth couldn't be more bleak: while Norway and Sweden's employment figures are nearly spotless for almost every province, those of Finland are – save for a couple of mildly successful provinces – outright catastrophic. Given this and despite feeling relatively happy living in Finland and having developed a will to defend this country from an eventual Russian assault, I've come to the conclusion that I would be better off going West, with a strong preference for Norway.

Now, the main question is, doing what? 6 years later, I have strong doubts that I would be remotely considered for any high-tech job. Besides, come to think of it, I wouldn't want any new office job. Off the top of my head, my idea of a cool job that would allow me to stay physically fit would be working as a tourist guide in Lapland. However, if Norway is anything like Finland, someone probably needs a dozen of permits of all sorts (first aid certification, C or even D class driving license, college degree in tourism, etc.) that I cannot afford. What then?


GNOME is destroying the whole GTK universe

When GNOME 3.14 components were uploaded into Debian (just a few days before the Jessie freeze started), GNOME stopped working on two video platforms: Geode (xf86-video-geode) and NVIDIA (xf86-video-nouveau). On Geode, GDM launches into a black screen. On NVIDIA, GDM launches as expected, but then the GNOME session itself barfs with the dreaded "Oh No! Something went wrong. [Logout]" dialog during session initialization. Basically, components in GNOME have become too tightly dependent upon some video driver features. Thinking out loud, I figured that reverting to a desktop environment that is based upon GTK+3, without GNOME's bells and whistles, would at least restore operation on my NVDIA hosts. Alas, it does not: Cinnamon, too, barfs during session initialization. Great. Now what?


On the Joey debacle

Looking back, I cannot think of a single moment when Joey wouldn't have shown the utmost patience and courtesy towards anyone involved in Debian, even towards mere users filing sometimes senseless bug reports against his packages. From this perspective, I cannot help but venture that whatever chain of events lead to Joey's decisions essentially means one thing: Debian must have seriously gotten off-course for someone who has been involved for so long to call it quits. As for the current situation at hands, while I admittedly haven't followed too closely who or what caused Joey's decision, I nonetheless cannot help but feel that whoever pushed Joey's buttons so hard as to make him decide to leave Debian ought to be the one(s) kicked out of Debian instead.


HEL has just frozen over. Wait. No. Debian did.

Noticing that Debian just entered its freeze, I went ahead and changed the APT sources on a spare host that is currently running stable. Then, it was time for this command to be executed:

sudo apt-get update && \
sudo apt-get install apt dpkg locales && \
sudo apt-get --purge dist-upgrade && \
sudo apt-get --fix-policy install && \
sudo apt-get --purge autoremove $(deborphan --guess-all)

I guess I'll be busy filing bug reports for the next few hours. Wish me (and each faulty package's maintainer) luck!

PS: Apparently, so many aspects of Debian have become dependent upon GPG features that merely upgrading APT, DPKG and libc6+locales is no longer enough. One must also upgrade gnupg and gnupg2. Thus, the second element of the above recipe has become:

sudo apt-get install apt dpkg gnupg gnupg2 locales && \

Hopefully, APT's dist-upgrade command already knows that these must be upgraded first...

PPS: Hosts running Network-Manager cannot be upgraded remotely, because Network-Manager insists upon killing the network connection and the SSH daemon with it, when its turn comes to get upgraded.


Outstanding issue in Debian: unroutable public v6 IP

Given how Debian and Ubuntu nowadays enable IPv6 support by default, the routing table includes some IPv6 entries by standard. However, this has the unpleasant side-effect that lib C tries to connect to public IPv6 addresses, even in a case when the only IPv6 entries are for loopback and local link. Apparently, libc incorrectly assumes that the mere presence of any IPv6 means that there is a usable default IPv6 route. This results in, among other things, APT failing at fetching packages from the Debian repository if the DNS rotation returned the IPv6 address for the server first. I was thus wondering whether libc6 could be made to reject public IPv6 addresses, in cases when the host has no IPv6 gateway in its routing table? Or would there be a smarter way to prevent applications from failing at contacting IPv6 addresses whenever there is no IPv6 connection to the outside world?


xf86-video-geode 2.11.14

A few days ago, I pushed out version 2.11.14 of the Geode X.org driver. This is the driver used by the OLPC XO-1 and by a plethora of low-power desktops, micro notebooks and thin clients.

This release mostly features long-overdue fixes to rendering issues under GTK3+ and xulrunner, plus yet more ongoing changes to make this driver compile under recent X servers.

Sadly, the release took place much too late to be included into the upcoming stable Debian version, Wheezy, which is already deeply into freeze, pending publication.


HTML5: Firefox without Flash

Over the past few days, I decided to purge Gnash and LightSpark from my laptop to see whether my Internet experience would be affected in any dramatic way. Amazingly, a number of sites seem to offer video content encoded in Theora (VP3) or WebM (VP8). Sadly, a handful of popular sites such as Vimeo insist upon using the H.264 (MPEG-4) CODEC, which cannot be safely supported on Free Software because of unclear licensing issues that might impose an ulterior usage fee onto the end-users.

The good news is that the Mozilla Foundation has decided to avoid the issue together: starting with the most recent release of the mobile version of Firefox, content decoding is offloaded to the platform's native media CODEC library. On most Free Software platforms, this means that Gstreamer will handle the content and, in turn, use gstreamer-plugins-bad to perform the decoding. However, Gstreamer support is still rather sketchy, as attested by this Debian bug report and thus disabled by default. This leaves me wondering how little is missing for this to properly work. Would either Canonical or Red Hat perhaps be interested in funding this?