Bad, bad Linux kernel!

Ever since Linux kernel 2.6.31 was released, my AMD Geode LX800-based FIC ION 603 can no longer boot; I get a fatal kernel crash near the end of the initramfs loading phase. At the crux of the issue seems to be a recently added kernel feature for caching filesystem ACL. I don't even use the ACL feature on my hosts, but there you go; it still crashes the kernel. Sigh.

Having filed a bug on Launchpad and reported the issue upstream failed to produce a fix - despite the sustained involvement of two members of the Ubuntu kernel team members to help me narrow down the cause of this fatal kernel crash.

Mentioning the issue to OLPC kernel developer Andres Salomon, he commented how he finds the new ACL caching code in the ext2/ext3/ext4 filesystem drivers downright creepy, but added that he currently lacks the time to further investigate the issue.

I'm thus wondering if anyone else is experiencing this issue and might possibly have a fix to propose?

Alternately, help towards debugging and fixing this issue is extremely welcome, as this bug will seriously affect users upgrading from older Debian and Ubuntu releases based on pre-2.6.31 kernels, when Debian/Squeeze and Ubuntu/Lucid are published in spring.

PS: yes, the issue still exists in kernel 2.6.32 also.

Wanted: a coherent, sane Finnish political party

In more than 11 years in Finland, I've been politically involved in a couple of political parties on the Right side of the spectrum - mainly because those parties tend to favor a free market economy and a work-oriented immigration. In one case, I was invited by fellow immigrants to attend the meetings of their favorite party's English section, because of my expertise on Immigration legislation and common practices. In an other case, a member of the Finnish parliament invited me to participate in his party's immigrant workgroup, which resulted in my getting involved in a number of proactive initiatives and eventually joining that party as a card-carrying member.

Simultaneously, I was approached by no less than 4 Finnish political parties to become a candidate in the municipal elections (in Finland, foreigners who have lived at least 2 years on an A-status residence permit can vote and stand as a candidate in municipal elections).

Despite this, I've come to the conclusion that none of these Finnish political parties is genuine:

On one hand, there's politicians who claim to know everything about the Immigration question and yet their speeches tell an entirely different story than what immigrants experience. On the other hand, there's politicians who complain about the immigrants' lack of participation in political life, but who quickly add that their personal group of supporters is all they're interested in hearing from.

Correlating these facts, it's been found by many politically-involved immigrants that Finnish political parties don't genuinely want to involve immigrants; all they are interested in is acquiring a few extra votes from the immigrant population and in transferring those votes to their party's star Finnish candidate, who often is someone favored by the party's old-timers but disavowed by the majority of grassroot members. In a few more extreme cases, party brasses will sheepishly admit that all they want is «a couple of niggers in the candidate list» to show a vague sense of adhesion to the multicultural agenda - despite the assurances they have given to often naive immigrant candidates that they "genuinely" hope that they'll be elected.

As it turns out, many immigrants are actively involved at the grassroot level and receiving the praises of their Finnish colleagues for their innovative and proactive initiatives. As a result, genuinely interested Finns have joined forces with active immigrants to launch various initiatives for improving Finland's competitive position in the global economy through a thriving cosmopolitanism and a stronger culture of entrepreneurship. For instance, I am personally involved at several public and private sector initiatives.

Nonetheless, grassroot initiatives can only ever accomplish so much; without the unflinching support of Finland's significant political players, several key elements of these innovative solutions cannot be implemented. However, given the grassroot's frustrating experiences of the political scene, one cannot help but wonder:

Is there any Finnish political party whose actions are coherent with its stated political agenda and in sync with the grassroot initiatives being put forward by the immigrants and their Finnish associates?


modulation wheels on the RIGHT side of the keyboard?

Am I the only one who thinks that a 3-octave synthesizer (low-A to high-C) with the modulation wheels placed on the right side of the keyboard would be the ultimate Funk machine in the hands of people like Bernie Worrell and myself? Something like a NordBass III comes to mind...

Similarly, could synthesizer manufacturers please standardize on keyboard layouts that always start on the low-A and include quick octave transposition buttons? The Roland Rhodes Mk60 included both a 5 octave 64-key layout (low-A to high-C) and two quick octave switch buttons (octave up and octave down), which made it a wonderful MIDI controller. Sadly, this was a one-off and no other keyboard on the market ever adopted this brilliant layout.

How about we go and fix it now? Korg? Nord? Roland? Yamaha? Are you guys listening?


mailx implementation that won't barf on UTF-8 encoded GECOS information?

Dear Lazyweb,

I've been having problems with cron jobs that mail their output, because they always manage to garble non-ASCII characters into some unreadable crap.

Upon closer inspection, the real culprit seems to be mailx: no single mailx implementation out there seems to have come to terms with the fact that most contemporary operating systems have their GECOS information encoded in UTF-8, rather than in ASCII.

I had very high hopes for the Heirloom implementation of mailx, except that it, too, fails at encoding mail headers in UTF-8.

I'm thus wondering if there's anything I might have overlooked, perhaps a mailx setting that would enforce encoding of the From, To and Subject lines to UTF-8, or otherwise another mailx implementation that in fact does acknowledge the fact that most operating systems these days have their GECOS information encoded in UTF-8?


Q: How to configure /etc/pulse/client.conf for remote audio sink?

I've spent the last couple of months wondering this and could not find an answer on the otherwise excellent PulseAudio wiki, so I thought that I'd ask the Lazy Web:

How can I configure /etc/pulse/client.conf to prefer a specific remote audio sink and to automatically fall back to localhost only when that remote sink is not available via Avahi?

I'm already aware of the paprefs applet, but it requires me to manually select the remote audio sink, every time I get back home, which is not what I want.

Instead, I need the PA daemon on this laptop to always try connecting to audio.lan then to localhost and to dynamically switch back and forth between those two hosts according to info provided by the Avahi PA module: if audio.lan is reachable and an audio sink is found, switch to that; if not, fall back to localhost; if audio.lan re-appears on the Avahi radar, switch back to it.

Surely there must be a way to achieve that, but how?

PS: audio.lan runs PA in System mode with IP-based ACL, if it makes any difference.


wanted: 'lspci -vvv' output for Geode SC1100, SC1200, SC1400

As I'm trying to better document which Geode models bear which PCI vendor and device ID, I'd need volunteers to e-mail me the output of 'lspci -vvv' for their Geode SC1100, SC1200, SC1400 -based hardware. Please send the result to my iki.fi address. Thanks!

PS: the part that interests me is the PCI ID of all Geode CPU and Companion Chips shown by 'lspci'. This requires setting several additional levels of verbosity, because this information is hidden from the normal 'lspci' output.


wanted: Geode "Red Cloud" GX2 hardware

Ever since X server 1.5 was released, various regressions started affecting our GX2 code in xf86-video-geode. We couldn't figure out what went wrong since our GX2 code hadn't changed in ages and we couldn't think of any ABI or API migration that would cause these regressions.

Well, it turns out that someone had quietly rewritten part of the X server core, which broken things from under our feet.

In the end, the change required to restore operation was minimal, but it nonetheless caused problems for several thin client users who complained loudly while the xf86-video-geode team scratched their head wondering what went wrong.

Still, it essentially meant that GX2 users suffered through Intrepid and Jaunty without a solution in sight, which is of course unacceptable. I'm also aware of at least one startup who lost a fairly lucrative LTSP maintenance contract, simply because their customer's GX2-based thin clients could not be made to work on Ubuntu since Hardy. Ouch!

In order to prevent this from ever happening again and to ensure that regressions get noticed before they reach critical mass, I'd like to solicit a hardware donation: something GX2-based with a small hard-disk or CompactFlash socket and 100baseT Ethernet.

My contact info can be found on my homepage. Please make sure that you contact me upfront to agree on the delivery method, before sending me any hardware.



xf86-video-geode 2.11.4 - the GX2 edition - almost done

Over the last few days, several improvements in the documentation and some fixes for GX2 issues were committed to the Geode X.org driver, in addition to routine cleanups in the standard includes and build macros. Integration of GX1 support still hasn't started.

We're especially interested in getting feedback from GX2 users as to whether this release restores basic operation for them or not. We published test packages for Ubuntu/Jaunty at:


If we haven't heard anything by Friday, we'll release this as xf86-video-geode 2.11.4 as-is.


RFA: ispell-et, myspell-lv, rus-ispell

As of today, I've decided to Request For Adoption three of the packages I maintain:

  • ispell-et (source for: iestonian, myspell-et, aspell-et) - Estonian spell checking tools,
  • myspell-lv (source for myspell-lv, aspell-lv) - Latvian spell checking tools and
  • rus-ispell (source for irussian, myspell-ru, aspell-ru) - Russian spell checking tools.

In principle, both the Latvian and Russian dictionary packages have a second maintainer, but I've been the only one performing the uploads for a long time which, in absence of any response on their part, suggests that the other maintainers also lack the time to actively maintain these dictionaries.

I'm not worried about the future of the Russian dictionary package, since the number of Debian and Ubuntu users in Russia is huge and constantly increasing. Someone is definitely gonna adopt it and give it all the love and care it deserves.

The Estonian dictionary package has seen a steady increase in the number of users but I never managed to attract a second maintainer for it. Thus, if nobody ever gets around adopting it, it just could be the end of spell checking support for Estonian in Debian and Ubuntu.

As for the Latvian dictionary package, both the low number of users and the unavailability of the other maintainer suggests that it could also be the end of spell checking support for Latvian in Debian and Ubuntu.

Here's to hope that someone reading this will pick up maintenance of these dictionary packages and help provide Debian and Ubuntu users with spell checking aids for Estonian, Latvian and Russian for years to come.


Don't try this at home, kids!

Probably the most deceptively efficient bug finding tool I've come across in a long time:

sudo apt-get --reinstall --ignore-missing install $(dpkg --get-selections | cut -f 1)

That apparently innocent APT recipe has been found to reveal tons of packaging mistakes, such as dependency cycles and broken maintainer scripts, even in packages as essential as bash and libc6. On systems where insserv is installed, even uglier dependency cycles, this time between init scripts, appear in important packages such as ifupdown and netbase.

Warning: usage of this deceptively simple command line recipe can become addictive and result in mass filing of bugs, especially against packages in development releases such as Debian/Squeeze and Ubuntu/Karmic. The author of this blog article makes no guarantee about how bad of a karma someone might accumulate as a result. You have been warned.


Nordic expats living in Finland wanted for survey

I'm interested in meeting with Nordic expats (Danemark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden) living in Finland, to hear their experiences of settling down in this country, on two particular topics:

  • How accessible is getting service in Swedish, in general?
  • Did you experience any difficulty in settling down here?

I'm especially interested in hearing stories from academicians and professionals. The material will be used in my report to two organizations where I'm involved, one Swedish-Finn think tank and one national panel on immigration, both of whom are interested in hearing about the experiences of Nordic expats living in Finland.

As I'm aware that many Free Software developers from other Nordic countries relocated to Finland to work at Nokia or at local technology startups, I figured that blogging this request would bring me the widest possible audience for this survey.

Interested expats should contact me via e-mail with a brief description of their story. Later on, we'll probably gather up somewhere and compare views, before I produce my report. Thanks in advance to everyone who agrees to participate in this survey and to those who courteously passed this request forward to friends or relatives fitting the description!


partial answer to "unexplainable WiFi connection drops"

Previously, I blogged about some unexplainable WiFi connection drops I have been experiencing since a few days. Many thinks to everyone who replied by expressing their ire against Network-Manager. Unfortunately, it seems that the fault might indeed be on the WRT54GL's OpenWRT setup:

See, I have this old ThinkPad that I keep for Debian development purposes and that one runs whatever is on Debian/Testing, connecting to my LAN, using either an RTL8139-based Ethernet or an ATH5K-based WiFi adapter, plugged into the Cardbus slot; these days, more often the Atheros.

Now, this morning, I noticed that my Geode desktop stopped being able to ping both the Dell and the ThinkPad at the same time. Bingo! Now, the question is, how do I track the source of the problem, on this WRT54GL running White Russian?


Lauching Debian-installer from a chroot on a USB stick?

Dear Lazy Deb,

I was wondering if it's possible to launch debian-installer from a USB stick, either by bootstrapping the netinstall ISO image from command line or by launching d-i as as a collection of binaries installed in a USB chroot that already has a basic Debian distribution installed? While launching debootstrap itself from the USB stick would be possible, I'd miss all the d-i magic to partition the laptop's own hard-disk and detect its hardware at installation time, which is why I explicitly need a way to launch a full d-i from USB. NOTE: no, the laptop's BIOS doesn't support booting via USB, otherwise this would have been already attempted.

Illogical logistics industry

Today, I was checking for prices to ship a parcel abroad and found the most appalling situation ever: the logistics industry has gone mad. Trying different courier services' online price quotation service, I found that:

  • UPS has an online presence that works reliably, as it always had. Their prices are not cheap, but one can at least get a quote after just a few clicks.
  • DHL has an online express service called Ship Now ... which simply doesn't work. After inputing the origin address and moving over to the destination address field, one is left with a "busy" mouse pointer that never returns to allow someone to input the damn address. Repeated attempts at reloading the page did not succeed at improving the situation.
  • FedEx has a Flash-based splash screen, meant for selecting the country of origin, that keeps on cycling during loading and never completes. Their "if you're having troubles viewing this page, click here" link at the bottom of the page simply calls a Javascript bit that... reloads the page. Erm... Right.

The result: two companies that lost potential business over a rather huge and costly parcel, simply because their websites prevents me from getting something as basic as a price quote. It really makes someone wonder, how the hell does that industry keeps itself afloat when they make their services so challenging to even access?


unexplainable WiFi connection drops on Dell D430

Dear Lazyweb,

Since a few days, my Dell D430 running Ubuntu Jaunty has started to experience random WiFi connection drops. After a few hours of normal operation, even though the Network Manager applet indicates that the connection is still with me and with a strong signal, doing a ping to my WRT54GL running OpenWRT 0.9 (White Russian) replies with "Destination Unreachable".

My D430 comes with the following WiFi adapter:

0c:00.0 Network controller: Intel Corporation PRO/Wireless 4965 AG or AGN [Kedron] Network Connection (rev 61)

Does this situation sound familiar to anyone? If yes, how did you resolve it?


CUPS-PDF: how my first Debian package briefly became a key component of the Ubuntu desktop strategy

Back in 2003, I packaged my very first piece of software for Debian: CUPS-PDF. The observation came to a German physics researcher, Volker C. Behr, that he constantly needed to generate PDF documents as a daily part of his workflow and that he would rather do this via desktop application's Print menu, so he coded a simple CUPS printer driver that spits out PDF documents instead of paper sheets.

This packaging gig has been one of the best cases of upstream collaboration I've been involved with, simply because Volker himself subscribes to the BTS for CUPS-PDF at various Linux distributions and because he is very proactive at responding to bug reports that concern the upstream code and the philosophy behind its implementation.

Simultaneously, there's been plenty of collaboration between Debian and Ubuntu on this package. For starters, maintaining a CUPS driver meant that I should maintain close collaboration with the CUPS maintainer. Back in 2003, this meant getting to know Kenshi Muto, first on IRC and then in person at Debconf5.

At the same event in 2005, many people had their first real experience of Ubuntu, when Mark Shuttleworth made his first keynote appearance at a Debian event. This later lead me to becoming familiar with the work of Martin Pitt and Till Kamppeter on the Ubuntu version of CUPS and CUPS-PDF packages, because Ubuntu had decided on delivering PDF generation as a standard feature of its desktop and CUPS-PDF was considered as the key solution towards implementing this. However, CUPS-PDF being a mere printer driver, it did not fit well with the GUI-oriented paradigm of the desktop, so pre-configuring the package with sensible default settings only partially worked. This issue was recently solved when GTK2 and QT (the core libraries behind GNOME and KDE applications) were upgraded to include printer management and PDF generation by standard, which resulted in the Ubuntu build of CUPS-PDF being relegated to the Universe repository.

Amusingly, the most interesting part of my collaboration with Martin and Till wasn't how it slowly helped me improve the packaging of CUPS-PDF on Debian, as much as that it introduced me to the wonders of Launchpad (tracking other distributions' bugs on the same package, Personal Package Archive, etc.) and it eventually convinced me to switch to Ubuntu for everything except my old ThinkPad, which I retained as a genuine Debian environment for development purposes.

While CUPS-PDF has mostly been superseded by GTK2 and QT's new printing features on the desktop, it definitely remains a key element of an educational or enterprise network, especially in a situation where desktop computers are in fact thin clients connecting to an LTSP server and where PDF generation is a part of the standard daily workflow.

Speaking of which, I'm currently looking for investors to launch a business venture that leverages and expands upon the ideas I've developed at Linutop and Artec. Please contact me via e-mail if you're interested in financing this venture or if you know someone who would be.


On the accessibility of public services in Swedish in Finland

As confirmed by a comment to my previous article, Nordic workers moving to Finland also encounter problems whenever dealing with the bureaucracy. More specifically, getting service in the Swedish language apparently is becoming more and more difficult, in some Finnish municipalities, despite the fact that Finnish and Swedish both have an official language status in Finland.

This matches the findings of a committee where I was recently nominated. Among our team, we have a Free Software specialist from Åland. While the Åland archipelago legally remains a part of Finland for historical reasons, in practice, its inhabitants have always related more closely to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia than to Finland. As such, our ålander encountered a much bigger cultural shock when he moved to Helsinki than when he previously moved to Reykjavik to live with his Icelandic wife.

Interestingly, most people think of EU versus non-EU nationals, when they think of immigrant integration issues and yet, EU nationals are not any more Finnish than non-EU nationals. This sort of opinion gets even more laughable, whenever average Finns presume that anyone from a Nordic country moving to Finland would have no difficulty whatsoever in settling down, simply because they relocate from a country that also happens to be of Lutheran protestant background and a political ally of Finland. This simply isn't true. As another comment in the same article suggests, there are integration issues with e.g. Swedes living in Norway and vice-versa. As such, I don't see how anyone could believe that Finland would be free of similar problems. Perhaps this is yet another case of Finns believing a bit too hard that their country is so great that they could not possibly experience the same issues that their neighbors have?


Aftermath of the Magma/Helsinki Times survey on Swedish

While searching the blogosphere for responses to the survey on Swedish culture in Finland, I came across this interesting gem [translated and commented in Finnish on Suomi 24] by Vasa Bladet columnist Kenneth Myntti.

After summarizing the findings of the survey that was conducted by Magma and the Helsinki Times, he moved on to describing my efforts for getting access to Swedish language classes and how it lead me to directly contact the Ministry of Employment on this issue.

Myntti then concludes the article by making a rather astute observation (my own translation; apologies for any inaccuracy):

Racine simply would not give up so easily. He took the initiative to approach the Ministry of Labor with a proposal that any foreigner who already passed level 4 of the National Certification in Finnish Proficiency would be admissible to study Swedish via labor training. It was he who approached the Ministry, not the Ministry who approached him.

Is this really how things are supposed to be? Are immigrants really expected to battle the bureaucracy just to become a part of this country's Swedish-speaking community?

Of course not. It should be up to us to have our own "Finland Swede operatives" inside the bureaucracy and parliament, knocking on doors and driving changes in policy to ensure that immigrants can have the option to integrate with the Swedish-speaking part of the population, if they want to.

The Swedish language has a status that is equal to the Finnish language in this country's constitution and a direct consequence of that ought to be a possibility to take Swedish classes on equal footing with Finnish classes for those who chose to immigrate to our country.

That Swedish is considered easier to learn than Finnish should in fact increase foreigners' interest in choosing Swedish as their primary integration language.

From that perspective, we could even complement Racine's proposal by saying that any foreigner who already achieved a sufficient level of proficiency in Swedish could be offered Finnish classes afterwards.

In my opinion, Myntti is absolutely right. If Swedish's status as an official language of Finland is to have any meaning, then it must be possible to study it via Integration Act measures. However, this country's majority speaks and has always spoken Finnish. As such, I think that it makes perfect sense to put the emphasis on Finnish as the primary integration language.

Still, I'll emphasize that this doesn't dispense this Government from acquitting its constitutional obligations to safeguard the status of both official languages and, as a direct consequence, to ensure that immigrants get equal access to immigrant labor training in both national languages.

Basically, for as long as Swedish retains its official language status, there can be no excuse for preventing immigrants from getting Swedish classes via the Integration Act measures!

On a related matter...

On the issue of whether or not Swedish should be reinstated as a compulsory subject for the high school matriculation exam, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen said in Iltasanomat that:

Youths who couldn't give a damn about studying Swedish significantly reduce their opportunities on the job market and they concede a tremendous advantage to others who do speak it.

What's interesting about Vanhanen's opinion is that, while he correctly acknowledges how a Finnish professional who doesn't master Swedish could be seriously disadvantaged on the job market, he clearly doesn't realize how an immigrant who only knows one of the official languages could similarly be affected. I wonder why...


xf86-video-geode 2.11.3

A few days ago, we released version 2.11.3 of the Geode X.org driver. As you'll notice from the version number, this is only a maintenance release, mainly to fix crasher bugs that appeared since X.org server core 1.6 was released.

Meanwhile, Otavio Salvador has been busy cleaning up our GX2 support and, in the process, he also found a few interesting regressions that affect LX support as well.

Unfortunately, our goal to integrate GX1 support into our unified Geode driver still hasn't been reached, due to a lack of resources: most people who knew anything about GX1 and SC Geodes and who had access to development hardware have moved on. As such, help to complete this goal is extremely welcome.


Two truths with one stone

[bash.org repost] DragonflyBlade21: A woman has a close male friend. This means that he is probably interested in her, which is why he hangs around so much. She sees him strictly as a friend. This always starts out with, you're a great guy, but I don't like you in that way. This is roughly the equivalent for the guy of going to a job interview and the company saying, You have a great resume, you have all the qualifications we are looking for, but we're not going to hire you. We will, however, use your resume as the basis for comparison for all other applicants. But, we're going to hire somebody who is far less qualified and is probably an alcoholic. And if he doesn't work out, we'll hire somebody else, but still not you. In fact, we will never hire you. But we will call you from time to time to complain about the person that we hired.


Removing cruft that appears as false 'dpkg -L' positives?

Dear lazyweb,

I have one very last Debian host running "testing" that I keep as a development platform. The computer in question is an aging ThinkPad 240x whose LCD cable constantly threatens to make the display content unreadable and whose non-expandable 192MB of RAM is ridiculously small by today's standard. On the plus side, this makes for a very small development host that I can easily tuck away in the closet whenever I don't need it.

However, one problem currently plagues this computer: it has been through literally years of dist-upgrades and it has accumulated TONS of cruft on its filesystem, namely files that, according to packages.debian.org, should not longer ship with the packages "dpkg" claims they belong to but, for unknown reasons, nonetheless remained on the system, probably as the result of botched upgrades whenever package X had broken maintainer scripts during the development phase before "testing" was frozen and moved to "stable".

Making a clean install from Lenny could be a nice solution, but doing so on a laptop that has no CD-ROM, whose BIOS has no support for USB boot and whose only other boot option is an external 3.5" floppy disk drive, might prove more tricky than I'd bargain for (Google "ThinkPad 240x" and you'll see how tricky I mean).

I am thus wondering if anybody would know of any tool capable of comparing files present on the filesystem with those stated as shipping with packages matching versions currently installed, according to files lists found via packages.debian.org, so that I can at least sanitize the filesystem and restore the content to a fresh Lenny install state?


When can we have a balanced and meaningful debate on immigration?

This question keeps on popping up in many recent newspaper articles, on discussion boards and in seminars debating immigration issues in Finland. At the core of the question is a general impression that, between the enthusiastic supporters of multiculturalism and the pessimistic nationalist rednecks, very little constructive discussion is possible in Finland.

At one end, humanitarian help organizations, as well as politicians from the Green Party and the Swedish Folk Party, keep on taking excessively generous initiatives towards refugees and asylum seekers, all while labeling their detractors as racists. At the other end, nationalist candidates in the National Coalition Party and True Finns Party keep on painting every immigrant as a refugee who is abusing social security and label their detractors as turning Finland into the easiest country to abuse social security, at the Finnish taxpayer's expense. In between, candidates from the Christian Democrats and Center Party spread equally among these two camps. Meanwhile, while the Left is currently avoiding discussions on this topic, Social Democrats have previously shown that they tend to side with the nationalists in labeling all immigrants as social security abusing refugees.

One interesting point is that, no matter at which end of the political spectrum one looks, the whole Finnish immigration debate keeps on focusing exclusively on refugees and asylum seekers, despite the fact that migrant workers and foreign spouses of Finnish nationals make up for a good 70% of the foreign population residing on Finnish soil.

This recalcitrance to discuss immigration from any other perspective than refugees is rather painfully noticeable. Some recent examples:

  • At the Maailma Kylässä ethnic festival, last month, the podium was given to a number of speakers to discuss immigration issues. In once case, Minister of Immigration Mrs.Astrid Thors made an appearance at the tent of Demo, an NGO promoting active participation in the electoral process. Sure enough, Thors repeatedly brought back the issue of refugees, leaving other aspects of immigration completely out.

    The next day, on the Mekong stage, a panel discussion was introduced by the MC as "discussing issues that affect refugees", despite the fact that the program read "panel discussion on immigration"... In fairness, the organization sponsoring that particular time slot was the Refugee Help Center but, thankfully, issues brought by the panelists clearly discussed a much broader perspective than merely refugees:

    One Estonian-born researcher said that she'd rather avoid putting all immigrants into the same bag, because there's so many different reasons for coming to Finland and few of those have anything to do with seeking asylum and one cannot make any assumption about an immigrant's motives for coming here.

    The other panelist, a professor from the university of Turku, astutely said that, if it was up to him, Maailma Kylässä should not exist, because the actual intent of the event is not to give immigrants a chance to be heard, but rather to entertain Finns with exotic culture and food, which is not the right way to make immigrants feel a part of society, in his opinion.

  • Independent member of the Helsinki City Council, Mr.Jussi Halla-Aho, repeatedly makes the headlines because of his blog's rather controversial statements. Probably his most famous stunt was the day he jokingly declared in his blog that, if the women of the Green Party are so keen on getting more immigrants admitted to Finland, they also ought to be enthusiastic at the prospect of becoming rape victims, cynically implying that immigrants all come from 3rd-world countries where women's rights are non-existent and, correspondingly, where the probability of women being raped is greater.

  • National Coalition Party candidate at the EU elections, Mr.Kai Pöntinen, used as his campaign slogan a decisively nationalist Sosiaalipummien maahantulolle stoppi! (Stop the immigration of social security abusers). Further reading on his homepage shows a rather misinformed statement, alleging that immigrants are systematically taught Swedish in language trainings offered via the Integration Act:

    Myös kotouttamispolitiikkamme on metsässä, on täysin järjenvastaista että tulijoille opetetaan ensimmäiseksi kotimaiseksi kieleksi ruotsia. Kyllä ensiksi on osattava suomea ja sitten muita kieliä.

    Reality is that, unless an unemployed immigrant lives in the monolingual Swedish municipality of Närpes or on the Åland archipelago, the only language they can learn via integration measures is ... Finnish.

  • At a recent "Meet the Immigration Department" seminar at cultural center Caisa, it transpired that the vast majority of the audience and of the employees working for the City of Helsinki's Immigrant Services department came to Finland as refugees. The moderator of the event also came to Finland as a refugee. Can anyone guess what issues were given preference by the moderator during that evening? 12 points go to ... those who answered "refugees and asylum seekers." Was there at least meaningful discussion about any aspect of the immigration process? As the former chairman of a particular Finnish political party's English section used to say:

    I will not tolerate this meeting turning into a Wall of Lamentations or a Complaint Choir! Are we here to discuss real issues or what?

What's remarkable about all these examples is how public opinion is so persistently hardwired into thinking that all foreigners living in Finland came here as refugees from 3rd-world countries whose culture is radically different from Finland's and that they all became perpetually unemployed, forever living off social security, to the point that even politicians who ought to know better go along with it.

When will we be able to have a balanced and meaningful debate on immigration, you ask? The day both multicultural hippies and nationalist rednecks will have been kicked off the podium. Of course, it would also help if the refugees themselves stopped monopolizing the podium, whenever the opinion of immigrants is solicited. Then again, perhaps these 3 groups benefit so much from the current status quo that they'd rather not see the day when others can participate in this debate on equal footing with them, so that a balanced and meaningful debate can finally take place?

Killing the console bell on Jaunty?

Every once in a while, rewrites in ALSA drivers or in desktop audio components (GNOME mixer or Gstreamer) result in an impossibility to completely mute the console bell. Until recently, ALSA offered a separate channel to control this. Since Jaunty (kernel 2.6.28, ALSA 1.0.18r3) came out, not anymore. As such, I was wondering how else could I mute the console bell?

Some people on Ubuntu Forum suggested blacklisting the pc-spkr kernel module, but this is entirely the wrong approach, as it completely kills sound output on this laptop's built-in speakers. I don't wanna completely lose sound support, I just wanna get rid of that annoying console bell!

Others recommended setting set bell-style none in /etc/inputrc but that only works for interactive shells. The console bell still rings e.g. whenever rebooting, probably because bash gets called as a non-interactive shell by init scripts. Actually, since Jaunty, restarting the system makes the bell ring not just once, but twice!

Can anyone think of any more permanent way of disabling the console bell in some global system setting?


Atom feeds per-topic

Just a quick note for those interested in subscribing only to my blog articles pertaining to a specific topic that the following Atom feeds are available:



In close to 11 years of living in Europe, I've accomplished plenty beyond working in the high-tech sector: I've also been fairly active in Immigration Policy, especially on aspects that affect migrant labor. Because of this, I keep on getting more and more requests to produce statements or to appear on panels to discuss issues pertaining to migrant labor and to immigrants' integration.

The hot topic of last week was Swedish language for immigrants, the crux of the issue being that even though Swedish has an official language status in Finland, in practice, it is pretty much impossibly for immigrants to register their kids at the Swedish language school, to claim public services in Swedish or, even more so, to request labor training in the Swedish language at the Employment Office.

The weekly newspaper Helsinki Times, in collaboration with the media think tank Magma, recently conduced a survey of the immigrant population, to find out how much they know about Swedish culture in Finland and about the Swedish language.

It was in this context that the Helsinki Times and the national television's Swedish programming (FST) asked for an interview with yours truly, because I have recently visited the Ministry of Employment and Economics with a concrete proposal to facilitate the availability of labor training in the Swedish language.

This FST webcast, starting at 16:03 minutes into the show, and the above Helsinki Times article provide more details about the context and about my proposal to the Ministry.


Debian CUPS transition in progress

Since Lenny was the first Debian release to feature CUPS under its new package naming strategy, I started going through 'rdepends' results to see which packages in Squeeze still present dependencies for *cupsys* packages.

Much to my amazement, there's quite many.

If you are the maintainer of a package that still has those dependencies, please fix them ASAP. Alternately, if you're aware of any favorite package that does, please do not hesitate at filing a patch to help the maintainer update their debian/control.

Comes June 2009, transitional CUPS packages will be removed from our debian/control.


Roadmap to a better FreeDesktop: ridding us of the Firefox filth

Lately, I've been pondering how to solve one annoying aspect of the FreeDesktop, namely how to eject the piece of bloat called Firefox from the picture and get myself a fast web browser that I can rely on and that yet offers a similar UI experience based upon native GTK2 widgets rather than XUL components.

Just to investigate possible options, I tested Epiphany, Galeon and Konqueror. My conclusions were than a Gecko-based Epiphany or Gaelon is incredibly fast and that Konqueror offers a similarily efficient experience albeit using QT, rather than GTK2 widgets.

Why is Firefox so bloody bloated then, if it uses the same Gecko engine as Epiphany and Galeon? The only possible conclusion I could come up with is that its crappy XUL implementation, rather than leverage existing native GTK2 or QT widgets, tries to reinvent the wheel with its own UI toolkit running as a gigantic RAM blackhole.

One option that I wanted to investigate but found too deficient was a Webkit-based port of Epiphany. Unfortunately, at its current stage, the GTK2 port of Webkit simply isn't mature enough to consider, although the fact that Webkit has been succesfully ported to a number of platforms and constitutes the basis for Safari on Mac OS suggests that the potential is significant.

That only leaves one single aspect on which Firefox wins hands-down: its UI concept; it just works well, whereas Epiphany simply has a UI concept that is utterly inadequate, because it is too crude, lacking basic necessities such as a session saving feature that also works when purposely unloading the application, rather than only as a crash recovery measure. Simply put, Epiphany's premise that a browser should never be closed and thus ought to always remain open in the background of a desktop session is utterly flawed; it doesn't work like that in real life and Firefox acknowledges this, while Epiphany stubbornly doesn't because someone wreaked Havoc in our desktop paradigm.

Anyhow, to me the solution is clear: regardless of which rendering engine it uses, Epiphany's UI concept needs to become more like Firefox, before it can truly gain acceptance as the default browser among Linux distributions.


Here's hoping for the best...

Life sometimes has extreme ways of waking people up and making them realize what matters for them. I'm going through such a phase right now in my romantic life. I won't discuss what happened here, but suffice it to say that I haven't felt so depressed in a long, long, long, long time.

The good news is that life has proven to me once again how having good friends who truly care for me makes a whole world of difference. The big slap in the face that life gave me over these last few days was a harsh lesson, but I think that it was worth it. Of course, it helps that people like Gilles, Jaana, Henni, Pia, Linda, Arno and Sailesh beleived in me enough to support me through this rough spot in my life. Although their advices were vastly different, they all pointed in a very positive direction and gave me the strenght to carry on.

I also must thank my beloved Anastassija; what she did was cruel beyond beleif and yet, if her few SMS from the last 24 hours are any indication, there's still hope after the storm. I'll be seeing her tonight again, after a few days of separation and I prepared her a truly romantic evening. It ain't much, but I hope that it truly succeeds in bringing the point accross that Love is stronger than everything and that even the unforgivable can be forgiven, over time, if everyone involved has enough faith in each other's future as a couple.

Tonight, I truly could use the prayers of a million voices to support me and Anastassija in this difficult time. Life slapped me hard and I got the message... I think... and whatever happens after tonight, I need to know that I gave it my best shot and that, whatever her and I decide, Life can only take a turn for the better from now on.


Uninformed shoppers blaming Ubuntu: a brief TODO list for Canonical

My own perception of the debacle about the end-user who decided to cancel her college enrollment because she could not get Microsoft products to install on Ubuntu is three folds:

  • Canonical and Dell evidently need to improve their marketing efforts, because the user didn't realize what she was purchasing. Knowledge of what Ubuntu is and how it can interact with the rest of the world clearly wasn't passed on in the form of a small printed User's Guide that should have come with the newly purchased laptop computer. Additionally Dell most definitely needs to make emphasize the same information in its online shop to help customers make an informed decision (and, no, eschewing the problem by obfuscating or removing non-Microsoft alternatives to the purchasing options isn't the right answer).
  • The newspaper that reported on the story really needs to do its homework to more accurately report what is Ubuntu and, perhaps, participate in the efforts to educate the masses about non-Microsoft alternatives in the Operating System market. Educating the Press to enable this might require hiring a dedicated person at Canonical to work with the non-industry Press.
  • The girl in question really needs to get a hold of herself, the sooner the better. Her hasty withdrawal from her enrollment was clearly unwarranted and her attitude of crying wolf and blaming everyone else for her own failure at making an informed purchase speaks volumes.

Personally, I think that Canonical needs to hire an individual that understands the above three aspects and, most of all, how to remedy them, as its next OEM channel Manager, if they truly want to increase Ubuntu's market penetration.


Geode X.org driver fix for GX2/CS5535 released

After a rather hectic holiday season, I returned momentarily to pending Geode X.org driver issues. The current status:

  • On Debian, 2.10.1 is in Testing and Unstable, while 2.11.0 is in Experimental. For those who need 2.11.0 right away, the experimental package builds as-is using Lenny dependencies. For everyone else, I'll probably get around producing a proper backport once Lenny is released.
  • On Ubuntu, 2.9.0-1ubuntu2.5 just entered Hardy-updates with cherry-picked fixes for DCC support on GX2/CS5535 hardware. Meanwhile, Intrepid has 2.10.1 and Jaunty has 2.11.0, with a backport of the later having been requested for Hardy-backports.

I'm especially interested in hearing from users of GX2/CS5535 hardware to see if these recent uploads finally fixed DDC probing for them or not. Just respond to relevant existing bugs or, if necessary, open new bugs to report any regression.