Dan Scott dbs@identi.ca

Sudbury, Canada

Libraries. Databases. Coffee. Not necessarily in that order.

  • Unicode "dirt speck" character set?

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2017-01-04T01:12:57Z

    With the advent of http://www.fileformat.info/info/unicode/block/geometric_shapes/list.htm and Emacs' full support for Unicode, now, more than ever I must keep my LCD displays very clean.

    I just hit CTRL-D four times on the same spot on my screen attempting to delete something that looked like this:◦ or some other tiny mark.

    In the old days of 7 bit ASCII, a dirt spot had to be as noticable as a '.' to cause this problem. I look now carefully and I literally have at least two ◦-looking dirt specks on my main LCD, and looking carefully I found one that looks like


    What a strange world we live in thanks to Unicode. And I say that having never even used an emoji.

    (BTW, I will watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yZERI42eRU just so I can understand what the kids are talking about. Which I learned about from here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKFzRl2qH8Y

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    As long as you don't have U+1F4A9 on your monior, it can't be that bad.

    Christopher Allan Webber at 2017-01-05T02:07:52Z

  • Postgres 9.6 released

    Christopher Allan Webber at 2016-09-29T20:09:10Z

    Another great looking release from a project with a solid history of solid releases.

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  • Software Freedom Doesn't Kill People, Your Security Through Obscurity Kills People

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-08-13T13:55:18Z

    URL: http://ebb.org/bkuhn/blog/2016/08/13/does-not-kill.html

    The time has come that I must speak out against the inappropriate rhetoric used by those who (ostensibly) advocate for FLOSS usage in automotive applications.

    There was a catalyst that convinced me to finally speak up. I heard a talk today from a company representative of a software supplier for the automotive industry. He said during his talk: "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people" and "opening up the source code to cars will cause more harm than good". These statements are completely disingenuous. Most importantly, it ignores the fact that proprietary software in cars is at least equally, if not more, dangerous. At least one person has already been killed in a crash while using a proprietary software auto-control system. Volkswagen decided to take a different route; they decided to kill us all slowly (rather than quickly) by using proprietary software to lie about their emissions and illegally polluting our air.

    Meanwhile, there has been not a single example yet about use of GPLv3 software that has harmed anyone. If you have such an example, email it to me and I promise to add it right here to this blog post.

    So, to the auto industry folks and vendors who market to/for them: until you can prove that proprietary software assures safety in a way that FLOSS cannot, I will continue to tell you this: in the long and sad tradition of the Therac 25, your proprietary software has killed people, both quickly and slowly, and your attacks on GPLv3 and software freedom are not only unwarranted, they are clearly part of a political strategy to divert attention from your own industry's bad behavior and graft unfair blame onto FLOSS.

    As a side note, during the talk's Q&A session, I asked this company's representatives how they assure compliance with the GPLv2 — particularly their compliance with provision of scripts used to control compilation and installation of the executable, which are so often missing for many products, including vehicles. The official answer was: Oh, I don't know. Not only does this company publicly claim security through obscurity is a viable solution, accuse copyleft advocates of endangering the public safety, they also seem to have not fully learned the lessons of making FLOSS license compliance a clear part of their workflow.

    This is, unfortunately, my general impression of the status of the automotive industry.

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    @MikeLinksvayer, I do think license politics matter. I can't get past the fact that the bifrication of "non-copyleft good", 'copyleft bad" has won and been a great part of the cooption by Open Source of software freedom. But you and I should talk more about how I can modify advocacy to avoid it better so as to succeed in reaching those who are annoyed by such -- I suspect there is a way that I just don't see yet. I've been meaning to call anyway so I will after my current trip. :)

    @Richard Fontana, I decided not to call out the specific name of the person who gave the talk. The statements were typical of those made by many different automotive industry representatives and their providers over a period of years. The fact that this particular individual wasn't any better or worse than others I've heard, so there was no reason to single him out. The problem is the general auto-industry rhetoric and talking points, not one person's version of it.

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2016-08-16T10:32:10Z

    @bkuhn While I agree with most of your post, I don't know if it's fair to say that the Tesla crash was due to proprietary software.

    The Tesla self-driving system, I'm almost certain, relies on machine learning and a neural network. I suspect that even if their algorithms were free software, accidents would occur at the same rate, at least in the short term. The way I understand it, the source code isn't all that important, it's the training data gathered during all the millions of miles driven on the road. Without the data, you're not able to run the program yourself in any useful way other than what you already do by just driving the car. Even if you had access to the data, the volume is so gigantic that you probably wouldn't be able to train the program without expensive infrastructure. Neither would you be able to study the program in a meaningful way, since the neural network isn't "source code" comprehensible to a human.

    I do think self-driving cars would eventually be safer if their training data were open; the more training data, the better, and self-driving car manufacturers would be able to make self-driving cars safer for everyone if they would make their accumulated training data interoperable, so we would benefit in the long term. But for this particular accident I don't believe the blame rests with proprietary software.

    I'm curious what you think. I tend to think that many machine learning applications don't fit within the traditional separation between free versus proprietary software, because even if they are open, they don't afford a user the four freedoms. This is something I've been musing about recently, which is why I reacted to that particular portion of your post, but I don't know the answer.

    Philip Chimento at 2016-09-02T03:49:32Z

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    The Tesla system would make the world even better if it were Free Software, but according to the data that Tesla themselves have gathered (duly noted), their system has killed fewer people, proportionally, than humans driving cars have.

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) at 2016-09-06T17:49:27Z

    @bkuhn the key word in my comment is 'retreat'. Apparently this person said "putting GPLv3 software in cars will kill people". Instead of extracting the substance from the license politics and making the case that safety is compatible with (or even requires) that car owners be able to install modified versions of software running on computers in cars, you took the license politics hook line and sinker, making facile claims about GPLv3 software never harming people (for what definition of harm? but nevermind, uninteresting) worthy of a TV soundbite but unworthy of any other form of discourse.

    Mike Linksvayer at 2016-09-07T01:43:44Z

  • Conservancy's Executive Director Testifies in Favor of NYC Free and Open Source Software Acts

    Software Freedom Conservancy at 2016-02-25T07:03:17Z

    URL: https://sfconservancy.org/news/2016/feb/23/FOSSA-testimony/

    Conservancy's Executive Director Testifies in Favor of NYC Free and Open Source Software Acts

    Software Freedom Conservancy's Executive Director, Karen Sandler was invited to offer testimony earlier today to the New York City Council Committee on Contracts. Sandler testified in favor of the Free and Open Source Software Act and the Civic Commons Act, both proposed by Council Member Ben Kallos, which would increase the use of free and open source software by New York City departments and agencies. Sandler made the case for the superiority of free software, pointing out the advantages it would provide the city and society in general. “Companies effectively hold governments hostage with proprietary software,” Sandler explained. A full copy of the testimony is available.

    In the audience during Sandler's testimony were dozens of schoolchildren on a class trip, to whom she recommended SugarLabs, one of Conservancy's projects focused on kids. Sandler also took a moment to share her personal perspective on free software, explaining how she relies on proprietary software in her implanted medical device, which generated multiple questions from the Council Members. Sandler ended her participation in the Committee's hearing by providing an informal demonstration of GNU/Linux and in particular the GNOME desktop to the Council Members at their request. Karen concluded her testimony with “as a lifelong New Yorker, I love this city and know that shifting to free and open source software will better keep the city safe.”

    Free Software Foundation's Executive Director, John Sullivan, Open Source Initiative's board member, Paul Tagliamonte and Participatory Politics Foundation Executive Director, David Moore also provided testimony in support of the acts.

    Conservancy is proud to support municipalities adopting free and open source software!

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  • Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-07-06T22:01:35Z

    retroactively is really disturbing.

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  • Outreachy Launches Round with 30 Participants

    Software Freedom Conservancy at 2015-05-29T14:17:31Z

    Outreachy Launches Round with 30 Participants

    Now Officially a Software Freedom Conservancy Member Project

    Outreachy, a diversity program launched by the GNOME Foundation under the name Outreach Program for Women, launched its current internship round under the umbrella of Software Freedom Conservancy. This week, 30 participants begin their internships with 15 free and open source software organizations, including longtime participating organizations the Linux kernel, Wikimedia, Mozilla and GNOME and newcomers to the program Ceph and GStreamer. In addition, three applicants who applied for both Outreachy and Google Summer of Code (GSoC) were accepted for GSoC with organizations participating in both programs; and one more applicant was accepted for the OpenDaylight Internship Program.

    This round of the program — the first under the Outreachy name — has a long list of sponsors. Intel has sponsored the program at the "Ceiling Smasher" level, the first time in the program's history to have a sponsor at the top level. Red Hat joins this round as an “Equalizer” sponsor, in addition to being a supporting partner of Outreachy.

    This round signifies the successful transition of Outreachy to Conservancy. As the program moved to Conservancy, Sarah Sharp who has been a key organizer of the Linux kernel's participation has been appointed to the top organizing committee for Outreachy. Sarah serves in this role together with Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Karen Sandler, Conservancy's Executive Director. The GNOME Foundation remains a partner of the program, providing technical infrastructure. GNOME also remains a participant in Outreachy.

    One of the metrics for Outreachy's success has been the extent to which many former participants have become involved in supporting Outreachy itself. This round, three Outreachy graduates became organization coordinators with three different organizations. Two of those graduates are also serving as Outreachy mentors. “With each subsequent round of Outreachy, we're seeing more graduates become speakers at important conferences, and find related employment,” said Karen Sandler. “We're excited to see Outreachy make a tangible impact in free and open software communities and provide real opportunities for our participants.”

    URL: http://sfconservancy.org/news/2015/may/28/outreachy-launch/

    Twitter: https://twitter.com/conservancy/status/603943127838253056

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  • lnxwalt@microca.st at 2015-05-08T22:31:21Z

    Since coffeecode.ca is yours, can you obtain a cert for the subdomain and get them to set it up for you?

    I do agree that it is more complicated and difficult than it should be, which is likely the reason why wordpress.com and squarespace also don't offer this.

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  • data terra nemo

    Mike Linksvayer at 2015-05-05T05:52:25Z


    Berlin, Germany May 23 & 24, 2015


    “Terra nemo” is a Latin expression meaning “No man’s land”. Data Terra Nemo is a technical conference for discussing the ideas behind systems and protocols without centralized ownership and how they impact the landscape of the Internet.

    follow on twitter

    I don't recognize anyone/any entity, which could be a good thing: it's in the air.

    OTOH and at the same time they could be relatively unaware of what exists.

    https://medium.com/node-js-javascript/if-no-one-owns-the-internet-everyone-can-12833bb5d0c8  why-we-need-a-conference

    BTW what to make of so many people/entities using medium for a blog? What is the next genre that seemed relatively safe from mass centralization that will fall to some combination of good UX and notoriety? If you were a VC wanting to make that happen, what would you be investing in? I guess email is so huge there is still lots of loose flesh to claw at. The web generally too, but neither of those is specific enough to be actionable.

    Dan Scott likes this.

    This is really a weird view of the "distributed" term, as to me it's in the contrary the extreme of decentralisation, while they talk about it as "centralized" ... to me FB is not distributed it's centralized, and a real P2P network is distributed, while Pump.io f.ex. is decentralized as some pods are localy centralizing the connections of the local users...

    And yes, funny that this post is appearing on a centralized blog platform... :)

    olm-e at 2015-05-05T06:05:48Z

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  • Some Things *Are* His Fault

    Bradley M. Kuhn at 2015-05-08T01:10:39Z

    Large parts of Portland's public transit are shut down as POTUS goes from PDX to downtown Portland.



    Christopher Allan Webber, Dan Scott, jrobb, Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠) and 2 others likes this.

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    I'm glad to be able to work from home these two days.

    Charles Stanhope at 2015-05-08T04:08:57Z

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  • Let's be nice, all

    Christopher Allan Webber at 2014-12-15T20:08:39Z

    One way we're sure to not be able to make enough progress here is if we're shooting potshots at each other across the federation threaded divide. There's just not enough people here to fall in to infighting.

    Stay positive, let's work together, and think about how we can identify problems and build a better fediverse! That's something we all want.

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  • Mike Linksvayer at 2014-12-17T03:15:03Z

    @dbs thanks for the update/review/info! I think I'm going to have to try Known for myself.

    I'm interested in conversing with linked-data-oriented librarians. :)

    Claes Wallin (韋嘉誠), Dan Scott likes this.

  • "How I explained heartbleed to my therapist"

    Christopher Allan Webber at 2014-09-29T14:52:05Z

    A pretty chilling article.

    Three years ago, my husband, an open source architect and developer, killed himself. For years, everywhere, we had struggled together against depression, and worked together to try to make our world better. It was always difficult. He succumbed. I did not.

    Admitting I needed help wasn’t the hard part. Figuring out how to explain the problem is.


    “Yes. But it isn’t really free time. It’s all work. It’s all important. And I have to figure out how to balance the work I can make a living on with the work I can’t, because the work I can’t make a living on is more important.”

    This also captures why I'm not really comfortable with people making "haha heartbleed" "haha shellshock" jokes on microblogs (especially popular on Twitter, it seems). They feel about as low as shitty YouTube comments to me. The next time you're tempted to do that to make yourself look cool, maybe think about this article, then consider: at whose expense am I taking this cheap shot to make myself look cool?

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    It's whistling past the graveyard, though. Comprehending how complex and fragile the massive interconnected machine that we call "the Internet" is is like H.P. Lovecraft-level insanity-causing. Realizing that for every Heartbleed and Shellshock there are 100 other Free and Open Source software bugs of equal importance can make you want to run from the whole thing.

    Thinking about the level of bugginess in non-free software that maybe only 1 or 2 people have ever looked at is an existential crisis waiting to happen.

    Joking about the mechanism of Shellshock or whatever helps us minimize it. "This is a simple problem and the people who made this mistake are way dumber than me," is what you're saying. Neither is true, but it helps us keep doing what we do without giving up entirely.

    Evan Prodromou at 2014-09-29T16:11:37Z

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    Humour is a coping mechanism for many people. A security bug means different things to different people ranging from personal embarrassment to possibly mission critical life or death scenarios.

    No single person should have to deal with the burden of being responsible for a security bug which affects the entire internet.

    Good will triumph over evil.

    jrobertson at 2014-09-29T16:32:22Z

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    Damn, she is a frequent contributor to the hackerspace.be mailing-list, I didn't knew that drama ...

    Yes there is a great problem in the way Free Software is not funded, neither from these Giants neither from the states, although our entire "civilisation" now depends on that "thing" (internet==free-software) ... and the coders that maintain it are pressurised by the financial system.

    Free Software Developpers, you are heroes ...

    olm-e at 2014-09-29T18:30:27Z

  • LibrePlanet Ontario is a go!

    Blaise Alleyne at 2014-09-24T16:36:26Z

    I'm super excited for LibrePlanet Ontario. Met with Sergio and Rudolf on Monday night, and we've got a plan to get this thing moving!


    If you know any software freedom lovers in Ontario, they should join the mailing list! (The three of us are based in Toronto, but we're hoping to get other teams in other cities running eventually if there's enough interest.)

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    Sudbury checking in - and subscribed to the mailing list. Excellent news!

    Dan Scott at 2014-09-25T02:40:36Z

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  • Christopher Allan Webber at 2014-09-22T16:45:54Z

    Maybe gpg-agent and screen locking can help you only mistype a couple times per session? :)

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  • Greg Grossmeier at 2014-09-07T01:19:20Z

    You know, maybe Bradley had it right when he started linking to an identi.ca thread for the comment section of his blog.

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  • So much logic!

    Greg Grossmeier at 2014-07-16T23:31:31Z

    Some days I just can't believe how much logic (IF THEN ELSE etc) is out there.

    That sounds kind of trite, but I was just watching the CPU graph on my work laptop that I'm re-setting up and noticed (for the nth time) that multi-core CPUs pass off long running CPU-bound tasks to other cores on some cadence. You can see the switch happen in gnome-system-monitor. Makes sense, you don't want a CPU to burn out one core while all others are just sitting there (I guess).

    <stoner voice>Our lives are controlled by billions of little logic if then statements, maaaan.</stoner voice>

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    Yep. You gotta keep those other cores in shape. Don't want them getting lazy.

    Charles Stanhope at 2014-07-16T23:37:08Z

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    Today I was tripping out on how humans are in a lottery to be have access to a society and technology that allows for them to build mental constructs of reality that aren't based on superstition and counter-intuitive observations of their surroundings, in varying degrees.

    That's why I like computers. That's why I dislike religion.

    I'm conflicted about computer religions. I don't trust religous computers.

    maiki at 2014-07-17T03:51:46Z

    Owen Shepherd, netgeek likes this.

    Its' the kernel scheduler doing that, not the hardware itself. In that regard, the hardware is dumb as a post :-)

    Owen Shepherd at 2014-07-17T11:32:23Z

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  • Greg Grossmeier at 2014-06-15T18:03:58Z

    People's reaction to others' actions needs to bend back more towards help than hate.

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  • Christopher Allan Webber at 2014-06-10T20:18:59Z

    the question is: what's more work for you, chris? your time is quite valuable!

    Supporting sqlite has caused more headaches and slowdowns in MediaGoblin's design than anything else. Several months have gone into looking into building a half-our-own migration system, namely because sqlite is so bad at migrations that when we switched from Mongo->SQL, Sqlalchemy-Migrate was nearly dead and Alembic was the clear future of migration tooling in the sqlalchemy world, but we went with a hacked up sqlalchemy-migrate solution with a lot of custom code from me just so we could move forward. Later, Natalie Foust-Pilcher had to write some more custom solutions because certain kinds of migrations were actually not possible because sqlite would explode dramatically. As such, whether you're running postgres or sqlite, we have some hacky code that makes the migration system very slow and require O(n) time migrations where n is number of rows slow for each individual migration. Given our limited resources, supporting multiple clever paths is a bit too hard, so that sucks.

    This has also lead to migrations in MediaGoblin being much more precarious and something I fear a lot more than they'd have to be.

    This is the also most challenging thing holding up Python 3 support in MediaGoblin. The student who is handling the Python 3 port is having to handle moving us over and investigating how to handle sqlite stuff in Alembic. That wouldn't be a worry if we weren't dealing with it.

    ON THE OTHER HAND: sqlite has made writing unit tests a breeze, has made setting up test instances trivial, and many other things. I really love sqlite! If it weren't for the alter table thing, it'd be just stellar.

    My blogpost on the subject might have seemed a bit over the top. If you're responsible for dealing with the situation though, it isn't.

    Also, regarding the "I don't want to have 20 different databases on my machine running!" I hear ya, that's a really bad situation. My current feeling is actually now that it looks like postgres is going to probably solve 98% of the current "NOSQL" document database cases, maybe the free software network services world should just decide that postgres is the de-facto database. That'd solve a lot of things.

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  • Richard Fontana at 2014-06-12T02:16:48Z

    Now if only pump.io would ditch its CLA. :-)

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  • Denver Gingerich at 2014-06-05T15:01:20Z

    At #PDF2014 listening to #Snowden. Fewer technologists here than I'm used to, which is a good thing. Learning how to build better tools.

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