Sunday, 30 December 2012

Looking for a backup application for a small home network

I have been looking at backup solution for the last few days and I am stuck, so I am asking for pointers or suggestions.

Since all backup solutions are appropriate to various needs, here are my requirements for my home network (two laptops backup on a very low powered server with a 3TiB HDD):
  • Free software/open source cross-platform solution - must be able to backup both Linux and Windows clients
  • network backup (to a Debian server, storage on HDD)
  • very low CPU and memory needs on the server side (server is a de-underclocked Linksys NSLU2 running Debian armel)
  • automatic backups with low maintenance cost and easy setup and recovery (setup once, forget about it)
  • easily accessible filesystem based storage
  • clients should be smart enough to detect when they aren't in the home network and not try to backup when away
  • available in Debian
These are the basic requirements, and bonus-points requirements include:
  • Windows clients don't need Cygwin
  • optional encryption (for storage)
  • default sanity checking for stored files (detection/correction of corrupt backed-up files)
  • unduplication (if present, sanity checking is mandatory)
  • logarithmic storage is a plus
  • Web/nice interface for both client and server is a plus
According to the info I found, candidates for these criteria are Amanda and BackupPC. I like the rsnapshot idea of deduplication and incremental backups, but it's not available for Windows. BackupPC seems to be OK-ish, but it sounds too much like a bunch of Perl scripts and Windows support sounds like an after-thought and I dislike the idea of installing Cygwin just to provide some *nix tools.

I discarded Bacula, because the general impression I got from what I read is that it is hard to set up, has its own storage and has heavy needs for both clients and server. It sounds like overkill.

So what do other people recommend for my setup? Is Amanda OK? Did I get the wrong impression regarding BackupPC?

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Consent is needed, but not the point

Russ makes a good point about a nuance of practical jokes that makes them special, the characteristic of involving a third party which is the target of the joke, and how that relates to consent. He is right, consent is an important fact, I acknowledge that. Russ also says at the end of his post that being an asshole doesn't make you responsible for somebody else's decisions, I ackowledge that, too. I even somewhat agree to the position that the employer might fire you on assholery reasons, but in this particular case, I think that's a hypocrite position. If assholery was an issue, it should have been before, too, and I don't think the employer thought of it before this sad even, as long as it meant more money for them. I think this only shows how cynical they are, the cost analysis for them showed them they now might lose more money by not firing, than by keeping them. It's just cynical.

In spite of that, my initial post, just as I wrote, was not about the DJs, the people involved, the assholery, the taste or lack thereof of the joke. That's why I was intentionally leaving out names or specific context. It was about the bigger picture, irrational reactions and how in the face of a tragedy we surrender our thinking capabilities and react in an irrational manner to the least significant things.

I have had quite recent unfortunate events happening to people close to me, and, invariably, I observe this loss of rational faculties in the face of sad events. Even when this kind of disproportionate response is shown for what it is and how it is harmful in itself, people still refuse to give up on being irrational or they do after a long struggle with the facts.

I'll finish my article with a similar question: can we, as a species, go beyond our condition and make a conscious effort to keep calm and think things through before making decisions in the face of tragedy, or are we incapable to do that?

And no, I am not advocating to drop feelings and affection, I find it sad that I have to say that again, but I am almost sure that in spite of it, I will be wrongly understood by somebody.

Faulty logic - confusing correlation with causation

I want to start this post by saying two things:
  1. It is sad when a good person decides to commit suicide
  2. It is even sadder anyone writing on a subject like this MUST add this kind of disclaimers in the hope the message of the writing isn't distorted because we are unable to listen to each other without suspecting/blaming the other of pure evilness/lack of compassion.
 Imagine you are working in an office with other colleagues and one of them makes a print screen of your desktop screen and then displays it full-screen on your computer. You struggle a little and get frustrated when nothing works, the colleagues laugh at your expense. Pretty childish, but no harm, right? You laugh it off.

 Imagine a similar scenario, but your shoelaces are tied to the desk without your notice, and the colleagues tied your laces so you can't stand, so the risk of injury is null. You stumble a little when you want to leave the desk. Again, childish, funny, but no harm, right? Again, you laugh it off.

 Imagine even a scenario where you are the target of a prank that doesn't injure you physically, but it happens in front of an audience of 100 people. You might feel ashamed, embarrassed, depending on the prank. But that would go away with time, with your laughs or by leaving that audience, right?

 So now imagine you are just a person that unknowingly contributed to the success of a harmless prank in which somebody was duped into thinking they were talking to a very public figure about some unimportant and inconsequential stuff related to their job. You'd brush it off, wouldn't you? Most likely, you'd probably laugh at the prank and you wouldn't think the pranksters should be prosecuted or fired. Even if the famous public figure would be upset, taking into account the fact that the things discussed were inconsequential, you wouldn't worry about it. I wouldn't worry even if that famous person was my direct boss and I was the one talking about my boss.

 At least, that's how I am thinking, but for some reason, many people don't think this way. And yes, I am talking about the recent sad news about the apparent suicide of a nurse who was involved in the care of the person called Kate Middleton.

 I don't want to talk about names, or man-made titles, man-made concepts, or how some people forget that even the most influential people in the world are still a member of this same species that all of us are. I don't even want to talk about this particular sad situation, I just want to talk about the totally irrational reaction many people had to it.

 Everybody knows that jokes are a matter of taste. What I might consider funny, some people would take offence at, but, generally speaking, there's an area of jokes that even kids would consider funny. Also, if we are honest to ourselves, a joke is not funnier or less funnier if from the total of people in the room instead of 2 people not liking it, 5 people don't. Not even if some of them are so offended by the joke they leave the room. The joke is equally funny or in poor taste with 2 or with 100 people in the room.

 And there's the issue of confusing correlation with causation. If I tell somebody some good news about my aunt and the next day that somebody happens to had bought a car, it doesn't mean my good news made that person decide they want to buy a car. It could be, but it's not necessary, it could be a coincidence.

 The same happens in the sad case of the nurse. She decided to take her life, as far as it seems. But that's the extent to which we know anything about the situation. We don't know if the suicide had anything to do with the prank or not. Just the fact that it happened the next day doesn't mean AT ALL the prank call is the cause of the suicide. It doesn't even mean that is "the straw that broke the camel's back", it might be totally unrelated. Or it might not. Taking into account the inconsequential and harmless nature of the call, it seems even less likely. Yet, I might be mistaken.

 What I am sure of now is that jumping to the conclusion that the prank call had anything to do with the death, is wrong, as it is jumping to the opposing conclusion. I am also sure that in the absence of other information, the latter, the lack of connection, is more likely, because we know that such drastic sad decisions are not generally caused by trivial stuff.

 Time proximity doesn't prove causation. Geographical proximity doesn't either. There needs to be a lot more into it than simple temporal sequence.

 Which gets me to the second part of irrational reactions: terminating the show and twitter accounts of the two pranksters. What the hell? Talk about hypersensitivity and paranoid reactions! Are we this blind and willing to blame the least insignificant thing for the gravest consequences that we forget how we all make decisions and how to use our brains, as soon as some tragedy happens?

 Imagine some person who thinks the 21st of December 2012 will bring the end of the earth. Imagine that person taking as a serious declaration the obvious joke from the Australian prime-minister Julia Gillard, and would end their lives to avoid the mayhem, panic and violence they think would follow the 21st of December. I wonder, would as many people blame Julia Gillard for the suicide? I doubt it. And the irony is that for such an hypothetical case, there would be a stronger case for causation than what we now know about the previous case.

 I still wonder,  when will we learn to think a little more rationally than the people walking the Earth 100.000 years ago?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Singing your way to Parliament

Here is a "customized" version of a political ad that I made based on the real one of a guy running in the area where I live right now. I made it as a joke, I don't endorse the guy at all. In fact, I think that I would advise anyone having this guy on the ballot, to vote whomever else.

The candidate is a singer part of a band which had it's heyday around the beginning of the previous decade. His slogan is "Facts not words", but I thought "Rhymes, not words" is more appropriate.

There are two other jokes in here, I hope my Romanian readers will appreciate them.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Zenyth Pharmaceuticals cannot face(book) critics, so they cleanse them

A few days ago I wrote an article about the lawsuit the producers of ColonHelp are trying against Wordpress in the attempt to silence a blogger who wrote some unfavourable and science-based articles on his blog.

Meanwhile Petter Reinholdtsen (who seems to be a fellow skeptic, hi!) sent further this information via his blog, but on another front, I found out the German skeptics tried to contact Zenyth Phamaceuticals on Facebook and asked them why did they use lawyers for threats against critics, instead of using words and thorough scientific studies to talk to the critics.

The people at Zenyth Pharmaceuticals probably wanted to show they do not only use lawyers, but they can be very proficient at using the 'Delete' function of Facebook, so they did just that, it seems.

This really motivates me to go ahead and translate the article Zenyth's money didn't translate, the one that shows their entire case is baseless.

Monday, 15 October 2012

HOWTO: sudo + cowbuilder (+git-buildpackage)

In case you tried to use git-buildpackage and wanted to use cowbuilder as a builder, you might have ran into the error

sudo: sorry, you are not allowed to preserve the environment

This is due to a change in sudo default configuration in version 1.7.4p4-2 (I know, is true since 2010) which doesn't allow the execution of commands via sudo using the parameter '-E' which means 'setenv'.

The news item even explicitly states pbuilder can be affected by this because it wants to port over to the pbuilder environment the HOME environment variable and suggests using

Defaults env_keep += HOME

But adding such a line to your /etc/sudoers.d/01_pbuilders file (/etc/sudoers is recommended to be touched only by the package) will do the  same for all commands and users ran via sudo, which is, according to my preferences, too permissive.

The irony is that running git-buildpackage --git-pbuilder  will invoke sudo -E cowbuilder so the env_keep suggested fix will not work because for -E to be allowed, setenv needs to be set in sudoers. This would defeat the purpose of env_reset, if done for all commands, but we can do a better job if we allow this kind of change only for the cowbuilder and pbuilder commands. You do have different commands that are allowed explicitly stated, don't you?

On my system I have made a group especially for people allowed to do packaging work, the group is called 'pack'. The only account in that group is my own.

Also, I have defined a command alias named PBUILDERS which looks something like this:

Cmnd_Alias PBUILDERS = /usr/sbin/pbuilder, /usr/sbin/cowbuilder

Running PBUILDERS is already restricted to the pack group. Here is an example that requires password on run:


So all that needs to be done is to allow setenv for the PBUILDERS commands. Reading through the sudoers manpage and after some trial and error (use visudo for editting sudoers files - visudo -f /etc/sudoers.d/01_pbuilders) I found out that the symbols that distinguish between commands, users and groups in a 'Defaults' line needs to be right next to the 'Defaults' word. For command the sign is an exclamation sign '!' (for user lists it's ':') so since we want to link the exception to the command, not the user list, we'll use 'Defaults!':

Defaults! PBUILDERS setenv

Assuming you also have a PBUILDERS commands alias, this is what you need to be able to use git-buildpackage in conjunction with cowbuilder and sudo.

If there is a non-intrusive way to prevent sudo to use -E when invoking cowbuilder, please add your comment, I would be interested to know it.

Friday, 12 October 2012

A shitstorm is comming

It has been brought to my attention that a company selling some so-called colon cleansing product wanted to threat with a law suit a Romanian skeptical blogger because he wrote some articles showing that any such products (the one produced by the said company is the most known/popular in Romania) are pure quackery and there is no scientific basis for the claim they make in order to promote their products.

In his articles he also explained how, in fact, the mucoid plaque, the thing that supposedly proves the efficiency of the product, it is a result of taking the product due to its ingredients, and how no such mucoid plaque was ever observed in any colonoscopy, colon surgery or any other situation where you'd expect it to be seen. He also quoted specialists and lots of other scientific references, showing an honest approach to the issue.

As a response to the initial take-down message from the company doing business with people's crap, the blogger said would like to see scientific proof for the claims made for the product, and when that was to happen, he would take down the articles and publish a correction.

The company decided that the best way to continue this was to try to make a legal threat and ask 100.000 euros (one hundred thousands Euros) as damage in a country where, according to the latest data from the National Statistics Institute, the total average monthly personal income is about 180 Euros.

The blogger, as a reply, decided the threat should be made public and wrote another article which probably made the company very unhappy, because they decided to sue Wordpress so they would take down the blog.

And that's exactly what they did, they sued Wordpress, and sent some documents to Wordpress who sent them to the blogger. Among the documents there were 4 pdf files containing each an original article (in Romanian) from the blog and only 3 pdf containg English translation for only 3 of them. The one missing was the one where the blogger himself showed there wasn't any legal basis for the threats they made initially against him.

Here are the translations (ironically, made on the company's own expense):

Initial article entitled "ColonHelp doesn't help the colon. But it empties your wallet!" (original here)
Initial Article.en

The second article entitled "Again about ColonHelp and intestinal cleansers" (original here)
Follow Up.en

** Missing translation of the first reply to threats (original Romanian text here)

The second article about the threats entitled "People who clean the colon have filled the fan with shit" (original here)
Threats 2

The Romanian blogger explains himself more of the details on this issue in his latest article on his blog.

The company is called Zenyth Pharmaceuticals and Wordpress will probably lose the lawsuit by not presenting themselves in any way in the Romanian courts, but I think some Streisand effect would really help the asses of this company to get them kicked in their rightful place, at the top of the hall of shame.

The product name is called ColonHelp.

Please spread this information as wide as possible.
Do NOT link to the company's site (it would raise its search engine rank), but link to the blogger' article or the translations.

If any Romanian speaker cares to translate the untranslated article and publish it somewhere on the web, I would be more than glad to update this article and add a link to that translation.

Monday, 8 October 2012

HOWTO fix git-buildpackage signs with wrong signature

If you have two or more available gpg keys that can be used for the same identity (e.g.: 'John Doe <>') that you might use to add entries to changelogs of packages, you might end up in situations where git-buildpackage or other similar tool might want to sign packages with the wrong key.

It seems debsign (the tool that actually does the signing) just picks up the first key that is still valid (I also have a revoked key) and matches the used identity.

There are many ways to fix this, but the one that will work for most cases is to run this command:

echo 'DEBSIGN_KEYID=0x0123ABCD' >> ~/.devscripts

Of course, you should replace  0x0123ABCD with the keyid which you prefer.

This will create a ~/.devscripts file (if it didn't exist) which will contain the DEBSIGN_KEY variable with the desired value. This file will be sourced by debsign before doing its actual work, so it will do the right thing when ran.

There are also git-buildpackage specific fixes like defining builder in the [DEFAULT] section of ~/.gbp.conf and passing '-k0x0123ABCD' to debuild something like:

builder = debuild -i -I -k1234ABCD

But that probably gets ugly if you use a custom builder.

P.S.: I have just deleted my old key 0xDD1F1F9F since I won't be using it anymore. I don't remember where I put the revocation certificate, but I'll revoke the key, once and if I find the revocation certificate. Otherwise, it will expire in July, next year.

From now on, I am going to use only the key 0xE3E083A1 to which I even added a photo and some newer identities and updated with a few signatures I got during DebConf 9.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Security, so easy to be done wrong

I just finished reading this article about data security and how easily it can be done wrong. A real eye opener, if you're thinking about breeding your own solution. I highly recommend it, in spite of the initially weird feeling of reading something that looks like a script.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Why a lack of skepticism is dangerous...

Some of my Romanian readers might know that for the last two years I've got involved in the skeptical movement to such a degree that I am a co-producer of a bi-weekly podcast on science and skepticism (in Romanian) called „Skeptics in Romania”. Some might even be regular listeners of the show.

(There isn't much to see now visually on the site, but me and the other people behind the project have some ongoing plans to change that.)

In spite of our modest site, up until now we had some successes, one of them being the publication of an article on us in a known Romanian printed publication and another being the invitation to a live show face to face with Oreste Teodorescu, a well known Romanian mysticist and woo promoter.

During that live show we managed to show a demonstration (video below, in Romanian) of how astrology gives the impression of working, without actually working, and, taking into account we had no prior TV camera experience and that it was a live show, I think we managed an honourable presence.

We also have a series of interviews in English with some really interesting people: Dr. Eugenie Scott, Prof. Christopher French, Prof. Edzard Ernst, Samantha Stein and others. We did these interviews at Denkfest 2011, in Zurich, and we integrated the translated (voice over) interviews in our podcast. The conlusion is that most of our activities revolve around the podcast, so let me tell you more about that.

The podcast has a somewhat fixed structure, it starts with a conversation between ourselves, then we have a segment on the history of science, technology, skepticism and woo, and then we have a segment called „The dangers of not being skeptical”. In this segment we present cases of people who lost their lives, their health, their money or any combination of the former because they were duped into some scam, science-y sounding non-science, unfounded claim or some other woo.

Having lost recently my brother-in-law to a form of cancer known as Hodgkin lymphoma, I became especially sensitive about miracle-cure claims for cancer, and this section of the show has lately seen its fair share of such cases. Honestly, if there could be a way to prosecute the irresponsible, ignorant and/or cynical people promoting all sorts of quack "therapies", especially for cancer*, I would really like to see it happen. But there isn't, and we're trying the best accessible approach, informing the public.

During my brother-in-law's last two years of his life, he went through lots of chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions, repeated periods of hospitalisation, and lots of drugs. This is the best of what we currently have for treating and curing most forms of cancer, and too many times this isn't enough. I can't even imagine how stressful and discouraging it must feel when the best of what we have doesn't help.

Here is where the desperation and hopes of patients and their families meet the purely irresponsible cynical or ignorant promoters of woo and quack therapies. Because it takes either an ignorant or a really cynical (I really feel this word isn't enough) person to prey on the suffering of other people to make easy money under the false pretence of offering a cure.

It almost happened to my brother-in-law and his family, because they almost went for some herbal concoction promoted as a cancer cure on some forum, blog or page of a seller of this fake therapy. It was really hard for me to make them understand why using such a product it not advisable, not even in parallel with the medical treatment due its possible counter effect or interactions with the real medical treatment, without them getting the wrong idea that I wasn't trying to help. While trying to be brief and informative not to lose their attention, I told them how "natural" doesn't necessarily mean "good" (uranium, lead and Irukandji's venom are all natural), and how plants are drugs because they all contain chemical  substances (and no, "chemical" does not mean "human made" or "artificial") which could interact with the medical treatment.

But most people don't even have the chance of having close by a person with a more science-leaning thought process and a skeptical mind. Those unfortunate people are the most vulnerable people and constitute the biggest chunk of the victims of baseless pseudo-cures or pseudo-treatments.

On our last show, I presented the case of Yvonne Main, a cancer suffering patient who mistook an invasive carcinoma for a cyst, and irdologist Ruth Nelson for a real healthcare giver.

Yvonne Main, died from an invasive carcinoma
after seeking help from a iridologist,
and delaying real medical treament for 18 months

Yvonne, after seeking medical advice from a person that essentially promotes the dead idea of guessing diseases by looking at the eyes**, used natural treatments for about 18 months and, after all this time, her carcinoma grew to a size of 10 to 11 cm, eating through her skull and causing damage which was later attempted to be countered through bone transplant from her ribs.

Ruth Nelson wasn't prosecuted in any way and continues her practice of quackery unharmed.

This is not the only case, nor even one case from a select few where woo and quackery lead to grave consequences for patients. There are many, many more; they're so many that even after splitting them in categories they seem too many per category, especially when you realise these are only the findings of, essentially, a single man:

This is part of what I have been doing in the last few years, instead of working on Debian. Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Maybe it's good. I want to know what do you think?

* you will, most likely, never hear such a promoter of non-therapies say that there isn't just one cancer, and that, in fact, „cancer” is a name for a certain family of diseases which are all called „cancer” - that's a first sign that you might be dealing with quack
** probably in the line of thought that „the eyes are the gates to the soul” so they must tell something significant about health

Saturday, 25 August 2012

HOWTO: Things to remember about cowbuilder

Here are a few things to remember about cowbuilder:

If you run cowbuilder through sudo, and you want to build a source package whose result should be available to the user who initiated the build, then

  • you should have "BUILDRESULTUID=the_user's_id" in ~/.pbuilderrc, and
  • you might want to invoke cowbuilder with

'sudo cowbuilder --build the_pack_to_build.dsc --buildresult destination_dir_for_build_results'

If you want to login into a chroot environment in which you'd like to see part of your directory alongside the unpacked source tree of your package, then invoke cowbuilder with

sudo cowbuilder --login --bindmounts /path/to/the/dir/you/want

Your base.cow directory can be updated/changed manually with

sudo cowbuilder --login --save-after-login

You can update the base.cow directory with

sudo cowbuilder --update

 That's about it.

Also, noteworthy tip: ccache might not work correctly in the cowbuilder chroot.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Homeopathy, there's nothing in it, but is expensive

To add insult to injury, homeopathy is not only inefficacious, it's expensive, too.
A whole pack of an absurd dilution of a non-existent thing is the most expensive product on that advertising. Are we living an an age of insanity or what? If you want to know what really is homeopathy and why is dangerous, you can read here.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

xorg-macros in Debian

If you are looking for xorg-macros in Debian, you should install xutils-dev.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

HOWTO: Fix: Baobab opens directories in Totem/VLC (and some Xfce4 related things)

If you ever used filelight or baobab you probably know how useful they are. If you didn't, then you missed a lot on how you can spot (and fix) where your disk space is wasted.

With my recent attempt to upgrade to GNOME 3 which, because of its innate property to be useless and counter-productive, actually made me to use Xfce4 with a mix of GNOME aplications (since Xfce lacks a few functionalities here and there), I ran into all sorts of problems.

As a side note, Xfce4 is quite decent, but if you like some icons on your panels to be left aligned and some right aligned, you should know that you can add a Separator item to the panel, right click on it -> Properties and tick the Expand* check box. And if you also set the Transparent style, it will look nice, too.

Back to the topic. With my mix of Xfce and Gnome apps, I configured my top panel to contain a Free Space Checker for my /home file system and today it alerted me that I was low on disk space, so I started baobab to check what I can clean up.

When I found a possible suspect, I wanted to open the directory with a file browser, but, instead, Totem was started and started trying to queue all the files in the offending directory. The problem is that one way or another, Totem (or VLC) was configured to be the default handler for directories instead of the file manager.

The solution is simple, open with an editor the file ~/.local/share/applications/mimeapps.list and search for the line starting with inode/directory= and you'll see something like:


Remove the offending part, vlc-usercustom.desktop;, save the file and try again to open that directory from baobab. If you are double-lucky :P and now it opens with Totem, you will have to remove a reference to a "totem-usercustom.desktop;" or something of that sort. Now, on my system, that line looks like this:


And now it works as expected**

* I suppose it's called like that in English, I have my desktop in Romanian
** Except that I would like it to start my desktop preferred file manager, not Nautilus, but that's another issue.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

HOWTO: Git - reauthor/fix author and committer email and author name after a git cvsimport

You might find yourself at some moment when your git repository imported from CVS does not contain all the correct names and email addresses of the commits which were once in CVS but are now part of your project history in your git repo. Or you might do a cvsimport which missed a few authors.

Let's suppose you first import the cvs repo into git, but then you realise you missed some authors.

Before being able to do a git cvsimport, you need a checkout of the module or cvs subdir that you want to turn into its own git repo.

For ease of use I defined CVSCMD as
cvs -z9 -d
You will need to replace the items written in italics according to you situation, more exactly, you need to define 'my_cvs_id', '' and 'root_dir'. If your acces method to the server is not pserver, you should change that accordingly. This information should be available from your project admin or pages.

Check out the desired module or even subdir of a module

$CVSCMD checkout -d localdirname MODULE/path/to/subdir

git cvsimport -A ../authors -m -z 600 -C ../new-git-repo -R

How to find out the commits which do need rewriting

The way to limit yourself only to the commits that had no cvs-git author and commit information on git-cvsimport time is to use a filter like this:
git log -E --author='^[^@]*$' --pretty=format:%h
This tells git log to print only the abbreviated hashes (%h) for the commits that have NO '@' sign in the 'Author:', which happens if no cvs user id to git author and email was provided in the authors file and git cvsimport time.

We will use this command's output to tell later git filter-branch which commits need rewriting. *

But before that...

How do we find if our authors file is complete?

For this task we'll use a slighly modified form of the previous command and some shell script magic.
git log -E --author='^[^@]*$' --pretty=format:%an | sort -u > all-leftout-cvs-authors
And now in all-leftout-cvs-authors we'll have a sorted list of all cvs id's which were not handled in the original git-cvsimport. In my case there are only 19 such ids:
$ wc -l all-leftout-cvs-authors
19 all-leftout-cvs-authors

Nice, that will be easy to fix. Now edit your all-leftout-cvs-authors file to add the relevant information in a format similar to this:
john = John van Code <john@code.temple.tld>
jimmy = Jimmy O'Document <>
In case you can't make a complete cvs-user-to-name-and-email map, you might want to use stubs of the following form in order to be able to easily identify later such commits, if you prefer (or you could let them unaltered at al ;-):
cvsid=cvsid <>

How to actually do the filtering to fix history (using git-filter-branch and a script)

After this is done, we'll need just one more piece, the command to do the altering itself which reads as follow (note that my final authors file is called new-authors and that I placed this in a script in order to be able to easily run it without trying to escape all spaces and such madness):

[ "$authors_file" ] || export authors_file=$HOME/new-authors

#git filter-branch -f --remap-cvs --env-filter '
git filter-branch -f --env-filter '

get_name () {
grep "^$1=" "$authors_file" | sed "s/^.*=\(.*\)\ .*$/\1/"

get_email () {
grep "^$1=" "$authors_file" | sed "s/^.*\ <\(.*\)>$/\1/"

if grep -q "^$GIT_COMMITTER_NAME" "$authors_file" ; then
' -- --all
You might wonder what's up with the commented git filter-branch line with the --remap-cvs option. This script will NOT work for you as long as you have the stock git-filter-branch script and keep the option --remap-cvs while not patching your git-filter-branch script (/usr/lib/git-core/git-filter-branch), but that option will provide a file with the mappings from the old to the new commit ids. If you want that function, too, you'll want to apply this patch to git-filter-branch:

diff --git a/git-filter-branch b/git-filter-branch
old mode 100644
new mode 100755
index ae602e3..d1f7ef6
--- a/git-filter-branch
+++ b/git-filter-branch
@@ -149,6 +149,11 @@ do
+ --remap-cvs)
+ shift
+ remap_cvs=t
+ continue
+ ;;
@@ -368,6 +373,33 @@ while read commit parents; do
die "could not write rewritten commit"
done <../revs

+# Rewrite the cvs-revisions file, if requested and the file exists
+if [ -f "$ORIG_CVS_REVS_FILE" ]; then
+ if [ "$remap_cvs" ]; then
+ printf "CVS remapping requested\n"
+ CVS_REVS_FILE="$tempdir/cvs-revisions"
+ printf "\nFound $ORIG_CVS_REVS_FILE; will copy and alter it as $CVS_REVS_FILE\n"
+ cvs_remap__commit_count=0
+ newcommits="$(ls ../map/ | wc -l)"
+ for commit in ../map/* ; do
+ cvs_remap__commit_count=$(($cvs_remap__commit_count+1))
+ printf "\rRemap CVS commit $commit ($cvs_remap__commit_count/$newcommits)"
+ oldsha1="$(basename $commit)"
+ read newsha1 < $commit
+ sed -i "s@$oldsha1\$@$newsha1@" "$CVS_REVS_FILE"
+ done
+ else
+ warn "\nNo CVS remapping requested, but cvs-revisions file found. All CVS mappings will be lost.\n"
+ fi
+elif [ "$remap_cvs" ]; then
+ warn "\nWARNING: CVS remap was ignored, since no original cvs-revisions file was found\n"
# If we are filtering for paths, as in the case of a subdirectory
# filter, it is possible that a specified head is not in the set of
# rewritten commits, because it was pruned by the revision walker.
@@ -491,6 +523,11 @@ if [ "$filter_tag_name" ]; then

+if [ "$remap_cvs" -a -f "$CVS_REVS_FILE" ]; then
cd ../..
rm -rf "$tempdir"

Then, after running this script, let's call it filter, you should have a brand new git repo with the appropriate authors and their emails set.

P.S.: I have started writing this post some time ago but stopped just before the last part, the one with the filter script. I realise I might be missing something in the explanation, but if you have problems, please comment so I can help you fixing them.

P.P.S.: * I realised in the filter script at some point I wanted to do something like:
for R in $(git log -E --author='^[^@]*$' --pretty=format:%H | head -n 2) ; do
[the same git filter branch command above but ending in ...]
' $R
But I think I remember that $R didn't work on the whole history, but only on that revision, or some other weird of that sort. I know I ended up not filtering explicitly those revisions, but the entire history. I hope this helps.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

HOWTO: Windows, nmake, cygwin and path type detection

If you are using Windows, have cygwin installed and need to test if a path is absolute or relative in nmake (I know, how often does that happen?), here is the magic bit of code that manages to do just that:

cygwin_path = c:\cygwin\bin

echo = $(cygwin_path)\echo.exe
grep = $(cygwin_path)\grep.exe

#testpath = ..\..\rel\test\path
#testpath = rel\test\path
#testpath = \abs\test\path
testpath = c:\abs\test\path

!if ([ $(echo) '$(testpath)' | $(grep) -q -E '^^(\w:)?\\\\' ] == 0)
type = abs
type = rel

@$(echo) "testpath = $(testpath)"
@$(echo) "type = $(type)"

Probably there are other solutions, but this is the first I came up with. Another solution would be to use gnu make :-) .

Friday, 20 January 2012

HOWTO: GIMP - create a text-with-halo effect

A small tutorial I made about an effect I used in the previous interviews (in English), so, for consistency, I had to recreate it, even after Kino was no longer available in Debian Wheezy.

I'll probably upload more videos like this about cinelerra, pitivi, gimp, audacity and other software I use for the work I do for our „Sceptici în România”/ „Skeptics in Romania” podcast (The podcast is in Romanian, but we are preparing also a project for the international audience, too).

And in case you are wondering, yes, this podcast is part of the reasons I wasn't able to do any work for Debian lately!

Monday, 16 January 2012

What's common between Windows 7 and GNOME 3 / gnome-shell?

Update: I managed to make sound work. For some weird reason, a mute switch option of some the many (and who knows how useful) switches of my sound card was enabled. Now the damn thing works. Did I mention that since I did the upgrade all my sound cards (I have a USB sound card, too) have listed as available inputs all the inputs of my internal sound card (mic, front mic, line in, CD, etc.) in Audacity? That makes for a very confusing and loooong sound input sources list! The upside is that I can finally record clips from televisions that do not provide such a feature and FastVideoDownload doesn't handle.

I also seem to have found a possible fix for the caps-ctrl issue in Xfce4 (obviously, setting "-option ctrl:swapcap" in ~/.Xkbmap, instead of that Alt modifier).

As I said in my previous post, I will tell you what do GNOME 3 and Windows 7 have in common.

Before everything else, I want to make it clear that when I am saying GNOME 3, I am referring to Debian Wheezy's GNOME 3, since I recently upgraded from Squeeze on my laptop. I'll probably drop a line or two about that, too.

First, I'll tell you about the (boring, probably for many) experience with Windows 7. As I said before, my new job requires me to use a Windows machine, so up until a few months ago I was using Windows XP with some additional software and tweaks to make it usable. Then came the Windows 7 „upgrade”. I am using quotes since the more appropriate term would be „fresh installation on a new partition”, not even close to what Debian users are used to call an upgrade.

So after a fresh Windows 7 installation, my first shock was the fact there was NO Quick Launch*. Some of you might be laughing, but I had never used Windows 7 up until then, just saw it on a laptop of a friend of mine (Ovidiu, one of the guys with whom I am doing this podcast, went to Denkfest with, and made these interviews). That was the first shock. Initial discussions about this with Windows users lead me to believe Quick Launch was dead and for some unexplained reason, I believed them. Later, much later, a week ago, to be precise, I found out that you can bring back the Quick Launch through some convoluted way**. Up until that point I had to have some icons pinned to the task bar, but some others on the desktop (and I hate that) because some of them, like Cygwin, if pinned, would start a cmd console, since Win 7 pins the process, not the starting script.

Among other things which broke in Win 7 and used to work fine in XP, the Virtual Dimension application which provides me with a virtual desktop, was the first one which was broken. I have been using a liniar 4 desktops-wide virtual desktop for over 5 years and I am worthless and inefficient if all my apps are on the same desktop. Mail application is always on the first desktop, work and file managers are on the second, the third is for extras and multimedia editing while the fourth is my gateway to the internet, containing the browser, instant messenger, or whatever.

The shortcuts I use to get to the various desktops are Win+1 ... Win+4 keyboard shortcuts, but the M$ Evil Empire decided that those shortcuts are going to start or bring foreward the first, second and so on applications pinned on the task bar. And you can't change those shortcuts***. Nor is disabling just those possible since they are all disabled through a huge switch which disables ALL Win+x keyboard shortcuts, among which Win+E (file expolrer) and Win+D (Show Desktop) were also. Luckly, Win+L (lock screen) was not disabled. So I disabled al those Win+ shortcuts, since I need virtual desktops.

Now, imagine if I had to start a Cygwin console and I had all sorts of apps open! Win+D was disabled, so I had to minimize the apps covering the desktop shortcut for Cygwin, click on the icon to start it, bring back the minimized windows and go on with my work. What a waste of clicks, mouse movement, energy and time, just because some dudes thought a Quick Launch-like feature was useless****.

You might wonder already what do those '*' sings mean. Well, sadly, that's what GNOME 3 / gnome-shell and Windows 7 have in common.

Gnome 3 was a shock for me. An empty desktop right after upgrade. No panels, no shortcuts*, no power indicators, no wicd indicator, no virtual desktops, no desktop icons, (I have a few dirs and docs there). Sounds like an Evil Empire decision, doesn't it?

Luckly I have been using Tilda as my always-ready console and I could fire up iceweasel from the console in order to understand where my panel disappeared.

I then realised that the upgrade brought me Network Manager, that app which wicd replaced. As a consequence, I had no working wlan since Network Manager made sure to mess up with the network manager I chose.

After looking through the documentation of Network Manager and realising I either had it set up to leave wlan0 alone or I didn't understood NM's documentation, I simply stopped the service, which let Wicd its job flawlessly.

The first thing I searched was „Gnome 3 panel” or something of that sort and I was confronted with the obvious option to appeal to the Forced Fallback Mode which was disabled. I figured I either had an old version, or Debian disabled this feature (hoping they provided an alternative). There was also the option to conform to this convoluted way of working** with Actions and such uselessness like that. I still wonder, what is the purpose of the „Favourites” bar on the left side, since it's accessible only after wasting a lot of mouse movement and time? For Joe's Pesci sake, I use focus under mouse just to avoid needless mouse and keyboard manipulation. Why? Why? WHY would I want every time I need to start or SWITCH to another application to move the mouse to the upper-left corner then take my hands off the mouse to type, move the mouse downwards or move across the whole width of the screen to get to my beloved virtual desktops and pick the app I want?

Making a long story short, after even trying XFCE4 (which for some unknown reason resets almost immediately my keyboard layout to the default layout with the Caps on Caps, instead of my preferred and set Ctrl on Caps - yes, it's global), I managed to find GNOME Shell Frippery** which made the experience better.

Later I found out that GNOME 3's file manager, Nautilus, has decided that an „up on level” button is useless, since the default is to use that uncopy-pastable button location bar instead of a sane text location bar. And it seems the GNOME developers decided this*** and I should conform to it.

To add insult to injury, those icons on my old panel are apparently useless**** and even in the fallback version I can't get them back. Or so the GNOME developers decided.

At some point this sunday, don't know how or why this change happened, producing sound was impossible. I know the problem is pulseaudio since when I kill the pulseaudio daemon from the console I can play audio. BTW, great timing, just when I needed sound the most, before releasing episode 32 of our podcast (yay, I reaslised that xfce just decided to reset my caps to be caps, after setting to ctrl a few minutes ago).

I know I praised pulseaudio when I first tried it, but failing to make it work out of the box or after some tinkering is a deal breaker for me, so I removed it. Now I find it that is a default in GNOME, yet all it manages to do is prevent audio from working. At least on my machine.

Other problems? Gnome Power Manager manages to hang and block my session, GNOME managed somehow to fail to start at some point. Yeah, and that sound problem which I didn't fix yet, didn't went away after removing all the pulseaudio packages which could be removed (e.g.: ryhtmbox depends on libpulse0, same do some other apps like audacity, so I couldn't remove all pulse related packages).

I got involved with Debian and GNU/Linux because it was tweakable and customisable, didn't use to force all sorts of option on me and now I find with its increasing popularity it becomes more and more like a product of a corporation which decides to change some things just to change and totally disregadring user experience and uses.

So, in the light of all of these problems I think it's time to probably consider trying KDE. Is it any good lately?

Monday, 9 January 2012

Another Windows tip - How to store cvspass login for CVSNT

Since I am currently working on a Windows machine at work I am looking for ways to make this thing work in a sane way. The latest insane thing is the fact that I wasn't able to log on a CVS server at work from WinCVS (which uses CVSNT) with my regular credentials, while the cached password in Cygwin did work with the Cygwin CVS.

So the obvious fix was to copy the .cvspass file from cygwin to whereever CVSNT kept its cvspass file. Well, it isn't that easy, since CVSNT keeps such passwords in the Windows registry. But since I had no previous logins with CVSNT, I didn't knew what to put in the registry.

I found really easily that the key is under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\cvsnt\cvspass, but how do I save it? Looking at the line in my cygwin .cvspass I saw the line had the format:

/1 S()meh4s'h00

I finally found out that I have to create a string value with the name "" and the value data that hash "S()meh4s'h00" and plainly ignore the first field.

Stay tuned. The next article will be about what's common between Windows 7 and GNOME 3 / gnome-shell, since I upgraded my home laptop to wheezy (I really wanted to use pitivi 0.15), and my desktop at work to Windows 7.