August 24th, 2014 by lucas
He makes the point (quoting slide 16) that the Free Software community is winning a war that is becoming increasingly pointless: yes, users have 100% Free Software thin client at their fingertips [or are really a few steps from there]. But all their relevant computations happen elsewhere, on remote systems they do not control, in the Cloud.
That give-up on control of computing is a huge and important problem, and probably the largest challenge for everybody caring about freedom, free speech, or privacy today. Stefano rightfully points out that we must do something about it. The big question is: how can we, as a community, address it?
Towards a Free Service Definition?
I believe that we all feel a bit lost with this issue because we are trying to attack it with our current tools & weapons. However, they are largely irrelevant here: the Free Software Definition is about software, and software is even to be understood strictly in it, as software programs. Applying it to services, or to computing in general, doesn’t lead anywhere. In order to increase the general awareness about this issue, we should define more precisely what levels of control can be provided, to understand what services are not providing to users, and to make an informed decision about waiving a particular level of control when choosing to use a particular service.
Benjamin Mako Hill pointed out yesterday during the post-talk chat that services are not black or white: there aren’t impure and pure services. Instead, there’s a graduation of possible levels of control for the computing we do. The Free Software Definition lists four freedoms — how many freedoms, or types of control, should there be in a Free Service Definition, or a Controlled-Computing Definition? Again, this is not only about software: the platform on which a particular piece of software is executed has a huge impact on the available level of control: running your own instance of WordPress, or using an instance on wordpress.com, provides very different control (even if as Asheesh Laroia pointed out yesterday, WordPress does a pretty good job at providing export and import features to limit data lock-in).
The creation of such a definition is an iterative process. I actually just realized today that (according to Wikipedia) the very first occurrence of an attempt at a Free Software Definition was published in 1986 (GNU’s bulletin Vol 1 No.1, page 8) — I thought it happened a couple of years earlier. Are there existing attempts at defining such freedoms or levels of controls, and at benchmarking such criteria against existing services? Such criteria would not only include control over software modifications and (re)distribution, but also likely include mentions of interoperability and open standards, both to enable the user to move to a compatible service, and to avoid forcing the user to use a particular implementation of a service. A better understanding of network effects is also needed: how much and what type of service lock-in is acceptable on social networks in exchange of functionality?
I think that we should inspire from what was achieved during the last 30 years on Free Software. The tools that were produced are probably irrelevant to address this issue, but there’s a lot to learn from the way they were designed. I really look forward to the day when we will have:
- a Free Software Definition equivalent for services
- Debian Free Software Guidelines-like tests/checklist to evaluate services
- an equivalent of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, explaining how one can build successful business models on top of open services
April 9th, 2014 by lucas
While trying to debug a bandwidth problem on a 3G connection, I tried speedtest.net, which ranks fairly high when one searches for “bandwidth test” on various search engines. I was getting very strange results, so I started wondering if my ISP might be bandwidth-throttling all traffic except the one from speedtest.net tests. After all, that’s on a 3G network, and another french 3G ISP (SFR) apparently uses Citrix ByteMobile to optimize the QoE by minifying HTML pages and recompressing images on-the-fly (amongst other things).
So, I fired wireshark, and discovered that no, it’s just speedtest being a bit naive. Speedtest uses its own text-based protocol on port 8080. Here is an excerpt of a download speed test:
< HELLO 2.1 2013-08-14.01
> DOWNLOAD 1000000
Yeah, right: sequences of “ABCDEFGHIJ”. How course, extremely easy to compress, which apparently happens transparently on 3G (or is it PPP? but I tried to disable PPP compression, and it did not see any change).
It’s funny how digging into problems that look promising at first sight often results in big disappointments :-(
February 27th, 2014 by lucas
Following my blog post on the topic, I played a bit with various options.
But let’s explain my use case (which might be quite specific). I need to deal with three main sources of events:
- the Zimbra instance from my lab. It provides a CalDav interface.
- the ICS export from my University’s teaching timetable.
- a calendar for personal stuff. I don’t want to use my lab’s Zimbra for that.
Additionally, I follow some ICS feeds for some colleagues and other events.
I tend to access my calendar mostly on my computer, and sometimes on my N900 phone.
None of the web interfaces I looked at enabled me to (1) manage different calendars hosted on different CalDav servers; (2) subscribe to ICS feeds; (3) provide a CalDav interface to synchronize my phone.
I ended up using a radicale instance for my personal calendar, which was extremely easy to set up. It’s unfortunately a bit slow when there are many events (1600 since 2010 in my case), so I ended up importing only future events, and I will probably have to cleanup from time to time.
I switched to using IceDove with the Lightning add-on to manage all my calendars and ICS feeds. It’s unfortunately slower and less user-friendly than Google Calendar, but I’ll live with it.
On my N900, I used syncevolution to synchronize my various CalDav calendars. It works fine, but understanding how to configure it is rather tricky due to the number of concepts involved (templates, databases, servers, contexts, …). The synchronization is quite slow (several minutes for the 400-events Zimbra calendar), but works.
I also wanted a way to export my calendars to colleagues (both in a “free/busy” version, and in a “full information” version). I quickly hacked something using ruby-agcaldav (which is not packaged in Debian, and required quite a few dependencies, but it was easy to generate packages for all of them using gem2deb — the situation with other languages did not look better).
The resulting script is:
cal = AgCalDAV::Client.new(:uri => 'LABCALDAVSERVER', :user => 'xx', :password => "xx")
ev = cal.find_events(:start => '2014-02-01', :end => '2200-01-01')
cal = AgCalDAV::Client.new(:uri => 'RADICALESERVER', :user => 'xx', :password => "xx")
ev2 = cal.find_events(:start => '2014-02-01', :end => '2200-01-01')
limit = (Time::now - 7*86400).to_datetime
# create new empty calendars
ncpriv = Icalendar::Calendar.new
ncpub = Icalendar::Calendar.new
(ev + ev2).each do |e|
next if e.end < limit # drop old events to keep the calendar small
# build event for the free/busy calendar
pe = Icalendar::Event.new
pe.start = e.start
pe.end = e.end
pe.klass = "PRIVATE"
pe.transp = e.transp
# build event for the calendar with event information
pube = Icalendar::Event.new
pube.start = e.start
pube.end = e.end
pube.transp = e.transp
if not e.klass == "PRIVATE"
pube.summary = e.summary
pube.location = e.location
# export free/busy calendar
fd = File::new('xx.ics', 'w')
# export calendar with event information
fd = File::new('yy-Zeeh9bie.ics', 'w')
So, mostly everything works. The only thing that doesn't is that I haven't found a way to subscribe to an ICS feed on my N900. Any ideas?
February 25th, 2014 by lucas
I’m trying to self-host my calendar setup, and I must admit that I’m lost between all the different solutions.
My requirements are:
- (A) manage my own personal calendar using a reasonably modern web interface (probably on my own CalDAV server)
- (B) display a dozen public ICS calendars in the web interface. Organizing those public calendars in a tree would be great.
- (C) display several caldav calendars (from two different instances of zimbra), preferably in RW mode
- (D) provide ICS links with a secret token that allow me to provide a full view of my calendar to some people (except for private events, where I should just be marked ‘busy’)
- (E) provide ICS links with a secret token that allow me to provide a “busy/available” view of my calendar to some people
- (F) export something usable on my n900. MFE would be great since that is already known to work.
- (G) easy to setup (Debian packages available in wheezy or wheezy-backports, especially for the server part)
- (H) preferably lightweight. I don’t need a full groupware application. I can ignore the other bits if really needed.
It does not seem to be possible to find a single framework doing all of the above. AFAIK:
- Owncloud does A, D, G
- Baikal does A. not sure about the rest.
- For (B), an alternative is to script the download of the ics and then upload it to the CalDAV using cadaver. But that sounds quite low-level for such a trivial use case.
- I’ve looked at using IceOwl (and Thunderbird+Lightning) with a CalDAV server such as Radicale. That would solve A (using iceowl instead), B, C. But which CalDAV servers support D, E, F ? Radicale does not do any of those, apparently.
What did I miss?
January 17th, 2014 by lucas
One of my pet projects in Debian is the Debian Maintainer Dashboard. Built on top of UDD, DMD provides a maintainer-centric view to answer the “I have a few hours for Debian, what should I do now?” question (see example).
Christophe Siraut did a lot of great work recently on DMD, rewriting much of the internals. As a result, he also added a RSS feed feature: you can now get notified of new TODO list items by subscribing to that feed.
If you have suggestions or comments, please use the debian-qa@ list (see this thread).
October 7th, 2013 by lucas
I attended Open World Forum last week (thanks to Inria for funding my travel). It was a fantastic opportunity to meet many people, and to watch great talks. If I had to single out just one talk, it would clearly be John Sullivan’s What do you mean you can’t Skype?!.
On Saturday, I delivered a talk presenting the Debian project. It was my first DPL-ish talk to the general public, so it still needs some tuning, but I think it went quite well (slides available). Next opportunity to talk about Debian: LORIA, Nancy, France, 2013-10-17 13:30 (iPAC seminar).
September 25th, 2013 by lucas
Some time ago, Ubuntu had Ubuntu Brainstorm, a website where non-developers could submit ideas of improvements, and other people could comment and vote on them. I was wondering if there was existing software to deploy a similar service, e.g. as a plugin to popular forum software. I’ve found ideascale.com, but relying on the Cloud for that is not acceptable for my planned use.
(For clarification: my immediate interest for that is unrelated to Debian work)
August 21st, 2013 by lucas
So, I’m back from DebConf, which probably translated to the 10 busiest days of my life, but also to one of the best times of my life. The Le Camp venue clearly contributed to this success: having everybody at the same place, but at the same time many opportunities for quiet chat or just enjoying the view, was really a good idea. Everybody who made DebConf possible deserve a huge “thank you”, as well as all attendees: it is really a honor to be a part of such a fantastic community.
Now, let’s go back to daily life, and to my re-filled Debian TODO list!
August 16th, 2013 by lucas
This upload was the first one of my very first package in Debian. It was sponsored by Dafydd Harries, who I’ve finally met at DebConf13, and got out of NEW on 2005-08-16. Exactly 8 years ago today. I only realized that yesterday evening, and Debian’s birthday feels even more special to me now. Dafydd, it looks like I owe you a lot! :)
August 16th, 2013 by lucas
This DebConf is obviously quite special for me, being the DPL. It has really been great so far to talk to meet so many people, and especially to meet so many new Debian contributors or Developers. I’m really happy to see that the next generation is ready! :)
On Sunday, I delivered my Bits from the DPL talk. The video is available, and I’ve finally uploaded the slides (working link here, it seems that Penta ate my slides). I hope you enjoyed it/will enjoy it!