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Monday·30·October·2006

BarCamp Zurich — Resumé //at 02:02 //by abe

from the Geeks-are-not-equal-Geeks dept.

The BarCamp Zurich 2006 is over. On the way there I thought about what I would do during time slots with no interesting talks. But when I tried to make up my personal schedule, I noticed that I rather would have the opposite problem: Too many interesting talks at the same time… Well, to many interesting talks at all, although I only went to tech talks and left out the biz talks.

I first went to the Podcasting & Co. talk by Timo Hetzel, since I never heard or made a podcast, but was curious about podcasts in general. Besides statistics and rankings he spoke about where people listen to podcast (most listeners seem to do that during commuting), what people like in podcasts, why companies podcast, etc. And that a very big share of all podcast listeners use iTunes as podcast client and except juice (never heard of it before) all other podcast clients seem to be irrelevant.

My conclusion: I haven’t missed anything not having listened to or made podcasts neither do I need to listen or make podcasts in the future. They’re irrelevant. To me. :-)

Then I had to choose between the talks AJAX@localhost (PDF) by Harry Fuecks and Realtime Collaborative Text Editing and SubEthaEdit by the Coding Monkeys. I heard about realtime collaborative editing once know that it’s a challenging task for the developer. I also know what AJAX is (and that I would only use or recommend it for bells and whistles, but not for content in general), but “AJAX@localhost” sounded like writing normal applications using AJAX. It sounded interesting and evil at the same time. I had to go there! ;-) Others had similar expectations after reading the talk’s title, so I was quite surprised that it was about something completely different, namely about debugging AJAX on the localhost but under conditions usually only appearing if you’re running AJAX application not from localhost but from somewhere on the net: You may have different lags with every request, so some requests may reach the server before others, which may screw up the whole AJAX application, if the developers didn’t think about it and only tested it on localhost. (Hence the talk’s title…)

My conlusion: I will use and recommend AJAX even more seldom, since there seem to be even more design misconceptions than I thought before. But I’ll once have a look at the Webtuesday meeting, he mentioned.

For the third time-slot, I didn’t need long to decide where to go: I already knew a little bit about Microformats and I wanted to know more. Tag Trade also sounded interesting, but the second part of the talk’s title, Paid Learning sounded like business and so I had no scruples to cold-shoulder that talk. I probably didn’t learn anything really new in the microformats talk, but my knowledge about microformats is now more concrete, and after talking with Cédric Hüsler later during a break, I would even trust myself to start and define a new microformat.

Then I went to the HG Caféteria together with Gürkan and two German guys. While waiting in the queue, we were talking about our jobs and our favourite Linux distributions. I got some rhubarb pie and a rum truffles, assuming that the Caféteria uses no alcohol in their products like all other SV restaurant I know. But this one seemed to have quite a lot of alcohol, since it felt like my breath was burning… Well, this resulted in my second SV feedback form submission…

Next I went to Alex Schröder’s talk about multilingual websites, Oddmuse and the Emacs Wiki, although also the talk A-Life about simulating evolution sounded promising. Alex asked the listeners about their experiences with multilingual websites and showed what Oddmuse offers as partial solution to the general multilingualism problems. But regarding the comments from the auditorium, there probably won’t be a perfect solution until computers can translate perfectly…

The next talk I visited was Gabor’s talk about his master thesis Organizing E-Mail which resulted in a soon to be released Mozilla Thunderbird extension called BuzzTrack. From the other concepts he showed, I found Microsoft’s SNARF (Social Network and Relationship Finder) and IBM’s Thread Arcs most interesting as well as the fact that there is no e-mail client seems to have a majority at all.

Directly after Gabor I had my own talk about Understanding Shell Quoting, so I also couldn’t go to Adrian Heydecker’s talk about Learning with Hypertext and Search Engines. I had only about three and a half listeners of whom several to my surprise where here because they didn’t know what “shell quoting” is.

I really didn’t expect that.

But that seems to be one of the differences between a BarCamp and a Linux Conferences: People come here to see something new, something they haven’t heard about before. On Linux events most people come, because they already heard about some special topic and want to know more or learn something about it. On Linux event my shell talks usually were attracting many visitors while at a BarCamp, talks presenting an idea, a concept or a tool seem to much more interesting for the attendees. So for the next BarCamp I perhaps exhume my Website Meta Language talk which never seemed to hit the nerve of Linux event attendees, since it tried to “sell” a different concept of generating website than most were used to.

At least one listener excepted the talk to be named “shell escaping”, but IMHO escaping is only one quoting technic and it’s not only used for quoting. But perhaps I should take the word “escaping” in the title though for the next time.

Happily most of the listeners seem to have learned something new from the talk and Silvan Gebhardt was really happy about his new knowledge about ssh ~ escapes, although I mainly talked about how to quote them than how to use them. :-)

During the last slot I visited the session about the upcoming BarCamp Alsace 2 and the yet to be planned BarCamp Rhine, a BarCamp to be held on a ship traveling from Basel in Switzerland down the Rhine, stopping in Strasbourg, Karlsruhe, Rhein-Main-Area and perhaps even Cologne and Amsterdam.

Contrary to my initial thoughts, the day was over very fast and I had no single boring minute during the BarCamp. Wow!

After we’ve been kicked out of the building by ETH janitors, we joined again at the Bar N-68. On the way there I met Urban Müller who attended BarCamp Zurich, too. We talked quite a lot and it was very interesting to see behind the scenes of e.g. map.search.ch. Later I joined the French speaking table, talking with Gregoire Japiot from WineCamp France and Alex Schröder.

Around 9pm I left the N-68 as one of the last BarCampers, tired but with new knowledge, new ideas, new acquaintances and a new hobby: BarCamping. What a luck that BarCamps aren’t that often, otherwise I couldn’t afford this new hobby. ;-)

As a relaxing end I met with Alex Schröder and Christophe Ducamp on Sunday morning for brunch in the restaurant Gloria in the Industriequartier. When we were leaving the Gloria I noticed their book board with a lots of BookCrossing books and I took “The Da Vinci Code” with me, since I saw the movie and people were telling me that the book is much better. I’ll see…

Saturday·28·October·2006

Next Shell Quoting Talks //at 12:33 //by abe

from the Wikipedia-meets-Flash-Mob dept.

There are a several events coming up where I plan to hold my Shell Quoting Talk: First, there will be the BarCamp Zurich on October, the 28th at ETH Zürich HG and then there will be the 8th Linuxday.at on November, the 18th at the HTL at Dornbirn (Vorarlberg, Austria) organised by the LUG Vorarlberg. It’s also possible that, in addition to the Shell Quoting talk, I’ll also give a talk for beginners about Commandline Helpers. (Probably all the talks will be held in German.)

BarCamp Zürich I’m quite curious on both events, for very different reasons. On the one hand, a BarCamp is something completely new for me and it sounds like a very interesting mixture of a real life Wikipedia meeting and a flash mob to me.

On the other hand, this year’s Linuxday.at will have several new facettes for me: First there were several changes in the organising team, so I wonder if and in that case how much this will change the face of the event. Then it’s the first Linxuday.at since I live in Zurich, which means it’s the first Linuxday without 1000km travelling during that weekend, so I also have some time to meet friends in the area in advance to or after the event. Yeah!

Sunday·22·October·2006

The mouseless side of X //at 00:48 //by abe

from the Think-Emacs!-Think-screen! dept.

Although I like the idea of a tiling and completely keyboard focused window manager, I never fell in love with Ion because the default keybindings weren’t really intuïtive (to me). A few months ago I noticed, that ratpoison is also a tiling and completely keyboard focused window manager, only with much more intuitive usage: If you know screen and it’s keybindings, you also know ratpoison and it’s keybindings: Just exchange Ctrl-A with Ctrl-T. This sounds perfect for usage on my low performance laptops, where I have small screens and usually also no virtual desktops in use.

There’s only one thing which annoys me in ratpoison: If I use a mostly mouse driven application like e.g. a webbrowser with ratpoison, I have no problems to click on links, even if the webbrowser is not in the so called “current frame”. But if e.g. click into an input field, I usually notice much too late that while the mouse works fine in the browser, keyboard focus is still in some other window. Currently they all use flwm, the Fast and Lite Window Manager.

So what I would need is a tiling and keyboard focused window manager but with “focus follows mouse” politics. And since the laptops on which I intend to use such a window manager, all have a touchpad or thumbstick, the mouse there counts as keyboard focused, too somehow, doesn’t it? :-) I wonder, if an ion3 could be configured to use the same keybindings as ratpoison. That would probably fulfil this desire.

On the other hand, there are browsers which are fine without mouse. lynx or links2 for example, so the focus problem I have with ratpoison wouldn’t occur. But what if I need or want a keyboard driven and full blown webbrowser? Ok, Firefox as well as Opera are not that bad in keyboard only use, but they still are focused on the mouse using user.

But Gecko wouldn’t be Gecko, if there wasn’t some Gecko based browser with this features: On the ratpoison website I found a link to a very interesting Firefox plugin which makes Firefox a complete new browser, a keyboard driven webbrowser named Conkeror. It has no toolbars at all, no (visible) tabs, no menus, no nothing — it shows only the website in fullscreen, a status line and a multipurpose command line — exactly like the mini-buffer of GNU Emacs.

But not only the layout, even the keybindings are very emacsish: C-x C-f opens an URL in a new buffer -eh- tab, C-x 5 C-f opens an URL in a new frame (window), C-x C-v opens a new URL in the current tab (buffer) with the current URL as editable default value, C-x b switches to another tab, C-x k kills -eh- closes a tab, C-x C-b lists all open tabs, l goes back (remember the Emacs info reader, eh?), C-g quits accidently requested dialogs or stops loading a web page, Ctrl-s and Ctrl-r give you forward and backward i-search, C-n, C-p, C-f and C-b scroll, etc. Even M-x works, e.g. will M-x revert-buffer reload the web page. (Unfortunately Esc-x doesn’t work. Yet.) And for vi freaks, there is even M-x use-vi-keys. There’s even one lynxish keybinding: \ lets you view the source.

And although it’s one of the strangest webbrowsers I saw yet, I somehow like it and also would like to see it in Debian as package, since it is the perfect companion for ion or ratpoison. Looking through apt’s package cache as well as the wnpp bugs, I haven’t found any hint on somebody already packaging it, so I’ll have a look on it and on how to to package a Firefox extension for Debian.

BTW: While looking through the wnpp bugs, I found bug #335459, which is the ITP flock, an also Gecko based browser with a lot of cool features for blogger who like social network tools.

Another nice thing I found today in Debian was the xfonts-artwiz package whose small fonts are very suitable for small resolution screens, especially if a tiling window manager is used with a e.g. 800×600 resolution. Unfortunately they aren’t available in a charset with German umlauts.

Apropos tiling window managers: Anyone tried pconsole with an automatically tiling and resizing window manager? I wonder if it’s usable. At least on MacOS X with its cascading window positioning algorithm, pconsole is a pain. — But even without cascading windows, MacOS X is a pain for keyboard users. Just think of its default behaviour when using the tab key inside a form mask: It will skip all buttons, all checkboxes, all radio buttons and all select boxes. Argh!

Friday·20·October·2006

Nice Shell Bloomer //at 16:39 //by abe

from the works-for-me dept.

While looking for users which still have “.” in their path, I found the following nice bloomer:

PATH=``$PATH:.:$HOME/bin''

It’s obvious what the user tried to do. But why the fuck does this (more or less man or info page alike) quoting syntax work?

It took me a moment to realise that this kind of “quoting” works in nearly all Unix shells: The two backquotes as well as the two single quotes become an empty string and are therefor completely useless in this case.

The user probably read some uglily localized man or info page (like the German ones in Debian Sarge) and did some copy and paste to his .bashrc. And since it “worked” he didn’t see any reason to change it again.

Thursday·19·October·2006

Herbstumfrage //at 13:44 //by abe

Aus der G5 Abteilung

Über ein Blog-Posting von Priska bin ich auf die netten Fragebögen von gimme5 gestolpert.

Da will ich den Aktuellen grade auch mal beantworten, während die anderen Kaffeetrinken sind.

  1. Nenne 5 typische Herbstsachen.
    Näääbl (aka Nebel), rot-bunte Blätter, mit Blättermatsch bedeckte Waldwege, Drachenfliegen, es wird wieder früher dunkel.
  2. Würdest du Pilze essen, die du selber gesammelt hast?
    Vermutlich nicht. Ich sammel aber auch eh keine.
  3. Was würdest du mit farbigen Blättern von den Bäumen und Kastanien basteln?
    Herbarium und Kastanien-Männchen
  4. Welche Herbstgerichte schmecken dir am besten?
    Käse- —äh, Verzeihung— Chäsfondue. Ich muß unbedingt mal eine Fahrt im Fondue-Tram machen.
  5. Hast du schon mal einen Drachen gebaut? Ist er geflogen?
    Schon mehrmals. Einmal in der Grundschule oder im Kindergarten oder so und einmal selbst zuhause einen Miniaturdrachen (Butterbrotpapier, Holzspieße und Bindfaden) Geflogen? Bei dem aus meiner Kinderzeit weiß ich’s nimmer so genau, der Miniaturdrachen nur hinterm Ventilator (Huch, hier macht das Blog ja einen Autolink hin? Argh, nee, nicht der Ventilator ;-) und das auch noch recht instabil. Allerdings fliege ich seit mehr als 10 Jahren mit einem zu Schulzeiten gekauften und seither immer wieder geflicktem gelb-blauen Tandem-Lenkdrachen.


Sunday·15·October·2006

wApua now in Debian Unstable //at 00:38 //by abe

from the debut dept.

Hey, the actual version 0.06 of my Perl written WAP browser wApua now is in Debian Sid!

It’s the first software written by me which has entered the Debian repository as its own package (since pum is included in the package pisg which is in testing now for a while) as well as the first software debianized by me which reached Debian Unstable.

Things are always exciting when they happen the first time. ;-)

Thanks to Myon for sponsoring the package.

Monday·09·October·2006

Fedora Legacy useless? //at 15:16 //by abe

from the we-provide-updates-only-if-we-provide-updates dept.

For a (much too long) time, we ran our three AMD 64 bit virus scanners and spam filter boxes with Fedora Core 4. Since the the official support ended a few months ago when Fedora Core 6 Test 2 came out, so we decided to switch them over to support through the Fedora Legacy Project.

For testing purposes we first switched over one of the three boxes. But the test failed: Although the changes (as documented on the Fedora Legacy home page) seemed to work fine, not a single update came until the end of last week, even though there were partially remotely exploitable security issues in OpenSSL, OpenSSH, gzip, etc. during that time. There were also no announcements on the list since FC4 switched over to the Fedora Legacy Project, not for FC4 nor for any other distribution maintained by the Fedora Legacy Project.

So what the heck does the Fedora Legacy Project if not security updates?

I would be very happy if I could switch over those boxes to Debian or even Ubuntu, but there’s no BiArch support (running 32 bit applications on 64 bit operating systems transparently) in Debian (and therefore neither in Ubuntu) yet without a lot of manual fiddling and chroots, so we can’t run our 32 bit virus scanners on those 64 bit boxes with a debianesk operating system yet.

Today we’ve upgraded the last of those three boxes to Fedora Core 5.

Wednesday·04·October·2006

Mailing lists made my day //at 13:58 //by abe

from the ROTFLBTC dept.

Today actually two mailing lists made my day:

First Theo de Raadt’s mail to the FreeBSD security mailing list:

Date:       Mon, 02 Oct 2006 14:00:11 -0600
From:       Theo de Raadt <deraadt@cvs.openbsd.org>
To:         freebsd-security@freebsd.org
Subject:    Re: FreeBSD Security Advisory FreeBSD-SA-06:22.openssh 
Message-ID: <200610022000.k92K0B5P009759@cvs.openbsd.org>

> The OpenSSH project believe that the race condition can lead to a Denial
> of Service or potentially remote code execution
                ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Bullshit.  Where did anyone say this?

Why don't you put people in charge who can READ CODE, and SEE THAT
THIS IS ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT.

and Colin Percival’s dry reply pointing out who made the “ABSOLUTE BULLSHIT”:

Date:       Mon, 02 Oct 2006 14:25:05 -0700
From:       Colin Percival <cperciva@freebsd.org>
To:         Theo de Raadt <deraadt@cvs.openbsd.org>
Cc:         freebsd-security@freebsd.org
Subject:    Re: FreeBSD Security Advisory FreeBSD-SA-06:22.openssh
Message-ID: <452183B1.7000306@freebsd.org>

Theo de Raadt wrote:
>> The OpenSSH project believe that the race condition can lead to a Denial
>> of Service or potentially remote code execution
>                ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
> Bullshit.  Where did anyone say this?

The OpenSSH 4.4 release announcement says that, actually:

 * Fix an unsafe signal hander reported by Mark Dowd. The signal
   handler was vulnerable to a race condition that could be exploited
   to perform a pre-authentication denial of service. On portable
   OpenSSH, this vulnerability could theoretically lead to
            ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   pre-authentication remote code execution if GSSAPI authentication
   ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
   is enabled, but the likelihood of successful exploitation appears
   remote.

Colin Percival

Well, looks like an exquisite own goal. (Found by Squeeeez.)

Then, _rene_ cited a mail from the current Debian Project Leader Anthony Towns on debian-devel in #debian.de, who thought that »Switzerland was some foreign word meaning “snowy place”«:

Date:       Tue, 3 Oct 2006 15:52:38 +1000
Subject:    Re: Bits from the DPL: Looking forward
From:	    Anthony Towns <aj@azure.humbug.org.au>
Message-ID: <20061003055238.GA4841@azure.humbug.org.au>

On Tue, Oct 03, 2006 at 03:39:20PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> BSPs in Vienna (Switzerland) [3], 

I was assuming, of course, that "Switzerland" was some foreign word
meaning "snowy place", but apparently it's actually a country all of
its own, entirely separate to Austria...

On Tue, Oct 03, 2006 at 03:43:52PM +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> (b) Firmware vote
> proposal, as amended by Manon Srivastava (Message-id:

And while _Manon des sources_ might've been a neat French film, I don't
think it's actually got all that much to do with Manoj...

Cheers,
aj

And contrary to the usual biases, this geographic unawareness comes from Australia (which is unequal to Austria ;-) and not from the US. :-)

Guys, you all made my day. Kind regards from a currently not so snowy snowy place. :-)

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert

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This is the blog or weblog of Axel Stefan Beckert (aka abe or XTaran) who thought, he would never start blogging... (He also once thought, that there is no reason to switch to this new ugly Netscape thing because Mosaïc works fine. That was about 1996.) Well, times change...

He was born 1975 at Villingen-Schwenningen, made his Abitur at Schwäbisch Hall, studied Computer Science with minor Biology at University of Saarland at Saarbrücken (Germany) and now lives in Zürich (Switzerland), working at the Network Security Group (NSG) of the Central IT Services (Informatikdienste) at ETH Zurich.

Links to internal pages are orange, links to related pages are blue, links to external resources are green and links to Wikipedia articles, Internet Movie Database (IMDb) entries or similar resources are bordeaux. Times are CET respective CEST (which means GMT +0100 respective +0200).


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