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Tuesday·16·January·2018

Tex Yoda II Mechanical Keyboard with Trackpoint //at 03:38 //by abe

from the I've-waited-years-for-this dept.

Here’s a short review of the Tex Yoda II Mechanical Keyboard with Trackpoint, a pointer to the next Swiss Mechanical Keyboard Meetup and why I ordered a $300 keyboard with less keys than a normal one.

Short Review of the Tex Yoda II

Pro
  • Trackpoint
  • Cherry MX Switches
  • Compact but heavy alumium case
  • Backlight (optional)
  • USB C connector and USB A to C cable with angled USB C plug
  • All three types of Thinkpad Trackpoint caps included
  • Configurable layout with nice web-based configurator (might be opensourced in the future)
  • Fn+Trackpoint = scrolling (not further configurable, though)
  • Case not clipped, but screwed
  • Backlight brightness and Trackpoint speed configurable via key bindings (usually Fn and some other key)
  • Default Fn keybindings as side printed and backlit labels
  • Nice packaging
Contra
  • It’s only a 60% Keyboard (I prefer TKL) and the two common top rows are merged into one, switched with the Fn key.
  • Cursor keys by default (and labeled) on the right side (mapped to Fn + WASD) — maybe good for games, but not for me.
  • ~ on Fn-Shift-Esc
  • Occassionally backlight flickering (low frequency)
  • Pulsed LED light effect (i.e. high frequency flickering) on all but the lowest brightness level
  • Trackpoint is very sensitive even in the slowest setting — use Fn+Q and Fn+E to adjust the trackpoint speed (“tps”)
  • No manual included or (obviously) downloadable.
  • Only the DIP switches 1-3 and 6 are documented, 4 and 5 are not. (Thanks gismo for the question about them!)
  • No more included USB hub like the Tex Yoda I had or the HHKB Lite 2 (USB 1.1 only) has.
My Modifications So Far
Layout Modifications Via The Web-Based Yoda 2 Configurator
  • Right Control and Menu key are Right and Left cursors keys
  • Fn+Enter and Fn+Shift are Up and Down cursor keys
  • Right Windows key is the Compose key (done in software via xmodmap)
  • Middle mouse button is of course a middle click (not Fn as with the default layout).
Other Modifications
  • Clear dampening o-rings (clear, 50A) under each key cap for a more silent typing experience
  • Braided USB cable

Next Swiss Mechanical Keyboard Meetup

On Sunday, the 18th of February 2018, the 4th Swiss Mechanical Keyboard Meetup will happen, this time at ETH Zurich, building CAB, room H52. I’ll be there with at least my Tex Yoda II and my vintage Cherry G80-2100.

Why I ordered a $300 keyboard

(JFTR: It was actually USD $299 plus shipping from the US to Europe and customs fee in Switzerland. Can’t exactly find out how much of shipping and customs fee were actually for that one keyboard, because I ordered several items at once. It’s complicated…)

I always was and still are a big fan of Trackpoints as common on IBM and Lenovo Thinkapds as well as a few other laptop manufactures.

For a while I just used Thinkpads as my private everyday computer, first a Thinkpad T61, later a Thinkpad X240. At some point I also wanted a keyboard with Trackpoint on my workstation at work. So I ordered a Lenovo Thinkpad USB Keyboard with Trackpoint. Then I decided that I want a permanent workstation at home again and ordered two more such keyboards: One for the workstation at home, one for my Debian GNU/kFreeBSD running ASUS EeeBox (not affected by Meltdown or Spectre, yay! :-) which I often took with me to staff Debian booths at events. There, a compact keyboard with a built-in pointing device was perfect.

Then I met the guys from the Swiss Mechanical Keyboard Meetup at their 3rd meetup (pictures) and knew: I need a mechanical keyboard with Trackpoint.

IBM built one Model M with Trackpoint, the M13, but they’re hard to get. For example, ClickyKeyboards sells them, but doesn’t publish the price tag. :-/ Additionally, back then there were only two mouse buttons usual and I really need the third mouse button for unix-style pasting.

Then there’s the Unicomp Endura Pro, the legit successor of the IBM Model M13, but it’s only available with an IMHO very ugly color combination: light grey key caps in a black case. And they want approximately 50% of the price as shipping costs (to Europe). Additionally it didn’t have some other nice keyboard features I started to love: Narrow bezels are nice and keyboards with backlight (like the Thinkpad X240 ff. has) have their advantages, too. So … no.

Soon I found, what I was looking for: The Tex Yoda, a nice, modern and quite compact mechanical keyboard with Trackpoint. Unfortunately it is sold out since quite some years ago and more then 5000 people on Massdrop were waiting for its reintroduction.

And then the unexpected happened: The Tex Yoda II has been announced. I knew, I had to get one. From then on the main question was when and where will it be available. To my surprise it was not on Massdrop but at a rather normal dealer, at MechanicalKeyboards.com.

At that time a friend heard me talking of mechanical keyboards and of being unsure about which keyboard switches I should order. He offered to lend me his KBTalking ONI TKL (Ten Key Less) keyboard with Cherry MX Brown switches for a while. Which was great, because from theory, MX Brown switches were likely the most fitting ones for me. He also gave me two other non-functional keyboards with other Cherry MX switch colors (variants) for comparision. As a another keyboard to compare I had my programmable Cherry G80-2100 from the early ’90s with vintage Cherry MX Black switches. Another keyboard to compare with is my Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) Lite 2 (PD-KB200B/U) which I got as a gift a few years ago. While the HHKB once was a status symbol amongst hackers and system administrators, the old models (like this one) only had membrane type keyboard switches. (They nevertheless still seem to get built, but only sold in Japan.)

I noticed that I was quickly able to type faster with the Cherry MX Brown switches and the TKL layout than with the classic Thinkpad layout and its rubber dome switches or with the HHKB. So two things became clear:

  • At least for now I want Cherry MX Brown switches.
  • I want a TKL (ten key less) layout, i.e. one without the number block but with the cursor block. As with the Lenovo Thinkpad USB Keyboards and the HHKB, I really like the cursor keys being in the easy to reach lower right corner. The number pad is just in the way to have that.

Unfortunately the Tex Yoda II was without that cursor block. But since it otherwise fitted perfectly into my wishlist (Trackpoint, Cherry MX Brown switches available, Backlight, narrow bezels, heavy weight), I had to buy one once available.

So in early December 2017, I ordered a Tex Yoda II White Backlit Mechanical Keyboard (Brown Cherry MX) at MechanicalKeyboards.com.

Because I was nevertheless keen on a TKL-sized keyboard I also ordered a Deck Francium Pro White LED Backlit PBT Mechanical Keyboard (Brown Cherry MX) which has an ugly font on the key caps, but was available for a reduced price at that time, and the controller got quite good reviews. And there was that very nice Tai-Hao 104 Key PBT Double Shot Keycap Set - Orange and Black, so the font issue was quickly solved with keycaps in my favourite colour: orange. :-)

The package arrived in early January. The aluminum case of the Tex Yoda II was even nicer than I thought. Unfortunately they’ve sent me a Deck Hassium full-size keyboard instead of the wanted TKL-sized Deck Francium. But the support of MechanicalKeyboards.com was very helpful and I assume I can get the keyboard exchanged at no cost.

Wednesday·03·May·2017

Upcoming Hacker/FLOSS Events in Switzerland: Debian BSP, LPD, Hackerfunk 10th Anniversary, ZeTeCo //at 14:30 //by abe

from the fly-swat-and-date-clash dept.

There are quite some events and dates ahead for hackers, makers, debianers and hackerfunk listeners:

Crowdfunding for ZeTeCo Camp in July Ends in Two Days!

You might have heard of the ZeTeCo Camp near Schaffhausen in July. If you want ot come or at least support that event, please contribute to their crowdfunding campaign.

They have more than 90% of their goal funded and there’s less only about two days left to reach their funding goal. If it doesn’t get funded in time, the event may be be on a knife edge.

Debian Bug Squashing Party in Zurich this Weekend

One week before the More-than-a-BSP at the Mozilla office in Paris there will also be a Debian Bug Squashing Party (BSP) in Zürich at the CCCZH Hackerspace “Röschtibach”. We’ll start on Friday, the 5th of May 2017 in the late afternoon, probably around 4pm or 5pm, and will end on Sunday, the 7th of May 2017 also in the late afternoon.

Please add yourself to the according section on the BSP’s wiki page if you want to join us to squash the hopefully not that many left over bugs in testing.

Unfortunately we didn’t notice two date clashes when we set the date for the BSP during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Debian.ch Association earlier this year:

Linux Presentation Day this Saturday, 6th of May 2017

On the one hand there will be the Swiss Edition of the Linux Presentation Day (LPD) on Saturday, the 6th of May 2017 including the LPD in Zürich. The latter will take place in the same building as the BSP, just on a different floor: The BSP will be at floor B3 in the CCCZH Hackerspace and the LPD will be on the ground floor at Revamp-IT in the former ZKB foyer.

10 Years Hackerfunk: Show on 6th, Party on 13th of May 2017

And on the other hand, Venty’s and my (German dialect) radio show and podcast Hackerfunk will have it’s 10th anniversary show also on that Saturday. So I’ll vanish from BSP for a few hours on Saturday evening for broadcasting this very special Hackerfunk episode on Radio Radius.

But since Venty and me didn’t want to make yet another big event at “Röschtibach” on the same weekend, we’ll do the Hackerfunk 10th Anniversary Party one weekend later on Saturday the 13th of May 2017 also at the CCCZH Hackerspace “Röschtibach”. A separate announcement on https://www.hackerfunk.ch/ (also in the RSS feed there) will follow.

Tuesday·28·March·2017

System Tray Icon to Monitor a Linux Software RAID Locally //at 04:09 //by abe

from the sitting-in-front-of-it dept.

About a year ago I bought a new workstation computer for myself at home. It’s a Tuxedo XUX_Cube which is advertised as gaming PC. But I ordered a slightly atypical non-gamer configuration:

  • As much RAM as possible (64 GB)
  • Intel i7 CPU, but the low power variant
  • Only with the onboard Intel graphics card. (No need for NVidia binary crap drivers.)
  • 2× Samsung 128 GB SSD for OS and $HOME plus 2× 3 TB WD Red disks for media storage; both pairs set up as RAID 1
  • Bitfenix Prodigy-M case in Orange. (Not available in Tuxedo Computer’s online shop, but they nevertheless ordered it for me. :-)

Of course the box runs Debian. To be more precise, it runs Debian Sid with sysvinit-core as init system and i3 as window manager. As I usually have no monitoring clients on my laptops and private workstations, I rather often felt the urge to do a cat /proc/mdstat on that box.

So at some point I wanted something like smart-notifier, but for Linux Software (MD) RAIDs. And since I found nothing, I did what Open Source guys usually do in such cases: I wrote it myself — of course in Perl — and called it systray-mdstat.

First I wondered about which build system would be most suitable for that task, but in the end I once again went with Dist::Zilla for the upstream build system and hence dh-dist-zilla for the Debian packaging.

Ideas for the actual implementation were taken from Wouter’s fdpowermon for the systray icon framework in Perl and Myon’s mdstat Xymon plugin for an already proven logic to parse /proc/mdstat. (Both, Wouter and Myon have stated in a GnuPG-signed e-mail that I copied less code than would validate their copyrights, so I was able to license it under a single license, namely GNU GPL version 3.)

As of now, systray-mdstat is also available as package in Debian Unstable. It won’t make it to Stretch as its first line of code has been written after the soft-freeze for Stretch was already in place.

Maintaining Debian Packages of Perl Modules with dh-dist-zilla //at 03:59 //by abe

from the where-Dist::Zilla-meets-debhelper dept.

Maintaining Debian packages of Perl modules usually can be done with the common git-buildpackage (aka gbp) workflow with its three git branches master (or debian), upstream and pristine-tar:

  • upstream contains the upstream code as imported from upstream’s release tar-balls.
  • pristine-tar contains the binary diffs between the contents of the upstream branch and the original tar-ball. This mostly contains meta-data (timestamps, permissions, file owners, etc.) as git doesn’t store them.
  • master (or debian) which contains upstream plus packaging.

This also works more or less fine for Perl modules, where the Debian package maintainer is also the upstream developer. In that case mostly the upstream branch is used (and then maybe called master while the Debian packaging branch is then called debian).

But the files needed for a proper so called “CPAN distribution” of a Perl module often contain redundant information (version numbers, required modules, etc.) which needs to be maintained. And for that, many people prefer Don’t Repeat Yourself (DRY) as a principle.

Dist::Zilla

One nice and common tool for that is Dist::Zilla or short dzil. It generates most redundant but required data out of a central source, e.g. Dist::Zilla’s dist.ini or the contained .pm files, etc. dzil build creates tar ball which contains all files necessary by CPAN.

But now we have a dilemma: Debian expects those generated files inside the upstream branch while the files are only generated from other files in that branch. There are multiple solutions, but all of them involve committing generated files to the git repository:

  • Commit them into the upstream branch. Disadvantage: You’ll likely later forget which files were generated and which weren’t.
  • Commit the generated files into a separated branch, e.g. use master (original code), upstream (original code + stuff generated by dzil build, maybe imported with git-import-orig), pristine-tar and a debian (based on upstream) branches.

librun-parts-perl aka Run::Parts (a Perl wrapper around and a pure-perl implementation of Debian’s run-parts tool) was initially maintained in the latter way.

But especially in cases where we just need a Perl module packaged as .deb without uploading it to CPAN (e.g. project-internal modules), this is a tedious workflow and overkill. It would be much nicer if debhelper would just call dzil to generate all the stuff it needs to build the package.

dh-dist-zilla

Well, you can do that now, at least with Debian Jessie. This is what dh-dist-zilla does: It is a debhelper sequence plugin which calls dzil build and dzil clean in the right moment and takes care that all dh_auto_* commands look in the directory with the generated files instead of the rather clean project root directory.

To use dh-dist-zilla, you just need to add a build-dependency on it and the Dist::Zilla plugins you use, and add --with dist-zilla to your minimal dh-style debian/rules file:

#!/usr/bin/make -f

%:
	dh $@ --with dist-zilla

That’s it.

With regards to workflow and git branches, you may still want to use separate branches for upstream work and debian work, and you may want to continue to use pristine-tar, but you don’t have to commit generated files to git anymore and you can maintain a clean master branch with nearly no redundancy.

And if you need to generate to final upstream tar ball for you debian package, just call dh get-orig-source or maybe easier to use with tab completion dh_dist_zilla_origtar.

This is how the librun-parts-perl package is maintained nowadays. There’s otherwise not much difference to the old, classically maintained versions.

More DRY

Next step in the DRY evolution is to reduce redundancies between upstream (Dist::Zilla based) packaging and the Debian packaging. There are a few tools available, partially brand new, partially not yet packaged:

I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more to come in this area.

P.S.: I actually started this blog posting in September 2014 and never finished it until now. Had to kick out some already outdated again stuff, but also could add some more recent things.

Friday·21·August·2015

German-written Debian Package Management Book //at 01:28 //by abe

from the we-are-live dept.

Thursday was our big day: After more than 2.5 years of working in the hidden, ups and downs, Frank Hofmann and myself were able to announce the availability of our book project Debian Package Management under a free license (Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 International License, short “CC BY-SA 4.0”) during a Lightning Talk at DebConf15 in Heidelberg.

This became possible because we found Onyx Neon, a publishing company which is specialised on books with contents under free licenses. Its founder does not only have a faible for Perl but also for Debian. (Since the question already came up: We also thought about self-publishing, e.g. via Lulu or Epubli — and it would have been our fallback solution —, but we prefer the professionalism and services of a real publisher. I’m though happy to share what I found out about self-publishing in the past few months.)

The source code of the book is written in the AsciiDoc format and available on GitHub.

The book is still work in progress. But if you want, you can already build an e-book out of the publically available source code:

sudo apt-get install asciidoc dblatex git
git clone git://github.com/dpmb/dpmb.git
cd dpmb
make

(Works fine on Debian 7 Wheezy, Debian 8 Jessie and Ubuntu 14.04 LTS Trusty. Does not work on Ubuntu 12.04 LTS Precise.)

If you find an error in the book, please file an issue on GitHub. If you also know how to fix the error, please for the Git repository on GitHub, fix the error in your Git repository and file a pull request. (The first pull request already happenend and has been applied.)

Initially there will be only a German written issue as e-book (at least in HTML, PDF and EPUB formats, maybe also KF8/MOBI and EPUB3) and at some point in the future also as printed book at Onyx Neon. But we’re also planning a translation to English as well as a Debian package.

If your want to get informed when we publish a printed book, a translation or an official e-book release, please subscribe to one of our mailing lists: There’s one in German and one in English.

Monday·09·March·2015

Do we need a zsh-static package in Debian? //at 11:17 //by abe

from the Debian-Zsh-Packaging dept.

Dear Planet Debian,

the Debian Zsh Packaging Team (consisting of Michael Prokop, Frank Terbeck, Richard Hartmann and myself) wonders if there’s still a reason to build and ship a zsh-static package in Debian.

There are multiple reasons:

  • None of us packagers really use it. (A weak reason, yes.)
  • Low popcon: “installed” peak at ca. 150, decreasing; “vote” peak at ca. 40, decreasing as well.
  • The statically compiled Zsh has some annoying restrictions (#354631 et al) for over 9 years now, which only can be fixed if some other packages change:

    To cite Clint Adams, long time Debian Zsh package maintainer: the problem is that user/group lookups are disabled in the -static build because glibc’s NSS ABI is unstable and static binaries still need to load NSS modules dynamically.

    One solution here would be to compile against dietlibc, but for that we’d need an ncurses library built against dietlibc (#471208), too.

So we ask you, the Planet Debian reader:

Do you need Debian’s zsh-static package?

If so, please send an e-mail to us Debian Zsh Maintainers <pkg-zsh-devel@lists.alioth.debian.org> and state that you use zsh-static, and, if you want, please also state why or how you’re using it.

Thanks in advance! Mika, Frank, RichiH and Axel

Tuesday·22·April·2014

GNU Screen 4.2.0 in Debian Experimental //at 20:22 //by abe

from the Finally dept.

About a month ago, on 20th of March, GNU Screen had its 27th anniversary.

A few days ago, Amadeusz Sławiński, GNU Screen’s new primary upstream maintainer, released the status quo of Screen development as version 4.2.0 (probably to distinguish it from all those 4.1.0 labeled development snapshots floating around in most Linux distributions nowadays).

I did something similar and uploaded the status quo of Debian’s screen package in git as 4.1.0~20120320gitdb59704-10 to Debian Sid shortly afterwards. That upload should hit Jessie soon, too, resolving the following two issues also in Testing:

  • #740301: proper systemd support – Thanks Josh Triplett for his help!
  • #735554: fix for multiuser usage – Thanks Martin von Wittich for spotting this issue!

That way I could decouple these packaging fixes/features from the new upstream release which I uploaded to Debian Experimental for now. Testers for the 4.2.0-1 package are very welcome!

Oh, and by the way, that upstream comment (or ArchLinux’s according announcement) about broken backwards compatibility with attaching to running sessions started with older Screen releases doesn’t affected Debian since that has been fixed in Debian already with the package which is in Wheezy. (Thanks again Julien Cristau for the patch back then!)

While there are bigger long-term plans at upstream, Amadeusz is already working on the next 4.x release (probably named 4.2.1) which will likely incorporate some of the patches floating around in the Linux distributions’ packages. At least SuSE and Debian offered their patches explicitly for upstream inclusion.

So far already two patches found in the Debian packages have been obsoleted by upstream git commits after the 4.2.0 release. Yay!

Updates (8th of May 2014): 4.2.0 in Testing, Upstream released 4.2.1

screen 4.2.0-2 migrated to testing now.

Upstream released 4.2.1 in the meanwhile with most Debian patches applied. Despite being a minor update, it was necessary to bump it’s internal message version, so vanilla 4.2.1 clients can’t connect to vanilla 4.2.0 servers. Accordingly it may take a moment until 4.2.1 hits Debian as I need to sort out some stuff before uploading that version.

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Hackergotchi of Axel Beckert

About...

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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