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FOSDEM preparations… done.

20.01.2014 by tg@
Tags: debian event fun grml mksh twitxr work

I’ve produced several pin-on buttons to take with me to FOSDEM for giving away (as long as there are any left):

Several pin-on buttons I made

First row (nice projects), from left to right: MidnightBSD; Glenda, the Plan 9 bunny; Teckids e.V.

Second row (The MirOS Project): mksh; the Shilouette Dæmon; the “Triforce” (Live+Install CDs for i386 and sparc, with MirGrml); “the m” (alternative logo, vector)

Third row (things originating from tarent): Freedroidz (now a Teckids project); OSIAM (Identity and Access Management); tarent (tarent AG, tarent GmbH), who sponsored production of these buttons

Hm… jupp needs a button’able logo!

FOSDEM meetup


02.12.2013 by tg@
Tags: debian

I’ve did something I surely will (financially) regret, next year, and designated the Neo900 to be the successor to my PocketPC, due to the latter having only 64 MiB RAM and Geocaching applications being quite hungry. It’s got a lovely hardware keyboard, a “pen” display like the PocketPC (as opposed to the “wishy-washy” displays that Android and iPhone have), not only GPS but also GLONASS, fully free software with mostly free firmware (I’m okay with that, mostly), a Ctrl key (useful in ssh and locally and my text editor; ^I is Tab, so it’s useful in shell, too), WLAN, UMTS (I don’t think I need LTE and would rather it have the more RAM), USB host (OTG), and lots of other nice features.

In short, it’s a tinkerable device: one I can not only hack at, but also hack on.

Since I use a “dumbphone” for mobile phone anyway (pro: separate battery from the “toy” PocketPC/Smartphone – we’re talking two+ weeks of battery time when using it here, and easier use and less bugs, and a reliable fallback when I tinker “too much”), this is perfect for me.

I’m reposting this in the wlog mostly because it’s an interesting technical and OSS project, and because if 1000 people want one it will get less expensive for all of us (while here… shameless plug… any sponsors willing to contribute some EUR so I don’t ruin myself with this, in exchange for services of some kind?). I’ll probably run Debian on it (unless it goes systemd), maybe in a chroot – if the native OS has functionality needed that I can’t simply put into packages; they say Maemo has much better power management, but considering most use will have GPS, GLONASS and backlight on, battery isn’t going to last long anyway… – or maybe even native… I’ve been wanting to know what this “freesmartphone” stuff my m68k (Atari VM) buildd has been happily compiling, anyway… and some sort of Geocaching application (ideally a cross between something online, CacheWolf and an offline OSM (with most of Europe, but uninteresting tags stripped) and possibly access to the GS Live API but nevertheless supporting TC, NC, OC, gpsgames too), and my usual mksh(1), GNU screen, jupp(1), lynx(1), ssh(1) toolchain.)

Delivery is expected for mid to end of 2014, but once it’s there I’ll keep you informed ☺

On that matter… I’ve got my PocketPC (currently in production use) and another WinCE device and wonder about tinkering with them, too. It appears to be a rather open platform (compared to Android, anyway) but most official documentation is tied to Windows® host systems, and most utilities have been taken offline after the abomination called Windows Phone has taken over. Hm I’ve got PocketPython and some sort of cross GCC but nothing to tinker with the core OS / ROM image…

FrOSCon is approaching, and all MirBSD developers will attend… but why’s there no MirBSD exhibit? The answer to that is a bit complex. First let’s state that of course we will participate in the event as well as the Open Source world. We’ll also be geocaching around the campus with other interested (mostly OSS) people (including those we won for this sport) and helping out other OSS projects we’ve become attached to.

MirOS BSD, the operating system, is a niche system. The conference on the other hand got “younger” and more mainstream. This means that almost all conference visitors do not belong to the target group of MirOS BSD which somewhat is an “ancient solution”: the most classical BSD around (NetBSD® loses because they have rc.d and PAM and lack sendmail(8), sorry guys, your attempt at being not reformable doesn’t count) and running on restricted hardware (such as my 486SLC with 12 MiB RAM) and exots (SPARCstation). It’s viable even as developer workstation (if your hardware is supported… otherwise just virtualise it) but its strength lies with SPARC support and “embedded x86”. And being run as virtual machine: we’re reportedly more stable and more performant than OpenBSD. MirBSD is not cut off from modern development and occasionally takes a questionable but justified choice (such as using 16-bit Unicode internally) or a weird-looking but beneficial one (such as OPTU encoding saving us locale(1) hassles) or even acts as technological pioneer (64-bit time_t on ILP32 platforms) or, at least, is faster than OpenBSD (newer GNU toolchain, things like that), but usually more conservatively, and yes, this is by design, not by lack of manpower, most of the time.

The MirPorts Framework, while technically superiour in enough places, is something that just cannot happen without manpower. I (tg@) am still using it exclusively, continuing to update ports I use and occasionally creating new ones (mupdf is in the works!), but it’s not something I’d recommend someone (other than an Mac OSX user) to use on a nōn-MirBSD system (Interix is not exactly thriving either, and the Interix support was only begun; other OSes are not widely tested).

The MirBSD Korn Shell is probably the one thing I will be remembered for. But I have absolutely no idea how one would present it on a booth at such an exhibition. A talk is much more likely. So no on that front too.

jupp, the editor which sucks less, is probably something that does deserve mainstream interest (especially considering Natureshadow is using it while teaching computing to kids) but probably more in a workshop setting. And booth space is precious enough in the FH so I think that’d be unfair.

All the other subprojects and side projects Benny and I have, such as mirₘᵢₙcⒺ, josef stalin, FreeWRT, Lunix Ewe, Shellsnippets, the fonts, etc. are interesting but share few, if any, common ground. Again, this does not match the vast majority of visitors. While we probably should push a number of these more, but a booth isn’t “it” here, either.

MirOS Linux (“MirLinux”) and MirOS Windows are, despite otherwise-saying rumours called W*k*p*d*a, only premature ideas that will not really be worked on (though MirLinux concepts are found in mirₘᵢₙcⒺ and stalin).

As you can see, despite all developers having full-time dayjobs, The MirOS Project is far from being obsolete. We hope that our website visitors understand our reasons to not have an exhibition booth of our own (even if the SPARCstation makes for a way cool one, it’s too heavy to lift all the time), and would like to point out that there are several other booths (commercial ones, as well as OSS ones such as AllBSD, Debian and (talking to) others) and other itineries we participate in. This year both Benny and I have been roped into helping out the conference itself, too (not exactly unvoluntarily though).

The best way to talk to us is IRC during regular European “geek” hours (i.e. until way too late into the night – which Americans should benefit from), semi-synchronously, or mailing lists. We sort of expect you to not be afraid to RTFM and look up acronyms you don’t understand; The MirOS Project is not unfriendly but definitely not suited for your proverbial Aunt Tilly, newbies, “desktop” users, and people who aren’t at least somewhat capable of using written English (this is by design).


18.07.2013 by tg@

Michael Langguth and Scalaris AG asked me to publish the mksh/Win32 Beta 14 source and binary archive, and it is with joy I’m doing this.

Checksums and Hashes

  • RMD160 (ports/ = 0dc8ef6e95592bd132f701ca77c4e0a3afe46f24
  • TIGER (ports/ = 966e548f9e9c1d5b137ae3ec48e60db4a57c9a0ed15720fb
  • 1181543005 517402 /MirOS/dist/mir/mksh/ports/
  • MD5 (ports/ = b57367b0710bf76a972b493562e2b6b5

Just a few words on it (more in the README.1st file included): this is a port of The MirBSD Korn Shell R39 to the native WinAPI; it’s not quite got the full Unix feel (especially as it targets the Weihenstephan unxutils instead of a full Interix or Cygwin environment) but doesn’t need a full POSIX emulation layer either. It’s intended to replace MKS ksh and the MKS Toolkit. Source for the compatibility library is also included under The MirOS Licence; we aim at publishing it as OSI Certified Open Source Software like mksh itself. (There is a situation with dlmalloc/nedmalloc being resolved, and the icon is derived from the BSD dæmon which is a protected unregistered trademark, but we’re not Mozilla and allow distro packages to keep using it ☺) Rebasing it on a newer mksh(1) followed by (partial) integration into the main source code is a goal.

Have fun trying it out and hacking on it. It’s currently built with -DMKSH_NOPROSPECTOFWORK (so coprocesses and a few other minor things won’t work), but a SIGCHLD emulation is being worked on – but if you want to help out, I’m sure it’s welcome, just come on IRC or post on the mailing list, and I’ll forward things to Michael as needed. Reports on testing with other toolchain and OS versions are also welcome.


07.07.2013 by tg@
Tags: debian fun


Time for more neighbours’ cat posts, apparently. It’s warm, so the cat’s sleeping outside. Not disturbed by much.

Me envious. Too warm to go to the ice salon (bike’s in repair, car’s hot enough to boil eggs on it, public transport not better).

Waypoint Statistics

08.06.2013 by tg@

mirabilos’ found waypoints

I’ve finally gotten around to listing all Waypoints (Geocaches, Opencaches, Closedcaches, Earthcaches, Terracaches including Locationless, Navicaches, etc.) I’ve found a box, enjoyful, educating, a good place to hide one myself, etc. and putting up a list and, of course, generate my own statpic.

I’ll put them up for the other project members, too (already made a picture for gecko2@ but bsiegert@ still needs one; we also need to collect offline lists of found, owned and attended waypoints)…

A bit of background story: I decided, years ago, to have an offline list of cache finds in case something would happen. Just, I had found way too many already, so this was a huge bit of work. Oh well… I of course procrastinated, and then something did happen (Opencaching wanting to force a Restricted Commons licence; me disagreeing and suggesting a change; some trigger-happy person immediately deleting my account without waiting for the discussion or the decision period to end; weeks of forum discussions; Opencaching allowing dual-licencing; them telling me they can’t restore my data – probably never heard of databa…sorry, MySQL backups). And I still didn’t have the list. Now I do; recreated even the OC information from what was still accessible and with help from one OC supporter (“mic@”, thanks); merged caches that are co-listed on several platforms, etc. (still need to put in the FTF/STF/TTF/4TF/LTF and voting/favourites information) and a statpic, all in Open Source and Open Data, in cvs(1) with mksh(1) and… a… frontend for libgd2 I admit, but we had been using that for the MirWebsite for a while already.

I suggest every geocacher keep an offline or local record of all their finds (and hides and attended logs) for things like this, in case some platform decides to… let’s say, “put your data into the cloud… where it is? I don’t know”.


20.05.2013 by tg@
Tags: archaeology debian

Apparently (hi Zhenech, found on Plänet Debian), a Man does not only need to fork a child, plant a tree, etc. in their life but also write a DynDNS service. Perfect for opening a new tag in the wlog called archæology ( – Some Assembly Required is also a nice example for these).

Once upon a time, I used SixXS’ heartbeat protocol client for updating the Legacy IP (known as “IPv4” earlier) endpoint address of my tunnel at home (My ISP offers static v4 for some payment now, luckily). Their client sucked, so I wrote on in ksh, naturally.

And because mksh(1) is such nice a language to program in (although, I only really begun becoming proficient in Korn Shell in 2005-2006 or so, thus please take those scripts with a grain of salt, I’d do them much differently nowadays) I also wrote a heartbeat server implementation. In Shell.

The heartbeat server supports different backends (per client), and to date I’ve run backends providing DynDNS (automatically disabling the RR if the client goes offline), an IP (IPv6) tunnel of my own (basically the same setup SixXS has, without knowing theirs), rdate(8) based time offset monitoring for ntpd(8), and an eMail forwarding service (as one must not run an MTA on dynamic IP) with it; some of these even in parallel.

Not all of it is documented, but I’ve written up most things in CVS. There also were some issues (mostly to do with killing sleep(1)ing subprocesses not working right), so it occasionally hung, but very rarely. Running it under the supervise of DJB dæmontools was nice, as I was already using djbdns, since I do not understand the BIND zone file format and do not consider MySQL a database (and did not even like databases at all, back then). For DynDNS, the heartbeat server’s backend simply updated the zone file (by either adding or updating or deleting the line for the client) then running tinydns-data, then rsync’ing it to the djbdns server primary and secondaries, then running zonenotify so the BIND secondaries get a NOTIFY to update their zones (so I never had to bother much with the SOA values, only allow AXFR). That’s a really KISS setup ☺

Anyway. This is archæology. The scripts are there, feel free to use them, hack on them, take them as examples… even submit back patches if you want. I’ll even answer questions, to some degree, in IRC. But that’s it. I urge people to go use a decent ISP, even if the bandwidth is smaller. To paraphrase a coworker after he cancelled his cable based internet access (I think at Un*tym*dia) before the 2-week trial period was even over: rather have slow but reliable internet at Netc*logne than “that”. People, vote with your purse!

mksh R45 released

26.04.2013 by tg@

The MirBSD Korn Shell R45 has been released today, and R44 has been named the new stable/bugfix-only series. (That’s version 45.1, not 0.45, dear Homebrew/MacOSX packagers.)

Packagers rejoice: the -DMKSH_GCC55009 dance is no longer needed, and even the run-time check for integer division is gone. Why? Because I realised one cannot use signed integers in C, at all, and rewrote the mksh(1) arithmetics code to use unsigned integers only. Special thanks to the people from musl libc and, to some lesser amount, Natureshadow for providing me with ideas what algorithms to replace some functionality with (signed shell arithmetic is, of course, still usable, it is just emulated using unsigned C integers now).

The following entertainment…

	tg@blau:~ $ echo foo >/bar\ baz
	/bin/mksh: can't create /bar baz: Permission denied
	1|tg@blau:~ $ doch
	tg@blau:~ $ cat /bar\ baz

… was provided by Tonnerre Lombard; like Swedish, German has got a number of words that cannot be expressed in English so I feel not up to the task of explaining this to people who don’t know the German word “doch”, just rest assured it calls the last input line (be careful, this is literally a line, so don’t use backslash-newline sequences) using sudo(8).

Since a while…

I am a proud
EarthCache Master

On the other hand… I should probably put up my own, local, list of found caches, considering what happened to me on “Open”caching. And maybe write intros for people new to geocaching, since it’d be virtually no work now had I done it initially. (And for fanfiction readers! I wish I’d kept a list of read fics, not just of these I currently read and/or are currently unfinished.)

GNU autotools generated files

20.02.2013 by tg@
Tags: debian rant

On Planet Debian, Vincent Bernat wrote:

The drawback of this approach is that if you rebuild configure from the released tarball, you don’t have the git tree and the version will be a date. Just don’t do that.

Excuse me‽

This is totally inacceptable. Regenerating files like aclocal.m4 and (for automake), configure (for autoconf), and the likes is one of the absolute duties of a software package. Things will break sooner or later if people do not do that. Additionally, generated files must be remakable from the distfile, so do not break this!

May I suggest, constructively, an alternative? (People – rightfully, I must admit – complain I’m “just” ranting too much.)
When making a release from git, write the “git describe” output into a file. Then, use that file instead of trying to run the git executable if .git/. is not a directory (“test -d .git/.”). Do not call git, because, in packages, it’s either not installed or/and also undesired.

Couldn’t comment on your blog, but felt strongly enough about this I took the effort of writing a full post of my own.

(But thanks for the book recommendation.)

PSA: Referring to Unicode codepoints.

If your Unicode codepoint is, numerically, between 0 and 65533, inclusive, convert it to hexadecimal and zero-pad it to four nibbles. For example, the Euro sign € is Unicode codepoint #8364 which is 20AC hex; the Eszett ß is 223 which is DF hex, padded 00DF.
Then write an uppercase ‘U’, a plus sign ‘+’, and the four nibbles: U+20AC U+00DF
In mksh, JSON, etc. it’s a backslash ‘\’, a lower-case ‘u’ and four nibbles.

Otherwise, your Unicode codepoint will be, numerically, between 65536 and 1114111, inclusive, that is hex 10000 to 10FFFF. (There’s nothing on 65534 and 65535, nor above these figures.) In this case, convert it to hex, zero-pad it to eight nibbles and write it as an uppercase ‘U’, a hyphen-minus ‘-’ and the eight nibbles. In C-like escapes for environments supporting the Unicode SMP, that’s a backslash ‘\’, an upper-case ‘U’ and eight nibbles. Do not, in either case, use less (or more) hex digits than specified here. For example, there’s a famous Unicode codepoint U-0001F4A9 “PILE OF POO”. That’s not the same as U+1F4A9. The latter reads as U+1F4A “GREEK CAPITAL LETTER OMICRON WITH PSILI AND VARIA” and a digit 9 (Ὂ9). Be educated.

Since this wlog runs on MirBSD, which limits itself to the Unicode BMP voluntarily, and as nōn-BMP is not widespread anyway, I cannot reproduce the “PILE OF POO” here, but you can just duckduckgo it.

Let’s start a convention: bare-metal machines have the linguistic male gender („der Computer“, he needs to be rebooted), whereas VMs have the linguistic female gender („die virtuelle Maschine“, she runs better since the last upgrade of Linux-KVM), and neutral linguistic gender is used when you cannot or do not want or need to make such distinction.
This is, of course, entirely unrelated to human gender, but not unrelated to #debian-68k (on OFTC) discussions ;-)

ObRant: DO NOT USE xz COMPRESSION LEVELS ABOVE 6! (For -7 we can make exceptions, for example in Debian *-dbg or *-source packages.) You may use -e if you absolutely need the better compression, but please think of the poor sods who have to create the archives. You must not use the highest compression levels -8 or -9 since they have absolutely insane memory requirements on compression and will still hinder machines with less RAM on decompression. (Using -e only affects CPU usage at compression time; decompression is exactly as fast and memory-consuming as without.) Furthermore, DO NOT CHOOSE A COMPRESSION LEVEL WITH A DICTIONARY SIZE MUCH LARGER THAN THE DATA TO COMPRESS, as that makes absolutely no sense and will rather worsen than improve compression. As a reminder, xz uses the following dictionary sizes:

  • 256 KiB at -0 (compresses better than gzip(1) and faster than either gzip(1) or bzip2)
  • 1 MiB at -1
  • 2 MiB at -2 (compresses better than gzip(1) and bzip2 without losing much speed)
  • 4 MiB at -3 and -4 (the difference is in the match finder between these two levels)
  • 8 MiB at -5 and -6
  • 16 MiB at -7 (186 MiB RAM used to compress a file)
  • 32 MiB at -8 (370 MiB RAM used to compress a file)
  • 64 MiB at -9 (674 MiB RAM used to compress a file)

Decompression uses less than 1 MiB more than the dictionary size, but the dictionary must always be allocated wholly. (You’re fine to use custom presets, but mind the RAM usage!) As a general rule, if you have something of up to 20 MiB to compress, -4 is fine, and -5 will only be better if you have similar data spread across the whole of the file instead of close to each other. When I make mksh distfiles, I instead put files close to each other that have related content, which improves compression much more nicely without penalising low-memory systems; for example, you could put documentation, Makefiles, scripts, m4(1) files, and C source code into groups before archiving, instead of doing it alphabetically.

Another note on bzip2: its decompression is slow. I see no reason to use it any more, at all. Use gzip(1) if you care for compatibility or have an issue with xz not having a free copyright licence, and xz otherwise.

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