December 2010 Archives

Madness on Rails

  • Posted on December 31, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Ruby on Rails is all the fashion. It is quick, fast, efficient, trendy, new, slick, cool and most of all extremely annoying. I am trying to upgrade an Apache+Phusion Passenger+Rails installation. Everything runs on Debian 5.0. The Apache and the Phusion Passenger is compiled from source (including the MySQL database). Ruby and Rails come from the Debian packages (with backports (and with Ruby special backports)). Everything’s a total mess.

  • You need a ton of Ruby Gems for everything to work.
  • You have a ton of versions for all the Gems. Of course you can install them in parallel.
  • Debian’s Ruby Gems won’t work.
  • You need a Ruby Gem Manager from backports or wherever from.
  • You get NULL pointer given error messages – this is exactly why I want to use a high-level language. By the way, this error message hits right in the middle of a Redmine database schema upgrade, and the upgrade script just remarks that some updates won’t get executed. Hello? Database consistency, anyone?
  • You can’t figure out easily why something fails, what requirements it has and which combination of version you need to get it working.
  • You get lots of 500 and 404 HTTP status codes.
  • Something got updated, lost MySQL support, so MySQL support now is a Gem which can’t find the includes and libs in /usr/local/ – and there’s no help in discovering the options to direct the RubyGems manager.
  • You can choose between Ruby 1.8 and 1.9. Debian won’t probably switch to 1.9 because of stability issues. Yes, and by the way, 1.8 and 1.9 share Gems with the same version which are completely different.
  • If you finally discover the Ruby Gem backports and update your Gems, your Ruby Gem Manager will get updated and all Gems will be lost and have to be installed again.
  • RubyGems 1.4.0 proudly tells you that rubygems is switching to a 4-6 week release schedule, so that things break more often.
  • RubyGems take ages to run and to do anything (while maxing out one CPU core and leaving the others with 0% load).
  • The Phusion Passenger install script for the Apache module has multi-coloured output, but you cannot do much if something isn’t found.

The list is probably endless. I know why I use PHP instead. PHP is crap, but at least it’s honest about it and you can get it to run eventually. Hell, even web apps in C/C++ or Java are easier to maintain.

Acer Lumiread E-Book-Reader

  • Posted on December 30, 2010 at 2:04 pm

Die letzte Weihnachtspost ist gestern endlich aus dem vereisten Deutschland angekommen. Ich habe mir den Acer Lumiread E-Book-Reader bestellt, den mir der hiesige österreichische Buchhandel übrigens nicht verkaufen wollte (ja, wieso sollte man auch Kunden etwas verkaufen wollen, bringt ja doch nur Geld ein). Bisher bin ich sehr begeistert von dem Gerät. Das Display hat elektronische Tinte, an deren Darstellungsschärfe man sich schneiden kann. Ja, man benötigt daher Licht zum Lesen, aber das war schon immer so. Von Haus aus kommt der Reader mit 1 GB Speicher mit, was für meine Zwecke im Moment völlig ausreicht. Man kann eine Micro-SD Karte nachrüsten, wenn es nicht mehr genug ist. Im Gegensatz zu Apples NaziPad läßt sich der Lumiread als USB-Speicher ansprechen und per beliebigem Dateimanager laden und entladen. Man darf das Gerät daher auch mit GNU/Linux betreiben (der Lumiread wird übrigens auch mit GNU/Linux betrieben).

Das Gerät ist WLAN-fähig. WEP, WPA und WPA2 funktionieren tadellos. WPA Enterprise wird auf den ersten Blick nicht unterstützt. Man kann damit im Internet e-Books einkaufen oder auch nur selbst nach Inhalten schauen. Mit an Bord ist ein Opera Browser, der alles darstellt, was man so üblicherweise im Web findet. Es gibt sogar eine intelligent download Funktion, mit der man Webseiten und Dokumente für späteres Lesen abspeichern kann. Das halte ich für sehr sinnvoll. Unterstützt werden übrigens die Dateiformate (nach Endung) ePub, PDF, MOBI, CHM, HTML, TXT, DOC, DOCX, RTF, JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, MP3, AAC und WMA. Man kann also auch Audiodateien anhören (dafür gibt es einen Kopfhörerstecker).

Die typischen DIN A4 formatierten PDF Dateien lassen sich nicht gut lesen, weil die Zoomstufen nicht immer die ganze Seite erfassen. Das ist übrigens genau der Grund, warum ich gerne einen A4 Reader hätte, den aber niemand baut. Wäre ja auch zu praktisch. Formate mit Fließtext sind besser geeignet. Ansonsten bin ich sehr zufrieden mit dem Reader.

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We Come in Peace – streaming now!

  • Posted on December 27, 2010 at 11:45 am

Für die nächsten 4 Tage werden wir im Büro neben der Arbeit mit den Videos vom 27C3 verbringen. Wir haben das Gast-WLAN aktiviert, und ein Beamer läuft (hoffentlich mit den Live Streams vom Congress). Das Programm sieht sehr vielversprechend aus. Wir sind schon gespannt wie gut das Streaming diesmal funktioniert. Letztes Jahr war es stabil genug für die meisten Vorträge.

Stream on!

True Silent Night

  • Posted on December 25, 2010 at 1:09 am

I logged off early yesterday and will do so in a moment. I just had to write one more e-mail and read another one. That’s why I got stuck in the blog editor. Finally I can appreciate the silence of the night. I’m a night person. I wear the cloak of the night as a shield, just because the noise of the day stops. And so this is a truly silent night today for next to anyone has stopped and went away. The only thing that’s missing is snow. That would be perfect. Maybe next year then.

Speaking of silence, I nearly finished the prototype of the XMPP (Jabber protocol) robot I am trying to code. Having software communicate via XMPP has its advantages. A side effect is to explore the C++ gloox library which is really a fantastic piece of code. Getting a client to work doesn’t take much time. You just have to extend your client class with the funtionality you need and you’re done. Another nice thing about gloox and XMPP is that SSL/TLS is already included (provided you use XMPP servers that are configured to use SSL/TLS). Coding will continue on Monday.

Now is the time to enjoy the silence.

Season Greetings? Forget it!

  • Posted on December 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm

The web is filled with season greetings. Christmas is all around. The New Year lurks under the snow and ice (for some at least). People send wishes around. Blogs are filled with more nonsense than ever. This has to stop. No more greetings for you! Get yourself a nice dinner, have some fun, drink a bit and please stop talking about it!

The New Year has already started, so you’re late with your «all the best for 2011» anyway. Personally I don’t celebrate Jesus’ birthday any more, so go to someone else with your presents. The snow here has already melted, so the Winter feeling is fading, too.

I’m off, hacking code.

Appell gegen die Kriminalisierung von Wikileaks unterzeichnet

  • Posted on December 17, 2010 at 1:59 am

Ich finde die Aktion war lange überfällig. Endlich melden sich diejenigen zu Wort, die eigentlich von den Informationen auf der Wikileaks Plattform profitieren. taz, die Frankfurter Rundschau, der Freitag, der Tagesspiegel, Perlentaucher.de, die Berliner Zeitung, netzpolitik.org und European Center For Constitutionel and Human Rights (ECCHR) unterstützen den Appell gegen die Kriminalisierung von Wikileaks. Telepolis hat sich auch angeschlossen. Die taz bietet auch die Möglichkeit an, als Einzelperson oder Organisation den Appell zu unterstützen (man kann dies auf der Webseite http://bewegung.taz.de/aktionen/4wikileaks/ tun).

Die USA führen sich auf wie eine Militärdiktatur. Das Land der Freiheit zeigt sein wahres Gesicht. Ähnliches gilt für die schwedische Justiz und Schweden als Staat, der ein enger Verbündeter der USA ist. Es geht dabei gar nicht um Julian Assange oder Wikileaks, es geht um einen Präzedenzfall, der entscheiden wird wie unsere Zukunft aussieht. Es ist jetzt unangebracht die Hände in die Taschen zu stecken und abzuwarten. Es gilt sich klar zu äußern und die Pressefreiheit als Maß für andere Freiheiten zu sehen Diejenigen, die ganz laut «Verrat!» und «nationale Sicherheit!» brüllen, haben am meisten zu verlieren.

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Google Cr-48 Laptop comes without Delete key!

  • Posted on December 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Googleplex – The new Google Cr-48 laptop ditches the most unnecessary keys of modern keyboards. It comes without caps-lock, function keys and delete key. Apparently the caps-lock key is of no use to the typical netizen anymore, because spelling is no longer taught in school. Most instant messages, e-mails and CVs can do fine without correct spelling. The function keys are too complicated for most Internet users who only need the „click here” and „fill out your credit card details” functions. The most surprising feature is the lack of the delete keys, however.

„You do not need to delete anything anymore. We just follow the spirit of GMail.”, a namelessdeveloper was quoted. Just like the suggestions provided on the Google search pages, the Cr-48 will quickly parse the data you enter, compare it with your Google’s online profile and automatically select the words you meant to type. This is less error-prone and quicker for the average user. Google will add support for sponsored typos at a later stage. New users can optionally upload their personal psychogram, CV and private data to initialise this feature.

Storing data locally won’t be possible, too. This feature was added by a couple of governments participating in the Google Spy Program. The main idea is to search through user’s files more easily and watch out for potential terrorists, critics, journalists or anyone acting suspiciously. A side effect is that local authorities don’t need to search your home anymore. Of course, you have no access to your data in case you cannot access the Internet, but modern citizens aren’t supposed to log off ever, so that they be tracked efficiently. Make sure you carry you Google account login with you, just as your passport.

The Google Cr-48 is definitely a device that will change your way of life – and enable others to record it.

Internet Freedom

  • Posted on December 8, 2010 at 11:50 am

The Twitter feed of Heather Brooke directed me to a speech given by U.S. of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, delivered at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

This is an important speech on an important subject. … In the last year, we’ve seen a spike in threats to the free flow of information. China, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the internet. In Vietnam, access to popular social networking sites has suddenly disappeared. And last Friday in Egypt, 30 bloggers and activists were detained. … So while it is clear that the spread of these technologies is transforming our world, it is still unclear how that transformation will affect the human rights and welfare of much of the world’s population.

On their own, new technologies do not take sides in the struggle for freedom and progress. But the United States does. We stand for a single internet where all of humanity has equal access to knowledge and ideas. And we recognize that the world’s information infrastructure will become what we and others make of it. This challenge may be new, but our responsibility to help ensure the free exchange of ideas goes back to the birth of our republic. The words of the First Amendment to the Constitution are carved in 50 tons of Tennessee marble on the front of this building. And every generation of Americans has worked to protect the values etched in that stone.
Franklin Roosevelt built on these ideas when he delivered his Four Freedoms speech in 1941. At the time, Americans faced a cavalcade of crises and a crisis of confidence. But the vision of a world in which all people enjoyed freedom of expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear transcended the trouble of his day.

I couldn’t agree more. However the USA are the very same country that also thinks about persecuting journalists. Journalism may be turned into espionage and punished severely. The question arises which challenges Mrs Clinton meant when delivering her speech. Was she speaking about the tyranny of a military regime or a state not being the USA? Other journalists jump to the rescue and try to distinguish between an unstructured collection of information, calling it a database, and carefully verified and polished information, calling it a book. I don’t think that discussing semantics will be very helpful here. Wikileaks or Cryptome simply have no editors that streamline information and turn databases into books. This is the design of these collections. There is no book. You have to write it yourself which is precisely the problem. Most journalists do not research anymore. They shun to dig for really important, critical or dangerous information. Copying newsfeeds and changing a few words is not journalism. If a journalist can be replaced by a very small shell script, then one should not expect to find new insights or perspectives. It depends on how you use the information and if you ask serious questions. People have forgotten to doubt what they read. This is why we need every wake-up call we can get.

Welcome to the Age of Information Warfare

  • Posted on December 3, 2010 at 12:06 pm

I have not commented the Cablegate publication by Wikileaks so far. The reason is simply that the revelations published are of much lower impact than politics wants it to be. Most of the information about the US-American understanding of the world comes with no surprise. The cables are merely a confirmation of suspicions and assumptions which were available before. However the discussion enters a new stage. Publishing information should now be punished by death. Web infrastructure publishing inconvenient information will now be DDoSed, taken offline by cloud computing vendors and evicted from the DNS. We’ve taken the Internet one step further. A quote by a fictional UN commissioner comes to my mind:

As the Americans learned so painfully in Earth’s final century, free flow of information is the only safeguard against tyranny.  The once-chained people whose leaders at last loose their grip on information flow will soon burst with freedom and vitality, but the free nation gradually constricting its grip on public discourse has begun its rapid slide into despotism. Beware of he who would deny you access to information, for in his heart he dreams himself your master. — Commissioner Pravin Lal, “Librarian’s Preface”

While Commissioner Pravin Lal has never existed, his words carry more meaning than ever before. The US government attacks Wikileaks. Strangely they do not attack the media who is publishing along Wikileaks. The Afghanistan War Logs and the Iraq War Logs were published by journalists as well. The US Embassy Diplomatic Cables are also commented and published by journalists. And yet no one calls for the execution of journalists, no one takes the web sites of The Guardian, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The New York Times and others down. Yet. As I said we’ve entered a new stage of information warfare. You don’t need to use tanks if you can control the flow of information. The USA will probably ask China for help against dissidents soon.

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