Wednesday, March 11, 2020

This is the year not to fly

If you have to choose one year when you won't fly, this year, 2020, is the one to choose. Why? Because CORSIA.

What the heck is CORSIA?

CORSIA is not a novel virus, but "Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation". In a nutshell, the aviation industry says they will freeze their co2 emissions from growing. Actually, aviation emissions are still going to grow. The airlines will just pay someone else to reduce emissions with the same amount aviation emissions rise - the "Offsetting" word in CORSIA. If that sounds like greenwashing, well it pretty much is. But that was expected. Getting every country and airline abroad CORSIA would not have been possible if the scheme would actually bite. So it's pretty much a joke.

What does it have to do with *this* Year?

The first phase of CORSIA will start next year, so the emissions are frozen to year 2020 levels. Due to certain recent events, lots of flights have already been cancelled - which means the reference year aviation emissions are already a lot less than the aviation industry was expecting. By avoiding flying this year, the aviation emissions are going to be frozen at an even lower level. This will increase cost of co2 offsetting for airlines, and the joke is going to be on them.

So consider skipping business travel and taking your holiday trip this year with something else than a plane. Wouldn't recommend a cruise ship, tho...

Saturday, March 23, 2019

On the #uploadfilter problem

The copyright holders in europe are pushing hard mandate upload filters for internet. We have been here before - when they outlawed circumventing DRM. Both have roots in the same problem. The copyright holders look at computers and see bad things happening to their revenue. They come to IT companies and say "FIX IT". It industry comes back and says.. "We cant.. making data impossible to copy is like trying to make water not wet!". But we fail at convincing copyright holders in how perfect DRM or upload filter is not possible. Then copyright holders go to law makers and ask them in turn to fix it.

We need to turn tables around. If they want something impossible, it should be upto them to implement it.

It is simply unfair to require each online provider to implement an AI to detect copyright infringement, manage a database of copyrighted content and pay for the costs running it all.. ..And getting slapped with a lawsuit anyways, since copyrighted content is still slipping through.

The burden of implementing #uploadfilter should be on the copyright holder organizations. Implement as a SaaS. Youtube other web platforms call your API and pay $0.01 each time a pirate content is detected. On the other side, to ensure correctness of the filter, copyright holders have to pay any lost revenue, court costs and so on for each false positive.

Filtering uploads is still problematic. But it's now the copyright holders problem. Instead people blaming web companies for poor filters, it's the copyright holders now who have to answer to the public why their filters are rejecting content that doesn't belong to them.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Linus Torvalds is wrong - PC no longer defines a platform

Hey, I can do these clickbait headlines too! Recently it has gotten media's attention that Linus is dismissive of ARM servers. The argument is roughly "Developers use X86 PCs, cross-platform development is painful, and therefor devs will use X86 servers, unless they get ARM PCs to play with".

This ignores the reality where majority of developers do cross-platform development every day. They develop on Mac and Windows PC's and deploy on Linux servers or mobile phones. The two biggest Linux success stories, cloud and Android, are built on cross-platform development. Yes, cross-platform development sucks. But it's just one of the many things that sucks in software development.

More importantly, the ship of "local dev enviroment" has long since sailed. Using Linus's other great innovation, git, developers push their code to a Microsoft server, which triggers a Rube Goldberg machine of software build, container assembly, unit tests, deployment to test environment and so on - all in cloud servers.

Yes, the ability to easily by a cheap whitebox PC from CompUSA was the important factor in making X86 dominate server space. But people get cheap servers from cloud now, and even that is getting out of fashion. Services like AWS lambda abstract the whole server away, and the instruction set becomes irrelevant. Which CPU and architecture will be used to run these "serverless" services is not going to depend on developers having Arm Linux Desktop PC's.

Of course there are still plenty of people like me who use Linux Desktop and run things locally. But in the big picture things are just going one way. The way where it gets easier to test things in your git-based CI loop rather than in local development setup.

But like Linus, I still do want to see an powerful PC-like Arm NUC or Laptop. One that could run mainline Linux kernel and offer a PC-like desktop experience. Not because ARM depends on it to succeed in server space (what it needs is out of scope for this blogpost) - but because PC's are useful in their own.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Making sense of /proc/cpuinfo on ARM

Ever stared at output of /proc/cpuinfo and wondered what the CPU is?
processor       : 7
BogoMIPS        : 2.40
Features        : fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32 cpuid
CPU implementer : 0x41
CPU architecture: 8
CPU variant     : 0x0
CPU part        : 0xd03
CPU revision    : 3
Or maybe like:
$ cat /proc/cpuinfo
processor       : 0
model name      : ARMv7 Processor rev 2 (v7l)
BogoMIPS        : 50.00
Features        : half thumb fastmult vfp edsp thumbee vfpv3 tls idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae
CPU implementer : 0x56
CPU architecture: 7
CPU variant     : 0x2
CPU part        : 0x584
CPU revision    : 2
The bits "CPU implementer" and "CPU part" could be mapped to human understandable strings. But the Kernel developers are heavily against the idea. Therefor, to the next idea: Parse in userspace. Turns out, there is a common tool almost everyone has installed does similar stuff. lscpu(1) from util-linux. So I proposed a patch to do ID mapping on arm/arm64 to util-linux, and it was accepted! So using lscpu from util-linux 2.32 (hopefully to be released soon) the above two systems look like:
Architecture:        aarch64
Byte Order:          Little Endian
CPU(s):              8
On-line CPU(s) list: 0-7
Thread(s) per core:  1
Core(s) per socket:  4
Socket(s):           2
NUMA node(s):        1
Vendor ID:           ARM
Model:               3
Model name:          Cortex-A53
Stepping:            r0p3
CPU max MHz:         1200.0000
CPU min MHz:         208.0000
BogoMIPS:            2.40
L1d cache:           unknown size
L1i cache:           unknown size
L2 cache:            unknown size
NUMA node0 CPU(s):   0-7
Flags:               fp asimd evtstrm aes pmull sha1 sha2 crc32 cpuid
$ lscpu
Architecture:        armv7l
Byte Order:          Little Endian
CPU(s):              4
On-line CPU(s) list: 0-3
Thread(s) per core:  1
Core(s) per socket:  4
Socket(s):           1
Vendor ID:           Marvell
Model:               2
Model name:          PJ4B-MP
Stepping:            0x2
CPU max MHz:         1333.0000
CPU min MHz:         666.5000
BogoMIPS:            50.00
Flags:               half thumb fastmult vfp edsp thumbee vfpv3 tls idiva idivt vfpd32 lpae
As we can see, lscpu is quite versatile and can show more information than just what is available in cpuinfo.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Cross-compiling with debian stretch

Debian stretch comes with cross-compiler packages for selected architectures:
 $ apt-cache search cross-build-essential
crossbuild-essential-arm64 - Informational list of cross-build-essential packages for
crossbuild-essential-armel - ...
crossbuild-essential-armhf - ...
crossbuild-essential-mipsel - ...
crossbuild-essential-powerpc - ...
crossbuild-essential-ppc64el - ...
Lets have a quick exact steps guide. But first - while you can use do all this in your desktop PC rootfs, it is more wise to contain yourself. Fortunately, Debian comes with a container tool out of box:
sudo debootstrap stretch /var/lib/container/stretch
echo "strech_cross" | sudo tee /var/lib/container/stretch/etc/debian_chroot
sudo systemd-nspawn -D /var/lib/container/stretch
Then we set up cross-building enviroment for arm64 inside the container:
# Tell dpkg we can install arm64
dpkg --add-architecture arm64
# Add src line to make "apt-get source" work
echo "deb-src stretch main" >> /etc/apt/sources.list
apt-get update
# Install cross-compiler and other essential build tools
apt install --no-install-recommends build-essential crossbuild-essential-arm64
Now we have a nice build enviroment, lets choose something more complicated than the usual kernel/BusyBox to cross-build, qemu:
# Get qemu sources from debian
apt-get source qemu
cd qemu-*
# New in stretch: build-dep works in unpacked source tree 
apt-get build-dep -a arm64 .
# Cross-build Qemu for arm64
dpkg-buildpackage -aarm64 -j6 -b
Now that works perfectly for Qemu. For other packages, challenges may appear. For example you may have to se "nocheck" flag to skip build-time unit tests. Or some of the build-dependencies may not be multiarch-enabled. So work continues :)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Deploying OBS

Open Build Service from SuSE is web service building deb/rpm packages. It has recently been added to Debian, so finally there is relatively easy way to set up PPA style repositories in Debian. Relative as in "there is a learning curve, but nowhere near the complexity of replicating Debian's internal infrastructure". OBS will give you both repositories and build infrastructure with a clickety web UI and command line client (osc) to manage. See Hectors blog for quickstart instructions.

Things to learned while setting up OBS

Me coming from Debian background, and OBS coming from SuSE/RPM world, there are some quirks that can take by surprise.

Well done packaging

Usually web services are a tough fit for Distros. The cascade of weird dependencies and build systems where the only practical way to build an "open source" web service is by replicating the upstream CI scripts. Not in case of OBS. Being done by distro people shows.

OBS does automatic rebuilds of reverse dependencies

Aka automatic binNMUs when you update a library. This however means you need lots of build power around. OBS has it's own dependency resolver on the server that recalculate what packages need rebuilding when - workers just get a list of packages to install for build-depends. This a major divergence from Debian, where sbuild handles dependencies client side. The OBS dependency handler doesn't handle virtual packages* / alternative build-deps like Debian - you may have to add a specific "Prefer: foo-dev" into the OBS project config to solve alternative choices.

OBS server and worker do http requests in both directions

On startup workers connect to OBS server, open a TCP port and wait requests coming OBS. Having connections both directions is a bit of hassle firewall-wise. On the bright side, no need to setup uploads via FTP here..

Signing repositories is complicated

With Debian 9.0 making signed repositories pretty much mandatory, OBS makes signing rather complicated. obs-signd isn't included in Debian, since it depends on gnupg patch that hasn't been upstreamed. Fortunately I found a workaround. OBS signs release files with /usr/bin/sign -d /path/to/release. Where replacing the obs-signd provided sign command your own script is easy ;)

Git integration is rather bolted-on than integrated

OBS provides a method to integrate with git using services. - There is no clickety UI to link to git repo, instead you make an xml file called _service with osc. There is no way to have debian/ tree in git.

The upstream community is friendly

Including the happiest thanks from an upstream I've seen recently.


All in all rather satisfied with OBS. If you have a home-grown jenkins etc based solution for building DEB/RPM packages, you should definitely consider OBS. For simpler uses, no need to install OBS yourself, openSUSE public OBS will happily build Debian packages for you.

*How useful are virtual packages anymore? "foo-defaults" packages seem to be the go-to solution for most real usecases anyways.

Monday, January 9, 2017

20 years of being a debian maintainer

fte (0.44-1) unstable; urgency=low

  * initial Release.

 -- Riku Voipio   Wed, 25 Dec 1996 20:41:34 +0200
Welp I seem to have spent holidays of 1996 doing my first Debian package. The process of getting a package into Debian was quite straightforward then. "I have packaged fte, here is my pgp, can I has an account to upload stuff to Debian?" I think the bureaucracy took until second week of January until I could actually upload the created package.
uid                  Riku Voipio 
sig          89A7BF01 1996-12-15  Riku Voipio 
sig          4CBA92D1 1997-02-24  Lars Wirzenius 
A few months after joining, someone figured out that to pgp signatures to be useful, keys need to be cross-signed. Hence young me taking a long bus trip from countryside Finland to the capital Helsinki to meet the only other DD in Finland in a cafe. It would still take another two years until I met more Debian people, and it could be proven that I'm not just an alter ego of Lars ;) Much later an alternative process of phone-calling prospective DD's would be added.