Planet ALUG

April 30, 2024

Mick Morgan

Ross Anderson

I have just discovered, shamefully late, that Ross Anderson died at his Cambridge home at the end of last month. He was only 67. Anderson was Professor of Security Engineering at the Cambridge University’s Department of Computer Science and Technology. He had worked at the University since the early 1990s.

Professor Anderson was famously rabidly anti spook, but more justifiably famous for his work in privacy and particularly in those aspects of computer security (or wider technology) which could impact on personal privacy.

I cannot pretend to have known Professor Anderson, but I had, and have, the greatest respect for his work. Anyone who can annoy certain parts of GCHQ as much as he did deserves commendation. Professor Anderson’s obituary can be found here. There are also good tributes by John Naughton and Bruce Schneier. There are plenty of others on-line should you care to search.

I am deeply sorry that I only found out about his passing from the latest “feisty duck” newsletter. My only excuse is that I don’t follow twitter, nor am I as active in following many of the security sources I used to read. One of the impacts of (long) retirement I fear.

RIP Professor.

by Mick at April 30, 2024 12:30 PM

April 25, 2024

Jonathan McDowell

Sorting out backup internet #3: failover

With local recursive DNS and a 5G modem in place the next thing was to work on some sort of automatic failover when the primary FTTP connection failed. My wife works from home too and I sometimes travel so I wanted to make sure things didn’t require me to be around to kick them into switch the link in use.

First, let’s talk about what I didn’t do. One choice to try and ensure as seamless a failover as possible would be to get a VM somewhere out there. I’d then run Wireguard tunnels over both the FTTP + 5G links to the VM, and run some sort of routing protocol (RIP, OSPF?) over the links. Set preferences such that the FTTP is preferred, NAT v4 to the VM IP, and choose somewhere that gave me a v6 range I could just use directly.

This has the advantage that I’m actively checking link quality to the outside work, rather than just to the next hop. It also means, if the failover detection is fast enough, that existing sessions stay up rather than needing re-established.

The downsides are increased complexity, adding another point of potential failure (the VM + provider), the impact on connection quality (even with a decent endpoint it’s an extra hop and latency), and finally the increased cost involved.

I can cope with having to reconnect my SSH sessions in the event of a failure, and I’d rather be sure I can make full use of the FTTP connection, so I didn’t go this route. I chose to rely on local link failure detection to provide the signal for failover, and a set of policy routing on top of that to make things a bit more seamless.

Local link failure turns out to be fairly easy. My FTTP is a PPPoE configuration, so in /etc/ppp/peers/aquiss I have:

lcp-echo-interval 1
lcp-echo-failure 5
lcp-echo-adaptive

Which gives me a failover of ~ 5s if the link goes down.

I’m operating the 5G modem in “bridge” rather than “router” mode, which means I get the actual IP from the 5G network via DHCP. The DHCP lease the modem hands out is under a minute, and in the event of a network failure it only hands out a 192.168.254.x IP to talk to its web interface. As the 5G modem is the last resort path I choose not to do anything special with this, but the information is at least there if I need it.

To allow both interfaces to be up and the FTTP to be preferred I’m simply using route metrics. For the PPP configuration that’s:

defaultroute-metric 100

and for the 5G modem I have:

iface sfp.31 inet dhcp
    metric 1000
    vlan-raw-device sfp

There’s a wrinkle in that pppd will not replace an existing default route, so I’ve created /etc/ppp/ip-up.d/default-route to ensure it’s added:

#!/bin/bash

[ "$PPP_IFACE" = "pppoe-wan" ] || exit 0

# Ensure we add a default route; pppd will not do so if we have
# a lower pref route out the 5G modem
ip route add default dev pppoe-wan metric 100 || true

Additionally, in /etc/dhcp/dhclient.conf I’ve disabled asking for any server details (DNS, NTP, etc) - I have internal setups for the servers I want, and don’t want to be trying to select things over the 5G link by default.

However, what I do want is to be able to access the 5G modem web interface and explicitly route some traffic out that link (e.g. so I can add it to my smokeping tests). For that I need some source based routing.

First step, add a 5g table to /etc/iproute2/rt_tables:

16  5g

Then I ended up with the following in /etc/dhcp/dhclient-exit-hooks.d/modem-interface-route, which is more complex than I’d like but seems to do what I want:

#!/bin/sh

case "$reason" in
    BOUND|RENEW|REBIND|REBOOT)
        # Check if we've actually changed IP address
        if [ -z "$old_ip_address" ] ||
           [ "$old_ip_address" != "$new_ip_address" ] ||
           [ "$reason" = "BOUND" ] || [ "$reason" = "REBOOT" ]; then
            if [ ! -z "$old_ip_address" ]; then
                ip rule del from $old_ip_address lookup 5g
            fi
            ip rule add from $new_ip_address lookup 5g

            ip route add default dev sfp.31 table 5g || true
            ip route add 192.168.254.1 dev sfp.31 2>/dev/null || true
        fi
    ;;

    EXPIRE)
        if [ ! -z "$old_ip_address" ]; then
            ip rule del from $old_ip_address lookup 5g
        fi
    ;;

    *)
    ;;
esac

What does all that aim to do? We want to ensure traffic directed to the 5G WAN address goes out the 5G modem, so I can SSH into it even when the main link is up. So we add a rule directing traffic from that IP to hit the 5g routing table, and a default route in that table which uses the 5G link. There’s no configuration for the FTTP connection in that table, so if the 5G link is down the traffic gets dropped, which is what we want. We also configure 192.168.254.1 to go out the link to the modem, as that’s where the web interface lives.

I also have a curl callout (curl --interface sfp.31 … to ensure it goes out the 5G link) after the routes are configured to set dynamic DNS with Mythic Beasts, which helps with knowing where to connect back to. I seem to see IP address changes on the 5G link every couple of days at least.

Additionally, I have an entry in the interfaces configuration carving out the top set of the netblock my smokeping server is in:

    up ip rule add from 192.0.2.224/27 lookup 5g

My smokeping /etc/smokeping/config.d/Probes file then looks like:

*** Probes ***

+ FPing

binary = /usr/bin/fping

++ FPingNormal

++ FPing5G

sourceaddress = 192.0.2.225

+ FPing6

binary = /usr/bin/fping

which allows me to use probe = FPing5G for targets to test them over the 5G link.

That mostly covers the functionality I want for a backup link. There’s one piece that isn’t quite solved, however, IPv6, which can wait for another post.

April 25, 2024 05:38 PM

April 18, 2024

Jonathan McDowell

Sorting out backup internet #2: 5G modem

Having setup recursive DNS it was time to actually sort out a backup internet connection. I live in a Virgin Media area, but I still haven’t forgiven them for my terrible Virgin experiences when moving here. Plus it involves a bigger contractual commitment. There are no altnets locally (though I’m watching youfibre who have already rolled out in a few Belfast exchanges), so I decided to go for a 5G modem. That gives some flexibility, and is a bit easier to get up and running.

I started by purchasing a ZTE MC7010. This had the advantage of being reasonably cheap off eBay, not having any wifi functionality I would just have to disable (it’s going to plug it into the same router the FTTP connection terminates on), being outdoor mountable should I decide to go that way, and, finally, being powered via PoE.

For now this device sits on the window sill in my study, which is at the top of the house. I printed a table stand for it which mostly does the job (though not as well with a normal, rather than flat, network cable). The router lives downstairs, so I’ve extended a dedicated VLAN through the study switch, down to the core switch and out to the router. The PoE study switch can only do GigE, not 2.5Gb/s, but at present that’s far from the limiting factor on the speed of the connection.

The device is 3 branded, and, as it happens, I’ve ended up with a 3 SIM in it. Up until recently my personal phone was with them, but they’ve kicked me off Go Roam, so I’ve moved. Going with 3 for the backup connection provides some slight extra measure of resiliency; we now have devices on all 4 major UK networks in the house. The SIM is a preloaded data only SIM good for a year; I don’t expect to use all of the data allowance, but I didn’t want to have to worry about unexpected excess charges.

Performance turns out to be disappointing; I end up locking the device to 4G as the 5G signal is marginal - leaving it enabled results in constantly switching between 4G + 5G and a significant extra latency. The smokeping graph below shows a brief period where I removed the 4G lock and allowed 5G:

Smokeping 4G vs 5G graph

(There’s a handy zte.js script to allow doing this from the device web interface.)

I get about 10Mb/s sustained downloads out of it. EE/Vodafone did not lead to significantly better results, so for now I’m accepting it is what it is. I tried relocating the device to another part of the house (a little tricky while still providing switch-based PoE, but I have an injector), without much improvement. Equally pinning the 4G to certain bands provided a short term improvement (I got up to 40-50Mb/s sustained), but not reliably so.

speedtest.net results

This is disappointing, but if it turns out to be a problem I can look at mounting it externally. I also assume as 5G is gradually rolled out further things will naturally improve, but that might be wishful thinking on my part.

Rather than wait until my main link had a problem I decided to try a day working over the 5G connection. I spend a lot of my time either in browser based apps or accessing remote systems via SSH, so I’m reasonably sensitive to a jittery or otherwise flaky connection. I picked a day that I did not have any meetings planned, but as it happened I ended up with an adhoc video call arranged. I’m pleased to say that it all worked just fine; definitely noticeable as slower than the FTTP connection (to be expected), but all workable and even the video call was fine (at least from my end). Looking at the traffic graph shows the expected ~ 10Mb/s peak (actually a little higher, and looking at the FTTP stats for previous days not out of keeping with what we see there), and you can just about see the ~ 3Mb/s symmetric use by the video call at 2pm:

4G traffic during the work day

The test run also helped iron out the fact that the content filter was still enabled on the SIM, but that was easily resolved.

Up next, vaguely automatic failover.

April 18, 2024 05:21 PM

January 22, 2024

Chris Lamb

Increasing the Integrity of Software Supply Chains awarded IEEE ‘Best Paper’ award

IEEE Software recently announced that a paper that I co-authored with Dr. Stefano Zacchiroli has recently been awarded their ‘Best Paper’ award:

Titled Reproducible Builds: Increasing the Integrity of Software Supply Chains, the abstract reads as follows:

Although it is possible to increase confidence in Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) by reviewing its source code, trusting code is not the same as trusting its executable counterparts. These are typically built and distributed by third-party vendors with severe security consequences if their supply chains are compromised.

In this paper, we present reproducible builds, an approach that can determine whether generated binaries correspond with their original source code. We first define the problem and then provide insight into the challenges of making real-world software build in a "reproducible" manner — that is, when every build generates bit-for-bit identical results. Through the experience of the Reproducible Builds project making the Debian Linux distribution reproducible, we also describe the affinity between reproducibility and quality assurance (QA).

According to Google Scholar, the paper has accumulated almost 40 citations since publication. The full text of the paper can be found in PDF format.

January 22, 2024 05:11 PM

December 31, 2023

Chris Lamb

Favourites of 2023

This post should have marked the beginning of my yearly roundups of the favourite books and movies I read and watched in 2023.

However, due to coming down with a nasty bout of flu recently and other sundry commitments, I wasn't able to undertake writing the necessary four or five blog posts… In lieu of this, however, I will simply present my (unordered and unadorned) highlights for now. Do get in touch if this (or any of my previous posts) have spurred you into picking something up yourself…

§

Books

Peter Watts: Blindsight (2006) Reymer Banham: Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies (2006) Joanne McNeil: Lurking: How a Person Became a User (2020) J. L. Carr: A Month in the Country (1980) Hilary Mantel: A Memoir of My Former Self: A Life in Writing (2023) Adam Higginbotham: Midnight in Chernobyl (2019) Tony Judt: Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005) Tony Judt: Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century (2008) Peter Apps: Show Me the Bodies: How We Let Grenfell Happen (2021) Joan Didion: Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)Erik Larson: The Devil in the White City (2003)

§

Films

Recent releases

Unenjoyable experiences included Alejandro Gómez Monteverde's Sound of Freedom (2023), Alex Garland's Men (2022) and Steven Spielberg's The Fabelmans (2022).


Older releases

(Films released before 2022, and not including rewatches from previous years.)

Distinctly unenjoyable watches included Ocean's Eleven (1960), El Topo (1970), Léolo (1992), Hotel Mumbai (2018), Bulworth (1998) and and The Big Red One (1980).


December 31, 2023 04:59 PM

December 21, 2023

Mick Morgan

SIS troubles

Yesterday’s i newspaper lead with a report that SIS HQ at Vauxhall Cross could be overlooked from a flat in the new residential property built at St George Wharf. Said flat was reportedly purchased by Russians with links to a Soviet era property in Moscow which is roughly 300 metres away from the “Russian Intelligence chemical site” that developed Novichok.

The i report went on to say that Alicia Kearns, the Chair of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, told the newspaper, “It’s no surprise that hostile states are buying up properties for surveillance purposes – but it’s the Government’s job to stop them.”

Let’s just hope that the Russians have never heard of IMSI catchers.

by Mick at December 21, 2023 03:19 PM

November 05, 2022

Ben Francis

Elva’s Birth

Sorry, but you do not have permission to view this content.

by tola at November 05, 2022 02:53 PM

February 26, 2022

Daniel Silverstone (Kinnison)

Subplot and FOSDEM 2022 talk

As many of you may be aware, I work with Lars Wirzenius on a project we call Subplot which is a tool for writing documentation which helps all stakeholders involved with a proejct to understand how the project meets its requirements.

At the start of February we had FOSDEM which was once again online, and I decided to give a talk in the Safety and open source devroom to introduce the concepts of safety argumentation and to bring some attention to how I feel that Subplot could be used in that arena. You can view the talk on the FOSDEM website at some point in the future when they manage to finish transcoding all the amazing talks from the weekend, or if you are more impatient, on Youtube, whichever you prefer.

If, after watching the talk, or indeed just reading about Subplot on our website, you are interested in learning more about Subplot, or talking with us about how it might fit into your development flow, then you can find Lars and myself in the Subplot Matrix Room or else on any number of IRC networks where I hang around as kinnison.

by Daniel Silverstone at February 26, 2022 10:22 PM

July 12, 2021

Daniel Silverstone (Kinnison)

Subplot - First public alpha release

This weekend we (Lars and I) finished our first public alpha release of Subplot. Subplot is a tool for helping you to document your acceptance criteria for a project in such a way that you can also produce a programmatic test suite for the verification criteria. We centre this around the concept of writing a Markdown document about your project, with the option to write Gherkin-like given/when/then scenarios inside which detail the automated verification of the acceptance criteria.

This may sound very similar to Yarn, a similar concept which Lars, Richard, and I came up with in 2013. Critically back then we were very 'software engineer' focussed and so Yarn was a testing tool which happened to also produce reasonable documentation outputs if you squinted sideways and tried not to think too critically about them. Subplot on the other hand considers the documentation output to be just as important, if not more important, than the test suite output. Yarn was a tool which ran tests embedded in Markdown files, where Subplot is a documentation tool capable of extracting tests from an acceptance document for use in testing your project.

The release we made is the first time we're actively asking other people to try Subplot and see whether the concept is useful to them. Obviously we expect there to be plenty of sharp corners and there's a good amount of functionality yet to implement to make Subplot as useful as we want it to be, but if you find yourself looking at a project and thinking "How do I make sure this is acceptable to the stakeholders without first teaching them how to read my unit tests?" then Subplot may be the tool for you.

While Subplot can be used to produce test suites with functions written in Bash, Python, or Rust, the only language we're supporting as first-class in this release is Python. However I am personally most interested in the Rust opportunity as I see a lot of Rust programs very badly tested from the perspective of 'acceptance' as there is a tendency in Rust projects to focus on unit-type tests. If you are writing something in Rust and want to look at producing some high level acceptance criteria and yet still test in Rust, then please take a look at Subplot, particularly how we test subplotlib itself.

Issues, feature requests, and perhaps most relevantly, code patches, gratefully received. A desire to be actively involved in shaping the second goal of Subplot even more so.

by Daniel Silverstone at July 12, 2021 05:06 PM

December 03, 2020

Ben Francis

A New Future for the WebThings IoT Platform


Originally posted on Medium.

After four years of incubation at Mozilla, Krellian is proud to become the new commercial sponsor of WebThings, an open platform for monitoring and controlling devices over the web.

Today we are announcing the release of WebThings Gateway 1.0 and setting out a vision for the future of the WebThings project.

WebThings

WebThings is an open source implementation of emerging W3C Web of Things standards and consists of three main components:

Flying the Nest

Following a company restructuring in August, Mozilla was looking for a new home for the WebThings community to continue their work.

Having co-founded the project whilst working at Mozilla, I joined discussions with two of my former colleagues Michael Stegeman and David Bryant about spinning out WebThings as an independent open source project. We worked with Mozilla on an agreement to transition the project to a new community-run home at webthings.io, and have spent the last three months working together on that transition.

WebThings Gateway 1.0

Today marks the public release of WebThings Gateway 1.0 and the formal transition of the WebThings platform to its new home at webthings.io. Going forward, Krellian will be sponsoring the new WebThings website and replacement cloud infrastructure, to continue to provide automatic software updates and a secure remote access service for WebThings gateways around the world.

You can read more about the 1.0 release and the transition of existing gateways to the new infrastructure on the Mozilla Hacks blog.

Krellian & WebThings

Krellian’s mission is to “extend the World Wide Web into physical spaces to make our built environment smarter, safer and more sustainable.” WebThings provides an ideal open source platform, built on web standards, to help achieve that mission.

In the short term Krellian will be leveraging the WebThings Cloud remote access service as part of our new digital signage platform. In the longer term we plan to explore other enterprise use cases for the WebThings platform, to help make buildings smarter, safer and more sustainable.

These commercial applications of WebThings will help provide revenue streams to support the long term sustainability of the open source project and allow it to continue to develop and grow.

The WebThings Community

Krellian highly values the thriving community who have supported the WebThings project over the last four years. From hackers and makers to educators and hobbyists, the community have been pivotal in building, testing and promoting WebThings around the world.

Amongst their achievements is the translation of WebThings Gateway into 34 spoken languages, the creation of over a hundred gateway add-ons and the building of countless DIY projects in a dozen different programming languages. Community members have contributed their time and effort to help build and promote WebThings and support other members in using it in thousands of private smart homes around the world.

We intend to support the community to continue with their great work, and have put in place an open governance structure to distribute decision making and foster leadership amongst the global WebThings community.

Future Roadmap

The following are some ideas about where to take the platform next, but we’d also very much like to hear from the community about what they would like to see from the project going forward.

W3C Compliance

WebThings has been developed in parallel with, and has contributed to, the standardisation of the Web of Things at the W3C. Since the last release of WebThings Gateway in April, the W3C Thing Description specification has reached “recommendation” status and is now an international standard.

We’d like to work towards making WebThings compliant with this standard, as there are still a remaining number of differences between the W3C and Mozilla specifications. In order to fill in the gaps between Mozilla’s Web Thing API and the W3C’s Thing Description standard, we plan to continue to lead work on standardising the Web Thing Protocol as a concrete protocol for communicating with devices over the web.

Production Gateway OS

The main WebThings Gateway software image is currently built on top of the Raspbian Linux distribution. This served the project well for its initial target of DIY smart home users, using the popular Raspberry Pi single board computer.

As the platform matures, we would like to explore a more production-quality IoT operating system like Ubuntu Core or Balena OS on which to base the WebThings Gateway distribution.

This will have the following benefits:

  1. A smaller footprint, reducing the minimum system requirements for running the gateway
  2. Enabling the targeting of a wider range of hardware for consumer and enterprise use cases
  3. Better security, through containerisation and automatic software updates for the underlying operating system

WebThings Controller

There was previously a project to build controller software for WebThings, to run on a controller device such as a smart speaker or smart display. The initial prototype was built on Android Things, but was discontinued when Google locked down the Android Things platform to specific OEMs and introduced restrictions on how it could be used.

Krellian would like to explore new controller software built on our open source Krellian Kiosk web runtime, which could allow for touch and voice input. This software would be designed so that it could either run on the same device as the gateway software, or on a separate controller device.

WebThings App

A native WebThings mobile app could act as a general purpose Web of Things client. This could potentially:

  1. Help to streamline the setup process of a WebThings Gateway
  2. Act as a client for native web things which don’t need a gateway
  3. Help with the standardisation process by providing a user friendly reference implementation of a Web of Things client

WebThings Cloud

Finally, we would like to explore expanding the WebThings Cloud offering. This could include an online dashboard for monitoring and controlling devices across multiple premises, and cloud to cloud integrations with other IoT platforms and voice assistants.


We’re excited about this new chapter in the WebThings story, and look forward to working closely with the community on our vision of a connected world where technology is seamlessly woven into the spaces around us and improves the lives of those who use it.

You can find out more about WebThings at its new home of webthings.io, follow @WebThingsIO on Twitter and sign up for the email newsletter to keep up to date with all the latest news.

by tola at December 03, 2020 05:15 PM

November 13, 2019

Steve Engledow (stilvoid)

Maur - A minimal AUR helper

This post is about the Arch User Repository. If you're not an Arch user, probably just move along ;)

There are lots of AUR helpers in existence already but, in the best traditions of open source, none of them work exactly how I want an AUR helper to work, so I created a new one.

Here it is: https://github.com/stilvoid/maur

maur (pronounced like "more") is tiny. At the time of writing, it's 49 lines of bash. It also has very few features.

Here is the list of features:

The "help" when installing a package is this, and nothing more:

If you think maur needs more features, use a different AUR helper.

If you find bugs, please submit an issue or, even better, a pull request.

Example usage

Searching the AUR

If you want to search for a package in the AUR, you can grep for it ;)

maur | grep maur

Installing a package

If you want to install a package, for example yay:

maur yay

Upgrading a package

Upgrade a package is the same as installing one. This will upgrade maur:

maur maur

by Steve Engledow at November 13, 2019 12:00 AM

February 12, 2019

Steve Engledow (stilvoid)

Using Git with AWS CodeCommit Across Multiple AWS Accounts

(Cross-posted from the AWS DevOps blog)

I use AWS CodeCommit to host all of my private Git repositories. My repositories are split across several AWS accounts for different purposes: personal projects, internal projects at work, and customer projects.

The CodeCommit documentation shows you how to configure and clone a repository from one place, but in this blog post I want to share how I manage my Git configuration across multiple AWS accounts.

Background

First, I have profiles configured for each of my AWS environments. I connect to some of them using IAM user credentials and others by using cross-account roles.

I intentionally do not have any credentials associated with the default profile. That way I must always be sure I have selected a profile before I run any AWS CLI commands.

Here’s an anonymized copy of my ~/.aws/config file:

[profile personal]
region = eu-west-1
aws_access_key_id = AKIAIOSFODNN7EXAMPLE
aws_secret_access_key = wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY

[profile work]
region = us-east-1
aws_access_key_id = AKIAIOSFODNN7EXAMPLE
aws_secret_access_key = wJalrXUtnFEMI/K7MDENG/bPxRfiCYEXAMPLEKEY

[profile customer]
region = eu-west-2
source_profile = work
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::123456789012:role/CrossAccountPowerUser

If I am doing some work in one of those accounts, I run export AWS_PROFILE=work and use the AWS CLI as normal.

The problem

I use the Git credential helper so that the Git client works seamlessly with CodeCommit. However, because I use different profiles for different repositories, my use case is a little more complex than the average.

In general, to use the credential helper, all you need to do is place the following options into your ~/.gitconfig file, like this:

[credential]
    helper = !aws codecommit credential-helper $@
    UserHttpPath = true

I could make this work across accounts by setting the appropriate value for AWS_PROFILE before I use Git in a repository, but there is a much neater way to deal with this situation using a feature released in Git version 2.13, conditional includes.

A solution

First, I separate my work into different folders. My ~/code/ directory looks like this:

code
    personal
        repo1
        repo2
    work
        repo3
        repo4
    customer
        repo5
        repo6

Using this layout, each folder that is directly underneath the code folder has different requirements in terms of configuration for use with CodeCommit.

Solving this has two parts; first, I create a .gitconfig file in each of the three folder locations. The .gitconfig files contain any customization (specifically, configuration for the credential helper) that I want in place while I work on projects in those folders.

For example:

[user]
    # Use a custom email address
    email = sengledo@amazon.co.uk

[credential]
    # Note the use of the --profile switch
    helper = !aws --profile work codecommit credential-helper $@
    UseHttpPath = true

I also make sure to specify the AWS CLI profile to use in the .gitconfig file which means that, when I am working in the folder, I don’t need to set AWS_PROFILE before I run git push, etc.

Secondly, to make use of these folder-level .gitconfig files, I need to reference them in my global Git configuration at ~/.gitconfig

This is done through the includeIf section. For example:

[includeIf "gitdir:~/code/personal/"]
    path = ~/code/personal/.gitconfig

This example specifies that if I am working with a Git repository that is located anywhere under ~/code/personal/, Git should load additional configuration from ~/code/personal/.gitconfig. That additional file specifies the appropriate credential helper invocation with the corresponding AWS CLI profile selected as detailed earlier.

The contents of the new file are treated as if they are inserted into the main .gitconfig file at the location of the includeIf section. This means that the included configuration will only override any configuration specified earlier in the config.

by Steve Engledow at February 12, 2019 12:00 AM

June 07, 2018

Brett Parker (iDunno)

The Psion Gemini

So, I backed the Gemini and received my shiny new device just a few months after they said that it'd ship, not bad for an indiegogo project! Out of the box, I flashed it, using the non-approved linux flashing tool at that time, and failed to backup the parts that, err, I really didn't want blatted... So within hours I had a new phone that I, err, couldn't make calls on, which was marginally annoying. And the tech preview of Debian wasn't really worth it, as it was fairly much unusable (which was marginally upsetting, but hey) - after a few more hours / days of playing around I got the IMEI number back in to the Gemini and put back on the stock android image. I didn't at this point have working bluetooth or wifi, which was a bit of a pain too, turns out the mac addresses for those are also stored in the nvram (doh!), that's now mostly working through a bit of collaboration with another Gemini owner, my Gemini currently uses the mac addresses from his device... which I'll need to fix in the next month or so, else we'll have a mac address collision, probably.

Overall, it's not a bad machine, the keyboard isn't quite as good as I was hoping for, the phone functionality is not bad once you're on a call, but not great until you're on a call, and I certainly wouldn't use it to replace the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge that I currently use as my full time phone. It is however really rather useful as a sysadmin tool when you don't want to be lugging a full laptop around with you, the keyboard is better than using the on screen keyboard on the phone, the ssh client is "good enough" to get to what I need, and the terminal font isn't bad. I look forward to seeing where it goes, I'm happy to have been an early backer, as I don't think I'd pay the current retail price for one.

by Brett Parker (iDunno@sommitrealweird.co.uk) at June 07, 2018 01:04 PM

February 21, 2018

MJ Ray

How hard can typing æ, ø and å be?

Petter Reinholdtsen: How hard can æ, ø and å be? comments on the rubbish state of till printers and their mishandling of foreign characters.

Last week, I was trying to type an email, on a tablet, in Dutch. The tablet was running something close to Android and I was using a Bluetooth keyboard, which seemed to be configured correctly for my location in England.

Dutch doesn’t even have many accents. I wanted an e acute (é). If you use the on screen keyboard, this is actually pretty easy, just press and hold e and slide to choose the accented one… but holding e on a Bluetooth keyboard? eeeeeeeeeee!

Some guides suggest Alt and e, then e. Apparently that works, but not on keyboards set to Great British… because, I guess, we don’t want any of that foreign muck since the Brexit vote, or something(!)

Even once you figure out that madness and switch the keyboard back to international, which also enables alt i, u, n and so on to do other accents, I can’t find grave, check, breve or several other accents. I managed to send the emails in Dutch but I’d struggle with various other languages.

Have I missed a trick or what are the Android developers thinking? Why isn’t there a Compose key by default? Is there any way to get one?

by mjr at February 21, 2018 04:14 PM

March 01, 2017

Brett Parker (iDunno)

Using the Mythic Beasts IPv4 -> IPv6 Proxy for Websites on a v6 only Pi and getting the right REMOTE_ADDR

So, more because I was intrigued than anything else, I've got a pi3 from Mythic Beasts, they're supplied with IPv6 only connectivity and the file storage is NFS over a private v4 network. The proxy will happily redirect requests to either http or https to the Pi, but this results (without turning on the Proxy Protocol) with getting remote addresses in your logs of the proxy servers, which is not entirely useful.

I've cheated a bit, because the turning on of ProxyProtocol for the hostedpi.com addresses is currently not exposed to customers (it's on the list!), to do it without access to Mythic's backends use your own domainname (I've also got https://pi3.sommitrealweird.co.uk/ mapped to this Pi).

So, first step first, we get our RPi and we make sure that we can login to it via ssh (I'm nearly always on a v6 connection anyways, so this was a simple case of sshing to the v6 address of the Pi). I then installed haproxy and apache2 on the Pi and went about configuring them, with apache2 I changed it to listen to localhost only and on ports 8080 and 4443, I hadn't at this point enabled the ssl module so, really, the change for 4443 didn't kick in. Here's my /etc/apache2/ports.conf file:

# If you just change the port or add more ports here, you will likely also
# have to change the VirtualHost statement in
# /etc/apache2/sites-enabled/000-default.conf

Listen [::1]:8080

<IfModule ssl_module>
       Listen [::1]:4443
</IfModule>

<IfModule mod_gnutls.c>
       Listen [::1]:4443
</IfModule>

# vim: syntax=apache ts=4 sw=4 sts=4 sr noet

I then edited /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf to change the VirtualHost line to [::1]:8080.

So, with that in place, now we deploy haproxy infront of it, the basic /etc/haproxy/haproxy.cfg config is:

global
       log /dev/log    local0
       log /dev/log    local1 notice
       chroot /var/lib/haproxy
       stats socket /run/haproxy/admin.sock mode 660 level admin
       stats timeout 30s
       user haproxy
       group haproxy
       daemon

       # Default SSL material locations
       ca-base /etc/ssl/certs
       crt-base /etc/ssl/private

       # Default ciphers to use on SSL-enabled listening sockets.
       # For more information, see ciphers(1SSL). This list is from:
       #  https://hynek.me/articles/hardening-your-web-servers-ssl-ciphers/
       ssl-default-bind-ciphers ECDH+AESGCM:DH+AESGCM:ECDH+AES256:DH+AES256:ECDH+AES128:DH+AES:ECDH+3DES:DH+3DES:RSA+AESGCM:RSA+AES:RSA+3DES:!aNULL:!MD5:!DSS
       ssl-default-bind-options no-sslv3

defaults
       log     global
       mode    http
       option  httplog
       option  dontlognull
        timeout connect 5000
        timeout client  50000
        timeout server  50000
       errorfile 400 /etc/haproxy/errors/400.http
       errorfile 403 /etc/haproxy/errors/403.http
       errorfile 408 /etc/haproxy/errors/408.http
       errorfile 500 /etc/haproxy/errors/500.http
       errorfile 502 /etc/haproxy/errors/502.http
       errorfile 503 /etc/haproxy/errors/503.http
       errorfile 504 /etc/haproxy/errors/504.http

frontend any_http
        option httplog
        option forwardfor

        acl is_from_proxy src 2a00:1098:0:82:1000:3b:1:1 2a00:1098:0:80:1000:3b:1:1
        tcp-request connection expect-proxy layer4 if is_from_proxy

        bind :::80
        default_backend any_http

backend any_http
        server apache2 ::1:8080

Obviously after that you then do:

systemctl restart apache2
systemctl restart haproxy

Now you have a proxy protocol'd setup from the proxy servers, and you can still talk directly to the Pi over ipv6, you're not yet logging the right remote ips, but we're a step closer. Next enable mod_remoteip in apache2:

a2enmod remoteip

And add a file, /etc/apache2/conf-available/remoteip-logformats.conf containing:

LogFormat "%v:%p %a %l %u %t \"%r\" %>s %O \"%{Referer}i\" \"%{User-Agent}i\"" remoteip_vhost_combined

And edit the /etc/apache2/sites-available/000-default.conf to change the CustomLog line to use remoteip_vhost_combined rather than combined as the LogFormat and add the relevant RemoteIP settings:

RemoteIPHeader X-Forwarded-For
RemoteIPTrustedProxy ::1

CustomLog ${APACHE_LOG_DIR}/access.log remoteip_vhost_combined

Now, enable the config and restart apache2:

a2enconf remoteip-logformats
systemctl restart apache2

Now you'll get the right remote ip in the logs (cool, huh!), and, better still, the environment that gets pushed through to cgi scripts/php/whatever is now also correct.

So, you can now happily visit http://www.<your-pi-name>.hostedpi.com/, e.g. http://www.srwpi.hostedpi.com/.

Next up, you'll want something like dehydrated - I grabbed the packaged version from debian's jessie-backports repository - so that you can make yourself some nice shiny SSL certificates (why wouldn't you, after all!), once you've got dehydrated installed, you'll probably want to tweak it a bit, I have some magic extra files that I use, I also suggest getting the dehydrated-apache2 package, which just makes it all much easier too.

/etc/dehydrated/conf.d/mail.sh:

CONTACT_EMAIL="my@email.address"

/etc/dehydrated/conf.d/domainconfig.sh:

DOMAINS_D="/etc/dehydrated/domains.d"

/etc/dehydrated/domains.d/srwpi.hostedpi.com:

HOOK="/etc/dehydrated/hooks/srwpi"

/etc/dehydrated/hooks/srwpi:

#!/bin/sh
action="$1"
domain="$2"

case $action in
  deploy_cert)
    privkey="$3"
    cert="$4"
    fullchain="$5"
    chain="$6"
    cat "$privkey" "$fullchain" > /etc/ssl/private/srwpi.pem
    chmod 640 /etc/ssl/private/srwpi.pem
    ;;
  *)
    ;;
esac

/etc/dehydrated/hooks/srwpi has the execute bit set (chmod +x /etc/dehydrated/hooks/srwpi), and is really only there so that the certificate can be used easily in haproxy.

And finally the file /etc/dehydrated/domains.txt:

www.srwpi.hostedpi.com srwpi.hostedpi.com

Obviously, use your own pi name in there, or better yet, one of your own domain names that you've mapped to the proxies.

Run dehydrated in cron mode (it's noisy, but meh...):

dehydrated -c

That s then generated you some shiny certificates (hopefully). For now, I'll just tell you how to do it through the /etc/apache2/sites-available/default-ssl.conf file, just edit that file and change the SSLCertificateFile and SSLCertificateKeyFile to point to /var/lib/dehydrated/certs/www.srwpi.hostedpi.com/fullchain.pem and /var/llib/dehydrated/certs/ww.srwpi.hostedpi.com/privkey.pem files, do the edit for the CustomLog as you did for the other default site, and change the VirtualHost to be [::1]:443 and enable the site:

a2ensite default-ssl
a2enmod ssl

And restart apache2:

systemctl restart apache2

Now time to add some bits to haproxy.cfg, usefully this is only a tiny tiny bit of extra config:

frontend any_https
        option httplog
        option forwardfor

        acl is_from_proxy src 2a00:1098:0:82:1000:3b:1:1 2a00:1098:0:80:1000:3b:1:1
        tcp-request connection expect-proxy layer4 if is_from_proxy

        bind :::443 ssl crt /etc/ssl/private/srwpi.pem

        default_backend any_https

backend any_https
        server apache2 ::1:4443 ssl ca-file /etc/ssl/certs/ca-certificates.crt

Restart haproxy:

systemctl restart haproxy

And we're all done! REMOTE_ADDR will appear as the correct remote address in the logs, and in the environment.

by Brett Parker (iDunno@sommitrealweird.co.uk) at March 01, 2017 06:35 PM

October 18, 2016

MJ Ray

Rinse and repeat

Forgive me, reader, for I have sinned. It has been over a year since my last blog post. Life got busy. Paid work. Another round of challenges managing my chronic illness. Cycle campaigning. Fun bike rides. Friends. Family. Travels. Other social media to stroke. I’m still reading some of the planets where this blog post should appear and commenting on some, so I’ve not felt completely cut off, but I am surprised how many people don’t allow comments on their blogs any more (or make it too difficult for me with reCaptcha and the like).

The main motive for this post is to test some minor upgrades, though. Hi everyone. How’s it going with you? I’ll probably keep posting short updates in the future.

Go in peace to love and serve the web. 🙂

by mjr at October 18, 2016 04:28 AM

July 10, 2014

James Taylor

SSL / TLS

Is it annoying or not that everyone says SSL Certs and SSL when they really mean TLS?

Does anyone actually mean SSL? Have there been any accidents through people confusing the two?


July 10, 2014 02:09 PM

Cloud Computing Deployments … Revisited.

So its been a few years since I’ve posted, because its been so much hard work, and we’ve been pushing really hard on some projects which I just can’t talk about – annoyingly. Anyways, March 20th , 2011 I talked about Continual Integration and Continual Deployment and the Cloud and discussed two main methods – having what we now call ‘Gold Standards’ vs continually updating.

The interesting thing is that as we’ve grown as a company, and as we’ve become more ‘Enterprise’, we’ve brought in more systems administrators and begun to really separate the deployments from the development. The other thing is we have separated our services out into multiple vertical strands, which have different roles. This means we have slightly different processes for Banking or Payment based modules then we do from marketing modules. We’re able to segregate operational and content from personally identifiable information – PII having much higher regulation on who can (and auditing of who does) access.

Several other key things had to change: for instance, things like SSL keys of the servers shouldn’t be kept in the development repo. Now, of course not, I hear you yell, but its a very blurry line. For instance, should the Django configuration be kept in the repo? Well, yes, because that defines the modules and things like URLs. Should the nginx config be kept in the repo? Well, oh. if you keep *that* in then you would keep your SSL certs in…

So the answer becomes having lots of repo’s. One repo per application (django wise), and one repo per deployment containing configurations. And then you start looking at build tools to bring, for a particular server or cluster of servers up and running.

The process (for our more secure, audited services) is looking like a tool to bring an AMI up, get everything installed and configured, and then take a snapshot, and then a second tool that takes that AMI (and all the others needed) and builds the VPC inside of AWS. Its a step away from the continual deployment strategy, but it is mostly automated.


July 10, 2014 02:09 PM

June 12, 2014

Paul Tansom

Beginning irc

After some discussion last night at PHP Hants about the fact that irc is a great facilitator of support / discussion, but largely ignored because there is rarely enough information for a new user to get going I decided it may be worth putting together a howto type post so here goes…

What is irc?

First of all, what on earth is it? I’m tempted to describe it as Twitter done right years before Twitter even existed, but I’m a geek and I’ve been using irc for years. It has a long heritage, but unlike the ubiquitous email it hasn’t made the transition into mainstream use. In terms of usage it has similarities to things like Twitter and Instant Messaging. Let’s take a quick look at this.

Twitter allows you to broadcast messages, they get published and anyone who is subscribed to your feed can read what you say. Everything is pretty instant, and if somebody is watching the screen at the right time they can respond straight away. Instant Messaging on the other hand, is more of a direct conversation with a single person, or sometimes a group of people, but it too is pretty instantaneous – assuming, of course, that there’s someone reading what you’ve said. Both of these techonologies are pretty familiar to many. If you go to the appropriate website you are given the opportunity to sign up and either use a web based client or download one.

It is much the same for irc in terms of usage, although conversations are grouped into channels which generally focus on a particular topic rather than being generally broadcast (Twitter) or more specifically directed (Instant Messaging). The downside is that in most cases you don’t get a web page with clear instructions of how to sign up, download a client and find where the best place is to join the conversation.

Getting started

There are two things you need to get going with irc, a client and somewhere to connect to. Let’s put that into a more familiar context.

The client is what you use to connect with; this can be an application – so as an example Outlook or Thunderbird would be a mail client, or IE, Firefox, Chrome or Safari are examples of clients for web pages – or it can be a web page that does the same thing – so if you go to twitter.com and login you are using the web page as your Twitter client. Somewhere to connect to can be compared to a web address, or if you’ve got close enough to the configuration of your email to see the details, your mail server address.

Let’s start with the ‘somewhere to connect to‘ bit. Freenode is one of the most popular irc servers, so let’s take a look. First we’ll see what we can find out from their website, http://freenode.net/.

freenode

There’s a lot of very daunting information there for somebody new to irc, so ignore most of it and follow the Webchat link on the left.

webchat

That’s all very well and good, but what do we put in there? I guess the screenshot above gives a clue, but if you actually visit the page the entry boxes will be blank. Well first off there’s the Nickname, this can be pretty much anything you like, no need to register it – stick to the basics of letters, numbers and some simple punctuation (if you want to), keep it short and so long as nobody else is already using it you should be fine; if it doesn’t work try another. Channels is the awkward one, how do you know what channels there are? If you’re lucky you’re looking into this because you’ve been told there’s a channel there and hopefully you’ve been given the channel name. For now let’s just use the PHP Hants channel, so that would be #phph in the Channels box. Now all you need to do is type in the captcha, ignore the tick boxes and click Connect and you are on the irc channel and ready to chat. Down the right you’ll see a list of who else is there, and in the main window there will be a bit of introductory information (e.g. topic for the channel) and depending on how busy it is anything from nothing to a fast scrolling screen of text.

phph

If you’ve miss typed there’s a chance you’ll end up in a channel specially created for you because it didn’t exist; don’t worry, just quit and try again (I’ll explain that process shortly).

For now all you really need to worry about is typing in text an posting it, this is as simple as typing it into the entry box at the bottom of the page and pressing return. Be polite, be patient and you’ll be fine. There are plenty of commands that you can use to do things, but for now the only one you need to worry about is the one to leave, this is:

/quit

Type it in the entry box, press return and you’ve disconnected from the server. The next thing to look into is using a client program since this is far more flexible, but I’ll save that for another post.

The post Beginning irc appeared first on Linuxlore.

by Paul Tansom at June 12, 2014 04:27 PM

January 01, 2014

John Woodard

A year in Prog!


It's New Year's Day 2014 and I'm reflecting on the music of past year.

Album wise there were several okay...ish releases in the world of Progressive Rock. Steven Wilson's The Raven That Refused To Sing not the absolute masterpiece some have eulogised a solid effort though but it did contain some filler. Motorpsyco entertained with Still Life With Eggplant not as good as their previous album but again a solid effort. Magenta as ever didn't disappoint with The 27 Club, wishing Tina Booth a swift recovery from her ill health.

The Three stand out albums in no particular order for me were Edison's Children's Final Breath Before November which almost made it as album of the year and Big Big Train with English Electric Full Power which combined last years Part One and this years Part Two with some extra goodies to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts. Also Adrian Jones of Nine Stones Close fame pulled one out of the bag with his side Project Jet Black Sea which was very different and a challenging listen, hard going at first but surprisingly very good. This man is one superb guitarist especially if you like emotion wrung out of the instrument like David Gilmore or Steve Rothery.

The moniker of Album of the Year this year goes to Fish for the incredible Feast of Consequences. A real return to form and his best work since Raingods With Zippos. The packaging of the deluxe edition with a splendid book featuring the wonderful artwork of Mark Wilkinson was superb. A real treat with a very thought provoking suite about the first world war really hammed home the saying "Lest we forget". A fine piece that needs to be heard every November 11th.


Gig wise again Fish at the Junction in Cambridge was great. His voice may not be what it was in 1985 but he is the consummate performer, very at home on the stage. As a raconteur between songs he is as every bit as entertaining as he is singing songs themselves.

The March Marillion Convention in Port Zealand, Holland where they performed their masterpiece Brave was very special as every performance of incredible album is. The Marillion Conventions are always special but Brave made this one even more special than it would normally be.
Gig of the year goes again to Marillion at Aylesbury Friars in November. I had waited thirty years and forty odd shows to see them perform Garden Party segued into Market Square Heroes that glorious night it came to pass, I'm am now one very happy Progger or should that be Proggie? Nevermind Viva Progressive Rock!

by BigJohn (aka hexpek) (noreply@blogger.com) at January 01, 2014 07:56 PM

December 01, 2013

Paul Tansom

Scratch in a network environment

I have been running a Code Club at my local Primary School for a while now, and thought it was about time I put details of a few tweaks I’ve made to the default Scratch install to make things easier. So here goes:

With the default install of Scratch (on Windows) projects are saved to the C: drive. For a network environment, with pupils work stored on a network drive so they always have access whichever machine they sit at, this isn’t exactly helpful. It also isn’t ideal that they can explore the C: drive in spite of profile restrictions (although it isn’t the end of the world as there is little they can do from Scratch).

save-orig

After a bit of time with Google I found the answer, and since it didn’t immediately leap out at me when I was searching I thought I’d post it here (perhaps my Google Fu was weak that day). It is actually quite simple, especially for the average Code Club volunteer I should imagine; just edit the scratch.ini file. This is, as would be expected, located in:

C:\Program Files\Scratch\Scratch.ini

Initially it looks like this:

ini-orig

Pretty standard stuff, but unfortunately no comments to indicate what else you can do with it. As it happens you can add the following two lines (for example):

Home=U:
VisibleDrives=U:

To get this:

ini-new

They do exactly what is says on the tin. If you click on the Home button in a file dialogue box then you only get the drive(s) specified. You can also put a full path in if you want to put the home directory further down the directory structure.

save-new1

The VisibleDrives option restricts what you can see if you click on the Computer button in a file dialogue box. If you want to allow more visible drives then separate them with a comma.

save-new2

You can do the same with a Mac (for the home drive), just use the appropriate directory format (i.e. no drive letter and the opposite direction slash).

There is more that you can do, so take a look at the Scratch documentation here. For example if you use a * in the directory path it is replaced by the name of the currently logged on user.

Depending on your network environment it may be handy for your Code Club to put the extra resources on a shared network drive and open up an extra drive in the VisibleDrives. One I haven’t tried yet it is the proxy setting, which I hope will allow me to upload projects to the Scratch website. It goes something like:

ProxyServer=[server name or IP address]
ProxyPort=[port number]

The post Scratch in a network environment appeared first on Linuxlore.

by Paul Tansom at December 01, 2013 07:00 PM

January 16, 2013

John Woodard

LinuxMint 14 Add Printer Issue


 LinuxMint 14 Add Printer Issue



 

I wanted to print from my LinuxMint 14 (Cinnamon) PC via a shared Windows printer on my network. Problem is it isn’t found by the printers dialog in system settings. I thought I’d done all the normal things to get samba to play nice like rearranging the name resolve order in /etc/samba/smb.conf to a more sane bcast host lmhosts wins. Having host and wins, neither of which I’m using first in the order cocks things up some what. Every time I tried to search for the printer in the system setting dialog it told me “FirewallD is not running. Network printer detection needs services mdns, ipp, ipp-client and samba-client enabled on firewall.” So much scratching of the head there then, because as far as I can tell there ain’t no daemon by that name available!

It turns out thanks to /pseudomorph this has been a bug since LinuxMint12 (based on Ubuntu 11.10). It’s due to that particular daemon (Windows people daemon pretty much = service) being Fedora specific and should have no place in a Debian/Ubuntu based distribution. Bugs of this nature really should be ironed out sooner.

Anyway the simple fix is to use the more traditional approach using the older printer dialog which is accessed by inputting system-config-printer at the command line. Which works just fine so why the new (over a year old) printer config dialog that is inherently broken I ask myself.

The CUPS web interface also works apparently http://localhost:631/ in your favourite browser which should be there as long as CUPS is installed which it is in LinuxMint by default.

So come on Minty people get your bug squashing boots on and stamp on this one please.

Update

Bug #871985 only affects Gnome3 so as long as its not affecting Unity that will be okay Canonical will it!

by BigJohn (aka hexpek) (noreply@blogger.com) at January 16, 2013 12:39 AM

August 20, 2012

David Reynolds

On Music

Lately, (well I say lately, I think it’s been the same for a few years now) I have been finding that it is very rare that an album comes along that affects me in a way that music I heard 10 years ago seem to. That is not to say that I have not heard any music that I like in that time, it just doesn’t seem to mean as music that has been in my life for years. What I am trying to work out is if that is a reflection on the state of music, of how I experience music or just me.

Buying

Buying music was always quite an experience. I would spend weeks, months and sometimes longer saving up to buy some new music. Whether I knew exactly what I wanted or just wanted “something else by this artist” I would spend some time browsing the racks weighing up what was the best value for my money. In the days before the internet, if you wanted to research an artist’s back catalogue, you were generally out of luck unless you had access to books about the artists. This lead to the thrill of finding a hidden gem in the racks that you didn’t know existed or had only heard rumours about. The anticipation of listening to the new music would build even more because I would have to wait until I had travelleled home before I could listen to my new purchases.

Nowadays, with the dizzying amount of music constantly pumped into our ears through the internet, radio, advertising and the plethora of styles and genres, it is difficult to sift through and find artists and music that really speak to you. Luckily, there are websites available to catalogue releases by artists so you are able to do thorough research and even preview your music before you purchase it. Of course the distribution methods have changed massively too. No longer do I have to wait until I can make it to a brick and mortar store to hand over my cash. I can now not only buy physical musical releases on CD or Vinyl online and have it delivered to my door, I can also buy digital music through iTunes, Amazon or Bandcamp or even stream the music straight to my ears through services like Spotify or Rdio. Whilst these online sales avenues are great for artists to be able to sell directly to their fans, I feel that some of the magic has been removed from the purchasing of music for me.

Listening

Listening to the music used to be an even greater event than purchasing it. After having spent the time saving up for the purchase, then the time carefully choosing the music to buy and getting it home, I would then sit myself down and listen to the music. I would immerse myself totally in the music and only listen to it (I might read the liner notes if I hadn’t exhausted them on the way home). It is difficult to imagine doing one thing for 45+ minutes without the constant interruptions from smartphones, tablet computers, games consoles and televisions these days. I can’t rememeber the last time I listened to music on good speakers or headphones (generally I listen on crappy computers speakers or to compressed audio on my iPhone through crappy headphones) without reading Twitter, replying to emails or reading copiuous amounts of information about the artists on Wikipedia. This all serves to distract from the actual enjoyment of just listening to the music.

Experience

The actual act of writing this blog post has called into sharp focus the main reason why music doesn’t seem to affect me nowadays as much as it used to - because I don’t experience it in the same way. My life has changed, I have more resposibilities and less time to just listen which makes the convenience and speed of buying digital music online much more appealing. You would think that this ‘instant music’ should be instantly satisfying but for some reason it doesn’t seem to work that way.

What changed?

I wonder if I am the only one experiencing this? My tastes in music have definitely changed a lot over the last few years, but I still find it hard to find music that I want to listen to again and again. I’m hoping I’m not alone in this, alternatively I’m hoping someone might read this and recommend some awesome music to me and cure this weird musical apathy I appear to me suffering from.

August 20, 2012 03:33 PM

On Music

Lately, (well I say lately, I think it’s been the same for a few years now) I have been finding that it is very rare that an album comes along that affects me in a way that music I heard 10 years ago seem to. That is not to say that I have not heard any music that I like in that time, it just doesn’t seem to mean as music that has been in my life for years. What I am trying to work out is if that is a reflection on the state of music, of how I experience music or just me.

Buying

Buying music was always quite an experience. I would spend weeks, months and sometimes longer saving up to buy some new music. Whether I knew exactly what I wanted or just wanted “something else by this artist” I would spend some time browsing the racks weighing up what was the best value for my money. In the days before the internet, if you wanted to research an artist’s back catalogue, you were generally out of luck unless you had access to books about the artists. This lead to the thrill of finding a hidden gem in the racks that you didn’t know existed or had only heard rumours about. The anticipation of listening to the new music would build even more because I would have to wait until I had travelleled home before I could listen to my new purchases.

Nowadays, with the dizzying amount of music constantly pumped into our ears through the internet, radio, advertising and the plethora of styles and genres, it is difficult to sift through and find artists and music that really speak to you. Luckily, there are websites available to catalogue releases by artists so you are able to do thorough research and even preview your music before you purchase it. Of course the distribution methods have changed massively too. No longer do I have to wait until I can make it to a brick and mortar store to hand over my cash. I can now not only buy physical musical releases on CD or Vinyl online and have it delivered to my door, I can also buy digital music through iTunes, Amazon or Bandcamp or even stream the music straight to my ears through services like Spotify or Rdio. Whilst these online sales avenues are great for artists to be able to sell directly to their fans, I feel that some of the magic has been removed from the purchasing of music for me.

Listening

Listening to the music used to be an even greater event than purchasing it. After having spent the time saving up for the purchase, then the time carefully choosing the music to buy and getting it home, I would then sit myself down and listen to the music. I would immerse myself totally in the music and only listen to it (I might read the liner notes if I hadn’t exhausted them on the way home). It is difficult to imagine doing one thing for 45+ minutes without the constant interruptions from smartphones, tablet computers, games consoles and televisions these days. I can’t rememeber the last time I listened to music on good speakers or headphones (generally I listen on crappy computers speakers or to compressed audio on my iPhone through crappy headphones) without reading Twitter, replying to emails or reading copiuous amounts of information about the artists on Wikipedia. This all serves to distract from the actual enjoyment of just listening to the music.

Experience

The actual act of writing this blog post has called into sharp focus the main reason why music doesn’t seem to affect me nowadays as much as it used to - because I don’t experience it in the same way. My life has changed, I have more resposibilities and less time to just listen which makes the convenience and speed of buying digital music online much more appealing. You would think that this ‘instant music’ should be instantly satisfying but for some reason it doesn’t seem to work that way.

What changed?

I wonder if I am the only one experiencing this? My tastes in music have definitely changed a lot over the last few years, but I still find it hard to find music that I want to listen to again and again. I’m hoping I’m not alone in this, alternatively I’m hoping someone might read this and recommend some awesome music to me and cure this weird musical apathy I appear to me suffering from.

August 20, 2012 03:33 PM

June 25, 2012

Elisabeth Fosbrooke-Brown (sfr)

Black redstarts

It's difficult to use the terrace for a couple of weeks, because the black redstart family is in their summer residence at the top of a column under the roof. The chicks grow very fast, and the parents have to feed them frequently; when anyone goes out on the terrace they stop the feeding process and click shrill warnings to the chicks to stay still. I worry that if we disturb them too often or for too long the chicks will starve.

Black redstarts are called rougequeue noir (black red-tail) in French, but here they are known as rossignol des murailles (nightingale of the outside walls). Pretty!

The camera needs replacing, so there are no photos of Musatelier's rossignols des murailles, but you can see what they look like on http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rougequeue_noir.

by sunflowerinrain (noreply@blogger.com) at June 25, 2012 08:02 AM

June 16, 2012

Elisabeth Fosbrooke-Brown (sfr)

Roundabout at Mirambeau

Roundabouts are taken seriously here in France. Not so much as traffic measures (though it has been known for people to be cautioned by the local gendarmes for not signalling when leaving a roundabout, and quite rightly too), but as places to ornament.

A couple of years ago the roundabout at the edge of  Mirambeau had a make-over which included an ironwork arch and a carrelet (fishing hut on stilts). Now it has a miniature vineyard as well, and roses and other plants for which this area is known.

Need a passenger to take photo!

by sunflowerinrain (noreply@blogger.com) at June 16, 2012 12:06 PM

September 04, 2006

Ashley Howes

Some new photos

Take a look at some new photos my father and I have taken. We are experimenting with our new digital SLR with a variety of lenses.

by Ashley (noreply@blogger.com) at September 04, 2006 10:42 AM

August 30, 2006

Ashley Howes

A Collection of Comments

This is a bit of fun. A collection of comments found in code. This is from The Daily WTF.

by Ashley (noreply@blogger.com) at August 30, 2006 01:13 AM