Posts for February 2018

2018-02-04: Free software log (January 2018)

The only sofware releases I got out this month were both for work: versions 0.4.0 and 0.4.1 of groupy, the client library for Merou, the authorization management system we use. We're not doing formal releases of the latter yet, just building from Git, and probably need to settle on a final public project name before we do.

At some point I'll build proper software release pages for both of these, since I seem to be doing most of the release management for groupy.

The 0.4.0 release was in support of the new service account model. The 0.4.1 release was an attempt to reduce the number of Python modules that had to be installed to configure the build, since too much setup_requires was causing various issues and version conflicts in our internal build system. Python has a slightly odd (at least to me) way of allowing modules to inject more commands into that are only useful in specific situations, and it's hard to find the right place in the dependency metadata to put those modules. I'm still not totally happy with the compromise we arrived at.

I also did a bit of work on control-archive, but didn't finish making a new release. I think the only thing left is to rewrite the documentation to use DocKnot. Hopefully this month.

On the INN front, I tracked down a few test failures and fixed them upstream in rra-c-util, and also expanded the documentation links for INN on my web site.

Finally, I uploaded new versions of a couple of Debian packages: libnews-article-perl (just a packaging refresh), and libnet-duo-perl (now donated to the Perl packaging team). I may end up orphaning Net::Duo, since I'm not currently actively using it, although I'm still hanging on to it since I'm considering using it for some personal stuff.

Overall, I would have liked to get a few more full software releases out, but I'm pretty happy for this month for a January, a return-to-work month, and a month during which I was on-call for a week. Definitely better than the months of "I didn't do much" towards the end of last year!

2018-02-04: Debian packaging with Git notes

I finally found the time today to update my notes on how I package for Debian using Git. They're rather long (even after dropping my beginner Git tutorial, which seemed pointless given how many good ones there are now), so I'm not including the full text here. Take a look if you're curious.

The major differences from the previous version (last revised in 2012, and originally written in 2008) are:

On my current development machine, I'm experimenting with using btrfs as the root file system, including using sbuild instead of pbuilder to build packages since it can use btrfs snapshots. So far, I'm extremely happy with that configuration. It was hard to find good documentation for the process, so I wrote up how I configure sbuild with btrfs in case it's of interest to anyone else. It's noticably faster than using pbuilder, and once I got used to it I think it feels a bit cleaner.

2018-02-11: pgpcontrol 2.6

This is the legacy bundle of Usenet control message signing and verification tools, distributed primarily via (which hasn't updated yet as I write this). You can see the files for the current release at

This release adds support for using gpg for signature verification, provided by Thomas Hochstein, since gpgv may no longer support insecure digest algorithms.

Honestly, all the Perl Usenet control message code I maintain is a mess and needs some serious investment in effort, along with a major migration for the Big Eight signing key (and probably the signing key for various other archives). A lot of this stuff hasn't changed substantially in something like 20 years now, still supports software that no one has used in eons (like the PGP 2.6.3i release), doesn't use modern coding idioms, doesn't have a working test suite any longer, and is full of duplicate code to mess about with temporary files to generate signatures.

The formal protocol specification is also a pretty old and scanty description from the original project, and really should be a proper RFC.

I keep wanting to work on this, and keep not clearing the time to start properly and do a decent job of it, since it's a relatively large effort. But this could all be so much better, and I could then unify about four different software distributions I currently maintain, or at least layer them properly, and have something that would have a modern test suite and could be packaged properly. And then I could start a migration for the Big Eight signing key, which has been needed for quite some time.

Not sure when I'm going to do this, though, since it's several days of work to really get started. Maybe my next vacation?

(Alternately, I could just switch everything over to Julien's Python code. But I have a bunch of software already written in Perl of which the control message processing is just a component, so it would be easier to have a good Perl implementation.)

2018-02-11: February Haul

Most of this is the current StoryBundle: Black Narratives, in honor of Black History Month in the United States. But there's also a random selection of other things that I couldn't resist.

(I'm still reading this year too! Just a touch behind on reviews at the moment.)

Alicia Wright Brewster — Echo (sff)
T. Thorne Coyle — To Raise a Clenched Fist to the Sky (sff)
T. Thorne Coyle — To Wrest Our Bodies from the Fire (sff)
Julie E. Czerneda — Riders of the Storm (sff)
Julie E. Czerneda — Rift in the Sky (sff)
Terah Edun — Blades of Magic (sff)
Terah Edun — Blades of Illusion (sff)
L.L. Farmer — Black Borne (sff)
Jim C. Hines — Goblin Quest (sff)
Jim C. Hines — The Stepsister Scheme (sff)
Nalo Hopkinson — The Salt Roads (sff)
S.L. Huang — Root of Unity (sff)
Ursula K. Le Guin — Steering the Craft (nonfiction)
Nnedi Okorafor — Kabu-Kabu (sff collection)
Karen Lord — Redemption in Indigo (sff)
L. Penelope — Angelborn (sff)
Elizabeth Wein — The Pearl Thief (mainstream)

I'm slowly reading through the Czerneda that I missed, since I liked the Species Imperative series so much. Most of it isn't that good, and Czerneda has a few predictable themes, but it's fun and entertaining.

The Wein is a prequel to Code Name Verity, so, uh, yes please.

Last modified and spun 2018-02-12