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Jaldhar Vyas's Debian GNU/Linux WeblogSearch the La Salle Debain database

Copyright: Copyright 2005, Jaldhar Vyas

Get Ready For Bikini Season With These n Weird Tricks

Fri, 28 Oct 2016 03:04:08 -0500

It all started last June when my son had his Janoi (Yagnopavita) ceremony -- the ritual by which a Brahmana boy becomes "twice-born" and eligible to study the Vedas. As well as a profound religious experience, it is also an important social occasion with a reception for as many friends and family as can attend. (I think our final guest total was ~250.) This meant new outfits for everyone which might be exciting for some people but not me. I still don't know why I couldn't just keep wearing the khes and pitambar from the puja but no, apparently that's a faux pas. So I relented and agreed to wear my "darbari" suit from my wedding. And it didn't fit. I knew I had gained some weight in the intermediate 17 years but the thing was sitcom levels of too small. I ended up having to purchase a new one, a snazzy (and shiny!) maroon number with gold stripes (or were they black stripes?) Problem having been solved, much was eaten, more weight was gained and then I forgot about the whole thing. Tip 1: Actually Do Something. I have over the years tried to improve my physical condition but it has never gotten very far. For instance I have a treadmill/coatrack and a couple of years ago I began using it in earnest. I got to the point where I actually ran a 10K race without dying. But I did not train systematically and I ended up in some pain which caused me to stop working out for a while and then I never got around to restarting. Diets have also failed because I don't have a clear idea of what and how much I am eating. All I know is that women go into the kitchen and when they come out they have food. By what eldritch process this occurs is a mystery, I just eat whats given to me thankful that the magic happens. Once I was moved to try and help but quickly fell afoul of the lack of well-defined algorithms in Gujarati home cooking. "How much saffron should I add?" "this much." "How much is this much in SI units?" "You're annoying me. Get out." Fast forward to March of this year. For my birthday, my wife got me a Fitbit fitness tracker. This is what I had needed all this time. It measure heart rate, distance travelled, time slept and several other pieces of info you can use to really plan a fitness regimen rationally. For example, I was chagrined to learn that sometimes when I'm at the computer, I am so immobile that the fitbit thought I was asleep. So I started planning to taken more frequent breaks. (A recent firmware upgrade has added the ability to nudge to walk atleast 250 paces each daytime hour which is handy for this.) Also by checking my heart rate I discovered that I went on the treadmill I ran too fast thereby stressing my body for little gain and ending up going too slow to get much aerobic effect. Now I can pace myself appropriately for maximum cardiac efficiency without ending up injuring myself and giving up. I also get a little more activity each day by simple changes such as taking the stairs instead of the lift and instead of getting off at the 14th street PATH I go all the way to 34th street and walk down. Tip 2: You must have data in order to see what you did right or wrong and to plan what you need to do moving forward. One caveat about these fitness trackers. They are not anywhere as accurate as a proper checkup from a doctor who specializes in such things. If you want to do any kind of pro or amateur athletics you probably should not rely on them but for the average shlub who just wants to avoid appearing on the news being winched off his sofa by the fire brigade they are good enough. Another practice I began was keeping a food diary. It can be a real eye-opener to see how much you are actually eating. It is probably much more than you thought. I am fortunate that my diet is pretty good to begin with. Vegetarian, (not vegan, Hindus eat dairy products,) mostly home-cooked with fresh ingredients, not fried or processed, and I don't drink alcohol. However there were a few optimizations I could make. I drink a lot of soda; atleast two cans a day. I r[...]

Aaargh gcc 5.x You Suck

Tue, 25 Oct 2016 01:45:53 -0500

Aaargh gcc 5.x You Suck

I had to write a quick program today which is going to be run many thousands of times a day so it has to run fast. I decided to do it in c++ instead of the usual perl or javascript because it seemed appropriate and I've been playing around a lot with c++ lately trying to update my knowledge of its' modern features. So 200 LOC later I was almost done so I ran the program through valgrind a good habit I've been trying to instill. That's when I got a reminder of why I avoid c++.

==37698== HEAP SUMMARY:
==37698==     in use at exit: 72,704 bytes in 1 blocks
==37698==   total heap usage: 5 allocs, 4 frees, 84,655 bytes allocated
==37698== LEAK SUMMARY:
==37698==    definitely lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==37698==    indirectly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==37698==      possibly lost: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==37698==    still reachable: 72,704 bytes in 1 blocks
==37698==         suppressed: 0 bytes in 0 blocks

One of things I've learnt which I've been trying to apply more rigorously is to avoid manual memory management (news/deletes.) as much as possible in favor of modern c++ features such as std::unique_ptr etc. By my estimation there should only be three places in my code where memory is allocated and none of them should leak. Where do the others come from? And why is there a missing free (or delete.) Now the good news is that valgrind is saying that the memory is not technically leaking. It is still reachable at exit but that's ok because the OS will reclaim it. But this program will run a lot and I think it could still lead to problems over time such as memory fragmentation so I wanted to understand what was going on. Not to mention the bad aesthetics of it.

My first assumption (one which has served me well over the years) was to assume that I had screwed up somewhere. Or perhaps it could some behind the scenes compiler magic. It turned out to be the latter -- sort of as I found out only after two hours of jiggling code in different ways and googling for clues. That's when I found this Stack Overflow question which suggests that it is either a valgrind or compiler bug. The answer specifically mentions gcc 5.1. I was using Ubuntu LTS which has gcc 5.4 so I have just gone ahead and assumed all 5.x versions of gcc have this problem. Sure enough, compiling the same program on Debian stable which has gcc 4.9 gave this...

==6045== HEAP SUMMARY:
==6045==     in use at exit: 0 bytes in 0 blocks
==6045==   total heap usage: 3 allocs, 3 frees, 10,967 bytes allocated
==6045== All heap blocks were freed -- no leaks are possible

...Much better. The executable was substantially smaller too. The time was not a total loss however. I learned that valgrind is pronounced val-grinned (it's from Norse mythology.) not val-grind as I had thought. So I have that going for me which is nice.

What I Did During My Summer Vacation

Sun, 23 Oct 2016 00:01:06 -0500

Thats So Raven

If I could sum up the past year in one word, that word would be distraction. There have been so many strange, confusing or simply unforseen things going on I have had trouble focusing like never before.

For instance, on the opposite side of the street from me is one of Jersey City's old resorvoirs. It's not used for drinking water anymore and the city eventually plans on merging it into the park on the other side. In the meantime it has become something of a wildlife refuge. Which is nice except one of the newly settled critters was a bird of prey -- the consensus is possibly some kind of hawk or raven. Starting your morning commute under the eyes of a harbinger of death is very goth and I even learned to deal with the occasional piece of deconstructed rodent on my doorstep but nighttime was a big problem. For contrary to popular belief, ravens do not quoth "nevermore" but "KRRAAAA". Very loudly. Just as soon as you have drifted of to sleep. Eventually my sleep-deprived neighbors and I appealed to the NJ division of enviromental protection to get it removed but by the time they were ready to swing into action the bird had left for somewhere more congenial like Transylvania or Newark.

Or here are some more complete wastes of time: I go the doctor for my annual physical. The insurance company codes it as Adult Onset Diabetes by accident. One day I opened the lid of my laptop and there's a "ping" sound and a piece of the hinge flies off. Apparently that also severed the connection to the screen and naturally the warranty had just expired so I had to spend the next month tethered to an external monitor until I could afford to buy a new one. Mix in all the usual social, political, family and work drama and you can see that it has been a very trying time for me.


I have managed to get some Debian work done. On Dovecot, my principal package, I have gotten tremendous support from Apollon Oikonomopolous who I belatedly welcome as a member of the Dovecot maintainer team. He has been particularly helpful in fixing our systemd support and cleaning out a lot of the old and invalid bugs. We're in pretty good shape for the freeze. Upstream has released an RC of 2.2.26 and hopefully the final version will be out in the next couple of days so we can include it in Stretch. We can always use more help with the package so let me know if you're interested.


Most of the action has been going on without me but I've been lending support and sponsoring whenever I can. We have several new DDs and DMs but still no one north of the Vindhyas I'm afraid.

Debian Perl Group

gregoa did a ping of inactive maintainers and I regretfully had to admit to myself that I wasn't going to be of use anytime soon so I resigned. Perl remains my favorite language and I've actually been more involved in the meetings of my local Perlmongers group so hopefully I will be back again one day. And I still maintain the Perl modules I wrote myself.


May have gained a recruit.

*Stricly speaking it should be called Debian-People-Who-Dont-Think-Faults-in-One-Moral-Domain-Such-As-For-Example-Axe-Murdering-Should-Leak-Into-Another-Moral-Domain-Such-As-For-Example-Debian but come on, that's just silly.

Something Else Will Be Posted Soon Also.

Mon, 17 Oct 2016 01:07:58 -0500

Yikes today was Sharad Purnima which means there is about two weeks to go before Diwali and I haven't written anything here all year.

OK new challenge: write 7 substantive blog posts before Diwali. Can I manage to do it? Let's see...

Security Wontfix

Thu, 24 Mar 2016 00:16:29 -0500

I'm going to loudly sing John Lennon's "Imagine" until Bug #818652 resolves itself.

7DRL 2016

Sat, 05 Mar 2016 22:48:05 -0600

It's time once again for the annual 7 Day Roguelike Challenge. I know I said I wasn't going to take part again until I properly finished one of my previous entries but I've thought of an interesting and novel game mechanic that I'm eager to try out so what the hell.

If you are interested in following my progress, I will blog about it here starting from Monday and (hopefully successfully) finishing on the following Sunday.

Of course the best part of it is coming up with names. Here are this years choices:

  • letsen[terthe]crypt
  • Make Narnia Great Again
  • Thane of Groans
  • I Am The Black Wizards

New Year Resolutions

Fri, 13 Nov 2015 00:02:01 -0600

Now this could just be the prodigious amounts of sugar and ghee I've been eating the past few days, but I'm bursting with energy for working on Debian so here is a list of things I want to do in the upcoming year.

  • Finish packaging the latest Dovecot (2.2.19).

This will happen soon. Sooner if you people will stop filing bugs all the time. The rest of the items are more long term.

  • Recruit more members for the Dovecot packaging team.
  • Undertake to respond to all bug reports and other Debian correspondence within three days.
  • Finally get the Minix port to a state where other people can use it and work on it too.
  • Relearn Debian development from scratch so that I can be familliar with and apply the latest techniques. Write down what I've learned.
  • Arrange (or more realistically get someone to arrange) a Debian event in Northern or Eastern India.
  • Watch all the Debconf 15 videos.

To keep all of this on track, I shall adopt the practice lately seen on Debian Planet of periodically posting a report of my Debian activities.

Happy Diwali and Sal Mubarak 2072

Tue, 10 Nov 2015 15:42:24 -0600

Wishing you all a happy Diwali and Gujarati New Year (V.S. 2072 called Plavanga.)

Instead of being something sane like a flat disk supported by four elephants standing on a tortoise, the Earth is an oblate spheroid in heliocentric orbit. The Moon too offends by maintaining an unreasonably non-epicyclic orbit. Combined this means that the Americas (plus Iceland if there any Hindus there) observe Diwali today whereas in India and the rest of the world it is tomorrow. Technically in these longitudes the Ashvayuja amavasya tithi pervades both Tuesday and Wednesday but as Lakshmi Puja takes place at the pradosha kala it means it should be celebrated today though no doubt most of the non-astronomically minded people will just follow India any way. The New Year is on Thursday all over the world.

Regardless of when you celebrate, may your year be full of happiness, good fortune and prosperity.

No 7DRL for Me This Year

Sun, 08 Mar 2015 10:15:34 -0500

It's time once again for the Seven Day Roguelike Challenge but I've decided to try and force some discipline on myself and not participate until I actually complete one of my earlier entries into a properly playable game.

I did have some fun thinking of names though.

  • Fifty Shades of Grue
  • The Intothegroundening
  • Game of Spiky Chairs
You may use them in your own entry free of charge.

Mini-Debconf Mumbai 2015

Fri, 23 Jan 2015 00:47:37 -0600

Last weekend I went to Mumbai to attend the Mini-Debconf held at IIT-Bombay. These are my impressions of the trip. Arrival and Impressions of Mumbai Getting there was a quite an adventure in itself. Unlike during my ill-fated attempt to visit a Debian event in Kerala last year when a bureaucratic snafu left me unable to get a visa, the organizers started the process much earlier at their end this time and with proper permissions. Yet in India, the wheels only turn as fast as they want to turn so despite their efforts, it was only literally at the last minute that I actually managed to secure my visa. I should note however that Indian government has done a lot to improve the process compared to the hell I remember from, say, a decade ago. It's fairly straightforward for tourist visas now and I trust they will get around to doing the same for conference visas in the fullness of time. I didn't want to commit to buying a plane ticket until I had the visa so I became concerned that the only flights left would be either really expensive or on the type of airline that flies you over Syria or under the Indian Ocean. I lucked out and got a good price on a Swiss Air flight, not non-stop but you can't have everything. So Thursday afternoon I set off for JFK. With only one small suitcase getting there by subway was no problem and I arrived and checked in with plenty of time. Even TSA passed me through with only a minimal amount of indignity. The first leg of my journey took me to Zurich in about eight hours. We were only in Zurich for an hour and then (by now Friday) it was another 9 hours to Mumbai. Friday was Safala Ekadashi but owing to the necessity of staying hydrated on a long flight I drank a lot of water and ate some fruit which I don't normally do on a fasting day. It was tolerable but not too pleasant; I definitely want to try and make travel plans to avoid such situations in the future. Friday evening local time I got to Mumbai. Chhattrapati Shivaji airport has improved a lot since I saw t last and now has all the amenities an international traveller needs including unrestricted free wifi (Zurich airport are you taking notes?) But here my first ominous piece of bad luck began. No sign of my suitcase. Happily some asking around revealed that it had somehow gotten on some earlier Swiss Air flight instead of the one I was on and was actually waiting for me. I got outside and Debian Developer Praveen Arimbrathodiyil was waiting to pick me up. Normally I don't lke staying in Mumbai very much even though I have relatives there but that's because we usually went during July-August—the monsoon season—when Mumbai reverts back to the swampy archipelago it was originally built on. This time the weather was nice, cold by local standards, but lovely and spring-like to someone from snowy New Jersey. There have been a lot of improvements to the road infrastructure and people are actually obeying the traffic laws. (Within reason of course. Whether or not a family of six can arrange themselves on one Bajaj scooter is no business of the cops.) The Hotel Tuliip (yes, two i's. Manager didn't know why.) Residency where I was to stay while not quite a five star establishment was adequate for my needs with a bed, hot water shower, and air conditioning. And a TV which to the bellhops great confusion I did not want turned on. (He asked about five times.) There was no Internet access per se but the manager offered to hook up a wireless router to a cable. Which on closer inspection turned out to have been severed at the base. He assured me it would be fixed tomorrow so I didn't complain and decided to do something more productive thank checking my email like sleeping. The next day I woke up in total darkness. Apparently th[...]