Leaving for BachoTeX 2017

Tomorrow we are leaving for TUG 2017 @ BachoTeX, one of the most unusual and great series of conferences (BachoTeX) merged with the most important series of TeX conference (TUG). I am looking forward to this trip and to see all the good friends there.

And having the chance to visit my family at the same time in Vienna makes this trip, how painful the long flight with our daughter will be, worth it.

See you in Vienna and Bachotek!

PS: No pun intended with the photo-logo combination, just a shot of the great surroundings in Bachotek 😉

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ピクニック、山菜、幸せ

春になると山菜の季節に入る。今年も福井県の友人と大野市の牧場へ行ってきた。目的が2つあった:ピクニックと山菜。その後自宅で豪華な山菜夕食を食べて、いっぱいの美味しいお酒を飲みながら遅くまで喋った。幸せな時間だ。

Picnic at the pastures over Ono, Fukui

このような季節はずっと続いてくれたらうれしい。 Continue reading

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TeX Live 2017 pretest started

Preparations for the release of TeX Live 2017 have started a few days ago with the freeze of updates in TeX Live 2016 and the announcement of the official start of the pretest period. That means that we invite people to test the new release and help fixing bugs.

Notable changes are listed on the pretest page, I only want to report about the changes in the core infrastructure: changes in the user/sys mode of fmtutil and updmap, and introduction of the tlmgr shell. Continue reading

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Gaming: Firewatch

A nice little game, Firewatch, puts you into a fire watch tower in Wyoming, with only a walkie-talkie connecting him to his supervisor Delilah. A so called “first person mystery adventure” with very nice graphics and great atmosphere.

Starting with your trip to the watch tower, the game sends the player into a series of “missions”, during which more and more clues about a mystery disappearance are revealed. Continue reading

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Systemd again (or how to obliterate your system)

Ok, I have been silent about systemd and its being forced onto us in Debian like force-feeding Foie gras gooses. I have complained about systemd a few times (here and here), but what I read today really made me loose my last drips of trust I had in this monster-piece of software.

If you are up for some really surprising read about the main figure behind systemd, enjoy this github issue. It’s about a bug that simply does the equivalent of rm -rf / in some cases. The OP gave clear indications, the bug was fixes immediately, but then a comment from the God Poettering himself appeared that made the case drip over:

I am not sure I’d consider this much of a problem. Yeah, it’s a UNIX pitfall, but “rm -rf /foo/.*” will work the exact same way, no?Lennart Poettering, systemd issue 5644

Well, no, a total of 1min would have shown him that this is not the case. But we trust this guy the whole management of the init process, servers, logs (and soon our toilet and fridge management, X, DNS, whatever you ask for).

There are two issues here: One is that such a bug is lurking in systemd since probably years. The reason is simple – we pay with these kinds of bugs for the incredible complexity increase of the init process which takes over too much services. Referring back to the Turing Award lecture given by Hoare, we see that systemd took the later path:

I conclude that there are two ways of constructing a software design: One way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. Antony Hoare, Turing Award Lecture 1980

The other issue is how systemd developers deal with bug reports. I have reported several cases here, this is just another one: Close the issue for comments, shut up, put it under the carpet.

(Image credit: The musings of an Indian Faust)

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Calibre on Debian

Calibre is the prime open source e-book management program, but the Debian releases often lag behind the official releases. Furthermore, the Debian packages remove support for rar packed e-books, which means that several comic book formats cannot be handled.

Thus, I have published a local repository targeting Debian/sid of calibre with binaries for amd64 where rar is enabled and as far as possible the latest version is included.

deb http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main
deb-src http://www.preining.info/debian/ calibre main

The releases are signed with my Debian key 0x6CACA448860CDC13

Enjoy

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Stella Stejskal – Im Mezzanin

A book about being woman, mother in a modern but still traditional society. About happiness and fulfillment, love and sex, responsibility and dependency, about life: Stella Stejskal‘s Im Mezzanin (in German).

Written by a friend back from my old times in Vienna, Stella Stejskal, like me an emigrant, I saw parts of this book during writing, and I was happy to see the final product and read it.

The first novel of Stella turns around Anna, the protagonist, a wife, mother, and woman, trying to find her balance between the house, family, kids, work, and her incredible power and thrive to live, live to the fullest.

Dein Leben in der Vorstadt, im Einfamilienhaus mit dem Garten, macht Dich nicht glücklich. Vordergründig hast Du alles, was eine Frau sich wünscht und doch fehlt Dir etwas Wesentliches: Verlangen und Leidenschaft.

(Your life in the suburb, in the one-family home with garden, it doesn’t make you happy. On the surface you do have everything what a woman could wish for, but you are missing something essential: desire and passion)

The author does not shy away from explicit language without ever dropping into the Vernacolo, the banalities. She manages to convey the incredible tension many of those being stretched out between the necessities of daily life and the need for a more personal life.

Last but not least, I loved this book for quoting one of my most favorite lines from a song:

Konstantin Weckers Was passiert in den Jahren, drangen leise durch den Raum. “Komm, wir gehen mit der Flut und verwandeln mit den Wellen unsere Angst in neuen Mut”, sang ich mit und dachte an den Sommer …

For those capable of German, very recommendable.

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Planet Earth I – From Pole to Pole

In preparation for watching the new Planet Earth II (BBC page, Wiki) by David Attenborough, I re-watched the original 2006 BBC Planet Earth, episode one, From Pole to Pole, fortunately it is now available on Netflix. I have forgotten how great it is. I was moved to tears.

This is now 10 years old but still top of the technique, even compared to the new Cosmos series. The nature shots, often in slow motion, give spectacular views onto animals hardly seen in this way. Here is a male Superb bird of paradise posing in front of a female, making a very strange impression (bad screenshot, sorry).

White sharks are dangerous, we all know, but did you know that they can actually fly? Well, not actually fly, but they can jump as far as completely leaving the sea:

The first episode finishes in the Okavango Delta with elephants bathing in the sea. Here is a young club dancing under water.

Deeply impressed, deeply moved. In light of anti-environmental anti-climate-change anti-intelligence comedian at the White House, more of us should actually see these great pieces of journalism, let it influence our thinking, and hopefully vote differently when it is our turn again.

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Gaming: Quern – Undying Thoughts

I have been an addict of Myst like games since the very beginning. Solving mind boggling riddles by logical means (instead of weapons) was always my preferred gaming. And it seems 2016 had a great share of games fitting to my taste: Obduction, The Eyes of Ara, The Witness, and last but not least Quern – Undying Thoughts. Due to work, research, online courses, diapers, and some real life (these are also the excuses for my long silence on this blog) it took me ages to complete this games, but with a bit of help I finally manged it.

Those who have ever played any game from the Myst series (Myst, Riven etc) know what you get: Several worlds/areas to explore, finding clues, solving riddles, lots of reading, leading to a finish where you have to decide between two fates. Continue reading

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Ryu Murakami – Tokyo Decadence

The other Murakami, Ryu Murakami (村上 龍), is hard to compare to the more famous Haruki. His collection of stories reflects the dark sides of Tokyo, far removed from the happy world of AKB48 and the like. Criminals, prostitutes, depression, loss. A bleak image onto a bleak society.

This collection of short stories is a consequent deconstruction of happiness, love, everything we believe to make our lives worthwhile. The protagonists are idealistic students loosing their faith, office ladies on aberrations, drunkards, movie directors, the usual mixture. But the topic remains constant – the unfulfilled search for happiness and love.

I felt I was beginning to understand what happiness is about. It isn’t about guzzling ten or twenty energy drinks a day, barreling down the highway for hours at a time, turning over your paycheck to your wife without even opening the envelope, and trying to force your family to respect you. Happiness is based on secrets and lies.Ryu Murakami, It all started just about a year and a half ago

A deep pessimistic undertone is echoing through these stories, and the atmosphere and writing reminds of Charles Bukowski. This pessimism resonates in the melancholy of the running themes in the stories, Cuban music. Murakami was active in disseminating Cuban music in Japan, which included founding his own label. Javier Olmo’s pieces are often the connecting parts, as well as lending the short stories their title: Historia de un amor, Se fué.

The belief – that what’s missing now used to be available to us – is just an illusion, if you ask me. But the social pressure of “You’ve got everything you need, what’s your problem?” is more powerful than you might ever think, and it’s hard to defend yourself against it. In this country it’s taboo even to think about looking for something more in life.Ryu Murakami, Historia de un amor

It is interesting to see that on the surface, the women in the stories are the broken characters, leading feminists to incredible rants about the book, see the rant^Wreview of Blake Fraina at Goodreads:

I’ll start by saying that, as a feminist, I’m deeply suspicious of male writers who obsess over the sex lives of women and, further, have the audacity to write from a female viewpoint…
…female characters are pretty much all pathetic victims of the male characters…
I wish there was absolutely no market for stuff like this and I particularly discourage women readers from buying it…Blake Fraina, Goodreads review

On first sight it might look like that the female characters are pretty much all pathetic victims of the male characters, but in fact it is the other way round, the desperate characters, the slaves of their own desperation, are the men, and not the women, in these stories. It is dual to the situation in Hitomi Kanehara’s Snakes and Earrings, where on first sight the tattooist and the outlaw friends are the broken characters, but the really cracked one is the sweet Tokyo girly.

Male-female relationships are always in transition. If there’s no forward progress, things tend to slip backwards.Ryu Murakami, Se fué

Final verdict: Great reading, hard to put down, very much readable and enjoyable, if one is in the mood of dark and depressing stories. And last but not least, don’t trust feminist book reviews.

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