Elsewhere

Keith Packard: Glamorous Intel

Planet Debian - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 09:39
Reworking Intel Glamor

The original Intel driver Glamor support was based on the notion that it would be better to have the Intel driver capture any fall backs and try to make them faster than Glamor could do internally. Now that Glamor has reasonably complete acceleration, and its fall backs aren’t terrible, this isn’t as useful as it once was, and because this uses Glamor in a weird way, we’re making the Glamor code harder to maintain.

Fixing the Intel driver to not use Glamor in this way took a bit of effort; the UXA support is all tied into the overall operation of the driver.

Separating out UXA functions

The first task was to just identify which functions were UXA-specific by adding “_uxa” to their names. A couple dozen sed runs and now a bunch of the driver is looking better.

Next, a pile of UXA-specific functions were actually inside the non-UXA parts of the code. Those got moved out, and a new ‘intel_uxa.h” file was created to hold all of the definitions.

Finally, a few non UXA-specific functions were actually in the uxa files; those got moved over to the generic code.

Removing the Glamor paths in UXA

Each one of the UXA functions had a little piece of code at the top like:

if (uxa_screen->info->flags & UXA_USE_GLAMOR) { int ok = 0; if (uxa_prepare_access(pDrawable, UXA_GLAMOR_ACCESS_RW)) { ok = glamor_fill_spans_nf(pDrawable, pGC, n, ppt, pwidth, fSorted); uxa_finish_access(pDrawable, UXA_GLAMOR_ACCESS_RW); } if (!ok) goto fallback; return; }

Pulling those out shrank the UXA code by quite a bit.

Selecting Acceleration (or not)

The intel driver only supported UXA before; Glamor was really just a slightly different mode for UXA. I switched the driver from using a bit in the UXA flags to having an ‘accel’ variable which could be one of three options:

  • ACCEL_GLAMOR.
  • ACCEL_UXA.
  • ACCEL_NONE

I added ACCEL_NONE to give us a dumb frame buffer mode. That actually supports DRI3 so that we can bring up Mesa and run it under X before we have any acceleration code ready; avoiding a dependency loop when doing new hardware. All that it requires is a kernel that offers mode setting and buffer allocation.

Initializing Glamor

With UXA no longer supporting Glamor, it was time to plug the Glamor support into the top of the driver. That meant changing a bunch of the entry points to select appropriate Glamor or UXA functionality, instead of just calling into UXA. So, now we’ve got lots of places that look like:

switch (intel->accel) { #if USE_GLAMOR case ACCEL_GLAMOR: if (!intel_glamor_create_screen_resources(screen)) return FALSE; break; #endif #if USE_UXA case ACCEL_UXA: if (!intel_uxa_create_screen_resources(screen)) return FALSE; break; #endif case ACCEL_NONE: if (!intel_none_create_screen_resources(screen)) return FALSE; break; }

Using a switch means that we can easily elide code that isn’t wanted in a particular build. Of course ‘accel’ is an enum, so places which are missing one of the required paths will cause a compiler warning.

It’s not all perfectly clean yet; there are piles of UXA-only paths still.

Making It Build Without UXA

The final trick was to make the driver build without UXA turned on; that took several iterations before I had the symbols sorted out appropriately.

I built the driver with various acceleration options and then tried to count the lines of source code. What I did was just list the source files named in the driver binary itself. This skips all of the header files and the render program source code, and ignores the fact that there are a bunch of #ifdef’s in the uxa directory selecting between uxa, glamor and none.

Accel Lines Size(B) ----------- ------ ------- none 7143 73039 glamor 7397 76540 uxa 25979 283777 sna 118832 1303904 none legacy 14449 152480 glamor legacy 14703 156125 uxa legacy 33285 350685 sna legacy 126138 1395231

The ‘legacy’ addition supports i810-class hardware, which is needed for a complete driver.

Along The Way, Enable Tiling for the Front Buffer

While hacking the code, I discovered that the initial frame buffer allocated for the screen was created without tiling because a few parameters that depend on the GTT size were not initialized until after that frame buffer was allocated. I haven’t analyzed what effect this has on performance.

Page Flipping and Resize

Page flipping (or just flipping) means switching the entire display from one frame buffer to another. It’s generally the fastest way of updating the screen as you don’t have to copy any bits.

The trick with flipping is that a client hands you a random pixmap and you need to stuff that into the KMS API. With UXA, that’s pretty easy as all pixmaps are managed through the UXA API which knows which underlying kernel BO is tied with each pixmap. Using Glamor, only the underlying GL driver knows the mapping. Fortunately (?), we have the EGL Image extension, which lets us take a random GL texture and turn it into a file descriptor for a DMA-BUF kernel object. So, we have this cute little dance:

fd = glamor_fd_from_pixmap(screen, pixmap, &stride, &size); bo = drm_intel_bo_gem_create_from_prime(intel->bufmgr, fd, size); close(fd); intel_glamor_get_pixmap(pixmap)->bo = bo;

That last bit remembers the bo in some local memory so we don’t have to do this more than once for each pixmap. glamorfdfrompixmap ends up calling eglCreateImageKHR followed by gbmbo_import and then a kernel ioctl to convert a prime handle into an fd. It’s all quite round-about, but it does seem to work just fine.

After I’d gotten Glamor mostly working, I tried a few OpenGL applications and discovered flipping wasn’t working. That turned out to have an unexpected consequence — all full-screen applications would run flat-out, and not be limited to frame rate. Present ‘recovers’ from a failed flip queue operation by immediately performing a CopyArea; not waiting for vblank. This needs to get fixed in Present by having it re-queued the CopyArea for the right time. What I did in the intel driver was to add a bunch more checks for tiling mode, pixmap stride and other things to catch pixmaps that were going to fail before the operation was queued and forcing them to fall back to CopyArea at the right time.

The second adventure was with XRandR. Glamor has an API to fix up the screen pixmap for a new frame buffer, but that pulls the size of the frame buffer out of the pixmap instead of out of the screen. XRandR leaves the pixmap size set to the old screen size during this call; fixing that just meant getting the pixmap size set correctly before calling into glamor. I think glamor should get fixed to use the screen size rather than the pixmap size.

Painting Root before Mode set

The X server has generally done initialization in one order:

  1. Create root pixmap
  2. Set video modes
  3. Paint root window

Recently, we’ve added a ‘-background none’ option to the X server which causes it to set the root window background to none and have the driver fill in that pixmap with whatever contents were on the screen before the X server started.

In a pre-Glamor world, that was done by hacking the video driver to copy the frame buffer console contents to the root pixmap as it was created. The trouble here is that the root pixmap is created long before the upper layers of the X server are ready for drawing, so you can’t use the core rendering paths. Instead, UXA had kludges to call directly into the acceleration functions.

What we really want though is to change the order of operations:

  1. Create root pixmap
  2. Paint root window
  3. Set video mode

That way, the normal root window painting operation will take care of getting the image ready before that pixmap is ever used for scanout. I can use regular core X rendering to get the original frame buffer contents into the root window, and even if we’re not using -background none and are instead painting the root with some other pattern (like the root weave), I get that presented without an intervening black flash.

That turned out to be really easy — just delay the call to I830EnterVT (which sets the modes) until the server is actually running. That required one additional kludge — I needed to tell the DIX level RandR functions about the new modes; the mode setting operation used during server init doesn’t call up into RandR as RandR lists the current configuration after the screen has been initialized, which is when the modes used to be set.

Calling xf86RandR12CreateScreenResources does the trick nicely. Getting the root window bits from fbcon, setting video modes and updating the RandR/Xinerama DIX info is now all done from the BlockHandler the first time it is called.

Performance

I ran the current glamor version of the intel driver with the master branch of the X server and there were not any huge differences since my last Glamor performance evaluation aside from GetImage. The reason is that UXA/Glamor never called Glamor’s image functions, and the UXA GetImage is pretty slow. Using Mesa’s image download turns out to have a huge performance benefit:

1. UXA/Glamor from April 2. Glamor from today 1 2 Operation ------------ ------------------------- ------------------------- 50700.0 56300.0 ( 1.110) ShmGetImage 10x10 square 12600.0 26200.0 ( 2.079) ShmGetImage 100x100 square 1840.0 4250.0 ( 2.310) ShmGetImage 500x500 square 3290.0 202.0 ( 0.061) ShmGetImage XY 10x10 square 36.5 170.0 ( 4.658) ShmGetImage XY 100x100 square 1.5 56.4 ( 37.600) ShmGetImage XY 500x500 square 49800.0 50200.0 ( 1.008) GetImage 10x10 square 5690.0 19300.0 ( 3.392) GetImage 100x100 square 609.0 1360.0 ( 2.233) GetImage 500x500 square 3100.0 206.0 ( 0.066) GetImage XY 10x10 square 36.4 183.0 ( 5.027) GetImage XY 100x100 square 1.5 55.4 ( 36.933) GetImage XY 500x500 square

Running UXA from today the situation is even more dire; I suspect that enabling tiling has made CPU reads through the GTT even worse than before?

1: UXA today 2: Glamor today 1 2 Operation ------------ ------------------------- ------------------------- 43200.0 56300.0 ( 1.303) ShmGetImage 10x10 square 2600.0 26200.0 ( 10.077) ShmGetImage 100x100 square 130.0 4250.0 ( 32.692) ShmGetImage 500x500 square 3260.0 202.0 ( 0.062) ShmGetImage XY 10x10 square 36.7 170.0 ( 4.632) ShmGetImage XY 100x100 square 1.5 56.4 ( 37.600) ShmGetImage XY 500x500 square 41700.0 50200.0 ( 1.204) GetImage 10x10 square 2520.0 19300.0 ( 7.659) GetImage 100x100 square 125.0 1360.0 ( 10.880) GetImage 500x500 square 3150.0 206.0 ( 0.065) GetImage XY 10x10 square 36.1 183.0 ( 5.069) GetImage XY 100x100 square 1.5 55.4 ( 36.933) GetImage XY 500x500 square

Of course, this is all just x11perf, which doesn’t represent real applications at all well. However, there are applications which end up doing more GetImage than would seem reasonable, and it’s nice to have this kind of speed up.

Status

I’m running this on my crash box to get some performance numbers and continue testing it. I’ll switch my desktop over when I feel a bit more comfortable with how it’s working. But, I think it’s feature complete at this point.

Where’s the Code

As usual, the code is in my personal repository. It’s on the ‘glamor’ branch.

git://people.freedesktop.org/~keithp/xf86-video-intel glamor
Categories: Elsewhere

godel.com.au: Creating an immersive Drupal front-end with Yes Way

Planet Drupal - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 09:20
Mon July 21, 2014 Creating an immersive Drupal front-end with Yes Way

Yes Way are a creative agency who connect businesses, brands and communities with the creative talent they need. They specialise in strategic planning for businesses and representation for creative individuals to engage their target audience through branding, events and marketing.

The brief

Godel were approached by Yes Way to help complete designs for their website update and produce a custom responsive website built in a Drupal 7 backend with a totally custom front-end that leveraged a minimalist and modern Aurora subtheme, Singularity grids and a lot of Javascript via Drupal behaviors.

The brief was to create a vibrant online presence to reflect the creatives that Yes Way represent; specialists in photography, street art, fine art, illustration and fashion styling. Yes Way wanted to stick with their existing branding, but give it new life through a new design. As such, the new site design that we created for Yes Way is not only clean and minimalist with a typographic focus, but also projects a vibrant persona, bringing creative talent to the forefront through their personal profiles and visual portfolios.

Working on projects like this is a great experience as it allows us to work closely with the client to iteratively improve on an existing product. Although we did the redesign and site build in a short period of time this time, this sort of iterative improvement process can work as on ongoing agreement as well, allowing us to build trust with our clients and gradually make improvements to their product over time, keeping it up to current standards in design and dev and allowing the client freedom to make suggestions based on their changing needs.

The site

Yes Way's new landing page features a full length background image and a retractable navigation which engages as soon as the viewer starts scrolling. More information is revealed about Yes Way as you scroll down past each header and when the a navigation menu item is clicked the screen smoothly transits to the appropriate area on the site using jQuery.

Godel wanted to bring the site up to date with dynamic and responsive features. Responsive design elements include the use of mmenu which creates a slick, user-friendly navigation pattern for mobile devices. The desktop functions as a "one pager" with some pop-up overlays. The navigation uses the scrollTo library to hijack the normal scrolling behaviour of the browser when the user clicks a menu item from the sticky header. The idea was to make site navigation as easy and fun as possible - the user never has to reload the page or follow a series of links, only interact with a single page.

All of the second-level sections are created using a nice little technique we've created using data-attributes. It allows us to create an immersive Javascript-powered app-style front end for a Drupal CMS backend, which creates websites that don't necessarily have to look "like Drupal sites".

Data attributes and custom display suite fields

This section is a brief technical explanation of our technique, skip it if it's Greek to you!
The day we learnt about custom display suite fields from This PreviousNext blog post was a happy day for us. Although DS offers a lot of great tools for UI-focused node display building, for devs who want more control it was starting to feel a bit limiting. We didn't want to go down the php field route (shudder) so we were happy to be able to create fields with PHP possibilities through this custom DS field technique.

One of the best things about the custom fields is the ability to generate fields that actually contain more data than the eye can see, stored in data attributes of HTML elements away from the visible part of the DOM. For example, we were able to store all of the data for an artist portfolio popup in the teaser tile for that artist that appears on the initial page load. What that means is that when the user clicks on an artist's face to view their portfolio, it loads dynamically in to the page via Javascript and that data that it displays is already stored on the page, just hidden.

First, we define the info hook for our field:

/** * Implements hook_ds_fields_info. */ function gp_global_ds_fields_info($entity_type) { $fields = array(); $fields['node']['body'] = array( 'title' => t('Body data attribute'), 'field_type' => DS_FIELD_TYPE_FUNCTION, 'function' => 'gp_global_ds_field_body', ); if (isset($fields[$entity_type])) { return array($entity_type => $fields[$entity_type]); } return; }

Then we make the markup for the field itself, which is surprisingly simple:

/** * Return the body as a div with a data attribute. */ function gp_global_ds_field_body($field) { $entity = $field['entity']; if(isset($entity->body[LANGUAGE_NONE][0]['safe_value'])){ $data = $entity->body[LANGUAGE_NONE][0]['safe_value']; $content = '<div class="body" data-body="' . check_plain($data) . '"></div>'; return $content; } }

The key is "data-body", a custom data attribute we create and then store the body text in. It doesn't get rendered on the page until we grab it with our Javascript, like this (abridged version):

(function($, undefined) { // We get the element that has the data-attribute on it and extract the data from the attribute bodyEl: '.fullwidth .body', _this.bodytext = $(element).find('[data-body]').data('body'); bodyText: function bodyText() var _this = Drupal.behaviors.overlayAnimate; // We replace the HTML of the blank element with the data we grabbed earlier. $(_this.bodyEl).html(_this.bodytext); }, }) (jQuery); Why this technique is meaningful

We think it's a step towards creating a better reputation for Drupal by creating beautiful sites that don't necessarily need to use the template themes Drupal provides. We use techniques like this in combination with very bare themes to build up our own custom front-end markup.

You can see this technique in action with the unique hover state overlays for each featured artist on the main page. The user can click through to more information about each person including a written blurb, gallery of images and even a video. For each of those things, the data is entered as a node in the Drupal backend, sent to the front of the site as a data attribute in a custom display suite field and triggered in to visibility via Javascript.

All in all, the user experience is intended to have an immersive web-app feeling, with content loading in to the page quietly, displayed in seamless overlays rather than new page loads and making them most of a one-page layout with some animated navigation styles. Yes Way are able to keep users on their site for longer by holding their attention for longer. Because users aren't directed off site (not even off-page!) they're more likely to click around and explore the single page they see. Because we already load the data into the page before we display it, they get the added benefit of a fast-loading site as well.

We think the result is an engaging site that uses some cool techniques to satisfy a real business need. Check out the website here!

Emma ForsterProject managerEmma manages our client relations and sits in between the dev team and the site owner to facilitate efficient, productive and fun projects. Ideas to help keep your Drupal project secure against the OWASP Top 10 Fri July 11, 2014 I'm sure you've heard the phrase "Security is a process, not a product" before, or something along those lines. Drupal has a pretty good track record as far as Web-based CMS security goes, and there's a dedicated team of experts looking after Core and Contrib, but it's no secret that...
Categories: Elsewhere

Junichi Uekawa: Trying android wear SDK using my LG G watch.

Planet Debian - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 03:03
Trying android wear SDK using my LG G watch. I didn't have the permissions to access the usb device, and I had to update the udev rules. It wasn't clear what the right way was, and existing Android devices look like audio or camera, not really consistent.

Categories: Elsewhere

Hideki Yamane: GeoIP support for installer is really nice

Planet Debian - Mon, 21/07/2014 - 01:16

RHEL7 installation note says "The new graphical installer also generates automatic default settings where applicable. For example, if the installer detects a network connection, the user's general location is determined with GeoIP and sane suggestions are made for the default keyboard layout, language and timezone." but CentOS7 doesn't work as expected ;-)

 GeoIP support in Fedora20 Installer works well and it's pretty nice. Boot from live media and it shows "Try Fedora" and "Install to Hard Drive" menu.

Then, select "Install" and...Boom! it shows in Japanese without any configuration  automagically!

I want same feature for d-i, too.

Categories: Elsewhere

Paul Tagliamonte: Plymouth Bootsplashes

Planet Debian - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 23:02

Why oh why are they so hard to write?

Even using the built in modules it is insanely hard to debug. Playing a bootsplash in X sucks and my machine boots too fast to test it on reboot.

Basically, euch. All I wanted was a hackers zebra on boot :(

Categories: Elsewhere

Laura Arjona: Upgrading my laptop to Debian Jessie

Planet Debian - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 22:41

Some days ago I decided to upgrade my laptop from stable to testing.

I had tried Jessie since several months, in my husband’s laptop, but that was a fresh install, and a not-so-old laptop, and we have not much software installed there.

In my netbook (Compaq Mini 110c), with stable, I already had installed Pumpa, Dianara and how-can-i-help from testing, and since the freeze is coming, I thought that I could full-upgrade and use Jessie from now on, and report my issues and help to diagnose or fix them, if possible, before the freeze.

I keep Debian stable at job for my desktop and servers (well, some of them are still in oldstable, thanks LTS team!!), and I have testing in a laptop that I use as clonezilla/drbl server (but I had issues, next week I’ll put some time on them and I’ll write here my findings, and report bugs, if any).

So! let’s go. Here I write my experience and the issues that I found (very few! and not sure if they are bugs or configuration problems or what, I’ll keep an eye on them).

The upgrade

I pointed my /etc/apt/sources.list to jessie, then apt-get update, then apt-get dist-upgrade. (With the servers I am much more careful, read the release notes, upgrade guides and so, or directly I go for a fresh install, but with my laptop, I am too lazy).

I went to bed (wow, risky LArjona!) and when I got up for going to job, the laptop was waiting for me to accept to block root from ssh access, or restart some services, and so. Ok! the upgrade resumed… but I have to go to job and I wanted my laptop! Since all the packages were already downloaded, I closed the lid (double risky LArjona!) unplugged it, put everything in my bag, and catched the bus in time :)

At the bus, I opened again the lid of my laptop (crossing fingers!) and perfect, the laptop had suspended and returned back to life, and the upgrade just resumed with no problem. Wow! I love you Debian! After 15 minutes, I had to suspend again, since the bus arrived and I had to take the metro. In the metro, the upgrade resumed, and finished. I shutdown my laptop and arrive to job.

Testing testing :)

In a break for lunch, I opened my brand new laptop (the hardware is the same, but the software totally renewed, so it’s brand new for me). I have to say that use xfce, with some GNOME/GTK apps installed (gedit, cheese, evince, XChat…) and some others that use Qt or are part of the KDE project (Okular, Kile, QtLinguist, Pumpa, Dianara). I don’t know/care too much about desktops and tweaking my desktop: I just put the terminal and gedit in black background, Debian wallpaper is enough dark for me so ok, put the font size a bit smaller to better use my low-vertical-resolution, and that’s all, I only go to configure something else if there’s something that really annoys me.

My laptop booted correctly and a nice, more modern LightDM was greeting me. I logged in and everything worked ok, except some issues that follow.

Network Manager and WPA2-enterprise wireless connections

I had to reconfigure some wireless connections in Network Manager. At job we use WPA2-enterprise, TTLS + PAP. I had stored my username and password in the connection, and network manager seemed to remember the username but not the password. No problem, I said, and I wrote it when it asked, but… the “Save” or “OK” button was greyed out. I could not click it.

Then I went to edit the connections, and more or less the same, it seems that I could edit, but not save the (new) configuration. Finally, I removed the wireless connection and created it again, and everything worked as a charm.

This, I had to do it with the two wireless in my University (both of them are WPA2-enterprise TTLS + PAP). At home, I have WPA2 personal, and I had no issues, everything worked ok.

This problem is not appearing in a fresh install, since there are no old configs to keep.

Adblock Plus not working any more

I opened Iceweasel and I began to see ads in the webpages that I visited. What? I checked and Adblock plus was installed and activated… I reinstalled the package xul-ext-adblock-plus and it worked again.

Strange display in programs based on Qt

When I opened Pumpa I noticed that the edges of the windows where too rough, as if it was not using a desktop theme. I asked to a friend that uses Plasma and he suggested to install qt4-qtconfig, and then, select a theme for my Qt apps. It worked like a charm, but I find strange that I didn’t need it before in stable. Maybe the default xfce configuration from stable is setting a theme, and the new one is not setting it, and so, the Qt apps are left “barefoot”.
With qtconfig I chose a GTK+ Style GUI for my Qt apps and then, they looked similar to what I had in stable (frankly, I cannot say if it was “similar” or “exactly the same”, but I didn’t find them strange as before, so I’m fine).

Strange display in programs from GNOME

Well, this is not a Jessie problem, it’s just that some programs adopted the new GNOME appearance, and since I’m on xfce, not on GNOME, they look a bit strange (no menus integration, and so). I am not sure that I can run GNOME (fallback, classic?) in my 1 GB RAM laptop, I have to investigate if I can tweak it to use less memory, or what.

I’m not very tied to xfce, and in fact it does not look so light (well, on top of it, I don’t run light programs, I run Iceweasel, Icedove, Libreoffice, and some others). At job I use GNOME in my desktop, but with GNOME shell, not the fallback or classic modes, so I’m thinking about giving a chance to MATE or second chance to LXDE. We’ll see.

Issues when opening the lid (waking up from suspend)

This is the most strange thing I found in the migration, and the most dangerous one, I think.

As I said before, I don’t tweak too much my desktop, if it works with the default configuration. I’m not sure that I know the differences between suspend, hibernate, hard disks disconnections and so. When I was in stable, and I closed the lid of my laptop, it just shutdown the screen, then I heard something like the system going to suspend or whatever, and after some seconds, the harddisk and fans stop, the wireless led turns off, and the power led begins to blink. Ok. When I open the lid, then it was waking up itself (the power led stayed on, the wireless led turns on, and when I tap the touchpad or type anything, the screen was coming, with the xscreensaver asking for my password. Just sometimes, when the screen was turning on, I could see my desktop for less than a second, before xscreensaver turns the background black and asks for the password.

Now since I migrated to Jessie, I’m experiencing a different behavior. When I close the lid, the laptop behaves the same. When I open the lid, the laptop behaves the same, but when I type or tap the touchpad and xscreensaver comes to ask the password, before than I can type it, the laptop just suspends again (or hibernates, I’m not sure), and I have to press the power button in order to bring it back to life (then I see the xscreensaver again asking for the password, I type it, and my desktop is there, the same as I left it when I closed the lid).

Strange, isn’t it?

I have tried to suspend my laptop directly from the menu, and it comes to the same state in which I have to press the power button in order to bring it back to life, but then, no xscreensaver password is required (which is double strange, IMHO).

Things I miss in Jessie

Well, until now, the only thing I miss in Jessie is the software center. I rarely use it (I love apt) but I think it makes a good job in easing the installation of programs in Debian for people coming from other operative systems (specially after smartphones and their copied software stores became popular).

I hope the maintainer can upload a new version before the freeze, and so, it enters in the release. I’ll try to contact him.

TODO

I have a Debian stable laptop at job (this one with xfce + GNOME), I’ll try to upgrade it and see if I see the same problems that I notice in mine. Then, I’ll check the corresponding packages to see if there are open bugs about them, and if not, report them to their maintainers.

I have to review the wiki pages related to the Jessie Desktop theme selection, I think they wanted the wallpaper to be inside before the freeze. Maybe I can help in publicity about that, handle the votings and so. I like Joy, but it’s time to change a bit, new fresh air into the room!


Filed under: My experiences and opinion Tagged: Contributing to libre software, Debian, English, Free Software, Moving into free software
Categories: Elsewhere

John Goerzen: Beautiful Earth

Planet Debian - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 21:04

Sometimes you see something that takes your breath away, maybe even makes your eyes moist. That happened when I saw this photo one morning:

Photography has been one of my hobbies since I was a child, and I’ve enjoyed it all these years. Recently I was inspired by the growing ease of aerial photography using model aircraft, and now can fly two short-range RC quadcopters. That photo came from the first one, and despite being a low-res 1280×720 camera, tha image of our home in the yellow glow of sunrise brought a deep feeling a beauty and peace.

Somehow seeing our home surrounded by the beauty of the immense wheat fields and green pastures drives home how small we all are in comparison to the vastness of the earth, and how lucky we are to inhabit this beautiful planet.

As the sun starts to come up over the pasture, the only way you can tell the height of the grass at 300ft is to see the shadow it makes on the mowed pathway Laura and I use to get down to the creek.

This is a view of our church in a small town nearby — the church itself is right in the center of the photo. Off to the right, you see the grain elevators that can be seen for miles across the Kansas prairie, and of course the fields are never all that far off in the background.

Here you can see the quadcopter taking off from the driveway:

And here it is flying over my home church out in the country:

That’s the country church, at the corner of two gravel roads – with its lighted cross facing east that can be seen from a mile away at night. To the right is the church park, and the green area along the road farther back is the church cemetery.

Sometimes we get in debates about environmental regulations, politics, religion, whatever. We hear stories of missiles, guns, and destruction. It is sad, this damage we humans inflict on ourselves and our earth. Our earth — our home — is worth saving. Its stunning beauty from all its continents is evidence enough of that. To me, this photo of a small corner of flat Kansas is proof enough that the home we all share deserves to be treated well, and saved so that generations to come can also get damp eyes viewing its beauty from a new perspective.

Categories: Elsewhere

Thomas Goirand: sysvinit not sending output to all consoles

Planet Debian - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 18:10

I spent many, many hours trying to understand why I couldn’t have both “nova console-log” showing me the output of the log, AND have the OpenStack dashboard (eg: horizon) console to work at the same time. Normally, this is done very easily, by passing multiple times the console= parameter to the Linux kernel as follow:

console=tty0 console=ttyS0,115200

But it never worked. Always, it’s the last console= thing that was taken into account by sysvinit (or, shall I say, bootlogd). Spending hours trying to figure out what would be the correct kernel command to pass didn’t help. Then this week-end, by the magic pure chance of being subscribed to the sysvinit bug reports, I have finally found out. We’ve had this bug in Debian for more than 10 years:

https://bugs.debian.org/cgi-bin/bugreport.cgi?bug=181756

And it has the patch! It just feels so lame that the issue has been pending since 2003, and with a patch since 2006, and nobody even tried to have it enter Debian. I tried the Wheezy patch in the above bug report, and then tadaaaaaa! I finally had both the “nova console-log” (eg: ttyS0) console output, and the interactive tty0 to work on my Debian cloud image. I have produced a fixed version of the sysvinit package for Wheezy, if anyone wants to try it:

http://archive.gplhost.com/debian/pool/juno-backports/main/s/sysvinit/

This doesn’t only affect only the cloud images use case. Let’s say you have a server. If it’s a modern server, probably you have IPMI 2.0 on it. While having access through the integrated KVM over IP may be nice, seeing the boot process through the serial console redirection is often a lot more snappy than the (often VNC based) video output, plus it wouldn’t require Java. Too often, Java a requirement for these nasty IPMI web interface (that’s the case for at least: Dell DRAC, Supermicro IMPI, and HP iLO). Well, it should now be possible to just use ipmitools to debug the server boot process or to go fix stuff in the single user interactive shell, AND keep the “normal” video output! :)

But keeping this fix private doesn’t help much. I would really love to get this fixed within Debian. So I have sent the patch (which needed a very small rebase) in the Git repository of sysvinit (see http://deb.li/3YxUD). I of course tested it in Sid too. Though I tested only under a Xen virtual machine, I see no reason why it would work there and not elsewhere. That being said, I would welcome more testing, given the high profile of sysvinit (everyone uses/needs it, and I wouldn’t like to carry alone the unhappiness of having no boot log). Please do test it from the sysvinit git, before it’s even uploaded to Sid. Also, these days, sysvinit gets often uploaded to Experimental first. It will probably also be the case for version 2.88dsf-56.

If it works well and nobody complains about the patch, maybe it’d be worth adding it to Wheezy as well (though that decision is of course left to the release team once the fix reaches Jessie).

Categories: Elsewhere

DebConf team: Talks review and selection process. (Posted by René Mayorga)

Planet Debian - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 16:10

Today we finished the talk selection process. We are very grateful to everyone who decided to submit talks and events for DebConf14.

If you have submitted an event, please check your email :). If you have not received any confirmation regarding your talk status, please contact us on talks@debconf.org

During the selection process, we bore in mind the number of talk slots during the conference, as well as maintaining a balance among the different submitted topics. We are pleased to announce that we have received a total of 115 events, of which 80 have been approved (69%). Approval means your event will be scheduled during the conference and you will be guaranteed to have video coverage.

The list of approved talks can be found on the following link: https://summit.debconf.org/debconf14/all/

If you got an email telling your talk have being approved, and your talk is not listed, don’t panic. Check the status on summit, and make sure to select a track, if you have some track suggestions please mail us and tell us about it.

This year, we expect to also have a sort of “unconference” schedule. This will take place during the designated “hacking time”. During that time the talks rooms will be empty, and ad hoc meetings can be scheduled on-site while we are in the Conference. The method for booking a room for your ad hoc meeting will be decided and announced later, but is expected to be flexible (i.e: open scheduling board / 1 day or less in advance booking), Please don’t abuse the system: bear in mind the space will be limited, and only book your event if you gather enough people to work on your idea.

Please make sure to read the email regarding your talk. :) and prepare yourself.

Time is ticking and we will be happy to meet you in Portland.

Categories: Elsewhere

Larry Garfield: An open letter to conference organizers

Planet Drupal - Sun, 20/07/2014 - 01:51

Let's be honest, I spend a lot of time at conferences. Over the past 2 years or so I've averaged more than one speaking engagement at a conference per month, including a half-dozen keynotes. I've also helped organize several conferences, mostly DrupalCamps and DrupalCons. I'd estimate conferences make up more than a third of my professional activity. (Incidentally, if someone can tell me how the hell that happened I'd love to hear it; I'm still confused by it.)

As a result I've gotten to see a wide variety of conference setups, plans, crazy ideas, and crazy wonderful ideas. There are many wonderful things that conference organizers do, or do differently, and of course plenty of things that they screw up.

I want to take this opportunity to share some of that experience with the organizers of various conferences together, rather than in one-off feedback forms that only one conference will see. To be clear, while I definitely think there are areas that many conferences could improve I don't want anyone to take this letter as a slam on conference organizers. These are people who put in way more time than you think, often without being paid to do so, out of a love for the community, for learning and sharing, and for you. Whatever else you may think about a conference or this list, the next time you're at a conference take a moment to find one of the organizers and give them a huge hug and/or firm handshake (as is their preference) and say thank you for all the work that they do.

read more

Categories: Elsewhere

Steve Kemp: Did you know xine will download and execute scripts?

Planet Debian - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 22:48

Today I was poking around the source of Xine, the well-known media player. During the course of this poking I spotted that Xine has skin support - something I've been blissfully ignorant of for many years.

How do these skins work? You bring up the skin-browser, by default this is achieved by pressing "Ctrl-d". The browser will show you previews of the skins available, and allow you to install them.

How does Xine know what skins are available? It downloads the contents of:

NOTE: This is an insecure URL.

The downloaded file is a simple XML thing, containing references to both preview-images and download locations.

For example the theme "Sunset" has the following details:

  • Download link: http://xine.sourceforge.net/skins/Sunset.tar.gz
  • Preview link: http://xine.sourceforge.net/skins/Sunset.png

if you choose to install the skin the Sunset.tar.gz file is downloaded, via HTTP, extracted, and the shell-script doinst.sh is executed, if present.

So if you control DNS on your LAN you can execute arbitrary commands if you persuade a victim to download your "corporate xine theme".

Probably a low-risk attack, but still a surprise.

Categories: Elsewhere

Jo Shields: Transition tracker

Planet Debian - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 21:35

Friday was my last day at Collabora, the awesome Open Source consultancy in Cambridge. I’d been there more than three years, and it was time for a change.

As luck would have it, that change came in the form of a job offer 3 months ago from my long-time friend in Open Source, Miguel de Icaza. Monday morning, I fly out to Xamarin’s main office in Boston, for just over a week of induction and face time with my new co workers, as I take on the title of Release Engineer.

My job is to make sure Mono on Linux is a first-class citizen, rather than the best-effort it’s been since Xamarin was formed from the ashes of the Attachmate/Novell deal. I’m thrilled to work full-time on what I do already as community work – including making Mono great on Debian/Ubuntu – and hope to form new links with the packer communities in other major distributions. And I’m delighted that Xamarin has chosen to put its money where its mouth is and fund continued Open Source development surrounding Mono.

If you’re in the Boston area next week or the week after, ping me via the usual methods!

Categories: Elsewhere

Vasudev Kamath: Stop messing with my settings Network Manager

Planet Debian - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 21:09

I use a laptop with Atheros wifi card with ath9k driver. I use hostapd to convert my laptop wifi into AP (Access point) so I can share network with my Nexus 7 and Kindle. This has been working fine for quite some time till my recent update.

After recent system update (I use Debian Sid), I couldn't for some reason convert my wifi into AP so my device can connect. I can't find anything in log nor in hostapd debug messages which is useful to trouble shoot the issue. Every time I start the laptop my wifi card will be blocked by RF-KILL and I have manually unblock (both hard and soft). The script which I use to convert my Wifi into AP is below

#Initial wifi interface configuration ifconfig "$1" up 192.168.2.1 netmask 255.255.255.0 sleep 2 # start dhcp sudo systemctl restart dnsmasq.service iptables --flush iptables --table nat --flush iptables --delete-chain iptables -t nat -A POSTROUTING -o "$2" -j MASQUERADE iptables -A FORWARD -i "$1" -j ACCEPT sysctl -w net.ipv4.ip_forward=1 #start hostapd hostapd /etc/hostapd/hostapd.conf &> /dev/null &

I tried rebooting the laptop and for some time I managed to convert my wifi into AP, I noticed at same time that Network Manager is not started once laptop is booted, yeah this also started happening after recent upgrade which I guess is the black magic of systemd. After some time I noticed wifi has went down and now I can't bring it up because its blocked by RF-KILL. After checking the syslog I noticed following lines.

Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra kernel: [ 1754.891060] IPv6: ADDRCONF(NETDEV_CHANGE): wlan0: link becomes ready Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): using nl80211 for WiFi device control Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): driver supports Access Point (AP) mode Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): new 802.11 WiFi device (driver: 'ath9k' ifindex: 10) Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): exported as /org/freedesktop/NetworkManager/Devices/8 Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): device state change: unmanaged -> unavailable (reason 'managed') [10 20 2] Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> (mon.wlan0): preparing device Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> devices added (path: /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1c.1/0000:04:00.0/net/mon.wlan0, iface: mon.wlan0) Jul 18 23:09:30 rudra NetworkManager[5485]: <info> device added (path: /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1c.1/0000:04:00.0/net/mon.wlan0, iface: mon.wlan0): no ifupdown configuration found. Jul 18 23:09:33 rudra ModemManager[891]: <warn> Couldn't find support for device at '/sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:1c.1/0000:04:00.0': not supported by any plugin

Well I couldn't figure out much but it looks like NetworkManager has come up and after seeing interface mon.wlan0, a monitoring interface created by hostapd to monitor the AP goes mad and tries to do something with it. I've no clue what it is doing and don't have enough patience to debug that. Probably some expert can give me hints on this.

So as a last resort I purged the NetworkManager completely from the system and settled back to good old wicd and rebooted the system. After reboot wifi card is happy and is not blocked by RF-KILL and now I can convert it AP and use it as long as I wish without any problems. Wicd is not a great tool but its good enough to get the job done and does only what is asked to it unlike the NetworkManager.

So in short

NetworkManager please stop f***ing with my settings and stop acting oversmart.
Categories: Elsewhere

MariqueCalcus: Optimize before you go live (Part 2).

Planet Drupal - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 17:30
Part 2: Site builder

Drupal is a powerful content management framework but it's even better when you take into account the 20000+ modules and themes provided by the community. Whatever you are building, you will most likely find a module to help you. When you embrace the wonderful world of free and open source code, keep in mind that end users and search engines actually prefer fast websites. In this article we will discuss some common pitfalls that should be avoid, and will give some suggestions for site builder to create light and fast websites. This post is part of a multipart series. The first instalment was related to performance for back-end developer.

Read More...
Categories: Elsewhere

Drupal core announcements: Tuesday, July 29: Drupal 8.0.x being branched for semantic versioning

Planet Drupal - Sat, 19/07/2014 - 00:15
Start:  2014-07-29 12:00 - 14:00 America/New_York Online meeting (eg. IRC meeting)

On this date, the new 8.0.x branch for Drupal 8 will be created so we can start using the new Drupal release cycle in advance of beta 1.

Steps involved are:

  • drumm will create the 8.0.x branch
  • Existing issues will be moved automatically from 8.x-dev to 8.0.x-dev (this may take a couple of hours)
  • Testbot will be patched to look at the new 8.0.x branch instead of the old 8.x branch.

After we're sure there is no fallout from this, the README.txt on the old 8.x will be amended to inform about the change, and then the 8.x branch will be removed entirely after a few days.

Core developers should do the following once the process is complete to ensure they're patching against the latest version of the code:

git fetch
git checkout 8.0.x

Woohoo!

Categories: Elsewhere

Ian Donnelly: How-To: Write a Plug-in

Planet Debian - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 21:49

Hi Everybody!

I wanted to write a how-to on how to write an Elektra plug-in. Plug-ins are what allow Elektra to translate regular configuration files into the Elektra key database, and allow keys to be coverted back into regular configuration files. For example, the hosts plug-in is used to transcribe a hosts file into a meaningful KeySet in the Elektra Key Database. This plugin is what allows the kdb tool to be able to work with hosts files like in our mount tutorial.

While there are already a good number of plug-ins written for Elektra, we obviously don’t cover all the different types of configuration files. If you want to be able to use the features of Elektra, you may have to write a plug-in for your type of configuration file. Luckily, its not hard to do. Over the new few weeks I will be writing a tutorial for how to write your very own plug-in as well as explaining all the components of an Elektra plug-in. I will link the tutorials below as I finish them for easy reference, or if you already follow my blog I am sure you will notice them as they get published.

Categories: Elsewhere

Propeople Blog: Building Quality Into Drupal Development Workflow

Planet Drupal - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 20:29
Background 

Building a large Drupal website can be a daunting and complex process. There are many engineering, project and other risks associated with it. More often than not, budget and deadline overrun occurs.

Moreover, large projects often result in a prolonged Q/A, testing and troubleshooting period which once again can pose additional risks. 

Propeople was recently presented with the following challenge by a client:

 
  • 1200 budget hours

  • 2 month of development time

  • 4 developers

  • 1 hard launch date

To add another challenge to the mix, there was minimal Q/A engineer availability for the project.

In order to meet the client’s budget and timeline requirements above, we needed to rethink a new development workflow that largely incorporated quality into the project in order to meet both the deadline and budget requirements. 

 Typical Development Workflow 

Propeople selected GIT as the revisioning software to manage the development process/workflow for the project. GIT is a popular, open source distributed versioning system used by many organizations of all sizes. For more information on GIT, you can visit this site.

Organizations that employ a repository management system such as GIT, typically one of the following workflow models is used.

 1. Using the Master Branch

This workflow is typically employed by smaller organizations with a small number of developers working on the project. In this workflow, all of the code changes are committed into the master branch by all of the developers. It results in a linear development workflow:

This workflow works well at keeping everything simple, allowing developers to avoid branching and merging. It also allows for the creation of some tags to designate stable release or state of the code repository.

However, there are many drawbacks to this workflow. One of the most overlooked facts is that most likely, John and Joe will not check each other’s commits. Once a change is committed to the master branch, the change is incorporated into the project until someone notices any poorly written code or commits. 

 2. Development -> Stage -> Production

One of the most widely adopted workflows, this three-tiered workflow fully leverages GIT’s ability to create and merge branches. It also gives web developers the ability to mirror the branches to a different “working environment” so that they can have:

  • Development website

  • Staging website

  • Production website

3. Feature Branch

We ultimately chose to adopt a “feature” branch workflow for this project. This model takes advantage of the git branching/merging model. It is also chosen because we did not necessarily need a “staging” or “production” environment during the agile development phase.

This workflow works well at keeping everything simple, allowing developers to avoid branching and merging. It also allows for the creation of some tags to designate stable release or state of the code repository.

However, there are many drawbacks to this workflow. One of the most overlooked facts is that most likely, John and Joe will not check each other’s commits. Once a change is committed to the master branch, the change is incorporated into the project until someone notices any poorly written code or commits. 

 

Introduction of Github and the Magical Pull Request

 

One of the biggest reasons that we adopted the feature branch approach is Github. Github.com is one of the longest-running and most popular hosted git management platforms. It offers many developer friendly tools. One of the most useful and popular tools and functions is the Pull Request.

 Looking ahead

We are looking ahead to adding automated regression testing to the pull requests. This will allow developers to easily see page changes caused by their commits.

A more integrated issue and time tracking system would help consolidate all of the project efforts into Github. We used a separate issue tracking and hour tracking system for the project.

 Conclusion

Largely due to the new development workflow, we were able to meet the the hard deadline set by client. Although the project had a 8% budget overrun, this number is a great success, given the 27%* industry average. We were also able to reduce our post launch Q/A cycle by 66.67%, from 30 days to 10 days.

A big thanks to the masterminds behind the new development workflow:

Yuriy Gerasimov (https://www.drupal.org/user/257311)

Andriy Podanenko (https://www.drupal.org/u/podarok)

 

http://hbr.org/2011/09/why-your-it-project-may-be-riskier-than-you-think/

 

Tags: CIGITContinuous IntegrationQ/AProjectService category: TechnologyCheck this option to include this post in Planet Drupal aggregator: planetTopics: Tech & Development
Categories: Elsewhere

Dominique Dumont: Looking for help to package Perl6, moar and others for Debian

Planet Debian - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 19:32

Let’s face reality: I cannot find the time to properly maintain Perl6 related packages for Debian. Given the recent surge of popularity of rakudo, it would be a shame to let these packages rot.

Instead of throwing the towel, I’d rather call for help to maintain these packages. You don’t need to be a Debian Developer or Maintainer: I will gladly review and upload packages.

The following packages are looking for maintainer:

  • rakudo (currently RC buggy)
  • moar (needs to be packaged, some work has been done by Daniel Dehennin)
  • parrot (up to date)
  • nqp (need to be updated. current version no longer compiles on all arch)

Next step to help Perl6 on Debian is to join:

All the best

 


Tagged: debian, package, Perl6
Categories: Elsewhere

Forum One: Building Your (Drupal) Business: What Keeps You Up At Night?

Planet Drupal - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 16:57

How to get more business in the door, and once you have it – how in the world to get it all done?!

These were some of the issues that “keep them up at night”  raised by business owners in the Drupal professional services sector at the recent DrupalCon in Austin, TX.  I’ve co-led a “Bats of a Feather”  session at DrupalCon for three years now for business owners on the key issues they face; this year we had, again, a highly engaged audience of about 40-50 business owners and leaders join. Sean Larkin of ThinkShout, a digital agency in Portland, OR, joined me in facilitating the discussion. The attendees were all from consulting / professional services firms, ranging in size from 1 to 80, with a median size of about a dozen employees.

We listed and clustered the topics / questions of primary interest (see picture of our flip chart notes), which were:

  • Business development and lead generation – how to keep work flowing in
  • Growth and capacity – how to balance hiring with business inflow
  • Support and hosting – how to provide effective support and hosting services
  • Scaling a sales team
  • The Acquia effect – how Acquia’s presence affects Drupal agencies
  • Partnering with other firms.

We homed in on the two ends of the business pipeline – how to bring in more work, and how to scale the business once you have the work. Here are a few of the highlights:

Subcontracting

We had a lively discussion about whether and how to work as a subcontractor to other larger firms as a way to keep busy. Some folks are happy to do “white label” work for which they do not need to do business development, while others avoid it.

Pros: Tap into the clientele and BD pipeline of a larger organization that already has a backlog.

Cons: You’ll never build your own vision of your company if you are anonymous and behind someone else, your rates will never be as good, and you might sometimes end up being the scapegoat.

Interestingly, at Forum One, we did not subcontract for larger firms in our early growth stages, but it has become a sizable part of our portfolio in recent years.

Partnering

We had good discussion about partnering among other firms – finding the businesses in your area that have similar or complementary offerings, and looking to scratch each others’ backs. The Drupal share of the total web CMS market pie is still small, so we can all pitch in with each other to make the pie even bigger.

Why grow?  A lot of the owners from solo or very small shops have to do everything from bringing in the business to doing the work and sending the invoices. Not to mention cleaning the bathroom before a client comes over (been there). They are eager to grow out of that stage and have help so they can focus on what they feel they are best at. But how far to grow? One of the owners spoke about his satisfaction with having a 15-person team that was cohesive, cooperative, and did great work for their clients; he said he had no aspirations to grow beyond that and have bigger headaches.  It’s great that he’s clear about his goals for the business and is on track.  Others talked about wanting to build bigger practices.

At Forum One, I’ve been in the thick of all these stages of growth, from a small team of three doing everything, to a multidisciplinary team of about 80. In our case, we’ve chosen to grow aggressively for three main reasons: to expand the capabilities we can offer our clients, increase the impact of our work for our clients, and offer growing career opportunities to our team.

Taking big steps

A few of the attendees said they are grappling with issues of when and how to take their next big step – whether it’s hiring their first staff person, signing a lease for office space, or bringing on their first operational hire (project manager, BD person, operations manager, etc.). We did not have time to talk about these issues, but I think those of us who have been through these big steps were smiling to ourselves. I know I was. Not because we know the answers – there are no easy ones. But we’ve been through it and know that those stages are part of the excitement and the challenge of building a business out of nothing!

For further dialogue and networking on these topics, check out and join the LinkedIn group for owners of Drupal services firms called “Drupal CxO Owners Network.”

Categories: Elsewhere

Mario Lang: Croudsourced accessibility: Self-made digital menus

Planet Debian - Fri, 18/07/2014 - 16:50

Something straight out from the real world: Menu cards in restaurants are not nice to deal with if you are blind. It is an old problem we grow used to ignoring over time, but still something that can be quite nagging.

There are a lot of psychological issues involved in this one. Of course, you can ask for the menu to be read out to you by the staff. While they usually do their best, you end up missing out on some things most of the time.

First of all, depending on the current workload in the restaurant, the staff will usually try to cut some time and not read everything to you. What they usually do is to try to understand what type of meal you are interested in, and just read the choices from that category to you. While this can be considered a service in some situations (human preprocessing), there are situations were you will definitely miss a highlight on the menu that you would have liked to choose if you knew that it was there.

And even if the staff decides to read the complete menu to you (which is rare), you are confronted with the 7-things-in-my-head-at-once problem. It is usually rather hard to decide amongst a list of more then 7 items, because our short-term memory is sort of limited. What the sighted restaurant goers do, is to skip back and forth between the available options, until they hit a decisive moment. True, that can take a while, but it is definitely a lot easier if you can perform "random access reads" to the list of choices yourself. However, if someone presents a substantial number of choices to you in a row, as sequential speech, you loose the random access ability. You either remember every choice from the beginning and do your choosing mentaully (if you do have extraordinary mental abilities), or you end up asking the staff to read previous items aloud again. This can work, but usually it doesn't. At some point, you do not want to bother the staff anymore, and you even start to feel stupid for asking again and again, while this is something totally normal to every sighted person, just that "they" do their "random access browsing" on their own, so "they" have no need to feel bad about how long it takes them to decide, minus the typical social pressure that arises after a a certain time for everyone, at least if you are dining in a group.

In very rare cases, you happen to meet staff that is truly "awake", doing their best to not let you feel that they might be pressed on time, and really taking as much time as necessary to help you make the perfect decision. This is rare, but if it happens, it is almost a magical moment. One of these moments, where there are no "artificial" barriers between humans doing communcation. Anyway, I am drifting away.

The perfect solution to this problem is to provide random access browsing of a restaurant menu with the help of digital devices. Trying to make braille menus available in all restaurants is a goal which is not realistically reachable. Menus go out of date, and need changing. And getting a physical braille copy updated and reprinted is considerably more involved as with digital media. Restaurant owners will also likely not see the benefit to rpvide a braille card for a very small circle of customers. With a digital online menu, that is a completely different story.

These days, almost every blind person in at least my social circles owns an iOS (or similar) device. These devices have speech synthesis and web browsers.

Of course, some restaurants especially in urban areas do already have a menu online. I have found them manually with google and friends sometimes in the past, which has already given me the ability to actually sit back, and really comfortably choose amongst the available offerings myself, without having to bother a human, and without having to feel bad about (ab)using their time.

However, the case where a restaurant really has their menu online is rather rare still in the area where I am. And, it can be tedious to google for a restaurant website. Sometimes, the website itself is just marginally accessible, which makes it even more frustrating to get a relaxed dinner-experience.

I have discovered a location-based solution for the restaurant-menu problem recently. Foursquare offers the ability to provide a direct link to the menu in a restaurant-entry. I figured, since all you need to do is write a single webpage where the (common) menu items are listed per restaurant, that I could begin to create restaurant menus for my favourite locations, on my own. Well, not quite, but almost. I will sometimes need help from others to get the menu digitized, but that's just a one-time piece of work I hopefully can outsource :-). Once the actual content is in my INBUX, I create a nice HTML page listing the menu in a rather speech-based browser friendly way.

I have begun to do this today, with the menu of a restaurant just about 500 meters away from my apartment. Unterm goldenen Dachl now has a menu online, and the foursquare change request to publish the corresponsing URL is already pending. I don't fully understand how the Foursquare change review process works yet, but I hope the URL should be published in the upcoming days/weeks.

I am using Foursquare because it is the backend of a rather popular mobile navigation App for blind people, called Blindsquare. Blindsquare lets you comfortably use Open Street Map and Foursquare data to get an overview of your surroundingds. If a food place has a menu entry listed in Foursquare, Blindsquare conveniently shows it to you and opens a browser if you tap it. So there is no need to actually search for the restaurant, you can just use the location based search of Blindsquare to discover the restaurant entry and its menu link directly from within Blindsquare. Actually, you could even find a restaurant by accident, and with a little luck, find the menu for it by location, without even knowing how the restaurant is called. Isn't that neat? Yeah, that's how it is supposed to work, that's as much independence as you can get.

And, it is, as the title suggests, croudsourced accessibility. Becuase while it is nice if a restaurant owner cares to publish their menu themselves, if they haven't, you can do it yourself. Either as a user of assistive technologies, to scratch your own itch. Or as a friend of a person with a need for assistive technologies. Next time you go to lunch with your blind friend, consider making available the menu to them digitally in advance, instead of reading it. Other people will likely thank you for that, and you have actually achieved something today. And if you happne to put a menu online, make sure to submit a change request to Foursquare. Many blind people are using blindsquare these days, which makes it super-easy for them to discover the menu.

Categories: Elsewhere

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