1. January 2019 report: LTS, Mailman 3, Vero 4k, Kubernetes, Undertime, Monkeysign, oh my!
  2. Free software volunteer work
    1. Kubernetes research
    2. Debian work
    3. Elegant argparse configfile support and new date parser for undertime
    4. Mailman 3
    5. Vero: my new home cinema box
    6. Monkeysign alternatives testing
    7. Golang packaging
    8. Other work
  3. Debian Long Term Support (LTS)
    1. sbuild regression
    2. systemd
    3. tiff review
    4. Enigmail EOL
    5. DLA / website work
    6. phpMyAdmin review

January is often a long month in our northern region. Very cold, lots of snow, which can mean a lot of fun as well. But it's also a great time to cocoon (or maybe hygge?) in front of the computer and do great things. I think the last few weeks were particularly fruitful which lead to this rather lengthy report, which I hope will be nonetheless interesting.

So grab some hot coco, a coffee, tea or whatever warm beverage (or cool if you're in the southern hemisphere) and hopefully you'll learn awesome things. I know I did.

Free software volunteer work

As always, the vast majority of my time was actually spent volunteering on various projects, while scrambling near the end of the month to work on paid stuff. For the first time here I mention my Kubernetes work, but I've also worked on the new Mailman 3 packages, my monkeysign and undertime packages (including a new configuration file support for argparse), random Debian work, and Golang packaging. Oh, and I bought a new toy for my home cinema, which I warmly recommend.

Kubernetes research

While I've written multiple articles on Kubernetes for LWN in the past, I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I don't have much experience running Kubernetes itself for real out there. But for a few months, with a group of fellow sysadmins, we've been exploring various container solutions and gravitated naturally towards Kubernetes. In the last month, I particularly worked on deploying a Ceph cluster with Rook, a tool to deploy storage solutions on a Kubernetes cluster (submitting a patch while I was there). Like many things in Kubernetes, Rook is shipped as a Helm chart, more specifically as an "operator", which might be described (if I understand this right) as a container that talks with Kubernetes to orchestrate other containers.

We've similarly worked on containerizing Nextcloud, which proved to be pretty shitty at behaving like a "cloud" application: secrets and dynamic data and configuration are all mixed up in the config directory, which makes it really hard to manage sanely in a container environment. The only way we found it could work was to mount configuration as a volume, which means configuration becomes data and can't be controled through git. Which is bad. This is also how the proposed Nextcloud Helm solves this problem (on which I've provided a review), for what it's worth.

We've also worked on integrating GitLab in our workflow, so that we keep configuration as code and deploy on pushes. While GitLab talks a lot about Kubernetes integration, the actual integration features aren't that great: unless I totally misunderstood how it's supposed to work, it seems you need to provide your own container and run kubectl from it, using the tokens provided by GitLab. And if you want to do anything of significance, you will probably need to give GitLab cluster access to your Kubernetes cluster, which kind of freaks me out considering the number of security issues that keep coming out with GitLab recently.

In general, I must say I was very skeptical of Kubernetes when I first attended those conferences: too much hype, buzzwords and suits. I felt that Google just threw us a toy project to play with while they kept the real stuff to themselves. I don't think that analysis is wrong, but I do think Kubernetes has something to offer, especially for organizations still stuck in the "shared hosting" paradigm where you give users a shell account or (S?!)FTP access and run mod_php on top. Containers at least provide some level of isolation out of the box and make such multi-tenant offerings actually reasonable and much more scalable. With a little work, we've been able to setup a fully redundant and scalable storage cluster and Nextcloud service: doing this from scratch wouldn't be that hard either, but it would have been done only for Nextcloud. The trick is the knowledge and experience we gained by doing this with Nextcloud will be useful for all the other apps we'll be hosting in the future. So I think there's definitely something there.

Debian work

I participated in the Montreal BSP, of which Louis-Philippe Véronneau made a good summary. I also sponsored a few uploads and fixed a few bugs. We didn't fix that many bugs, but I gave two workshops, including my now well-tuned packaging 101 workshop, which seems to be always quite welcome. I really wish I could make a video of that talk, because I think it's useful in going through the essentials of Debian packaging and could use a wider audience. In the meantime, my reference documentation is the best you can get.

I've decided to let bugs-everywhere die in Debian. There's a release critical bug and it seems no one is really using this anymore, at least I'm not. I would probably orphan the package once it gets removed from buster, but I'm not actually the maintainer, just an uploader... A promising alternative to BE seems to be git-bug, with support for synchronization with GitHub issues.

I've otherwise tried to get my figurative "house" of Debian packages in order for the upcoming freeze, which meant new updates for

I've also sponsored the introduction of web-mode (RFS #921130) a nice package to edit HTML in Emacs and filed the usual barrage of bug reports and patches.

Elegant argparse configfile support and new date parser for undertime

I've issued two new releases for my undertime project which helps users coordinate meetings across timezones. I first started working on improvingthe date parser which mostly involved finding a new library to handle dates. I started using dateparser which behaves slightly better, and I ended up packaging it for Debian as well although I still have to re-upload undertime to use the new dependency.

That was a first 1.6.0 release, but that wasn't enough - my users wanted a configuration file! I ended up designing a simple, YAML-based configuration file parser that integrates quite well with argparse, after finding too many issues with existing solutions like Configargparse. I summarized those for the certbot project which suffered from similar issues. I'm quite happy with my small, elegant solution for config file support. It is significantly better than the one I used for Monkeysign which was (ab)using the fromfile option of argparse.

Mailman 3

Motivated by this post extolling the virtues of good old mailing lists to resist social media hegemony, I did a lot (too much) work on installing Mailman 3 on my own server. I have ran Mailman 2 mailing lists for hundreds of clients in my previous job at Koumbit and I have so far used my access there to host a few mailing lists. This time, I wanted to try something new and figured Mailman 3 might have been ready after 4 years since the 3.0 release and almost 10 years since the project started.

How wrong I was! Many things don't work: there is no french translation at all (nor any other translation, for that matter), no invite feature, templates translation is buggy, the Debian backport fails with the MySQL version in stable... it's a mess. The complete history of my failure is better documented in mail.

I worked around many of those issues. I like the fact that I was almost able to replace the missing "invite" feature through the API and there Mailman 3 is much better to look at than the older version. They did fix a lot of things and I absolutely love the web interface which allows users to interact with the mailing list as a forum. But maybe it will take a bit more time before it's ready for my use case.

Right now, I'm hesitant: either I go with a mailing list to connect with friends and family. It works with everyone because everyone uses email, if only for their password resets. The alternative is to use something like a (private?) Discourse instance, which could also double as a comments provider for my blog if I ever decide to switch away from Ikiwiki... Neither seems like a good solution, and both require extra work and maintenance, Discourse particularly so because it is very unlikely it will get shipped as a Debian package.

Vero: my new home cinema box

Speaking of Discourse, the reason I'm thinking about it is I am involved in many online forums running it. It's generally a great experience, although I wish email integration was mandatory - it's great to be able to reply through your email client, and it's not always supported. One of the forums I participate in is the Pixls.us forum where I posted a description of my photography kit, explained different NAS options I'm considering and explained part of my git-annex/dartkable workflow.

Another forum I recently started working on is the OSMC.tv forum. I first asked what were the full specifications for their neat little embedded set-top box, the Vero 4k+. I wasn't fully satisfied with the answers (the hardware is not fully open), but I ended up ordering the device and moving the "home cinema services" off of the venerable marcos server, which is going to turn 8 years old this year. This was an elaborate enterprise which involved wiring power outlets (because a ground was faulty), vacuuming the basement (because it was filthy), doing elaborate research on SSHFS setup and performance, deal with systemd bugs and so on.

In the end it was worth it: my roommates enjoy the new remote control. It's much more intuitive than the previous Bluetooth keyboard, it performs well enough, and is one less thing to overload poor marcos with.

Monkeysign alternatives testing

I already mentioned I was considering Monkeysign retirement and recently a friend asked me to sign his key so I figured it was a great time to test out possible replacements for the project. Turns out things were not as rosy as I thought.

I first tested pius and it didn't behave as well as I hoped. Generally, it asks too many cryptic questions the user shouldn't have to guess the answer to. Specifically, here's the issues I found in my review:

  1. it forces you to specify your signing key, which is error-prone and needlessly difficult for the user

  2. I don't quite understand what the first question means - there's too much to unpack there: is it for inline PGP/MIME? for sending email at all? for sending individual emails? what's going on? and the second questions

  3. the second question should be optional: i already specified my key on the commandline, it should use that as a From...

  4. the signature level is useless and generally disregarded by all software, including OpenPGP. even if it would be used, 0/1/2/3/s/n/h/q is a pretty horrible user interface.

And then it simply fails to send the email completely on dkg's key, but that might be because its key was so exotic...

Gnome-keysign didn't fare much better - I opened six different issues on the promising project:

  1. what does the internet button do?
  2. signing arbitrary keys in GUI
  3. error in french translation
  4. using mutt as a MUA does not work
  5. signing a key on the commandline never completes
  6. flatpak instructions failure

So, surprisingly, Monkeysign might survive a bit longer, as much as I have come to dislike the poor little thing...

Golang packaging

To help a friend getting the new RiseupVPN package in Debian, I uploaded a bunch of Golang dependencies (bug #919936, bug #919938, bug #919941, bug #919944, bug #919945, bug #919946, bug #919947, bug #919948) in Debian. This involved filing many bugs upstream as many of those (often tiny) packages didn't have explicit licences, so many of those couldn't actually be uploaded, but the ITPs are there and hopefully someone will complete that thankless work.

I also tried to package two other useful Golang programs, dmarc-cat and gotop, both of which also required a significant number of dependencies to be packaged (bug #920387, bug #920388, bug #920389, bug #920390, bug #921285, bug #921286, bug #921287, bug #921288). dmarc-cat has just been accepted in Debian - it's very useful to decipher DMARC reports you get when you configure your DNS to receive such reports. This is part of a larger effort to modernize my DNS and mail configuration.

But gotop is just starting - none of the dependencies have been update just yet, and I'm running out of steam a little, even though that looks like an awesome package.

Other work

GitHub said I "opened 21 issues in 14 other repositories" which seems a tad insane. And there's of course probably more stuff I'm forgetting here.

Debian Long Term Support (LTS)

This is my monthly Debian LTS report.

sbuild regression

My first stop this month was to notice a problem with sbuild from buster running on jessie chroots (bug #920227). After discussions on IRC, where fellow Debian Developers basically fabricated me a patch on the fly, I sent merge request #5 which was promptly accepted and should be part of the next upload.

systemd

I again worked a bit on systemd. I marked CVE-2018-16866 as not affecting jessie, because the vulnerable code was introduced in later versions. I backported fixes for CVE-2018-16864 and CVE-2018-16865 and published the resulting package as DLA-1639-1, after doing some smoke-testing.

I still haven't gotten the courage to dig back in the large backport of tmpfiles.c required to fix CVE-2018-6954.

tiff review

I did a quick review of the fix for CVE-2018-19210 proposed upstream which seems to have brought upstream's attention back to the issue and finally merge the fix.

Enigmail EOL

After reflecting on the issue one last time, I decided to mark Enigmail as EOL in jessie, which involved an upload of debian-security-support to jessie (DLA-1657-1), unstable and a stable-pu.

DLA / website work

I worked again on fixing the LTS workflow with the DLAs on the main website. Reminder: hundreds of DLAs are missing from the website (bug #859122) and we need to figure out a way to automate the import of newer ones (bug #859123).

The details of my work are in this post but basically, I readded a bunch more DLAs to the MR and got some good feedback from the www team (in MR #47). There's still some work to be done on the DLA parser, although I have merged my own improvements (MR #46) as I felt they had been sitting for review long enough.

Next step is to deal with noise like PGP signatures correctly and thoroughly review the proposed changes.

While I was in the webmaster's backyard, I tried to help with a few things by merging a LTS errata and a paypal integration note although the latter ended up being a mistake that was reverted. I also rejected some issues (MR #13, MR #15) during a quick triage.

phpMyAdmin review

After reading this email from Lucas Kanashiro, I reviewed CVE-2018-19968 and reviewed and tested CVE-2018-19970.

Created . Edited .