Why I’m upset by Mininova possible shutdown

I’ve been reading some worrisome news about Mininova being requested to filter down the torrent links (to the point that it’ll have no more sense to exist in the first place, I guess). This actually upsets me, even though not in the way most people seem to be upset.

First of all I have to say I don’t like copyright infringement (even though I dislike calling it piracy in the first place): Free Software licenses are based on the idea of respecting copyright and thus I don’t like being the kind of hypocrite who asks to abide to licenses and at the same time infringe on others’ copyright. On the other hand, I find myself thinking about double-standards pretty often. Mostly, when there is no real other option from doing something illicitly.

For instance, anime and, even more, Japanese drama are sometimes impossible to find without having to wait for years, or often have bad translation or some kind of “localization” that ruins the pretty much (usually watering them down with political-correctness, censuring and cutting down anything that might make them unsuitable for children — even when the original version was simply not aimed at children but rather at young adults, but I’m going down a different road now).

Now I don’t want to play saint, it happened to me, and sometime happens still, that I went to watch something that was illegally downloaded; on the other hand, I don’t do this systematically, and I spend a few hundreds euro each year in original content (DVDs, BluRay, games for PS3 and PSP, software — if I do count this year I guess I’m well over €1K thanks to software: between Microsoft Visual Studio 2008 and Microsoft Office 2007 I already reach €600), and these usually include more than a few things that I previously watched downloaded (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya I had seen fansubbed, but I bought the Italian original box set earlier this year, for instance).

But there is one thing I absolutely rely on Mininova for, nowadays, and I’d be pretty upset if it was shut down: Real Time with Bill Maher ! Yes I do like this show, I have seen a piece of this some time ago in relation to an article by Richard Dawkins and then went on to listen to it (in podcast form) and then watch it (when the audio podcast was obscured for a while, and had to work around the US-only limitation, and found the full-fledged video podcast), up to now that I actually watch it downloaded from torrents each weekend.

Now, I know this is illegal, but HBO does not really provide me any other mean to watch it. And mind you, I’d be happy to spend €5/month to subscribe to it; I could even live with downloading it with iTunes, and having it DRM’d (which would upset me a bit but would be bearable). It’s a friggin’ late night show, not a movie, and not some general show like Mythbusters, which actually gets translated, dubbed and aired in other places, like Italy, although an year after the original American airing (on a related note: finding DVDs in Italy is still impossible; and region 2 DVDs from Amazon UK are limited to the first season…).

So if this for some reason arrive on the screen of some HBO guy: please, think about us, Bill Maher fans on the other side of the pond, and give us the chance of legally follow the video episodes. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who’s going to pay for the subscription, if given the chance. Then we can stop illegally downloading this through Mininova…

Realtime guide and some PAM updates

So, I finally got the realtime guide written down as a final draft; it lists two not-yet-committed versions of realtime-lsm and pulseaudio, mostly because I wanted to commit those at the same time as I go public with the new guide (right now as I said it’s a final draft, even if you can find it, it doesn’t mean you can actually follow it.. partly). Tomorrow the two versions will be committed and the guide will get final status.

The realtime guide will show a simple method to get realtime support, without any extra software: set up PAM correctly; no realtime-sources, no realtime-lsm, nothing but simple PAM itself. Nice eh?

Talking about PAM, seems like nobody took my place since I left. With all my frankness, in all these months there has been near-infinite discussions about proctors, the Code of Conduct and all the rest.. and nobody in the whole developers’ pool cared enough to take over a “marginal” package like… the default authentication facility for the distribution?

If you know me you already know what I’ve done today… I added myself back to pam-bugs alias (not sure if I was ever removed from herd listing, should check that out to add myself back), and started taking care of a nasty bug with some pam.d files that were skipping over modules like pam_nologin.

You’re recommended to update shadow as soon as it’s available for your distribution and run etc-update accepting the proposed changes to pam.d/login, unless you modified it yourself, for your own safety!

More packages will have to be committed tomorrow but the main ones are fixed already so it should not be a problem, for now.

Starting tomorrow I’ll also see to start writing some (a lot of) documentation about PAM; there are at least three views I have to take into consideration: PAM maintainer, generic ebuild developer, and user. They all contain a lot of things that has to be said and well-documented, I hope to be able to cover everything in a few guidexml pages. I already wrote something before for the devmanual, but it’s probably outdated, and I find myself more comfortable with writing separated guides, all together they provide quite some information anyway (see the various autotools guides I wrote that are sparse everywhere).

Now I’ll see to relax myself, and sleep, tomorrow I’ll have my share to do as I said.

I’m also considering about making a new order to Amazon JP… I want to buy the Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu CDs! Unfortunately not having a job right now makes it a bit difficult :/

Jack bump and a realtime guide

Hello everybody! As you can see, I wasable to actually do the job I wanted to do: JACK and a few related packages are now bumped in portage to newer versions, with especially cleaned up ebuilds. JACK itself features a quite slicker ebuild, with fixes here and there for automagic dependencies and similar, and netjack now works fine with multilib-strict. Qjackctl instead gained a desktop file, which now make possible to start it from a menu compatible with FreeDesktop.

I’m still pondering a bit about some of the things present in the jack ebuild, so you’ll probably see a revbump in the next future, for instance the dynamic simd code, sounds to me like it should be dependent on a set of useflags, and absolutely not into the /proc/cpuinfo content, but I’ll have to dig into the code deeper to understand what it actually does in JACK; I hoped to split netjack out on its own ebuild, especially since scons gives me creeps, but it wants some internal data, and even if I provided the headers to netjack, you’ll have to rebuilt it at every jack bump, so it’s not suggested.

You’ll also find some riceitdown patches around that removes use of -O3 and similar flags, so that what you get is what you asked for exactly. Hope this is appreciated.

For those people suggesting me to use the proaudio overlay to get jack, I can tell you that the ebuilds in proaudio leave a lot to desire; they are not in sync with their portage copies, and they features a lot of QA violations, which makes it not suitable for the faint of heart. The changes for sys-libs/pam are, for instance, pretty much an hack that should not be there in this world.

To fix the remaining issues, with a proper solution rather than an hack, I’ve decided to start working on a realtime guide, that describes how to enable realtime support either with realtime-lsm or through PAM itself. I’ll make sure to complete it and commit new versions of realtime-lsm itself (to provide sane defaults) and of PulseAudio, which will make good use of the new guide on itself.

Let me try to explain better why I don’t think anybody should use proaudio overlay blindly unless they have a totally isolated system where anything can be done: in most default desktop setups, the main user is present in the audio group to be able to access both old-style OSS devices (/dev/dsp) and the new ones used by ALSA (abstracted by alsa-lib most of the time); the default configuration installed by sys-libs/pam in proaudio makes those users able to run realtime priority processes up to value 100, to use nice up to –10, and to lock basically as memory as they want. This is not a sane default.

If you’re curious to see how I would consider this problem solved in a sane way, beside giving a good guide about it, I’ll consider asking the new PAM maintainers (if there are some) to provide in the default a realtime group, which can use realtime priority up to 10 – that should be enough for basic setups. Further fiddling with the values should happen following the guide.

The realtime group idea is not strictly mine, Lennart Pettering told me about it when I first packaged PulseAudio; PulseAudio itself will make use of it, and will soon create it in pulse-rt group stead. This should solve most of the problems without security breaches for most users.

Okay, so now back into writing this guide!