Below are the five most recent posts in my weblog. You can also see a chronological list of all posts, dating back to 1999.

Debian is currently conducting a vote on a General Resolution entitled Init systems and systemd. I had a few brief thoughts about the circumstances around this that I wanted to share.

I like systemd and I use it on all of my systems. That said, I have some concerns about it, in particular the way it's gradually eating up so much other systems software. The opportunity for alternatives to exist and get feedback from interested users seems important to me as a check and balance and to avoid a monoculture. Such an environment should even help to ensure systemd remains a compelling piece of software. The question that this GR poses is really whether Debian should be a place where alternatives can exist. In answering that question I am reminded of the mantra of Extinction Rebellion. I appreciate that is about a far more important topic, but it still seems pertinent: If not us, who? If not now, when?

What is Debian for, anyway? Once upon a time, from a certain perspective, it was all counter-cultural software. Should that change? Perhaps it already has. When I was more actively involved in the project, I watched some factions strive to compete with alternative distributions like Fedora. Fedora achieves a great deal, partly by having a narrow and well-defined focus. With the best will in the world, Debian can't compete at that game. And why should it? If Fedora is what you want, then Fedora is right there, go use it!

In the UK we are also about to vote in a General Election. As happens often in FPTP voting systems, the parties are largely polarized around a single issue, although one side of that issue is more factionalised than the other. And that side stands to lose out, as the vote is diluted. This Debian GR is in a similar situation, although not as bad since Debian doesn't use FPTP. But I could understand fellow developers, not as deeply invested in the issue as those who have proposed options, getting fatigued trying to evaluate them. For pro-systemd/anti-alternative folks, the choice is easy: First-choice the one (or two) positions that express that, and rank the majority under "further discussion". For those at the other pole, this strategy is risky: those folks want their transferable vote to move to the most popular option, and so must not succumb to voter fatigue.

Whatever your position, if you hold the power to vote, please take time to evaluate the options and use it.

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On Yesterday's Mary Anne Hobbs radio show she debuted a new track by Squarepusher, "Vortrack [Fracture Remix]", which you can now watch/listen to on YouTube:

This track really grabbed my attention. Later that day you you could buy it in a variety of formats and quality levels on Squarepusher's website.

One of the format/quality options was "8-bit Lossless WAV", which I thought was a joke, a poke in the eye of audiophiles. I was aware that he likely used some 8-bit instruments/equipment to write the tracks, but surely it was mixed in a more modern environment, and resampling down to 8-bit would result in something that sounded like mush.

But it seems the jokes on me; I bought the track and it's seemingly indistinguishable to the audio track on that YouTube video. And it really is 8-bit:

Input #0, wav, from 'Vortrack-001-Squarepusher-Vortrack (Fracture Remix).wav':
  Duration: 00:08:02.99, bitrate: 705 kb/s
    Stream #0:0: Audio: pcm_u8 ([1][0][0][0] / 0x0001),
    44100 Hz, 2 channels, u8, 705 kb/s

It even — losslessly — compressed down to a bitrate lower than a typical MP3:

Input #0, flac, from 'Vortrack-001-Squarepusher-Vortrack (Fracture Remix).flac':
  Duration: 00:08:02.99, start: 0.000000, bitrate: 313 kb/s
    Stream #0:0: Audio: flac, 44100 Hz, stereo, s16 (8 bit)

Sorry, comments on my site seem to be broken at the moment. I'm hoping to fix them soon.

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Thumbnail of the poster

Thumbnail of the poster

Today the School of Computing organised a poster session for stage 2 & 3 PhD candidates. Here's the poster I submitted. jdowland-phd-poster.pdf (692K)

This is the first poster I've prepared for my PhD work. I opted to follow the "BetterPoster" principles established by Mike Morrison. These are best summarized in his #BetterPoster 2 minute YouTube video. I adapted this LaTeX #BetterPoster template. This template is licensed under the GPL v3.0 which requires me to provide the source of the poster, so here it is.

After browsing around other student's posters, two things I would now add to the poster would be a mugshot (so people could easily determine who's poster it was, if they wanted to ask questions) and Red Hat's logo, to acknowledge their support of my work.

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As promised, here's the report I wrote for my PhD Stage 1 progression in the hope that it is useful or interesting to someone. I've made some very small modifications to the submitted copy in order to remove some personal information.

I'll reiterate something from when I published my proposal:

A document produced for one institution's expectations might not be directly applicable to another. … You don't have any idea whether it has been judged to be particularly good or bad one by those who received it (you can make your own judgements).

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Back In July I decided to take a (minimum) six months hiatus from involvement in the Debian project. This is for a number of reasons, but I completely forgot to write about it publically. So here we are.

I'm going to look at things again no sooner than January 2020 and decide whether or not (or how much) to pick it back up.

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Older posts are available on the all posts page.