Bog Roll :: unix/foss

It's Not Magic, It's Work!

10 Jan 2020

Canon CR3

Canon have updated their camera raw format from CR2 to CR3 standard. Canon do not publish standard of their file format, so if you have an older operating system that what they support, or one that they do not support at all, then you can not open the CR3 files that your camera creates and you are forced to use the JPEG format files only.

To open the CR3 file a team of open source volunteers will have to reverse engineer the file format, and try to understand what Canon have done. Under European law reverse engineering is expressly permitted for the purpose of making something compatible. However it takes time and money to do, and would be much better if Canon were prepared to at least document their new file format, but not giving the details away all that will happen is the open source community will work it out and publish the details, so they aren't making it a secret, just making it awkward for their customers.

At the moment I have no compact camera since my Canon PowerShot S110 died. I was going to buy a Canon PowerShot G7X Mk III, but there isn't point now until I can open the files. The darktable people are working on it, but it will be a while. I will have to live without a compact camera for a while...

09 Oct 2009


The UK is a real techno laggard. I'm ashamed of how backwards we are in the UK. We have poor domestic broadband, terrible IT education and dire open-source adoption. Our own government seems hell bent of spending more money than anyone else on failed closed source IT projects and seems unable to adopt open source and save billions: Open Source and the Fear of Failure.

Meanwhile our neighbours across the Channel seem to be running away with technology. They have good domestic broadband provision and several high profile open source projects driven from central government. So far they have saved a fortune and not had the same dismal failures that the UK has been plagued with: FR: "Almost entire public sector is using open source'.

What has happened to British inventiveness and forging the future in the white heat of technology? I suppose we've swapped it all for buying our way out of depression with borrowed money...

05 Jul 2009

Kernel-based Virtual Machine

I've long used Fabrice Bellard's excellent QEMU system emulator. It's slow but complete, so you can emulate a SPARC system on an AMD64 for example. As long as your host system is fast you can emulate a wide range of other systems acceptably.

Fabrice also released a QEMU accelerator called KQEMU, basically a kernel plug-in that allows QEMU to drop all none guest-kernel calls through to the host CPU unemulated. The upshot is that if you have an x86 CPU host system you can run a x86 guest system on top with nearly real time performance. The rest of the system is still emulated, so graphics isn't fast but it's great for servers.

On the desktop I've been using Sun's VirtualBox which I find faster when running graphical guest systems than QEMU/KQEMU. It also has a nice GUI so it's easier to play with - QEMU is all command line, which is fine once you have it configured but not as easy for dabbling.

This week I thought I try out KVM, which is a mainline Linux kernel plug-in that works with newer AMD/Intel CPUs only. Basically it creates a generic interface that other user-land virtualisation systems can take advantage off. In practice you install KVM into your kernel then basically use QEMU for the rest of the virtual host system. In theory KVM+QEMU should be marginally faster than KQEMU+QEMU on compatible hardware, however you can't use it older CPUs so you need to use KQEMU on them.

It took a few goes to get it working, but so far on my server which has the right hardware, it looks pretty good, marginally faster than KQEMU with lower CPU load on the host system. It's another interesting technology to have to play with.

QEMU is really good stuff, not only is it usable on it's own, but it's the extendible with both KQEMU or KVM and even VirtualBox uses large chunks of it! Open source is great!

11 Mar 2009

French Pulled Ahead With Open Source

Unlike the UK which gave a knighthood to the head of a company that pays almost no tax to the UK and employes very few people here the French have no problem in throwing out foreign proprietary software and instead investing in something cheaper and better.

Several years ago the French Gendarmerie Nationale started to migrate away from closed source to open source solutions. It's not been a bump free ride but they have now almost completely moved to a Linux desktop solution running a variety of opensource applications that they can switch too with ease as they are now vendor-lock-in free. Best of all they now reduced their IT budget by 70%.

Even if the current Nu Labour government in the UK isn't keen on opensource and saving money, both opposition parties are. The Liberals are pro opensource for both principled and pragmatic reasons. The Tories are only pro saving money but they are the most likely next government which is at least better than the current incumbents - on some levels.

18 Jan 2009


There are plenty of nice things about open-source living, there are alas a few not so nice things.

For a few years I've used virtualisation systems to run legacy and test systems. I started with Qemu which ran legacy Windows systems well enough where WINE wouldn't do.

When I was planning my new home server I was planning to use Xen to host several virtual systems on it so I could partition them up from each other. Alas Xen didn't work on AMD64 in Debian Lenny at the time so I never got round to using it.

As I'd use Qemu/kqemu for a while I thought I'd try that out. I set the system up quickly enough but there wasn't and easy way to NAT the machine, so I gave up.

I then had a go with Sun's VirtualBox tool which has a really slick GUI interface and is easy to NAT. I've run a virtual SSH server now for a few months. Instead of SSHing to my home server, I SSH into a virtual machine which makes me feel a little safer.

Recently a bug in VirtualBox has driven me mad, the container starts but as the virtual machine starts running the container explodes and it locks the machine up. Not so good.

I've had fresh look at Qemu to find that it now has an easy way to NAT, so I'm going back to that for a while. At the same time Xen is now available for Lenny/AMD64.

It's annoying at times to have bugs, but at least they do actually get fixed without being forced to pay the original vendor extra money. I've also got at least three pretty mature alternatives to do pretty much the same thing - each has their own advantage and disadvantage but the differences give options. Unlike closed source solutions they even share code, while competing.

13 Jul 2008

LUG Meeting at Nokia

Yesterday was a joint Hampshire/Surrey LUG meeting at the Nokia facility between Fleet and Farnborough. For a mid summer meeting it was quite busy and most productive.

Using Nokia's fast and plentiful Internet connection we upgraded a friend's Ubuntu system to the latest version and fixed a number of Apache/PHP related issues. We also got Dovecot IMAP working on the system and moved email into it from another system.

There were quite a few new faces, which is always good too see and plenty of familiar ones. Someone brought along a tiny Viglen MPC-L computer, listen to the next ubuntu uk podcast for a full review.

02 Jul 2008


In many respects I'm quite conservative, just as everyone else was abandoning CVS I started to use it. Over the past few weeks I've decided to upgrade to SVN (Subversion) just as everyone else moves on to git...

Sir Bill Vs. Sir Tim

Glyn Moody makes some very good points in his blog: Sir Bill and Sir Tim: A Tale of Two Knights.

27 Jun 2008

Open Slowaris

I have an old SPARC 5 box in the loft running Solaris 2.5. We don't have enough space to have it out an used, so it's currently sitting unused gathering dust. My current AMD64 based desktop system is way more powerful and Debian Lenny is a vastly more modern and sophisticated operating system than Solaris 2.6.

This week I've been playing with various alternative operating systems on VirtualBox virtual machines. Today I thought it would be nice to give Solaris another go and OpenSolaris is a lot more modern than Solaris 2.6 so I'm hoping it will be a lot more useful.

At the moment OpenSolaris is installing it's self inside a virtual machine, a bit slow compared with Linux but still much faster than Windows systems which seem to take for ever and a day.

Once it's all up and running I'll see if Solaris still deserves the moniker "Slowaris", it really did have a reputation for being awfully slow as Unix goes...

22 Jun 2008

Microsoft Admits ODF Has Won

Microsoft has all but admitted that the existing ISO Open Document Format has won the current round in the file format wars. Not content with being ratified by the ISO first, Microsoft will also support ODF before they are able to support their own competing OXML standard and they now believe that ODF will probably be "the standard" going forward that everyone uses.

Their grudging support for the standard has been formally endorsed by them joining the committee that runs ODF. The cynics would caution that as they haven't been able to kill the standard from the outside they will now from the inside embrace, extend and finally exterminate the standard, a technique long practised by Microsoft. Thankfully they were not able to exterminate the world wide web and there is some hope that they won't be able to exterminate ODF.

With luck the various challenges against OXML from several national bodies will mortally wound OXML and Microsoft will really commit to using the cross-platform ODF format properly and OXML will quietly die.

15 Jun 2008

There is Hope...

Microsoft appear to be coming unstuck in their OOXML/OXML/Ecma-376 plans for world domination. Several countries have formally appealed against the decision to fast-track their ISO proposal, and in the UK, the UKUUG have taken legal advice regarding the BSI for their support of the Vole's plans. It looks like the ISO have even responded to the media attention by suspending the process while the appeals go through.

22 May 2008

Microsoft to Support ODF before OXML

Microsoft announced that they will support ISO standards for Open Document Format (ODF) and PDF next year. Most open source software already supports ODF and PDF.

After bullying and bribery to get their so called "OOXML" (now called OXML) standard to be accepted by ISO, it now turns out they can't actually support it and it will be the version of Office that follows before they can support their own standard.

Typical, they refuse to participate in the development of a vendor neutral standard, refuse to support the standard when it's deployed, then develop their own incompatible "standard", bribe it through ISO, then it turns out they can support the real standard in their own products before they can support the one they developed based on their own product. Microsoft couldn't organise a proverbial in a brewery...

11 May 2008

May LUG Meet

Yesterday was the May Hants LUG. It went very well, a friend solved several problems, I learnt a bit more about X.509 certificates and picked up 30 CAcert points.

22 Jan 2007

Computer Games

It is sometimes said that the lack of games keeps GNU/Linux back when compared with Microsoft Windows. It is true that there are not a lot of commercial games available for GNU/Linux, however there are plenty of free ones and some are of a high quality.

Someone one said that most people don't actually want to buy games. All they want are a few decent simple desktop games and one or two flashier games. Real gamers will have every console under the sun and very serious PCs and you don't use a PlayStation 3 as a general purpose PC.

There are a few nice open-source games that I like, Frozen-Bubble is good fun, and I like the odd desktop puzzle app, e.g KPat. Recently I've been trying out ports of old Commodore 64 games such as Nebulous and Paradroid (Toppler and Freedroid).

08 Jan 2007

Editing pdf & eps Files

Now and then I have requirement to edit files in various postscript formats: ps, eps and pdf. Some files can be opened and edited by various Adobe tools but as these tools cost a bundle and don't run on a sane platform I'm out of luck.

Today I spotted pstoedit which is available in Debian. It does a perfectly serviceable job at converting various postscript files to an editable format. It even opens up "locked" documents for easy editing. Cool!