• Switching my code from gitweb to Gogs

    gogs-logoSince end of 2014 I published some of my Free Software code – mostly Bash, R and HTML/PHP – on a self-hosted gitweb instance. I did this because I wanted to share the work I’ve done with other people because I’ve learnt a lot by reading other people’s code. Although I’m just a „hobby programmer“, I hoped at least some people can benefit from it.

    The last few days, I switched from gitweb, a very simple web interface for my git repositories, to Gogs, a feature-rich webservice which still is lightweight, and quite simple to install and maintain – and of course Free Software! By doing so, people can now register with my Gogs instance, open issue tickets, fork my projects and send pull requests – very similar to non/semi-free services like GitHub or GitLab.


    As a user of the German hosting service Uberspace I had to follow some special ways to install Gogs. But thanks to a nice guide it was quite simple, so it was finished after only 15 minutes. The only tricky part was the SSH feature with which I spent a few hours to make it work. The problem was that using the same public key with Gogs as you’re using for logging into the server’s SSH won’t work. You’ll have to generate a new SSH key and use it’s public key for Gogs. Then you have to edit your client’s SSH config: [ » Read More…]

  • I love Free Software (Apps)

    Yoda-ilovefsDo you know being in a restaurant and getting a menu which is longer than the average novel, and you cannot decide for a single meal because every single one sounds more delicious than the other? That’s similar to the problem I was having when writing this blog post…

    Today is the „I love Free Software“ day, on which people all over the world say „thank you“ to contributors of Free Software, often created in free time and with lots of passion. This is software you can use for any purpose, which source code you or others can analyse, which can be modified and distributed – any program respecting these essential freedoms benefits a fair society, and our most personal privacy and security in return.

    After I thanked ZNC and Taskwarrior last Valentine’s Days, this year I want to focus on software running on the device that’s almost always in my pocket. My mobile phone is the gatekeeper of most of my communication: short messages, pictures, emails, social media, todo lists, calendar… it’s amazing thinking about what this tiny computer has to achieve to satisfy my needs. But of course, I also want to use as much Free Software as possible to secure my sensitive data. And because of that I cannot name a single software but have to list a few which I depend on almost every single day, and I want to sincerely thank the people contributing to them! [ » Read More…]

  • German Government wants authorities to advertise PDFreaders

    pdfreaders-logoShould authorities be allowed to make advertisement for only one company and ignore all the others? Many people strongly disagree, among them myself, the Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) and also the CIO of the Federal Republic of Germany, the IT commissioner of the German Government.

    The whole story began with something we all had to read sometimes, at least subconsciously, on a website providing PDF documents: „To open the PDF files please download Adobe Acrobat Reader.“. Such notices are unnecessary advertisement for a proprietary (non-free) product — there are dozens of software applications which can do the same or even more, many of them Free Software. Because of that the FSFE started a campaign called „PDFreaders“ to make this deficiency public, and contact administrations and companies with thousands of letters and emails.

    One big success of this campaign in Germany is PDFreaders being mentioned in the official current Migration Guide of Germany’s Chief Information Officer. This document explains some critical points of IT in administrations and companies and evaluates different software. Under point 4.3.7 „PDF readers and authoring“ the guide compares different PDF applications and also takes Free Software readers like Evince into account: [ » Read More…]

  • Weiterer Teilerfolg beim Routerzwang

    Router in Bedrängnis

    Eigene Router in Bedrängnis – hoffentlich nicht mehr lange

    Die Free Software Foundation Europe und alle Freunde Freier Software, Verbraucherrechte und freien Wettbewerbs können sich seit einigen Tagen über einen weiteren Erfolg beim Thema Routerzwang freuen. Nachdem das Bundeswirtschaftsministerium (BMWi) das Thema Routerzwang in die eigenen Hände genommen hatte und einen Gesetzentwurf (TK-Endgerätegesetz) verfasst hat, der größtenteils unseren Vorstellungen entspricht, wurde dieser Entwurf der EU-Kommission und den Mitgliedsstaaten für Kommentare und Änderungswünsche vorgelegt. Dabei wurde nach Ablauf der sogenannten Stillhaltefrist ausschließlich eine formelle Unklarheit bemängelt und der Gesetzestext im Inhalt gebilligt.

    Kurzinfo: Was ist Routerzwang?
    In unserer Gesellschaft sollte es selbstverständlich sein, sich für technische Geräte frei entscheiden zu können, die man in seinem Zuhause in Betrieb nehmen möchte, genauso wie wir entscheiden können, welches Mobiltelefon wir kaufen. Doch einige Internetanbieter widersprechen diesem Prinzip und schreiben ihren Kunden vor, welches Gerät sie zur Einwahl in das Internet nutzen müssen oder diskriminieren Besitzer alternativer Geräte. Diese Verletzung eigentlich selbstverständlicher Rechte wird Routerzwang genannt und wird von der Free Software Foundation Europe und vielen anderen Organisationen, Projekten und Individuen stark kritisiert. Routerzwang ist nicht nur ein Thema für Technikexperten, sondern betrifft uns alle.

    Routerzwang beschäftigt die FSFE seit dem Januar 2013, die öffentlich in vielen Anhörungen und im Hintergrund Stellung bezogen hat. Mehr Informationen über das Thema auf unserer ausführlichen Übersichtsseite.

    Passend zum Ende dieser Phase hat der Journalist Jan Rähm für den Deutschlandfunk einen Beitrag gesendet, der das Thema sehr differenziert betrachtet, den aktuellen Stand darlegt und sowohl Gegner als auch Befürworter des Routerzwangs zu Wort kommen lässt. Der Beitrag ist als verkürzte Textversion und in der vollen Audioversion (5:48) auf der Webseite des Deutschlandfunks zu finden. So sagt etwa der Pressesprecher von Tele Columbus, einer der wenigen Befürworter des Routerzwangs: [ » Read More…]

  • splitDL – Downloading huge files from slow and unstable internet connections

    Imagine you want install GNU/Linux but your bandwidth won’t let you…

    tl;dr: I wrote a rather small Bash script which splits huge files into several smaller ones and downloads them. To ensure the integrity, every small files is being checked for its hashsum and file size.

    That’s the problem I was facing in the past days. In the school I’m working at (Moshi Institute of Technology, MIT) I set up a GNU/Linux server to provide services like file sharing, website design (on local servers to avoid the slow internet) and central backups. The ongoing plan is the setup of 5-10 (and later more) new computers with a GNU/Linux OS in contrast to the ancient and non-free WindowsXP installations – project „Linux Classroom“ is officially born.

    But to install an operating system on a computer you need an installation medium. In the school a lot of (dubious) WindowsXP installation CD-ROMs are flying around but no current GNU/Linux. In the first world you would just download an .iso file and ~10 minutes later you could start installing it on your computer.

    But not here in Tanzania. With download rates of average 10kb/s it needs a hell of a time to download only one image file (not to mention the costs for the internet usage, ~1-3$ per 1GB). And that’s not all: Periodical power cuts cancel ongoing downloads abruptly. Of course you can restart a download but the large file may be already damaged and you loose even more time.

    My solution – splitDL

    To circumvent this drawback I coded a rather small Bash program called splitDL. With this helper script, one is able to split a huge file into smaller pieces. If during the download the power cuts off and damages the file, one just has to re-download this single small file instead of the huge complete file. To detect whether a small file is unharmed the script creates hashsums of the original huge and the several small files. The script also supports continuation of the download thanks to the great default built-in application wget. [ » Read More…]

  • Technology and Free Software in Tanzania

    mit-2After two months in Tanzania and in the computer education centre I work every day I learnt a lot about the culture of the locals in terms of their viewpoint on information technology. And in the same way I had to accept that my initial mental image of the people’s behaviour was (at least in parts) very wrong. So in this article I try to explain how I see the situation of modern technologies and the usage and understanding of Free Software in the region of Tanzania where I live.

    Free Software guarantees the full rights to use, study, share and improve it (but is not necessarily free of gratis). This sounds like something only interesting for IT specialists and nerds. But given the importance of software in our lifes one has to reconsider: Software controls our mobile phones, cars, air planes, heating systems, power plants, bank accounts and medical equipment. The one who controls this software is also the one who controls most parts of our lifes. Questions like „Does all my data belong to someone else?“, „Is my data safe?“ and „Who knows how much about me?“ can only be answered when we start thinking about Free Software. By some people Free Software is also called Open Source. More about Free Software.

    Let’s start with a list of what I thought and what’s in fact the reality:

    Misconception I

    Before I went to Tanzania it was quite clear to me that people here value Free Software quite much. This is because a lot of Free Software is also free of cost. Why should people use Windows, Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office when there’s also GNU/Linux, GIMP and LibreOffice/OpenOffice?

    Reality I

    „Free Software? What is this and can I eat it?“ It’s not that drastical though but the core message remains the same: The broad average population doesn’t know about Free Software and Open Source or even the applications I listed. When I gave a small workshop about GNU/Linux, noone of my students knew about it. But as we installed replacements of popular non-free software like LibreOffice, GIMP or VLC the questions marks in my students‘ heads became almost visible. Although they liked the idea of the whole world working on this software and that it’s for free, they asked me afterwards „…and how can we install Microsoft Frontpage?“. This is the perfect time for misconception 2. [ » Read More…]

  • I love Taskwarrior, therefore I love Free Software

    ilovefs-heart-pxIt’s Valentine’s day and you’re writing a blog post? Are you nuts?“ you might ask. Well, but it’s not only Valentine’s day but also I love Free Software day. This day is proclaimed every year on February 14 by the Free Software Foundation Europe to thank all developers and contributors of Free Software (software you can use for any purpose, which source code you or others can analyze, which can be modified and distributed).

    As last year with ZNC, I want to say thank you to a specific project which easies my daily life. As you might know by other blog posts here, organisation of tasks, mails and almost everything else is a very important issue for me. So this year I want to write some lines about Taskwarrior, taskd and Mirakel which enable me to take some free time without thinking of task which I could possibly forget to accomplish later on.

    My head is full of ideas and mental To-Do lists and so I’m in need of a handy tool which allows me to write down and organise items at any place and time: At my desk, in bus or train, when I’m offline or abroad. And its important that I don’t have (analog and digital) bits of paper everywhere, so I need a system that syncs all task inputs and outputs. I tried a lot of tools but Taskwarrior was the best so far. It used the well-known „Getting Things Done“ concept with different priorities. Taskwarrior also supports tagging tasks, organising them in projects, due dates, postponing, making tasks dependend on others and much more. And Taskwarrior has a (modifyable) algorhythm that sorts your tasks by urgency levels, so that the most important tasks always are on the top of the list. Even now I just took a glance at what Taskwarrior is able to do!

    Picture of a woman with a chalk board which expresses her apreciation for Taskwarrior

    Someone who loves Taskwarrior as much as I do

    Services and programs that organise tasks aren’t very special!“ one might think. But if you prefer sorting tasks digitally, you cannot simply chose a random todo-organising service provider. Most of the tools and services on the market aren’t free and transparent. All input may no longer belong to you, all the gathered information (which is a lot if you think of it!) could be used for targeted ads or worse. You cannot modify the algorhythm to suit your needs. And what happens if the service provider goes bankrupt? All data, all project history and all pending tasks would be lost at once. So using a free (as in freedom), decentralised, maybe self-hosted service is the best idea to organise your tasks decentrally. [ » Read More…]

  • Yourls URL Shortener for Turpial

    Maybe you know Yourls, a pretty cool URL shortener which you can set up on your own server very easily. Link shorteners are nice to have because

    1. you can share long links with short urls and
    2. you can view and organise all links you ever shared (incl. statistics and so on).

    There are many alternatives like bit.ly, ur1.ca and so on, but Yourls belongs to YOU and you don’t have to pay attention to ToS changes or the provider’s financial status. AND you can use whichever domain you own, for example in my case it’s s.mehl.mx/blabla.

    And maybe you also know Turpial, a Twitter client for GNU/Linux systems (I don’t like Twitter’s web page). Until lately I used Choqok, a KDE optimised client, but there were many things which annoyed me: No image previews, slow development, unconvenient reply behaviour and so on. And hey, why not trying something new? So I started to use Turpial which seems to solve all these critic points. Well, like always I missed some preferences to configure. But since it’s Free Software, one is able to look how the software works and to change it – and to share the improvements which I’ll do in the next step! [ » Read More…]

  • Sharing is caring – my Git instance

    Some days ago I noticed another time that I have far too less knowledge about Git.
    „Time to change that!“, I thought and set up my own Git instance and also installed gitweb for better usability.

    Upside 1: I can keep track of the many (mainly bash) scripts I wrote in the past and all the changes I will adopt in the future.
    Upside 2: You can hopefully benefit from using and reading my code. All code is licensed under GNU GPL v3 so please feel free to use, study, share and improve my work!

    Some noteworthy projects I’m (a bit) proud of:

    Any questions, ideas or improvements? Please contact me!

    Update 26.02.2016:
    I washed away the quite basic gitweb instance and moved to Gogs. Here’s why and how. Links to the project may have changed because of that (and I’m too lazy to change them here).

  • Freie Kommunikation ist die Essenz des Menschseins

    Im Folgenden werde ich – durch meinen Gemütszustand etwas angefeuert – darlegen, wieso digitale Kommunikationsüberwachung Gift für unsere Gesellschaft ist, weil sie nichts anderes als Millionen Abhörwanzen und Kameras in unseren privatesten Räumen ist.

    Seit einigen Monaten hat sich ein Grundkonflikt in den politischen Debatten verstärkt: Welche Kommunikation sollte überwacht werden dürfen und welche nicht? Ausschließlich inländische Kommunikation? Geschäftliche E-Mails? Telefongespräche über 20 Sekunden Dauer?
    Und parallel dazu bekomme ich seit mehreren Monaten regelmäßig Wutanfälle, nämlich wenn ich Kommentare von „Experten“ und Laien lese, die solche künstliche Trennungen von Kommunikation und deren unterschiedliche Bewertung immer noch ernsthaft in Erwägung ziehen.

    Wieso ist Kommunikation = Kommunikation?

    Weil Kommunikation – in welcher Form auch immer – schützenswert ist und privat bleiben muss, weil wir uns sonst als Gesellschaft aufgeben. Es ist witzlos, gesetzlich eine künstliche Trennung zwischen Kommunikationsarten ziehen zu wollen. Nur die Ewiggestrigen können ernsthaft vorhaben, analoge und digitale Unterhaltung, Schriftwechsel und Meinungsaustausch zu trennen und deren Inhalt unterschiedlich zu behandeln.

    Ja, die technischen Wege der Kommunikationsformen sind unterschiedlich: Bei der einen rege ich durch Muskelbewegungen Vibrationen in der Luft an, die bei meinem Gegenüber im Ohr zu sinnvollen Informationen verarbeitet werden. Bei der anderen schicke ich (un)willkürlich Nullen und Einsen durch Netzwerke, die durch immer noch atemberaubende Technik an der anderen Seite wieder lesbar werden. Doch die Qualität ist dieselbe.

    Stellen wir uns einmal vor…

    Nehmen wir ein realitätsnahes Beispiel: Frau und Herr Schuster. [ » Read More…]