Piero V.

Debian on an encrypted microSD on a Surface Pro 2017

Wow, I have not needed to write a guide about installing a Linux system for years (well, these are my notes rather than a complete guide).

Partly because I found it quite easy in the latest… 5 years? Partly because I avoid reinstalling my systems unless strictly needed.

This time is different: I am targeting a peculiar device (a Surface Pro 2017) with a microSD (I am too lazy to repartition its SSD) and full disk encryption (including /boot).

But I am happy because I have learned a lot! For example, if you choose the expert installation for Debian, you can disable the source repositories immediately!

Big caveat: my initial plan was to install GRUB on the microSD, but it did not work. If I understood correctly, the Surface cannot boot from SDs. So, I used the ESP of the SSD. If you wanted a completely autonomous system on a microSD that disappears as soon as you remove it, I fear you cannot get one.

Preparing the install drive

After I discovered Rufus, I have always used it to prepare installation drives on Windows.

But Debian ISOs have a feature I really appreciate: in UEFI mode, you can just extract the image to a FAT32 partition. The advantages are that you do not need Windows, and you do not have to format the drive, you do not lose any existing data. And, on top of that, secure boot worked at the first try (with Microsoft & 3rd party CAs, but I do not remember if it is the default). I have tried with other distributions, but none worked in the same way. … [Leggi il resto]

That tiny little option

Almost one year ago, I switched to a Cudy WR2100.

It has worked very well in these months. I installed it, then forgot about it, but it kept doing its job.

A few months ago, we bought a cheap TV, which happened to be an entry-level Android TV, too. I tried to set it up to connect to WiFi, but it did not work. Initially, I blamed the TV, but we did not buy it for its “smart” functionalities, so we just used it as a plain-old TV for some time.

But after a while, I wanted to use my old Oneplus One as a test device with Android 9, and it could not connect, too!

I solved the issue on the phone by updating it to an Android 10 ROM (and I had to find another way to deal with the original problems that needed Android 9 in another way 😮‍💨️).

Therefore, I initially thought Pie was the problem and that Android 10 fixed some bugs. But good luck finding information about an issue like this!

Eventually, a few days ago, I thought of carefully checking OpenWRT settings. I found that “Disassociate On Low Acknowledgement”, which allows the access point to disconnect stations based on low ACK conditions, was enabled. It can be set on a network basis, so it should be turned off separately for the 2,4GHz and the 5GHz, and it is the last item in the latest tab (advanced settings).

That fixed my problems. It is the first time I have found an option that could be a wrong default on OpenWRT in all these years. Or is it a problem with the MediaTek drivers? I am not sure, to be honest.

I must say that some functionalities like YouTube works pretty well and are convenient. I would have loved to use the built-in Chromecast, but I had continuous disconnections. So, maybe the fault must be shared between the TV and the router, after all 😅️.

Zbar, GTK and Python 3

Last week, we had Hackweek at Tor. Instead of doing what we usually do, we worked on small Tor-related projects for 5 days. I chose to work with intrigeri and boyska from Tails to help them improving the pluggable transports on Tails.

There are several ways to get Tor bridges. One is requesting them to BridgeDB through email. The answer contains the bridge lines both as text and in a QR code. So, the first objective of our Hackweek team was to create a proof-of-concept to load these QR codes through a webcam.

Tails’s connection wizard is written in Python. A trivial approach is capturing frames from the webcam with OpenCV, then decoding them with pyzbar. This would have worked, but Tails is a live system, and an OpenCV installation requires a lot of space.

I soon discovered that OpenCV is the de facto way to deal with webcams in Python. I have tried some other alternatives, but they did not work. I have also tried to use a low-level approach based on the V4L2 API. But dealing with the conversion of color spaces and creating a generally reliable solution is burdensome. … [Leggi il resto]

WebRTC on the server side with Pion and FFI

WebSockets and WebRTC

At the beginning of the year, I played a little bit with WebSockets and Rust. I tried to create a backend for a browser game implemented with Three.js.

However, things did not work very well. A friend and I did some tests, but his connection was underperforming, which is actually an advantage for testing. Its delays were very high, packets kept accumulating and being applied all at once. Moreover, I had implemented everything with unbounded queues. Therefore, the server program running on my PC occupied several GB of RAM at a certain point. Good thing we found all these problems soon.

The first suggestion you find when you start programming multiplayer games is that you should use UDP if you can. So, I finally decided to try WebRTC.

I soon discovered that WebSocket and WebRTC are completely different. The former is a protocol for full-duplex communication, usually between a browser and a webserver. The latter is a series of APIs for real-time communications, and spans from media capture, streams, screen sharing to data channels, which is the capability I was interested in. … [Leggi il resto]

Firefox 100

A long time has passed since the last time I have written about a software version update. And I published the last one about Firefox almost 10 years ago.

But this is a special occasion: last Tuesday, Mozilla published Firefox 100. So, congrats, Mozilla! 🥳️🎉️

Now that I think of it, Firefox is the first open source software I have ever used and probably the program that introduced this concept to me. It also “saved” me from Internet Explorer 6 and taught me that the web must be developed following standards.

The first version of Firefox I used was either 1.5.0.x or 1.0.x. Many, many years have passed since then.

Now I have a job tightly connected to Firefox and to Mozilla. This allowed me to contribute back, at least in a tiny way, and it was acknowledged in Firefox 97 release notes, which makes me super happy! (Even though, to be completely honest, that effort was not only mine but also of other Tor community users).

We need Firefox because only alternative and independent browser implementations can guarantee freedom and openness to all web users.

So, thanks, Mozilla, and long live Firefox!