January 21, 2018

Antoine Amarilli a.k.a a3nm

Modern blockbusters: a dining metaphor

This is just a text I wrote to explain how I felt about most blockbuster movies. I didn't know what to do with it, so here it is.

There's this new restaurant in town that has posters and ads everywhere. Everyone's talking about it, and they all seem to have a pretty strong opinion, so you go with some friends to see what it's like.

The first impression is outstanding. The restaurant is lavishly decorated. The room, furniture, atmosphere, music, are all spectacular and have obviously been painstakingly designed for your enjoyment. The waiters have fancy, colorful, creative dresses, and they usher you to a comfortable seat on a magnificent table adorned with the finest dining ware.

You spend some time admiring the setting: the paintings on the wall, the patterns of the wallpaper, the carefully engineered lighting, and the complex ballet of the waiters. Soon enough, the first dish is served. It consists of various kinds of canapés, neatly arranged on a splendid plate. They look wonderful even if not particularly original. You have a bite, and the taste is good, not exceptional compared to your expectations, but certainly not bad either; just not especially remarkable.

You finish the plate, and a different waiter comes to the table after a while, with a new plate of other kinds of canapés. How formal, you think, how unbelievably fancy to have two rounds of appetizers before the meal has even started! The ingredients are different, but your opinion is essentially the same: excellent visual impression, classical recipes, enjoyable yet somewhat unsurprising taste.

A third plate of canapés comes in, and now you start to suspect that something is off. Why are they only serving such cocktail food? Worse, you can't figure out any logic in the contents of the plates: now some of the bites are sweet, but on the next plate everything is savory again. And the meal continues like this, with a series of plates of different kinds of hors d'oeuvres brought by various waiters.

It's not that the experience is really unpleasant. You can appreciate the setting, the lighting, and the subtle changes in atmosphere and music throughout the evening. You can also wonder about the seemingly random assortment of tastes, plates, and waiters, that comes to the table every now and then. You can also enjoy the food, which is acceptable even if not strikingly good. But after one hour and a half of this, your expectations have been building up to something more. Surely all of this has been leading to a proper dish of some kind? Alas, no: the series of appetizers continues for one more hour, you progressively realize that it's getting too late for your hopes to materialize, and then the check comes and confirms what you had feared. You feel somewhat queasy as you get up and leave the table, like when you have too many snacks in a row: you're no longer hungry, but you don't feel like you had a proper meal either. In fact, it's a bit as if you had been robbed of the opportunity of having one.

As it turns out, your friends are all thrilled about this incredible dinner experience, but it seems that you haven't been paying attention to the same things as them. For one thing, they really enjoyed the beauty of the setting, the music, and how everything was pleasing to the eye and ears. You readily concede that all of this was perfect, but you try to bring the discussion back to the food. "But wasn't the food pretty too", they ask? "Didn't it perfectly match the plates, the table and the decoration of the room?"

Your friends also loved that the restaurant staff was so varied. This is something that you had essentially missed, although you do remember that the plates were brought by many different waiters, with interesting costumes and ties and hairstyles. To your friends, the main point of the various canapés was the story that they were telling about the lives of the waiters and the relationships between them. They can discuss it for ages: "Did you understand why the short bearded guy brought the foie gras plate, although the chunks of duck magret had all been delivered by the tall blonde waitress until then?" "Oh, my interpretation is that the bearded guy has a secret duck side in him, but he's conflicted about his relationship with the bald guy who brought the veal liver."

You ask: "But why the hell did they serve chocolate mousse verrines between the foie gras and veal liver?" Of course, they reply, the reason why the skinny old waitress brought the chocolate mousse was to appease the tension between bearded guy and bald guy. "But what good did it do to the meal", you ask? And they answer: "It brings forward the side of the old waitress's character that feels guilty for the bearded guy's struggle."

You try to explain how you would have liked the meal to have a certain structure, with recognizable dishes arranged in a consistent order. Your friends pounce on this, and question you: why are you so attached to this traditional structure of a formal meal? Why should a good meal necessarily consist of a starter, a main course, and a dessert? "But the point is not the specific structure," you reply, "so much as having any kind of understandable connection between the successive dishes." Some of your friends then ask: "But don't you see how subversive it is to have served an anchovy paste toast just after a chocolate parfait? Don't you like this sort of strong political statement?" You still fail to see the radical appeal of this, given that the setting was otherwise rather consensual, and the food consisted of perfectly standard Western fare. To you, the meal didn't look like a satire of anything in particular, except maybe itself.

They ask, "but didn't you like how the meal was surprising and unpredictable?" And indeed, you have to agree that you couldn't anticipate anything, given that it appeared to be completely random. You explain how the lack of structure makes it impossible for you to summarize, or indeed to remember, the sequence of foods that you had. They disagree: to them, the meal was rich and complex, and anyway the main questions to examine are character-related, e.g., how the blonde waitress's disappearance at the middle of the meal could be linked to the increasingly important role of the bald guy in connection to the sweet and especially fruit-flavored foods.

Your friends are all eager to return to this place when they will start serving their new menu next year. To them, this meal has been building up to the great surprises that the next dinner will surely bring. "Think of all the new kinds of food that we will discover! And in particular I wonder whether we will see the blonde waitress again? I wonder whether she might bring us some scallops in a green plate, because remember that the only seafood so far had been brought by the old waitress, also in a green plate, so this could be some hint of a family relationship between them?" And when you express your lack of enthusiasm, they don't understand you: if you complained so much about the food, why aren't you hungry for more?

by a3nm at January 21, 2018 05:13 PM

October 25, 2017

Antoine Amarilli a.k.a a3nm

Debian on Raspberry Pi 3

I have a Raspberry Pi 3 and I wanted to install Debian on it. I know about Debian derivatives for the Raspberry Pi, such as Raspbian, but what I don't like about them is that I have to use a special APT repository, and have to trust images generated by these people. I already trust Debian, so why not install Debian on my Raspberry Pi as well?

Debian has a wiki page about the Raspberry Pi 3, but it looked pretty experimental. I tried it out, and I'm happy to report that I got it to work: generating the image myself, booting it up, and using the resulting system.

To generate the image, I just followed the instructions here. I fell into some traps, but @stapelberg just accepted my pull request to document them, so you can just follow the instructions and hopefully they should work.

Once the image is successfully generated in raspi3.img, you can simply write it to the SD card as explained in the instructions. For the last step, if your local network doesn't resolve the rpi3 hostname (mine didn't), you can simply use nmap to find its IP. Of course, don't do this if the administrator of your local network could be worried about a network scan, and adapt it to your IP range:

sudo nmap -p0

Then you can use the system. What I didn't test:

  • HDMI: there was no HDMI signal (i.e., no video display), I don't know whether this is a known limitation or a bug, and whether the system can be made to use the video. I didn't need it, so I didn't investigate. Testing again, there seems to be a video signal after all: you can see the TTY prompt. However, while booting, there is no information displayed about what happens during the boot process, so you can't hope to debug anything from the display if booting fails.
  • Bluetooth and Wifi: there are comments about it here, but I didn't investigate either.
  • CSI, DSI, GPIO, sound, composite, etc.

What I did test:

  • Booting the system, network, SD card
  • Moving to non-snapshotted repositories for buster, doing apt-get update, apt-get dist-upgrade and rebooting (it still works)
  • USB port: mounting an USB mass storage device (USB key).
  • Reading the CPU temperature: this does not work currently, I get an error when trying to cat /sys/devices/virtual/thermal/thermal_zone0/temp, but it seems that a patch was checked in so it should work eventually.
  • Running stress -c 4 -i 10 -m 2 -d 10 --timeout 300, which worked OK.
  • Running cryptsetup. The results of cryptsetup benchmark are below. They are not great (probably due to the lack of hardware crypto support on the Raspberry Pi?). They probably mean that the CPU will be the bottleneck when reading/writing to an encrypted hard drive.
PBKDF2-sha1        92564 iterations per second for 256-bit key
PBKDF2-sha256     138115 iterations per second for 256-bit key
PBKDF2-sha512      96946 iterations per second for 256-bit key
PBKDF2-ripemd160   75155 iterations per second for 256-bit key
PBKDF2-whirlpool   33505 iterations per second for 256-bit key
#     Algorithm | Key |  Encryption |  Decryption
        aes-cbc   128b    14.7 MiB/s    16.1 MiB/s
    serpent-cbc   128b    12.8 MiB/s    13.6 MiB/s
    twofish-cbc   128b    15.3 MiB/s    16.3 MiB/s
        aes-cbc   256b    11.1 MiB/s    12.3 MiB/s
    serpent-cbc   256b    12.8 MiB/s    13.6 MiB/s
    twofish-cbc   256b    15.2 MiB/s    16.3 MiB/s
        aes-xts   256b    15.7 MiB/s    16.3 MiB/s
    serpent-xts   256b    13.9 MiB/s    14.0 MiB/s
    twofish-xts   256b    16.9 MiB/s    17.1 MiB/s
        aes-xts   512b    11.6 MiB/s    12.4 MiB/s
    serpent-xts   512b    13.9 MiB/s    14.0 MiB/s
    twofish-xts   512b    16.9 MiB/s    17.1 MiB/s

I just noticed that there are some default iptables rules (v4, v6) which prevent remote SSH connections. Hence, if you want to connect to your Raspberry Pi remotely, once you have made sure that it is secure to do so (in particular, changed the default password), you can issue:

sudo iptables -D INPUT 6
sudo ip6tables -D INPUT 4

You should also update /etc/iptables/rules.v4 and /etc/iptables/rules.v6 accordingly (remove the line with REJECT in each file).

by a3nm at October 25, 2017 12:36 AM