28 July 2021

Piwigo and Impress

I use the FOSS program Piwigo to manage the photo albums for our village. Piwigo has many features that we don't use, such as compiling a list of personal favorites, and then showing these as a slideshow.

Yesterday I also discovered a wonderful plugin for LibreOffice Impress that converts a folder of photos into an instant slideshow presentation.
I was able to use this with Piwigo, to download the necessary photos into a folder and quickly make a slideshow for an event we were having.

Photo magic with GIMP

I discovered a great tutorial on YouTube “Make your photos look better”
(the link has been passed through Invidious). It quickly turns a dull photo into something amazing. But for someone like me, who doesn't understand the mechanics of how this can be done, the method seems even more magical than if this were a one-click operation in photo software. I have summarised the steps, so I don't need to watch the video each time.

  1. load a photo into GIMP
  2. duplicate layer, twice.
  3. on top copy, colors menu, desaturate, based on luminance
  4. on colors menu, desaturate
  5. on filters menu, blur, gaussian blur, 5 to 40 radius, depending on size of photo.
  6. reduce the opacity of this top layer to about 35% (opacity is in a scale above the layers dialog box)
  7. then right click on the layer and choose the option merge down.
  8. Then select the option for the layer and choose “grain merge” (modes are at the top of the dialog box)
  9. “now you can see how the colors are more vibrant” (make layer disappear with the eye next to the layer)
  10. We can also use other modes, for example, “soft light”
  11. We can also control it with the opacity. If you think it is too much, you can decrease it.


The best articles are appearing now, a few days into the reporting. Edward Snowden, Cory Doctorow, Arundhati Roi, George Monbiot all have written, each with from their own unique perspective. People are tired of reading this stuff, but it has never been more important. George Monbiot's article is one of the shortest and his points are the most salient, so I will quote extensively from that:

Pegasus spyware is just the latest tool autocrats are using to stay in power - The Guardian

Democracy depends on an equality of arms. If governments acquire political weapons unavailable to their opponents, they become harder to dislodge. They now possess so many that I begin to wonder how an efficient autocracy, once established, might ever again be overthrown.

Since the Berlin Wall came down, autocrats have refined a new strategy for perpetual governance: to maintain the process and appearance of democracy – including elections and parliaments – while ensuring it doesn’t work. Power is sucked out of democratic structures and relocated to a place where it can scarcely be challenged: an inner circle defended from opposition by a forcefield of money and patronage, a compliant judiciary and a grovelling media. Narendra Modi, Viktor Orbán, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Jarosław Kaczyński, Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko all know how it works.

Protest, as we have seen from Belarus to Hong Kong, often becomes ineffective. Huge numbers take to the streets, pull the lever of democratic moral authority that has toppled so many regimes in the past, and nothing happens. The autocrats sit and wait for the protest’s energy to fizzle out, crack heads and imprison leaders, knowing they no longer need fear the people. They now have the means either to win elections through rigging, suppression or beguilement, or to ignore the result if they lose. The arc of history no longer bends towards justice.

The new surveillance tools complement a formidable array of modern weapons. Dark ads on social media; thinktanks using dark money to turn outrageous ideas that favour the ruling class into apparent common sense; voter suppression; the stuffing of the courts; the long march through the institutions, shutting down opposition in the civic sphere; cleverly prosecuted culture wars: these are the ever more sophisticated tools of autocratic power in nominal democracies.

He particularly dwells on the case of the UK (which probably didn't need Pegasus, because it has its own sophisticated tools). But Monbiot speaks of how legislation is being used to suppress criticism and protest there.

Arundhati Roy is equally eloquent, and is equally relevant - she brings various examples from India.

This is no ordinary spying. Our most intimate selves are now exposed - The Guardian

At the end of her article, the advice she offers is traditional:

So, where does that leave us? Back in the world of good, old-fashioned politics, I’d say. Only political action can halt or mitigate this threat. Because that technology, when it is used, if not legally then illegally, will always exist within the complicated matrix that describes our times: nationalism, capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, racism, casteism, sexism. This will remain our battlefield – regardless of how technology develops.

We will have to migrate back to a world in which we are not controlled and dominated by our intimate enemy – our mobile phones. We have to try to rebuild our lives, struggles and social movements outside the asphyxiating realm of digital surveillance. We must dislodge the regimes that are deploying it against us. We must do everything we can to prise open their grip on the levers of power, everything we can to mend all that they have broken, and take back all they have stolen.

The question is how effective that can be, once the autocrats have so successfully played our supposedly democratic systems, to establish their authoritarian rule. As Monbiot says, the main reason Donald Trump failed was his incompetence - leaders like Modi and Orban are much more successful. And, in the US, the Republicans are working in the background even now to ensure they will win the next elections through suppression of votes. Countries like China and Russia are already beyond hope. India is almost there. The UK is on the way.

I love this photo in the Guardian of the Indian home minister


Cory Doctorow is as usual best at giving a complete historical overview, because he has been following this stuff for so long. He also, unlike some of the journals that have been reporting on Pegasus, links to key sources.

Pluralistic: 27 Jul 2021 – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

Forbidden Stories is one of the primary sources for the Pegasus Project:

Pegasus: The new global weapon for silencing journalists - Forbidden Stories

OCCRP - which I hadn't previously heard of - is one of the most comprehensive reporters on Pegasus
The Pegasus Project - OCCRP

Here's how much the software costs:

Pegasus Hack: How Much Did it Cost to Spy on Citizens? - The Citizen



Julian Assange stripped of citizenship by Ecuador - The Guardian

Former intelligence analyst sentenced to prison for drone program leak - The Guardian](https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/jul/27/former-intelligence-analyst-sentenced-prison-drone-program-leak)

“He committed the offense to bring attention to what he believed to be immoral government conduct committed under the cloak of secrecy and contrary to public statements of then-President Obama regarding the alleged precision of the United States military’s drone program,” they wrote.

Israel's famous whistleblower, Mordechai Vanunu continues to post a tweet each month, with a photo of himself overlooking the beach near Jaffa. The message is always about the same:

No news yet,nothing changed continue to wait for freedom from israel,this is me waiting in Jaffa after 35 years 1986-2021,I will continue to wait,Freedom is the way,soon or later they must let me go,see you in Freedom,Borne to be free!

Vanunu Mordechai - @vanunumordechai - Twitter

July 7, 2021

Video editors

My computer seems to be running too hot lately, and I guess the summer temperatures are not helping. Conky is showing up to 97 degrees when handling certain processes. Prime among these is video rendering (no surprise there). But I have found that Openshot video editor is very resource-hungry even when it isn't rendering, and sometimes it becomes unresponsive for a while. As a consequence, I have installed KDenlive, which consumes fewer resources when running. I don't remember what sort of package Openshot is on my machine; I think the version I was running may have been a Flatpack, rather than the package found in MX package installer.

I still don't really understand video formats. All I know is that after my video editor has done its rendering, I can get the size down further in the terminal with ffmpeg, using ffmpeg -i input.mp4 -vcodec libx265 -crf 28 output.mp4. The Zoom video I converted today came out at 23% of the original size, after rendering it in h264 compression in Kdenlive. The quality remained adequate.

Tumblr links

I found a WP plugin that autoposts to Tumblr, working the same way as the Twitter or autopost plugin, so I will send links to my blog posts to Tumblr, as I do to Mastodon and Twitter. I could put the entire posts in Tumblr, but don't want to.


My boss, S complains that she is unable to download from our Piwigo albums to her iPhone. I tried with my Android phone and didn't really succeed either. It's simple enough on the Desktop, but hard to accomplish on phones. I asked why she needed to download to her phone, and she explained that she has better photo editing photos there than on her computers - something I hadn't considered. Afterwards I found that there are apps for iPhone and Android. The Android version is in FDroid, so I installed it. However, as a “guest user” there isn't a whole lot that one can do in this Android app. Actually the mobile site is more attractive. From the description, it looks like the iPhone version is more successful, though people were complaining in the reviews about not being able to download photos to their phones, though those reviews are from last year, and there was a promise to rectify the situation. (Our Piwigo albums ).


I had a terrible time attempting to download videos from Facebook, meanwhile. Various tools and methods did not work for me. One Chrome plugin did work (in Vivaldi), in a round about sort of way - but I hate installing questionable plugins in my browsers. For now I've left it there, but disabled it.

My mission today was to download some videos of the end of year parties of the school, that one of the teachers had placed in the School's facebook group. I successfully downloaded them eventually, and combined a few of them into a single video; which I will upload afterwards to YouTube.

Expensive car repair

I had to go to collect our daughter's Mazda 2 from the garage after being serviced. They found numerous things wrong with it - with all the repairs, the bill came to almost 6,000 shekels.

New Earbuds

From Ali-Express I ordered some Sony earbuds, for about $40, to replace the almost identical pair that I eventually managed to lose, after 5 or 6 years. The new pair arrived today: Sony MDR-XB55AP, offering "Extra Bass". They seem fine, though I wonder whether their quality justifies replacing the quite reasonable pair that came with one of our phones.


... Anyway, the new pair were in my ears quite a lot today. I went for a walk in the woods, listening to one of Cafe De Anatolia's 2-hour mixes. I think the reason I enjoy these so much is that unlike many mixes in the same genre, they rarely contain popular music - the smatterings of songs that are there are mostly "ethno" or "world" music. I wonder if such use deserves the term "cultural appropriation"? Probably: I am sure there are Hindus who would object to this use of bhajans as sound bytes. But I appreciate the bhajans just as much as all the rest. And there is something about the instrumentation that I feel reflects a real love of music, its various styles and its potential to affect consciousness. According to Wikipedia, I have read that some people compare House music to Muzak. But I don't think that comparison is justified - at least not with the stuff I'm listening to .


Berta Cáceres assassination: ex-head of dam company found guilty - The Guardian

A US-trained former Honduran army intelligence officer who was the president of an internationally-financed hydroelectric company has been found guilty over the assassination of the indigenous environmentalist Berta Cáceres.

Cáceres was best known for her leadership in the Agua Zarca struggle, but she was also a sharp political analyst, LGBTQ+ rights campaigner and human rights defender who had long frustrated the country’s economic and political elites with her ability to unite disparate sectors against the corrupt status quo.

Victor Fernández, one of the Cáceres family’s lawyers, said the verdict demonstrated the magnitude of the struggle by Cáceres and the Lenca community in the face of a corrupt state which sold off their territory without consent. “Their audacity, determination and dignity to resist, defend and triumph over this corrupt system sets a precedent. We have nothing to thank the justice system for. It was they who persecuted Berta; they criminalized her and displaced her. This victory is a result of our militancy.”

The low-desire life: why people in China are rejecting high-pressure jobs in favour of ‘lying flat’ - The Guardian

Fury in India over death of 84-year-old political prisoner Stan Swamy - The Guardian

India’s oldest political prisoner, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest who was denied bail as his health deteriorated, has died, prompting an outpouring of anger among lawyers, writers, politicians and activists.

Father Stan Swamy, a priest and human rights activist who spent five decades fighting for the rights of the tribal community in the state of Jharkhand, was arrested in October 2020, charged under draconian terrorism laws and held in judicial custody.

Despite Swamy’s weak condition from advanced Parkinson’s disease, which worsened after he contracted Covid-19 in prison last month, the courts repeatedly denied him pre-trial bail.

Google, Facebook and other tech companies threaten to quit Hong Kong over privacy law - The Guardian

No, open source Audacity audio editor is not “spyware” -| Ars Technica

The article seems to me a bit too understanding. I think her comment about any normal commercial program requiring telemetry for law enforcement is ridiculous:

This leaves the last row—"data necessary for law enforcement, litigation and authorities' requests (if any)." While that's certainly a broad category and not particularly well-defined, it's also a fact of life in 2021. Whether a privacy policy says so or not, the odds are rather good that any given company will comply with legitimate law enforcement requests. If it doesn't, it won't likely be a company for long.

Maybe that's true for online services and social networks, but for offline programs, really?

Biden’s right-to-repair order could stop companies from blocking DIY fixes - Ars Technica

10 June 2021


Theoretically I don't work on Thursdays and start enjoying a 4-day weekend. Practically, I often do work, and today, I spent most of the day dealing with office related matters.

In the morning I spent a lot of time, to no avail, trying to get Thunderbird to change its default browser. The method changed in recent versions. But the newer method hasn't worked for me.

A more useful task was to deal with the demands from our bank to obtain various letters from foreign supporters. Israeli banks, it seems are increasingly subject to the government's attempts to harass NGOs through demands for documentation of foreign donations. They request letters, statements and authorizations from foreign donors, and their lawyers and banks. The overworked and inexperienced clerks dealing with these requests at the Israeli bank often have a dim understanding of what they are requesting themselves, as well as a poor literacy in English and geography (ours, apparently, was convinced that the state of California is somewhere outside the United States.)

Then I spent a couple of hours trying to figure out what had gone wrong with our Civi-CRM installation, which works as a plugin for WordPress. I trialed the system a couple of years ago, but at some time during an upgrade, it lost much of its functionality. Now it is complaining that the PHP version needs upgrading, though our web host has installed there the newest version in its systems (7.4). On my home server, I'm up to version 8.00 or so, but I know that commercial hosting companies tend to be a little more conservative. CiviCRM's main menu has mysteriously disappeared, though I've implemented all the remedies for that scenario that I've found so far on the web.

A bit later, I looked again at Microsoft's offering for donor management and requested a meeting with their partner organization. I've a hunch that that might not come to anything, but what they offer may be a little more stable than Civi-CRM. I previously tried Salesforce, but working with it looked unwieldy for our small organization.

In the late afternoon, I did some outdoor maintenance. My son borrowed a machine that cleans outdoor flagstones and pathways with compressed water - in Hebrew, this is apparently referred to as a “gurnik” - I don't know how its called elsewhere. Anyway I managed to to brighten the paving quite well. My son had already done about 4/5 of the work, but it still took me a couple of hours, all the same. While spraying the gaps between the paths and the house walls, an enormous black scorpion made its appearance, and was summarily hosed away from the scene. Then a big black beetle suddenly appeared under my feet, and, conditioned to anticipate scorpions, at first thought that was one too. And now, as I prepare to wrap up this blog post, I have found yet another scorpion, a little smaller, but this time inside the house. I guess that is the price of disturbing their domicile. Every year we find two or three of them inside, usually at night, and usually crawling along by the skirting tiles. They aren't particularly rapid creatures, so usually it is possible to take a broom and scoot them outside without harming them.

In the evening, I watched a few new episodes of season II of Love, Death and Robots on Netflix. Much of it is a retelling of various SciFi memes - nothing very original, so far, but quite well invested.


Voluntourism: new book explores how volunteer trips harm rather than help - The Guardian

Biddle’s stories suggest the industry is built to meet the needs of volunteers, not communities. But the problem is not simply that volunteers are unqualified, the entire industry seems to be an extension of a colonial mindset and with colonial structures of economic and political power.

Incorporating education about colonialism, aid, and privilege can result in more meaningful cross-cultural experiences for volunteers and communities, and Biddle highlights possible solutions – from certification systems for volunteer organisations to better child protection laws. But as a white woman who has made her own mistakes, she says it is not up to her to decide what better volunteering looks like. “The conversation should be led by the communities affected by this,” she says.

The Impossible Dream: A Review of Kim Stanley Robinson’s "The Ministry for the Future" - CounterPunch.org

I wish I could be more positive. Robinson’s work certainly has good buzz and occasional spark. He is a revered figure for many of my friends. My disappointment is the same problem I have with our society: technological overdevelopment has not been accompanied by deep thinking about our social reality. Robinson’s failure to give his characters any real depth can be correlated with his inability to comprehend the need for social revolution, for the transformation of everyday life, not simply legislation.

I haven't read that book yet. From the earlier one I read, New York 2140, I guess I understand the reviewer's point of view. Yuval Noah Harari says that science Fiction is the most important literary genre of our era. But science fiction writers are, like everyone, a product of their time and place, and their thinking is constrained by their conditioning. This is really our problem; we struggle to imagine a different future than the one that is merely an outgrowth of what we see in the present. What we really need, as Jiddu Krishnamurti said, is "freedom from the known."

Bob's Instance

There is no really ethical consumerism under capitalism. Do enough investigation and you will always find someone being horribly exploited, stolen land or resources and unsustainable ecologically unsound practises.
Some decisions are better than others, but ultimately it's all murky and you can't buy a clean conscience under the existing economic system.

20 April 2021


The hamsin has broken, the temperatures are back down in the 20°Cs, and in the afternoon I went for a pleasant walk in the fields. All the vines have new leaves after looking like dead sticks in the winter. (Now is the best time for collecting the leaves for stuffing.) The photo, taken with my mediocre camera phone looks across the vineyards to the Trappist abbey on the nearby hill. It's not great, but I do like the contrast between the vibrant green of the vineyard and the olive groves and cypresses on the hill.

My walk took a steady pace while listening to Café de Anatolia's Amelie de Paris album, an eclectic non-stop mix of chansons, bhajans, middle eastern melodies, and other styles that I'm unable to identify, with a constant background beat. ( Cafe De Anatolia - Amélie de Paris (Mix by Rialians On Earth) by Cafe De Anatolia ETHNO WORLD on YouTube)

The 16:8 diet

A neighbour of hours recommends the 16:8 diet, which seems like a sustainable means for maintaining a good body weight. With my frame, I try to stay a little below 70 kg, though I'm usually a little above it. When I was in the Sivananda yoga ashrams, we used to eat just twice a day, at 11 am and 7 pm, which is exactly this diet. It isn't hard, once one gets used to it. In the east, Buddhist monks and Jain samans often eat just once a day. The principle to be maintained with the 16:8 diet, as explained by our neighbour, is not to have any caloric intake at all during the time that one is fasting, since this changes the body's responses. One may drink liquids without sugar, such as tea without milk and sugar, but that's basically all. So far, I'm managing only a 14:10 diet, due to meal timings; but even that is better than before.

Ramadan fasting

Yesterday, when it was 42°C outdoors, I passed Zakariya working outside, doing some gardening. He is my age, and very strictly observes Ramadan, which means not being able to eat or drink at all during the daylight hours. The food part is easy; but the inability to drink is a genuine austerity. I was speaking to a woman yesterday who said that her mother, as a result of her fasting, has been having pains in her kidneys; but she won't stop. According to Ramadan rules, it's actually perfectly okay not to fast, if someone is sick, pregnant or frail. But it's hard not to fast when the rest of the family is doing so.


Spent a lot of time formatting a newsletter for the office, in LibreOffice. I can do a passably reasonable job with this, though overall, I still eventually prefer the simple html version I did for our website. HTML is much more fluid to work with and it's easier to move the text around for other purposes later. One thing I learned this time is that if I need to put a few photos together as a collage, rather than struggling with the photos in a LibreOffice table, it's better just to put the collage together in GIMP, then import the result as a single result in LibreOffice.

I'm a fan of well-structured documents, and love LibreOffice's implementation of document styles. It's very easy to structure a document with heading1, heading2, etc., and then a simple change to the style changes the formatting for the whole document. (It did take me a while to get used so some of the changes to the styles feature that the program made a few years ago, and remember to click or unclick the auto-update option in the style Organizer. Another advantage of document styles, is that using them facilitates export of LibreOffice documents to other formats like MS Word.
(The results of my labours can be seen here (to see the PDF version, click on the PDF download at the beginning).


For the last couple of days I have been playing with Darktable, which I hadn't used before. There's a bit of a learning curve and it peppers the document directories with XML files to record the non-destructive changes. It does seem to do a better, more fine-tuned job of color-correction than everything else that I'm using (XNView, GIMP, GThumb, nomacs). Unfortunately, I will probably end up just adding this additional tool to my arsenal, as each of these programs handle certain functions a little better than the others. XNView is best for batch processing, such as taking a group of selected photos, renaming them and resizing them according to the longest side. Nomacs is quickest for viewing photos. GThumb, among other features, has some nice style effects. GIMP is terrific for serious photo editing.

Links blog

Assange, Nils Melzer says the treatment of Julian leaves him "speechless" - Il Fatto Quotidiano
‘ They want to keep him blocked and silenced. It’s also to punish him personally, but they are punishing him primarily to scare everybody else, to make sure you don’t want to launch Wikileaks and disclose all these secrets. The message is: “If ever you have evidence of atrocious crimes, don’t disclose it, because this is what will happen to you’”.’

The strong do what they will and the weak suffer what they must: It seems like we are all half-asleep.
Thanks to  https://mamot.fr/users/jz for the link.

Renting Is Terrible. Owning Is Worse.
A third option is necessary: a way to rent without making someone else rich. Book on his proposals: https://islandpress.org/books/affordable-city. These are interesting ideas. Sometimes it's so frustrating to know that for so many of the world's inequities there are not overly complicated solutions. Thanks to Doc Edward Morbius for the links

9 April 2021


Duck Duck Go audit and Searx

Thanks to Aral Balkan: https://source.puri.sm/toolauditor/CEAP/-/blob/master/audits/ddg.md
This is crazy; no one should use them.

My default search engine is already Searx (search.disroot.org); though:

  • occasionally Google blocks it;
  • returning to the search page via the browser's back-button produces a "Confirm Form Resubmission";
  • DDG or Google's results are sometimes better;
  • Smart answers, like "$20,000 in Euros" don't give results.

Anyway, I've deleted DDG from my browsers. I will try to do more research on Ecosia, StartPage and others.


I helped behind the scenes with another Zoom event: an interview with the principal and vice-principal of our binational primary school. The only technical hitch was caused by me. S. hadn't set up her Zoom to automatically admit new participants, and she had also allowed people to unmute themselves. There is one special guest user, of a tech guy who had come in to manage the photography and the software; he probably was using mainly OBS, though I didn't ask him. Anyway I accidentally muted him when trying to admit and mute somebody else; so we lost audio for a minute or two in the middle. I know, we should buy the equipment and learn how to do these events myself so we don't need to hire someone.


Birth year palindromes

The birthday of one of my sons the other day produces a numeric palindrome of his birth year (born in '83 and now '37). It's the same for me this year, as I was born in 1956. I think almost everybody has a chance of that happening once; though for those who were born in 1999, though those whose birthday year ends in a 9 are advised to lead a healthy lifestyle.


So many bad things happening around the world right now: the attrocities in Myanmar; a Russian build-up on the Ukraine border; disturbances in N. Ireland; racism in Australia;, Israel's mining of the Iranian ship; settler violence against Palestinians...

Biden restores $200m in US aid to Palestinians slashed by Trump | US foreign policy | The Guardian
"The US will restore more than $200m (£145m) in aid to Palestinians, reversing massive funding cuts under the Trump administration that left humanitarian groups scrambling to keep people from plunging into poverty."
This at least is good. The Trump administration's bid to blackmail the Palestinians into doing Israel's bidding failed. But the US should be wielding its influence on Israel to help solve the problem.

3,000-year-old ‘lost golden city’ of ancient Egypt discovered | Egypt | The Guardian
“Within weeks, to the team’s great surprise, formations of mud bricks began to appear in all directions. What they unearthed was the site of a large city in a good condition of preservation, with almost complete walls, and with rooms filled with tools of daily life.”

St. Patrick’s Day, 2021


Links Blog

The Guardian view on new work from Proust: more lessons from lockdown
"His aim was to capture the mysterious and elusive texture of lived time itself."

Abkhazia Posts Videos of Illegal Bitcoin Mines That Are Causing Power Blackouts
This is really amusing. A tiny autonomous region of Georgia is a Bitcoin powerhouse.

Why can't Britain handle the truth about Winston Churchill? | Winston Churchill | The Guardian
"Scholars who explore less illustrious sides of Churchill are treated dismissively."
Transgressing UK blasphemy laws

Coronavirus live news
"Vaccine patents mean that big pharmaceutical companies are the sole producers of their vaccine which has created supply constraints not just in the EU but in the rest of the world too. Low and middle income countries are set to wait years longer than they need to for vaccines – and, when they finally get them, pharma corporations can charge rip-off prices.
If the EU backs the proposal to suspend global patent rules, it will set a global precedent that could unlock the world’s productive capacity and ensure vaccines reach all countries, not just the richest ones."


D. who went to teach her MBSR course in Ramle, had me make a soup. I'm not very good at soups. She laid out all the vegetables and said I should add some red lentils. It came out not bad, but the taste was quite different from her own soups. Afterwards we had cookies that one of her course participants had made: one kind was made with tahini; another with za'atar (hyssop - something like oregano). Palestinian baked goods are as amazing as the rest of their cuisine.

The Open House, where she teaches that course, has a special story behind it. The house belonged to a Jewish Israeli, but was one of those houses that had been vacated by a Palestinian family who had fled in 1948. One day, members of the family came knocking on the door and asked if they could see their former home. The web page in the link tells what happened next.


I woke up early today. Now the early morning sun is glancing through the windows. The living room window faces North-East, so the sun shines through in that way only till around 8 a.m.


I don't have good associations with St. Patrick's Day because, many years ago, it was the day that a young woman of our village committed suicide. She suffered from depression and had been having psychotic episodes (which her parents think were initially triggered by over-consumption of hashish), but she had seemed to be on her way to recovery. On the morning of the 17th, she'd taken a bus, but never arrived at her destination. We spent the afternoon and evening scouring the environs and nearby towns for her - some of us had gone to Jerusalem. I remember, late at night people emerging from bars in green top hats. Then someone called to say that she'd been found in Tel Aviv, having jumped from a hotel window.

XFCE weather panel widget

Yesterday I discovered the weather panel widget in XFCE. It's quite nice, and doesn't seem to be a privacy problem like most of the apps made for Android phones. Even the ones that appear in FDroid come with warnings about using non-free services, and the ones I have found either don't have our location or seem to be inaccurate. The XFCE app uses data from the Norwegian Meteriorological Institute and found our exact location. There's a lot of detail. It's still too early to say whether it gives a good reading but at present it is accurate.


Ides of March, 2021


Electric bike burns down house

The local TV news had the story of a couple whose house burned down due to the "unattended" charging of an electric bicycle battery. Well of course unattended. Were they supposed to sit there and watch it while it charged?

Last night / Piwigo

I've been waking up in the night sometimes lately. Last night, I thought to do a little work. An email suggested that I upload a couple of photos for the archive. But, when I went into our Piwigo site, it gave a database error. I then remembered that back in January this had happened before, when I'd tried to update PHP to a newer version. Undoing the upgrade had solved the problem, but the webhost had said they would be updating automatically across the board in March. So, here we are in March. It took me awhile to learn that I needed to create a new DB user, attach that to the database, then find Piwigo's configuration file to replace the user and password there. The problem was solved, but by that time of course I was tired to do any work and went back to sleep.

I quite like Piwigo. There are probably slicker and more advanced FOSS online photo gallery CMSs by now, but, at the time I started the site, it seemed like the best option. Now there are so many photos there, I probably won't be changing any time soon. I began collecting them on Piwigo after getting disgruntled with Google over its frequent changes, from Picasaweb to Google Photos and Google Plus and what have you. It felt like walking on quicksand, and I realized I needed to take control.

Photo printing

Speaking of photos, the other day my daughter asked if I could print some photos of her boy - a request from the kindergarten. Now that it has reopened again, they were celebrating all the missed birthdays from January through mid-March, I guess. It's been a long time since I actually printed a photo, and the results were quite pleasing. Should do it more often.


In the morning I translated and published a long post about the Rescuers' award to Médecins sans Frontières and Physicans for Human Rights. Then I fixed a leaky pipe for my daughter, made lunch, and went for an afternoon walk.

More photos from my walk



Links blog

Primark supplier accused of locking workers in factory in Myanmar protests | Primark | The Guardian
'Garment workers interviewed by the Guardian said they would continue to demonstrate because they were determined not to live under a military dictatorship. One worker, who claimed to have been fired, said: “Under their rule, we have to fear everything.”'

How one employee's exit shook Google and the AI industry - CNN
'until Google provides some transparency about its research and publication processes, Bender thinks "everything that comes out of Google has a big asterisk next to it."'

Wow, Google is beginning to sound like Monsanto.

Tim Berners-Lee: ‘We need social networks where bad things happen less’ | Tim Berners-Lee | The Guardian

Outrage in Myanmar after activist allegedly tortured to death | Myanmar | The Guardian

Japan and China are giving dual citizens an ultimatum on nationality -- and loyalty | CNN Travel
"critics say the ban on dual citizenship also reflects a tilt toward nationalism -- and the desire to maintain a monoethnic, monocultural identity."

March 6, 2021


Day of the Rescuers

Today is the European Day of the Righteous. In our village, we have a garden dedicated to this same idea, though the local initiator of the project, Prof. Yair Auron, prefers to use a different name, "Rescuers", because he thinks "righteous" sounds overly religious. The day honours those who help to save the lives of others, especially those normally regarded as "the enemy", in times of war, genocide or natural disasters.

We commemorated the day earlier, on Thursday, and this year honored two organizations, Médecins sans Frontières and Physicians for Human Rights or PHR - a local Israeli organization) for their contemporary work in saving lives, without regard to citizenship, national origin, or other factors. Both organizations work extensively in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in very difficult conditions and do their utmost to enable free medical care for all. The doctor in our village who volunteers with PHR couldn't be at the ceremony because he was again in Gaza.


During the morning I was reading about plain text and about the use of RTL languages. There's a good, if rather dogmatic, website about the use of plain text in emails. To speak in the manner of Stallman, I find plain text "more convenient" for basic communications, i.e. the majority of my email. But I would not use it for sending out email newsletters, for example. I think one of the mail clients I previously used - either Kmail or Evolution, had the option to receive and compose in "simple html", which sounded like a reasonable compromise.

Whenever I have to write in Hebrew, I always switch to html, because plain text has no solution for right-to-left languages. The words will be right-to-left but the paragraphs will be aligned at the left margin, when received in Gmail (unless they receive the message in Thunderbird or some mail client that knows how to handle right-to-left plain text.). It would be disingenuous to say that they should therefore be using Thunderbird. The whole point of plain text email is for it to be accessible in any email client. There is more on on Right to Left languages at the following links:

★ Introduction to typing and using RTL (Right to Left) text, and configuring software applications to support RTL.

★ Right-to-left language support and bidirectional text - Finance & Operations | Dynamics 365 | Microsoft Docs

★ 464436 - 'Bidi Mail UI' functionality neLinkeded in Thunderbird for RTL locales

★ 119857 - There is no way to set the reading/composing directionality via the UI

In the morning, the son's wife's parents came over and we went to have a look at the progress on the new home being built. They've reached the stage of the upper floor of the building shell, and it's looking good; a lot more impressive than our own house.



In the afternoon, went for a walk in the woods with grandchildren. It was a perfect day, with a deep blue sky and clear views across the coastal plain.


Links Blog

★ India's top judge tells accused rapist to marry victim to avoid jail | India | The Guardian
“By suggesting that this rapist marry the victim-survivor, you, the chief justice of India, sought to condemn the victim-survivor to a lifetime of rape at the hands of the tormentor who drove her to attempt suicide,”

This was just the most egregious of recent stories of misogyny coming out of India. Or maybe the story of the father beheading his teenager with an axe and carrying the head to the local police station was.

★ ‘Active threat’: Chinese hackers target 30,000 US entities | Cybercrime News | Al Jazeera
"Microsoft said early this week that a state-sponsored hacking group operating out of China is exploiting previously unknown security flaws in its Exchange email services to steal data from business users."

This evening I'm feeling a bit world-weary. The news sites are full of such terrible stories. Sometimes I look at the National Geographic map on my wall and wherever I rest my eyes there are authoritarian regimes, wars, protest movements being crushed, a growing darkness, and that's without even considering the climate crisis that is threatening all of us.

Thank goodness for music.

March 4, 2021


The only way I can get the program to use international style dates is to use a non-English language, like French or Hebrew. I don't like Hebrew because it puts the screen from right-to-left. I don't like French because the week starts on Monday (whereas locally it starts on Sunday, like the US (UPDATE: this can be changed in the preferences) . I've tried changing the operating system to various locales going into Thunderbird's about:config, downloading language packs, etc. It's a bug; there's no solution in the meantime.

For other parts of the operating system I always use the ISO 8601 date*, which avoids confusion and is the default for some countries, such as Canada, and an accepted format for many other countries including the US and the UK. But Thunderbird doesn't support it and in Thunderbird 78 there is no way to adopt a custom format.

  • I guess I should be consistent, and switch the long form of the date around too, but I'm not sure there's an ISO format for that.

It's hard to beat webmail such as offered by Google and Fastmail these days, but using a client like Thunderbird still has some advantages.

Ones that I can immediately think of:
- the ability to edit the subject line of incoming mail.
- "Edit as new".
- Easier to compose email correctly, with responses interspersed with the quoted original.*
- PGP and digital signatures.

  • Editing the subject line: This requires the Addon "Editemailsubject MX". There is a problem with IMAP, however, that the changes occur only in Thunderbird's database, and can revert back.

February 23, 2021



I updated Thunderbird to the new version (from 68.xx to 78.xx) using MX Linux's Test option in its package manager. The new version replaces Enigmail with built-in support for PGP. Actually before upgrading, I saw that the version of Thunderbird I already had, had stopped supporting Enigmail. I so rarely use it that I hadn't noticed. (I do use it in order to attach digital signatures.)

I also disabled the Conversations add-on. It had been giving me a couple of problems. First, it doesn't always show attachments - for example, when a photo is included in the body of the email, it doesn't seem to show up as an attachment. Then, there were certain emails for which I needed to enable the traditional message viewer. So now I'm back to threads. I found a post regarding how to keep emails threaded across folders, as there is a problem that when one replies to an email and archives the original, one message in a thread will be in the sent folder, and another in the archive folder.

The solution is:



Michael, who is the person we go to when we need to do printing, was disappointed when my wife told him she had gone over to digital receipts. "Everybody's going digital - pretty soon I won't have any work," he said. Maybe he's right, though from what I read, the amount of printing has only increased from the advent of the digital age. But maybe the kind of printing that is done does not benefit commercial printers?

Links blog

✭Global freshwater fish populations at risk of extinction, study finds | Rivers | The Guardian
"Populations of migratory freshwater fish have plummeted by 76% since 1970, and large fish – those weighing more than 30kg – have been all but wiped out in most rivers. The global population of megafish down by 94%, and 16 freshwater fish species were declared extinct last year."

✭Facebook reverses Australia news ban after government makes media code amendments
"Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announces a compromise has been reached at the 11th hour as the legislation is debated in the Senate"
#news-media #social-media
Not having troubled to look at the way Facebook handles news, I realise that I don't really understand the issue. Is it showing whole articles, or just links to them? If the latter, I would have though that it is helping the news sources, but that's also true of news.google.com, and I understood that the news sources don't always agree.

The only news source I currently pay for is the Guardian, because I like their contributions model. If news sources would offer support for micro-payment services I might contribute a little. Some news sources are so full of trackers I don't agree to sign into them, even when payment isn't necessary - such as when they offer a certain number of articles for month. I could use my wife's subscription to HaAretz, but don't, though it's the only real newspaper in Israel.

✭WhatsApp to try again to change privacy policy in mid-May | WhatsApp | The Guardian
"The company’s new terms of service are no different from those it attempted to introduce in January, but it hopes that a more verbose information screen, as well as more time to review the proposed changes, will allay users’ fears."
#facebook #privacy

✭‘It’s so unfair’: life on the streets of the French town branded as ‘lost to Islam’ | World news | The Guardian
Mayor of Paris suburb labelled an extremist centre says stoking division will not help his town

“We are being stigmatised,” he said. “Many of the people spreading lies, exaggerations and unjust accusations about Trappes have no idea what happens here. They have never set foot in the town."
#islamophobia #france