Merry Christmas

It was the day before Christmas, when all across the network not a creature was stirring, not even a troll…

Another year is coming to a close, a year of FOSS, a year of collaboration, a year of getting to know exciting projects and contributors, a year plentiful in conferences and events. A year in which community was at the heart of everything freenode and the PDPC did.

I am sat here in a candle lit room that smells of Christmas spice whilst sipping eggnog and stealing a moment to myself to reflect… when I first started using freenode, the network had around 1200 users — some years on we’ve passed 76,000. It is great to see so many projects make use of the service! The PDPC is doing some exciting stuff, FOSSCON was arranged for the second year running in 2011, FOSSEVENTS is still going strong and Geeknics are being held across the globe. Sometimes it is a bit daunting, everyone involved with freenode (and other PDPC projects) volunteer their time and skills to help the communities — and whilst this is great, the volunteer roster isn’t growing at a rate matching the increase in users. We will be doing another “Call for volunteers” in the New Year and we’re looking to find some awesome people to add to the team.

On a more personal basis, I’ve had the pleasure of participating in some brilliant “real life” events this year – from the always brilliant OGGCAMP, arranged by the amazing people behind the Linux Outlaws and Ubuntu UK podcasts. OGGCAMP is the sort of event which attracts “my sort of geek” — people with which I really enjoy spending time and socialising and I am already looking forward to next years! I’ve also enjoyed a number of Ubuntu-UK events, from the recent release party to smaller happy hours to the rather interesting Christmas meal at Dans Le Noir, where we ate a surprise menu (consisting of glow in the dark scallops, ostrich and blue shark to name some items!) in complete darkness before wandering off to enjoy a few pints of ale. Now, this is where freenode communities are great — I am an avid fan of the Ubuntu project, however, I have never used the distribution (though as a Debian user I am sure I’d get on with it just fine.. right?) but through freenode I have, over the years, come to know a lot of Ubuntu contributors and users, and over time discovered that these are people I really enjoy spending my time and people I am proud to call my friends! And I love their social events, they are a lot of fun! So thank you for letting me be a part of your community despite not really being “one of you” ;)

On the subject of freenode, communities and Christmas parties — as freenode volunteers are scattered across the globe, few of us meet on a regular basis but we tend to try make an effort to get together for dinner and drinks at events such as fosdem. This year, we decided to have a Christmas party, surprisingly we ended up with 21 people attending, most of which had never met each other in person before. Our volunteers flew over from America and Europe and we all had a smashing weekend filled with good food, nice drink and much laughter. Thank you all for coming!

In 2012 I look forward to learning about more projects, old and new. I look forward to attending yet more conferences and meeting more of you in person! I look forward to another year together with our volunteers and our sponsors, and of course our users.

On which note I shall wrap this entry up, thank you for using freenode and wish you all a Merry Christmas!

 

 

ircd upgrades

We’ve got some ircd upgrades in the works!

You may remember several weeks ago that we upgraded our ircd on the production network. Since then, we’ve wanted to fine-tune some changes and make sure that the upgrade is more consistent with the old version.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking to perform upgrades on the production network again. This will mean every server will reboot. A programme for the upgrades can be found at the end of this post (updated 13th Nov 2011).

In the meantime, please continue to help us to test the ircd at testnet.freenode.net port 9002 or 9003 for SSL (if you don’t get onto the first server that the DNS roundrobin gives you, keep trying!). Look for anything broken, inconsistent with previous versions (especially in terms of information release) or illogical. If serious issues are reported, we’ll aim to fix before upgrading, rather than having a further later upgrade. Please report issues to #freenode-seven on the production network.

Thanks!

NB: this list does not include servers invisible to users (eg hubs).
Week 1: Sun 13th Nov
-!- kornbluth.freenode.net Frankfurt, Germany
-!- zelazny.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA
-!- stross.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA (webchat backup)

Week 2: Sun 20th Nov
-!- barjavel.freenode.net Paris, FR
-!- wolfe.freenode.net Manchester, England
-!- hubbard.freenode.net Pittsburgh, PA, US

Week 3: Sun 27th Nov
-!- adams.freenode.net Budapest, HU, EU
-!- holmes.freenode.net London, UK
-!- sendak.freenode.net Vilnius, Lithuania, EU
-!- rowling.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA (webchat)

Week 4: Sun 4th Dec
-!- pratchett.freenode.net Rennes, France
-!- calvino.freenode.net Milan, IT
-!- leguin.freenode.net Ume?, SE, EU
-!- niven.freenode.net Corvallis, OR, USA

Week 5: Sun 11th Dec
-!- hitchcock.freenode.net Sofia, BG, EU
-!- gibson.freenode.net Oslo, Norway
-!- card.freenode.net Washington, DC, USA
-!- asimov.freenode.net TX, USA
-!- verne.freenode.net Newark, NJ, US

Unscheduled.
-!- roddenberry.freenode.net
-!- bartol.freenode.net
-!- brown.freenode.net
-!- anthony.freenode.net


Update: all upgrades are now complete.

New GRF-freenode process

As you might know, GRFs (Group Registration Forms) exist to form a relationship between a project and the PDPC (Peer Directed Projects Center). This relationship is relatively formal – personal details (address/tel no./etc) need to be shared by the project. For this reason, a severe backlog of GRFs has built up, since only a few staff have access to them (to protect this personal data). PDPC is the UK-based not-for-profit company which runs freenode. For most groups in our request backlog, their reason for registering is not to work with PDPC, but to gain a channel or cloak namespace on freenode. We’ve decided that running a separate, freenode-centric groups request system may help to move the system along. By requesting fewer details, we can open up this system to more staff, and hopefully keep on top of the queue of requests.

From now on, using a new, shorter form, projects can choose to file a GRF-f (for GRF-freenode) and submit a GRF for processing by freenode, rather than by PDPC. This sends details (no personal details, other than email address, will be required) to a system to which many more staff will have access. This new form will allow you to gain control of a channel and the right to issue cloaks much more quickly than previously, as we will double/treble the number of staff able to deal with requests. For now, please only apply if you are a ‘priority’ group – ie, you do not own the main channel of your namespace.

If you already have a group registered and approved with an old-style GRF, you do not need to do anything. Your registration remains valid. If you need to make changes to the registration, please contact staff on freenode who will, if appropriate, direct you to use the old (GRF) system. The GRF-f system cannot be used to update groups which filed under the GRF system.

If you have a request pending in the old GRF queue, you are welcome to re-file under the GRF-f system. This is likely to mean that your request will be dealt with much more quickly than otherwise. This approach supersedes the grfprocess@ system introduced a while back – unfortunately, we just weren’t able to keep up with requests to that address.

You might be wondering where all of this fits into the GMS (Groups Management System) masterplan. When GMS is ready, we may need to ask all projects registered under the GRF-f system, and likely some projects which are already registered, to re-file. The GMS system will allow us to dispense with GRF-fs, and just build project<=>PDPC relationships, since forms will be able to be processed much more quickly. To be clear – it is quite possible that any registration made now may be revoked if a registration is not re-filed after GMS is released. If this does become reality, as much warning as possible will be given.

We hope that this will change will counter some of the ill-feeling around the GRFs system. In effect, the mentality is shifting from one of “GMS will clear the GRFs backlog” to “GMS will help us to serve groups better”. We’re no longer waiting for GMS to clear the queue. We’re still looking for help with GMS: if you have Perl/Catalyst or web design experience and think you can help, join #freenode-gms.

Update 2012-06-09 – All group registration has been suspended whilst we evaluate the system and its implementation. A replacement should be available in due course, but for now it is not possible to register groups, and the link to the grf-f form has been removed.

Wednesday Server Updates

This Wednesday (September 14th, 2011) we will be continuing our server updates as mentioned here.

The following servers will be affected: leguin, gibson, wolfe, hitchcock, and pratchett.

During the update process these servers will be restarted and anyone connected to them will need to reconnect. You may wish to connect to an alternate server if you are currently connected to one of these.  You can check what server you are currently connected to using the command “/whois nickname” with your own nick as “nickname”.

We apologize for any inconvenience as we continue to improve the technology behind freenode.

Update: This is now done.

IRCD Upgrades

Over the next weeks we will be upgrading our servers to the next version of ircd-seven. This means restarting all our servers. Downtime should be minimal, and as we will not upgrade all servers at the same time this should not be as noisy as the upgrade from hyperion to ircd-seven was. When the server you are on is upgraded you will be disconnected, but should be able to reconnect immediately (most clients will do this automatically).

The following user-visible changes have been made since the versions in production:

– The channel quiet list is now sent using the new numerics RPL_QUIETLIST(728) and RPL_QUIETLISTEND(729) instead of overloading the same numerics as for ban lists. You may find that clients have to be updated before they will display this in a user-friendly format.
– Users who cannot send to a channel are now prevented from changing its topic, even when mode +t is not set.
– Sending a private message to another user while user mode +g is active will now automatically add an accept-list entry so that they can reply.
– Account names are now displayed in WHOWAS entries.
– Two new client capabilities are available: ACCOUNT-NOTIFY and EXTENDED-JOIN. These two together with the existing extended WHO syntax allow clients to track account names of other users who share a channel.
– Client flood control settings have been made configurable; you may notice them being stricter than before.

Once all ircds have upgraded we also plan to re-enable the +S channel mode, which only allows users connected using SSL to join.

Some more features will become available once we upgrade services, which will happen at some point after we have upgraded all irc servers:

– It will be possible to identify to services using SSL client certificates.
– ChanServ mode locks will be (mostly) enforced by the server. Instead of setting a mode and having ChanServ revert it immediately, you will not be able to change a locked mode.

Fixing #defocus

We want #defocus, the network social channel, to be a welcoming place for relaxed, easy conversation. Of late, we’re seeing that staff are acting in a policing role more than we are able to take an active part in the flow of the channel. This is something of a circle, as the more we are seen to be police, the harder it is for us to achieve what we want with the channel.

We’ve had some extensive discussions with #defocus regulars and ops on various channels around what we can do to improve the day-to-day atmosphere of the channel and bring it around to be what we want it to be, and one of the more immediate outcomes of these discussions was that we need to introduce more specific channel ops for #defocus, to work alongside staff in shaping the channel’s future.

To that end, the following users are now channel ops in #defocus, and are ready and able to asist when moderation might be required. _msh, jbroome , rww , Ttech, bburhans, frantk, gry, Fuchs , TheEvilPhoenix, Zuu.

Please help us in welcoming them to the #defocus team.

A short mention on Mibbit

Hi all.

It has come to our attention that Mibbit have experienced a security issue impacting (or so it initially appears) their testing servers. This has resulted in a list of plain text NickServ passwords from Mibbit’s own NickServ (the one you use if you connect to irc.mibbit.com) being made public, as well as a small section of private logs and some internal server details of the affected equipment. There’s some more information on their own blog.

As I’m sure many of you have been aware, Mibbit hasn’t been available for use with freenode for quite a while now so the issue will only indirectly impact freenode users when the password they use for their NickServ is the same as it is for elsewhere.  Therefore freenode staff are recommending that anyone that has used Mibbit’s own NickServ should ensure that their password is changed to keep your account secure.

Of course, it’s always good practice to change passwords periodically so you may wish to take the opportunity to do so as a matter of course.

Fosscon 2011: Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 23rd July, 2011.

July 23, 2011 – (All day)

Hi everyone,
Next Saturday Basekamp will be hosting FOSSCON (Free and Open Source Software Conference), focusing on the community that has grown around Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), and in parallel to both the Free Culture and Open Source cultural movements.
This is a community-focused live event designed to build and strengthen relationships between Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) developers and users. FOSSCON seeks to raise awareness of and promote FOSS alternatives to proprietary software. Facilitating face-to-face interaction, creative workshops, talks and think tanks, FOSSCON brings developers and users together in a nurturing and dynamic environment stimulating the free exchange of ideas and information while fostering cross-project collaboration and dialogue for innovation.

FOSSCON is organized by Peer-Directed Projects Center (PDPC) – the group responsible for projects like Freenode and fossevents – FOSSCON (along with Geeknics) is part of PDPC’s desire to bring an already massive online community that has grown around free and open source ideas, out into the world, to meet, connect, support and challenge each other, imagine, plot and co-develop beautiful, possibly useful and unexpected things.

The people behind FOSSCON are free software enthusiasts, user group members, coders and users – just like you! Free software is all about community and this is a very grassroots event, organized by the community and for the community. Our common goal is to provide a space for us to all come together in the northeast. We hope you’ll join us as an attendee, a volunteer or an exhibitor.

Register

Admission is free and open to the public, but RSVP is required (we expect to fill to capacity soon, but also encourage connecting with others in nearby overflow spaces). If you’re able and want to be a “FOSSCON supporter” you can get a tote and thanks for $25. Whether free or a supporter, please register here: http://fosscon.org/attend

Schedule

FOSSCON will last all day. See the regularly updated schedule of presentations (and proposal guidelines) here: http://fosscon.org/speakers

Anyone in the FOSS community with interesting and exciting topics are invited to submit a talk to speak at this event.  As a general event built for the community at large, the range of acceptable topics is broad, however FOSSCON traditionally favors topics with an immediate real world use in home, work, or education environments and broadly categorizes talks under one of these headings.

The program committee invites proposals for paper presentations, demonstrations and poster contributions on any topic relevant to FOSS awareness, accessibility and application. We want to offer something for beginning, intermediate, and advanced learning levels with particular emphasis on the following topics:

  • The Open Culture Movements influence on open source
  • Beginning the FOSS conversion
  • FOSS on a Windows Desktop
  • Fun FOSS projects for your home
  • Plugging into Social Media with FOSS
  • FOSS in the workplace
  • FOSS in education
  • FOSS at non-profits
  • FOSS Government
  • Open Hardware
  • Open Mobile Environments
  • Your new awesome FOSS project
  • Free Network Services

 

Exhibitors

If your group has an interesting project, or event useful to the community, show it to the world at FOSSCON!  We invite you to join us at FOSSCON to show the community what you’ve done, what you’re doing, or what you offer.

  • LUGs
  • Hackerspaces
  • Local FOSS events the community needs to know about

We still have a limited number of spaces available for groups so please get in touch with us to reserve your spot.

Sponsors

We have a limited number of tables available for sponsors so please get in touch with us early to reserve your spot.  We’re very interested as well in any suitable organizations involvement in other ways, such as talks or other interesting ideas you may have. Please see this link for more info (oh, and obligatory but genuine shout out to FOSSCON sponsors here as well): http://fosscon.org/sponsors

Location

FOSSCON will take place at Basekamp’s Philadelphia space (the second floor), and also the JOG gallery (on the 4th floor) of 723 Chestnut Street, located in the middle of Center City Philadelphia. The building has bus, subway and NJ transit stops on our block, and only a few minutes walk from Market East Station and Greyhound bus terminal. See a map with directions here:
http://maps.google.com/maps/place?q=basekamp&cid=15576003637506834736

Questions?

You can join us on the IRC network “chat.freenode.net” and join the channel “#fosscon” to talk with the planning team and others interested in Fosscon, ask questions, or volunteer to help us out.  You can easily join the channel using webchat by clicking here: http://webchat.freenode.net/?channels=fosscon

See you all then!

This is a public service announcement…

As some of you might remember, freenode used to send wallops when FLOSS projects had major releases and for other news that are, hopefully, of general interest. After some internal deliberation, we decided to retry this experiment. Projects are invited to submit their wallops requests to us and we will try to accommodate everyone. Obviously, we will try to limit this to relevant news and while we are not sure about the exact modus operandi yet, we are confident that we will figure something out that works for everyone.

If you want to receive wallops, simply run

/quote mode $yournick +w

or

/umode +w

in your IRC client. Please note that you need to do this every time you connect so setting up an auto-command or similar makes sense. In case you want to stop receiving wallops without reconnecting to freenode, simply run

/quote mode $yournick -w

or

/umode -w

and you are all set. Hopefully, we will manage to come up with interesting news for you. Feedback on this in #freenode or via this post is appreciated.

The Cat Enigma!

Hello! Many of you have joined in with our April Fools’ activities, including the two challenges injected into the April 1st blogpost. We had several successful winners of the first competition, and a smaller number of the second, but many determined competitors – thanks to everyone who invested so much time and energy into the challenges!

We’d now like to give you the answers! Hopefully you won’t kick yourself too much if you competed but didn’t get all the way to the end. :)

Challenge 1

The first challenge commenced in the blog entry, which contained the cryptic message ‘GURER VF N CEVMR. VG’F JBEGU VG. UVAG: ZBGQ.‘ Deciphered via the magic of ROT-13, this pointed you to our April Fools MOTD (Message of the Day). Buried amongst rainbow text and pink unicorns was the string ‘VmlldyBwYWdlIHNvdXJjZSwgeW91bmcgZ3Jhc3Nob3BwZXIu‘, a Base64-encoded message pointing you to the source code of our blogpost, where the following message was hidden:

A$$p qk sc *$j7r, sc *$j7r /7 qsqv/§z Z/yr /k q a/ep,
sss /k kq7kr7 &l7k a/pr jq/7/§7 7kj$pr $§ /k7
sq§r /k klj§7 /§k$ q %aq§r Q§3 k*r§ /k klj§7 wqep
qzq/§ x*r§ c$l klz $§ /k7 x/§pc Rxx k*qk7 3/jkc! 3$ c$l k*/§p 7$?
Xraa / wrkkrj §$k 7*$x c$l x*rjr k*r ars$§q3r /7 sq3r 7xrrk ars$§q3r,
sss 7xrrk ars$§q3r 7xrrk ars$§q3r,
crq* 7xrrk ars$§q3r X*r§ e$sr wqep,
sq/a %/r k$ %/§pl§/e$j§7 qk t§ §rk

This was a Substitution Cipher (which various users decrypted in a variety of different ways, using ruby, javascript and python, as well as the ‘tr’ command line utility). The translation table is as follows:

itsaGgvewlckLomyhrzdWpAubEnj
/k7qZzyrxaepA$sc*jv3X%QlwR§&

If you want to try this for yourself, there’s an online tool for this here, or you can use the tr command line tool as follows (will require unicode support):

echo 'A$$p qk sc *$j7r, sc *$j7r /7 qsqv/§z Z/yr /k q a/ep,
sss /k kq7kr7 &l7k a/pr jq/7/§7 7kj$pr $§ /k7
sq§r /k klj§7 /§k$ q %aq§r Q§3 k*r§ /k klj§7 wqep
qzq/§ x*r§ c$l klz $§ /k7 x/§pc Rxx k*qk7 3/jkc! 3$ c$l k*/§p 7$?
Xraa / wrkkrj §$k 7*$x c$l x*rjr k*r ars$§q3r /7 sq3r 7xrrk ars$§q3r,
sss 7xrrk ars$§q3r 7xrrk ars$§q3r,
crq* 7xrrk ars$§q3r X*r§ e$sr wqep,
sq/a %/r k$ %/§pl§/e$j§7 qk t§ §rk' |
tr \/k7qZzyrxaepA\$sc*jv3X%QlwR§\& itsaGgvewlckLomyhrzdWpAubEnj

As this challenge had a larger ciphertext and was only lowercase, working out the translation table was relatively easy, and many of you seemed to manage to get it!

The first user to figure this out was elly - well done, you! The remaining users in the first ten to complete this challenge also won april-fools/ cloaks, and were the following:

Jessicah, Snova, hjf2010, Treeki, ttuttle, tonsofpcs, mth, awilcox, gnarf

Well done too to everyone who e-mailed in but came after these guys!

Challenge 2

As Challenge 1 went so well, we decided it would be a Good Idea to put together a second challenge. This was designed to be a little more complex, but started with a similar substitution cipher, with a text added to the source of the blog entry:

Un s%ctsn /%klt, kx$$&$* y/k%x*/ y/t z&tsr
X/tkt qkt n%x *%&$*, v&y/ n%xk ztys%eal ws%v&$* &$ y/t v&$r?
K vq$y y% l/%vtk n%x v&y/ lx*qk sx§hl, q$r k&rt n%x %ctk zt$etl
T%s&l/ n%xk /%%ctl tctkn l&$*st rqn, q$r wk&$* n%x y% y/t /%klt rt$y&ly
Un s%ctsn /%klt, n%x'kt q h%$n $% §%kt
Fx$$&$* qk%x$r v&y/ q §q$ %$ n%xk wqea, s&at q ykq&$ &$ y/t $&*/y...
Oq$ n%x l%sct y/t Oqy I$&*§q?
WUWKMJKSXVABPMDDWNBIUIQGLSBTYUYQCIRPUQBQLYCOLOZTVUWEFPZPMESSST

To complicate things, however, we used both upper and lowercase letters. Deciphering the lowercase text was relatively simple, as there was enough text to make divining the translation table relatively straight forward, but there were only seven unique uppercase letters in the song lyrics which emerged which were easy to identify by looking up the song (or remembering it, for those of you who’re also fans of Father Ted!) – at this point, if you competed, you probably had a translation table that looked something like this:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
qwertz*/&pas§$%hjklyxcvbn|__O_I___K___U__T_F____X___

This seemed to be the step many of you got stuck on – as the final string beginning ‘WUWKM…‘ was substituted using the same table as the rest of the text. Many competitors had translated the song lyrics and the ‘Cat Enigma‘ comment:

My lovely horse, running through the field
Where are you going, with your fetlocks blowing in the wind?

I want to shower you with sugar lumps, and ride you over fences
Polish your hooves every single day, and bring you to the horse dentist

My lovely horse, you're a pony no more
Running around with a man on your back, like a train in the night...

Can you solve the Cat Enigma?

But you left the sequence of capital letters at the end unaltered! Whilst many of you guessed that ‘Enigma’ referred to the infamous German electromechanical enciphering machine, without the ‘WUWKM… ciphertext translated, you had difficulty progressing further!

As this seemed to be where efforts paused, we gave you a little clue, courtesy of njan’s enigmacat (whose name is actually cinak, but who is generally called Mittens), consisting of the first eight letters of the translation table – PQOWIELA- filling some of the blanks.

From there, some of you managed to take the next step – working out that the capital letters were entered according to a predictable pattern on a qwerty keyboard. Based on the ‘O_I‘ sequence in the partially complete translation table above, we’d hoped that might not be such a big step, but perhaps it was! Tap the translation table out on a qwerty keyboard and see what we mean.

Still – with a little nudging, this was a step that some of you managed to take together (and many others guessed at or were very close to), and with the complete translation table:

abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ
qwertz*/&pas§$%hjklyxcvbn|PQOWIELAKSJDURYTHFGMZNXBCV

It was possible to un-translate the enigma ciphertext:

DMDITKIJWZHXATLLDVXEMEBSGJXPOMOBYENAMBXBGOYCGCUPZMDFRAUATFJJJP

As many of you guessed, Catreferred to the enigma rotor settings, which when entered into any of the various online enigma machines (in javascript, java, or swf flavours) should produce the final plaintext. This wasn’t meant to trip anyone up (this applet defaults to the right settings, as do some of the others, and just needs the rotors to be configured) – although there are a variety of settings for enigma machines including rotor and reflector choice and plugboard settings we went with the default for many (Rotors I, II, III, Reflector B, no plugboard settings). Configured this way, the Enigma ciphertext deciphers to:

WELLDONEPLEASESENDCOOKIESANDMILKTOPINKUNICORNSATFREENODEDOTNET

Phew! All done! :) The first to complete the second part of the competition were sbp and [bjoern]. Other successful entrants were kmdm, x0F, Tordek, Lopmon, Gryllida, and yano.

Thanks to those of you who participated and we had fun talking to and interacting with – and we’ll probably be doing something similar next year! :)