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Regarding Doc Searls' “Debugging Democracy” in the January 2017 issue: please stop printing childish personal insults in Linux Journal. When you refer to the President-Elect as “Internet troll Donald Trump”, you are being personally insulting, childish by playing funny games with someone's name (“heh heh, he's got 'rump' in his name!”), and promoting politics of hate and fear. This has no place in a technical journal and no relevance to Linux or computing in general.

You would not refer to the losing candidate as a “shrew”, nor would you play childish games with her name as a way of insulting her. In fact, you did refer to her, by her correct name, without personal insult.

I'm sorry, but the election process does not need “debugging” because your favorite lost. This has happened every four years since the ratification of the US Constitution—someone wins, someone loses. It's a direct and inevitable side effect of having one President instead of two. Every time, nearly half the voters are disappointed.

By picking sides and using personal insults to make political commentary after the election is over and done, you disappoint upwards of half of your subscribers. Doc Searls owes an apology to the readers, if not to Mr Trump himself.

Mark Kramer

Doc Searls replies: Mark is right. I do owe readers an apology. By calling Donald Trump a troll (take a look at the Wikipedia definition of internet troll at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll and draw your own conclusions), I was being a troll as well. Even though trolling wasn't my intent, that has been the effect so far: every response to my January column, both here and on our website, has been as negative as Mark's, and for the same reasons.

Opening with that remark also failed to support the main purpose of that column, which was to call for help in rescuing journalism—and real journals such as this one—from drowning in a sea of “content”, way too much of which is crap routed by algorithms aimed by surveillance-gathered data into echo chambers of the like-minded. This has the effect of increasing enmity and blame toward those in echo chambers with opposing sympathies, which is worse than dangerous in democratic societies, because it tears apart the center spaces of basic agreement those societies require. You can see how this looks in The Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed, Red Feed site (graphics.wsj.com/blue-feed-red-feed), subtitled “See Liberal Facebook and Conservative Facebook, Side by Side”.

I am sure most of the systems driving us into hostile camps are built on Linux. (Isn't everything now?) So I don't think I'm off base calling for help here.

Shotcut Video Editor

I just read Shawn Powers' August 2016 Linux Journal article about his traveling gear (yes, I am that far behind) and besides being shocked that he uses a MacBook Air (just kidding, Apple hardware is good enough), I was also shocked that he uses Final Cut Pro for his video editing.

For the editing needs he described, there is no excuse for not using the excellent Shotcut video editor (https://shotcut.org). Besides the fact that it has more than enough features, it's open source and available for Linux, Windows and Mac OS.

I am just wondering what kind of excuse he will give for not adopting Shotcut for his video editing needs. I am not pressuring him with this, just playing and using this opportunity to let him know about Shotcut.

I'm not connected with the project; I just use, advocate and provide some help with my small knowledge in the Shotcut forum. See also the videos on YouTube for some help getting started.

Luis Sismeiro

Shawn Powers replies: It's easy to feel a bit defensive with questions like, “what's your excuse?”, but tone is often easy to misinterpret in email, so I'm going to assume this was a friendly message. I don't think I need an excuse, because I don't think I've done anything wrong. But I'll answer the question of “why”, because that's a fair one.

It's possible that some of this was answered in my article, or in issues past, but really quickly: I have several jobs, and those jobs require me to have various computer systems. On a daily basis, I truly use Windows, OS X and Linux. I love open-source software, but I'm not a zealot. I use whatever tool I can use to get the job done. For Linux Journal, it makes sense to use Linux software for video editing. However, all the times I've attempted to do that through the years, it's been inefficient at best and impossible at the worst.

I've never tried Shotcut, but now that you've brought it to my attention, I'll be giving it a try. Heck, perhaps I'll write about it. The thing that's important to know though is that if it is a program that crashes or doesn't work well for me, I likely won't use it.

So after all that, thank you for bringing the project to my attention. I'll definitely check it out!

Fake News

I read Mr Searls' tantrum in the January 2017 issue with great amusement. It seems he is not a fan of Donald Trump, but rather than calling for the death of the Electoral College (the other fad du jour), he says “we need to hack the news back in a logical direction and away from the fact-free, misleading and emotion stirring ways that news is made today”. In other words “Doc” is calling for global “fact-checking” on the internet—aka a globalized Wikipedia. And who, pray tell, will be trusted with that curation process? We don't need to look far for an answer, because others have suggested similar things before with regard to broadcast news: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine.

So the creative chaos of the Bazaar is good for Linux, but bad in the arena of politics and news? Interesting how when liberals lose elections their immediate instincts are to change the Constitutional process and call for clamping down on radio, TV and now the internet. The First Amendment applies only to whoever has the correct views. Wouldn't it be better if we had an educated electorate who could smell truth from fiction on their own? But how often is critical thinking taught today? Let us take this as a teachable moment.

Mr Searls goes on to show some pretty graphs and points out that “This kind of study does not show a mandate....” True, the election of Trump alone does not show a mandate, but what does this table show?

State Governors28/2218/31from Wikipedia
State Senates28/2013/37https://ballotpedia.org/Partisan_composition_of_state_senates
State House32/1618/31https://ballotpedia.org/Partisan_composition_of_state_houses
US Senate49/4944/54from Wikipedia
US House233/198194/241https://ballotpedia.org/United_States_Congress_elections,_2016

It's almost as if a vast, right-wing conspiracy infiltrated every state/local/national news outlet, then hired an army of covert East-bloc operatives to create “fake news” on social media, all designed to sway the election up and down the ballot completely inverting the majority control at state and federal levels since Barack Obama has been elected.

Hillary would no doubt agree.

Steve Langer

Doc Searls replies: I meant “hack” in the broad sense it has been used here since Linux Journal began in 1994. If you want a specific definition (or a set of them), consult the Jargon File: www.catb.org/jargon/html.

The Trump vs. Hillary contest was maximally interesting at the time I wrote the column, but it was also beside the main point I tried to make: there are dangerously dysfunctional ways our democracy now informs itself in the networked world. “Fake news” is currently the most obvious example, although I believe the real problems are deeper and more systematic than that. However one looks at it, some fixing is required.

It's about the how of democracy, not about the who.

Mars Lander Program

Regarding Dave Taylor's Mars Lander program in the September, October and November 2016 issues: it's a curious game in a few lines of shell script. I appreciated the final version. But bc is not so friendly of a tool, and it puts some unfair mistakes in the game. Here's a solution for bc uses:

speed=$( $bc <<< "scale=3; $speed + $gravity + $thrust" | sed -e
altitude=$( $bc <<< "scale=3; $altitude + $speed" | sed -e

Thank you, good work!

José Nicolau

Dave Taylor replies: Interesting tweak to the script. I'll have to send it over to my NASA friends to QA!

kpcli—KeePass Command-Line Interface

Related to der.hans' January 2017 article on password managers (“Online Privacy and Security Using a Password Manager”), I thought that letting your audience know about kpcli might be useful: kpcli.sourceforge.net.

Lester Hightower

Shawn Powers' Synology Review

Regarding Shawn Powers' “My Love Affair with Synology” in the January 2017 issue: many applications are difficult to install directly on a Synology because Synology does not use a standard repository format like RPM or APT, but it does support Docker! My tests with Docker have been great so far. I can build and test Docker images on my Debian server and then copy the finished images to the Synology for deployment.

In my case, I am trying to get PostGIS/Geoserver/Geonode going. I upgraded from 1 to 4GB of RAM to support it. I need to support a very small team of users sharing geospatial data, so we don't need a lot of compute horsepower, just a shared data store. End users will probably be using QGIS as a client, so most of the computation will take place on their laptops.

But the use case that I applied to justify buying the Synology was “Synology Cloud Station” (it might have come out after you wrote your review). It is great; files on the server are not kept locked up in a special container (like ownCloud), so you can seamlessly drop files into an ordinary folder on the Synology and have them replicate out to your Cloud Station clients.

This means LAN users can see files directly via Samba, AppleTalk or NFS and not have to copy them to their own hard drives, but I (working at home) also get access via synchronization. Working remotely, I can export a large format map to a PDF file, and it will be uploaded automatically via Cloud Station sync. Then my team can view the map from the Synology via LAN file share or web server (File Station) without syncing a copy to their own laptops.

I love ownCloud by the way, and it will run on a Synology (I tried it out), and I use it on my own Debian server, but Cloud Station fits our use cases better.

Brian Wilson

Shawn Powers replies: I'm fairly certain Cloud Station has been there for a while, but I have to admit I haven't tried it. (That will change!) My concerns with running things on the Synology directly are all horsepower-related. I love it for things like reverse proxying, web hosting and torrent management. My Plex Media Server, however, I put on a separate box because I fear the Synology wouldn't be able to manage the transcoding. I also share your frustration with the packages provided by Synology, but thankfully, there are some community-maintained programs that can be downloaded and installed.

The Geo stuff you're doing sounds cool, by the way, and it sounds like a perfect use case since the CPU demands aren't too high. And thanks again for the tip about Cloud Station; I'll have to give it a try!

Curl Example in “Automated Slack Notifications” Doesn't Work

In the “Automatic Slack Notifications” piece in the December 2016 issue's UpFront section, the curl command to send a message to Slack doesn't work (at least on my MacBook). It gives the following error:

curl: (3) [globbing] unmatched close brace/bracket in column 8

In fact, the data block should be enclosed in single quotes, not double quotes.

Khoa Le

Shawn Powers replies: Double quotes and single quotes are often the bane of my programming. Half the time I get errors like you mention here, and the other half of the time I end up with output that looks like, “Thank you $NAME, your contribution to $THING was greatly appreciated!”

In this case, the script worked for me on Linux, and once it worked, I didn't try it elsewhere. I could have, as I use OS X as well, but sadly, I didn't. Thanks for pointing out the issue. Hopefully everyone struggling will see this letter!

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