chris blogs: April 2006

23apr2006 · Paris rough cuts

Unless you are Hemmingway or Kerouac, no-one cares where you have been or what you did do on your travels. Therefore, I’ll keep myself short, but reasonably complete.

General impressions

  • WLAN at the hotel (Ibis Berthier) is possible, but not seriously: 0.25€/min will make the thing cost 360€ a day; various ads all around the city sell you a flatrate for net and phone and digital tv for about 30€ a month.

  • There generally is high quality typography all around, something I don’t notice in Germany. However, their use of italics on road signs just sucks.

  • The Metro and RER guy that introduced loops into their system deserves to be slapped, it’s hard to imagine a better way to confuse foreigners.

  • French motorways are great—straight on and with just about no traffic, doesn’t hurt too much they are turnpiked.

  • There are nice Chinese girls all around. :-)

Day One

  • Arrival at about two o’clock, led by GPS (which doesn’t know about some private motorway exits…).

  • Sacré Cœur: IMO ugly, boring from a cultural point, far too many tourists. Has vending machines in the back part of the church (Notre Dame, too). Seen children that blow the candles out.

  • Montmartre is ideal for vendors of scratchpads; else there are artists that use them or try to, generally ugly tourism, but lesser visited parts are actually very beautiful and aesthetic; this can, however only be appreciated after experiencing the ugliness. (Probably my first appreciation of Paris.)

  • Dinner at some Chinese shop, where the soley owner put your chosen meal in various microwaves to warm it up. Turns out this is a popular way of running a Chinese restaurant. Not bad, but not exciting, the idea is more interesting than the taste.

Day Two

  • Arc de Triomphe, the watch(wo)men at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier do not have rifles.

  • Champs-Éllysée, nice for a shopping tour

  • Louvre, we didn’t visit it due to lack of time, but it’s very nice architectonically—not only the glass pyramid, but also the entrance hall and other things below the ground.

  • Centré Pompidou, didn’t visit either, but in afterthought I’d probably have liked to—appears to be the center of contemporary art in Paris, together with the IRCAM next to it.

  • Tour Eiffel, at night. Good (and probably best free) view from Trocadero. The tower sparkles every full hour—highly hokum.

  • Dinner at Pizza Hut. (Pretty hard to find a good meal for a reasonable price in Paris.)

Day Three

  • Left river bank of the Seine, always good for a walk.

  • Notre Dame, finally a nice cathedral.

  • Musée d’Orsay, didn’t visit as well; the queue was “short”, but still wrapping several times.

  • Lafayette, nice view from the roof over the city and the Opera. The dome and general style of the main hall needs to be mentioned too. Checked CD prices there, seems they are cheaper in Germany; even the cheap CDs cost more than 9.99€.

  • Tour Eiffel at day, haven’t been on top, however. Amazing construction, and pretty lightweight. The watchmen have automatic rifles.

  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

  • Quartier Latin, I really liked that part of Paris—despite a lot of people, it keeps a certain attractive atmosphere.

  • Dinner at Quartier Latin: Spaghetti Carbonara. Nice italian-style restaurant.

Day Four

  • Gare Austerlitz, still trying to figure why we went there.

  • Jardin des Plantes, nice botanical garden with lots of museums around.

  • Rue Mouffetard, the market there had not as much action as expected.

  • Pantheon, haven’t been inside.

  • Sorbonne, a central university of Paris.

  • Jardin Luxembourg, nice garden too; we couldn’t find the snow-white elephant, though.

  • Tour Montparnasse, great panoramic view from the 56th and 59th floor. Worth a visit. Also interesting they check the tickets once you are up there…

  • Dinner at Pizza Hut. (Did I tell you how hard it’s to find a dinner in Paris!?)

Day Five

  • Return journey, drive was okay, but of course took a bit longer than the journey there because of the traffic at daytime. As soon as we were on German ground again, congestion started—amazing.

All in all, it was a pleasant five days in Paris, I can only recommend it. However, avoid the places where a lot of tourists usually go—they mostly suck and aren’t worth the time.

NP: Pearl Jam—Gone

16apr2006 · Off to Paris

Early tomorrow morning, I’ll be heading to Paris for holiday till April 21. I’m uncertain about open-WiFi in Paris, so don’t expect mail activity, IRC or other net stuff. Maybe I’ll get some hacking done, we’ll see.

For now, I just hope I have enough podcasts to survive the 10 hour drive… but I’m looking forward to one week of baguettes, croissants and people speaking a gay language. :-D

chris blogs and Anarchaia resume publishing on April 22, have a lot of fun. I guess I have something to tell when I’m back.

NP: Wir sind Helden—Denkmal

11apr2006 · My DVCS wishlist

After last week’s intermezzo with Git, my curiosity for distributed version control systems (DVCS) reinflamed again. I also imported the Ruby CVS history into Monotone, which has a pretty fast CVS importer, and Mercurial, which CVS importer seamt to be even faster (cvs20hg), but unfortunately is not complete yet. However, Mercurial also can import from Git, so I went that way.

My projects will continue to be kept in Darcs for near future, but so far no DVCS really could convince me. Wondering about which lacked what, I thought it would be useful to write up what I want to have. So far, I tried: Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial and Monotone. I also dabbled into Bazaar (seems to be discontinued), Bazaar-NG, FastCST (seems to be discontinued) and SVK (IMO just a hack).

So, here is my wishlist (roughly ordered in decreasing importance):

  • Prefer file storage over patch storage, it’s just easier to deal with in practice. It took be a long time to figure this out, but I actually think it’s the more pragmatic solution. I noticed this when I saw how the Git repository just merged with the Gitk repository, even if both didn’t share a single revision. Darcs, on the other hand, even had problems doing merges which were factually the same, but just couldn’t be arranged the right way. The theory of patches sounds nice, but it doesn’t work out.

    Note that this doesn’t exclude diff storage, this of course should be done to save disk space and bandwidth.

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG (I think), Git/Cogito, Mercurial, Monotone.

  • Revisions need to be identified by a globally unique identifier, e.g. a SHA1-hash or a GUID.

    Provided by: Bazaar (theoretically), Bazaar-NG, Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial, Monotone.

  • Revision storage should be implemented as write-once files. Once a file has been written, it should not be touched afterwards. This eases incremental backup and generally improves safety. Alternatively, if files are append-only, this is acceptable too. Changing files leaves a bad taste. (It’s okay for index files and other unessential information.)

    Provided by: Bazaar, Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial.

  • File permissions must be saved, at least the executable bit. Also, the VCS shouldn’t touch the contents of the files at all (no newline conversion, no keywords by default).

    Provided by: Bazaar, Bazaar-NG, Git/Cogito, Mercurial, Monotone.

  • Easy setup of repositories: Setting up a new repository needs to be possible with a single command, usually that’s xxx init—it will turn the current directory into a fresh repository (or even import the files of the current directory, as Cogito does).

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG, Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial.

  • Support multiple heads of development in a single repository. This encourages microbranching and eases incremental development without keeping loads of working directories around.

    Provided by: Git/Cogito, Mercurial [Added 22apr2006, thanks to Daniel Néri for noticing], Monotone.

  • It has to be possible to export patches with full metadata (e.g. renames) as ASCII files, e.g. to send via mail or share in other ways. It needs to support binary files, too. (Think of contributing graphics to a game.)

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG, Darcs (very good), Git/Cogito (no binary, renames partly), Mercurial (bundles, but they are not ASCII, renames partly), Monotone (packets, good).

  • It needs to be possible to contribute patches via mail. This is the way most non-regular commiters send patches.

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG, Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial, Monotone.

  • Serving repositories over dumb HTTP: This is essential to allow people easily setting up repositories on their cheap webspace. Systems that require CGIs would be acceptable too, here (Mercurial without old-http); opening new ports isn’t. It doesn’t need to be the most efficient way of accessing, but must not be unreasonably inefficient.

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG, Bazaar (slow), Darcs, Git/Cogito, Mercurial, Monotone (soon).

  • I definitely need good Emacs integration, preferably with DVC, alternatively, a good standalone-mode can be enough too.

    Provided by: Bazaar (DVC), Bazaar-NG (DVC), Darcs (own, partly DVC), Git/Cogito (own, DVC), Mercurial (own, DVC), Monotone (own).

  • It needs to provide a GUI repository viewer that can show change history as a tree and diffs for each revision. I’ve found such a tool indispensably since I’ve discovered Gitk, especially if you microbranch a lot.

    Provided by: Bazaar-NG, Git/Cogito, Mercurial (hack), Monotone.

  • It needs a good and fast tool to import CVS trees. I’ve found this absolutely needed to convert legacy repositiories and capture the history of older projects locally.

    Provided by: Git/Cogito (git-cvsimport, parsecvs), Mercurial (cvs20hg, partly), Monotone (own, very good).

  • A library to access all features of the VCS from other tools. If a very comprehensive set of commands is available, this will be acceptable too.

    Provided by: Bazaar (shell), Bazaar-NG (Python), Darcs (shell, XML), Git/Cogito (shell, very good), Mercurial (Python), Monotone (Lua, shell).

If you find any mistakes or misattribution, please post a comment and I’ll correct it.

Writing a good DVCS is not that hard in theory, but very hard in practice—not only for technical reasons. Implementing DVCS is a community effort, I’d even state it’s pointless today to start yet another VCS, unless you are a celebrity that already has a big community behind (cf. Git).

NP: The Smiths—You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet Baby

04apr2006 · Tracking the Ruby CVS with Git

$ du -h ~/projects/Git/ruby.git/
 29M    /Users/chris/projects/Git/ruby.git/

Amazing, but true: above directory contains the whole history of the Ruby CVS—from January 1998 until today, in less than 30 megabytes. That’s 9325 commits and about 44332 different file versions.

How is this possible? I used Git, the version control system that was written to keep the Linux source, which is “designed to handle absolutely massive projects with speed and efficiency”. And most of the parts are actually pretty efficient and fast.

Not among them is importing from CVS. Not yet, at least. Git includes a Perl script, git-cvsimport which essentially works like that: Checkout each revision from CVS, commit to Git, checkout the next revision, commit again, water, rinse and repeat.

Hopelessy slow, especially if the CVS is remote. So let’s fix that, we make a local CVS mirror first. Luckily, the Ruby CVS supports cvsup, which is essentally like a fast rsync for CVS repositories, but also can be used to mirror complete CVSROOTs. Unluckily, this is not documented at the Ruby CVS page. However, with help from Shugo Maeda, I was able to locally mirror the Ruby CVS. You need a cvsup file like this:

*default base=/Users/chris/mess/current/cstest/sups
*default compress delete use-rel-suffix
*default release=cvs

*default prefix=/Users/chris/mess/current/cstest/ruby

# Ruby and other modules

Adjust the paths to your local needs, of course. Then, you need to fetch cvsup. If you are lucky, your distribution will have it packaged, else you need to bootstrap a Modula 3 compiler(!) to compile it. Have fun. *sigh* (The compiler is pretty quick, though.) Anyway, at the end of the day, I had my local CVS mirror—let the experiments start.

git-cvsimport depends on cvsps, a tool to analyze CVSROOTs and figure the actual revisions. This is needed because CVS is a bunch of clunky shit that has no conscience of its commits. After that, an almost endless loop of checkout and commit will start. If you want to try it yourself, get a fast computer, a fast, big disk and an efficient file-system. No, doing it on an iBook with only a few gigs free and HFS+ is not a good idea. Actually, it took four days, and I had to do it stepwise.

There could be a better solution in the future, parsecvs by Keith Packard of fame. It’s in very early alpha stage, and will need even more disk space as of now, but ought to be a lot faster in the future. At least one can hope.

After this, you’ll have a Git controlled tree full of the actual file revisions, it’s hard to estimate how big it would be. To make the handy file shown above, you need to pack the tree. For this, you run:

git repack -d

This will compute a few minutes/hours/days and spit out a nice file, of about 70 megabytes in size. If you want the handy file above, you either need to figure out how to patch git repack to pass the optimization options --window=50 --depth=50 to git-pack-objects, or call the latter low-level tool directly. This way, you’ll get the handy file. Higher argument values will slow down the process a lot, and not result in packages that are maybe half a megabyte smaller. I tried.

The great thing about git-cvsimport is that it can work incrementally, so once we have the pack, we can update directly from Ruby CVS—the changes are small if you do that regularily. For this, I included a small script in the pack, update-ruby-git:

git-cvsimport -d \
              -k -u -v -m -p -Z,9 ruby

Run this script regularily to keep your tree recent. You don’t need the CVSROOT or cvsup anymore.

Now, how is this all of this useful? Obviously, you enjoy all the benefits Git provides for your daily hacking: atomic actions, distributed development, zero cost (almost!) branches and good merges. Also, you have the nice gitk repository browser that allows you to keep track of recent development. Since you can fetch every file at every revision easily, it’s just a matter of time someone starts datamining… “how many percents of Ruby are really written by matz”?

You can use git bisect to find bugs in Ruby by marking some revision as good, some as bad, and let Git figure which revision you try next to find the faulty patch.

And if you really want to use CVS, you even can emulate a CVS server (read and write!), with git-cvsserver. Isn’t that impressive?

I probably will make the pack available on the net, but I haven’t yet found a good way to allow others to efficiently (and incrementally) fetch it… hopefully more about that later.

NP: Meat Puppets—Up on the Sun

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