Category Archives: IT Politics

Mine is More than Yours

So Redhat created and made this very interesting Open Source Activity Map available. It rates 75 countries’ open sourceness based on “Government, Industry, and Community” and how good the countries are at open source. Sort of. The numbers are based on research done by Georgia Institute of Technology.

What does it give?

I’m a Swede who lives in Sweden and I can see that we’re not generally that much into open source, but we’re also a very small population compared to lots of other countries. But no, I cannot see how Finland or Norway are any further than we. What also puzzles me is how they even rate China before Sweden. The numbers that are provided don’t appear to take population into account, or even participation level in open source projects.

Of course I realize I have but one view and my view is deeply skewed by the projects I work in and by the people I meet and I have never even tried to compare different countries’ governments against each other in regards of open source so I figure I can’t make a good comment on these results. What is weird is that there’s simply almost no participants in open source projects from China (and several other Asian countries) and I’ve always thought that’s primarily due to language barriers. Is this map then suggesting that those missing people make up for it in projects within their own language regions?

Or isn’t it so that this map is more a map of comparing legislations and governments against each other, and no so much what actual people from these countries do in various projects? I would otherwise assume that us people in the western world have a small benefit from being close to the English language. Not to mention how those speaking native English can easily jump into most projects without thinking twice about language problems.

I think however that this is a very good idea. It brings issues to the open. What makes a country good for open source? What’s needed to make my country better?

oss activity map

User data probably for sale

It’s time for a little “doomsday prophesy”.

Already seen happen

As was reported last year in Sweden, mobile operators here sell customer data (Swedish article) to companies who are willing to pay. Even though this might be illegal (Swedish article), all the major Swedish mobile phone operators do this. This second article mentions that the operators think this practice is allowed according to the contract every customer has signed, but that’s far from obvious in everybody else’s eyes and may in fact not be legal.

For the non-Swedes: one mobile phone user found himself surfing to a web site that would display his phone number embedded on the site! This was only possible due to the site buying this info from the operator.

While the focus on what data they sell has been on the phone number itself – and I do find that a pretty good privacy breach in itself – there’s just so much more the imaginative operators just very likely soon will offer companies who just pay enough.

Legislations going the wrong way

There’s this EU “directive” from a few years back:

Directive 2006/24/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 March 2006 on the retention of data generated or processed in connection with the provision of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communications networks and amending Directive 2002/58/EC

It basically says that Internet operators must store information of users’ connections made on the net and keep them around for a certain period. Sweden hasn’t yet ratified this but I hear other EU member states already have it implemented…

(The US also has some similar legislation being suggested.)

It certainly doesn’t help us who believe in maintaining a level of privacy!

What soon could happen

There’s hardly a secret that operators run network supervision equipments on their customer networks and thus they analyze and snoop on network data sent and received by each and every customer. They do this for network management reasons and for such legislations I mentioned above. (Disclaimer: I’ve worked and developed code for a client that makes and sells products for exactly this purpose.)

Anyway, it is thus easy for the operators to for example spot common URLs their users visit. They can spot what services (bittorrent, video sites, Internet radio, banks, porn etc) a user frequents. Given a particular company’s interest, it could certainly be easy to check for specific competitors in users’ visitor logs or whatever and sell that info.

If operators can sell the phone numbers of their individual users, what stops them from selling all this other info – given a proper stash of money from the ones who want to know? I’m convinced this will happen sooner or later, unless we get proper legislation that forbids the operators from doing this… In Sweden this sell of info is mostly likely to get done by the mobile network operators and not the regular Internet providers simply because the mobile ones have this end user contract to lean on that they claim gives them this right. That same style of contract and terminology, is not used for regular Internet subscriptions (I believe).

So here’s my suggestion for Think Geek to expand somewhat on their great shirt:

i-read-your-everything

(yeah, I have one of those boring ones with only the first line on it…)

A113

I have two kids, aged two and five. In our home I get to see a fair amount of animated movies, and yes most of them are run over and over again as the kids for some reason like to see the same movie endless number of times.

Anyway, what does a man like me do when he sees the same movies many times? He spots inconsistencies and patterns. My wife can get annoyed at times when I for example remark on how Nemo can get back to the main tank when the only way back is a pipe stuffed with a plant, in Finding Nemo.

Or the fact that Dinoco is both the name of a gas station in Toy Story I and the name of the racing team in Cars.

More recently I detected a bigger pattern that collides a bit with myself:

A113 is on the license plate of Andy’s mother’s car as visible towards the end of Toy Story I.

A113 in The Incredibles it is the conference room number where our main hero Bob is supposed to meet someone at that special island, only to get end up getting in fight with the big spider robot thing.

A113 shows up on a screen in Wall-e as some kind of instruction from the huge Axiom ship’s computer.

A113 is marked on the “electricity cabinet” outside my house! (see picture below)

Yeah, and once I had all this tracked down and it felt a bit strange I typed A113 into that search engine thing and of course I got to learn everything about A113

Apple patents another Rockbox idea

We’ve just read about Apple’s patent application (that seems to have been filed on July 17 2007) to alter the volume of a media player based on the external surrounding.

It’s funny how this was suggested to the Rockbox project already back in September 2002 and is logged fine independently by archive.org – and in fact also on Sourceforge where we hosted our request-tracker back then.

This is not the first time we see this consumer electronics giant patent ideas we’ve already implemented or discussed publicly a very long time before in the Rockbox project.

In 2006 Apple filed to patent a system to read up audio clips to the user to help menu navigation, a concept we at that time already had implemented and I must say was fairly polished in Rockbox. (Link to their patent application.)

Two obvious cases of where the ideas certainly were not new. Not that it tend to prevent patent applications, but still…

Rockbox

Explanation for hjsdhjerrddf.com domains

In case you’ve checked some of your spam mails recently you might’ve discovered how a large amount of them include links to sites using seemingly very random names in the domain names. Like hjsdhjerrddf.com or qwetyqfweyqt.com and so on. Hammering-the-keyboard looking names.

The explanation behind these is quite simple and sad: ICANN allows for a “tasting period” before you pay for the domain. Thus spammers register all sorts of random names, spam the world with mails referring the users to these domains and then they return the domain names again before they’ve paid anything, and go on to the next names.

With a large enough set of people and programs doing this, a large amount of names will constantly be kept in use but not paid for and constantly changing owners.

Conclusion: wherever there’s a loophole in the system, someone is there to exploit it for the purpose of sending spam.

Rockbox 3.1

After three months of work since the last release, we manage to keep the schedule and ship Rockbox 3.1. The list of news since 3.0 include the following:

  • A bitmap scaler was added to Rockbox, which means that album art no longer has to be pre-scaled to the correct dimensions on your computer. See AlbumArt for more information.
  • The calendar plugin which has existed for the Archos units for a long time is now available on all devices equipped with a clock.
  • The spacerocks plugin which was removed from version 3.0 due to a major bug has been brought back.
  • Optimised MP3 decoder on dual-core targets, giving several more hours of battery life in most situations.
  • Optimizations for AAC and APE decoding
  • Backlight fading is now available on most targets.
  • When recording in mono, you can now chose between recording the left or right channel, or a mix of both.
  • It is now possible to configure which items are shown in the Quick Screen.
  • Several new features were added to the WPS syntax
  • The build system received a major overhaul. This only matters for people who compile their own builds.

Of course you can find a more detailed list in the MajorChanges wiki page, and the full release notes for 3.1.

My personal contribution has been very tiny this time around and I’ve basically just built the release builds and admined the distributed build system somewhat.

Rockbox

SSL certs crash without trust

Eddy Nigg found out and blogged about how he could buy SSL certificates for a domain he clearly doesn’t own nor control. The cert is certified by Comodo who apparently has outsourced (parts of) there cert business to a separate company who obviously does very little or perhaps no verification at all of the buyers.

As a result, buyers could buy certificates from there for just about any domain/site name, and Comodo being a trusted CA in at least Firefox would thus make it a lot easier for phishers and other cyber-style criminals to setup fraudulent sites that even get the padlock in Firefox and looks almost perfectly legitimate!

The question is now what Mozilla should do. What Firefox users should expect their browser to do when HTTPS sites use Comodo-verified certs and how Comodo and their resellers are going to deal with everything…

Read the scary thread on the mozilla dev-tech-crypto list.

Update: if you’re on the paranoid/safe side you can disable trusting their certificates by doing this:

Select Preferences -> Advanced -> View Certificates -> Authorities. Search for
AddTrust AB -> AddTrust External CA Root and click “Edit”. Remove all Flags.

Snooping on government HTTPS

As was reported by some Swedish bloggers, and I found out thanks to kryptoblog, it seems the members of the Swedish parliament all access the internet via a HTTP proxy. And not only that, they seem to access HTTPS sites using the same proxy and while a lot of the netizens of the world do this, the members of the Swedish parliament have an IT department that is more big-brotherish than most: they decided they “needed” to snoop on the network traffic even for HTTPS connections – and how do you accomplish this you may ask?

Simple! The proxy simply terminates the SSL connection, then fetches the remote HTTPS document and run-time generates a “faked” SSL cert for the peer that is signed by a CA that the client trusts and then delivers that to the client. This does require that the client has got a CA cert installed locally that makes it trust certificates signed by the “faked” CA but I figure the parliament’s IT department “help” its users to this service.

Not only does this let every IT admin there be able to snoop on user names and passwords etc, it also allows for Man-In-The-Middle attacks big-time as I assume the users will be allowed to go to HTTPS sites using self-signed certificates – but they probably won’t even know it!

The motivation for this weird and intrusive idea seems to be that they want to scan the traffic for viruses and other malware.

If I were a member of the Swedish parliament I would be really upset and I would uninstall the custom CA and I would seriously consider accessing the internet using an ssh tunnel or similar. But somehow I doubt that many of them care, and the rest of them won’t be capable to take counter-measures against this.

Rockbox coming along on Sansa v2s

There have been fierce activity in the dusty corners of the Rockbox project known as the SanDisk Sansa v2 hackers guild (no not really but I thought it sounded amusing) and this has so far resulted in early code like LCD drivers and NAND drivers on three new upcoming targets: The e200, Fuze and Clip.

There’s still work to do before the celebrations can start for real, but it’s still nice to see good progress.

Now run over and help out!

(picture by Bertrik Sikken)

Can Ipv6 be made to succeed?

One of the “big guys” in Sweden on issues such as this – Patrik Fältström – apparently held a keynote at a recent internet-related conference (“Internetdagarna”), and there he addressed this topic (in Swedish). His slides from his talk is available from his blog.

Indeed a good read. Again: in Swedish…

In summary: the state is currently bad. There’s little being done to improve things. All alternatives to ipv6 look like worse solutions.