Tag Archives: Linux

IDG prints lies about RMS

Joel Åsblom works as a “technical writer” at the Swedish “IT magazine” consortium IDG. He got assigned the job of interviewing Richard M Stallman when he was still in Stockholm after his talk at the foss-sthlm event. I had been mailing with another IDG guy (Sverker Brundin) on and off for weeks before this day to try to coordinate a time and place for this interview.

During this time, I forwarded the “usual” requests from RMS himself about how the writer should read up on the facts, the background and history behind Free Software, the GNU project and more. The recommended reading includes a lot of good info. My contact assured me that they knew this stuff and that they had interviewed mr Stallman before.

This November day after the talk done in Stockholm, Roger Sinel had volunteered to drive Richard around with his car to show him around the city and therefore he was also present in the IDG offices when Joel interviewed RMS. Roger recorded the entire interview on his phone. I’ve listened to the complete interview. You can do it as well: Part one as mp3 and ogg, and part 2 as mp3 and ogg. Roughly an hour playback time all together.

The day after the interview, Joel posted a blog entry on the computersweden.se blog (in Swedish) which not only showed disrespect towards his interviewee, but also proved that Joel has not understood very many words of Stallman’s view or perhaps he misread them on purpose. Joel’s blog post translated to English:

Yesterday I got an exclusive interview with legend Richard Stallman, who in the mid 80’s, published his GNU Manifesto on thoughts of a free operating system that would be compatible with Unix. Since then he has traveled the world with his insistent message that it is a crime against humanity to charge for the program.

As the choleric personality he is, I got the interview once I’ve made a sacred promise to never (at least in this interview) write only Linux but also add Gnu before each reference to this operating system. He thinks that his beloved GNU (a recursive acronym for GNU is Not Unix) is the basis of Linux in 1991 and thus should be mentioned in the same breath.

Another strange thing is that this man who KTH and a whole lot of other colleges have appointed an honorary doctorate has such a difficulty to understand the realities of the labor market. During the interview, I take notes on a computer running Windows, which makes him get really upset. He would certainly never condescend to work in an office where he could not run a computer that contains nothing but free software. I try to explain to him that the vast majority of office slaves depend on quite a few programs that are linked to mission-critical systems that are only available for Windows. No, Stallman insists that we must dare to stand up for our rights and not let ourselves be guided by others.

Again and again he returns to the subject that software licensing is a crime against humanity and completely ignores the argument that someone who has done a great job on designing programs also should be able to live from this.

The question then is whether the man is drugged. Yes, I actually asked if he (as suggested in some places) uses marijuana. This is because he has propagated for the drug to be allowed to get used in war veteran wellness programs. The answer is that he certainly think that cannabis should be legalized, but that he has stopped using the drug.

He confuses freedom with price – RMS never refuses anyone the right to charge for programs. Joel belittles the importance of GNU in a modern Linux system. He calls him “choleric”. He claims you cannot earn money on Free Software (maybe he needs to talk to some of the Linux kernel hackers) and he seems to think that Windows is crucial to office workers. Software licenses a crime against humanity? From the person who has authored several very widely used software licenses?

The final part about the drugs is just plain rude.

During the interview, Joel mentions several times that he is using Ubuntu at home (and Stallman explains that it is one of the non-free GNU/Linux systems). It is an excellent proof that just because someone is using a Linux-based OS, they don’t have to know one iota or care the slightest about some of the values and ethics that lie behind its creation.

In the end it leaves you wondering if Joel wrote this crap deliberately or just out of ignorance. It is hard to see that you actually can miss the point to this extent. It is just another proof what kind of business IDG is.

The reaction

Ok, so I felt betrayed and badly treated by IDG as I had helped them get this interview. I emailed Sverker and Joel with my complaints and I pointed out the range of errors and faults in this “blogpost”. I know others did too, and RMS himself of course wasn’t too thrilled with seeing yet another article with someone completely missing the point and putting words into his mouth that he never said and that he doesn’t stand for.

During the weekend I discussed this at FSCONS with friends and there were a lot of head-shakes, sighs and rolling eyes.

The two writers both responded to my harsh criticisms and brushed it off, claiming you can have different views on free vs gratis and so on, and both said something in the style “but wait for the real article”. Ok, so I held off this blog post until the “real article”.

The real article

Stallman – geni och kolerisk agitator, which then is supposedly the real article, was posted on November 15th. It basically changed nothing at all. The same flaws are there – none of the complaint mails and friendly efforts to help them straighten out the facts had any effect. I would say the most fundamental flaws ones are:

With opinions that it is a crime against humanity to charge for software Richard Stallman has made many enemies at home. In South America, he has more friends, some of which are presidents whom he persuaded to join the road to free source code.

Joel claims RMS says you can’t charge for software. The truth is that he repeatedly and with emphasis says that free software means free as in freedom, it does not necessarily means gratis. Listen to the interview, he said this clearly this time as well. And he says so every time he does a public talk.

Richard Stallman is also the founder of the Free Software Foundation, and his big show-piece is the fight against everything regarding software licenses.

Joel claims he has a “fight against everything regarding software licenses”. That’s so stupid I don’t know where to begin. The article itself even has a little box next to it describing how RMS wrote the GPL license etc. RMS is behind some of the most used software licenses in the world.

The fact that Joel tries to infer that Free Software is mostly a deal in South America is just a proof that this magazine (and writer) has no idea about for example the impact of Linux and GNU/Linux in just about all software areas except desktops.

My advice

All this serves just as a proof and a warning: please friends, approach this behemoth known as IDG with utmost care and be sure that they will not understand what you’re talking about if you’re not into their mainstream territory. They deliberately will write crap about you, even after having been told about errors and mistakes. Out of spite or just plain stupidity, I’m not sure.

[I deliberately chose not to include the full article translated to English here since it is mostly repetition.]

Back in the printing game

HP Officejet 8500AAfter my printer died, I immediately ordered a new one online and not long afterwards I could pick it up from my local post office. As I use both the scanner and the printer features pretty much I went with another “all-in-one” model and I chose an HP model (again) basically because I’ve been happy with how my previous worked (before its death). “HP Officejet Pro 8500 A910” seems to be the whole name. And yeah, it really is as black as the picture here shows it.

This model is less “photo-focused” than my previous but I never print my own photos so that’s no loss. What did annoy me was however that this model uses 4 ink cartridges instead of the 6 in my previous, but of a completely different design so I can’t even re-use my half-full ink containers from the corpse!

My new printer has some fancy features. It is one of them that I can give an email address and then print on by sending email to it. The email address then gets a really long one with lots of seemingly random letters, it is in the hp.com domain and I can set up a white-list of people (From: addresses) that is allowed to print on it via email.

It also has full internet access itself so it could fetch a firmware upgrade file and install that entirely on its own without the use of a computer. (Which made me wonder if they use libcurl, but I realize there’s no way for me to tell and of course there are many alternatives they might use.)

Driver-wise, it seems like a completely different set for Windows (hopefully this won’t uninstall itself) and on Linux I could install it fine to print, but xsane just won’t find it to scan. I intend to instead try to use the printer’s web service for scanning, hopefully that will be roughly equivalent for my limited use – I mostly scan documents, bills and invoices for my work.

Add latency to localhost

Pádraig Brady taught me a great trick in a comment to a previous blog post and it was so neat I feel a need to highlight it further as it also makes it easier for me to find it again later!

To simulate a far away server, add RTT time to the localhost device. For example if we add 100 milliseconds (which then makes 200ms ping time to localhost):

$ tc qdisc add dev lo root handle 1:0 netem delay 100msec
Restore it back to normal again with:
$ tc qdisc del dev lo root
tc qdisc add dev lo root handle 1:0 netem delay 100msec

Restore it back to normal again with:

tc qdisc del dev lo root

my first embedded Linux course

I’m happy to announce that I did my first ever full-day training course for eleven embedded developers Monday November 15th 2010. I had the pleasure to write all the materials myself, come up with three exercises for them and then actually stand in front of the team and deliver a complete session 9 – 17.

Let's say this illustrates Embedded SystemsI did my day as part of a three-day course, and I got to do the easy part: user-space development. My day covered the topics of: Embedded Linux development introduction, how to build, autobuilding, how to run, git basics, debugging, profiling and finally some brief words on testing.

Doing stuff outside of your ordinary schedule and “comfort zone” is certainly a bit scary and encouraging and that’s the sort of thing that makes you grow as a person and as a professional. I mean, I know the topics by heart and certainly pretty much without even thinking (I’ve been working with embedded systems for over 17 years!), but from that into making a decent training course is not just a coffee break worth of work.

I was quite happy and satisfied that I pretty much kept to the program, I managed to go through all the topics I had set myself out to, I think we had a really nice conversation going during the day and the audience gave me really good feedback and high “grades” in the evaluation forms they filled in before they left. Of course there were flaws in the presentation and I got some valuable ideas from my audience on how to improve it.

Now I feel like doing it again!

FSCONS 2010 day 1

07:02: The alarm of my mobile never rang, because I was already up. I got to play with my two kids a while before the taxi arrived to pick me up at 07:30.

The X2000 train from Stockholm to Göteborg took off exactly on schedule and we were off. I learned that the on-board Internet service wasn’t possible to sign on to with Chrome but I had to fire up my good old Firefox for it. Going with first class X2000 offer free Internet all the way, and free coffee. Two of my favorite frees.

The train arrived only 10 minutes late in Gothenburg. I took a taxi over to my hotel, checked in, put my smaller laptop in my backpack and walked over to the FSCONS venue.

After having had lunch and caught up with some friends, I sat down in the big audience listening to the presentation about the Inhana project, by Kyrah. Interactive storytelling and about helping female artists in Syria to play/work with technology in the form av Arduino boards.

Kyrah had the room full. Not that many remained when I entered the stage after her and did my talk on scalable application layer transfers.

I followed up with a cup of coffee after some private discussions on SCTP and how to do fast transfers in the Tor project and then I headed towards the talk about data structures in the Linux kernel by Allesandro Rubini.

Mr Rubini is a long-time involved Linux kernel hacker (and well known co-author of the Linux Device Drivers bible) and in a very casual and effective style he taught us how we can use regular Linux code for lists and trees in a GPL licensed project and how the clever container_of macro works. To me, its biggest drawback is that it relies on a gcc-specific feature: typeof(), but otherwise it is a beautiful craftsmanship.

Allesandro brought down the biggest spontaneous applause when he responded to someone’s question “but couldn’t you also do this using templates in C++?” by suitably and appropriately bashing C++…

.Allesandro Rubini

Anders Arnholm followed along in the embedded track and he talked about using Linux in the automotive world and I think many of us thought the best part of his talk was the numbers and comparisons he had when trying different flash file systems to increase boot performance and really cut down startup time to a minimum. The initial kernel startup time was 6 something seconds when using JFFS2 and they managed to get down to below 200 milliseconds with the use of the AXFS (Advanced XIP Filesystem, where XIP is short for execute in place).

Anders Arnholm


… after Anders’ talk I followed the crowds, got a seat in a bus and we were transported over to the social event. I mentioned a little bit about that in my previous post, the award for me.

My FSCONS 2010 day 2 entry will be posted within shortly.

pNFS is my kind of toy

Ok, so NFS has never really been my cup of tea. Complicated and the problem with the root user and locking and what not have always made me get all itchy when thinking about or using NFS.

Enter pNFS, the NFS 4.1 invention that truly suddenly makes the NFS technology so much interesting for high performance solutions. I also think  it is a bit unknown so I thought I’d help to share the knowledge about this to you my dear readers. The p in pNFS stands for parallel. The whole idea is that the single NFS server just provides meta data back to the client, with enough information to allow the client to read the actual payload data directly from the storage server(s), that then supposedly are different ones than the main meta data server


(picture from www.nexenta.org)

As you can see on this fancy picture, it allows each client to speak directly to the storage device to get or send the data. This allows them to avoid using a single bottleneck NFS server.

NFS 4.1 and pNFS are IETF standards, RFC5661 to RFC5664. The first one being 616 pages long and one of the largest RFCs I’m aware of.

Linuxträff 2010

I’ll be brief:

On the Software Freedom Day 2010 (September 18th), the guys in “The Swedish Linux Association” (Svenska Linuxföreningen) are organizing a day with talks and presentations about Linux and foss related subjects, which they call Linuxträff 2010. It takes place in Stockholm city, Sweden.

At that event, in the 11:00 – 12:00 time slot, you will be able to see and hear me do a little talk about Rockbox and reverse engineering to get free software on consumer electronics.

See you there!


The Swedish BankID curse and Debian

Lots of bank, tax and insurance related stuff in Sweden these days switch to using BankID for secure logins on web sites.

That system used to be a java-thing so as long as your browser supported running java applets, you’d be fine. Even us strange guys who prefer Linux. While I’m not a huge fan of java, this seemed to be a rather fine example of where using a java-applet was actually a pretty good idea to achieve functionality on a wide variety of platforms without too much work.

They ditched the java applet a while ago and switched to a browser plugin and native application instead, which then suddenly made them forced to write platform-specific code to achieve the same magic. And not too surprisingly, the Linux version was poorly made and is not supported and is left with a really complicated way to install it which no doubt will prevent every Linux-newbie out there from using BankID on Linux. Annoying and rude if you ask me.

Now, my bank (Skandiabanken) is about to switch to use BankID completely for their regular logins and I thought it was about time for me to start the fight with this under Linux and see what I will learn.

The install.sh script is written for Ubuntu (very poorly) and doesn’t work. Shame on you Nexus for that crap. I poked it and with some manual hands-on I could install the stuff properly. I can now head over to the official BankID site and it verifies that my installation works fine. Somehow it does however not allow me to “sign” anything because of some failure and here’s the “fun” part:

The only help and contact there is about BankID says “contact your bank” for support. My bank says they have no support and just drops the ball there.

I’m willing to offer my fixed version of the install script that will work better on more distros. I’m willing to work a bit on my own to fix this for Linux uses such as myself. But how the hack can I even fix the problems when nobody can answer any questions or provide any details on this system?

My Debian Black-out – the price of bleeding edge

Ok, I admit it. I run Debian Unstable so I know I deserve to get hit really bad at times when things turn really ugly. It is called unstable for a reason.

The other day I decided it was about time I did a dist-upgrade. When I did that, I got a remark that I better restart my gnome session as otherwise apps would crash. So I logged out and… I couldn’t login again. In fact, neither my keyboard nor mouse (both on USB) worked anymore! I sighed, and rebooted (for the first time in many months) only to find out that 1) it didn’t fix the problem, both input devices were still non-functional and perhaps even more important 2) the wifi network didn’t work either so I couldn’t login to it from one of my other computers either!

Related to this story is the fact that I’ve been running an older kernel, 2.6.26, since that was the last version that built my madwifi drivers correctly and kernels after that I was supposed to use ath5k for my Atheros card, but I’ve not been very successful with ath5k and thus remained using the latest kernel I had a fine madwifi for.

I rebooted again and tried a more recent kernel (2.6.30). Yeah, then the keyboard and mouse worked again, but the ath5k didn’t get the wifi up properly. I think I basically was just lacking the proper tools to check the wifi network and set the desired ssid etc, but without network that’s a bit of a pain. Also, when I logged in on my normal gnome setup, it mentioned a panel something being broken and logged me out again! 🙁

Grrr. Of course I could switch to my backup – my laptop – but it was still highly annoying to end up being locked out from your computer.

Today I bought myself 20 meter cat5e cable and made my desktop wired so I can reach the network with the existing setup, I dist-upgraded again (now at kernel 2.6.31) and when I tried to login it just worked. Phew. Back in business. I think I’ll leave myself with the cable connected now that I’ve done the job on that already.

The lesson? Eeeh… when things break, fix them!

Open Android Alliance

In the past: cyanogenmod made one of the most popular 3rd party Android ROMs for HTC devices. Personally I haven’t yet tried it on my Magic, but friends tell me it’s the ROM to use.Android

On September 24th 2009, Google sets their legal team on the ROM creator, asking him to stop distributing the parts of Android that aren’t open source but in fact are good old traditional closed source apps – made by Google. Cyanogen himself (Steve Kondik) responded something in the spirit that since the ROM only runs on hardware that already runs the apps users already have a license to use them. Google responded, saying they protect the Google Phone Experience.

This C&D act triggered a huge reaction in the Android communities as people suddenly became aware of the fact that A) parts of the Android core OS aren’t at all open (source) and B) Google is not the cuddly Teddy Bear we all want it to be.

In the xda-developers.com front, where a lot of the custom ROMs are being discussed and users of them hang out, they created the Open Android Alliance with the intent of creating a completely open source Android.

In another end and indepedently of the xda-developers it seems, lots of participants in the google group android-platform pretty much decided the same thing but they rather started out discussing exactly what would be needed to do and what code there is and so on.

Currently, both camps have been made aware of each other and there have been expressed intents of joining into a single effort. I don’ t think such subtleties matter much, but we just might see the beginning of a more open more free Android project getting started here. I’ll certainly be interested in seeing where this is going…

Updated: they now have their own domain. Link in article updated.