Monthly Archives: June 2008

Flashcard reader on OpenBSD

I had bought a flashcard reader from HAMA USB 2.0 Card Reader 1000 & 1, where I did not find a good hint how to use in OpenBSD. Because GNOME on OpenBSD is not mounting automatically on insertion. But then yesterday I did a search on “difital camera openbsd” and found a link to “Digital Cameras with OpenBSD” (David Redhouse), which had some good hints. I plugged in the card reader and /var/log/messages spits out:

Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: umass0 at uhub0
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: port 1 configuration 1 interface 0 “Hama Card Reader” rev 2.00/96.02 addr 2
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: umass0: using SCSI over Bulk-Only
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: scsibus1 at umass0: 2 targets, initiator 0
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd0 at scsibus1 targ 1 lun 0: SCSI0 0/direct removable
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd0: drive offline
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd1 at scsibus1 targ 1 lun 1: SCSI0 0/direct removable
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd1: drive offline
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd2 at scsibus1 targ 1 lun 2: SCSI0 0/direct removable
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd2: 492MB, 62 cyl, 255 head, 63 sec, 512 bytes/sec, 1008640 sec total

Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd3 at scsibus1 targ 1 lun 3: SCSI0 0/direct removable
Jun 29 11:49:48 fish /bsd: sd3: drive offline
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: sd1(umass0:1:1): Check Condition (error 0x70) on opcode 0x1e
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: SENSE KEY: Not Ready
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: ASC/ASCQ: Medium Not Present
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: sd1(umass0:1:1): Check Condition (error 0x70) on opcode 0x0
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: SENSE KEY: Not Ready
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: ASC/ASCQ: Medium Not Present
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: sd1(umass0:1:1): Check Condition (error 0x70) on opcode 0x1e
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: SENSE KEY: Not Ready
Jun 29 11:53:12 fish /bsd: ASC/ASCQ: Medium Not Present

The part which has yellow background shows the one slot with the SD card. “sd2 ” means /dev/sd2. So given Davids hints you can try the following: First find or create a directory ($YOUR_DIRECTORY)you can mount the disk to – then do sudo /sbin/mount_msdos /dev/sd2i $YOUR_DIRECTORY. You should receive no message as usual, but if you do a simple mount you should get a list of your mounted devices now including a line containing /dev/sd2i. I have read that “i” is used for FAT (and as you should know most usb sticks and memory cards use FAT, still).

Just to mention: I have also found a hint to use mtools to copy files from those devices. mtools was used traditionally to copy files from or to DOS floppy disks. You might also want to check this out.

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Enabling epiphany as default browser in OpenBSD

I had the experience that on GNOME on OpenBSD strangely Firefox is started as default. This shoudl not be the case as Epiphany is the default. One way to set it is when you start “gconf-.editor” and browse to the section where you might alos find firefox:

and change it right away to “epiphany %s”. This is only a fix. I need to find out why this is set false. Maybe somebody thinks GNOME should have Firefox as default. I could not change the default behaviour when just setting it right in “Preferred Applications”.

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Flamed Fanboy ;)

I recently got flamed for this post on misc@openbsd list. Basically I was suggesting that Linux developers have stood up against binary blobs before the recent position statement of kernel hackers. In my post I made some quick statements that were wrong due to some assumptions. I often write about things that i did not check myself 100%. One could say this is silly, but I think that this is often naturally. How much of what is in the news did I check? I don’t have a problem of getting things wrong. I have often made false statements in the past. My way to learn is through discussion and feedback. If I just read random statements I often can not see what is true immediately. I believe a good debate with strong opinions is often better to clear things up as when you do not tell what you think and just be what I was accused to be: A fanboy. At least Wikipedia thinks that a fanboy is:

“an individual who is devoted to a single subject in a fanatical manner, or to a single point of view within that subject, often to the point where it is considered an obsession.”

I would rather describe me as the opposit. For instance I have advocated projects like Fedora, GNOME and Foresight in the past but always kept my critical distance and never feared to get the heat of an opposing view. One bad side of my personality is that I seem to encourage people to react heavily on my statements. So I think maybe often thats rather the style of argumenting. If I would be a fanboy, I would advocate OpenBSD only as my new hero – but that is inf act what I do not do. So funnily I think most of the posters that argue back are fanboys in the sense that they do not accept any positive of GNU/GPL. Maybe thats also because of the history. People like Stallman, which I also think has done a lot for promoting free software has bee arguing silly on the very same list just some months ago. Stallman has questioned the openness of OpenBSD which just cant be questioned. It should be clear that no OS is more open than OpenBSD and to suggest something different is rather FUD.

Those who read this blog know that I admire OpenBSD more and more, so to define me as a GNU fanboy is plain wrong. I may not have investigated the real facts behind the “openness” of the EeePC – that was my fault, but all posters would have to agree that the Linux hackers indeed have stood up. Maybe not strong enough and maybe its also true that signing the NDAs has really hurt the open source matter more deeply – but still not all developers have done this and to criticize somebody for being to weak or to have done something wrong is something different as if people did not try or if they would have bad intentions.

I think its good to debate openly what is the best way to reach the goal of open driver documentations. Personally I believe and this is were most OpenBSD developers STRONGLY disagree that there is more than one way to accomplish a goal. In the past I have been mobbed out of SecondLife LUG for demanding the opening of the client source code. That was when I learned that many Linuxers do not seem to value open source but take it for granted. I always like how Theo de Raadt openly demanded open documentation. I think the Linuxers have been too often too quiet. I think this might be because of a culture of benevolent dictatorship where Linus was leading with his approach of: “we do what works”. Linus is by far no free software advocate and thats a pitty because otherwise many drivers may have been more open than they are now.

I also think its important that Linux is being shown by other free OSes where it fails. my impression of Theos rant is that he got so emotional because he and many think that its unfair that Linux did get so much more media attention while in fact OpenBSD has the ‘better’ approach. I think it does, I am still learning, but I think that Linux really has some major failures. But its always a question how you see things. Sure Unix in itself is outdated – and Plan9 sure has driven the basic concepts to a more consequent point. What I dont like is the view that the fact of argumenting itself is seen as being offensive. I can accept that people get tired od some argumentation. I also am tired of some argumenting, for one I am tired of dogmatics that want you to be either foe or friend.

Sometimes I start thinking of why I am never convinced of a single concept and wish I would – but as soon as I learn more I begin to question what I just learned. I think thats the way you learn: Dont hide, speak out, learn – and try not repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Too many just echo the words of their leaders, thats easy. Everybody can echo – but only really understand what they are saying and only fewer do question what they say and think.

So again: I will never be anybodys fanboy, although I am advocating one or another project at a time. I am writing this here because it makes no sense to continue arguing in the thread, but it makes sense to share this experience.

PS: To those who think Theo is an idiot I would strongly disagree, he has founded and maintained a great project and he is still leading the open source community in very positive directions. Without him we would be missing a creat deal of energy and ideas. I rather like people who bluntly as those who keep their thoughts and act in the shadows. People who attac others openly give them the chance to react and to learn. I think Theo was much too emotional, but then again maybe he wouldnt do what he is doing if he wouldnt. I am often also emotional and this is what drives my own activism, though I try not to be too harsh with those unfamiliar with ideas of open source and anarchism.

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Software philosophy

I recently stumbled upon a statement mentioning that OpenBSD is living a developers culture meaning that they fix things for themselves ratherthan for an abstract user. I had to think about this for a while. I think this is not a really seldom approach in software projects but in fact quite common. I think one CAN handle things that way given that the software is really rather used inside a group of developers. This philosophy doesnt work though if the group of users and developers are not homogeneous. Like in the GNOME project. I would guess that only a few users are also developers.

I think what is good in that idea of developing for developers is that this is kind of a pure, direct action. Meaning people act that are concerned with a matter act in the way they want things to be solved. There seems to be only one problem: Not everybody can or will be a developer, this is due to division of labor. Also not everybody developer will cook his food, build his furniture, etc. etc. . So a “healthy” mix would include those who can not develop themselves, but agree to the general philosophy of a software project and help where they can (bug reports, design, whatever).

Distributions contain the seed to do just that. Apache is one great example for a software project which is made from webmasters  for webmasters. There is a great power in this idea. Why? Because the coders would understand better what they need and therefore also those who have that same problem would benefit. Thats why I think specialised distros like for musicians make perfect sense. The good thing about it is that you can then forget about any artificial marketing, because this in itself is a perfect economic an ethical marketing tool.

Where it starts to get complicated is when people who are rather unrelated to some general ideas or the specific distribution are using the provided tools. Some developers expect that they in fact do have the same knowledge or are willing to code in the same extension that they do and they often only accept the position that people are on the way on doing so. This sure can activate some users who are able to to such things. And also I think the general view of the average user that software is there to do what SHE wants and that its just the “job” of the developers to fulfill the requests is plain wrong. My analysis is that these ideas of developers comes from a “poisoned” software market environment – The Microsofts, the Nvidias, the Apples, the AOLs and many seem to have successfully implanted these believes:

  • A user does not need to care about software. The ideal is “It just works”
  • Software is THE SOLUTION of your problems given or sold to you.
  • From the software is expected that it has the user in its focus. A software which does not (yet) do what could be expected is not worth it.

In the open source movement you rather find those believes:

  • If you really want things to happen, do them yourself
  • The developers decide what goes in and what the general direction is chosen
  • Often it is believed that a benevolent dictatorship is best for a software project (like with Python, OpenBSD, Linux kernel)

One can see that these are rather opposing views of how things should get done. The mediation often is done by companies who employ hackers to implement some things that their customers want. I know many developers live of these – but this really deforms the software environment. I would put the actions of Nokia as an example of a company which is able to pay developers to do what they want and also to gain influence in the direction of a software project like GNOME. What happens is the power is transmitted from the heads of developers to the heads of a company – in fact neither the users nor the developers can decide the directions then any more.

One could despair and ask: Who should decide? Whats the solution? I think the best situation for most people is if those who are involved in either the software coding or the usage of software are also those who decide on what is going to happen next. Developers could say they only code for their own likes – but this could also just mean that nobody would like to use their software besides themselves. But then again it often is in the very core interest of a developer to see his software used.

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Pointers indicating Firefox security issues

I use this post to just list some hints how insecure Firefox can get:

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Gnomefiles.org and GNOME marketing

Eugenia from gnomefiles.org is ranting against gnome.org’s marketing and promises that were not fulfilled. I totally understand what was going on. The key problem is that most of GNOMEs activist do not care much about single applications or the GNOME desktop from the users experience. I have great respect for many developers that code Gtk apps, especially the guys from Gnumeric, Epiphany and Abiword. But there is actually no support. The focus in communication is too much developer centred. Maybe you like to go to www.gnome.org right now and look whats on:

  1. A big banner that says that GNOME 2.22 is out (thats cool)
  2. Hints about Google Summer of Code (developer stuff)
  3. GUADEC (developer stuff)
  4. GNOME Outreach Asia Accessability (developer stuff)
  5. GNOME Asia (developer stuff)
  6. What is GNOME? (thats cool)
  7. GNOME T-Shirts (thats cool)

I am not saying that GNOME should not talk to developers. But I think GNOME core developers dont read WGO (www.gnome.org). There are also two navigation bars that contain these topics: 1.) “News, Projects, Art, Support, Development, Community”, 2.) “About, Latest Release, Support, Contribute, Contact” . Its not clear why Support is visible in both bars and also its not obvious why what topic is visible in which navigation bar.

What we do not see is any news about what is going on every day in GNOME. I am not talking about GNOME Planets, but rather something from somebody who makes something out of the news. He could read some lists, the GNOME planet and announce some exciting news. Also a box for gnomefiles.org would not hurt. Why dont we have that or why arent things better? Much energy went into stopping the dynamics of a new GNOME website. But as I stated before I think the real problem is that there no one (left) that really wants the web pages to be better. It took many years till the very outdated GNOME Office pages (from 2004) finally were removed. GNOME said GNOME Office is dead – I never understood why they said that, nor did I understood why they thought hacking on Epiphany is superfluous. Both sections of GNOME have big players with OpenOffice.org and Firefox on their side. Strangely though Evolution is seen as a vital part, although there are also similar and good alternatives like Thunderbird. GNOME does not seem to have a clear strategy how to win more users – and so gnomefiles.org not being linkes is not the problem but just a symptom of much larger problems. The funny thing is that GNOME I fact has quite some points on their side against other desktops. But on the one hand a free desktop where everybody can do what he likes has one problem: Where are we heading? Whats the big picture? I think many at GNOME dont think its possible to have that – they rather focus on some exciting developments like the Online Desktop metaphor or the mobility thing – but both topics are not really going in the same direction – like “Online Desktop” is something that involves “always on”, while mobile devices are often disconnected. There are some  things like chat and mail that both will have, but thats not really something that gives us synergies.

Most of what I said sounds negative – so what would I propose GNOME to do next? Well I think one should define the path for the next 5 years. I dont mean that this has to be really it for these years, but a vision without a longer perspective does not sound like a vision to me. I would not try to define this in a small team – GNOME should ask the users! User involvement is important. GNOME talked a lot about different parts of the GNOME environment: The foundation, the distributions, the developers, but interestingly the users never were seen as part of GNOME. And its not done of one writes some nice page about howto get involved. It is important to actually talk to the users, take them seriously and not just make a quick poll. the live.gnome.org wiki can help with that. Until now there was not really a movement to involve users. Rather there is a developer aristocracy that is not willing to share thoughts. Funnily GNOME has GNOME planets which could be a part of a more open process – but I do not see anybody from the core GNOME leading some discussions about the general discussions. GNOME planet is mostly  about what single developers do every day. Some posts are seriously interesting and describe in detail what they do, but still the big picture is missing. Somebody would need to start this with some courage and take a few hits. But culture in GNOME seems to be to rather duck and communicate privately and so things keep the way they are. Sad, but true. Maybe Eugenias rant moves something.

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FF3 criticism part II

Some other things I like to critisize:

  1. This is a good thing: Actually FF now uses Epiphanys model of accessing (via “Smart Location bar” ) bookmarks – bookmarks, tags  and history are searched while you type. Also bookmarks now get tags instead that they are stored in folders. Whats funny about that is that this was one of the major reasons to use Epiphany – so now FF uses that, too – Whats bad about that? Nothing much, just want to mention that Epiphany had that since MANY years
  2. “Organic software”? WTF? One essence of open source software is not think your users are stupid. Firefox thinks people think organic food is nice and so they do want organic food for their computers. Well… its just nonsense, this kind of “microsoftic” “aollike” marketing. If you dont want smart people to use your browser tell us in clear words!

I must say maybe Epiphany was not able to continue its road of inventions and rather made solid new releasesm while some problems were still in place. But I still prefere Epiphany as it seems to me lightyears ahead in simplicity. And now that Mozilla does this promotional shit I have lost my last hope that Firefox might once be either unified with Epiphany or better than Epiphany.

I think one problem FF faces is FeatureCreep. I personally dont think fewer features are always good. But if software is build to get more features in it always gets messy.

Also read another criticism with another view: “What have I got against Firefox 3?” from Nanci Barthelmess

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