Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Free Society Conference and Nordic Summit (FSCONS 2010)

Just a note that the slides are available (non-slideshare link) for my presentation ”Tuning an old but free phone” (description) that I held in the tremendously great event FSCONS 2010. It could be described as a smaller scale FOSDEM, but that would be actually down-playing it since the free software effects on society are something that I've actually never seen elsewhere on such a scale. My talk was among the purely technical ones, though.

I was planning to hold on with this blog post until the recorded videos arrive, but since it seems it might not be during this year I will just post this now that slides are available.

I've shared a few photos as well at Flickr...

Keynote: Karin Kosina, The Inanna Project. A tech + art workshop for female artists in Damascus, Syria. An experiment in art, technology, and the transformative power of Free Hardware and Software.

Erik de Bruijn, The Future of RepRap, a self-replicating open source 3D printer that fabricates arbitrary objects including parts of itself.

Social event at the Berg 211.

Malin Nilsson on Gender, class and global flows. Using free software to fuel a revolution in home based industrial work.

Keynote: Glyn Moody, Ethics of Intellectual Monopolies.

Keynote: Glyn Moody, Ethics of Intellectual Monopolies (audience).

A few summaries available on a Qaiku seminar channel.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Openmoko Community Updates 2010-11-01

(many exciting news from this old project/community working on the "Free Your Phone" idea, so as an publisher of the update sharing via blog as well. FreeRunner still available at eg. http://www.pulster.de/engl/index.html and the improved "+" versions at http://www.handheld-linux.com/wiki.php?page=Neo%20Freerunner, if an old/slow hardware is enough for you when you know you can tweak it to your liking)
Period 2010-09-01 to 2010-10-31


Debian GNU/Linux

Debian is a universal operating system used on many embedded devices, servers and home computers. Using Debian on the FreeRunner gives access to the huge army of software packaged in the Debian repositories, already compiled for the Neo's ARM(v4) processor. Moreover, one can build one's own source files for programs without having to learn the OpenEmbedded way. For an existing Debian/Ubuntu user, choosing Debian for Neo FreeRunner makes phone a very familiar, trustworthy and flexible place to hack in.

General news:

Codename: 'sid'
Homepage: http://wiki.debian.org/DebianOnFreeRunner
Image: http://wiki.openmoko.org/wiki/Debian

Hardware Works
Neo 1973 yes
FreeRunner yes
HTC-Dream yes
Other yes


New Applications

aTrack 0.8

APRS tracker and communicator for mobile devices. It turns your Neo into bidirectional APRS unit and besides others it allows you to track your position, do text messaging, object creation or display stations around.

Homepage: http://atrack.googlecode.com/
Package: [1]
Tested on: SHR-Unstable

Application Updates

Gamerunner GnuBoy 0.8

A gameboy emulator which runs very nice, even with sound (sometimes it freezes, then you have to press the A button and everything is ok). You need the gamerunner distro or a gamepad to use it. Using frameskip to run smooth at 320*240 pixel. In second controll mode in gamerunner you can use savestates by pressing top right corne to save and left lower corner to load. Select is right lower corner.

Homepage: http://jlime.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=117&t=3005
Package: [nopacket no packet sorry]
Tested on: Gamerunner, QTMoko

FoxtrotGPS 1.0.0

FoxtrotGPS is an offshoot of Marcus Bauer's excellent Free & Open Source tangoGPS application, with a focus on cooperation and fostering community innovation. 1.0.0 announcement.

  • Gracefully recovering from gpsd shutting down
  • GPX routepoints support
  • Integration of distribution patches
  • Map tiles are displayed immediately after downloading
  • GeoRSS points can be imported as POIs (script)
  • Various other fixes and improvements
  • Since no feedback gotten from the sister project and some changes will not be imported, version number 1.0.0 was selected to show that there is divergence

Homepage: http://www.foxtrotgps.org/
Package: foxtrotgps
Tested on: Debian

General News

Most important and change making mails on the mailing lists, blogs etc.. Coolest hacks, screenshots, themes etc..


  • GPRS on FreeRunner is unstable? Too many connections hang the modem? Unfixable? NO MORE! Our magician lindi has conjured a tc (traffic control) command that makes the data flow more stable even under heavy load. Huge thanks! http://docs.openmoko.org/trac/ticket/2264#comment:21 (use the lower one for faster operation)


Spin-off Hardware Projects

Event News

  • 2010-10-12 Next "FYP.de / Openmoko Stammtisch" in Munich, Germany [2]
  • 2011-01-24 Mobile FOSS MiniConf at LCA2011 announced a call for papers that closes on Friday 22nd October 2010. So submit something about OpenMoko today!
  • 2011-02-05/06 FOSDEM 2011 calls for Main Speakers and Devrooms [3] that closes on Saturday 16th October 2010. So submit something about OpenMoko today!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Unboxing and Tinkering Dell Latitude 2110 with Ubuntu 9.10

This entry includes a few photos of my Dell Latitude 2110 which shipped with Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix. Mostly it's however a critical view on the software shipped. Critical simply because I investigate it quite closely to see how it could be improved especially when sold to end users in non-English countries in the future. The device itself is great, as is the Ubuntu shipped with it. The laptop has the 1.83GHz Atom N470 which is quite nice together with its integrated and battery saving graphics. I also chose 1366x768 resolution for the screen and 16GB SSD for storage. But anyway, this is not a review of any sort.

Currently Dell Latitude 2110 netbook is the only laptop available with Ubuntu in the Dell Finland's web store. A few others have specifications that list Ubuntu as a choice, but in the actual customization view there is no Ubuntu to be selected. So this is the only one, and also only for corporate customers - the web site even says "big companies". In reality though this is reflected in one and only place - there is a mandatory "Company" field in the order form. However, not even the company ID ("Y-tunnus") is required. I did use a company name there, but I wonder if they would care if one would just put "-" or "Ubuntu Finland" or anything there...

Software Observations

I boot it up, and was greeted first with a Dell EULA. Next up was familiar (Ubuntu 9.10 era) Ubuntu logo, white on black. Some churning and a set up wizard was presented:

It worked nicely otherwise, but even though I selected Finnish as the language, it first suggested US keyboard by default. This is in contrast to what normal Ubuntu installer does - offers Finnish keyboard as well.

After that the Ubuntu Netbook interface appeared, and I checked around a bit. Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix shipped with Latitude 2110 seems quite default. No extra repositories. Extra software however is installed, noticed by simply looking through Ubuntu menus: they include Dell Recovery Media creation tool, Citrix Receiver and Vmware View Client.

Digging a bit deeper, I checked the package selection with Synaptic. The reason there are no extra repositories is that packages are installed without repositories. The following packages were "local or obsolete" after refreshing the normal Ubuntu repositories:

- alsa-driver-hda-intel-dkms (git.20100301)
- dell-recovery
- realtek-rts-pstor-card-driver-dkms
- vmware-view-client

UPDATE Sep 01, 2010: Added link to dell-recovery (in Ubuntu repositories) and especially the SD card reader (GPLv2). Patched ALSA shouldn't be needed for anything in Ubuntu 10.04 LTS anymore, and vmware-view-client is available elsewhere. The non-free stuff below are a) not that interesting and b) non-free, potentially non-distributable.

- ctxusb
- icaclient
- libmotif4
- libmrm4
- libuil4
- libxm4

The great thing is that seemingly most of the customization is indeed done via packages. Great job with both that and correctly separating archive entries depending on whether the software is free or not. The packages themselves are located in the recovery partition of the hard drive.

Some more package observations:
- adobe-flashplugin is installed by default from Canonical partner repository (and the repository is enabled by default)
- besides it, no extra non-free software is installed, that is nothing from multiverse and only bcmwl-kernel-source from restricted
- also, nothing from universe

Language Problems

I didn't expect a fully Finnish laptop since the language of Ubuntu couldn't be selected when customizing the order, and I didn't get one. It's clear there is no effort yet put to actual localized offerings, but still it was possible to choose (any) language with the first boot of Latitude 2110.

Language problems are quite ok at this point since the device is not being sold as a localized home user product yet. Nevertheless, it's good to list issues that need to be fixed before localized devices can be sold. At least in Finnish, dunno how's the state of for example Inspiron 10 devices shipped in Germany and elsewhere to also end users via web.

Number two problem regarding languages software was (number one being the wrong suggested keyboard) that full Finnish support was not offered to be installed (and it wasn't installed by default). Since the selection of language was possible during first run, suggesting download of or automatically downloading language support should be done. Normal Ubuntu does it also in Ubuntu 9.10 just nicely also in the cases that installation is done without Internet connection / full language support, so somehow Dell has unfortunately disabled that feature or not allowing it to run. The hook that checks the language support and shows a message is included in language-selector, the message itself in file /usr/share/language-support/incomplete-language-support-gnome.note.

I ran Language Selector manually, which fixed the problem and indeed works fine nowadays in Ubuntu. However, I also noticed that in Language Selector "For my menus and windows, use" had "English (United States)" selected, so only the second item had Finnish selected. It seems therefore that the setting up of the language during setup wizard doesn't do a complete job anyway for the new user created at least. Only after selecting it manually did the language tool correctly download and enable all the needed support for my language.

The Only Big Problem (...that was fixed)

Now for the only big WTF during my tinkering:

/etc/apt/apt.conf.d/00secure containing lines:

APT::Get::AllowUnauthenticated "true";
Aptitude::CmdLine::Ignore-Trust-Violations "true";

This simply leads to eg. synaptic package manager complaining about all upgrades being unauthenticated, and elsewhere possible well needed warnings are simply not shown. I have no idea what's the basis for shipping this kind of security hindering settings with the laptop.

UPDATE: This was later fixed in Ubuntu as a security issue, see CVE-2010-0834.

What Next

After these observations and being quite happy with a laptop that has Ubuntu straight out-of-the-box (which also saved 80€ of money + taxes compared to default OS), I created a recovery ISO image with Dell's tools and then I let Update Manager upgrade Ubuntu to 10.04.

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS was smooth enough already, but I also upgraded latest Intel graphics drivers from xorg-edgers. My only irritation is the Broadcom WLAN driver 'wl'. It works just fine in 10.04 LTS. The irritation is the amount of battery eating wakeups it generates even when there is no traffic going on. AFAIK it's a non-free driver from the vendor, and once again it's one of those that works in principle but is miles from being a well behaving kernel driver. It seems the free b43 driver does not support the BCM43224 chipset (14e4:4353) yet, so unfortunately I'm currently stuck with this driver. Luckily the laptop (and Ubuntu) is otherwise so great on using power, that I still get 5+ hours of battery usage at least (haven't measured much yet).

I'm very happy with what Dell is doing. I do hope the consumer sales would soar (and become available in Finland in the first place via the consumer retail channels there already exist). I also hope the language support bugs would be fixed - it's not tremendously hard, I could probably fix and test all the problems myself if I'd be given the task. Maybe the new Ubuntu 10.04 LTS offerings will already have some of it working better. All in all the Dell Latitude 2110 with Ubuntu 9.10 Netbook Remix was a problem-free ride, and had I simply used it in English it would have worked out-of-the-box smooth as butter.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 LTS release fest in Tampere, Finland

The main release party in Finland was held at Tampere, Finland and organized by Ixonos Plc and COSS. It was a great success, as proven by the almost 200 participants and great speakers.

The first sessions were mostly about the basics of Ubuntu and its roots in Debian and elsewhere. Then Tuure Vartiainen from Tampere University of Technology shared with us the release from the official Finnish mirror perspective (fi.archive.ubuntu.com, fi.releases.ubuntu.com, ...). 10.04 LTS release date was very hectic and the transfer speeds were not constantly optimal, but quite good anyway. For 10.10 they hope to up the network connectivity to 10G. I also took the opportunity to thank him later personally for the Ubuntu Finnish Remix mirroring which was arranged right before the release as well.

The next-to-final session was about Ubuntu for senior people with brief demoing of how Ubuntu UI can be customized. To give a little different perspective to usage of Ubuntu, the final speaker was a theater director and dramatist Jotaarkka Pennanen from Interactive Film Productions. Blender among else was praised.

In addition to speakers, we had 300 Ubuntu Finnish Remix CD:s, Ubuntu posters, Free Software Foundation Europe flyers, COSS flyers et cetera. After the main program there was a dinner and some wine offered to participants, which was a great social ending to the event.

Now a few photos follow. Unfortunately they are from before the event actually began, so others have probably more crowded photos and photos of the speakers themselves.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ubuntu 10.04 and 3G modems – usb-modeswitch or not?

I'm writing a blog entry instead of just replying to myself on a mailing list, since this subject might be interesting to a largish portion of the community. Most people assume things just magically work out by themselves and then after a release wonder why it wasn't so.

So, I raised a question on ubuntu-devel-discuss mailing list about whether usb-modeswitch should be included in the default Ubuntu 10.04 LTS installation instead of it only being in the universe repository. Reason was simply that firstly, I've read some general wonderings from the community about why it isn't already so. Secondly, without it my 3G modem (Huawei E1552) was first not functional, but right after installing usb-modeswitch package Network Manager worked smoothly with it.

Since I didn't get much discussion going on besides some statements that it doesn't work for everybody and even has caused extra problems for some others (in 9.10), I asked for a small round of comments on the subject on IRC. The channels are logged so I believe I can quote those a bit.

Colin Watson said among else:
"surely we just want the kernel to DTRT [do the right thing] by default ... this is the upstream trend ... it already DTRT for quite a few devices"
"I'd be very concerned about advertising that it's the Way to get things to work, and thus undermining getting things fixed in the kernel"
"I agree that usb-modeswitch is often a way to get otherwise non-working hardware to work ... I'm just not very convinced it's a real properly supportable option"
"but I'm just another user from this point of view, albeit one who ended up in quite a few discussions with various appropriate upstreams last time round :)"
Later on Paul Sladen continued a bit, among else:
"usb-modeswitch is a very long-winded way of sending a single usb-mass-storage command to the device's first profile"
"grep -hr MessageContent usb_modeswitch.d/ | sort -n | uniq -c | sort -rn shows the level of duplication in the configuration files"
"...I do like that it is done in userspace though, as so easy to disable if you wanted something else".
Meanwhile I also IM:d a bit with Antti Kaijanmäki from whom I probably originally coined the idea of following whether usb-modeswitch is integrated into Ubuntu or not. He mainly said that he doubts the feasibility of updating kernel's USB storage quirks in a stable release, compared to having stable release upgrades about the usb-modeswitch-data udev rules. He also proposed discussing maintainability and usability by distros with the Debian maintainer and upstream, although it sounds like Colin might have had some talks already.

So there we are now. Apparently at this point it is hoped that as many quirks as possible are inserted in the kernel, see for example drivers/usb/storage/unusual_devs.h in the kernel. But if you have concerns about if 10.04 LTS will be kept up-to-date regarding 3G modems and want to somehow participate in bringing usb-modeswitch into Ubuntu default installation or simply discuss how to handle the kernel SRUs properly, it's time to stand up and do something.

Should there perhaps be a process with which the usb-modeswitch developers would get the information they are gathering more easily to the upstream kernel _and_ (older) distribution kernels? Is this simply a case of being easier to address an issue with a "hackish" approach, or is the usb-modeswitch actually the right way to go?

Note that I'm no expert in this area, I simply become interested in various subject from time to time :)

-Timo, going to figure out a kernel quirk for his 3G modem

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Neo FreeRunner "A7+" now available

Thanks to Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller's efforts, a new "A7+" version of the world's only 100% free software (and even free hardware design, leading to further community development) phone, Neo FreeRunner, is available for sale at www.handheld-linux.com for 299€! New in this hardware version is prolonged battery life, due to a fix applied to the famous "#1024" bug. Now you should have theoretically about 5 days time suspended, but that's of course only if you don't actually do anything with this phone-computer.

In other news, despite the fact or because Openmoko Inc. has ceased its development efforts for now at least, concentrating on the WikiReader to recover from the economic problems, community finally questioned the reasoning behind some of the Linux kernel debug configuration in the official Openmoko kernel branch. Results? Speedup of certain kernel operations in the range of 2x to 5x! In practice that means Neo isn't actually anymore the sluggish device you used to get to know with. Of course it's not top of the line by any means, but being the only Free phone available on the market still, more free than most full-size computers in fact, it's a quite nice improvement to eg. boot time, application start up time et cetera. I merely was a messenger of these news from the kernel mailing list to the community, but I also provided a readily compiled kernel which I use in Debian and which seems to works for others as well (until their distributions package it up).

Over 1,5 years after launch of the FreeRunner, and even more since the original Neo 1973, the software is getting better all the time. The pace is slow, as is the case with any free/open project with limited community-only resources, but the best thing is that it never has to stop. A lot of the middleware, applications and so on will make it to future phones as well. Things like Intone music player, TangoGPS and literki keyboard might be nice little finger-usable applications in the future as well.

So, if you can manage without 3G and want to still have an unique mobile computer experience with basic phone functionality, running for example Debian for the "familiar experience" if you use Debian or Ubuntu on your other computers, it's still not too late to catch it. It seems we're still a couple of years away from any next effort of such level of freedom. I'm making through it by having bought a 59€ 3G modem for the more serious data needs. I'm still also thinking about a privoxy setup on my home server that would clean up and compress pages even via Neo's GPRS connection.