Back when I was young, people were taught not to install or run
software from untrusted parties, very much like not to accept
candy from strangers, or not to let the Big Bad Wolf in.
Prevention is better than cure. Then came along application macros
and the World Wide Web of Execution, that embed software in data
files and web pages, respectively, so that it is automatically
executed when viewing the file or the web page. Such automatic
execution of untrusted software paved the way for plenty of
malicious software, from traditional trojan horses, that, standing
as desirable programs or data files, contain executable code that
grants malicious third parties control over the computer, to
stealthy cryptocoin miners in web pages, that spend users' compute
power to surreptitiously transfer wealth to third parties.
"CQD CQD SOS Titanic Position 41.44 N 50.24 W. Require immediate assistance. Come at once. We struck an iceberg. Sinking."
The Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s started a change in
society. Prior to that time, women were expected to get married, tend
to the house, and take care of the kids. Women with careers were few
and far between. Even fewer could expect to have a position of
authority in what was considered to be a man's world. While some
women worked low level jobs due to financial problems at home, the
idea of a woman pursuing a profession was generally scoffed at and
dismissed. (Sadly, this expectation persisted long after the 1960s
and is still prevalent in some places today.)
I began maintaining my APT repository for Linux-libre, graciously hosted by the Free Software Foundation Latin America, in September 2011.
Version 4.14 of the kernel named Linux was released today. One of
the changes is the removal of the in-kernel firmware subtree. This,
sadly, doesn't get rid of all of the proprietary software inside the
kernel but that wasn't really their goal anyway. It's really just a
cleaning up of something that wasn't being used anymore.
Digital technology seems to be everywhere. In the past, someone
might go to a library and check out a book to read. No one else could
check out that copy until it was returned. With digital technology
that's no longer an issue - there can be an inifinite number of copies
- enough for everyone to read - without waiting for a copy to be
Someone recently asked me "in what way the freedoms of the
readers/spectators/... of an artistic work are harmed if that work
cannot be commercially used?" This person is already supportive
of free software. I decided to put my response here.
Occasionally, entire print runs of publications, often thousands of
copies, are recalled from bookstores before the public can get their
hands on them. Sometimes the publishers do the recall after an
eleventh hour threat of legal action by a party citing potential
injury from alleged libelous or illegal content. Occasionally a
government agency prevents publication, claiming some breach of
secrecy or espionage laws. A famous example of this was the case in
England in the 1980's of the book Spycatcher by former MI5
secret service officer Peter Wright.
I've previously written about things that don't allow modification
(aka "derivative works".) This can be
implemented in various ways, among any license. One of them that has
one particular implementation of this is the GNU Free Documentation
License ("GFDL"), which calls them Invariant Sections. These sections
can't be modified (or even removed.)
Someone recently pointed me to Jonathan Riddell's blog post " In
Defence for Permissive Licences; KDE licence policy update."
This is not a happy time: My mother got her own Facebook account.
I'm not on Facebook. Or am I? I can just imagine what she might be
posting there. Information about her family, including tagging people
such as myself in pictures. As a result I'm not on Facebook and yet I
end up in Facebook anyway.
Dial-up is considered a very obsolete and rather unfavorable way to
connect to the internet simply due to its poor connection speed. Why
would anybody in their right mind choose dial-up when cable, DSL, and
other much faster internet connections are available? Not to mention
there were no computers produced in the last number of years with
dial-up modems in them. The modem issue is an easy fix: you can get an
external USB dial-up modem from ThinkPenguin.
There's also the problem of needing a landline phone connection -
another thing that's going the way of the dinosaur as more people
ditch wired phones in favor of cell phones. But even then, just having
a landline doesn't cost very much per month either, even if you choose
not to have a phone. That's the benefit of outdated
technology/communication: it's cheap!
Conservancy is trying to change to an individual-supported,
instead of corproate-supported, model and is doing a fundraising campaign
to that end. I'm a Supporter of them and wanted to say why.
I am sometimes asked how to convince somone to use free
software. This article comes at the request of someone on how to do
that well. (So yes - I do accept requests on topics. Please feel free
to contact me if you'd like to see something.) Doing that is not
always easy, and the best method and stragegy varies from case to case
but one thing that I think will always help is learning to argue.
Indeed, those that see me on IRC will sometimes see me trying to make
a good argument for a particular thing.
or as long as the libreCMC and LibreWRT projects have existed, their
core focus has been to bring Free Software to embedded devices, some
of which have WiFi chipsets. While the project(s) core goals have not
changed very much over the last few years, the landscape of WiFi
enabled devices has exploded.
discussion on IRC inspired me to write about the problems with
licenses that do not allow derivative works. The primary reason for
allowing derivative works is because creative works contribute to our
shared history and culture and rightly belong to the people of the
world once published. There's a whole separate argument to be made
there, which I won't do here. I'll just address the point that was
raised in support of not allowing derivative works: Avoiding
misrepresentation. The idea is that, if people can't change what you
wrote, they can't make it seem like you're saying something different.
This argument quickly falls apart when you examine it.
At LibrePlanet 2015, I agreed with someone
by saying "Make it so." One of my friends pointed out, "Your Trekkie
is showing." I've enjoyed Star Trek ever since I first watched it, due
to the underlying messages. Disguised as a futuristic science fiction
series, the classic Star Trek series boldly explored the issues
prevalent in the 1960s. This included the most heated issue of the
I've been self-hosted since 1999, and always push that option when
talking to people. I didn't always follow my own advice though and
made an exception for public source code repos I put on Gitorious. The
announcement of Gitorious's demise motivated me to change that policy
so that the rug can't be pulled out from under me again. I spent some
time reviewing options and wanted to share my own decisions and
Advertising has come a long way. With the advent
of the internet, it became a big money maker. However, this has lead
to a sinister turn of events where advertisers track people's progress
across the internet in order to gain insight and make even better ads.
To some extent this information is obtained through the use of
spyware. It is common for people to be completely unaware that their
privacy is being violated.
The United Stated Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a
trademark as "words, names, symbols, sounds, or colors that
distinguish goods and services from those manufactured or sold by
others and to indicate the source of the goods." This sounds easy
enough but it can sometimes be difficult to identfy all of the
trademarks someone might have. McDonald's is a good example: Its first
trademark registration was in 1961 but their giant yellow "M" was not
registered as a trademark until 1968.
It's been a few
months since the last time travel
expedition where I go dig up ancient game source code and then
pull it forward in time so it can be compiled and run on modern
systems, so I decided it was time for another.
I realized that I never made a blog post on this topic to share the work done on pulling a classic game forward into the modern world, so here it is.
Originally published about 30 years ago, Apogee
Software released the source code for Beyond The Titanic and a few
other titles under the GPL back in 2009 but they could only be run in
an emulator and couldn't be built from source on any modern system.
Here's an implementation
of version 1.3 of the Skein cryptographic hash function. (To aid in
pronunciation the name rhymes with rain and Spain.) It uses the reference
implementation provided by Bruce Schneier on his website.
Crowdfunding has become extremely popular over the
last few years. I suspect that most people wanting to start a
crowdfunding campaign think choosing a crowdfunding platform is a
simple task and decide to go ahead with the well-known options such as
Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, RocketHub, Crowdfunder, Crowd Supply, etc. All
of these and many others cater to a broad range of projects.
Kickstarter is perhaps the most recognizable of all and many people
have run successful crowdfunding campaigns there for music albums,
independent films, charities, software and lots of other things.
The publishing world has
always been somewhat ruthless on the aspirations of first time authors
looking to get their first book or novel printed and onto the shelves
of bookstores. The increasing interest in celebrity penned
autobiographies and popular fiction has grown especially during these
uncertain economic times. The advent of self-publishing gives authors
the opportunity to put the publishing process into their own hands,
but can be costly not to mention the time needed to market the
finished book. However crowdfunding offers authors the opportunity to
raise funds to meet the costs of getting the books published and
enable effective marketing through the power of social media.
I received a few requests to provide non-PAE kernels and I'm happy
to announce that they are now available. In case you don't know PAE is
a feature where 32-bit computers can access more than 4GB of memory.
Most modern CPUs support this but older computers don't necessarily do
and are incompatible with PAE-enabled kernels.
Although he tells me that he doesn't recall the exact date Rubén
Rodríguez started the Trisquel
GNU/Linux distribution in the Spring of 2004 which makes it ten
year old this year. I've been using it for about four of those years
now, when version 3.5 (codenamed Awen) was
released in 2010. Trisquel versions are named after Celtic gods.
The next release, version 7, is codenamed belenos after a Celtic sun god. A
shining release seems perfectly named to coincide with Trisquel's
predict that The Pirate Bay's announcement regarding their latest
project in development will change the way the war on sharing,
censorship, and surveillance is fought. Their new weapon won't end the
war, but it will force the enemy to abandon their traditional weapons.
Government censors, copyright maximalists, and the puppet ISPs that
collaborate with them will find it's going to be much more difficult
to restrict access to websites, stop people from sharing, and monitor
what they're up to.
The NSA has been in the news a lot lately,
and for all the wrong reasons. It shouldn't be surprising to anyone
that all of this is happening. It's been coming for years now and
anyone had the ability to see it coming, if they were careful enough
to pay attention. The question now becomes how to deal with it. It's a
complex problem and, like many complex problems, requires a
multi-pronged effort to address it.
announcement changes nothing about H.264. It's nothing more than a
desperate attempt at grabbing straws. H.264 still patent encumbered.
It's still problematic. Cisco doesn't even make an attempt to hide
that their motivation is nothing less than getting a patent-encumbered
codec selected for use in WebRTC. I urge everyone to ignore it and
continue pushing for codecs that are not encumbered with patent
A recent conversation
on identi.ca prompted me to share this. Instead of using a
password manager to store your passwords, this eliminates the need to
store passwords entirely.
reasons I have decided to retire my 1024D (SHA1) GPG keys. No attacks
are known on them, and they are not compromised in any way (if they
were, of course, I would immediately revoke them). Still, to be on the
safe side, I am transitioning to stronger RSA keys.
Back in December 2012, Richard Stallman wrote Ubuntu
Spyware: What to Do?. In it he criticized Canonical collecting
search queries from Ubuntu users. He rightly called that spyware.
This is definitely a thinking person's game!
Distantly related to the game
Mastermind, you are given clues to help determine a random number
combination. The object of the game is to guess the solution in as few
tries as possible. Statistically, even when you are unlucky, the
solution can be derived in no more than seven guesses with the default
settings. You can also change the game settings for greater
If numbers are to be believed,
millions of people share file with each other. Everyone's sharing
something these days, even the
major record labels, the
U.S. government, the
Vatican, and even the
Canadian police and government. In fact, research published by
Jean-Paul Van Belle at the University of Cape Town, South Africa said
that only 11% of respondents claimed to have never engaged in sharing
with their friends. Even the RIAA admits there's an
ocean of sharing going on and there's no end in sight.
Jeff was finishing up his undergraduate degree
in history at the University. It was difficult to obtain research
materials ever since the library closed. Chancellor Pankrat's
declaration that all published works were to forever exist only in
digital form and also be placed under perpetual and draconian
copyright restrictions led to the systematic closing of all lending
libraries, music conservatories, and bookbinding factories. Pankrat
was not a huge fan of history in general, unless it was his private
version of it. Whether they were books, music, movies or games, no one
could access them unless they were government sanctioned digital
copies encrypted for use with the Digital Restrictions Management
(DRM) system that was also mandated to be present on every electronic
device used by the public. Pankrat used to work for the largest
electronic book publisher in the world. This DRM system, not
coincidentally, was developed by that company.
COBOL programming language is one of the oldest computer languages in
existence, yet it's still widely used in extremely significant ways:
The average person on the street has nearly a hundred interactions per
week with things running COBOL. Even the New York Stock Exchange
currently uses numerous mainframe computers running COBOL programs
(although various efforts are presently underway to reduce that); and
the number of daily COBOL transactions made around the world each day
is actually greater than the number of hits all of the websites on the
usertracker.pl scans specified log files for information about
logged-in users and adds the list of logged users to a file. I had a
need to get this information for a system I was working on, couldn't
find a program that worked exactly like I wanted, and came to the
conclusion that it had to be made. I'm publishing it here just in case
it might be helpful to someone else some day.
I've been using computers my entire life. My
earliest memory of them involves a TRS-80 Model III while I was in
either the second or third grade. I remember that it had an orange
reset button in the upper right corner of the keyboard and that the
teacher had told us to never press it. I sometimes joked with my
classmates about pressing it but never did. Someone eventually did
Based on the
previous parts I'm going to assume that you have the hardware you want
to use for your server, have registered a domain name that is safe
from being be seized, know whether your ISP has assigned you a static
or dynamic IP address, and that if you're behind some type of device
that hands out private IP addresses to the computers in your home, you
have found the manual for your router so as to figure out how to
configure it to assign a static private IP address to your server and
open any ports htat may be needed.
I received a request to write something about why
you should use free firmware (so yes — I do accept requests for
topics) but firmware is really just software and the arguments I was
going to make apply equally to all software. However, for the purposes
of this article, I will focus on software in the form of firmware.
This is part four
of a series. I'm going to assume that you've already the previous
parts. If not they're linked to from the
archive. I'll continue with the same theme as last time: Your
I've written about copyright before explaining how, in
its default state, it's a restriction on society. In this I intend to
discuss the scope of copyright restrictions.
While not the only reason the former Soviet Union fell apart, samizdat certainly played a large role in this.
Citizens copied printed works of dissent and handed the papers out
to like-minded friends and others. Samizdat undermined the ability of
the repressive communist regime. While the crackdown on independent
thinking eventually proved unsuccessful, totalitarian governments
around the world continue to shut down independent thought and free
While sharing seems to be in the media spotlight far
more than ever before it is far from new. Without a doubt,
advancements in technology have certainly made it easier but humans
have been sharing with each other since the beginning of time. If
statistics are to be believed, more and more people are sharing with
A new computer system has come out: the Raspberry
Pi. It's a computer on a single circuit board. An all-in-one
processor, graphics card and memory cache slapped on a board with a
few I/O ports and a memory card slot. It won't win any design awards;
but then, it's not intended to.
reading about some new "promise"
that Microsoft supposedly made, but in reading the details I see it as
much ado about nothing. Here are the points they made:
You've got the
computer you're going to use as your server, you've got your copy of
Trisquel, you know why you're running your own server, and why it's
important to do that with with free software. Now what?
Why Run Your Own
There are lots of reasons why someone might want to run their own
server, but I think the important ones boil down to freedom, privacy,
and autonomy. If you're not sure why you should run your own server,
Eben Moglen does an excellent job of explaining why everyone should. I
recommend this recording to become familiar with the issues.
The Internet was
originally designed to be a peer-to-peer system where each person, or
peer, was free to share what ever information that they desired and it
was up to other peers to view it or not. In the original concept, each
node on the internet was designed to be its own server and the
information that was stored at another location could be accessed by
Copyleft is an idea. To understand it you first need to understand copyright.
Steve Jobs didn't invent the computer, or the cell phone, or the
portable music player, but he did help to make them popular. He wasn't
the first to use software to turn those devices into a jail, but he
was the first to make it cool to be in jail.
It seems that everything's going downhill in the
patent world: The free software community didn't get the result we
were hoping for out of the Bilski case, and the i4i case actually made
it harder to invalidate patents. The patent system is already such a
mess, and these court decisions only seem to make it worse, so I've
come to the conclusion that we need more patent trolls.
You may have heard of "free" software before. One common belief is
that it's free of cost. The majority of free software is available
without cost, but "free" really refers to freedom not
price. Specifically, the freedom to run, study, modify and distribute
Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets have
literally revolutionized the way many people in the world communicate.
But, is this communication really free? Can you expect that these
services will be up and running and that you'll be able to use them,
no matter the political climate of the time?
Copyright © 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 Jason Self. See license.shtml for license conditions. Please copy and share.