Archive for the ‘IMHO’ Category

GPL Your Children!

3 June 2014

Recently my family was discussing the working of patents at the kitchen table. Patents on ideas and objects made are to protect them from being used, copied or changed by others without you wanting or knowing. Besides, it’s your idea after all and people should pay you as the super smart inventor. When I entered the discussion trying to explain the benefits of using GPL, my status as ‘Linux Freak‘ was acknowledged. So far.

Next time I’d better use the LEGO metaphor.

Every weekend we lay on the floor building whatever comes to mind with LEGO. With over 40 years collecting we not only have a huge stack of pieces, but also I have a very rich experience in inventing and building vehicles, airplanes and even my own version of an R2D2 with rotating head and adjustable legs.

r2d2And every time me and my children are building they ask me whether they can

  • have the <device_name> I built to play with;
  • modify the <device_name> into something different / better / faster;
  • use parts of the <device_name> to fit to their inventions.

Being Open Source minded I like them using my invention to accumulate with theirs. Most of my LEGO builds are instantly GPL-led.

But what happens when I just say ‘No‘ to them changing the order, form or colour of my buildings blocks and ripping off any modules? Well, they quit playing with me because in their opinion I don’t foster their creativity. And they are right indeed.

Now the link to Open Source software, city planning, […] and education is obvious. We need to share to make things greater and with better fit for whatever human need. Not only in coding, but also in organizing things, building houses and in a spiritual sense. Thesis – Antithesis – Synthesis is practised with enough eyeballs makes things grow faster, with better fit and chase bugs away easier. Besides: we wouldn’t be able to travel though time if Einstein kept his Theory of Relativity all to himself.

But how do we convince our junior citizens and beginning coders to share their ideas or code and have them mix and accumulate with the inventions of others?

By just playing with them and sharing the mindset of the GPL.


Rooting my Droid

2 August 2013

Last May I defenately decided to root my Samsung Galaxy 4.2 WiFi. The good news is that it is running flawlessly since! Since buying the device rooting had my interest, but there was no real need to go on this journey. What if it didn’t work and I brick my favorite pocket computer? Could I go back do default? And for rooting: can I find the right images and instructions for rooting a not so much used Android?

After failing to update TalkBack I was definately determined to root my tool. “TalkBack is an Accessibility Service that helps blind and vision-impaired users interact with their devices more easily.” reading the GOOG playstore. It comes pre installed on the Galaxy and I never used it, I have excellent eyevision. But the update required deleting the previous version first before installing the fresh version. Some apps do, no problem. In the case of TalkBack however delete failed because as a Dumb End User of my Droid I had no permissions to delete system apps. For the least this permissions-policy would annoy me with Please-Update-TalkBack messages until the end of time.

On a more fundamental level IMHO Freedom of Choice is a right for all of us. I like to choose the tools I like in the way that suits me best, likewise on my Android. So away with GOOG restrictions on my privately owned pocked device.

How-To in a Human perspective

The technical How-To’s are provided in the links

But how to proceed? After all the Galaxy WiFi is not a very popular model and skilled coders let it be for a long time for the understandable reasons. Last May however I discovered that there were some posts on the xda-developers forum for the Samsung Galaxy Player 4.2. YESSS! I also looked for CyanogenMod for even more freedom, but with no succes on my Galaxy WiFi. Replicant is a parallel initiative.

Meanwhile I convinced myself that rooting my Droid was no different from trying and full use of Linux. Back in 2009 I discovered Linux but it took a while to convince myself that changing or modifying an operating system is quite safe. After all many people did it before and explore new worlds. I don’t say it always is easy, but in fact there are hardly any risks. Development is all about doing things a different way, otherwise you’ll stick up with the old (and often annoying) results. Reading all the right stuff, downloading the proper software and images and backup all your stuff you want to keep.

First I had do find out what version of the Galaxy I had on the table. Strangely enough I don’t own an International version but a North American one. Don’t ask me why these are regulary sold in the Netherlands. I only know some political reasons my country seems to be the 51st State ;-) International and North American devices have different ROM. The XDA forum provides both as well as the stock factoryfs ROM. So in case I didn’t like the result I was able to go back to ‘normal mode’.

Given Enough Eyeballs, Every Problem is Superficial

The International ‘rooting page’ on XDA has a well written how-to providing all neccesary steps. If you like to root your Droid be sute to read and double read these instructions until you know what you’re going to do!

To do the job I had to install ADB to connect and send commands to the Android from my Linux computer. Luckily I discovered a page that instructed only to install specific parts and not the entire set of Android Developer Tools ADT. Lots of this stuff you don’t need when only rooting your Droid. Now ADB told me to install Oracle Java instead of OpenJDK I use in Fedora. Freeing your Droid from GOOG only with the aid of proprietary software? IMHO both companies are kind’o crooky… Besides Java is and ongoing security risk. For the very same Java & Security reasons I use VirtualBox (you’re right, again Oracle) with Linux Mint. This provided an excellent platform to do all the neccesary ‘java-stuff’ in a relatively safe environment–which sands for: not affecting my main Fedora system.

Final part in rooting is flashing the ROM on my Samsung Galaxy. Where Odin is used in Windows environments to do the job, Heimdall is a cross platform alternative for Linux. In past years I more and more learned to appreciate command line operations, but Heimdall also has a graphical shell (which didn’t work for me so I gained full control with CLI). Heimdall was in the Fedora repository. The basic use for flashing with Odin or Heimdall are quite the same.

So far so good, I managed quite well to put the de-googelized ROM on my Droid. Final touch was restoring the WiFi files. It is a common problem that WiFi only works with the original files put back in place.

Up and running!

Now back to where all this fuzz started–to get rid of pre installed software. Although GOOG doesn’t provide us with default root access as common on proper operating systems, the playstore has plenty of apps to manage root functionality. Again this took some late night surfing to decide between the good, bad and ugly. Do I like this app? Why on earth does it want to control networks and camera–the usual suspicious questions. Rootappdelete made the difference for me. I found well written explanations of the working of this app. Great suggestion and feature of this app was first to freeze unwanted apps and see how your Droids performs. Freezing puts the app completely out of work, it only doesn’t delete it in case of trouble or regret. Rootappdelete also colorizes its advice wether it’s safe to put things away and when such can cause nasty problems.

For two and a half months I run my rooted Droid without any trouble. Most of the pre installed and adviced ‘safe to remove’ apps are taken out of order (some Samsung Smart View bluntly refuses). Thanks to the exellent work of hard(er) core coders I was able to change things the way that suits me best and regain my Digital Freedom. This really is something great: people sharing their knowledge, just because they can help others with it. Many Thanks!

There are noticabe less reminders to update things I don’t use and no more of the TalkBack-like issues. One of these days I will permanently delete the apps I put in the freezer to free some memory, also one of the big advantages of rooting. My rooted Droid now has the possibilities to connect to other computers in my home network. Fun–just because it is possible :-) Soon I’ll get this ssh-thing working to out of pocket (literally) and remotely kill these huge and bandwidth consuming media streams of my youngsters. Indeed, a rooted Android is all about getting back control ;-)

1 January 2013


Don’t be evil…

18 December 2010

These days this phrase is all over the place. Originally stated by one of the largest search engines, the warning in this motto seems to be true all over the Net and not only for these web-searchers…

First of all Leaking — I won’t use the W-word — is really hot. Recent Leaking issues IMHO show the real face of people and instances we have to deal with in everyday life. Of course some hidden agenda can be useful to reach your goals but when following such agenda makes you do things you say you want to fight there is something terribly wrong. Freedom seems to be a strange commodity…

One of the other evils of today is companies fighting each other. Especially on the mobile scene the big ones claim their rights in large numbers trying to obstruct competition in stead of making something useful and flashy. In this case large numbers points to the large numbers of companies as well as to the many things they claim to be theirs. Takeover and pull the plug without reason is also something strange under the Sun. Why do some have to be number one when they are already the biggest?

The last one for now — I don’t want to be grumpy — concerns the office that uses the above motto  most. Can it be trustworthy when one single company gathers all there is on the Net just to serve you? Can we trust someone who claims to take pictures of our streets but ‘accidentally’ collects our mails and passwords? And does it again? Maybe I should restate the motto to ‘don’t be Stupid’ to make you (yes, YOU) aware that this world has all too many experience with firms and larger bodies that know all about you and use it eventually for their purposes.

So my humble advice is Don’t be evil!

  • Share your ideas to build a better world together — if this is too hard you can start building good software this way;
  • Act responsible, be respectful to people with different thoughts — in fact they might enrich yours!
  • Don’t stay silent when things go wrong, help each other to improve this world.