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Fri, 30 Apr 2010
Attending DORS/CLUC 2010 in Zagreb next week

I'm looking forward to attend DORS/CLUC 2010 in Zagreb/Croatia next week. DORS/CLUC is a small but nice event, with a group of very warm and welcoming organizers. I've been there a couple of times before and always had a very good time.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Linux-Kongress 2010: Call for Proposals closes soon

This years will mark the 17th incarnation of Linux Kongress. It is scheduled from September 21st through 24th in the city of Nürnberg (aka Nuremberg), which (as a personal side note) also happens to be the city where I was born and where I've grown up.

The Call for Proposals is out for quite some time, and will last for another month until June 1st. So if you have something exciting to talk about that is related to Linux and of technical nature: Please submit your proposal soon. Looking forward to listening to your presentation at LK2010 :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 29 Apr 2010
I'll be presenting at the SSTIC 2010 conference

I've been invited (as apparently the only non-french-speaker) to present at the SSTIC 2010 conference in Rennes/France.

There will be two presentations: One about OpenBSC, the other about OsmocomBB. Both will cover the use of the respective projects in the context of doing security analysis on a GSM protocol level.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

The mid-term future of WebOS seems safe

After HP announced its acquisition of Palm, I think we can be sure that the mid-time future of WebOS seems quite safe. I also expect mechanically much better hardware among the devices they will ship.

However, the acquisition could also mean a shift in politics, i.e. cause the new devices to be locked down with cryptographically signed kernel images. One of the big advantages of the existing Pre and Pixi is that they are not locked down and that as a user you can take full control over the device.

Another policy that might come under re-evaluation is the relationship between the WebOS Application Market and the third-party application installers like Preware.

Lets hope the managers responsible for WebOS future realize that their chance is to be less restrictive and more open than most of the competition - including most Android devices. At least, one could hope, HP has quite some experience with Linux and the Open Source community in other areas of their business.

[ /linux/mobile | permanent link ]

Sony faces class action lawsuit on removing the Linux support on PS3

As reported, a class action lawsuit has been filed against Sony in the US for removing the so-called Other OS feature from Playstation 3. The PS3 was originally advertised as being able to run Linux, and I know a number of people who have bought it for exactly that reason. Removing that feature after the purchase is thus significantly reducing the value of the product to many of its users.

I can only hope that this lawsuit will be successful. After I have bought a product, I own it and I decide what to do with it, not the original manufacturer. There have been somewhat related cases where Amazon removed already purchased books from the eBook readers of their customers. This is simply insane. With the ever growing power that corporations try to achieve over what their customers do or don't do, the outcome of this case might have significant importance for consumer rights in the decades to come.

[ /linux | permanent link ]

Wed, 28 Apr 2010
Chaosradio Express 151: ARM CPU Architecture (German)

I'm a bit late with this: The Chaosradio Express #151 podcast on the ARM CPU architecture has been released a week ago. I had a most pleasant experience spending about 90 minutes getting interviewed by Tim Pritlove.

I'm sorry for all the non-German-speakers. But Chaosradio Express is a German medium, made by and for German hackers :)

[ /ccc | permanent link ]

Tue, 27 Apr 2010
Working on GPRS support for OpenBSC again

This has been on my TODO list for at least the last six months or so: Growing the experimental GPRS branch of OpenBSC into something more useful.

Right now, you can use OpenBSC with a GPRS-capable BTS - but only if you have an existing SGSN to serve the Gb interface of the BTS. This somehow defeats the point. We want to offer a 'GSM network in a box' solution, where no other non-free Software is required to run a fully functional small network.

So right now I'm cleaning up the 08.16 (Network Services) Implementation, and will move my way up through the existing 08.18 (BSSGP) and LLC code that I wrote some time ago.

With some luck, in a couple of weeks we should be able to run a self-sufficient combined GSM + GPRS (+ EDGE) network out of OpenBSC.

[ /gsm | permanent link ]

Sat, 17 Apr 2010
Wikipedia discussion on deleting entry on David Miller

As you can see, Wikipedia has started a discussion on whether or not to remove the Wikipedia entry about DaveM

I think this is pretty hilarious. By now, the Linux kernel is probably running on hundreds of millions of CPUs on this planet, most of them connected to some kind of TCP/IP network. And whom do we have to thank for the quality and scalability of that TCP/IP stack inside Linux: David Miller. He's probably one of the longest-running maintainers of a subsystem that's as essential as the networking subsystem.

And this is just one of his many contributions. The SPARC and UltraSPARC port might not be as important today than they were some time ago, but they have been large contributions nonetheless. And then let's talk about operating vger.kernel.org, the central mailing list host running (among others) what is probably one of the worlds largest mailing lists: linux-kernel aka LKML.

If you think that David Miller is a notable person, then please go to this Wikipedia page and argue that his article should not be deleted.

[ /linux | permanent link ]

Thu, 15 Apr 2010
Becoming a licensee of the Open Invention Network

As has been announced publicly, my sole proprietor company hmw-consulting has become a member of the Open Invention Network.

If you don't know what OIN is about: It's an organization creating a defensive pool of patents that may be used to deter patent aggression against what they call the Linux Environment.

[ /linux | permanent link ]

New binary analysis tool for license compliance audits released

My friends at Loohuis Consulting and Opendawn have just announced the first public release of their novel binary analysis tool.

This is a modular (python) framework facilitating the audit of compiled object code. Using it, you can analyze executable code (programs/libraries) or entire filesystem images or even complete firmware images and search it for strings, symbol tables and the like. Using a corresponding knowledge base, it can match this information against information derived from software source code and thus give some indication of whether a particular source code seems to have been used to create the binary.

It doesn't do actual instruction-level analysis or any of that sort, but it can help to automatize some of the steps that a license compliance engineer so far had to do entirely manually.

Let's hope this is a successful launch and that the project will find contributors to grow beyond the initial feature-set.

Thanks to the nlnet foundation and the Linux Foundation for sponsoring this project. I'm sure it will soon become a vital tool in compliance engineering.

[ /linux/gpl-violations | permanent link ]

Wed, 14 Apr 2010
Paper: Anatomy of contemporary GSM cellphones

During the last days, I was working on an introductory paper on how a GSM cellphone actually works. It is titled Anatomy of contemporary GSM cellphone hardware and should provide a good technical text for anyone who generally is into technology and understands a bit about both software, computer architecture as well as radio, but who still feels like he has no clue what is actually happening inside the phone, particularly the hardware side.

The text does not cover the GSM protocols itself, as there is much more information available on this already.

Feel free to let me know what you think, I'm always happy to extend or clarify it based on your feedback. I hope some people find the text useful.

[ /gsm | permanent link ]

German regulatory authority spectrum auction fails achieving its goals

Right now as I am writing this, the German federal regulatory authority for networks (Bundesnetzagentur) is running an auction for many frequencies in the 800MHz, 1.8GHz, 2GHz and 2.6GHz spectrums.

Officially they claim that the purpose for those frequencies is to improve broadband coverage and close the white spots on Germany's map where no broadband Internet access coverage exists today.

And how do they think to achieve this? By giving nation-wide licenses on that spectrum to the existing cellphone operators.

That's nothing but a contradiction in terms. If they were really serious about closing the so-called white spots on the broadband coverage map, they should give licenses not on federal, not even on state but on municipality level.

The large operators have no interest in bringing coverage into areas that are only sparsely populated. They want to get the largest number of subscriber with the least investment in their (overpriced) infrastructure.

Only small, local or regional companies have an actual interest in improving the broadband coverage in their own region. They understand their local market, they are in contact with the population and regional businesses. They can use much cheaper equipment since they are not part of a large inflexible traditional operator.

However, without providing smaller-areas licenses in any part of the useful spectrum, the German regulatory authority fails to even give a chance to such small/regional companies.

It all smells like the regulatory officials have been bought by the existing carriers/operators. There seems no reasonable other explanation to me.

[ /politics | permanent link ]

Tue, 06 Apr 2010
Some more thoughts on the Yamaha TW-225

A Yamaha TW-225 is my motorbike in Taiwan. Although I often refer to it as my toy bike (compared to the BMW F650ST and FZ6 Fazer in Berlin), it has proven to be a very reliable bike.

Before I cam to Taiwan and bought it, I was used to ride the heavy BMW for almost a decade. Ever since driving school at the age of 16, I didn't ride a small/light bike again (at that time a Yamaha DT80). So initially I was skeptical about the TW-255. Sure, for getting from one place to another inside Taipei it is great. But what about riding further distances and/or in the mountains?

To my own surprise I actually think that it is an almost ideal bike for the conditions in Taiwan (at least those that I encountered so far). It is very light, so you can actually manually move it around easily - very important considering the parking conditions in Taipei. The small weight also means that you don't have to throw around much weight on mountain serpentines.

The engine with its 18 horsepowers is also surprisingly strong, even on steep mountain roads. On the other hands, the engine is not too strong, i.e. it is forgiving in case you make any mistakes. You certainly don't make a wheelie or get your rear tire to slide while accelerating. You also don't run into the danger of a rear wheel blocking when shifting down and being a bit too swift with the clutch.

You can almost do anything with (or to!) the bike and it will tolerate it. You can pull the throttle as you want, make mistakes while shifting gears and whatever else. I've experienced many less pleasant situations with my other bikes, but not with the TW-225 despite plenty of opportunity.

As opposed to the ever-so-popular scooters you have a manual gear, much bigger tires, different center of gravity, better suspension (think of potholes), ... - and most of the scooters also have a weaker engine anyways.

The only two weak points that I could find so far:

  • The brakes could be much more aggressive, saving important time when you have to do a full stop after some unexpected event in the traffic ahead.
  • The seat is ridiculous. I'm by no means tall with my 172cm, but I think the seat TW-225 seat is way too low for me. And god, is it uncomfortable. Not sure if it was designed with an Asian anatomy in mind (the TW-225 is officially selling only in Japan) and if it is less painful for Asians. But thinking of doing more/longer tours through Taiwan, I definitely need a different seat...

Having said this, I'm still looking forward to trying some of the high mountain roads like the central cross-country highway from Hualien to Taichung. Let's see how the carburetor will do once you get to around 3,000 meters of altitude..

[ /personal/taiwan | permanent link ]