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Mon, 04 Feb 2013
Back from FOSDEM 2013

As (almost) every year, I attended the annual incarnation of FOSDEM. It is undoubtedly (one of?) the most remarkable events about Free Software in existence. No registration, no fees, 24 tracks in parallel, an estimated 5000 number of attendees. I also like that it brings together people from so many different communities, not _just_ the Linux or Gnome or KDE or Telephony or Legal people, but a good mixture of everything.

I have to congratulate the organizers, who manage to pull this off, year after year again. And as opposed to many other events, they do so quietly and without much recognition, I feel. I'd also like to thank the many volunteers working tirelessly before, at and after the event. Last, but not least, I'd like to thank the local university (ULB Solbosch) hosting the event.

What made me truly sad though, is the amount of littering that surprisingly many of the attendees did. This was particularly visible in the Cafeteria. Imagine an event run by volunteers, who put in a lot of time and effort. Imagine an event where food and drinks are sold by volunteers at such low prices that there can barely be any profit at all. And then imagine people eating there and leaving all their rubbish around, as if they were in some kind of restaurant where they are being served and where somebody is cleaning up after them. It really makes me feel very bitter to see this. Don't people realize that those very volunteers who are creating the event will then have to put in _their_ spare time just because those who just enjoyed their coffee or lunch didn't have the extra 30 seconds of bringing their trash to the trashcan? I feel ashamed for members of our community who behave this way. Please think next time before acting and show your respect to the people behind FOSDEM.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Tue, 08 Nov 2011
Some thoughts on the Erlang User Conference 2011

It seems I'm really getting too lazy to update this blog more frequently, which is a pity. Last week I was in Stockholm attending the Erlang User Conference 2011. This was the first Erlang conference I ever went to, and it was the first conference in many, many years where I was not speaking but merely a normal attendee.

Some of the readers of this blog will already have noticed my microblogging updates on identi.ca and Twitter that I made during the conference. They were not overly excited about the conference. Let me write some more details here. I have no idea how many technical conferences I have attended, but I am typically speaking at something like 10 to 14 every year, which I believe qualifies me as a "professional conference participant" ;)

Let me start with some positive feedback: There have been excellent and technical presentations, particularly by Kostis Sagonas (PropEr), Melinda Toth (Change impact analysis) and also the talk on Hashes/Frames/Structs as new built-in Erlang data types by Kenneth Lundin.

However, apart from those, i have quite a bit of criticism:

  • Some presentations ended way ahead of their schedule.
    This is a pity, as it means that some hundred-odd highly paid software developers are then sitting in a room and wasting time. If you hold a presentation at a conference, you should make sure that this time is used in the most efficient way. If you have been allocated a 45 minute slot, please don't make a 15 minute presentation + 5 minute questions session. That's not what the audience expects!
  • Keynote presentation by Ulf Wiger contained lots of hot air
    If I go to a technical conference aimed at Erlang users (i.e. software developers who write programs using the Erlang language, libraries and runtime system), then I expect it to be loaded with brilliant, technical content. I want to get excited about new developments, Erlang software projects, etc. The last thing that I'd want is having a real Erlang guru on stage talking about superficial, trivial aspects of embedded computing. Of course I respect the commercial decision of Ulf and/or Erlang Solutions to try to create a market for Erlang in the embedded sphere. But what is the technical relevance of this to the Erlang community? Ulf did not talk about great new schemes of optimizing the Erlang VM for battery-powered CPUs, or how he has extended powertop to give function or line-level accuracy on which of your Erlang code lines burn most CPU cycles or cause the highest number of CPU wake-ups from low power mode. That would have been exciting.
  • Erlang/OTP Road-map presentation without much technical details
    When I see a slide with "Some SCTP improvements" then I want to see what exactly are those improvements. I think there was more than enough time to go into more details, if Kenneth would have spoken faster and put more content into the available time. Once again, the audience is a room full of intelligent, highly-paid professional software engineers. If you get their attention for whatever amount of time, I believe you should pack it as full with information as possible, rather than bore them with slowly and carefully reading each line from a slide...
  • No Internet available at the Tutorials
    Can you believe it? In 2011, a technical conference aimed at software developers hosts tutorials inside a facility owned by one of the largest communications equipment suppliers (Ericsson) and then there is no provision for Internet access. It's really ironic, especially since at least some of the tutorial trainers expected the attendees would be able to clone git repositories on their laptops during the workshops.

In my hallway conversations with other attendees (who also have a background outside of Erlang and are more familiar with other conferences in the FOSS community), they independently observed those very same issues and agreed with my assessment.

All in all, the conference was a good trigger for me to finally sit down and start to use dialyzer on the various Osmcoom Erlang-language projects such as osmo_ss7, osmo_sscp and signerl. I'm already adding type specifications all over the code and am looking forward to soon starting with some PropEr test cases in the next couple of days.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sat, 15 Oct 2011
FOSS.in is dead, PRODUCTISE.in lives

Team FOSS.in has announced lest year that the successful series of FOSS.in conferences has concluded. I'm still a bit sad that I was unable to make it to the grand finale.

But now, the very same team announces a new event called PRODUCTISE.in, with a different focus. It's not about Free and Open Source Software anymore, but about product developers - where the respective products of course could be FOSS based.

I remain curios to see what will happen to the event. Everyone who knows me knows that I'm probably a slightly pragmatic but otherwise orthodox Free Software fellow. As far as I can tell, the only proprietary software that I use (and license) in more than a decade is IDA Advanced.

But in any case, all the best to Team FOSS.in with their latest endeavour!

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 02 May 2011
Jounrees Logiciels Libres / ENSA Tetouan, Morocco

I've been invited to Tetouan, Morocco by the organizers of the second incarnation of the Journees Logiciels Libres. Tomorrow I'll have the pleasure of presenting about Free Software projects related to GSM, including OpenBSC and OsmocomBB.

The organizers have done a great job in caring about the foreign speakers (who include Richard Stallman and myself).

I've been listening to various talks by RMS RMS over the last 16 years or so... but right now I'm listening the first time to him giving a French presentation.

Overall, this trip has done more to improving my understanding French than anything else in a long time. I once had 4 years of French from 1st to 4th grade in school, but never really continued with it. However, what I remember, combined with my knowledge of Portuguese (and even English) is sufficient to e.g. understand all of the French language slides that have been presented at this conference. However, most spoken French is too hard to understand for me.

One striking observation is the apparently much higher percentage of women taking a communications or computer engineering degree here than what I'm used to in Germany or the so-called western world. It reminds me of India where you have the feeling that almost 50% of the IT related students are female. It would still be interesting to see some scientific research why the supposedly open and anti-discriminating, women-rights-embracing 'western world' is seeing less women taking up engineering studies...

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 29 Nov 2010
Back from DeepSec 2010

I'm back from Vienna where I attended a very exciting DeepSec 2010 conference. This years focus was clearly on mobile security: The GSM security workshop by Karsten Nohl and me, the various talks like All your baseband are belong to us by Ralf-Phillip Weinmann, a talk on Android security auditing / forensics and much more.

In a few days, I'll be leaving for Taipei/Taiwan again. Apart from the one-day GPL compliance engineering course together with Armijn, there will be a number of meetings with various companies - both GPL as well as GSM/3G related.

It will be great to be back to Taipei - unfortunately only for 10 days, which is a real pity. I still miss it a lot.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sun, 07 Nov 2010
Hashdays 2010 in Lucerne, Switzerland

The last couple of days I've been at #days 2010 in Lucerne / Switzerland. It was the first incarnation of this new IT security conference.

The conference went great, and I think the close-to-200 attendees were a great turnout for the first incarnation of an event. The talks were excellent, as was the delicious food that was served by the Radisson Blu hotel.

The GSM security workshop that David, Karsten and myself held over Wednesday and Thursday was attended by only 7 people, but we had some very lively discussions, particularly with some folks who were working for a GSM operator :)

Most notable about the event is the electronic conference badge, which was developed and produced with a lot of enthusiasm and numerous hours. To be honest, I think I would not have spent that much time on creating this. I mean, developing this type of gimmick is interesting, but then actually manually manufacturing it, without using a SMT line of any sorts - I wouldn't have done that 'just' for a badge. Respects to the team behind that. Hopefully the source code will still get released.

We were also running an experimental GSM + GPRS/EDGE network based on OpenBSC, OsmoSGSN and OpenGGSN, enabling users to run port scans and the like against the carrier-facing side of the IP stack of their own devices. While running this network, I discovered a number of new bugs, mostly in the GPRS stacks of various handsets.

At least one model of Blackberry seems to ignore the MS identity cannot be derived from the network cause of a Routing Area Update Reject message, which we send in case the TLLI of the messages from the phone is unknown. I would expect it to come back with a GPRS Attach Request, but it never does. All it does is to keep re-trying Routing Area Update

The other funny observation is: Several phones, including some iPhone models, react in a strange way if you REJECT them from the GSM network but ACCEPT them on GPRS (Assuming Network Mode of Operation III). They then seem to be perfectly happy with this connection, but will only supply data services and no voice service.

Getting back to the conference, though: The Radisson Blu is an quite costly, upscale hotel. I was really surprised by the type and number of small mistakes they made, particularly with the catering. One day they forget to put the sour cream next to the potatoes - despite a written sign indicating that they are supposed to be with sour cream. Another day they serve some mousse as desert, but there are no spoons placed at the desert buffet. Furthermore, the number of tables they provided during lunch time was always insufficient for the number of people who had lunch. The quantity of food was more than sufficient, though - indicating that it was not a problem of them not knowing the number of people who were eating.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Wed, 27 Oct 2010
The ELCE 2010 keynote by Ari Rauch (Texas Instruments / OMAP)

I've just attended the ELCE 2010 keynote by Ari Rauch, where he was talking about how much TI OMAP is committed to Linux. This doesn't really come as a big surprise to me. The OMAP SoCs are used mostly as Application Processors for smart phones. As TI is not a supplier of APs for Apple, Symbian and Windows Mobile are dead, this really only leaves Linux-based operating systems like Android, Meego, LiMo & co.

One of his main points was we have to be pragmatic, i.e. the customer requirements for performance etc. are key. If there is an open way to fulfill them: fine. If not: fine, too.

The only real question that was asked after the keynote was the usual question of whether there will be any Free/Open graphics drivers for the Imagination GPU thats inside their OMAP3/OMAP4 SoCs. I already predicted the response: We have to be pragmatic about it. TI is trying to convince Imagination to open up, but they are afraid of doing so and don't see what this would gain them.

He further added the statement if there is a competitive more open GPU, they will look into using it.

The other bad taste I got from this keynote is the frequent mention of the industry embracing innovation provided by the FOSS community. Embracing was the very term that Microsoft always used when they started to create their custom versions/dialects of HTML, Kerberos and other standards.

The think that seemed to be missing is any awareness for the sharing attitude: I.e. the industry using the innovations that the community creates, but giving back an equal amount, or at least opening up in response. This cannot be a one-way road where the industry simply taps into the creative potential of the community, to create closed products and profit from stuff they have simply scraped off the community backyard.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

ST-Ericsson glues gstreamer into Android - and makes it proprietary

It is always surprising what kind of things the industry is coming up with ;)

Here at ELCE, ST-Ericsson has just presented how they replaced OpenCore with gstreamer as the supplier/provider of multimedia encoding/decoding to the Android software stack.

This is definitely an interesting technical solution - probably one that makes sense if you have existing gstreamer modules/drivers.

What really makes me wonder though, is their licensing. To make sure only ST-Ericsson customers can use it, they have implemented a glue layer library that ties into android, and this library is binary-only licensed and distributed under terms that permit to use it together with their hardware.

Isn't it strange? Now the Android software stack is Free Software, and gstreamer is Free Software. But ST-Ericsson needs to put some proprietary blob in the middle. Of course, legally they are allowed to do it: Android is Apache-style licensed and gstreamer is LGPL. But from a moral/ethical/technical point of view, it still is blasphemy to me.

UPDATE: The license is actually a 'standard' proprietary license. There seem to be technical reasons that tie this code to the specific SoC of ST-Ericsson. Nonetheless, I keep my original criticism: It has a bad aftertaste if you combine two FOSS programs by a proprietary layer in between

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sat, 09 Oct 2010
FOSS.in/2010 CfP is closing

I just want to point out: If you haven't yet submitted a proposal for FOSS.in/2010, the FOSS.in/2010 Call for Participation is closing in less than 48 hours!

This means you still have a chance to submit a talk, workout or BoF on your personal FOSS, hacking or otherwise technology related work and actively participate in the event.

FOSS.in is an excellent chance to spread the word about what technical work you have been doing, and to motivate others to participate and join your projects. It's a great opportunity to reach out to the Indian FOSS community, meet old friends and make new ones. Don't miss it :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 23 Sep 2010
Linux Kongress 2010 in Nuremberg / Germany

Yesterday night I took the train down to Nuremberg, where Linux Kongress 2010 is taking place. It's always nice to meet old friends and colleagues there, including Arnaldo Carvalho de Melo, Patrick McHardy, Lars Marowsky-Bree, Jon Corbet, Jos Vos, Heinz Mauelshagen, Dhaval Giani, Lennart Poettering and many more...

Being on the programme committee might make me biased, but I really think that there is a very impressive talk schedule. What makes me a bit sad is the relatively small audience. I don't know the numbers, but it definitely feels like the lecture halls could hold many more attendees.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sat, 07 Aug 2010
On my way to Taiwan for COSCUP

Tomorrow early morning I'll be on my way to Tapei/Taiwan. The main reason for this trip is the invitation to speak at [ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 08 Jul 2010
COSCUP 2010 conference schedule has been posted

The Schedule of the COSCUP 2010 conference has been posted on the conference homepage. I'm happy to see such a large number of talks from a wide range of speakers - including many friends from my time in Taiwan a couple of years back for Openmoko...

As it seems from this chinese blog entry, the organizers were overwhelmed by the number of attendee registrations, with all 610 available seats being occupied within 85 minutes of opening the registration. It seems they are in need of a bigger venue next year ;)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 31 May 2010
The Linux-Kongress 2010 CfP is about to close

The Linux-Kongress 2010 Call for Proposals is about to close.

So if you have anything interesting related to Linux that you would like to talk about at the 2010 incarnation of one of the most traditional Linux conferences, this is your last chance. There is no excuse, do it right now!

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 20 May 2010
I'll be presenting at COSCUP 2010 in Taiwan

I have just received the great news that my attendance of the COSCUP 2010 conference in Taiwan is now confirmed. Thanks to COSCUP for inviting me!

I'll be participating in the legal track and presenting on GPL license compliance. The exact title and abstract is not yet decided.

As usual, I'm really looking forward at any chance to visit Taiwan, and the trip this August is definitely no exception. Now I only need to decide how long I'm going to stay before/after the conference...

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

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 ]

Wed, 02 Dec 2009
FOSS.in/2009 has started

I've arrived in India to attend FOSS.in/2009 in Bangalore. It's always great to be here and get in touch with Indian Free Software developers.

Unfortunately I'm suffering from lack of sleep during the flight and jetlag, so I had to miss large parts of the first day of the event :(

My keynote on Ooening up Closed Domains went fine and was apparently fairly well received. The main points being:

  • There are many areas in computing, beyond the desktop PC, where there's still no freedom and openness due to a lack of Free and Open Source Software
  • There's no real reason preventing developers to bring FOSS into those areas
  • As can be seen by existing projects like OpenPCD, OpenBTS, OpenBSC: Very small teams of developers can make a big difference

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 30 Nov 2009
Leaving for FOSS.in

I'm just about to go to the airport and leave for FOSS.in/2009. Most of my time there will again be spent working out on GSM protocol analysis, i.e. the airprobe project.

The workout wiki doesn't really have any content yet, and I shall fix that as soon as I get the password for the Workout Wiki (apparently passwords from las year don't work anymore).

It's going to be fun to meet all my Indian friends again - and at the same time I'm happy that a large international community will be present, including Stefan Schmidt, Holger Freyther and Andy Green of Openmoko fame, as well as people like Milosch and Brita Meriac from projects like OpenPCD, OpenBeacon and txtr, James Morris of netfilter/iptables and SELinux, Lennart Poettering of avahi and pulseaudio.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 22 Oct 2009
FOSS.in CfP running for quite some time

In case you have been sleeping throughout last week: On October 16, The FOSS.in Call for Participation had been released.

FOSS.in is one of my regular conferences, and probably the only event aside from the Chaos Communication Congress that I managed to visit in five consecutive years. I'm looking forward for this year's incarnation, and I'll definitely do my part to make the event more interesting :)

I hope everyone will now hurry to submit their proposals for talks, workshops and work-outs! It's a collaborative event, and it lives by your contribution.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Wed, 14 Oct 2009
ST-Ericsson Community Workshop 2009

Today, I had the honor to hold the opening keynote of the ST Ericsson Community Workshop 2009.

At this event, ST-Ericsson presented their Nomadik STn8815 SoC, as well as their work on getting the u-boot and kernel ports submitted back into the upstream/mainline projects.

As anyone following the linux-arm-kernel list will have noticed: For the last months, they have worked hard on cleaning up and submitting the code for this SoC. Like many people in the community, I personally appreciate this very much. Finally, ARM SoC vendors actively putting resources to become a "first class" member of the community.

The STn8815 is a ARM926EJ-S core based SoC, including a ST DSP for video codec acceleration as well as a number of standard peripherals such as I2C, SPI, UART, SDIO, etc.

The STn8815 reference software that they released today, includes 100% open source drivers for everything that runs within Linux, inside Linux or on top of Linux on the application processor. The codec implementations inside the DSP are closed source / proprietary. However, the infrastructure to communicate with the DSP, as well as the gstreamer/ffmpeg integration on the Linux side is fully open source.

The attendees of the workshop are receiving the NHK-15 reference boards, which have the STn8815 SoC plus a total of 384MByte NAND flash and 128MByte of DDR memory. There's also a number of peripherals that you expect in such a product, including LCM, SD card slot, Bluetooth, Audio Codec, and Wifi.

Unfortunately, the Wifi driver is closed source. However, the Wifi is a dedicated peripheral component. The use/choice of this Wifi chip on the NHK-15 is probably a bad design choice from an open source point of view. But: This proprietary Wifi does not affect the openness of the actual STn8815 SoC.

Included with the kit for the attendees also a full programming manual as well as register-level specification for the STn8815, as well as the complete schematics of the development board. No NDA required :)

As a summary: I welcome ST-Ericsson to join the Linux community and to provide Open Source friendly solutions, provide the documentation and holding this workshop. However, the STn8815 is already quite 'old' hardware, as it is still ARM9 based - while much of the competition is shipping ARM11 or Cortex-A8 today. Let's hope at some point in the future we will have more competitive hardware with just as much openness.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 17 Sep 2009
Cancelling my trip to Linux plumbers conference

I might have told some of you that I'd be visiting Linux Plumbers conference this year, but unfortunately I'm not able to make it, despite earlier planning. There's simply too much work at the moment :(

So to everyone who will be there: Have fun.

My personal conference schedule for the remaining year 2009 is something like this:

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Wed, 16 Sep 2009
ST-Ericsson Open Source Community Workshop 2009

ST-Ericsson is the maker of an ARM based SoC family called Nomadik. Over the last couple of months they have been working with members of the community to get their support into mainline Linux and u-boot.

They have recently announced the ST-Ericsson Community Workshop 2009, a small event limited to only 25 seats, where members of the community, together with ST-Ericsson present on the development of GNU/Linux on their Nomadik SoC platform.

The workshop registration fee is 200 EUR, but it includes a full NHK-15 development kit for the Nomadik platform!

I really think ST-Ericsson is doing the right thing, reaching out to the community, actively trying to get their code mainline, plus providing subsidized development boards at a to interested community members.

If you're interested, make sure you register soon, seats are limited...

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sun, 13 Sep 2009
FOSS.in turning from Linux/FOSS only event into more general hacker conference

As can be seen from the FOSS.in/2009 "Omelette Post", in addition to the regular FOSS.in schedule until 5pm every day, there will be additional hacker talks until 10.30pm, which might not necessarily be directly connected with FOSS.

Since I'm personally a member of both the hacker community (in the very specific sense of working and uncovering weaknesses in communication systems) as well as a 100% Free and Open Source person, I obviously like this kind of combination. To me, both go hand in hand - even though I know not everyone will have the same opinion.

In the end, learning about and playing freely with technology is what both communities want to do.

I'm looking forward to see the FOSS.in CfP...

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 17 Aug 2009
HAR2009 is over

Running our own GSM network at HAR 2009 has kept me too busy to actually attend any lectures myself - apart from the A5/1 lecture in the GSM track just after my own presentations on OpenBSC and airprobe. So I'm hoping for the recordings to be available in some non-proprietary format soon. Apparently all they have now is some website with flash videos, something I'd almost call an abomination.

In any case, thanks once again to the HAR Organizers for obtaining the GSM test license. Thanks to the Agenschap Telecom for actually granting us such a license. And thanks to the many helping hands from the OpenBSC community, as well as the several hundreds of people who have tested the GSM network 204-42.

We shut down our operations at 2009-08-16 at 16:00 CEST. There were no complaints of either the regulatory authority nor the commercial network operators during the event.

We have complete debug logs of OpenBSC, as well as pcap files of all signalling data. In the weeks to come, we'll be working on extensive statistics on network usage / load, as well as relationship graphs i.e. who called/texted whom.

After a 7 hour car ride to my home in Berlin, and an 8 hour stop-over to pack my suitcases, I'm now currently in Helsinki enroute to Seoul, Korea. Following-up to my last trip in January, I'm happy to be able to visit the country at a time of much more pleasant weather (26-30 centigrade) this time.

I'm very excited about my work there in the coming months. As soon as there's anything I can state publicly about it, I'll keep you posted :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sun, 26 Jul 2009
Linux-Kongress date change - now longer collides with Linux Plumbers

As I have just received today, Linux Kongress 2009 has shifted its dates to October 27 through October 30 (and changed the Location from Hamburg to Dresden).

This is good news, since it no longer collides with Linux Plumbers Conference 2009 on September 23rd through 25th. I guess that many speakers and some attendees would otherwise have ran into scheduling problems - with many preferring Linux Plumbers.

Also, the Call for Papers is out, it runs until August 31st, i.e. you (yes you, the reader!) have more than four weeks of time to decide what kind of topic you want to talk about :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sat, 06 Jun 2009
On my way to FreedomHEC Taipei 2009

In about 8 hours I'll depart for FreedomHEC Taipei 2009, an event where members of the Linux development community try to help Taiwanese hardware vendors understand the Linux development model.

I personally believe this kind of event could not be any more important. The traditional PC and embedded hardware industry still has a very, very limited understanding when it comes to properly supporting Linux, aiming at the universal solution for best end-user experience. In order to achieve this, the FOSS development model needs to be understood, as well as the value of going mainline with the drivers/ports.

Once that point is reached, there needs to be understanding _how_ to achieve that. Availability of documentation is another key issue. If you want to enable people to help you with development, bug fixing and maintenance, you need to release programming manuals for the hardware..

I'm happy to see that this year the organizers were able to get prominent speakers such as Jon Corbet from lwn.net, and Greg K-H who is doing marvelous work with his Linux Driver Project. Last, but not least, Peter Stuge will be presenting on coreboot as a FOSS alternative to legacy BIOS.

I'm also happy to see more native/local speakers, such as the presentations by jserv (aka Jim Huang) on Qi, the bootloader that was developed as part of Openmoko - or the presentation on VIA's experience of merging code mainline by Joseph Chan.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Wed, 22 Apr 2009
Departing for the FSF Europe Legal and Licensing Workshop 2009

In about six hours I'll be travelling to the Second Free Software Foundation European Licensing and Legal Workshop in Amsterdam. I've been to the fist workshop last year, and it was an excellent event, with all the important stakeholders present. Corporate legal departments of companies that already had their fair share of GPL incompliance, independent lawyers and legal experts, as well as folks with a Free Software community background such as myself.

The FSFE Freedom Task Force has done quite a bit of work during the last year, and their Legal Network has been growing. So there are a lot of signs indicating that this years workshop will be at least as good as the previous one.

I'm especially happy that this year we have a legal expert from Taiwan among the participants. Somebody who understands both the Free Software culture but also has had contact with the Taiwanese Embedded Industry: Florence (Tung-Mei) Ko. Given the many GPL problems that we see in embedded gear that was developed in Taiwan, I think many people at the workshop will be interested in the experience and insight that she can share with us.

So for the next two days, I will once again have to put my glofiish reverse engineering, OpenBSC and VIA related work aside and put my gpl-violations.org hat on. Not really pleasant for the engineer that I am - but a necessity to help bring more GPL compliance into the industry.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Tue, 21 Apr 2009
Will be in Taipei in May after all

Despite the cancellation of OpenTechSummit, I will be spending three weeks in Taipei soon (May 05 through May 25). I am looking forward to both the business side of this trip, as well as actually enjoying the life in this vibrant Asian metropolis.

I'll be doing some work for VIA, as well as some of my other customers and also be doing some gpl-violations.org related meetings.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Tue, 14 Apr 2009
OpenTechSummit Taiwan 2009 cancelled

I was very sad to hear that OpenTechSummit Taiwan 2009 had been cancelled by its organizers.

I was really looking forward to this event as an opportunity to provide some more information to Taiwanese hardware makers about properly supporting Linux and other Free and Open Source Software. On a more personal note, I was also really looking forward to spending some time in Taiwan again. It's currently questionable whether that will now happen in may, as originally planned.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Tue, 31 Mar 2009
FOSS.in/2009 event / venue / date announcement

Much earlier than in previous years, FOSS.in has announced the date + venue for the 2009 incarnation of the event.

The CfP is not out yet, but I hope it will also be out sooner rather than later, as scheduling long-distance travelling is something that most speakers prefer to do rather sooner than later. And you won't book your ticket before you know your paper has been accepted, etc.

I'm definitely looking forward to it. As the frequent follower of my blog will know, I've been there every year since 2003, which probably makes it the only conference (next to the Chaos Communication Congress) that I've been visiting that often in a row.

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Tue, 10 Mar 2009
Enjoying the BOSSA 2009 conference

This year's BOSSA incarnation has once again turned out as an excellent event. It was good to meet and talk again with a number of people like Marcel Holtmann or Rasterman.

This year it seems the organizers went out of their way to please every speaker. Since their conference shirts were available in three colors (but not black), they actually prepared a special edition of a black t-shirt for me.

It will be important to see how many other conferences can live up to that standard ;)

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Tue, 03 Feb 2009
Just booked my flights for BOSSA in Brazil

After last years' experience at BOSSA 2008, I was very interested to attend BOSSA 2009 in Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco, Brazil. This time I hope I can contribute by talking about the various FOSS projects in the GSM protocol area, such as gssm/gsm-tvoid, OpenBSC and OpenBTS. Lets hope I can get some more people excited about liberating the protocol part of mobile communications devices.

Like last year, I will also add some holiday after the conference. The nice and empty beaches of Pernambuco and Alagoas are quite irresistible during the off-season.

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Wed, 21 Jan 2009
Presenting on Linux Coding Style / Mainline Merge and gnufiish at III

Today I was invited to present at the Taiwanese Institute for the Information Industry about two topics.

The fist talk was on How to write code compatible with the Linux Coding Style and submit patches to the mainline kernel, a seminar that I have given a number of times before, but which still raises a lot of interest.

The second talk that the III requested was surprising: About the gnufiish.org project, an effort to port Linux to E-TEN glofiish PDA phones. It is a very low-level hacker-oriented talk, and I was surprised that I should give it in front of an audience consisting of software developers working for "the industry". But I think it was received very well, and maybe it has made some people to start thinking about why people have to go to that extreme (reverse engineering) rather than some hardware vendor actually embracing the Open Source revolution and helping those people to make more software run on their devices.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Wed, 31 Dec 2008
25C3: Total Overload

In my 10+ years of CCC congress, I've never been trying to run any significant project at the hackcenter so far. In the first couple of years I was just hanging out there, chatting with people and working on stuff here and there, operating FTP sites (like the trial we once had with then-experimental ext3 vs. Reiserfs on machines with Gigabit Ethernet interfaces [I was operating the ext3 one]). The years following that I was trying my best with the audio+video recording and streaming - with mixed results, as all people from that time remember. I was just trying to help, digital A/V not being my particular area of expertise.

So this year I decided it would be a good idea to do some serious GSM protocol side development at the hack center, which would complement the talk I was giving on running your own GSM network.

So far so good. The only day where I really could hack the way I wanted was on Day 0 (the day before the event officially started) and Day 1. Friends with various backgrounds started to join and help with issues here and there. Everyone was excited by the numerous new possibilities a project like this provided.

However, starting with Day 2, and particularly Day 3 and Day 4, the amount of constant interruptions by various people was simply unbearable and brought the development close to a complete halt. Not only that, it caused severe lack of sleep, stress levels even beyond what I had ever experienced before, and I developed a cold and even some fever.

In general, I am completely disappointed by many of the crowds. I would have assumed that most people _know_ that frequent interruptions lead to inproductivity, and that they would also know and understand that a project that literally hundreds (if not thousands) of people are excited about cannot answer RTFM style questions that everyone would have been able to read up by themselves on wikipedia or similar sites. Sure, there were some exceptions to that rule. But overall, it was a very unpleasant experience.

So from next year on, I will certainly refrain from running any kind of project in the hackcenter. I will be a regular attendee, possibly speaking on some kind of subject or the other, preferably on the last day so people won't drive me nuts with their never-ending questions.

The DDoS attack on the GSM/BS11/OpenBSC hackers, combined with the overcrowded 25C3 has in the end led to a point where the only two talks that I've been able to attend were the ones in which I was speaking.

"Thank you" :(

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sun, 30 Nov 2008
FOSS.out 2008

FOSS.in 2008 is over. The grand finale was Kalyan Varma's closing keynote on how he thinks fundamental FOSS principles are present in all aspects of his work and life, even in areas completely unrelated to FOSS such as photography and wildlife conversation.

I could not agree more to what he said. Fundamentally it is about being curious, learning how things work, cooperating with other people with mutual benefit, etc. - as I have to some extent outlined in one of my previous blog posts about reverse engineering.

One particular spin was also on Security. Having an IT security background like him, with a pretty similar FOSS culture background, I can perfectly understand and support his point of view.

As for FOSS.in, I think it could also not have been much better. Biggest constraints were probably the conference venue itself. Its lecture halls inevitably create a big divide between a small number of entertainers on the stage and a big auditorium. There also was a constant and severe lack of power outlets at any given time or place - to some extent again a problem with the venue.

Thanks to the Organizers, Team FOSS.in and the Volunteers. Well Done.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Fri, 28 Nov 2008
Update from FOSS.in

First of all, many people have asked for the slides of my presentations. You can get the keynote slides and the glofiish reverse engineering slides from the FOSS.in website now.

Giving the latter talk, I was really surprised that nobody in the audience raised their hands when I was asking who had ever done reverse engineering of any sort. I cannot really imagine any of my work, both in the FOSS community as well as professionally without using whatever means to discover how things (devices, drivers, software) work. Isn't it a most natural human trait? You discover something new, and you want to learn how it works. So you take it apart, learn about its components and understand how the individual parts play together.

I've been doing this with about everything I ever got, even as a kid. Stereo system, reel-to-reel tape recorder, my first 286 based PC, my first motorbike, car, etc. It's simply not acceptable to be in possession of some technical device without understanding how _exactly_ it works.

So anyway, I hope the talk was at least a bit inspirational and makes some people try. It is not so much important that you actually fully manage to reach the goal (like in my case getting a full-blown Linux implementation of all the drivers done, etc.). The importance is the process, and what you learn while doing it.

So today I was mostly busy preparing and holding that talk, later at night I was back to working on gsm-tvoid. I'll cover this in a separate post.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Thu, 27 Nov 2008
The first two days of FOSS.in over

I've been having the pleasure of holding the opening keynote at FOSS.in, where I've been (again) using the opportunity to point out the sad situation of Linux in the Embedded space. I think it was good to get this message not only to the CE Linux Conference Europe attendees, but also to the various FOSS interested Indian developers. Many of those work for companies involved in chipsets for Embedded devices, Embedded Systems development or even BSP development.

Despite that very sad/depressing conference opener, the feedback was overall very positive. Some people mentioned "it was like if you were talking to me personally". So let's see if this kind of grass-roots FOSS lobbying can help to make a bit of a change in those Embedded Linux companies.

After the keynote I was more or less immediately starting my WorkOut on improving Free Software based GSM protocol analysis. Basically we're looking at GSM-tvoid, gssm, gsmdecode, the wireshark patch of gssm, etc. and coming up with a much improved solution.

So far we've added the tun-device support from gssm to gsm-tvoid, but that's only a kludge and a temporary solution. Adding fake Ethernet headers to a GSM Um frame and using a non-registered Ethernet protocol type is not really the kind of "implementation quality" that I'd like to see.

So now I've come up with a 'gsmtap header' similar to what 802.11 solves by the radiotap header. gsm frames including radiotap header can be stored directly as a new linktype in PCAP files, or they can be sent via UDP packets through the regular IP and networking stack, where wireshark can just grab them using the normal network devices.

We've continued to work on those issues on the second day of FOSS.in, and we'll also continue to work on it today. Tomorrow I'll be presenting on my gnufiish project, i.e. the reverse engineering and Linux port plus driver development for the E-TEN glofiish X800/M800 devices.

I personally can't really say yet how well the concept of WorkOuts has worked-out in practise. I really need to learn more about the progress that the other workouts have been making. I think at least for the GSM workout, there were not many people who had the skills or knowledge about the protocols and/or the tools involved - which is not a big surprise. But I'd hope that some of the attendees at least got interested in the subject and will contribute to the respective projects. There are many things to be done, including the somewhat tedious exercise of adding dozens and dozens of new dissector code to wireshark. If anyone else (preferably with some generic understanding about network protocols and wireshark dissectors) wants to help with that, please contact me.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Sun, 23 Nov 2008
From FreedomHEC Taipei to FOSS.in / Linux and the Taiwanese Hardware Industry

I'm on my way from Taipei to Bangalore, from FreedomHEC Taipei to FOSS.in. Two very different events in two very different countries with a quite different IT industry.

I was really happy about FreedomHEC. It is really about time that the Linux world and the Taiwan-based chipset vendors and system integrators start much more interaction. It is a simple economic fact that A lot of hardware development, both in the PC mainboard, Laptop as well as the embedded device space happens in Taiwan. It is also very true, that for whatever reason the gradual Linux revolution in the server and desktop market in the EU, the US and other markets such as Southern America has not really reached Taiwan. At least from all the various contacts that I've made in Taiwan, there are almost no Linux users, and particularly not in a corporate environment.

My experience in Germany shows that many small and medium sized companies, as well as a noteworthy part of public administration is using Linux, at least on the server side, and to an increasing amount on the desktop side. Many end users have dual-booting machines. Plus, the universities and particularly the computer science departments have a long UNIX-related tradition - and most SunOS and Solaris workstations have since been replaced by Linux based systems, or at least systems with dual-boot configurations.

If my completely non-representative assessment of the Situation in Taiwan is true, then we just don't see this level of adoption there. And this has a quite big impact:

  • Managers and Engineers underestimate the amount of Linux adoptions in their target markets, since they don't see that much adoption in their domestic market
  • Even if there is a [customer] demand for Linux, the Taiwanese hardware industry has a hard time to properly respond to this demand due to the lack of know-how about Linux and FOSS - both technology-wise, but also regarding the development model
  • There are very few system administrators or software developers with a profound Linux user experience. How are you supposed to administrate or develop for a system that you haven't at least used for a couple of years?

So as a result of this, I argue that Linux hardware support world wide suffers from the lack of recognition of Linux in Taiwan.

This needs to change. Recent developments like the Asus eeePC or Linux-based Netbooks in general are not a solution either. They don't mean that Asus suddenly cares about how well e.g. the Linux ACPI implementation interacts with the ACPI BIOS of their non-eeePC Laptops.

I think any system integrator who understands those facts will likely gain a lot of trust and customer satisfaction. We yet have to see _any_ laptop or mainboard manufacturer who goes public and says "we will test our systems with Linux like we test them with Windows".

Non-Taiwanese system integrators like Dell or HP have a competitive advantage here. They do understand much better what Linux is, and how to work with it - even though mostly still on the Server side. You will find Linux-based BIOS update tools. You will see ACPI BIOSes that actually work properly and don't just contain random bytes in those parts that Windows doesn't currently use.

Why not Acer? Why not Asus? Why not MSI? Why not Foxconn? How much of a R&D investment is it really to do even the most minimal testing like booting some Linux Live Distribution from CD and checking if the major features are working? I would assume in the total Laptop R&D cost, it's less than 1%. So if only 1% of the customers will install Linux, it should already be justified.

Especially right now, nobody has really made the first step. Anyone who starts with the right strategy can be the first one on the market. The opportunity is there. Don't wait until the competition uses it.

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]

Mon, 17 Nov 2008
FreedomHEC Taipei 2008

As I think I've mentioned before elsewhere in this blog, in a few days there is the FreedomHEC Taipei 2008. If you're in Taiwan and are doing some Linux kernel/driver related development, you should come and meet up at this event.

Looking forward to meeting lots of [new?] Taiwanese Linux developers :)

[ /linux/conferences | permanent link ]