Milan Zamazal's Weblog RSS feed

Afraid of Mozilla
5th April 2014

So Brendan Eich has resigned and has left Mozilla. It was apparently the only reasonable option he had which is a very bad news. (If you don't know what it is about, look for Brendan Eich Mozilla CEO in your favorite search engine.)

The hatred and bigotry demonstrated in this case is scaring. AFAIK Brendan Eich did nothing wrong and didn't discriminate anybody. He is just incompatible with certain ideology. I don't know whether people from Mozilla have joined the attacks or not but Mozilla as a whole has definitely failed to resist the pressure. As a citizen of a country which was under single ideology a few decades ago and anybody incompatible with it was a public enemy I'm especially sensitive to such dealing with people. It's really scaring.

While I don't think there is something like same-sex marriage I can understand that some people think otherwise and we can explain our views and arguments to each other and discuss how our society should be organized. There may be bigots on both sides but I believe most people can behave reasonably. I can't see what such views have to do with the role of Mozilla CEO.

Dear Mozilla, I little care about whether your CEO is for or against same-sex marriage. I'm much more concerned about other facts. You make the only and last big free Web browser which is a very important mission. I'm disgusted that political screening is part of the process. But not only that. I'm also very disappointed that the mobile version of Firefox doesn't display licensing information about the browser extensions and about the applications at the Firefox market. You mix free and non-free software without helping the users to distinguish. I'm not sure you do enough against making DRM part of official Web standards. I'm afraid you divert from open Web and freedom and you may, directly or indirectly, help the movements opposing them. Then we may lose even the last free Web browser.

The resignation of Brendan Eich was a failure of our society and of the Mozilla project and perhaps a loss for both. Yes, we must do better.

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Tags: freesoft, other.
FreeBSD Journal
17th March 2014

The FreeBSD Journal looks interesting and I might subscribe to it even though I don't use FreeBSD. There is just one, but important, problem: It can be read only on Android and iOS devices using a DRM equipped proprietary application available from the official Kindle, iOS and Google Android stores.

What's the message? For first, FreeBSD leaders consider their users as immature beings involved in excessive illegal copying. For second, the ridiculous fact that FreeBSD Journal can't be read on FreeBSD systems tells something about proprietary mentality and the value of user freedom in the FreeBSD community.

Well, I should probably waste^Wspend my time and money on something else than FreeBSD.

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Tags: freesoft.
CyanogenMod user
22nd February 2014

Enough is enough. I got sufficiently annoyed by Samsung Android to install an unofficial port of CyanogenMod (no better alternative) on my phone. What are the first impressions?

The system installed without problems and has been running reasonably well. The user restrictions are gone: I got rid of many useless proprietary applications wasting the very limited space on the internal storage, some things got customizable and root access is available when needed. There is improved functionality: I especially like profiles and swype on the Google keyboard works much better than on the Samsung one. Software freedom was improved by removing some pieces of unwanted proprietary software and replacing some components of unknown origin and license. While I miss a few things from the original Samsung system, I absolutely don't regret abandoning it and have no intention to return to it unless I experience some serious problem.

As for stability, neither of the systems is perfect. Samsung system suffered from random reboots and other random stability problems. CyanogenMod has problems to start on my phone, suffering from boot loops, but once it's completely up and running it seems to be stable (so far). Time will tell but it seems the Samsung official preinstalled system isn't more stable than an experimental unofficial port of an alternative ROM.

Samsung produces user friendly hardware: replaceable battery, SD card slot, standard SIM size, a lot of different models for different needs, available bootloader. Too bad they cripple it with their proprietary software. I'd probably recommend my friend buying a Samsung phone, but only one of the models for which one's favorite alternative system (e.g. Replicant, OmniROM or CyanogenMod) is officially available.

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Tags: freesoft, smartphones.
The end of open Web this year?
11th January 2014

Now, when the Motion Picture Association of America has joined the W3C, we can expect the pro-DRM W3C coalition of Netflix, Microsoft, Google, and Apple will get strengthened by another ally. Apparently there is the only real opposition there, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and it alone can hardly stop them from making DRM (Digital Restrictions Management) an official W3C standard. EFF's formal objection was rejected by the W3C director after all.

What does it mean? The only official way to get access to significant portion of Web content will be to install and run proprietary untrusted software on your devices. Will you like it?

I'm not going to repeat all the arguments, you can read them in the W3C restricted media mailing list archive. Probably the only way to stop the nightmare from becoming a reality is to make wide and vocal public opposition, similar to what happened when W3C attempted to permit patent holders to prevent implementations of W3C standards a decade ago.

So the question is: What can you do to stop DRM on the Web? If you do nothing, the Web will no longer be open to all and more control will be put on its users.

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Tags: freesoft.
Absurdity of patents
14th December 2013

I've been thinking about patents a bit recently. I thought about alien invasion, from a far world with a strict patent system. What would the aliens tell us?

"We can see you have been using a lot of our patented inventions, from the wheel to the rocket science, without paying us licensing fees. These are clear patent infringements, we have got all the inventions patented for at least million years. We protect our intellectual property properly, so our patents never expire and we are here to get indemnified. You have to pay us for your unlicensed use of our patented inventions during the whole human existence. We respect you have not read all the patent applications at the VPO (Vogon Patent Office) so we give you a chance to indemnify us just by passing all your possessions and all the mineral resources of the Earth and the Solar System to us. Do not try to excuse you did not know at all: You apply similar laws and your copyright expiration period gets lengthened all the time in order to prevent any further copyright expiration so you are well aware how important intellectual property protection is. And we will take what belongs to us due to your unscrupulous use of our intellectual properties in any case. We are aware you shall not survive after you pass everything you have to us. Since we are from a civilized society we won't let you suffer and make an act of humanity: We are going to destroy you right now (and then we take everything)."

I'm surprised I haven't seen such a story so far but I don't think it's original. It's likely it was used as an illustration of the patent system absurdity several times. Well, independent thinking can lead to similar results. I like what Kent Pitman once wrote: "I think any law that restricts independent use of brainpower is suspect."

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Tags: freesoft.
My pump.io stream
10th December 2013

I started my pump.io stream. pump.io is one of the free software social networking alternatives, somewhat similar to Twitter.

BTW, pump.io FAQ may help a little when you start using pump.io.

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Tags: freesoft, other.
EFF supporter
9th December 2013

The Electronic Frontier Foundation does a lot of good for online and software freedom so I decided to donate to it. If you care about software freedom (and you should care about it today if you care about freedom generally), please consider contributing to organizations which defend it. One of the most important ones besides the Electronic Frontier Foundation are the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center.

BTW, this winter's Free Software Foundation fundraising campaign just starts.

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Tags: freesoft.
Eben Moglen's talks on surveillance and freedom
7th December 2013

Eben Moglen gave an interesting series of talks on "Snowden and the Future". The whole series is now available for watching, listening and reading.

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Tags: other.
Fairphone
2nd December 2013

This smartphone project looks interesting.

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Tags: smartphones.
CyanogenMod removed from Google Play Store
30th November 2013

CyanogenMod installer application was removed from Google Play Store on Google's request. Not much issue itself as it can be installed from elsewhere and without using the proprietary Play Store application. The more interesting part is the reasoning about the issue.

According to Google the installer encourages users to void their warranty and thus is in violation of the terms of service. This seems fair at the first glance but we must ask Google some questions about its stock Android systems: Why can't we install security updates on your Android without voiding the warranty? Why can't we mount USB devices on your Android without voiding the warranty? Why can't we remove proprietary applications from your Android without voiding the warranty? Why can't we install applications on the SD card on your Android without voiding the warranty? Why can't we install another operating system on our devices running your Android without voiding the warranty?

Even more interesting are users' comments. Some people claim that voiding the warranty makes sense as replacing the stock Android is indeed dangerous for various reasons: The device may be destroyed by overheating; LED control can be destroyed by incorrect use; the device may be bricked by reflashing due to an undocumented feature of the device. Compare this with PCs: How many of them have you damaged or destroyed by installing another operating system on them? Clearly there is something very wrong with the stock Android devices and with all those arguments.

Given the questions above, people have a lot of valid reasons to install less restrictive Android systems, such as Replicant, CyanogenMod or even the closed Chinese distribution (can you believe it's not under the control of Chinese army?), on their devices. The primary question is: Why are the Android devices designed to void the warranty in case the original software gets replaced? The answer is clear: Google applies invasive user and vendor lock-in. The most sad fact is that some users accept and support it.

Well, one can argue user lock-in is in the best interest of Google business: We are the products and restricting us makes us better products, to be sold for a better price. We don't pay for Android development, Google customers do. Unfortunately, this is the perverted fact of todays economy. But Google at one time used the motto "don't be evil". Google had to be nice to its users when it needed to acquire them; as a monopolist today it just exploits them. Google is an evil company these days (don't be confused: Apple, Microsoft, Samsung and others are no better): It applies aggressive user (and vendor) lock-in, it replaces its previously free software with proprietary software, and it supports DRM on the Web and in W3C standards.

Google and other such companies deserve boycott to force them to change their behavior but that can be hardly effective nowadays. So what can we do? I suggest fighting for consumer rights, using replacements of proprietary software and services, developing free software including distributed free software services, donating to organizations such as Free Software Foundation, Electronic Frontier Foundation or Software Freedom Law Center, and educating the users.

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Tags: freesoft, smartphones.

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