Archive for May 2009

Android on Freerunner: Second Impressions

26 May 2009

I’ve had Android on my Freerunner for a week now. I think it drops calls more than OM2008 did, but am not sure whether it’s Android or just the network and where I’ve been with the phone.

Yesterday I thought I had a show-stopper when I found I could not retrieve pages with the phone. I use a pager because the local calling area for the legacy phone company (Telus) where I live is much smaller than the area I work in. The pager allows me to have two phone numbers on one device, giving customers in a wider area numbers to call me on without having to pay long distance. With Android it seemed that DTMF was not being sent while in a call, meaning I could not retrieve pages.

I was about to go back to OM2008 or maybe try SHR, but discovered that Koolu has released Android Beta 7! Installed Beta 7 and the DTMF problem is fixed! So, still playing with it….

A Living Book : After The Software Wars

23 May 2009

There is an interesting interview on with (ex-Microsoft) programmer/author Keith Curtis. The intro to the interview presents Curtis’ view that the proprietary software model impedes human progress, while free software offers to free us from the dark ages. My interest was stirred enough to Google for Curtis’ book; After The Software Wars.

What really hooked me on this book was how it is published. publishes on demand, meaning that you can buy a paper copy and it will be produced in its latest revision and shipped to you. No discount bins of unwanted over-production or old editions. If you don’t feel the need to hold a paper copy you can download the PDF (currently draft 1.023 05/04/2009) gratis. I’m happy to save a tree and the shipping cost (both $ and carbon footprint) so went with the download and PayPal’ed a ‘donation’ to the author via his website, Soon after, I received a warm and non-automated response from the author. Image that!

I used to frequent book stores, mostly looking for sales because big, heavy books are expensive. I have shelves full of books on obsolete topics. Good for nothing but recycling.

Now it’s ‘click’ Hmmm, this is interesting. Google, ‘click’, download, PayPal. I get a good, though-provoking read. The author gets some money. We both get thank-you’s and feel good. No trees are hurt and no (or at least negligible) fossil fuels are burned. And this book lives! As technology and/or the author’s ideas evolve he can upload new versions of his work to the publishing site and I can download those new versions should I be so inclined.

The publishing parallels the books discussions of how we must shake off old paradigms. Embrace the gnu!

I haven’t read even 1/3 of the book yet so won’t offer a review here other than to say I am enjoying reading it.



The interview.
After The Software Wars on

How to abuse a monopoly position

20 May 2009

Individuals and enterprises should conduct themselves ethically. Some don’t. I choose not to do business with those.

That said, here’s a Microsoft blog post on the issue. With thanks to (email) poster on the users list.

“And in the interest of fairness, here’s a Microsoft side to the story:

Reading that, I’m left thinking “shouldn’t number + text || boolean = error ?” I know I don’t want my app changing my text to numbers. See also

Android on Freerunner: First Impressions

18 May 2009

Installing Android on the Freerunner couldn’t be easier.  Download the gzipped tar or zip file from and unpack it onto a microSD card. A file with MD5SUMs is included so the unpacked files can be checked with
md5sum -c ./md5sums
on the commandline.

postscript: I forget not everyone has all the tools. If you have to use Windows you can get md5sum and other handy things from GnuWin32. Md5sum is part of the TextUtils package.

Put the card into the Freerunner then hold the Freerunner AUX button and press power to boot from NOR. At the NOR menu choose “Boot from microSD (FAT+ext2)”. The install from there is automated. It does overwrite everything in NAND on the phone and uses the microSD card for storage so I don’t know yet whether Android can dual boot with other distributions on the Freerunner.

I did some dishes while the install proceeded (daughter and friends were dropping by, gotta clean up a bit!) On return I did a quick press on the power button to be greeted with a screen looking like…

Android locked screen

So, my first question was “What’s the Menu button?” Fortunately answers are easy to find in places like the OpenMoko wiki Android usage page.

With buttons figured out I was able to begin playing with Android on the Freerunner. Some initial impressions:

– It’s pretty!
– There is a lot here to play with!

Sounds a bit like a new girlfriend at this point doesn’t it? 🙂

– Screen scrolls sideways, displays Google search bar on one side
– Dialer is fairly finger friendly
– Speakerphone does not work
– There are a ton of ring tones and wallpapers
– Power button brings up context sensitive icons
– Calls seem to sound OK on the other end
– Calls are a bit buzzy on my end, but not too bad

That’s it for now, gotta run. More later…..

Secure OS for China

18 May 2009

As many as 128 attacks per minute are purported to have been observed on US targets from IPs originating in China. It seems China is taking steps against the same happening to them with their Kylin OS.

I’m imagining intolerably smug FreeBSD people.

Android Unlocked

16 May 2009

Rogers announcement of the coming HTC devices running Android has sure made a splash on the web! If you don’t mind the contract it’s likely a good smart phone option too. It’s not the first Android phone in Canada though.

Koolu already offers Freerunner A7s running Android for $399. No contract, no lock-in.

As a happy FOSS user and advocate of FOSS philosophy I find OpenMoko’s ( and foray into open hardware exciting. I bought a Freerunner as soon as they became available and have played around with a few different distributions on it including OM2007, Debian and QT Extended. Currently it’s running OM2008.

Recent Android hype has piqued my curiosity, so I’ll flash Android to my Freerunner this weekend sometime and will post my experience with it here.

Aargh! Walk the plank ye scurvy dogs!

13 May 2009

According to Channel Insider the Business Software Alliance and IDC report that software piracy in 2008 cost over $50 billion in lost direct sales and $150 to $200 billion in lost service and support.

No analysis is offered as to whether the alleged pirates could have paid for licensed copies of the software in question had they chosen to. Nor is it explained why users of properly licensed software would have required $150 to $200 billion in additional service and support while the pirates manage to do without. Rugged, self-sufficient folks those pirates, I suppose.

It is easy to imagine why people are tempted to the rough and tumble life of a pirate. Looking at prices on today I find Windows Vista Home Basic at $199.95 and Office Home & Student $139.86 for a total of $339.81. If equiping a small business desktop we move up a bit to Vista Business at $299.95 and Office Small Business at $596.85 for a total of $896.80 that still doesn’t include Access.

Microsoft and others use a variety of strategies to combat these pirates (though fortunately not navy snipers yet). Secret shoppers are one method used to monitor channel partners for improper practices. When offenders are identified the courts are brought into play as needed.

I wonder if there is a parallel here to the drug wars. It seems like enforcement and punishment can be stepped up and up, at ever increasing cost, while the drug trade just gets bigger, nastier and seems always a step or two ahead. Meanwhile Portugal’s decriminalization and focus on treatment is one example of an alternative that seems to be working. I wonder if … and this is hard for me to say having carried a “lock up the survivors and throw away the key” view of law and order for most of my life … I wonder if we should follow Portugal’s lead?

Perhaps we need a similar soft view toward software pirates? Rather than spending fortunes on enforcement and punishment, perhaps we should be showing potential pirates alternatives? Take Mandriva Linux for example. A new version, Mandriva 2009 Spring, was recently announced. Members of the early seeders program (myself included) were contacted in time to download the new release before the public announcement so that when the release was made public there was a good supply of torrent seeds in place for people to download from.

Last I looked, my torrent client was seeding the new OS (which comes with more applications than most will ever use) to people in Russia, Netherlands, France, Romania, Italy, Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, UK, USA, Israel, Germany, Spain, Luxembourg, Iceland, Brazil, Morocco, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Australia, China, Malaysia, India, Columbia, Paraguay, Dominican Republic, Algeria, Vietnam, Thailand, Taiwan and Canada.

Free, legal, ethical and for most users provides everything one could want. For users like myself in fact, it provides abilities I would be hard pressed to duplicate with another OS. It is not for everyone of course. Power-users of Photoshop probably need Photoshop and so need Windows. For most users though the free (and Free) applications included with any mainstream Linux distribution are as good as anything available. There is no need to violate copyright with unlicensed copies of proprietary software, or to have workers borrowing other people’s desks because their own lacks software they need to do their job as I have witnessed in some businesses.

I look forward to working in the area of piracy prevention through education. Perhaps I could get a crime prevention grant to get things rolling? 😉