Posts Tagged ‘device’

Doing it right (on the wrong side of town)

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

Ah, the Powder Blues band. Apologies, mostly.

I know a place on the wrong side of town,
Where the band width is cookin and they’re loading on down,
Joe compiles like his souls on fire,
Baking a new firmware for a telephone wire,
Rev up the sources, compliance comes down,
Doin it right on the wrong side of town!

In these troubled times, I thought I’d share some tales of companies doing it (relatively) right. Thanks to the quiet pressure and diplomacy of and their (and FSFE, too) desire to work on dialogue and long-term solutions, it’s possible to find consumer electronics in Europe that are compliant (within the wriggle room that is left in the notion of “compliance”).

In September I picked up a Lacie Network Space drive. 1TB, I think, UPnP server, black, glossy. So of course the first thing I did was go looking for GPL violations. This ended up with a half dozen folks standing around a table, red wine in hand, an improvised network on the floor. The manual of the product doesn’t mention the GPL. If you boot it up, you can get the syslog:

Jan 1 00:00:28 syslogd started: BusyBox v1.1.0 (2006.11.03-14:53+0000)
Jan 1 00:00:29 kernel: klogd started: BusyBox v1.1.0 (2006.11.03-14:53+0000)
Jan 1 00:00:29 kernel: Linux version (jrichefeu@grp-horus) (gcc version 3.4.4 (release) (CodeSourcery ARM 2005q3-2)) #3 Tue Feb 3 14:04:45 CET 2009
Jan 1 00:00:29 kernel: CPU: ARM926EJ-Sid(wb) [41069260] revision 0 (ARMv5TEJ)

I should add it’s really quiet a nice piece of kit, except it never spins the disk down. And of course, the manual doesn’t mention the GPL. But the support section of the website does, and it’s not difficult to find the source downloads section. I haven’t verified that these are the complete and corresponding sources. It looks reasonable, though.

More recently I bought a Conceptronic Media Giant Plus, which is a HDD plus codecs and a bunch of A/V plugs, so it goes right into the TV — and then videos and whatnot go on the HDD, and play from there. The UI is a little clunky, but it works well enough, and if it saves having to go through and find the right DVD for the kids all the time, that’s fine by me. I don’t know what the hardware inside is exactly; it’s been on only once so far to copy the Eefje Wentelteefje TV Show onto it.

The box comes with a thin leaflet of license compliance statements. “Great!” I thought, but it turns out to be MPEG-4 compliance, and Fraunhofer, and all kinds of commercial licenses, patent licenses, consortium licenses, etc. No mention of the GPL. No mention of the software actually running on the machine. “Drat!” thought I. I don’t rub my hands together and cackle evilly then, though.

So my surprise was a little greater when I leafed through the (thick and comprehensive) user manual and found, at the back, a chapter “Licensing Information”.

This Conceptronic product (Media Giant) includes copyrighted third-party software licensed under the terms of the GNU General Public License. .. the following parts of this product are subject to the GNU GPL: (list including busybox, xine, Linux kernel). … Conceptronic as eposed (sic – exposed?) the full source code of the GPL licensed software, including any scripts to control compilation and installation of the object code. All future firmware updates will also be accompanied with their respective source code. For more information on how you can obtain our open source code, please visit our web site.

That text is followed by the full text of the GPL version 2, the LGPL version 2.1 and the FreeType license, 2006-Jan-27.

So, that’s pretty thorough except that a “visit our website” isn’t all that specific. I couldn’t find any links to the source on the product page, but some searching turned up the source at last.

So here’s two cases of “yeah, that’s ok, could be better, keep trying” — it’s like dealing with my son learning to ride a bicycle, they need some encouragement and support, because they’re still learning.

Linux Gadgets

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Linux gadgets. What’s not to like? vanRijn likes the Palm Pre, or would like it if it was available already. Like him, I spent a long time on Palm Pilot syncing and the enthusiasm for the whole platform just petered out. Handheld device syncing never really took off like one might hope it would, even with OpenSync and other bits and pieces. Perhaps the Pre will turn things around for Palm, and I hope at the same time that they put a little more support into Linux (or Free Software Desktop) syncing this time around.

Me, I think my main desktop sync desire right now is my Nokia 6300 phone. Or it would be, if I cared about syncing my phone book with the desktop at all anymore.

I spotted another searching-for-Linux-gadgets kind of post; is it really so hard to find neat gadgets running a Free Software operating system now? I’ve got three on my desk right now I could enthuse about (a Conceptronic NAS, a Freecom MusicPal and a modded Linksys 54GL) but, truth be told, none of those three are the kind of shiny gadget you’d use in a business setting. They’re boxy and utilitarian even when they’re shiny (this picture has a nice collection of devices, not all of which are Linuxy).

What does make my heart beat faster (and then my brain kicks in, saying that I don’t have time to look in another direction at all) is something like this ARM board. As far as the BeagleBoard goes, I have the baseball cap but no hardware. There are a dozen cool things you could do with these, but after that putting it into a shiny box for consumer use is a big step. Marvell’s SheevaPlug has made the step to stodgy white plastic (but then again, it’s supposed to be a wall wart).

Finally, Aaron writes about gadget integration with the desktop. The relevant part is a bit hidden, so I’ll quote it here:

The project is building a proof of concept device using an Arduino processor with a Bluetooth board attached. When you approach with a Plasma device (well, pending Rob’s GSoC project on Remote Plasmoids) we’ll see that there’s something available via Bluetooth. Plasma will poke the device such that it spits out a Javascript Plasmoid that will then appear ready for action. Walk away and the Bluetooth connection goes away and so does the widget.

It’s not that far from carrying your applications in your pocket and BT’ing them onto the desktop. You can almost see a set of Lego blocks like that carrying around your personal computing environment. It reminds me of a device I saw a few years back which had a full Linux system on a USB stick which would export a display via VNC, so you could plug it in, VNC to the stick and continue working there. I wonder what became of that? In any case, I think there’s enough niftiness out there, just waiting for use.