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    If your problem is Google being greedy for data the solution is fairly simple: get Google off your device. In other words, make sure your devices run - for as much as possible - only code you explicitly allow them to run.

    This can be done with Android. It can not be done with iOS. In both cases you’ll have to contend with the fact that the ‘radio code’ - the blob of binary code which runs the whatever-G radio the device is equipped with - can be used to all sorts of nefarious things and it fairly certain to either contain loads of known bugs or intentionally introduced backdoors for the TLA’s of the world. Apart from that radio code the device will run an operating system and user applications, both of which can be under your control when running an AOSP-derived Android distribution. The device does not need to run any Google-proprietary code to be able to run Android apps (apart from a few which insist on interfacing with Google Play Services).

    You seem to trust Apple to ‘do the right thing’ but you do not have anything to base that trust on other than feel-good statements by the company and its disciples. I trust Apple just as much as I trust Google or any other commercial enterprise. With this I mean to say that I trust them to look out for their bottom line as that is what makes them tick. Google currently has a different perspective on how to get that number as high as possible from the way Apple tries to maximise it but maximise the number they shall. As I don’t trust either of them I do my best to stay away from them as much as I can: no Apple anything, no Google Chrome, no stock Android, no Google apps, no Google services, no Google Play. Still I have a fully functional phone running Android, it just happens to run free software wherever possible, minus that currently unavoidable radio blob that is…

    1. 4

      trust Apple to ‘do the right thing’ but you do not have anything to base that trust on other than feel-good statements by the company and its disciples.

      We have a little bit more than that.

      If Apple got caught violating the trust of users, that bell would ring around the world.

      I don’t trust either of them.

      You trust Google. You haven’t read the source code of your phone; it’s like 50GB download last I checked. These builds scripts download more code over the Internet. Nobody can audit that. You also trust the people who made your “custom” android-building toolchain. You trust them (among other things) to identify and remove anything naughty Google has done. Not to mention you trust the guys who made your phone and all the components within. I have no idea who you’d sue with a random Android phone (some distant Chinese company?), let alone with some “custom Android” installed on it..

      no stock Android

      Running a custom Android makes you a QA of one. It’s like running Gentoo. You get to learn from nobody’s mistakes but your own.

      1. 1

        I haven’t read all source code, only those parts of it needed to port Android to the three devices I ported it to. Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google. I’m not the only one using this particular custom Android distribution (which started out as Cyanogen but now is called Lineage, parts of which I remove as I don’t need them, more so in the Cyanogen-days when they started messing with their own ‘Cyanogen login’).

        That bit about running custom Android or Gentoo implying you have a ‘QA of one’ is just plain silly as you will probably understand yourself. Both custom Android as well as Gentoo builds come from the same source - plus or minus a few tailored modifications - and are built using the same tool chain. The results are very similar if not identical (with reproducible builds), except for the modified bits that is. I won’t loose any sleep over the fact that my personal modifications have a ‘QA of one’, just like I don’t loose sleep over the fact that the house I built and live in has a ‘QA of one’, the bread I bake has a ‘QA of one’ or any other fruits of my labour are not certified by some random committee.I trust my own observations well enough, the thing works, it does what I want it to do, it is silent on the network unless I want it to send or receive data, it runs for more than a week on a single battery charge where stock distributions won’t last more than 2 days.

        1. 1

          I don’t loose sleep over the fact that the house I built and live in has a ‘QA of one’

          I live in civilisation though, and didn’t build my own house.

          I do programming.

          Some other guy builds houses.

          The guy that built my house built hundreds of houses, and he had to get trained and certified by a random committee that trained and certified hundreds and perhaps thousands of other guys, and so on.

          I think him making a mistake that harms me is unlikely, but my civilisation will promises me recourse if he does.

          I like that. I don’t want to learn how to build houses, since it would certainly take time away from my programming.

          Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google.

          Given the preposterousness of the claim (reading 50GB of anything), I’m not sure I understand what you expect here. I don’t believe you?

          1. 2

            Please calm down and think about what you just said:

            Other people have read other parts of it, all of them outside of Google.

            Given the preposterousness of the claim (reading 50GB of anything), I’m not sure I understand what you expect here. I don’t believe you?

            Read again and you’ll see that I stated that other people have read other parts of it, not that other people read all of it. Of course others did read all of it, if only the ones who wrote it in the first place and those who did code reviews but that is besides the point. Also besides the point is the fact that the amount of source used for an Android build is not even close to 50 GB, you might be confused by the size of the repo versus the size of the code used for a single build.

            But… the thing is that you on the one hand seem to blindly trust Apple - because that is what we are talking about here - without having the ability to so much as peek at the code, while casting aspersion on the idea of building a distribution for your own device ‘because you can not read all the code’. While I’m sure Apple is happy to have customers like you who trust them blindly this does not mean it is the rational thing to do (when thinking about ‘trust’, it can be more rational economically as building your own takes time and effort), certainly not more rational than building your own

            I think the conclusion to draw here is that you prefer to put your trust in others and look to your civilisation for recourse when those others fail your trust, while I prefer to trust my own instinct and insight and as such like to get hands-on when building things - whether it be software or hardware (from electronics to houses). To each his own, I guess.

            1. 1

              I think the conclusion to draw here is that you prefer to put your trust in others and look to your civilisation for recourse when those others fail your trust, while I prefer to trust my own instinct and insight and as such

              or, it is my own instinct and insight and such where I come to a completely different conclusion: that civilisation has value. Seriously.

              the thing is that you on the one hand seem to blindly trust Apple - because that is what we are talking about here

              I trust one party who might fail me, who has a lot to lose, whereas you trust dozens of parties, any of which might fail you, and none of which has anything to lose.

      2. 2

        CopperheadOS was a great Android ROM for this. Since the lead developer left the company, I suppose plain AOSP is the next best bet? I’m also looking forward to the Librem5 phone.

        1. 3

          If you’re interested in CopperheadOS, you might like this presentation by Konstantin Ryabitsev[1]:

          Life Behind the Tinfoil: A Look at Qubes and Copperhead (youtube)

          [1] Director of IT Infrastructure Security at The Linux Foundation

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        That’s bad. So much for my hopes of Red Hat being an independent check against these big companies. If it’s actually $34 billion, then this tops WhatsApp as biggest acquisition if memory serves right. Makes sense on IBM’s part since they mostly be the farm on Linux on top of being major contributor to kernel.

        1. 3

          Do you think rhel has acted as competition to IBM in the past decade?

          1. 9

            IBM is a patent-trolling firm that turns everything they acquire into crap vs what they were. I imagine them owning Red Hat’s IP early on might have made Linux worse off. Instead, they developed independently in goals and style then interdependently in supporting the kernel. Now, that large, independent party is controlled by IBM.

            I’d rather there be as large a number of companies as possible contributing to and/or influencing future of Linux.

            1. 9

              IBM has had a big influence on RHEL since early days. They started steering kernel development and taking advantage of Linux platform very early on thanks to some very smart executives. The Linux strategy enabled IBM to outsource OS development and create essentially a trust that broke the MSOFT monopoly without much investment and outside the imagination of anti-trust enforcement. Think about if, in 1998, IBM/Oracle/Novell/Intel had formed an OS company - it would have been the immediate target of an anti-trust action.

              1. 5

                Everything you say makes sense. The outsourcing OS development note is something I’ve always pointed out. They’re not fully freeloading off Linux but get way more value out than they put in. Smart strategy for them. Then, Novell grabbed Suse. The rest just build on top of the big ones with Shuttleworth’s Canonical being the outlier: a straight-up loss to make a desktop happen.

                1. 4

                  They’re not fully freeloading off Linux but get way more value out than they put in.

                  Doesn’t everyone? :) Certainly true of myself.

                  1. 2

                    (Glances at laptop and wallet.)


            2. 4

              Absolutely. I don’t have any data but would bet that RHEL is easily the biggest competitor to IBM’s mainframe/enterprise computing stuff.

              1. 3

                IBM does a huge Linux business that relies on RHEL. You could view RHEL as a low cost vendor to IBM.

              2. 3

                Without a doubt. In big enterprise businesses like finance where downtime is measured in the millions of dollars per minute, you shell out big money for IBM hardware and IBM software and IBM support contracts because you know with 100% certainty that what you get is going to work as well as they claim. If it doesn’t, it’s escalated until it does*.

                All of that is well and good until one day someone notices that the company is shelling out way too much money annually on support for an aging Power server just to run some in-house Java web apps that would be just fine on a $50k Dell cluster running Linux. When you run an enterprise you always buy support and Red Hat is the industry standard in Linux support. So Red Hat really made a lot of headway into the lower to middle-end product space in enterprise datacenters, a space that IBM tried very hard to convince its customers didn’t actually exist. Until today.

                * Of course, this is usually more true for IBM’s in-house stuff, there are a lot of cases where they’ve bought another company for their successful product, slap the IBM logo on it, and then let it languish.

                1. 3

                  20 years out of date. IBM biggest revenue division is services/cloud. The mainframe business is profitable but shrinking. Linux is raw material, not competition.

              3. 1

                What do you mean by, “this tops WhatsApp as biggest acquisition”? WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook. And neither are even in the ballpark of the biggest acquisitions on our public markets.

                Is it that this is the biggest “tech company” acquisition, for some definition of “tech company”? That might be. It’s interesting because it’s probably only a company like IBM that could afford – and even make sense of – a $20B market cap enterprise open source company like RedHat. But more than anything, IMO, it shows that this particular segment of the public tech market is running on a lot of smoke and mirrors. I am a multi-decade techie, and I can’t even tell you what IBM and RedHat truly do, other than sell overpriced enterprise support contracts for legacy systems to enterprises. No techie I know would choose either of them as “growth” opportunities on the fundamentals of innovation or new products; instead, your excitement about their businesses comes down to what extent you think Fortune 1000 companies will feel obligated to pay them an IT support tax, of sorts. Meanwhile, for IBM, which has been operating on smoke and mirrors for a long time now (especially “Watson”), this is just a multi-billion dollar enterprise tech confusion where it can continue to hide losses and buy time for a massive speculative innovation that will never come.

                1. 4

                  Is it that this is the biggest “tech company” acquisition

                  That’s what I meant. The news wave over Facebook dropping $16 billion on WhatsApp talked about it being the biggest or one of the biggest. This justifiably topped that. Remember this is a company that sells hybrid of FOSS and proprietary software, though. Most big acquisitions aren’t for FOSS-oriented companies. It’s both a nice precedent for valuing others and one that might not be repeated given Red Hat itself might not be repeated. To put the deal size into perspective, HP acquired Compaq with its servers, CPU’s, and OS’s for $25 billion.

                  “But more than anything, IMO, it shows that this particular segment of the public tech market is running on a lot of smoke and mirrors. “

                  It often is. In IBM’s case, they’re a large company that doesn’t produce this sort of thing on their own. They have to acquire such innovations for ridiculously-large amounts. It’s a problem with their culture mostly but some is inevitable. This one is different, though. Like in vyodaiken and I’s conversation, these two have been pretty close for some time with IBM betting the farm on Linux for most servers and service revenue. Although it was outsourced (an externality), it looks like they’re internalizing it since it’s so mission-critical. Ensuring tens of billions in Linux-derived revenue continues to flow for years… the total being a humongous number… might be worth $20 billion one-time. Then they also get new tie-in products like with other acquisitions. I think it’s mostly them addressing a core dependency, though.

              1. 7

                I guess their site name is semiaccurate, but this seems to not be accurate: https://twitter.com/intelnews/status/1054397715071651841

                1. 6

                  Charlie has quite a good track record on Intel rumors. It’s possible that they’re not officially killing the node, but letting it rot on the vine while they invest in the following node.

                  1. 4

                    Documenting the assembly process for my DIY laptop design: https://www.flickr.com/photos/technomancy/44212511695/in/datetaken-public/

                    I’ve been working for months on this and finally found a way to fix the last remaining flaw.


                    1. 2

                      Too cool!

                    1. 4

                      I’ve been diving into the Talos II server; there’s a lot more work to be done.

                      Debian Buster is currently booting off the nvme drive; that works fine. I also have an array of eight hard drives connected through an LSI 9300 host board adapter, which has been giving me some trouble. After a few hours of operation, the disks seem to momentarily vanish? Which obviously upsets the filesystem. I believe I need to update the LSI card’s firmware, but I’ll need to move the card to an x86 PC in order to do that (no PPC64 support for the firmware flashing tool).

                      I’ve been waffling between OpenZFS and mdadm+XFS. I expected to be put off by ZFS’s complexity, but now that I’ve observed how both systems deal with the faulty LSI card, I’m a lot more confident in ZFS (even if it is 250K lines of code). It just seems better about detecting errors, and pausing operations when the disk state is uncertain.

                      It took a while to get my bearings regarding virtualization on POWER9. There is no kvm-qemu package, and eventually I realized qemu-system-ppc64 is the necessary package. I was able to create a VM using virsh and virt-install, but haven’t been able to attach a console yet.

                      1. 2

                        Sort of. I organize my information using FreeMind. It’s a mind-mapping tool with a tree hierarchy and rich text formatting.

                        1. 1

                          It would make an interesting build server, running distcc over maybe a hundred of these… I wonder how much torture it is to get a PCB with this working.

                          1. 1

                            I am a complete PCB design novice, but here are my thoughts. The limiting factor with that setup is probably going to be the RAM. The A13 chip only has 64MB of integrated RAM, and I doubt that’s enough to run compile jobs.

                            From the forum thread linked by hackaday:

                            The only use I see for it is if you have an product that works with the reduced number of peripherals, and can live in the integrated 64MB of RAM. The chip being TQFP is kind of moot if you need to put a BGA-96 DDR chip next to it.


                            I’ve settled for the NXP iMX6ULL chips (fairly cheap) for more price sensitive designs, and iMX6Dual/Quad for more powerful designs that require 3D acceleration. It allows me to be a bit more scalable than I would have been with TI, and allows me to re-use my know-how and software base.

                            If a design has to incorporate ball grid arrays for the RAM anyway, then we’re already beyond what can be soldered by hand and there’s nothing especially compelling about a thin quad flat package CPU.

                            Those NXP iMX6ULL chips look pretty nice. They’re BGA and are just $0.89/ea on octopart. Up to 1GHz, and support DDR3-800 memory. I’m not exactly clear on memory compatibility, but it looks like you can get 2GB for about $8.

                            In theory you could create a minimal board design – like a stripped-down raspberry pi – and get a run of boards printed and assembled somewhere like seeedstudio or worthingtonassembly.

                          1. 10

                            Why do people think MS is doing all this? Do people really think a company worth 860 billion dollars has anything to give away for free? I do not want to go into MS bashing, but believing that a big company like MS is now altruistic and believing in making the world a better place is just naive. MS wants to be seen as cool and hip with the dev. crowd, esp. the young Sillicon Valley crowd, so that they can sell more Azure. They do not care about software freedom or anything like that.

                            1. 12

                              Goals can align. Microsoft might care about software freedom because that improves their business in some way. In this case, their goal is obviously to collect metrics about users. Almost all of the code is open though.

                              1. 3

                                I don’t think thats an obvious goal at all - metrics about users. A perfectly acceptable goal is to regain mindshare among developers. vscode can be seen as a gateway drug to other microsoft services, improving their reputation.

                                1. 2

                                  I wonder what metrics from a text editor would be useful to them?

                                  1. 10

                                    I want metrics from the compilers I work on. It’d be super useful to know what language extensions people have enabled, errors people hit, what they do to fix them, etc. Sounds mundane at first, but it’d allow me to focus on what needs work.

                                    1. 8

                                      Well, VS Code doesn’t choose your compilers :)

                                      either way, I don’t get the paranoia. Performance telemetry, automated crash reports, stats about used configurations – not stuff that violates privacy in any meaningful way. It’s weird that this gets lumped in together in the general paranoia storm with advertisers building a profile of you to sell more crap.

                                      1. 8

                                        Issue #49161 VSCode sends search keystrokes to Microsoft even with telemetry disabled

                                        It’s not even paranoia so much as irritation at this point. I know my digital life is leaking like a sieve, and I’d like to plug the holes.

                                        1. 3

                                          Kinda clickbait issue title. Yeah, keystrokes are always a lot more worrying than metrics, but this is settings search. I guess you could Ctrl+F search for something secret (e.g. a password) in a text file, but not in the settings.

                                          1. 12

                                            You know, there was a time when it was big news if a commercial program was caught to “phone home” at all. It didn’t matter what the content was.

                                            (Today, you’d call a ‘commercial program’ a ‘proprietary application’.)

                                            It’s still a big deal today if an open source/community maintained/free software application ‘phones home’, because reasons: untrusted individuals, the value of big data, and principles of privacy.

                                            Now that M$ is in the game, let’s add ‘untrusted corporation’ to that last list.

                                            I don’t care what the nature of the data is–I don’t want to be observed. Especially not as I ply my craft–few activities produce measurable signals from any deeper inside myself, and every one of those is definitely on my personal ‘no, you can’t watch!’ list.

                                            1. 1

                                              For me personally, I have no problem adding telemetry to apps I maintain. But I’m sure going to make sure users know about it and can disable it if they want. I think that’s the real issue - consent.

                                            2. 5

                                              That’s having to think way too hard about what they’re intercepting.

                                      2. 4

                                        Platform it’s running on, type of code being edited, frequency of use for a given feature. Heuristic data about how people interact with the UI. The list goes on. Note also that none of this need be evil. It could be seen as collecting data looking to improve user experience.

                                    2. 3

                                      I’d guess they’re after a platform. They want to build a base (using organic growth) that they might later on capitalize on, either by learning from it to invite people to use (proper) Visual Studio or by limiting VSCode’s openness.

                                    1. 3

                                      Experimenting with solar! I have a 100W panel and a cheap solar controller. Going to see if I can get this 12V fan to run on solar power.

                                      Also, glad to see the switch from the culture tag to programming. Now this thread should get some better visibility.

                                      1. 1

                                        I’d like to see more detail about the IoT network. What boards are they using? Which OS? How are they collating the data? What radio tech are they using?

                                        The article explains these are low-cost prototypes, but says nothing about how to build your own.

                                        1. 3

                                          Sidenote: it really irritates me how the culture tag’s negative hotness modifier causes this weekly thread to drop off the front page almost immediately. It’s only 12 hours old and already halfway down page 2.

                                          1. 1

                                            We used to just tag it with ask and nothing more, but as it’s a meta tag now it fails validation without another tag as well. I picked culture from the list originally because it felt the “best” fit for this thread, but that also irks me how quickly it vanishes. I’m sure it makes a difference to how many people comment on the thread (although if you’re around here for any length of time you’ll know it appears on a Monday, so can go look for it.)

                                            I wonder if there is a better “second” tag for these threads that wouldn’t have the negative cost attached, without mis-appropriating the tag.

                                            /cc @kzisme

                                            1. 2

                                              practices or programming seem fine. I’d also prefer this thread not drop away so fast. /cc @kzisme who often posts these.

                                              1. 1

                                                How about programming? “Use when every tag or no specific tag applies”

                                              1. 1

                                                Is Timeless Way your first Christopher Alexander book? How are you liking it?

                                                1. 2

                                                  I read Notes on the Synthesis of Form before, which I loved the first half, the second half sounded like a formalization of the first and wasn’t that interesting.

                                                  Regarding “The Timeless Way” I like it, I haven’t read “A Pattern Language” yet, but I have the impression this one is better since it explains the concept of patterns and some examples without going to the formalization that “A Pattern Language” seems to go, which was the part I didn’t like about “Notes on the Synthesis of Form” :)

                                                  1. 2

                                                    I enjoy the conceptual stuff too, although I’ve been reading Alexander’s later books and not the early ones. Pattern Language is interesting, but it’s mostly a collection of ~200 specific patterns for physical buildings.

                                                    I once read an book review that described The Timeless Way of Building as “underbaked,” A Pattern Language as “just right,” and The Nature of Order as “overbaked.” I’m inclined to agree, but overbaked is how I like it! Design patterns are already abstractions, but in TNOO Alexander really digs in and tries to determine what makes a good pattern. Here’s a thread from a couple years ago.

                                                    1. 2

                                                      A Pattern Language gives you examples of patterns from the level of countries all the way down to rooms in your house. It’s filled with fascinating, humanistic reasons for each pattern. Some of my favorites:

                                                      1. Have little hiding spaces in your house because kids like to hide in things.
                                                      2. As a teen gets older, give them a space of their own, perhaps a room they can go into without coming through the rest of the house. That approach develops independence with age.
                                                      3. There’s a really beautiful passage about building a marital bed and how it symbolizes coming together for the long future.
                                                      4. It’s better to build cities where cars move slowly until they get to a fast highway. Not every little road needs to be super fast or wide. You actually end up losing little time in this situation, but you gain quieter and nicer spaces.
                                                      5. Mixed residential and commercial development is the way to go. Downtowns are death because they are unused for half the day.

                                                      etc etc. I recommend getting it and reading a bit at a time, like a work of poetry.

                                                      1. 7

                                                        Alexander wrote the following in his preface to Richard P. Gabriel’s book Patterns of Software:

                                                        In my life as an architect, I find that the single thing which inhibits young professionals, new students most severely, is their acceptance of standards that are too low. If I ask a student whether her design is as good as Chartres, she often smiles tolerantly at me as if to say, “Of course not, that isn’t what I am trying to do. . . . I could never do that.”

                                                        Then, I express my disagreement, and tell her: “That standard must be our standard. If you are going to be a builder, no other standard is worthwhile. That is what I expect of myself in my own buildings, and it is what I expect of my students.” Gradually, I show the students that they have a right to ask this of themselves, and must ask this of themselves. Once that level of standard is in their minds, they will be able to figure out, for themselves, how to do better, how to make something that is as profound as that.

                                                        Two things emanate from this changed standard. First, the work becomes more fun. It is deeper, it never gets tiresome or boring, because one can never really attain this standard. One’s work becomes a lifelong work, and one keeps trying and trying. So it becomes very fulfilling, to live in the light of a goal like this. But secondly, it does change what people are trying to do. It takes away from them the everyday, lower-level aspiration that is purely technical in nature, (and which we have come to accept) and replaces it with something deep, which will make a real difference to all of us that inhabit the earth.

                                                        I would like, in the spirit of Richard Gabriel’s searching questions, to ask the same of the software people who read this book. But at once I run into a problem. For a programmer, what is a comparable goal? What is the Chartres of programming? What task is at a high enough level to inspire people writing programs, to reach for the stars? Can you write a computer program on the same level as Fermat’s last theorem? Can you write a program which has the enabling power of Dr. Johnson’s dictionary? Can you write a program which has the productive power of Watt’s steam engine? Can you write a program which overcomes the gulf between the technical culture of our civilization, and which inserts itself into our human life as deeply as Eliot’s poems of the wasteland or Virginia Woolf’s “The Waves”?

                                                        1. 3

                                                          This passage is really beautiful and encouraging, thank you!

                                                      2. 1

                                                        Sounds like I will skip A Pattern Language and go with The Nature of Order then :)


                                                1. 4

                                                  The First Amendment covers more than literal speech: source code and technical data is a form of expression just as much as a poem or song, and are equally protected.

                                                  There is no principled endpoint to this – if you followed this sort of reasoning, then everything would be protected under free speech, including all physical objects. That being said, I am not optimistic for the government’s prospects in this case. At least two appeals courts, the 9th circuit (Bernstein v. US), and the 6th circuit (Junger v. Daley) have already explicitly held that source code is free speech. It is only a matter of time before CAD files (imo, incorrectly) will be interpreted as closer to source code than physical objects.

                                                  1. 2

                                                    if you followed this sort of reasoning, then everything would be protected under free speech, including all physical objects

                                                    Source code, technical data, poems, and songs are all intangible; you could conceivably speak the information aloud. Where is the slippery slope to physical objects?

                                                    1. 1

                                                      If you agree with the following three statements:

                                                      • Source code is free speech.
                                                      • CAD files are a form of source code.
                                                      • The government should not restrict free speech.

                                                      then, I think, you are logically forced into accepting that it will be impossible to regulate any 3D printed objects, since it is (both legally and practically) infeasible to restrict what people do on their own 3D printers in their own homes.

                                                      1. 3

                                                        …you are logically forced into accepting that it will be impossible to regulate any 3D printed objects, since it is (both legally and practically) infeasible to restrict what people do on their own 3D printers in their own homes.

                                                        It’s not legally impossible to restrict use of 3D printers anymore than it is to restrict use of CNC machines. “Shop guns” are a thing and if unregistered are manifestly illegal in California.

                                                        1. 2

                                                          I don’t think that logically follows, free speech doesn’t mean you can say anything you want.

                                                          1. 1

                                                            Absent imminent lawless action, I think it does. What do you think it means?

                                                            1. 2

                                                              Imminent lawless action is one of a few categories of unprotected speech. Others include libel and false advertising.

                                                              1. 1

                                                                This is in the context of safety/secuity-based restrictions on free speech (i.e. guns). Should have made that clearer.

                                                          2. 2

                                                            Oh, I see what you mean. That doesn’t lead to “everything” being protected by free speech; 3D printed objects are a subset of all physical objects. You can’t 3D-print uranium, for instance.

                                                            It would be impossible to regulate plastic shapes… but so what?

                                                      1. 5

                                                        if you have a HiFive Unleashed board as I do, this is more immediately useful: https://wiki.debian.org/InstallingDebianOn/SiFive/HiFiveUnleashed

                                                        Still really excited that my favorite distro supports my most recent offbeat hardware purchase!

                                                        1. 3

                                                          How are you liking the board? What well-known system would you compare its overall performance to? And is it working reliably?

                                                          1. 2

                                                            The board seems fine, but the fan failed. The forums imply I should not have moved the board around while the fan was active. New fans just arrived, hopefully it’s fine this time.

                                                            I do wish the board would have arrived with debian already installed, but I understand this isn’t for the same market as the BeagleBone / Raspberry Pi / etc

                                                            No real thoughts on performance, I’m biased by the Xeons in my laptop.

                                                          2. 2

                                                            Please write about your experiences with the board in the weekly “What are you working on?” thread! I’m very interested in hearing about it.

                                                          1. 2

                                                            Although I’m pro-bitcoin and disagree with this article’s conclusions, there are a lot of good points here. I will cover the points I disagree with.

                                                            I disagree that the electric consumption is a real problem. The author notes that power demand for bitcoin mining increases with bitcoin’s price, because the block reward is worth more. Well, every few years the block reward is cut in half (“the halvening”), and mining activity subsequently decreases (as does power consumption). Eventually new BTC emissions will cease, and miners will only be rewarded with transaction fees. Mining activity will certainly scale to compensate.

                                                            Low transaction throughput is a valid complaint, but does not take the lightning network into account. Lightning transactions are fast, cheap, and work today. More and more lightning nodes are being deployed. There is a tradeoff between decentralization/security and transaction throughput. The two-layer solution is actually better than scaling Bitcoin directly, because we get fast transcations without compromising decentralization.

                                                            Private key theft is a concern, but I think that’s a stronger indictment of our current security practices than it is of cryptocurrencies. We need trustable devices capable of securely storing private keys.

                                                            Regarding bitcoin’s value, the author seems to contradict themselves. They assert “most sensible recipients of a Bitcoin payment immediately convert their payment into dollars,” but they also say “The only rational behavior for someone holding a deflationary currency is to never actually spend it.” So which is it, should you hold bitcoin or dollars? I disagree with their assertion anyway. Stocks appreciate over time, but I will still sell stocks when I want to make a large purchase. It makes sense to cash out when you want to purchase something.

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                                                              Gotta wonder if this might actually work in our favor with the current de-regulation crazy administration and congress in control?

                                                              Thinking about it, I think they’re even MORE BigCorp crazy, so that will Trump the first impulse.

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                                                                People that want open systems actually buying open systems would be a start. Right now, they buy the closed systems for various advantages they have. Most didn’t start that good, though: they got there through years of R&D and improvements fueled by selling their product. The open products can only get there with our help.

                                                                Although RISC-V is current favorite, there was also non-Intel CPU’s with Open Firmware. A few were even GPL at various times. People didn’t buy them when they were available since a volume product from Intel/AMD/ARM/MIPS was (insert trait here). Between that and prior failures (eg BiiN, Itanium), investors stopped fabbing them since they thought nobody would buy them. Advocates of ethical, open hardware didn’t pool money together to get that started either.

                                                                Absent regulations, it looks like the market is getting exactly what it should expect buying goods from evil, scheming companies. Then, some of them gripe about the evil schemes that follow. The market side of solution remains: start and/or buy open and/or ethical solutions. For long-term assurances, buy from companies or nonprofits chartered to stay open, avoid lock-in, etc.

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                                                                  Although RISC-V is current favorite

                                                                  I looked at Risc-V boards, but all the currently available devices have firmware blobs for various non-CPU components on the board. From a purist perspective, Hi-Five’s board is hardly better than most ARM boards. I am very hopeful for the future of Risc-V, though.

                                                                  The market side of solution remains: start and/or buy open and/or ethical solutions.

                                                                  This is arguably happening. The problem is that so few devices meet a purist’s standards, so you typically have to compromise in one way or another. There are a few online stores that traffic in Thinkpad X200s and Asus KGPE-D16s. And of course the Talos II has finally made it to market.

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                                                                    Although true for purists, pragmatists might take the blobs if the open core had stuff like IO/MMU to mitigate some risk. There’s definitely stuff happening on demand side. That’s good news.

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                                                                    I’m always super cautious about ascribing concepts like good or evil to corporations. Corporations exist to make money. Some corporations have figured out that maximizing value to their customers can also mean being good citizens in the ecosystems, nations, and PLANETS in which they operate.

                                                                    I mean, what this really boils down to is: Is capitalism inherently bad? I almost feel like this impulse towards “Profit = EVIL” should go down as one of the biggest geek social myths of all time.

                                                                    While I’d love to live in some kind of luxury space communism based society where material things are essentially valueless and we can all have whatever we want whenever we want, we’ve a long way to go before we get there.

                                                                    (And don’t start talking about how we can 3D print everything now, because we can’t. We can 3D print more and more things every day, but it’s neither easy nor cost effective when you get away from the kinds of plastics that have been commoditized for that purpose.)

                                                                    There exist companies like System76 and Purism that cater to the “truly open” market, but the fact is most people simply don’t care and arguably they SHOULDN’T care so long as their needs are being met.

                                                                    “totally open” only matters to us mad scientist types who want to tinker with EVERYTHING. I agree that our needs should be met too, but we shouldn’t project our needs onto the market at large.

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                                                                      “totally open” only matters to us mad scientist types who want to tinker with EVERYTHING

                                                                      Openness also seems to matter to the cloud business? Judging by Google’s interest in things like LinuxBoot and POWER at least.

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                                                                        The topic of this article (and hopefully this discussion :) is general purpose computers. As in, a computer you can walk up to and run random programs on.

                                                                        Nobody disagrees that openness is important. Lobsters wouldn’t exist without open source, and the Linux universe a huge chunk of us make our living off of depends upon it as well, but SPECIFICALLY talking about general purpose computers that humans buy to perform every day tasks, I’d argue that having a 100% open architecture is utterly meaningless to easily 99% of their userbase.

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                                                                          Do remember the cloud business is already customizing boards and maybe even chips on a regular basis. Intel and AMD allow that through their semi-custom service. The ARM and MIPS suppliers stay doing that. They’re seriously performance, feature, and cost competitive on top of it with low-level optimizations being part of that. Put it all together, there’s good reasons for cloud market to look into open CPU’s. I think they’ll need to be fully-built, cost-effective performance, and support easy addition of acceleration engines. Cavium is in best position to do a RISC-V SoC like this but they did MIPS and ARM for ecosystems instead.

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                                                                          (Waited till I got home to respond to this. It deserves more effort. :)

                                                                          It’s good to be cautious about it. There’s all kinds of ways to look at morality. I feel you on that. As I thought about it, I realized there was a lot of common ground among the majority of people. Focusing on that could help.

                                                                          So, an easy one to leverage that’s already established in our intuition and legal system is fraud. An evil company promises one thing to the seller but doesn’t deliver it at all or as promised. This might be performance, quality, support/service, or something where screwups are easy to assess. An extension of this is the company tries to use legal or technological means to prevent customers from assessing that or shut down negative reports. I mean, a fundamental assumption for the market for goods is you should know what you’re getting, have a chance at assessing its value, and complete a transaction on it.

                                                                          We could nail lots of companies with just that rule. Especially in EDA or embedded SoC’s where they try to use NDA’s on all kinds of things. From there, I might add protocols or storage formats have to be open to block lockin. It also preserves competitiveness by allowing solutions to be plug and play. We might also reduce copyright, patent, or EULA restrictions on basis that owners only get such protections if they’re acting reasonable. One example is Oracle wanting a billion dollars for a few lines of code in a system depending on millions of them or twenty something per phone when profit is around thirty with their patent being one of 250,000. Obviously, these numbers in no way represent Oracle’s contribution to the platform. Even a dollar a patent would be more than the funding of a startup in that sector. We can look at stuff like that, even progressive schemes where people pay as they grow. We can be flexible. Thing is, the greedy companies are so epically full of shit that even basic, common sense stuff will knock out lots of their schemes while minimally affecting well-run companies or true innovators.

                                                                          “Is capitalism inherently bad?”

                                                                          Yes if you’re going by the interpretation of always increasing gain for yourself at expense of others with no limit. It provably leads to evil on a massive scale. When you combine that with capitalist media, it gets worse in a self-sustaining way. One [biased] source I like on it just for the anecdotes is the documentary The Corporation. I listed some highlights from it in this comment answering a similar question.

                                                                          “There exist companies like System76 and Purism that cater to the “truly open” market, but the fact is most people simply don’t care and arguably they SHOULDN’T care so long as their needs are being met. “totally open” only matters to us mad scientist types who want to tinker with EVERYTHING. “

                                                                          The people who built the proprietary systems of the richest, tech companies usually had source and/or hardware control. The creatives probably wouldn’t do as good a job if their already-paid service started showing them ads more often. The TPM-powered solutions industry wanted stopping most forms of sharing, making you pay for stuff multiple times, not letting you record stuff, and so on would probably be opposed by the masses. Most companies locked in to inferior products that they built stuff on long ago don’t like that fact so much as tolerate it out of necessity. It hurts their ability to move fast and profit off of things.

                                                                          You can find a lot of damage that always-closed platforms do vs open, tinkerable ones if you focus on peoples needs, wants, and goals. A well-designed, commercial platform that had source where third-parties can extend or integrate it will always have more potential for those people than one that’s arbitrarily limited. People don’t care since tech people don’t speak their language focusing on their goals. I’ve been learning to do that over past few years. I mean, it will still be an uphill battle. I’m just saying things like I just wrote get “Oh yeah, that’s aggravating!” or “That could be really cool!” reactions from people instead of blank stares wondering whether to be impressed, confused, or annoyed by impenetrable jargon or politics that can’t mean anything in real world. If value proposition was same, people almost always prefer the device which also let them fix it cheap, customize it easily (maybe via friend or company), not leak their stuff, and not force unnecessary upgrades. Or make them buy a new charger. ;)

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                                                                            There are more people that care about “totally open” than tinkerers. You have a coalition between tinkerers, people who believe closed source software and/or lockdown is unethical, and people for whom blobs pose an unacceptable security hazard.

                                                                            Raptor is apparently a major customer of their own Talos II product, due to untenable security concerns around unauditable blobs on x86.

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                                                                              As to the confluence you speak of - the people in your first paragraph still amount to no more than 1% of the consumer computing market.

                                                                              As to the next paragraph about companies embracing open - speaking as a worker bee in the employ of a rather large corporate overlord, I can say from experience that there are many varieties of “open”.

                                                                              There’s “We have published full specs, firmware, circuit diagrams, and microcode on Github”

                                                                              And then there’s “We will provide YOU, $MEGACORP with source code and materials to all of our products so you can conduct a full security audit”. This happens a LOT.

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                                                                        My preference is Topre switches. Cherry MX never felt quite right to me. MX browns are supposed to be quiet, but I think they sound rattly.

                                                                        I also prefer tenkeyless boards. My hand doesn’t have to travel over an unused numpad to get to the mouse.

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                                                                          All the parts are here; it’s finally time to set up the Talos II server!

                                                                          Since POWER9 is so new, there are only a few OSes to choose from: Debian/Ubuntu, RedHat/Fedora/CentOS, and maybe a couple others. No BSDs yet to my knowledge.

                                                                          First priorities for the server are setting up a ZFS array, and getting KVM working with guests.

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                                                                            Part of that means that there’s absolutely NOTHING on your computer that isn’t planned.

                                                                            2018: Install security patches, also get Candy Crush

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                                                                              I was going to write the same :) I’m pretty sure it is still true for the MS engineers as they most likely have a version of Windows (Enterprise?) that has none of that crap, so they never see it and doesn’t affect them.

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                                                                                It affects me too, but these decisions are all made at the management level. I’ve just formed a habit of uninstalling/disabling misfeatures as they appear.

                                                                                The biggest benefit of Enterprise edition is that you’re allowed to disable things. But they usually enabled by default regardless.