Category Archives: opensource

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Craig: “Are you a libertarian or something, because I’m not sensing any clear political philosophy behind your position?”

Alec: “No, I’m not a libertarian. I’m from the Internet. I’m here to help.


Note to self: EXT4 Filesystem with MySQL on Ubuntu under VirtualBox is toxic; use ‘nobarrier’ mount option

Am running WordPress importers; that which required more than 30 minutes to import – utilising less than 2% CPU for the whole time – suddenly required less than 3 minutes after adding the nobarrier option to the root mountpoint and rebooting.

barrier=<0|1(*)> barrier(*) nobarrier

This enables/disables the use of write barriers in the jbd code. barrier=0 disables, barrier=1 enables. This also requires an IO stack which can support barriers, and if jbd gets an error on a barrier write, it will disable again with a warning. Write barriers enforce proper on-disk ordering of journal commits, making volatile disk write caches safe to use, at some performance penalty. If your disks are battery-backed in one way or another, disabling barriers may safely improve performance. The mount options “barrier” and “nobarrier” can also be used to enable or disable barriers, for consistency with other ext4 mount options.

Gah. Hasn’t Linux gotten past this fuckwittage yet? #ZFS

MUST READ SECURITY STUFF: “The 0day and the Ivory Tower”

For those who won’t click through to the original content, I reproduce it below – because it’s just too perfect:

From: Ben Nagy ben at
Date: Thu Aug 16 01:32:32 EDT 2012

On Wed, Aug 15, 2012 at 3:13 PM, Dr. Sandro Gaycken wrote

Henceforth, I respond, if at all, exclusively in sarcastic couplets.

“The 0day and the Ivory Tower”

Said Doctor One to Doctor Two, these 0days are a bore
I read about them just last year! They’re too scary to ignore!
Said Doctor Two to Doctor One I know just what to do -
A brilliant plan from me and you, to save the whole EU!

With just 20 million Euro from each of 20 trusted friends,
we’ll find the bugs and fix them all, then APT will end!
Of course the plan will never work without a total ban
on coding and compilers (unless we say they can)

But how on earth, said Doctor One, can governments be showed
that individual liberty is worth less than some code?

Gentlemen! Said Doctor Three, (he enters from the rear)
By my scraggy beard and ponytail, well I can help you there!
We’ll simply call them cyberarms, to strike their hearts with fear,
and speak of Arabs killing folk, and such and such, all clear?

A cunning plot, good Doctor Three, but surely you recall
their allies in the USA, and justice there, for all?
Oh, don’t mind us, said EFF, we’re not as staid as that
Just let us sign a bill or two, this whole thing’s in the hat!

So black was white and white was black
And code was arms, no-one could hack

The Doctors published articles, they gained respect and friends
And then got owned by clicking on

The End

Baby seals,


On Kindle and Openness… /cc @webmink @symbiat

I wrote about my iPad and Nexus 7 thoughts; Ajai responded on FB*:

I find it odd you mentioning how closed iOS is and ye you carry a Kindle. The others readers offer ePub support which is obviously an open format.

Anyway, I use my Nexus 7 for: reading books (take your pick: Kindle app, nook app, Google Books, Aldiko or Kobo); Google maps is excellent (most of the Google apps have been optimized for it); Google Reader or FlipBoard work well; it’s quad-core CPU and 12-core GPU so much better than the Galaxy Tab (but also because it’s stock Android, none of that TouchWiz nonsense).

I see the confusion, but the truth is that I can** put by one means or another _any_ open content onto the Kindle because “it’s just words” – so Kindle’s adherence to the FOSS-blessed format du jour is not relevant to me so long as the Kindle does not inhibit me from adding stuff to it.

Frankly I am most annoyed that it lacks a decent .TXT and offline HTML viewer; but HTML I tend to post on the web and view from anywhere, anyway…

And it’s unusable as a content-creation device, so I don’t worry about it not writing in an open format because it does not write at all.

I should get to play with Simon Phipps’ N7 today. We shall see.

And he can put me right about the format issue, too, if needs be.

* isn’t that ironic, in retrospect? :-)
** by means of geek uberness if not brute force

There’s Free (as in Beer) and Free (as in Speech) but the lesser-known third option is …

I was out to dinner with Whit Diffie and @adriana872 at the weekend, and Whit quoted something that he’d heard somewhere in the upper echelons of Sun:

There’s Free (as in Beer) and Free (as in Speech) but the lesser-known third option is Free (as in Puppies)

That’s where you give someone something for free where they think they’re getting a really good deal, but in reality they will be paying for, for years to come.

Apparently it was a speculative business model.

Hey Trusted Computing / Security Label Geeks – if you like XMPP then read this: “XEP-0314: Security Labels in PubSub”

From a colleague who’s just had this posted on and is working with realtime pubsub.

XEP-0314: Security Labels in PubSub.


This specification defines an extension to XEP-0258 (Security Labels) to allow for the use of security labels in XEP-0060 (Publish-Subscribe). This document describes how security label metadata can be applied to the various elements within Publish-Subscribe, including nodes and items.


Ashley Ward

1. Introduction

The use of security labels within XMPP is currently defined in Security Labels in XMPP [1]. This, however, does not cover the use of security labels within Publish-Subscribe [2]. This XEP defines a method to include security labels into publish-subscribe.

This allows content publishers to limit visibility of any sensitive published items to only those users with appropriate clearance to view them.

This document does not deal with the semantics of a Security Label or how the security policy is applied to decisions regarding Security Labels and Clearances.

This document should be read in conjunction with Publish-Subscribe [3] and Security Labels in XMPP [4].


…I am quite amazed to see quite how big a feature set is embedded in XMPP.

Police Tape: an ACLU mobile app # and a reason to prefer Android over iPhone #security #opensystems

Sometimes having a curated application store is a benefit; other times it’s a risk:

Police Tape is an Android app from the American Civil Liberties Union that is designed to allow citizens to covertly record the police. When activated, it hides itself from casual inspection, and it has a mode that causes it to send its recording to an ACLU-operated server, protecting against police seizure and deletion.


The ACLU says that an iPhone version is “coming soon,” though it remains to be seen whether something so potentially controversial passes muster with the App Store.

via Police Tape: an ACLU mobile app to secretly record the police – Boing Boing.

“I’m sure many list members designed and wrote their own compiled languages as children”

Only on certain maillists do you get this manner of comment:

BCPL is interesting in that it is quite close to being a sort of
generically unoriginal language. I’m sure many list members designed
and wrote their own compiled languages as children. My experience
(before I had met BCPL) was to come up with something surprisingly
similar, absent co-routines. Its almost the simplest possible
block-structured imperative language. I am sure most of the rest of
you have similar experiences.

This is, obviously, regards a discussion on copyright.

If Oracle wins its Android suit, everyone loses | Open Source Software – InfoWorld

Simon Phipps:

The main substance of the case is now a copyright claim that surprised most observers. Oracle is claiming that, by implementing the Java programming language and interfaces in Android, Google is in breach of Oracle’s copyright.

This flies in the face of the received wisdom of the software industry. It’s so widely accepted that programming interfaces and languages are beyond the scope of copyright that very few cases have ever been brought to court. In those that have, the received wisdom has largely been upheld.

This is a good thing. Without it, the lives of programmers would be much more complex. Header files and function prototypes would all need licensing from their owners, so programming for any operating system would at best require attention to license compatibility and at worst would involve total control of the programming lifecycle by the platform vendor.

If Oracle wins, the decision could set a legal precedent that legitimizes controlling behaviors by platform vendors — and introduces a complex and unwelcome legalism into software development. Header files and function prototypes would need copyright statements and corresponding copyright licenses. Open source developers would need to check that the open source license on header files they were using was compatible with the open source license on their software. Corporate developers would receive instructions from their legal departments not to use GPL headers for fear of the license terms becoming applicable to corporate software. Complexity and confusion would return to a world where they have largely been expunged, bringing fear, uncertainty, and doubt back into open source software development.

via If Oracle wins its Android suit, everyone loses | Open Source Software – InfoWorld.