About My Day: Everly had a difficult time listening to her teachers, today. She ran away from them and threw many works.
When my last phone died in December, I decided to steer clear of contracts (so that my family could maybe get off of AT&T once all the contracts on the plan expire) and get a Nexus 5. I’ve usually used Cyanogenmod in the past, but I decided to try out the newer OmniROM this time. The Omni project started last year as a response to Cyanogenmod shifting from a completely volunteer project to a for-profit company — sort of the Canonical of the Android ecosystem. I like that the philosophy of Omni is about respecting users and adding value to the open source Android ecosystem.
One concrete difference from Cyanogenmod is that Omni encourages bug reports for from avid users. (Cyanogenmod does not take bug reports for nightly builds, even though that’s what the users who care most about new features and recent changes tend to use.) When I started using Omni, I noticed a few little things that annoyed me: inconsistent icons, and non-standard capitalization in the menu. So I filed some bugs in their bug tracker. These were minor issues, but the developers were quite responsive. The icons I complained about got fixed after a few days. So I decided to try to scratch my own itch for another bug. I followed their guide for getting set up as a developer, and then I submitted patches to fix the capitalization problems I had noticed. (All I did was change a few strings.) All my patches got merged within a few days of submission.
OmniROM is still a small project, but so far I think it’s a great place for newcomers who want to try out open source Android development.
We just watched Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. At the end, Brighton said:
I feel bad about what happened to Harry Potter. It hurts in my heart.
Also, I love Dumbledore’s eulogy for Cedric Diggory:
…exceptionally hard working, infinitely fair-minded, and most importantly, a fierce, fierce friend.
Something to aspire to.
For a while now, I’ve been chasing the holy grail of IRC: running my own low-power, always-on server that I can connect to from anywhere. After 6+ weeks of uptime, I’m ready to declare my current solution a success. I’m running quassel-core (and other things) on a mini stick computer, and I can connect to it from home or remotely, by desktop, laptop, or Android device (by wifi or data connection).
There are plenty of ways to do this, but it’s taken a while for me to work it out, so I wanted to write it up.
TL;DR: Get at least a dual-core ARM device that runs Linux, install quassel-core and create a PostegreSQL database for it, then use Quassel on your computers and Quasseldroid on Android devices to connect. Use an SSH tunnel to the device when you’re away from your home network.
First, the device to run it on. Just about any ARM device that can run Linux takes care of the low-power part — a rooted Android phone, a Raspberry Pi, or some other mini Android or Linux device. If you can get Debian or some other full distro running (whether natively or as a loop device inside Android), you can probably run quassel-core. But you probably want at least a dual-core device for decent performance. Here is what I’ve tried:
- Droid Incredible (1 Ghz single core, CyanogenMod with Debian running in a chroot): This worked moderately well, but it was not completely reliable. Every week or so on average, I would have to manually restart it, and it would often have an annoying delay between sending/receiving messages and them appearing in my clients. (I suspect this is an i/o bottleneck.)
- Raspberry Pi (on raspbmc): Terrible delay, often topping 5 or 10 seconds. While some have reported running quassel-core without issue, others have found it unusably laggy. Anecdotally, this is probably the result of slow SD cards (like the class 4 I was using); I was also using SQLite, and never tested if PostgreSQL would perform better. If you want to try it on an RPi, try a lean and clean distro on a reasonably speedy SD card.
- MK808B (1.6 Ghz dual core rk3066, Android 4.1 running Debian via ‘Lil Debi): This worked quite well, even while simultaneously serving as a device for Netflix and other apps on my TV. The downside is that the network connection would become unresponsive pretty often. (The connection was more stable when I didn’t use any extraneous apps, and I expect that a device like this would do great with a native Linux distro… if you can it running and get the wifi working. Some of the many similar devices have wifi working on native Linux distros.)
- GK802 (1.2 Ghz quad core Freescale i.MX6, running Debian with a 3.0.35 kernel): This is my current device, which has been great. They go for $65-70 right now (I got mine on sale for $60 from geekbuying.com). While there are faster and more efficient quad-core sticks with rk3188 processors for a little less money, some of which have working Linux distros, I went with this one because Freescale has a reputation for good documentation and for playing nicely with the free software world, and because — similar to a Raspberry Pi — the “internal” memory is a micro SD card, so you don’t have to worry as much about bricking it. There’s a nice little Debian installer I used to get up and running, and you can also run Ubuntu on it pretty easily. After pinning udev, I was able to upgrade to Jessie without too much trouble. The class 4 micro SD card I’m using is probably the main system bottleneck, but it’s been able to handle Quassel just fine.
Second, quassel-core and the database. You’ll probably want the latest version, so on Debian you’ll probably want to use Testing (currently, “Jessie”). For the database, you should definitely use PostgreSQL instead of SQLite. SQLite will work well at first, but as the database grows it will take longer and longer for clients to connect and receive the backlog. Eventually, when my SQLite database hit about 180mb on my MK808B, it wouldn’t connect at all. With six weeks of Postgres so far, I’ve seen no degraded performance as the database grows. Unlike with SQLite, though, you’ll need to do some command line work before you can set up the client.
Third, the clients. The desktop Quassel client is available on just about any system, and you’ll need to use it at least to set up your database initially. Quasseldroid is the Android client, which I like a lot. There’s also iQuassel for iOS, which I haven’t tried. Even on a modest Android device, you can pull tens of thousands of backlog messages in a few seconds.
Fourth, remote connections. There are many ways you could connect remotely to your quassel-core, but the one I’ve been using is just to SSH into the device, so that I can restrict password logins and use only ssh keys. On my Ubuntu laptop, I do a socks proxy for the Quassel port, like this:
ssh -D 4242 root@<my-server-ip-address>
On (rooted) Android devices, I use SSH Tunnel by Max Lv, which lets you route individual apps through SSH. In that case, I tunnel the Quasseldroid app to the Quassel port on my server, and then set up the connection within Quasseldroid to “localhost”.
If you don’t have root, or you use iOS, or you just want a simpler setup, you could just allow connections from the Internet straight to your Quassel port.
All this may seem pretty complicated, but once you get it set up it’s extremely usable. (Any questions about the details, just ask.)
After Aaron Swartz committed suicide in January, and in the months since then as issues of internet freedom and his own tragic story have continued to make news, there’s been a lot of demand for photos of Aaron. I had three photos of him up on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons, from a 2009 Wikipedia meetup.
(I went back to my archives and found several more from that meetup.)
When I got contacted by photo editors who wanted to use these photos, I tried to get them to follow the terms of the CC-BY-SA license. In two cases, Rolling Stone and New Republic, I got a chance to explain how to use a Creative Commons license in print. For most photo editors, free licenses are a big unknown, but lately (in my anecdotal experience) they’ve been more willing to use and follow the licenses than in years past. Here are the spreads.
I’ve tried to follow how these photos have been used online, as well, to understand how–and how well–freely licensed images are used by news websites. Of the 42 uses I’ve looked at there are:
- 6 that follow the license, or come close enough. (If they include a link to the original on Commons or Flickr, I count it as close enough, since others will be able to find all the attribution and license info, even if the reuser isn’t following the license to the letter.)
- 9 that provide attribution to me, but do not follow the license (ie, there’s no indication that the file is freely licensed). Among these is the long Slate profile that is also sold as a Kindle ebook… but with no attribution in the ebook that I can tell.
- 9 (most of which credit me) that add an illegitimate attribution to photo agencies: DPA/Corbis, DPA/Landov and such. Among them: Business Week, New York Magazine, New Scientist, and Bloomberg.com. Two from time.com did not initially credit me, only the photo agencies, but the credits were updated after @wikisignpost contacted them. A few others still don’t. I’m not sure how the photo got appropriated into (I assume) DPA’s collection, but they seem to be distributing it widely and internationally.
- 18 that provide no attribution. In addition to the Amazon ebook version of the Slate piece, the more significant places that don’t use any attribution include the Boston NPR station, Democracy Now, and a Fast Company piece by the project lead of Creative Commons Brazil.
Probably the most interesting use is this mixed media derivative (unattributed, and with no free licensing that I can tell) from a Hungarian website. If anyone knows the language and wants to try to get them to release it under a free license, please do.
The time.com writer put me in touch with their photo editor, who sent me a screenshot from the Landov website, showing how my photo appears in the photo licensing database.
Photo: Sage Ross (Editor’s note: usable only under consideration of Creative Commons Lizenz CC-BY-SA 2.0 and will full reference) DPA/LANDOV
But the Comments/Restrictions section is blank, and the Photographers/Source line that news orgs would typically use just says SAGE ROSS/DPA/LANDOV. So basically they are charging news organizations for this photo and hiding away the fact that it’s not their photo to license in the normal way, and that if their customers want to use it, they actually have to follow the same rules as everyone who gets it for free from the original source.
I had an adversarial relationship with Brighton all morning. He’s been a little whirlwind of destruction.
I finally drew a line and insisted that he pick up the cards and pieces of Candyland that he’d scattered through the hall.
“Can I have some mango?”
“No, not until you pick up Candyland.”
“I’m not hungry.”
And so on. After extensive pouting and pretending to nap and semi-voluntary confinement to his room and plenty of whining, he comes up to me.
“Daddy, would you help me pick this up? I would ‘preciate that.”
I didn’t know Aaron well, but I admired him deeply. The remembrances at Remember Aaron Swartz give a picture of just how much he meant to so many people.
These photos are from the last time I saw him, at a small wiki meetup in Boston in 2009. In my favorite, he’s huddled around a screen with SJ and Mako, and they’re all geeking out over these videos of procedurally generated educational games and and books that are written with Word macros. His passion was infectious and beautiful.