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Comment Re:what do you call "truly open" there?? (Score 4, Interesting) 322

Take it from someone who owned one: the OpenMoko was a terrible phone and a terrible handheld computer. It was nearly useless when not hooked up to a computer via SSH over USB. OpenMoko earned an A for vision in getting a fully open and documented hardware interface, although the results were dubious (crappy GPRS GSM modem in an era when 3G was just becoming popular, crappy non-accelerated drivers for the video chipset). However, OpenMoko's worst failing was the total inability of the company to push a singular stable and complete platform for development; there were about 20 different incompatible distributions in various states of disarray, and you cannot have a platform for end-user app development in that sort of environment. (Imagine how unsuccessful Apple's app store or Android's marketplace would be if developers and users had to choose between 20 different incompatible distributions, all in permanent alpha status...) I think I can live with a few proprietary blobs if it means having a useful device. All of the open technology in the world means nothing if the platform dies on the vine before ever taking off. OpenMoko's ideal of a fully open phone platform proved unsustainable, as the company canceled their "next-gen" (translation: 2.5G in an era of 3G) phone and switched to producing a ridiculous "WikiReader" device which contains no pesky radio or accelerated video modules.

After more than a year of trying to use it, I finally was overjoyed to get rid of my crappy Freerunner. On the other hand, even though my N800 does not have a cell radio, I still like to use it, and am strongly considering buying an N900. I think the OpenMoko was for people who love putting together distributions and blogging about how much freer their device is compared to everyone elses'. A platform like the N800/900 is for people who like programming mobile computers to accomplish useful tasks and then distributing those programs to non-programmers.

Comment Re:Wiping the Hard Drive After Litigation (Score 1) 470

I don't know what the protocol is for civil litigation, so I do not know whether some officer would seize your equipment at the time of service of litigation, as happens in criminal matters.

But assuming that you are able to retain control of your machines and autonomy in their use for some time after being served, then it would actually be quite difficult to securely wipe them and reinstall them without leaving behind some evidence that could be discovered by a forensics expert. Other posts in this thread do a good job of going into detail about specific ways of telling that such a wiping happened, such as looking for evidence of massive patching, or unusually large timestamp jumps. If you are caught, which is likely, then even assuming that you are not subject to criminal penalties for evidence tampering, you can still be nailed by a default judgment against you in the civil matter (where the evidence has merely to be more likely than not, rather than beyond a reasonable doubt).

So, trying to wipe a drive is a losing strategy.

Your best bet to handle this situation requires some fore-planning and regular updating of planning. You must have a brand new hard drive available *before* you get served. Them your best bet is, assuming you retain control of your computer for some time, to *immediately* remove your hard drive and destroy it, and replace it with a brand new hard drive. Then you claim in your affidavit in response to request for discovery that your old hard drive died *before* you were served, and you destroyed the old hard drive *before* you were served. You have to have bought the new hard drive *before* you were served, because they can track when the hard drive was manufactured and possibly even sold, and if the records say it was sold *after* you were served, you get nailed for perjury. Also, the hard drive should be reasonably recent, as one would be unlikely to install a 5 year old "new" hard drive in case of a failure, rather than buying a newer hard drive at the time of failure. Note that some forensics analyses can identify a specific instance of an operating system install based solely on network port scans and other traffic analysis; even though it is currently unlikely that the opponent would have used such a scan on you before serving you, to protect yourself against potential proof that your operating system instance remained the same up until the time of discovery, you should *always* have a hardware firewall between your computer and the Internet.

Of course, the above paragraph details a theoretical method to attempt to subvert the legal system. I do not support perjury and my advice to you is to not to tamper with evidence or lie about evidence.

Comment Re:OpenMoko (Score 1) 176

Minor point of interest - OpenMoko is the software company, AFAICT, and FIC are the hardware company.

I don't know if that is an accurate statement.

FIC is definitely the hardware manufacturer, but OpenMoko seems to be responsible for a significant portion, if not all, of the hardware design for the OpenMoko phones. (At least, this is what I glean from mailing lists where OpenMoko employees discuss the development of hardware revisions.) This would put them squarely in the hardware company category.

Furthermore, OpenMoko has said or implied that their primary software responsibilities are to write drivers for low level hardware, and to provide basic utilities for testing the hardware. It seems that they have more or less pushed the responsibility of creating a stable application development platform, AKA distribution, to the ephemeral "community".

The abdication of the development of a singular, stable, comprehensive platform for application development was a strategic blunder of monumental proportions that will ultimately be fatal to the company. In the absence of a single platform, the Free Software community has done what it naturally does: fragments. No serious mobile application developers will target the OpenMoko, because there does not exist one stable, comprehensive API that is guaranteed to exist on all phones. (Note: I am not advocating that no one else should be allowed to provide an alternative distribution, or that the official distribution should be closed-source; I advocate that OpenMoko should have allocated the necessary resources to ensure that there would exist one stable, usable, and comprehensive platform, before the first phones ever shipped to the general public.)

In the absence of a single platform, we have many competing platforms such as Gnome Mobile, home-rolled FSO, various partially incompatible versions of Trolltech Qtopia, and a seriously hacked-up Android derivative. On top of that are many competing GUI libraries, such as GTK, QT, Enlightenment, and others. What does a developer target to target all OpenMoko phones? Already, many distributions include all libraries; this is wasteful on a device with only 256MB of built-in storage. What does a developer do to make sure his app fits in thematically with the rest of the phone? There is nothing that can be done, with so many different competing GUI libraries with incompatible widget sets and theming mechanisms. OpenMoko apps look and feel like a Chimera, the mythical Greek monster made of an assortment of animals.

OpenMoko still lacks basic features such as a usable on-screen keyboard (none of the alternatives are particularly good), a usable web browser (once again, many options, none particularly good) and a usable email client. In general, we lack most apps in finger-friendly format. Note to OpenMoko developers: I DO NOT WANT to carry around a stylus with my phone. Furthermore, there is no proper centralized repository ( is close, but not a real repository), unless you use a Debian distribution, in which case you've got a whole raft of usability problems. In many cases, you have to download important applications from some random hacker's website in Russia (GPRS). And there is no digital signatures mechanism currently being used by anyone that I am aware of, so I have no idea if any of the software I download has been trojaned.

The purported advantage of the OpenMoko design over Android was the native support for X11; I was at first convinced that this was awesome, because "existing GNU/Linux apps could be ported in no time". However, I have seen what most "ports" consist of: dumping the app onto the phone with little or no GUI changes. The OpenMoko screen is 480x640, and the overwhelming majority of X11 apps are no longer are designed to work at this scale. Often, with dumped apps, I find that critical GUI elements are off-screen, with no known way to get to them. Even when the GUI fits onto the screen, often the widgets are so small that they can only be manipulated with a stylus. To be honest, a proper finger-friendly porting of most apps would require so much design and coding re-work, that having an existing desktop GUI in X11 is no advantage from writing the GUI from scratch.

There is still no official encouragement of cellular Internet (currently, GPRS), which is the primary selling point of a smartphone. There is no easy GUI method for setting up Bluetooth devices, which is another selling point of most phones nowadays. Furthermore, there are still obnoxious hardware/firmware bugs. For example, my Freerunner does not warn me with audio when it is running low on battery (a UI bug, most phones have a little tone they make every few minutes when the battery is low), and when the battery runs out, I cannot recharge it without jumping through kludgy hoops; this is a known bug in hardware or firmware, but it has not been fixed for no apparent reason, despite rendering the phone unusable to non-hackers.

In general, OpenMoko still feels like it is a project controlled by hackers who like the idea of a phone, but only use the phone when it is sitting on their desk, attached to a computer via USB. I cannot believe that management could be this clueless about what it takes to build a product, so I will assume that the project is running so low on funding that they simply do not have access to sufficient resources, and are desperately trying to keep it going, hoping for another round of funding.

Wow, that was long, and a bit more ranty than I wanted when I began writing it. I started out extremely enthused about the OpenMoko project, and even when the Freerunner arrived in my mail and was barely functional, I made excuses rather than being upset. The software has improved somewhat over the last 6 months, to the point where it is a usable basic phone for a hacker. However, now that Android is (almost) as Free as the OpenMoko, and the Android phone is available unlocked, and both the Android phone and the Android software are both so much better than the Freerunner and the various OpenMoko distributions, I can only wait until I have saved up enough money to buy an Android phone. I might even try Android on the Freerunner, especially if it becomes less of a hack to install. I simply see no reason for OpenMoko to continue to exist, either as a software or hardware platform. They had a great idea, much earlier than others, but they simply bungled it.

Comment old adage (Score 2, Insightful) 231

The end result is the old adage I first heard applied to the Chicago political machine of the 1960s: A government does not have to be good, and rarely is. It only has to be good enough that the populace will tolerate it.

An older version of the same adage:

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

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