The Case Against Google Chrome

There are two web browsers, based on the Google Chrome codebase:

  • Google Chrome (of course)
  • Chromium

The latter is a free-software-only version of Google Chrome, having the spyware features of the original Google Chrome ripped out, and that can be eg. installed in Debian using apt-get.

Today, I wanted to try the extensions, since the original browser is suitable for not much more than simply looking at a web page. But if you want any kind of extensions, like eg. maybe AdBlock, or the SpeedMeter, or the SessionManager, or whatever else would benefit you as a user, you immediately find yourself locked out of Google's Webstore. By the way... the name is already giving away what the problem really is: Google, like about any other vendor I am aware of, wants to reduce you to a user, and cut down on your abilities to create, or use the software in ways you deem fit, instead of only ways they deem fit. So, there is eg. no simple way to download the extension to your hard disk drive, maybe for later digestion - no, you can, at best, install the extension online, into your current profile. And if you somehow lose that, you get to try again. So they can not only track every move of you, they can also manage the availability of their extensions to you as they choose. Like eg. Ad sales going down? Poof, no more AdBlock for you.

This way, you sell out your freedom and your privacy in the same way to Google than you probably did before, to Microsoft and Apple, and a plethora of other companies.

Now my question to you is: Are you prepared to accept that, and if so, why?

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The Deficit And The Taxes

Today I was alerted to an interesting read in the New York Times, where Warren Buffet asked for higher taxes. Now this guy isn't exactly known for wasting money, and probably has good reasons for asking for a tax increase (not decrease). Incidentally, someone else also alerted me to the "budget puzzle" in that same newspaper, which I find quite interesting, although also very much limited. I wanted to share my results, and invite you to comment. And please, if you have something like this for Germany, I'm very much interested in that, too!

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Trackers - a Rough Overview

I've been asked to compare various issue trackers. While I don't really feel qualified do to so, I have an opinion nonetheless. So here are my two cents about it:

  • There are trackers for various use cases, various technologies, and licenses (eg. Jira is imho mostly commercial software).

  • I've not yet found a package which is equally suitable for handling customer (self-?) support tasks outside of software development, and software development tasks.

  • I don't have real experience with Jira, and only a very cursory impression about eg. OTRS (Perl) and Mantis (PHP).

  • From all trackers I have seen so far, OTRS, RT (Perl) and roundup (Python) are basically suitable to customer support tasks, but less suitable to software development tasks.

  • OTOH, Trac and Redmine seem to support software development tasks much better (and Redmine, written with RoR, much better than Trac, written in Python, imho).

For me, so far only Roundup and RT mattered for the customer-support space, but I intend to take a look at OTRS, now that they claim to support ITIL-conformant processes (whatever that means, but it's a requirement of some potential customers). When I talk about RT, I mean RT 3.x, not RT 4.x. I also ignore all PHP stuff for principal reasons.

  • Roundup's advantage, compared to RT, is that it is very lightweight.

  • Roundup's permission system seems to be more flexible than RT's, but all-in-all, changing anything requires rolling out a new revision of the installation (eg. to include the new permissions). This stuff is highly intertwined with the rest of roundup, and I've yet to see (didn't try) how to eg. migrate the database from one version of the software to the next.

  • RT's advantage is the much larger functionality out of the box, and esp. support for distributed workflows, with auto-escalation, re-assignment, hierarchical tickets with dependencies, statistics, multiple external authentication sources and what-not. It's much more heavy-weight, though, and the UI is clumsier, too. RT can be scripted, and the scripts seem to end up in the database, making it comparatively easy to migrate an instance. It's Perl, though, and the main author(s) are afaik on the forefront of Perl development themselves, so you frequently find that you have to pull in brand-new versions of modules from CPAN that you've never heard of, and that have had little exposure.

  • OOTB, RT's permission system is much more powerful than what is distributed with Roundup, though.

  • Roundup seems to be much more geared towards a "one customer project, one tracker" situation, where eg. general access control is of not very high importance.

In the software development space, integrating a tracker, a wiki, and a repository browser was popularized probably by SourceForge, and has led to the creation of packages like Trac and Redmine, the latter allegedly being a clone of Trac (imho it isn't, if you run the two side-by-side).

  • Roundup has no integration with either a wiki or a repository browser out of the box, so one would have to do manual work to use it in that manner. One also has to find suitable wiki and repository browser software to integrate with, first, and except for the wiki (MoinMoin), there are imho no obvious candidates.

  • Of the remaining two, Redmine imho has much better support for multi-project scenarios, seems to support a broader range of databases, and also provides much more functionality.

  • It can also be much easier extended by Joe Average User because of a plethora of plugins, supporting popular use cases.

  • Redmine appears to be easier to host than Roundup, using thin.

Links:

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ZopeProfiler on Plone4

As per the author's statement, using ZopeProfiler together with Plone4 is unsupported. It really is. First, get a current version of ZopeProfiler instead. Implement in your buildout as usual and run buildout. In the relevant instance's (eg. secondary) zope.conf, one has to enable it, too:

enable-product-installation on

You also need to fix the output from the pstats module. In Debian, this is located at /usr/lib/python2.6/pstats.py. Copy to your virtualenv's lib/python2.6 and manually apply the patch mentioned here: http://bugs.python.org/issue7372

After that, following the instructions generally works, except for that the site now runs orders of magnitudes slower, and (at least) I get this error when trying to view the stats (sample traceback):

2011-05-04 13:47:56 ERROR Zope.SiteErrorLog 1304509676.940.218731970327 http://localhost:9082/Control_Panel/ZopeProfiler/showHigh
Traceback (innermost last):
  Module ZPublisher.Publish, line 127, in publish
  Module ZPublisher.mapply, line 77, in mapply
  Module ZPublisher.Publish, line 47, in call_object
  Module Shared.DC.Scripts.Bindings, line 324, in __call__
  Module Shared.DC.Scripts.Bindings, line 361, in _bindAndExec
  Module App.special_dtml, line 185, in _exec
  Module DocumentTemplate.DT_Let, line 76, in render
  Module DocumentTemplate.DT_Util, line 202, in eval
   - __traceback_info__: stdnameRe
  Module <string>, line 1, in <module>
  Module Products.ZopeProfiler.ZopeProfiler, line 237, in getStatistics
  Module pstats, line 353, in print_stats
ValueError: I/O operation on closed file

I've seen the latter error on various other occasions as well, esp. when a long time has passed between the original activity and the display of results (eg. when running ExternalMethods). If someone has a fix for that, I'd highly appreciate it!

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Your Phone - Your Electronic Tag

Recent press articles like indicate that today's users of smartphones are effectively under possibly real-time surveillance for their whereabouts. This, in my opinion, greaty diminuishes the value of such gadgets, as that is a gross invasion of privacy. It does illustrate, however, that free software projects for mobile devices really need a push, and that the users should insist on rooting, or jailbreaking, their phones to gain the ability to install their own operating system software. Now we "only" need viable operating system software for our phones, but on that front, things look a little dim.

After the downturn in the OpenMoko project, the best bets may be a community-administrated version of Android, or a current version of SHR, if Google should obstruct the creation of a "Community-Android". But in the longer run, there'll be no alternative to having fully-open operating systems for mobile phones, like we already have on the desktop or on server. Let's hope that the developers achieve that before companies manage to finally lock down all devices.

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Installing Plone4 on Debian/Squeeze

After writing how to Install Plone4 on Debian/Lenny, I thought I'd follow up with an update for Debian Squeeze (please look into the upper right corner), which is what I'm currently using.

The good news: After having many software packages updated on Squeeze, You basically don't need much extra software to run Plone4. Install some required packages. using apt-get or aptitude. The following set should get you started, although it will pull in a significant number of dependencies:

# aptitude install python2.6-dev python-virtualenv python-setuptools build-essentials

After that, you simply create your virtualenv, like before:

$ virtualenv --no-site-packages vplone

and populate that:

$ source vplone/bin/activate
(vplone)$ easy_install PIL paste lxml ZopeSkel

Now you create your Plone buildout directory along the lines outlined on plone.org, but you can, of course, substitute plone4_buildout for the plone3_buildout (both should work).

I personally prefer to have a local versions.cfg, too, so I change my buildout.cfg to read eg.

extends = 
    base.cfg
    versions.cfg

and fetch an appropriate versions.cfg from http://dist.plone.org/release/. After that, you should be ready to run your buildout and get the ball rolling, like eg.

(vplone)$ buildout
... lots and lots of output clipped...

Watch out for any error messages which might be flushed out of the terminal window by the dumping of the eggs list.

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