[Tinkerphones] [Gta04-owner] New LetuxOS Kernels and some tricks and thoughts

H. Nikolaus Schaller hns at goldelico.com
Tue May 21 15:48:06 CEST 2019

> Am 21.05.2019 um 15:13 schrieb Jonas Smedegaard <jonas at jones.dk>:
> Quoting H. Nikolaus Schaller (2019-05-21 12:51:43)
>> Hi Jonas,
>>> Am 21.05.2019 um 12:26 schrieb Jonas Smedegaard <jonas at jones.dk>:
>>> Quoting H. Nikolaus Schaller (2019-05-21 12:02:06)
>>>> Hi Jonas,
>>>>> Am 21.05.2019 um 11:00 schrieb Jonas Smedegaard <jonas at jones.dk>:
>>>>> First of all, congratulations with the progress!
>>>> Thanks!
>>>>> Quoting H. Nikolaus Schaller (2019-05-21 10:22:50)
>>>>>> BTW, here is another trick: You may (not) know that LetuxOS 
>>>>>> images created by makesd come rooted. This means you can simply 
>>>>>> ssh as root into the device without password check. This is quite 
>>>>>> helpful for developers and debugging.
>>>>> A password-less network-accesible backdoor maybe unknown to the 
>>>>> system owner sounds dangerous to me: I recommend documenting that 
>>>>> very clearly (at least) everywhere passwords are currently 
>>>>> menioned in documentation.
>>>> Yes, please feel free to document it in the Wiki.
>>> Is the wiki the only place passwords are mentioned?  There are no 
>>> other places users could be helped get notified about this open 
>>> access? users
>> I have no idea about what users do... We need users to see the missing 
>> information and add it themselves. So we just must enable them to do 
>> it. Which is the Wiki.
> Makes sense that users document what they do.
> Makes sense that developers document what they do.
> You really expect users to understand and document backdoors better than 
> the developers implementing them?!?

No. But I am the developer and in this case you are the user - and you
have a better understanding where this should be documented.

>>> Suggestion: Add a notice in /etc/motd
>> Hm. Do your ever read/see that?
> Why on Earth would I suggest it otherwise?

Ok, accepted. My fault. I assumed that because I am not using that that
it is rare that others use it.

On the other hand in LetuxOS it is not enabled. And not displayed anywhere.

>>>>>> On a very general view, we have achieved a lot, but still not 
>>>>>> enough to get the LetuxOS eco-system into a self-sustaining mode. 
>>>>>> What is lacking?
>>>>>> * users are missing because software is not good enough for daily 
>>>>>> use
>>>>>> * hardware is missing because potential users complain about 
>>>>>> missing high-quality software
>>>>>> * developers to polish the software are missing, because of missing 
>>>>>> (new) hardware
>>>>>> You see the vicious circle? Ideas how to magically break it?
>>>>> Contributing as certified OSHW your own work on designing hardware 
>>>>> helps encourage developers contributing to getting the devices 
>>>>> supported in mainline linux and u-boot.
>>>>> Getting bootloader and kernel code mainlined encourage distributors 
>>>>> integrate and maintain support the the devices in their 
>>>>> distributions.
>>>>> Having devices supported in distributions helps users prioritize the 
>>>>> devices over other (lesser free) options available to them.
>>>> This seems to assume that LetuxOS is not itself a distribution.
>>> No.
>>> For comparison, I work on the Debian distribution and dearly want the 
>>> Olimex Teres-I DIY laptop well supported there, which requires escaping 
>>> a similar vicious circle.
>> It looks as if we need someone who actively wants to get the goodies 
>> from LetuxOS into standard Debian. We had such members in our 
>> community in the past, but they seem to have lost interest (or more 
>> likely time for pure volunteering).
> Speaking for myself, I got discouraged when we met in Bavaria and it 
> became clear to me that your avoiding OSHW certification was a 
> deliberate business choice.

No it was not about avoiding it. It was about not seeing any benefit
for anyone.

Just more paperwork and discussions. And some requirements that are
difficult to fulfill. And nobody covering additional expenses.

My key learning came from a discussion before that meeting where some guys
urged me to publish the schematics. I did finally say: ok - here are the
EAGLE source files. What happened? NOTHING. Nobody did apparently
make use of this information. The device did not become better. Nobody
had needed this for writing software - a PDF of the schematics was

The only thing was that *I* had more work. And an official certificate
is even more work for *me* and not a warranty of more success (see RasPi).

> Don't get me wrong: I respect your choice, and I have not totally lost 
> interest, but I prioritize OSHW devices higher - e.g. decided to devote 
> time to get the Olimex Teres-I laptop in working shape instead of 
> grabbing the already mostly working PineBook which is lesser free.

Yes, that is your freedom of choice which I do not question at all.

>>> I have appreciated the efforts done in other distributions - 
>>> concretely I work done in Armbian and OpenSuSE was instrumental in 
>>> getting the device supported in mainline u-boot (likely included 
>>> with 2019.07 release), which benefits all competing distributions.
>> I just came to my mind what the most successful embedded Linux PC 
>> probably is: RasPi with Raspbian.
>> It is not even open hardware or software nor supported well by 
>> mainline which seems to contradict your suggestions.
> RPi isn't in a vicious circle, so no contradiction there.

Plausible explanation. It was pushed early enough into self-sustaining mode and stays there.

> Here's my recipe for Pi: Create a charitable foundation and partner with 
> a) a university vouching for your noble cause and b) a chip maker 
> needing brand value of a noble cause while keeping control (by offering 
> large discounts only for charity).

Yes, that might work out. Well, our key chip maker back then was TI and
they already had the charity "BeagleBoard". And did not need new brand
value for a noble cause. Rather they abandoned the OMAP series...

So it was more a matter of having chosen the wrong horse or just bad
luck some years ago.

>>> My point is that that I firmly believe that to get out of the 
>>> vicious circle we _first_ need to collaborate and only _then_ 
>>> compete (if needed at all, but that's a different discussion).
>> Well, I am waiting for years for collaboration (the first LetuxOS 
>> dates back to 2006) but it seems as if other projects decided to 
>> compete and start from scratch instead of building on top of LetuxOS
>> :)
> Yes, just as Debian had waited for years for your collaboration (first 
> release dates back to 1993)

Yes :)

Regarding my collaboration: my day only has 24 hours which must be divided
by all projects & family and myself. Actively contributing to another project
and especially as a volunteer needs to be well though about.

> but you decided to compete with LetuxOS 
> instead of joining and improving Debian :-)

Where does LetuxOS compete with Debian?  It does not modify or fork any Debian
package. It just *adds* a handful of config packages to Debian and builds installable
packages for a handful of devices not supported by Debian. Or in the case of
QtMoko or Replicant or QuantumSTEP it compiles application software.

Josua even wrote Debian packaging recipies for the Letux Kernel.

So Debian could just integrate the packages to the Repo in theory.

Well, the main reason for *me* not doing all this natively in Debian is that it
appears to me to be too difficult to set up a build environment and learn how to
build packages with native tools (on my non-Linux UNIX machine). It was easier
for me to hack some shell scripts to emit compatible .deb packages and copy
to a repository server. And running a Debian in a VM remotely controlled by
ssh is also not very smooth.

In other words, the entry barrier to become a contributor to Debian is
much higher than just using it as a rock solid basis. And my volunteering budget
is already exhausted by contributing to kernel.org so that I simply did not want to
do another big task. Because there are ca. 7 billion other people on the
world and there should be some who are better in doing that...

So the question is how to make them happy and contribute - without me doing everything :)

BR and thanks,

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