GoodGuide.com now reviewing cell phones

GoodGuide.com reviews products (started with foods) for their health, environmental, and societal impacts so you as a consumer can make better decisions.  They have recently expanded to cover cell phones.   This gave me an idea.

Basically my idea is, add to the consideration the level of user's software freedom in the phone itself as well as rate the company on how it is contributing to open source upstreams, etc.  Let's take the Palm Pixi Smartphone as an example,

You can break down how they do the review, by expanding Society.  I would propose adding two sections:

  • Free and Open Source Upstream Engagement Under Standard Company Social Performance -> Society -> Community Engagement
  • User's Software Freedom Possibly Under Standard Company Social Performance -> Consumers

Sounds good?

It is, except they need to 'identify a relatively authoritative source working in a domain that has done detailed evaluations that we can then incorporate into our ratings' [1].   So my question for the planet and readers is, who could provide this information?

I've been thinking about the Electronic Frontier Foundation or Free Software Foundation for User's Software Freedom.

And the Linux Foundation (and likely the above as well) for Free and Open Source Upstream Engagement.

None of them seem to already have a rating system that would be useful in this way.   I will be sending all of these organizations an email soon, asking them if they would want to take this task on.  But I wanted to get more opinions on this idea and other organizations that I should contact.

Natalia Michaella Woods-Quigley

On June 19th, my fiancée and I returned from India.  She was 26 weeks pregnant and we returned to the States to get better health care for the delivery of our baby.  Health care can be a daunting thing to coordinate.  We used the health care broker CBIZ to set us up with a Blue Cross EPO Plan in NJ, with the specific requirement that the pregnancy be fully covered.

The problems started with the plan as soon as we arrived.  Although we had specifically said we needed the plan to be effective the day we arrived, it took 20+ days for the plan to be activated and useful for us.  During her 27th week of the pregnancy, contractions started and we were hospitalized.  We still hadn't even received health insurance cards yet.

The care we received at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital was excellent. Our daughter, Natalia, pulled through and we were allowed to go home a day earlier than expected.

We finally received our insurance cards.  Then, a couple of weeks later, we got news from the doctor’s office that Blue Cross wouldn’t cover our doctors office visits because we had a pre-existing condition.  We contacted CBIZ immediately and they said they would take care of it.  Two weeks later, we got an email asking for an additional requirement, basically saying if we didn't meet that requirement they couldn't take off the pre-existing clause off.  Back in May, they required that my fiancée had proof of coverage from before we got pregnant.  In August, after they’d been paid and coverage began, they changed the requirement to 1 year from date of the beginning of the Blue Cross plan, which we didn't have.

The best part of this so far is that we tried to be responsible.  We paid Blue Cross 300 dollars a month for this "coverage" on good faith that our pregnancy would be covered because we were advised against getting the free Medicare program by the CBIZ representative.  Nor were we told that you CANNOT apply for Medicare if you have insurance.

About 2 months ago, I went to work like any normal day, unaware that I would be at the hospital with my fiancée for the rest of the week.  Our Natalia hadn't made it.  (We delivered at Virtua Hospital in Voorhees, which, again, provided great care and as much comfort as they could given the circumstances)

The recovery and grief have been hard enough.  What’s worse, CBIZ has stopped returning our emails and calls.  My fiancée called Blue Cross about 10 times and got different stories every time she called, until she finally got a call with the same story about needing the 1 year prior coverage (this after getting told that the pre-existing clause would be removed).

About 2 weeks after our last hospital visit "Obamacare" as it is referred by pundits took effect.  If only it had kicked in 2 months ago.  He made pre-existing conditions a thing of the past, and we are very grateful that no one will have to go through that much health insurance hell again.  We don't know why our daughter didn't make it, but we are sure that the stress of dealing with health "insurance" definitely didn't help our well-being.

When I was getting ready to be a father one of the biggest things that scared me was that I was bringing a child into this world, with all of its horrific problems.  She didn't make it, but that feeling has stayed with me.   I will be volunteering with a local Democrat this election season, because the parts of this story that we can help we can't let happen again.

Our daughter, Natalia Michaella Woods-Quigley, was conceived around January 1st 2010.  She loved to listen to music (WXPN in Philly being her favorite radio station.)  Natalie loved eating all kinds of food (except Indian).  Her favorites were potatoes, pasta, cantaloupe, and burgers.  She was very opinionated, kicking her opinions every moment.  It's amazing how much (and how little) you can learn about someone when they aren't even born yet.  It's amazing how deeply you can fall in love with someone you can't even see.

We love you Natalie. Bryan & Erica

Comments

  • shermann says:

    >Hi Bryan,

    I know how you feel about your loss. I'm sorry with you, but I can tell you, don't give up.

    Best Regards,

    Stephan

  • Nathaniel Homier says:

    >You and your wife have my empathy. I'm glad she got the chance to live life even if only for a short time.

  • Jan de Visser says:

    >Bryan,

    I'm awefully sorry about your loss. We lost our little girl 7 years ago in December, at 26 weeks. The pain eventually goes away and we now have two healthy boys, but you never forget.

    I wish you the best.

  • Kevix says:

    >reading that passage from joy to sorrow to pain to death was heart wrenching. But you and your partner had that experience together and even if the outcome was unexpected, I don't think you would have chosen not to take that journey. May you try again when you are willing and the outcome a happier one.

  • gQuigs says:

    >Thank you all for your kind words… We both really appreciate them.

 

>Let's take security to the next level...

Current Setup: An application has to be limited by the most lax permission in order to maintain the functionality.  For an application that will ever have access to the user's files this means it needs to have access to all of the users files.

Possible Solution: Have the file browser/chooser application give temporary permissions for the specific chosen files/folder to the application that launched the file chooser.  Care will need to be taken so that "recent files" in applications still work as expected.  This may require a per application recent file list to be stored in the security system.

Example Use Cases / How it does it: Picture Viewer 1) User clicks on Picture with an active exploit in it (on the desktop) 2) Opens with default photo viewer 3) The exploit now has full control of the photo viewer, but can only access: Photo viewers recently opened photos The photo with the exploit Photo viewer config Anything else the photo viewer can access (say uploading to flickr) All other photo's in library (if configured, which in this example it is not) *) All other documents remain secure...

How it did it. (behind the scenes): the user opened 4 pictures from the file manager, the application had those 4 pictures added to it's "per application recent file permission list" thereby enabling the user to open them directly from the photo manager at any point in the future.  That list was customized for the application to limit the list to the 4 most recent due to the application only having 4 option in it's "recent list". This list is used by apparmor/selinux to enable access to the pictures for the application.

Rhythmbox 1) User configures library (using directory chooser)\ - Called with options to set up a permanent user/application permission for the music folder in question - this allows rhythmbox to access all files contained within 2) User listens to internet radio and finds a malicious file 3) The malicious file deletes everything it can touch, the user loses her entire music collection, but has all documents intact.

When configuring the rhythmbox library directory, Rhythmbox used a special call to the directory chooser to ask it to switch it's permanent directory to whatever the user chooses, thereby adding the necessary rules as well.

Of course, if you can already do this with selinux/apparmor (at about the same complication level) please tell me how :)

Comments

  • Dylan McCall says:

    >Here you go: http://plash.beasts.org/powerbox.html

    I've been working on a little thing called Aether (it'll be ready for showing off by February, hopefully) which could help solve this problem. As part of its design, file choosers end up happening outside of an application. A few bells and whistles later and we have your idea!

  • Ethan Anderson says:

    >Isn't Android neat? 😀

  • gQuigs says:

    >Dylan: Awesome! Looking forward to it. Ethan: yes 🙂

 

>Memory is to hard to measure

>Inspired from the comment "It saves zero memory" from here
https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/upstart/+bug/501241

I've been trying to keep my eye on Ubuntu's memory usage for some time now, but there has never been a great way to measure memory usage.  Here is an alternate memory tracking idea.. Don't bother trying to observe it directly.  These are the steps I followed to prove that removing tty2-tty6 will save us more than zero memory. 

  1. Figure out how much your computer (when booting off of a liveUSB in my case) needs to boot, open a terminal, and run free -m with using almost no swap.

    [make sure the computer has a swap partition, or else this won't work]

    Do this by booting the kernel with different mem=???M options.  And try getting swap close to zero (see it with free -m), but still in positive territory by a few.  Mine was mem=450M, and swap used was 3 M
  2. Then make your changes, in my case rm /etc/init/tty[2-6]
  3. Reboot with the same kernel option (mem=450M), run the terminal, run free -m and rejoice in the lack of swap used.
Why does this prove my point?
It gets around the memory measuring difficulties and says, "If we don't do X, will the system decide it doesn't need to activate swap?"

Memory Requirements

Mostly kicked off by this post (http://doctormo.wordpress.com/2009/10/22/ubuntus-minimum-requirements/)

OS Required / Realistic
Ubuntu (full Gnome) 384 MB / 512 MB
Xubuntu 192 MB / 256 MB
Windows XP 64 MB / 128 MB
Windows Vista Home Basic 512 MB
Windows Vista (Other) 1 GB
Windows 7 32 bit 1 GB
Windows 7 64 bit 2 GB
Ubuntu is approaching Windows Vista Home's minimum memory specs, but is still a long way off our biggest competitor, Windows XP (70% market share and our only real competitor in netbooks). With netbooks usually having 512 - 1 GB of memory, it seems like XP would really let the user run many more applications (yes I am ignoring anti-virus and all the other random stuff OEMs load onto Windows to make it slower). So, I just have one question:

How hard would it be to reduce Ubuntu's memory usage from 9.10 to 10.04 by just 64 MB (oh, and does anyone want to make this an official goal for 10.04)?

I have knowledge of at least one school district where the majority of computers have only 128 MB of RAM. They are running XP and want to switch to Linux, but it was simply not an option due to memory. (And no if they don't have a big IT budget, read: no budget for LTSP)

Win 7 requirements http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/get/system-requirements.aspx Win xp requirements http://support.microsoft.com/kb/314865 Ubuntu requirements https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Installation/SystemRequirements Win Vista requirements http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/get/system-requirements.aspx

India, 4th of July

I went to the US Embassy for the 4th of July and got a beef cheeseburger and french fries... In the red circle is the US Ambassador to India. He gave a short and sweet speech.PledgeAndCake1-mod This is during the pledge...

PledgeAndCake2There were fireworks as well! (btw, do we let embassy's in DC use fireworks?)Fireworks4Fireworks5 And then there was cake..PledgeAndCake3

Note: Pictures not actually in chronological order.

India, the park

I love this park and it is about a 2 minute walk from the office... these are pictures from a bit back... Park1 Park2 Park3 Park4 Look "normal" park stuff:

Park5 The best part is this is a medium size park here :), and just walking around it you can usually find a....

Gecko1Gecko2

Gecko! And sometimes discarded legacy stuff. :)

NotAGecko

India, living and working

About 2 months after it was requested I am finally providing a couple pictures.... This is the MIA office building we only have 1 floor, which also (luckily) happens to be the only floor with air conditioning.  Office And this is where I live.. (bottom right balcony is mine)

Home And last but actually interesting :), is the view from my office window when there is a bit of rain outside.

RoadFlood

>Why do you like Free Software and Ubuntu?

>Why do you like Free Software and Ubuntu?

My Answer: I consider software important. Really really important. Why? Most people don't really understand just how much power software has over our current society. Let's pretend all the software in the world was really just one single person. What could that person do?

  • Change everyone's bank account balances (and change local records to match so noone notices!)
  • Choose many elected officials
  • Isolate individuals socially, make their emails go unanswered, etc (or worse make seem to send emails creating arguments)
  • In some places, arrest people
  • Ruin a credit score
  • Change the news
  • Change history
  • Nuke the world (or just provide bad information to leaders and let them do it)
Yes, quite skynetish, eh? Luckily software isn't just one individual, nor was it written by one person. But the power is still held by all of the software in the world (or really the people who created it).

I believe that an essential part of democracy is allowing those that are interested to have a hand in controlling the systems that have the power. How?

The (A)GPL ensure perpetually that the end user of the software will have the clear ability to take control of the software on their devices. The AGPL could also be used to force transparency, another democratic necessity, of the methods used in voting, banking, etc.

A world with just Free Software (let's just say all AGPL for simplicity) should be substantially closer to perfect competition. Why?

  • It lowers the barrier to entry, you can just pick up the source code to Gmail and make a new product. (Which Gmail can then copy from you).
  • More sellers. The more sellers, the more responsive a supplier needs to be to you cause you can switch.
  • Similar Products. They are mostly compatible with their specific value adds that will be likely incorporated into the next version of a competitor.
Perhaps this sounds a lot like Linux distros to you? :)

Well, Why Ubuntu? We aren't there yet Ubuntu makes some of the necessary compromises (proprietary drivers, etc) that give many more people, more of the freedom and control then they would have had without it. Right now, I feel Ubuntu has the best chance of getting us closer.

Community People need help to get involved with politics; communities exist to help concerned citizens to help change their governments. The Ubuntu community is here to help new users and contributors get involved helping to shape their software. Which is critical, because even if you have the freedom or right, doesn't mean you have the knowledge to use it. Receptive communities, like Ubuntu's, help get the knowledge to you.

Where are you going with this? I was actually trying to answer the question, Why do I hate Microsoft? (I mean, come on, I don't want Mono included on the default Ubuntu install, so I clearly hate Microsoft or Novell, or somebody)

I don't hate Microsoft. I don't consider myself anti Microsoft or anti Mono. I have actually set people up to use both Windows and Mono applications before, gasp! And I actually like Novell. (I'm also a MCSA)

I consider myself pro Free Software and pro community created and governed languages (as well as content, and much more).

We have a better way to create software, a more democratic control structure over what we do, and most importantly, we give users great software and a path (through the community) to help them be in control of their software and have a say in its future.

Related Posts, somewhat referenced: SciAm Column on "Rational Atheism"; The Dangers of Being "Anti" Rather Than "Pro" Doctor Mo previously had a post called "Why do you like Microsoft"