Intel's EFI: Hidden Threat to Computing Freedom?

Now i'm no expert in this field, but from what i've been reading, the industry is shifting towards Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) and EFI means bad news for the future of fully open machines. First of all, it will make current fully-free BIOS replacements like coreboot useless as well as always requiring a piece of proprietary binary-only code to build a free BIOS on top of EFI. It will trap certain OS operations to an EFI-based control system meaning that the OS doesn't necessarily own the platform. On top of all that, EFI can control many things that effectively make it a "DRM BIOS". All of this comes with added complexity and, as expressed by Linus Torvalds, without real advantages. Linus also refers to EFI as "this other Intel brain-damage (the first one being ACPI)", and this is why i stick to AMD =]

This excerpt from an interview with Ronald G. Minnich from FOSDEM explains in more detail the dangers of EFI:

What are your thoughts on the Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI)?
I have spoken with the EFI authors at length. They make no secret of the fact that a "core value" of EFI is the preservation of intellectual property related to chipset programming and internal architecture. To put it another way, EFI is dedicated to the preservation of "Hard" hardware (as defined above), and the provision of binary interfaces and subsystems to BIOS vendors and others.

It is not really possible to build a full open-source BIOS if EFI is involved. The Tiano system, which Intel claims is an open source BIOS, can not be used to build a BIOS unless it is attached to proprietary, binary-only BIOS code provided by a vendor.
Another important thing to realize about EFI is that it also contemplates enabling chipset features that will trap certain OS operations to an EFI-based control system running in System Management Mode. In other words, under EFI, there is no guarantee that the OS owns the platform.

Accesses to IDE I/O addresses, or certain memory addresses, can be trapped to EFI code and potentially examined and modified or aborted. Many see this as an effort to build a "DRM BIOS".

I am not sure what the real intent of this design is, but is is a real concern in secure environments (such as those found in governments, banks, and large search engine companies). A number of vendors and users have told me that they are not sure they can ship an EFI system they are willing to trust in a secure environment.
I've taken this to Dell's IdeaStorm, asking them to resist EFI, but i'm not sure where else to go and how concerned we should all be about this. Thousands of customers called out for Dell to put effort into adopting a free BIOS replacement for a number of reasons, but Dell's john_h has informed us that their "BIOS teams have investigated, but no plans to do this. Most of the industry is moving towards using uEFI", clearly not a pro-consumer move. Please vote on it and let me know in the comments what you think of these issues with EFI.

Ideas for Facebook

I originally thought of these for Orkut, but given that it still sucks with no sign of being ready to implement any of the dramatic changes necessary to make it as good as it could be, i decided Facebook is a lot closer (although not necessarily close) to hearing out these ideas. These could actually work for any social network or even just be created by application developers.

  1. Friend groups
    Wouldn't it be neat to have a group dedicated to each user, and have all their friends be members? There could even be the option to make a post hidden from the person the group is dedicated to (and you could then, for example, plan a surprise party for them). People might be too paranoid for something like this, or maybe it could be abused, but i thought it was an interesting new idea to consider, and in testing it could be an optional feature.
  2. Wiki profiles
    So i started thinking, what if  the Wikimedia Foundation created a separate project just for personal biographies? Then i thought, what if Wikipedia could get into social networking by doing something that's never been done before-- letting your profile be created by your friends? Maybe Wikimedia won't do this, but social networking sites could enable an alternate (optional?) profile for this. This could actually just be a part of the "friend groups" idea. It could be an alternative wiki-style profile that comes with a group dedicated to you. It'd be interesting to see how friends describe you collaboratively.
  3. Listed Interest GroupsTo reduce the number of pointless groups that have no real purpose other than to attract users under a common interest such as chocolate, for example, items listed under forms like "interests", "activities", etc. could, instead of just listing those that share the same interest, put them all into a special kind of group. Groups like this one, "Chocolate", on Orkut with over 610,000 members, and this one, "Chocolate = Love", on Facebook with over 105,000 members, really don't need to exist. Facebook's "Pages" feature almost addresses this issue, but the pages are just feeds with a wall and not groups.

2009 Wishlist for Google

Happy New Year everyone! Inspired by the comment thread with this post on Blogoscoped, i decided to put together my complete 2009 wishlist for Google. I hope i didn't miss anything! Let me know what you think in the comments

  1. Don't be evil!
    Never forget this. Do not compromise this no matter how bad the economic and financial crisis gets. In the long run, this is why the world will love you!

  2. More Storage!
    MUCH more storage in all services that provide it and especially for paid accounts. What happened to striving for infinite storage?

  3. A non-sucking Orkut overhaul

  4. GrandCentral Update--
    Integration with GMail contacts and Gtalk voice (& video?) chat would be absolutely killer.

    Update: GrandCentral is now Google Voice!

  5. Serious OpenID Support
    Provide and accept OpenID for all Google accounts (obviously non-Gmail Google accounts can't do certain use GMail).

  6. Ability to merge contacts
    I have way too many contacts for this to be possible to do manually, it's insane.

    Update: This feature is now available but not very useful without a duplicate contact detector

  7. Make Google Shared Stuff really useful
    Similar to Digg/Reddit but done Google-style (better interface, tags instead of sections, region specific view, a fairer system, etc). See: my 5 ideas for Digg

  8. Accept open formats
    OpenOffice presentations for Google Docs, ogg theora videos for Google Video and YouTube etc, etc.
    Update: YouTube accepts Ogg Theora already but GDocs doesn't take presentations (.odp)

  9. YouTube (gradual?) Overhaul
    YouTube doesn't look very nice and Googley, and it doesn't have any balance between features and a clean/intuitive interface. Also, decide how to separate or merge YouTube and Google Video. Will GVid search and YT host, or will you just merge them?
    Update: YouTube is now for hosting videos and Google Video is now for searching, but a makeover is still much in need

  10. Non-Flash Video Playback
    Allow Google Video/YouTube to play formats other than flash (like the original video file).

  11. Take on PayPal
    Google Checkout is great at what it does but needs some of the key features from PayPal in order to really be able to compete. Then Google Base could add EBay and Craigslist like functionality (and expand Google Classifieds out of Russia).

  12. Speak lojban!
    Lojban has a lot of potential for Google in the translation department, and a lot of potential for the world in a bunch of departments (universal language, etc). See: My top reasons to learn lojban

  13. Google Answers
    Expand this out of Russia already!

  14. Bridge with AIM
    AIM was supposed to be bridged with GTalk, not just accessible through GMail chat! AOL was experimenting with Jabber/XMPP so pressure them to go forth with that.

  15. GDrive
    Or at least "accidentlly" leak more info about it's status/progress ;)

  16. More use of technology aquired from NevenVision
    Improving image search (removing the need for the ridiculous image labeler "game") and improving Picasa Web Albums-- automatically extracting text and shapes from images.

  17. Mobile Social Networks
    Merge Dodgeball, Zingku, Jaiku, and all that mobile social networking stuff [with the non-sucky Orkut?].

  18. Feedburener update
    Feedburner really needs to be Google-ized and integreated with other services (blogger).
    Update: Feedburner now uses Google Accounts but still needs a makeover and better integration.

  19. Page Creator to Google Sites
    Hurry up and make the migration and then start making big improvements to Google Sites!

  20. Release MeasureMap
    'Nuff Said.

  21. Refuse censorship
    See: #1. Don't be evil

  22. Cross-platform everything
    Make everything cross-platform (reduce the release time gap between different platforms, ideally to zero)

  23. Free as much source code as possible
    Continue and expand on your commitment to Free software!

Ew, WTF is a GNU?

You know, i'm just now wondering whether Richard Stallman has ever regretted the decision to call GNU, GNU or even considered whether the decision has held back the Free Software movement at all. When people call GNU/Linux by the first or last part, they almost always choose the last, Linux. Is it any surprise? Linux sounds a hell of a lot cooler than GNU, not to mention it's easier to say (aside from the pronounciation confusion between lai-nux and li-nux). Gnu's Not Unix-- ha, clever, but not good marketing!

I'm sure RMS would love for people to use GNU when referring to GNU/Linux (or at least refer to them as a due) instead of just Linux as most people do, since it really is the more important part of the operating system, and it does make sense to logically, but think about it. Who would want to call anything GNU? It sounds like ew, or poo, but worse because you can't even pronounce it-- guh-new!

I really do wonder where the Free Software movement could be if GNU (or whatever it would be called) were emphasized instead of Linux. Does it really make a difference? At first you'll probably think, of course not-- it's just a name. Just a name? Last i checked, names were important. Sure, this might be small compared to other issues, but it has probably made a big difference without anyone noticing. That's why names matter.

It's probably too late for it to be worth even considering a new name for GNU, right? What if we just called it the G? Just a thought.

Unless something like that happens, it's a lost cause to fight for the use of GNU when referring to GNU/Linux because calling it Linux is easy and already recognized. Anybody who has heard of GNU has heard of Linux, but the opposite is often not true. As much as i agree with these so-called "GNUheads" philosophically and dream of the day (the far, far away day) GNU/Hurd finally becomes ready for production use (since it is conceptually superior to Linux), the battle for using the term GNU is dead for now. As much as i'd prefer not to, i'll most likely just be using the term "Linux" from now on. And this concludes my pointless rant :)

Why won't Dell listen to its customers?

Dear Dell, My family has bought and owned Dell machines for as long as i can remember but we and many others are getting tired of not being listened to. Please forgive us all for feeling abandoned. We were all overjoyed when IdeaStorm was announced and we could post the kinds of things we wanted there, but Dell only seems to be half-listening, and only keeping us partially in the loop. Immediately after it was released, thousands of voices called out for GNU/Linux and free software. Dell made a huge step with their Ubuntu offering, and we were very very thankful.

Why now, has Dell seemed to stop listening? Many requests with tons of support not only haven't been fulfilled, but haven't even been acknowledged with any sort of response. For example, this post ( ) with 28260 points simply says "Under Review" it has been for almost a year. This was simply a request to give people a choice, but is Dell incapable of letting people know they have a choice? I really hope your limited Ubuntu offer wasn't just for publicity, because if so, you will be losing a lot more customers than you gained. Please, show us your serious about providing your customers with what they want-- with a choice.

People around the world have been calling for your Ubuntu offer, so why has it only been made available in certain areas? Why isn't Ubuntu available on all machines that it works on? Why haven't you responded to your customers? Are you truly at the hands of Microsoft? This would be bad for customers, and bad for you in the long run. I, and many others, truly feel wronged here.

The 10th most popular idea on the entire site asks for Coreboot pre-installed on Dell machines. I know if Dell did this, i'd never consider buying a machine from anywhere else, but Dell hasn't even responded to the idea even though it gained it's popular long ago. Even the #2 most popular post, asking for OpenOffice installed by default, hasn't been replied to! The issue has been so bad that people are making posts asking for Dell to listen and at least keep us in the loop!

We all thought that Dell would be more open after IdeaStorm gave us a more direct voice. You know what your customers want, but you simply ignore them. As you should notice, since you have stopped listening, many have stopped speaking, and soon you will begin to lose us. We all really appreciate what you have done so far, but it seems like you are backing out. Why aren't you serving your customers? If you don't change this trend you're going to lose me and i know many other customers are saying the same thing.

We're not asking for a lot. At the very least we want to be kept in the loop. We want to be able to have a dialogue with you. This isn't about you granting us everything we ask for-- it's about communicating with us. We want more than a "yes" or "no," an "under review" or "reviewed." Tell us what influences your decisions, and allow us respond. Why is it that the only defense i keep hearing for you is that it isn't you're business to care? I think that even you'll agree that's not a very good reason.

I'm not sure where else to go with this. I can't figure out why this isn't a priority for Dell. Please Dell, PLEASE, don't abandon us!

5 Things I'd Love to See From Digg

There are a few things that have always bothered me about Digg and i hope i'm not the only one. If there rumors are true about Google buying Digg (which i hope they are), and actually, even if they aren't true, here are some things i'd love to see.

  1. A completely redesigned interface.

    I'd like to see Digg with a completely new interface, one that's cleaner and will work better as the number of Digg users, and subsequently, Digg submissions, increase. Also, the following ideas wouldn't work well at all with Digg's current look.
  2. Tags, not Sections

    Sometimes the sections Digg offers don't fit your article perfectly, or your article fits just as well into two or more sections. Although tags might seem hard to manage, i think they would actually handle organizing submissions better than sections. Tags are more scalable. There would always be the most popular tags (which would be the main sections) and tags could be given more value depending on factors like how many people place a specific tag on a submission. This way, one submission can't spam every tag attributed to it.
  3. Region-specific view

    I'd like to be able to view Digg in a region-specific mode. I can see how people are Digging differently in different countries, and how people in my country are Digging. This is pretty simple and would be really useful for Diggers around the world. Every page in Digg should be visible in region-specific view from the frontpage, to the top in [period of time],  within sections, etc, down to individual submissions.
  4. Groups

    This might seem cumbersome at first, but i think if done right could be really cool. Let's say you're an involved activist. You could be in a specific group with it's own mini-digg which displays the Diggs of other group members and lets the group Digg appropriate submissions to share with each other. I'm sure if you gathered a few smart brains they could find a way to make this work really well. 
  5. My Digg

    I'd love to be able to create my own Digg site. It would be neat to be able to customize it to how you plan to use it. Perhaps you're throwing a party and trying to see what music requests the most people agree with. I know that each of these suggestions is slightly more farfetched than the last but i still think they're worth working on. 
I also wanted to give mention to OpenID. I know they're supposedly working on this, but i'm getting impatient! I hate having to manage multiple online identities and Digg will be a big boost for OpenID. I don't just want Digg to be an OpenId provider-- if everyone just did that, it ruins the whole point of OpenID-- i want Digg to fully support logging in with OpenID.

Also, making Digg as open source as possible would be awesome. I'm a big fan of the free software movement :)

If Digg really wants to expand without falling apart i think we can all agree that some serious changes are necessary. Digg this if you like some of these ideas!

Free Government

*draws line in the sand* Ok, cross this line.
*DMCA passed*

*backs up two steps, draws new line in the sand*
Ok, cross this line.

*Patriot Act*

*backs up two steps, draws new line in the sand*
Ok, cross this line!

*NSA archiving all net traffic*

*backs up two steps, draws new line in the sand*
Ok, cross THIS line!

*warrantless searches*

*backs up two steps, draws new line in the sand*

*FISA expanded*

*tries to back up..but notices back is against the wall*
- i saw this comment by spritom on Digg
For so long i have been waiting for something like this to be put together, and finally has arrived!
I think that more than anyone else, geeks nowadays understand the problems with politics more than anyone else. So what better combination is there than geeks and politics? Although i didn't see this until it appeared on Slashdot, it apparently launched on July 4th. I have no idea how this hasn't hit the Digg homepage!

From the website:

" is a non-profit open source project launched on July 4th, 2008, focused on providing citizens with more direct control of Congress through online polling and forums." is a:
  • non-profit organization
  • built on open source software
  • defined by four freedoms
  • designed to empower citizens
The four defining freedoms of free government:
  1. Engage

    Freedom to engage in government decision making for any purpose at any time.
  2. Understand

    Freedom to understand the work of the government transparently.
  3. Share

    Freedom to share direct control of the government.
  4. Improve

    Freedom to improve the government for the benefit of all society with the support of others.
Learn more on the FAQ

Free Government really has the potential to take the power out of money and put it back in the hands of people. Join and spread the word!

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