Prague and Nokia N900s

If you are travelling to Prague to ELCE, and have Nokia N900, N9 or N950, or spare parts for them, please take them with you. I may help you install postmarket os there (https://wiki.postmarketos.org/wiki/Main_Page), can probably charge N900 that does not charge, and spare parts would be useful for me. I have a talk about cameras, and will be around... https://osseu17.sched.com/event/ByYH/cheap-complex-cameras-pavel-machek-denx-software-engineering-gmbh .

Help time travelers!

Ok, so I have various machines here. It seems only about half of them has working RTC. That are the boring ones.

And even the boring ones have pretty imprecise RTCs... For example Nokia N9. I only power it up from time to time, I believe it drifts something like minute per month... For normal use with SIM card, it can probably correct from GSM network if you happen to have a cell phone signal, but...

More interesting machines... Old thinkpad is running without CMOS battery. ARM OLPC has _three_ RTCs, but not a single working one. N900 has working RTC but no or dead backup battery. On these, RTC driver probably knows time is not valid, but feeds the garbage into the system time, anyway. Ouch. Neither Sharp Zaurus SL-5500 nor C-3000 had battery backup on RTC...

Even in new end-user machines, time quality varies a lot. "First boot, please enter time" is only accurate to seconds, if the user is careful. RTC is usually not very accurate, either... and noone uses adjtime these days. GSM time and ntpdate are probably accurate to miliseconds, GPS can provide time down to picoseconds... And broken systems are so common "swclock" is available in init system to store time in file, so it at least does not go backwards.

https (and other crypto) depends on time... so it is important to know approximate month we are in.

Is it time we handle it better?

Could we return both time and log2(expected error) from system calls?

That way we could hide the clock in GUI if time is not available or not precise to minutes, ignore certificate dates when time is not precise to months, and you would not have to send me a "Pavel, are you time traveling, again?" message next time my mailer sends email dated to 1970.

Colorful LEDs

RGB LEDs do not exist according to Linux LED subsystem. They are modeled as three separate LEDs, red, green and blue; that matches the hardware.

Unfortunately, it has problems. Lets begin with inconsistent naming: some drivers use :r suffix, some use :red. There's no explicit grouping of LEDs for one light -- there's no place to store parameters common for the light. (LEDs could be grouped by name.)

RGB colorspace is pretty well defined, and people expect to set specific colors. Unfortunately.... that does not work well with LEDs. First, LEDs are usually not balanced according to human perception system, so full power to the LEDs (255, 255, 255) may not
result in white. Second, monitors normally use gamma correction before displaying color, so (128, 128, 128) does not correspond to 50% of light being produced. But LEDs normally use PWM, so (128, 128, 128) does correspond to 50% light. Result is that colors are completely off.

I tested HSV colorspace for the LEDs. That would have advantage of old triggers being able to use selected colors... Unfortunately, on N900, white color is something like 15% blue, which would result in significantly reducing number of white intensities we can display.

Unicsy phone

For a long time, I wanted a phone that runs Unix. And I got that, first Android, second Maemo on Nokia N900. With Android I realized that running Linux kernel is not enough. Android is really far away from normal Unix machine, and I'd argue away from anything usable, too. Maemo was slightly closer, and probably could be fixed if it was open-source.

But I realized Linux kernel is not really the most important part. There's more to Unix: compatibility with old apps, small programs where each one does one thing well, data in text formats so you can put them in git. Maemo got some parts right, at least you could run old apps in a useful way; but most important data on the phone (contacts, calendar) were still locked away in sqlite.

And that is something I'd like to change: phone that is ssh-friendly, text-editor-friendly and git-friendly. I call it "Unicsy phone". No, I don't want to do phone `cat addressbook | grep Friend | cut -f 1`... graphical utilities are okay. But console tools still should be there, and file formats should be reasonable.

So there is tui project, and recently postmarketos project appeared. Nokia N900 is mostly supported by mainline kernel (with exceptions of bluetooth and camera, everything works). There's work to be done, but it looks doable.

More is missing in the userspace. Phone parts need work, as expected. What is more surprising... there's emacs org mode, with great calendar capabilities, but I could not find matching application to display data nicely and provide alerts. Situation is even worse for contacts; emacs org can help there, too, but there does not seem to be agreement that this is the way to go. (And again, graphical applications would be nice).

FlightGear fun

How to die in Boeing 707, quick and easy. Take off, realize that you should set up fuel heating, select Help|, aim for checklists.. and hit auto startup/shutdown. Instantly lose all the engines. Fortunately, you are at 6000', so you start looking for the airport. Then you
realize "hmm, perhaps I can do the startup thing now", and hit the menu item once again. But instead of running engines, you get fire warnings on all the engines. That does not look good. Confirm fire, extinguish all four engines, and resume looking for airport in range. Trim for best glide. Then number 3 comes up. Then number 4. Number one and you know it will be easy. Number two as you fly over the runway... go around and do normal approach.

X220 to play with

Nice machine. Slightly bigger than X60, bezel around display way too big, but quite powerful. Biggest problem seems to be that it does not accept 9.5mm high drives...

I tried 4.10 there, and got two nasty messages during bootup. Am I the last one running 32 bit kernels?

I was hoping to get three-monitor configuration on my desk, but apparently X220 can not do that. xrandr reports 8 outputs (!), but it physically only has 3: LVDS, displayport and VGA. Unfortunately, it seems to only have 2 CRTCs, so only 2 outputs can be active at a time. Is there a way around that?

Linux did not win, yet

http://www.cio.com/article/3141918/linux/linux-has-won-microsoft-joins-the-linux-foundation.html Yes, Linux won on servers. Unfortunately... servers are not that important, and Linux still did not win on desktops (and is not much closer now than it was in 1998, AFAICT). We kind-of won on phones, but are not getting any benefits from that. Android is incompatible with X applications. Kernels on phones are so patched that updating kernel on phone is impossible... . This means that Microsoft sponsors Linux Foundation. Well, nice, but not a big deal. Has Microsoft promised not to use their patents against Linux? Does their kernel actually contain vfat code? Can I even get source for "their" Linux kernel? [Searching for Linux on microsoft.com does not reveal anything interesting; might be switching to english would help...]

foxtrotgps: not suitable for spacecraft navigation

Subject: foxtrotgps: not suitable for spacecraft navigation
Package: foxtrotgps
Version: 1.2.0-1
Severity: normal
Dear Maintainer,
Trying to use foxtrotgps in the spacecraft leads to some interesting
glitches.
When date line is reached, "track traveled" jumps over the whole
world, and "your position" gets de-synchronized from point when the
red line is painted.
Reproduced with Vostok-1 spacecraft.