links for 2009-04-29

Mitter public annoucement: Mitter is going git

Just to let everybody know: Mitter will not use Google Code SVN repositories anymore. The source is still available for those that know the URLs but the information is not available to the public anymore. Other things like Wiki, issues and downloads will still be available in the Google Code space.

Mitter source code is not being hosted with Gitorious and it’s available for everyone to clone it. Also, Gitorious offers options for automatic cloning so all you need is a Gitorius account.

Small PQA (Possibile Questions and Answers):

  • Why Git?
    For one thing, I’m feeling comfortable with Git workflow and tools. Second, I prefer the way Git does “in-place” branching, so you don’t have a lot of directories laying around your disk.
  • Why Gitorius and not GitHub?
    I know how GitHub is everybody and their mum’s favourite git repository and interface. But, as an open source supporter, I chose Gitorious exactly ’cause they provide the source code of their project for everyone. I’m not saying that GitHub is wrong charging people for their project, it’s just that I prefer to support open source.
  • What about the other branches that were laying around in the SVN repository?
    They are still there, but I didn’t import them into Gitorious. Most of them were not being used anymore but, if something is needed, the source is still there.

If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

GPL and the web

A few years ago (two or three), I saw Richard Stallman at FISL where he said that things like Webmail were bad ’cause you don’t have any control over the software it runs in the server. In a way, he is right: How do you have any control over your data if you don’t have any control over your software? How can you be sure that the server isn’t doing something nasty with your information since you have no way to request the source code?

Requesting the source code is one of your rights if you are using a GPL-licensed software. That way, you can be sure that the application is not sending your information to someone else or looking for things it shouldn’t. But the GPL says that distributed software should have its code available; in a web 2.0 world, nobody is distributing any software: it simply is there. Therefore, even if you run a GPL application, do lots of modifications, because you’re not distributing it, you don’t need to make your changes available to the world.

The thing that was bothering me, though, is related to some web apps/websites I used at some point. They had this pretty cool thing and I was wondering “Is that something I know, like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla or whatever?” but, in the end, I couldn’t find anything that would say what they were using in the backend. And, just now, I was wondering how the GPL would apply to such websites.

Besides the GPL, there is another very useful license: The modified BSD license or simply “BSD”. The only rule the BSD license requires (compared to the “5 freedoms” GPL enforces) is that you can’t remove the copyright from the original authors. You may add your name, but the original copyright must appear somewhere. I wondered, then, if the GPL would have such requirement. I’m not a lawyer, but I think this does:

5. Conveying Modified Source Versions.
[…]
b) The work must carry prominent notices stating that it is released under this License and any conditions added under section 7. This requirement modifies the requirement in section 4 to “keep intact all notices”.

That, to me, sounds exactly like the BSD. So, if you’re using a GPL software in your webserver, you must point, somewhere, that the engine behind your powerful site is copyright the original authors.

Now you must ask yourself this: How many websites out there are using WordPress with a modified theme that completely removed the “Powered by WordPress”? Or sites that chose (not sure why) the GPL version of the jQuery and didn’t mention that anywhere?

Why Apple.

I know I had some troubles with Apple and OS X since I got my MacBook Pro, but I think that, when someone does something right, you should say it.

So, in the end of 2007, I decided to give myself a MacBook Pro as Christmas gift. I had a computer, but the battery wasn’t that good, and the graphics weren’t that good, and the machine was a bit outdated… And I heard wonders about Apple hardware. So, why not? And, on 23rd of December of 2007, I became the owner of a 15″ MacBook Pro, the aluminum case.

Fast forward about 6 months after that. Apple announced the recall of such models due a problem with the NVidia chipsets. At the time, I did check the serial number and, as such, I had one of the laptops that could be affected by this problem. But, heck, everything was running fine, so I didn’t worry about that.

Fast forward again 7 months, January 2009, one year and about 1 month since I got the laptop. There I was, playing EVE online when something weird pops in the screen. It was some sort of blur, some lines drawing in the wrong place and the game locked. At first, I ignored it, ’cause the Mac version of EVE was kinda bad. Turn off computer, turn it on again and I’m back. I did some coding and decided to play WoW. A few minutes in the game and I get the same wrong drawing and the same locking, which is quite unusual for WoW. Turn of computer, turn on again, and I get a warning saying that I needed to turn of my computer to reboot. I gave the computer a few minutes, turn it on again, talk to some people on IRC and… blur and locking, and the same message after rebooting. But, even after waiting, it still didn’t come back. I kept getting the same wrong display and same warning. And I took pictures of the screen.

Time to use that recall Apple offered. One year after buying the MacBook, I lost the receipt, so I took the computer back to the shop I bought it, “My Mac” in Bondi Junction. I showed the problem, which weirdly worked fine for the first 2 minutes and told the guy that I knew about the NVidia problem and that the serial number was one of the affected one. As it needed some tests to verify that it was a NVidia problem and not something else, the guy asked for about a week. Well, sure, no problem with that.

I got a call about 4 days later. The guy said that, and I quote, “I plugged an external monitor and got the same drawing problem, so it’s a problem with the logical board.” The repair cost: $400 (or so I thought) and it would take another week. One day after that week, I called the shop. The guy told me that there was a change in the price and it would, actually, cost $1700, but because he gave me the price of $1400 before, it would make it for $1400 plus service. Ok, first I must say that I actually have problems hearing people over the phone and the guy had some thick Indian accent. That was too much and I said no. Unfortunately, I had to pay the service of $100.

Why I didn’t replace the logical board, after all? Well, I’m a computer guy and, although I write software and know shit about hardware, I know that if your video card is broken, it doesn’t matter if you change the monitor. It simply doesn’t make sense. So, as any terminal disease a doctor gives to you, I decided to go for a second opinion: Apple itself.

I took the notebook a Saturday morning. I was kinda expecting that I could just drop it there and wait for their tests, as I did in the My Mac. But Apple, being not like others (“Thinking Different”, I think) said that I should book a Genius appointment before dropping it for repairs. So, without a choice, I booked on for the next Monday.

Monday, I explained the same thing I did before to the guy in the Genius Bar. He said it could be a memory problem and, thus, would try changing the memory. At this point, I kinda felt stupid: I was not using Apple official memory, I bought some 4Gbs after a few months. If it was the bad memory…

Anyway, the guy when in the back, and came back a few minutes later. He said that he replaced the memory, got the same problem, so it needed to replace the logical board but, because it was under the warranty (the NVidia warranty), they would replace it for free. The repairs would take 3 days. When I signed the paper confirming the repairs, there was a clause saying that it could occur a fee of $100 due service. Well, I payed $100 already for a service that would charge me $1700, paying $100 for a free new logical board seemed pretty cheaper.

One day after those 3 days I was in the city and decided to check the Apple store. The consegliere told me that, due some backlog, it would take some more time, maybe to the middle of the week. Well, no problem. Monday, 7 days after I took the laptop to repairs, I got a call from Apple saying that the service was complete. I rode all the way to the city to get it back and was greeted with a surprise that even the service was free because of the warranty.

So, there you have it. It doesn’t matter where you buy your Apple stuff but, if you need repairs, better look for the official Apple store.