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Category: open source

05/30/07 09:53 - 63ºF - ID#39452

e:strip and open-source

Since I'm interested in open-source software, and have recently started looking more at (e:strip), I was curious if we were able to see the code that runs the site. I googled (e:strip) source code and found a link to Paul's journal from 2005, that wasn't commented on at all. I started writing a comment on that journal, and then decided to change it into a journal of my own because what I was writing was a bit verbose for the comment window. Here is Paul's original post:

In his post, Paul expressed frustration that things that are made open-source (and he didn't go into the different open-source licenses in much detail) are often used in for-profit projects. This is something that has bothered me as well. However, I think that the benefits of releasing a project as open source (and in this sense I'll refer specifically to a licensing arrangement called the (GPL outweigh the dangers that something will be packaged and sold for profit.

In the GPL, as far as I understand it, your open-source software can be re-distributed and sold. However, any derivative works need to remain open source as well. So, if someone modifies your software their modifications must be made available under the same terms. The GPL is also enforceable, as is evident in the case where Linksys used parts of the linux kernel source to run their old WRT router devices. Once people discovered that the linux software was used, the GPL was enforced to make Linksys open up their code. This code was eventually turned into the popular OpenWrt project.

Paul also mentioned security issues with open-source software. If people can see your source code, doesn't this make your applicaiton less secure? Although this point has been brought up by many people who are in favor of proprietary software, I disagree that opening source code makes applications less secure than their alternatives. If we look at popular open source daemon packages on the Internet, such as sendmail, we can see that there are, of course, vulnerabilities that are discovered. But this is the case with proprietary software as well, including Microsoft and Apple's proprietary systems. In the case of open-source software, we can see that vulnerabilities are patched extremely quickly because people have access to the source code. The increased scrutiny to which open-source software is subjected, more often than not, makes it more secure.

In the end, I don't think that we can look at any software as either open or not. All software, proprietary included, contains openings that can be exploited. The only program that cannot be exploited is one that is never executed, and is therefore entirely dead. Everyone has seen how Microsoft has a steady stream of programs that are exploited by being cracked and distributed under terms that Microsoft didn't authorize. Perhaps what we need to do then, is shift the debate from the binary opposition of open source and proprietary software to something more like varying terms under which software (which is inherently open to something, unless it is "dead" software) is released.

In this sense, we have to evaluate the benefits and disadvantages of varying license terms. When we do this, I believe that the benefits of something like the GPL far outweigh anything that compels people to keep their source code under lock and key. It allows people to learn from the source code, to use it for their own projects, and to improve it as they see fit. It also still allows you to make money from your own software by selling consulting services and supporting installations.

So, sorry about this belated response to Paul's post. However, I think that it is an important one both for developers and users of software (which implicates just about everyone in the world at this point).

Especially in terms of a community web site like (e:strip), however, I think it would be great to give source code to the community. I'm not sure how much time I'd have to dedicate to hacking with it, but there are a couple of features that I would think about implementing, if the source code were available under a community license. ;)

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Category: wireless

05/21/07 09:52 - 45ºF - ID#39360

Buffalo Community Wireless Network

Who isn't interested in free internet? Recently I've been studying the efforts of community wireless networks in Seattle and Portland and decided to start a similar project in Buffalo. Community wireless networks are grassroots, not-for-profit organizations that are dedicated to the advocacy of broadly available Internet access. In Seattle and Portland, they have helped lots of businesses and individuals to set up access points where people share their Internet access to passers-by and customers (legally, of course).

Personal Telco ( the community wireless group in Portland) uses as their mission statement, "To promote and build public wireless networks through community support and education." I think that this kind of project can also thrive in Buffalo, benefiting the community by bringing cheap or free Internet access to the region while creating a group that facilitates education about technology and open-source software. I also think that the Elmwood strip area is an ideal place to start promoting our project as we set up our first network.

The reason for this is that community wireless networks have as their core component what is called a "mesh" network. A mesh network contains a set of wireless connections between buildings and residences. Because of the kind of community that already exists in the Elmwood strip area, and the proximity of homes and businesses where people are likely to be interested in the Internet access that we would provide, I decided to target this area for the construction of our first network.

In Portland, one of the primary nodes sits on top of the Unitarian Universalist Church, and connects to surrounding buildings. I would like a wireless network to be set up that covers the Elmwood strip region, perhaps stretching wirelessly from some of the taller rooftops in the strip, for example our local Unitarian Universalist Church, some other churches on the strip, and the Lexington co-operative market. After accomplishing this, we could easily expand our reach into the surrounding residential areas.

In order to make this possible, we need to find lots of individuals in the area who are interested in helping our project both technically (linux and wireless hackers especially welcome, and those interested in learning) and socially by reaching out to local residents and businesses on and near the "strip."

If you would like to sponsor a node, or if you have connections with people who may be interested in the project (think of your friends who own buildings with high rooftops in the Elmwood Strip area!), check out our web site. Currently we have an email list serve for discussion of our project, and a map of locations for potential nodes. Help us out and put your address on the map if you would consider helping, and encourage anyone else interested in the project to go to our web site and contact us with questions or comments. Thanks!
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05/20/07 11:02 - 54ºF - ID#39350

remodeling our disgusting apartment

After my last post, Paul asked me why we were being so violent to our walls. "Didn't the existing walls provide adequate shelter from the elements and unwelcome intruders with possibly nefarious intentions," you might ask? Well, yes. However the previous owners, in their infinite wisdom and seemingly infinite scheming to cut corners in order to save money, decided that when the plaster started drooping from the walls (due to the fact that the plaster keys inevitably seem to break out of the lath after 100 years or so) they would just get drunk and splatter stucco everywhere to hold it up. You can see the result below, which we've been saying is texturally somewhere between lemon merengue pie and the roof of a cave.


All of the walls were still bulging out under the lemon-merengue stucco, and one room was covered with appalling panelling. The walls also covered wiring that was either very poorly installed, or 100 years old and put in when the house was built. We had no insulation so gas bills were really high last winter. Between the combination of a former tenant in the apartment that apparently never cleaned in the seven years that she lived in the apartment we're inhabiting, and an absentee landlord that created his masterpieces under the influence, our house is pretty much a disaster.

For all of these reasons, we figured that the easiest thing to do would be to tear out the walls and start over with drywall. We already did this in one room and we're pretty impressed with the result. It's hard living in a house that you're remodeling because of the dirt and the fact that right we're living with only a few lights in the back of the apartment due to the fact that I had to cut out a major electric circuit in order to install new wiring, but things should be much better soon.

Anyway, we have our dumpster outside for one more day, so I'm back to tearing out the remaining walls.
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05/18/07 12:29 - 51ºF - ID#39332

hey e-strippers!

Not sure if "e-stripper" is the appropriate way to refer to people in this community, but I wanted to introduce myself to the community and it just rolled off my tongue. :)

At any rate, I'm a grad student living in the Elmwood area and I came across this site a while ago. Although I'm currently working on my PhD in Spanish Literature, I have a degree in Computer Science and have always been a geek at heart. I originally came across this site last year and was impressed with the way that Paul pulled things together, technically speaking, for the site, and also how it seemed to be an active place on the Internet for a community that has a tie to a particular geographic region.

I also just bought a house in the Elmwood area, and it's a real fixer-upper (as are most places formerly owned by absentee landlords, from what I've seen). Yesterday we got a dumpster delivered and I had some friends over to help clear out a few rooms. We'll be busy for a while with drywall, as you might be able to imagine from the video below:

This summer since I have a bit of a reprieve from academic work I'm also thinking about helping Buffalo to be come a more Internet-friendly community. For this reason I started a group called Buffalo Wireless ( I'll write more about this later, for now it's back to trying to fill the dumpster occupying my front yard (I told the neighbors it was a new swimming pool):


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