Older blog entries for modus (starting at number 16)

Famous for Five Minutes Department:

Seth David Schoen of the Electronic Frontier Foundation has quoted me in his web journal at vitanuova.loyalty.org. The quote in question is way down at the bottom of the page. It's a silly pun I posted to the Crackmonkey list, only amusing to those who are familiar with Emad el-Haraty and Eben Moglen.

What do you know, I'm an Apprentice.

I haven't looked at my Advogato account in a really long while.
Maybe I'm ready to start posting here again.

Ruggedizing a Cafe Box

  1. Remember to keep the BIOS passwd-protected, and not have any removable media (A:, CDROM) in the boot-path.

  2. Make as much as possible mountable read-only. This should be doable with /usr with little or no modification. It could almost be done with root, except things need to mount on it. The best way to do this is with NIS / NFS, so that a cluster of diskless computers shares network access to a remote filesystem.

  3. For a standalone machine, there's a way to do this by making all the partitions except for /var read-only, then disabling a lot of things that need to write to the disk and symlinking everything essential to the /var partition.

  4. Create a restricted ~cafe account. Configure your *DM (XDM, KDM, GDM, whatever) for autologin to ~cafe. For the public login, make as much read-only as possible. One way to do this is chmod -R a-w ~cafe, and then see what breaks.

  5. Enable quotas. This will prevent .netscape/cache from eating anything but the ~cafe dir.

  6. Pick up a journaling FS when convenient.

Jamie Zawinski used diskless terminals and NIS/NFS in his nightclub for a setup so bombproof, you could even UNPLUG 'EM without halting the system and they don't have to fsck, since they get all their important files over the network.
gtk-shell mozilla-splash


/usr/local/bin/gtk-shell --label "Mozilla is loading, just wait a minute..." --button "OK" &
/usr/bin/mozilla http://www.as220.org

It's not perfect, I'll concede that. There's still no flashy graphic of a marauding lizard. But it serves its purpose: to occupy the user's attention for 45 seconds while Mozilla loads. Their instinct will be to move the mouse and click on the "OK" button, just to send the window away.

Even though the button serves no other purpose than to close the window, it fills a very important role in the psychology of the GUI environment: it gives an impatient Microserf something to look at while the program loads.

I've polled enough of the Cafe computer users here to know that they share the misapprehension that apps launch slower on Linux. This is untrue, as anyone with a stopwatch recording launch times for Windows and Mac apps can attest. The only difference is that many Linux apps are totally lacking in application feedback, making the percieved load time much longer.

The gtk-shell splash scripts (for Netscape, Galeon and Mozilla) on the AS220 Cafe Freebox will serve the purpose for now. Maybe I'll even learn how to code a meaningless "thermometer" display (you know, like rpm -ivh only slicker) and include a rampaging Giant lizard logo.

But it would be even nicer if the mozilla -splash flag worked in the next release. Even though it may seem like window dressing, it should actually be a priority.

1 Mar 2001 (updated 1 Mar 2001 at 19:21 UTC) »

Chris Blizzard wrote:

Hrm. Well, I'm not against having a splash screen for mozilla but it was voted down pretty hard by the community. Plus, it added some nasty dependencies in the wrong places.

As for a SIGTERM in the launcher script I think that's a bad idea. We need to fix it the right way with lock files and timeouts. Some of that means we need to change things in mozilla but that's OK IMHO. It's not more than a few days work but it's still pretty low on my list of things to do.

Well, I've been thinking pretty hard about this, and I'm surprised that the "mozilla -splash" flag was "voted down ... by the community." It makes me wonder whether the "community" that Chris is referring to here has had much experience with public, shared terminals and donated hardware. It seems like most Mozilla developers probably have their own computers which would blow away the dual-P166, 64MB SDRAM Cafe Freebox -- and they don't have to worry about the 45-second delay that the Cafe User experiences while waiting for Netscape or Mozilla to load.

I think it's also generally true that Linux power users who actually know what's happening when they click on a button are more inclined to wait a minute than the Windoze-trained, point-and-drool crowd, who expect instant feedback from their GUI. Unfortunately, 90% of the folks who use my GNOME install are the impatient sort.

In the context of the Cafe, a tcl / wish wrapper that threw a little logo on the screen would be an easy enough hack. But it would be nice if I had access to a bigger lizard logo than just the GNOME panel icon. I should ask Mozilla logo designer Shepard Fairey whether he'd like to design a new logo for Mozilla's splash screen. Then again, I'm not exactly authorized to spend Mozilla's money hiring graphic designers just because they happen to be bold, iconoclastic young mavericks. :^D

Of course, Chris is also correct when he points out that the SIGTERM is no solution to a problem which should really be solved by lock files and timeouts. Hmm, the "led" script I use to lock and edit dist files for lists does that very thing, and I've already seen the source code for that. Maybe that's what I ought to base my wrapper scripts on.

wtf utsl
UTSL: use the source, luke

1 Mar 2001 (updated 1 Mar 2001 at 09:47 UTC) »
Evolution Of A Linux User by James S. Baughn


James S. Baughn
Humorix: Linux and Open Source(nontm) on a lighter note
Archive: http://humbolt.nl.linux.org/lists/
Web site: http://www.i-want-a-website.com/about-linux/

Blizzard Cares About Mozilla User Feedback!

Even though I committed a major faux pas by mass-mailing all the Mozilla developers instead of checking their online help or lurking in the shadows of some listserv or irc #mozilla channel, Christopher Blizzard was open enough to actually take the time to thoughtfully respond to my query. This man deeply cares about Mozilla, it is obvious, or else he wouldn't have bothered to respond so personally to one of the myriad tiny cyber-gnats buzzing around his personal zillasphere.

I already moderated him as Master, so now I wish there was a higher compliment I could pay him.

1 Mar 2001 (updated 3 Mar 2001 at 00:12 UTC) »

Date: Wed, 28 Feb 2001 10:32:06 -0500
From: Christopher Blizzard
To: Matt Obert
Subject: Re: mozilla -splash

Matt Obert wrote:

Hey Blizzard,

My name's Matt Obert, and I maintain a Freebox in the AS220 Cafe in Providence, RI. It defaults to GNOME and currently has three browsers installed: Navigator, Mozilla and Galeon.

Keepin' it short: there has been a problem with lack of application feedback. The Cafe User gets impatient while waiting for their browser to load, and generally hits the Launcher again several times, which slows everything down even further.

I've hacked this so that the launcher button issues a SIGTERM before booting, but it would be even better if Mozilla had a splash screen with the lizard logo (designed, by the way, by my good friend Shepard Fairey!) I'm not asking you to code it by yourself or anything, but if you could spread the word among Mozilla developers, that would be much appreciated.

Hrm. Well, I'm not against having a splash screen for mozilla but it was voted down pretty hard by the community. Plus, it added some nasty dependencies in the wrong places.

As for a SIGTERM in the launcher script I think that's a bad idea. We need to fix it the right way with lock files and timeouts. Some of that means we need to change things in mozilla but that's OK IMHO. It's not more than a few days work but it's still pretty low on my list of things to do.



Thanks for the look-out, Brian. I'll remember to check out irc.mozilla.org instead of emailing the developers directly next time.

Thankfully, I can't be moderated below Observer.

Most developers would object to being personally contacted about this sort of thing - reactions would range from your email being deleted without a response to massive flamage.

It would be much better for you to first read the mailing list archive for whatever mozilla mailing list is appropriate for this, to make sure this hasn't already been addressed. For good measure, check the FAQ and other parts of the web site. If that doesn't turn anything up, post to the mailing list. But please don't send private email to the developers - that would defeat the purposes of the mailing list (to scale well and to help the next guy who has the same question).

It looks like they use newsgroups instead of mailing lists:


You also need to check the bug tracking system (Bugzilla) to see if 1) a bug has been reported and 2) where the developers are at in terms of dealing with the bug.

Here is the link for the bug tracking system:

http://www.mozilla.org/bugs/ I just did a quick search, and here is the bug you want:


It appears that they are aware of the bug, it has been assigned, and someone is working on it. There is a duplicate of this bug at:


But you can always double-check the newsgroups to see if it's been talked about lately.



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