Monday, June 30, 2008

Creating community friendly embedded systems

Netgear has jumped the bandwagon and released Open Source Wireless-G Router (WGR614L). Like the earlier Linksys WRT54GL, it's an existing model with a Linux "L" added to end. It does not really add any hardware to make it community friendly, the "open source" part feels like just a marketing gimmick.

With just a couple of small features, these devices could really become community friendly:

  • Serial port. A kingdom for a router or NAS with a proper serial port! Or at least a pre-solder the serial headers and provide a cable with a TTL shifter.
  • Unbrickable bootloader. Alternatively, a relatively hard to brick bootloader like Linksys NSLU-2 has.
  • Mainlined kernel. No "Linux 2.4.22 + binary drivers" crap, like this netgear device.
  • Widespread availability. The community is around the world.
  • Documentation.

Not as necessary, but nice to have features for a community-oriented product:

  • JTAG. So one gets to unbrick it in case bootloader went bonkers. Also allows the community to develop the bootloader.
  • Extensibility. Just adding a USB port gives any device huge amount of extra possible uses. A SD slot would give loads of storage space. etc..
  • Contacts with engineers and developers from the manufacturer. Don't just market to the community, be part of the community :)

Friday, June 27, 2008

User interfaces and security are HARD

You know what the problem is? Webbrowser developers think they're developing the most important application for any computer. -Wouter

Weeelll.. Looking at the the long posts you and others on planet.d.o have written about a browser, one might get the opposite conclusion :) Considering the amount of work and daily business (online banks, shops, news, other services), browser is the most important application after email - and even for email many people use a browser...

Users are good at noticing usability problems. However, their proposed solutions are usually unreliable.

I'm just as annoyed as the next planet writer about the new self-signed SSL dance of FF3. But I do not pretend to know the correct solution. When dealing with security issues, knee-jerk fixes can lead to disasters. Likewise in UI design, the first idea that gets into mind probably isn't the best one.

Monday, June 16, 2008