All posts by Adrian Gschwend

netlabs.org in OS/2 eZine 12/1999

I found this article in my old folder with netlabs.org related stuff. From the filename I guess that I wrote it for OS/2 eZine, issue 12/1999. From a quick Google search I guess that the domain is dead and I could only find backups of issues > 2000. So enjoy some history :)

The OS/2 Netlabs

The other operating system

In winter 1994 I sat in front of my Synthesizers at home and my stupid Windows 3.1 MIDI Sequencer crashed for the fourth time this evening. My neighbor worked at IBM so I told him that I want to get the operating system of IBM, I didn’t know the name at this time, Ijust heard that is must be stable. A few weeks later I got a brand new Warp 3 with Win-OS/2 support. I installed it and after I took my Roland RAP-10 Soundcard out of my computer it even worked without problems. You want to know what I did after OS/2 started for the first time? I made a shutdown because I did not know what to do with this (at this time for me) strange user interface.

About two weeks later I started working with it and I realized how much power my computer got with this OS. You won’t believe it but IBM Germany made TV spots about OS/2 at this time, I was proud to be one of the cool OS/2 users out there. Never again Windows on my machine… I was sure about that.

OS/2 worked well on my machine, I even started buying some applications because I did not know anyone else than me who was using OS/2, so I had no way than to copy software and I think this was the main problem of OS/2. Sure, most of the other people started using Windows ’95 and I always said this OS is a piece of crap. They did not believe it at this time, but they do now… But they had a lot of software for it because everyone had some illegal copies of Windows applications at home.
We all know it, IBM was not very successful with OS/2, it was sad to see that more and more users stopped working with it and I decided that I have to do something against this. This was the birth of OS/2 Netlabs.
My cousin started working with Linux at this time and I saw that this operating system could be very successful in the future, I decided to to something like this for OS/2. The first step was to register netlabs.org at Internic (cool name, isn’t it!? :-). I got my first internet connection at home (and this was really expensive in 1997 in Switzerland, believe me…) and I did the first page at OS/2 Netlabs.

What we are about

The goal of OS/2 Netlabs is to provide open source software for OS/2, this was the idea I had in 1997, at the same time when some guys started the first Warpstock conference in the USA and another guy called Sander van Leeuwen decided to start the Win32-OS/2 Project, now better known as Project Odin. 1997 was a bad year for OS/2 because a lot of commercial companies stopped OS/2 support but it was an important year for new community-based projects.

The project developed very well, a lot of developers started working on new free OS/2 applications, we also started porting Linux applications to OS/2, for example the well known GIMP image manipulation program.
The main problem of OS/2 Netlabs is that no one gets payed for the work, so everyone just invests as much time as possible and a most of us are students or have a real live job out there. So our power is limited and depends on what we have to do for our job/university.
Unfortunately not all people in the OS/2 community realize this, please be patient, we do what we can!

Our projects

Today we have a lot of great projects, for example Odin, the Win32 implementation for OS/2. This is definitely one of the biggest projects actually and the team did a great progress the past month (and we still do :-). Our goal is to get full Win32 support in OS/2, it is possible to do that, download the latest alpha release and test some small applications by yourself, you will be surprised.
Actually we port the Opera web browser to OS/2 with support of the Odin32 Win32-API and we also try to get Lotus Notes R5 (the client) binary running on OS/2. Odin is not an emulator and because of this performance loss is very small.

Another big project is EverBlue, the X-Lib implementation to OS/2 PM. You may know XFree86/OS2, the great port of XFree86 for OS/2 by Holger Veit. With EverBlue you will be able to run X-Applications like GIMP in OS/2 PM, without the need of XFree86/OS2. This will be a very nice improvement for OS/2 because this way we will get a lot of great Linux/Unix applications running native in OS/2 PM.
Unfortunately the team members don’t have that much time at the moment and because of this progress is not that fast. But the project is still very much alive and maybe you can support our developers!

Maybe you also know Linux distributions, in fact a Linux distribution is just an installer for free and open source software. Sure, a lot of distributions provide more but the main thing is the software you get. We decided to do something similar for OS/2, the first step was to write a new installer because the old software installer of IBM is very much out of date. The project got the name WarpIN, you can download the latest source code at our CVS Server at OS/2 Netlabs.
WarpIN is almost ready, we hope to release a first binary version very soon. But the real project is called OSK, the OS/2 Starter Kit. We will provide a CDRom (you will also be able to download it for free) with loads of great OS/2 freeware on it. The good thing about this CDRom is that every application is installable as a WarpIN package, you don’t have to install it by yourself. For sure WarpIN also provides a way to uninstall the application without any bits left on your disk. I’m sure you will love this project as soon as it is released!
This is a wonderful project where you can support us! We still need a lot of people who can support us in writing WarpIN installation packages. This is an easy job and we will provide samples how to do it. This way every user can provide packages for his freeware applications on OS/2 and we will include them on the CDRom.
Check the Homepage for more information about how to support it and join the mailinglist!

I could tell you a lot more about projects at OS/2 Netlabs but you can find them by yourself at our Homepage. More projects will be ready as soon as I got the time to update the pages.

The future

I think OS/2 Netlabs and other new projects really changed the OS/2 community (at least a part of it) in a positive way. A lot of people realized that we have to do something for OS/2 by our-self. We don’t have to wait for IBM. Every user can support the community, you don’t have to be a developer, there is a lot of other stuff to do, for example to answer questions in newsgroups, collecting FAQ’s about OS/2 and so on.

About one year ago I decided to change the design of OS/2 Netlabs because the pages are very much out of date at the moment. The main problem is that I started studying computer science at the Biel School of Engineering in Switzerland and I have to do a lot for it.
After Warpstock Europe I finally started working on the new OS/2 Netlabs design. I now use the Apache webserver, MySQL as database, and PHP3 as interface between Apache and MySQL.
But I think you can imagine that this is a lot of work to do and I have a lot of plans how OS/2 Netlabs should look like in the future. Maybe I will be ready with the new design in January 2000, at least I hope so. I will do my very best as everyone at OS/2 Netlabs, again all I can say is be patient!

OS/2 Netlabs will be the most important place for OS/2 developers in the future, you will be able to find information about how to write OS/2 applications, you will find a lot of source code as a reference and if you have an open source project we can provide CVS, ftp and http access for you project.
Developers often don’t like to keep web pages up to date and because of this normal OS/2 users can support them. OS/2 Netlabs will provide a very easy to use web interface to keep the project pages at OS/2 Netlabs up to date. Each project should have two mini-webmasters which are responsible for one project. They stay in contact with the developers and if a new release or anything else is ready, they can update the web page at OS/2 Netlabs. Everyone can do this job, you don’t have to know a lot about HTML, just some very basic tags.
This way we at OS/2 Netlabs can keep users much more up to date and developers have more time to code. This will be great for everyone.

In the beginning I also thought that OS/2 Netlabs should be the first place for OS/2 users to find information about OS/2 news. But fortunately someone else started providing a great place for OS/2 news and information: OS2.org. I think this is definitely one of the most important pages for OS/2 users and because of this I decided to work together with them. OS/2 Netlabs will provide free software for OS/2 and OS2.org provides news and support for OS/2.
In the future we will also get in contact with EDM/2, the great developer magazine for OS/2. I think that EDM/2 and OS/2 Netlabs could provide a lot of know how about OS/2 programming. It does not make sense to do stuff twice, the OS/2 community is to small for this.

I am also very happy that I got the chance to write something about OS/2 Netlabs in OS/2 EZine, a few weeks ago I was in Amsterdam (well, it was Utrecht) and I could present OS/2 Netlabs. To my surprise most of the people did not know OS/2 Netlabs until I told them what we do.
I was very surprised about that fact because I thought that most OS/2 users read information channels like Warpcast, OS2.org and so on. But it looks like a lot of people still don’t know the best OS/2 pages out there and this is what we and you have to change! If you know other people which use OS/2, tell them where you find information about OS/2, tell them what we at Netlabs do and tell them about OS/2 Ezine, V.O.I.C.E., OS2.org and so on!
OS/2 still has a future, we at OS/2 Netlabs provide some very important projects for it.

Thanks!

Well, I hope I was able to give you a short overview about OS/2 Netlabs. As I said I will do my very best to provide up to date web pages very soon. Think about what you could do for OS/2, maybe you could support us as a mini-webmaster for a project, maybe you can start coding on OS/2 (it is not that hard) and I’m sure that you can tell more about us and other OS/2 projects to your friends.
I heard that some people say OS/2 Netlabs is the place where projects go before they die. This is definitely not true. Please accept that we can’t invest 40 hours a week into OS/2 Netlabs. I would love to do that but live is very expensive in Switzerland… There will be a chance to support OS/2 Netlabs in the future (I mean with some money :-)), check the pages the next few weeks, more information will follow.

The most important idea behind OS/2 Netlabs is very simple: Don’t talk about the future of OS/2 – do something for it!

Adrian Gschwend, December 1999
Webmaster at OS/2 Netlabs

netlabs.org is 20 years old today

On September 6th 1997 I registered the domain netlabs.org so it is officially the 20iest anniversary of netlabs.org! I was quite sure I did write a few words 10 years ago and indeed I did, see my old post in this blog. I have a nice history in there about how and why I started netlabs.org so if you are curious about that then just go ahead and read this post, I will wait here! Unfortunately the screenshots of the old website are gone, have to see if I still keep them somewhere. Archive.org has some links as well but lacks the images, see for example the first snapshot in 1998.

I will try to assemble a few pictures and stories about netlabs.org for a session I do at Warpstock 2017. Unfortunately I can’t attend so I will only do a retrospective via Skype. I also plan to publish the slides and pictures I create to the public so you can enjoy a selection of old pictures from various events I participated at.

I’m very happy that after 20 years, netlabs.org and the legacy of OS/2 is still a thing. Sure, the really active times are over but I wouldn’t have thought for a second that the site would be still up in 20 years from when I started it. It was barely an idea back then and open source software didn’t play an important role anywhere yet, let alone on IBMs OS/2. The world was proprietary and so was our beloved operating system.

netlabs.org worked because we were young and naive and we thought nothing could stop us. That actually worked remarkably well for quite a while and looking back at these 20 years I have to say that I really enjoyed the journey, especially the earlier (and more active) years. I met so many great and remarkable people, many of them became friends, even though I have to admit that except Bart and Robert I don’t see most of you anymore on a regular base, if at all.

When we started netlabs.org there were no platforms like Sourceforge or Github. We started with a simple webserver, some http & ftp space and later with a heroic CVS server and client on OS/2, maintained by Christian Langanke. We were always a relatively small community with a focus on Europe, at least for the more active part. Looking back I think that was part of our success. It was relatively easy to travel and meet each other one, two or three times a year. I was a student back then and didn’t had much money but I always figured out some way to visit Warpstock Europe, organize the OS/2 Developer Workshop with Robert Henschel and go snowboarding in the Swiss or French alps with Bart, Knut, Christian, Chris,  Sander, Fonz and some other friends from the scene.

Warpstock Europe was probably the most important event for netlabs.org, I don’t think we would have managed to keep the core contributors active that long without it. It was always a special privilege to meet Daniela, Ulrich, Sander, Knut, Achim, Yuri and all the other great and smart programmers and interact with users that were very happy and grateful for the work we all did. I’m also happy to see that many users are still active, lead by Roderick and many others around the VOICE organization.

Warpstock USA was unfortunately an event I only visited once in Philadelphia, I think it was in 2000. I remember that we drove there with Ulrich Möller by car from Manhattan. We had the (in retrospect) incredibly stupid idea to meet in front of grand central station, back in the days where  mobile phones were a) expensive and b) European GSM models not working in the US. But it was great fun and I still remember many details of that road trip (will have to dig out some old pictures for the presentation)!

Around 10 years ago we started pushing the Voyager project, see some old posts in the blog and a presentation I did at the first netlabs.org developers workshop in Dresden in 2005. Looking back I have to admit that we were both incredibly smart in analyzing what was wrong and incredibly naive in thinking that our tiny active community could fix this. Some parts that were presented one year later in Biel went into the direction of what we now have on Linux with Wayland. Just that they started around 3 years later and it took them years to get it on a level where it got integrated on Linux distributions. And surely enough we had some additional ambitious goals at the same time, as you can see in the presentation. Including rewriting WPS from scratch on a new architecture.

What I probably never talked about in public is that we tried to get the OS/2 Warp for Power PC source code for a while, and/or the one from PM & WPS. It was such a frustrating journey that I probably forgot half of the details but long story short was that sources within the company told me that IBM lost most of the WPS source (IIRC parts of PM too) and no one felt like investing a dime searching for it and the PPC source they didn’t want to release because apparently Microsoft still had something to say regarding code ownership (other sources said that is BS and just an excuse to stop talking to us). Problem was that so many good people within IBM got burned because they believed in OS/2 that in the end really no one wanted to have anything to do with it. All I got in the end was a signed copy of The Design of OS/2 by Michael Kogan (still a great read by the way). I could also sense the amount of frustration he collected while working on OS/2 within IBM. What a shame…

Anyway let the past be the past. I’m glad that we have projects like Arca Noae and ArcaOS, many great long-time netlabs.org contributors and programmers are working and/or contributing to it and they still actively support me with my work for netlabs.org, thanks Lewis and Team! I have to replace the netlabs.org hardware from time to time to make sure services are running properly. In fact I will have to replace the by now 5 year old box again so I need to find 2’500€ for new hardware. If you feel like giving a gift, consider buying some sponsoring units or contact me directly. I can assure you that 100% of that money will go into new hardware! By the way the server was and is hosted at n@work in Hamburg, Germany. Their team is also incredible generous and friendly, thanks Rudiger & team!

I would also be interested to know how netlabs.org can help and should look like for the coming years. I have some ideas around creating a new platform for managing the community. It should be better than forum software, as nice as newsgroups were back then but more modern and easy to use on mobile devices as well. Github and related platforms do a great job for programmers but I think there is still something missing for managing contributors which do not or cannot contribute code. And in my opinion we did hit that sweet spot with netlabs.org for a while so I wonder how to repeat that today. Again, if you have ideas, let me know or comment on this post!

Last but not least thanks to everyone I did not mention by name, I’ve met so many great people in the past years I cannot list you all. If you have a nice netlabs.org related story on your own, let me know!

Last but not least I want to mention one of the most active users, it was and is Jan van der Heide. He still writes 99.9% of all posts in this blog, only because of his bi-weekly work you get regular condensed updates about what is going on in the SVN/TRAC repositories at netlabs.org, thanks a lot Jan!

netlabs.org and its role in 2012

In September this year it will be 15 years that I founded netlabs.org. I never had any plans about how long I gonna run it and I’m amazed to see that it is still running strong. So time for a little stop to think about what we did and where we go in the future.

First, as most of you noticed I am not really active anymore regarding OS/2. I stopped using it several years ago and while I still miss the power of the Workplace Shell, it was time for me to move on. I don’t necessarily like current solutions (including MacOS X, which I use) but it was a pragmatic decision I do not regret. About four years ago I got introduced to the Semantic Web and that’s what I’m interested in nowadays. Me and some other guys from netlabs.org invest a lot of time into it and there is a fair chance that you can play with the first few things we create later this year.

So the next question is what happens with netlabs.org. In short: Not much. I will continue to run it and netlabs.org will be the place where all open source code gets released we create for our semantic web work. I will continue to maintain and support services like Subversion, TRAC, the minimal webpages, ftp, mailing lists, Jabber accounts,  SIP server and so on.

In the past months I got several requests for new things, including support for hosting code with Git or Mercurial. I was thinking about providing that and had a look at both systems. They are very powerful and outrank Subversion in many ways but in the end it is also a matter of personal preferences. In our semantic web work I started to use source hosted at GitHub as well and I have to say I’m very impressed by the service. It is how sharing source code needs to be done nowadays and this is something I cannot offer at netlabs.org.

When I started netlabs.org there was no SourceForge, no Freshmeat (now Freecode), no GitHub. What I created back then was a simple version of those things and it did its job for a really long time (remember CVS :). Later I introduced TRAC and Subversion because it made sense and facilitated project handling. But systems like GitHub and bitbucket are far too advanced to copy them and it wouldn’t make any sense to waste time on that.

As a conclusion: If you want git or Mercurial for your project feel free to host the code anywhere you like. netlabs.org was and is about the people, the IRC channel, the mailing lists and so on. netlabs.org is the history we share, the events we participated, the software we released. And I’m pretty sure it will stay that way for another few years and hopefully some new people join for the upcoming semantic web projects we work at.

I’m more than happy to host new projects as long as you choose things we offer and I’m also very happy if you attribute code hosted somewhere else to netlabs.org. There is a fair chance netlabs.org will get a re-release the day our semantic web software is available and this might again change the way we collaboratively work on software. But for the moment GitHub and all the other solutions win and you should use them!

One last remark: While we build a lot of stuff around open source software I get the impression that in some cases changes in the code (aka patches) do not get distributed with released binaries. This is not really smart, open source software is about sharing code and at least for GPL based software it is mandatory to release modified code. But even if you are using BSD or Apache licensed code we should share our code. The OS/2 community is definitely too small to waste time on searching recent patches for compiling it on our platform. So if you keep some stuff for you, please release it with the binaries!

netlabs.org and its future direction

There are quite some things going on these days, and after some discussions we had on the netlabs.org community mailinglist I think it’s time to give some more insight about what is happening behind the scenes. This is gonna be a long posting, so let us start.

In the past weeks I had some discussions on the #netlabs IRC channel (Freenode network) with Silvan Scherrer about Qt 4.x. The 3.x port is outdated so we decided it would be nice to port the lastest version. Fortunately, the porter of the 3.x version (Dmitry) has some free time right now and can thus start porting it, once we can pay him a salary. Although things are going well, we still need a lot of money, but I’m confident that we will succeed. If you want to support the Qt4.x project, check the posting Silvan did for details and the web page of the project for a status of the fundraising.

Based on that discussion, Peter Weilbacher made a remark that he has a bad feeling about supporting it because netlabs.org never provided any details about what happens with the money. I did some more postings in that thread to clarify issues and here is a short summary from my side:

  • Expensive things like hardware were always collected separately with sponsoring units at Mensys. Since I switched to a new machine about 2 years ago, I didn’t need any more money. All new services I’ve set up (XMPP/Jabber, Voice over IP) are running on hardware I got for free.
  • I never had to pay any money for bandwidth. This is for years kindly donated by n@work from Hamburg, Germany. Which is a good occasion to thank them a lot for their ongoing support! n@work is an excellent hoster and provides marvelous services and performance. This was arranged by Arne Blankerts years ago and it is still running well.
  • For some time I hired programmers like Vladest. Part of that money was payed with sponsoring units but it was never enough to pay his full salary back then. The missing money was payed by myself, with my savings (bye bye own apartment). I was also traveling a lot around the world for netlabs.org. In total I invested more than 20’000 Euro into that adventure the past years. I do accounting for my private accounts so I could prove that in case anyone doubts that :) Note that, for a long time, I was a student, so it’s not that I have piles of money on my accounts.
  • In short: The money I get from the normal sponsoring units is used for my netlabs.org activities like traveling around. There is probably less than 3000 Euro on that account right now. Again, if anyone wants to know details I can provide them.

In the posting I also mentioned what’s going on with The Voyager Project and this generated some more questions. So let us look at where we are right now and where netlabs.org will go in the future.

The future direction

A few years ago I started asking myself what I wanted to do with netlabs.org. It is obvious for me that the OS/2 and eCS history will come to an end. We still invest hours of coding into stuff that doesn’t bring us any additional value but just makes it possible to run the system on recent hardware. Some years ago, I already proposed that we should rather go into a direction where eCS would run on virtualized hardware and that we invest our energy and money into something new. Unfortunately this never happened and I see more and more of the big contributors at netlabs.org switching to other systems, including myself. As some of you might know, Daniela Engert also decided to stop development of her famous DANIS506 driver.

In 2005 Bart van Leeuwen and myself decided to launch a new project, which soon became known as The Voyager Project. We started thinking about what we would have to do to get the OS/2 experience on a new platform. Our conclusion, back then, was that we take an existing kernel, some userland code, an interface and put a WPS like desktop on top of that, which we would develop from scratch. While presenting this idea to the public I started to get feedback by people I respect a lot, most of the time the feedback was not too enthusiastic. Many of my good friends asked me why we want to do stuff that is based on assumptions which are more than 20 years old (think of keyboard and mouse for example).

Based on that feedback we started questioning our ideas as well and I soon realized that I use my computer way different than I used it 10 years ago. Today more and more of my computing is done on mobile devices  and my data is stored at various places, which is  not my local computer (MP3 player, subversion repository, file servers at work and so on).  So why should we invest time into a desktop concept that still assumes that we work like this in the future? I want access to my data every time from everywhere in a form that makes sense for the device I am using (laptop, mobile phone, TV box at home…). So I don’t want to use a web interface for that, as a web interface is a very primitive way to interact with data when you are used to the OS/2 Workplace Shell.

So this is what our project is about: Access information in its most perfect representation on any device. Our work will provide a small layer of software that can be run on your laptop, your mobile device and maybe also on your TV at home. This software will use a lot of technologies that were developed the past years by people around Tim Berners-Lee and the Semantic Web.  This is a very ambitious project which has to solve some fundamental problems and we are not sure if we will succeed with it. But we reflected this idea to many people, the past months, and the feedback is excellent, which is our motivation to seriously work on this project.

So what happens now? How do we go on? I could again write a lot of stuff about that but let me just summarize the most important next steps for the moment:

  • I will quit my daytime job at the University end of May. To pay my living and monthly expenses I will work 40% for a security company and teach about computer network security and everything related to it. In case you have some interest in that, let me know, I’m ready to travel :)
  • The rest of the time I will work (again at least 100% :) ) for netlabs.org. We write a lot of concepts about what we do and we plan to get some serious research money for our project. Our core-team consists of 7 members at the time of writing and we plan to hire most of us at least part time for a period of at least two years to implement our technology. If you are curious about an amount, we will start doing that when we have at least 1 million Euro, more would be better. This is a lot of money, but I’m more than convinced about our ideas and I think we will be successful with this project. If you have any more ideas about where to get that money, let me know as well :) (We know about the EU FP7 project for example).
  • The software and the standards we will come up with during our implementation will be released as open source software. The code will be owned by a foundation (most probably), not by an individual company.
  • We (netlabs.org) will provide services, consulting and technologies needed to make some serious money on top of this concept.
  • The OS/2 and eCS projects will stay at netlabs.org. I will do my very best to support any existing and new project and we will continue to do so in the future. The web pages will be greatly enhanced for our new project and thus also for the existing projects.

Some of you might now be disappointed because this does not resemble the original Voyager Project anymore. This is true, but I think that what we are working on might have a much bigger impact on the industry than anything else we wanted to do. It will also be possible to use our work as a base for a WPS like desktop, on whatever platform we might want to implement it on. If anyone wants to work on that, I’m ready to support it!

If you want to know more about the Voyager project, we welcome you to join our next netlabs.org Developers Workshop in Switzerland (June 6/7 2009). We will present the work we did the past months and we will talk about the concepts and challenges we have to solve. We look forward to present our ideas to a bigger audience. So far we did the conceptual work within a small group, because we wanted to achieve results, not endless discussions :) There are also event pages at LinkedIn and XING, on which you are welcome to join.

I hope this gives some more information about what we are up to. If you have any questions, remarks or ideas, just let me know. Especially when it is about our new ideas! You can reach me by mail or Jabber/XMPP at ktk@netlabs.org.

Adrian Gschwend, founder of netlabs.org

Google Presenation at Warpstock Europe

I did a presentation about Google at Warpstock Europe 2008. What I showed there is a short version of what I teach in my classes as well during a security course at my University.

First part was about enhanced Google hacking, which is mainly about advanced search operators and some creative googling, second part was about security awareness. Due to the limited amount of time available I could not show many details, but I promised to put all the links online. If you could not take part of the presentation, you might checkout the links in here.

Advanced search operators

You can search much more effective on Google using so called advanced search operators. Google has a nice page about them where they explain what they do and how you can use them. You might check that page first to get an idea of what I am talking about.

If you want to know more about that you might check out GoogleGuide, which is a great resource to learn more about searching with Google. They also provide a page about advanced search operators. If you want to do so called Google Hacking, you might have a look at the Google Hacking Database. You will find good tips about how you can search for specific things combining various tricks in one search. It’s all pretty easy in the end :) Don’t believe it? Try this: site:ibm.com filetype:ppt intext:confidential

Note that by default Google searches for all keywords you provide (like an AND operator), if you want to exclude some keywords, you can specify that as well using the – operator. Example: netlabs -OS/2 would search for everything related to netlabs but not related to OS/2.

As a last tip here, you might want to have a look at Goolag, which is a (so far Windows only) application that does this kind of searches automated. Unfortunately it looks like they lost their domain (goolag.org), it is at a domain parker now… will update that in case it gets back online again.

Person search engines

If you want to know more about a person, you can use various person search engines. They are actually pretty scary and I recommend to do the same about your very own name. If you find stuff you don’t like, you might have to react somehow…

Some search engines I know:

Privacy

The second part of the presentation was about privacy. I could spend hours explaining my concerns with that so I just would like to give you a very short view on my thoughts. If you can read German, I recommend to have a look at the Google special from the Swiss Wochenzeitung (WOZ) weekly newspaper. This is a great introduction to this topic and shows the issues I have with Google very well.

As a start, I quickly list some companies or projects owned by Google:

Google Docs, Google Mail, Google Calendar, Google Maps, Google Desktop Search, iGoogle (startpage meshup), Google Analytics, Google AdSense, Google Video/Youtube, Orkut, DoubleClick.com, Google Checkout, Blogger.com, Chrome Webbrowser, Google Talk, Google News, Google Groups

So that’s in the direction of 20… now imagine what kind of tracking you get when you combine all those databases/logfiles together. Never forget that Google earns about 99% with advertisements. The more they know about you, the more they can give you exactly that kind of advertisement which fits for you.

If a website is using Google Analytics or DoubleClick.com, you get even tracked by Google if you visit a complete different page, as your browser will resolve links to those pages using banners or even 1×1 pixel graphics. Don’t believe me? Simply open your favourite news page in Firefox, Click Ctrl-I (Tools->Page Info) and check the Media tab in there. Now go through the list and search for all links to domains not related to the news page you just visit. There is no reason for a 0x0 or 1×1 pixel graphics in there, except for tracking you…

Another thing are all those great Web 2.0 services like Facebook, StudiVZ, LinkedIn etc. All you put in there should be considered as a tattoo: You will not get rid of it, so be very careful. It’s probably not a good idea to put pictures in there of your last party at the University where half of your friend including yourself were drunk. Companies do check such things when you apply for a job, they are not stupid. It’s not even necessary that you put the pictures in there yourself, just search for my name on some person search engines and you will find loads of pictures done by other people and tagged with my name. That’s the drawback of doing presentations in the public ;)

So what can we do against it? Not much I’m afraid. You could turn of cookies in your browser, I even recommend you to do that for a day. You won’t get far in the net. I have exceptions in my browser, for example I don’t accept any cookies from google.com but that just works as I don’t have to login at Google (no Google Mail for me). Same goes for Javascript, disable that and see how far you get, all the Web 2.0 stuff will not really work anymore.

Anyway, there are a few tools I use and I would like to promote them a bit here:

  • AdBlock Plus – the best privacy tool in my humble opinion. It does not just block annoying advertisements, it also makes sure you do not get tracked like this. Don’t forget to add a *google-analytics.com/* URL in there as well, this should at least partially block another tracking from Google. You can subscribe to some lists which are updated on a regular base and you can add your own URLs as you need.
  • NoScript – NoScript will make sure your browser does not execute any scripts on the page, at least now before you ask to do so. The cool thing is that you can allow it if you have to, there is a little icon in the status bar of Firefox so you can easily allow it for specific pages. This includes JavaScript, Java, Flash and other plugins.
  • TrackMeNot – This plugins will simply send random queries to search engines. Sounds weird but this is actually a pretty smart idea to screw them their databases. In my opinion this is one of the few possibilities we have to screw their business in the future: noise and obfuscation.
  • Tor and Privoxy – this combination is probably the best you can get in terms of privacy. Tor will give you a completely randomized IP and Privoxy will make sure your browser does not betray you with some cookies or other things you might have forgotten. Please check both projects to learn about how they work. Unfortunately the Tor network is far away from being fast so right now I just use that if I have a good reason to do so.

That’s about it with tools, if I forgot something, please add a comment to this article. If you run your own web pages and/or blogs you might consider providing a robots.txt file which forbids to cache your site. In case you have to take some content offline, there is a better chance that it is really offline afterwards like this. Most search engines do pay attention to the robots.txt file, as they get sued if they don’t. Ask Google if you want to know more about that file.

As a last tip, if you want to have your information as the first hit, provide that information on your own. That works pretty good for me and most people are too lazy to check the links which do not show up on top.

FREE BURMA

FREE BURMA

During my trip in Thailand I’ve met a lot of Burmese people. I learned what it means to be happy with about nothing, I learned that many problems we have in our “developed” countries are nothing compared to what other people have to sustain in their life. This picture was taken on 1st of April this year, on a small rave we organized with Burmese people, Thais and a few tourists. It took place on a small island called Koh Chang, close to the border of Burma. A night that won’t be forgotten. FREE BURMA

netlabs.org is 10 years old!

According to the whois record it is exactly 10 years ago that I registered the domain netlabs.org. I can’t remember how long it took to put the first web-page online but the birth of netlabs.org was on that day in 1997. My cousin Andreas Trottmann introduced me to the concept of open source software and Linux a few weeks earlier and his boss, Henning Timcke, encouraged me to start such a project for OS/2 and provided the first hosting for free.

This was just a few days after my twentieth birthday and my goal was to provide free software for OS/2, I absolutely wanted to support my beloved OS/2 platform. I started working at IBM back then and it was also the time when Internet connections became affordable, so I gave it a try. At first there was not much stuff going on, one of the first projects was to port GIMP to OS/2. Unfortunately the port vanished one day and never popped up again. But we were motivated and we got a lot of positive feedback, so we pushed the project further. New projects started; such as porting the newly available source-code of Mozilla to OS/2, working on Odin, Everblue, porting MSQL and later MySQL and so on. Some of the projects worked out, others didn’t, but we realized that we could indeed do something for our platform. I think that netlabs.org definitely had a positive impact on OS/2 and its community. I’ve met a lot of great people within that time and the best thing is that many of them are still my friends today, even if some of them don’t work on OS/2 anymore.

Now 10 years later we are still here and we still release software. Some things didn’t change, I’m still too busy and updates on the netlabs.org webpage takes ages but at least we manage projects pretty well now, from a coder point of view at least. Three years ago I came up with the idea of The Voyager Project to succeed OS/2, at least the parts of what we love about OS/2: The Workplace Shell. After talking to a lot of students, friends, and programmers I really think that this project is worth the effort and it can make a difference in the IT market. However, it is also pretty clear to me that netlabs.org has to become more professional and we have to hire people to finish that project in a reasonable time. My dream is that we can create some kind of Mozilla Foundation out of netlabs.org in a not too distant future or any other model that makes it possible to gather a lot of money to hire a lot of our great coders :-) Send me a cheque today and I will hire tomorrow!

Well, there is still a lot to do and it looks like I can finally focus on netlabs.org in October due to some changes at work. I’m looking forward to finish the current CMS with Arne Blankerts so the project pages get attractive for users as well again. When I’m ready with that I want to announce The Voyager Project to the public and attract new coders, that’s what we need for the next 10 successful years of netlabs.org!

I also would like to thank everyone of you that supported me in any form the past 10 years. The reason why I still do this is the community. Even though I use many other systems nowadays as well, nothing compares to the concepts of OS/2 and the people using it!

At Warpstock Europe we will celebrate the anniversary with a pie as well, so make sure you don’t miss that :)

Thanks again, and Cheers!

Adrian Gschwend
netlabs.org

While we are at it, I dug out some old stuff related to netlabs.org :)

Google Groups still knows the GIMP 1.0 announcement in September 1998:
http://groups.google.com/group/comp.os.os2.apps/browse_thread/thread/bdab6303a163423a/700132d9e0384f5c

I couldn’t find my first announcement of netlabs.org, I think I just sent that out as email back then. If anyone still has that, please let me know.

And this is how the very first netlabs.org pages looked:

netlabs.org entry page December 1997

The logo was done with ColorWorks from SPG

Gimp:

And for sure I had to make some fun of Microsoft:

 

There are also more old web pages available on archives.org:
http://web.archive.org/web/*/netlabs.org

Trolltech moves into the right direction

Since I started promoting The Voyager Project two years ago I was criticizing some things about Linux on the desktop, for example the fact that Qt is only available under the terms of the GPL for open source projects or that the Xlib should be bypassed on modern systems (with decent graphic backends). Funny enough to see that this week both things were addressed by Trolltech, the company behind Qt. First they changed the license terms for the free version and now a Trolltech developer explains why they have to bypass the X server to get decent window handling and eliminate flickering. I hope that GTK/Cairo will move into that direction as well in the future (ok, I don’t know how it is done there right now :)

I mentioned both the last time in my presentation at Developers Workshop 2007. World Dominationâ„¢ seems to get along!

Timeout

2007 is in several ways a special year for me: I will be 30 years old in August, netlabs.org 10 years in September and, I will be away for three months in one week :-)

After studying and working the past 16 years I thought it is time to see a bit more of the world and do that more than just a few weeks as I used to do so far. So I decided to travel through parts of Asia for three months. I will fly to Bangkok in early March and I will fly back to Switzerland in early June.

This basically means netlabs.org has to exist without me for some months and I really hope you don’t disappoint me ;-) I would appreciate a lot if things would go on during that time. We have exciting projects going on and it would be a shame if there is no progress for coordination things just because I am away for some time.

A lot of people already help me behind the scene, namely Robert Henschel and Jan van der Heide, which are doing a lot of coordination stuff and things like the netlabs.org Newsletter. But there is more that can be done by everyone from the community, like helping programmers with documentation, correcting stuff and so on. To give you a start I created an entry in our Wiki which can be used as a base for ideas for The Voyager Project to contribute.

Another important thing is that people do not contact me directly anymore for requests regarding netlabs.org. Please post anything related to netlabs.org to the community mailinglist, there are people reading this list which can take care of your request. My mailbox will most probably react like a black hole during my trip so don’t complain if you don’t get any answer :-)

That’s it so far from my side, I still have many things in my mind that I want to finish on the new server, parts of it will be done before I leave but some things have to wait till I am back in June. In case you are curious what I’m going to do in Thailand and surroundings you can visit my personal blog, which is German only however.

That’s it for the moment, I will let you know when I am back :)

Adrian Gschwend, founder & webmaster of netlabs.org

The future of UNIAUD & WarpVision – or who pays for OSS?

As some of you may have noticed, netlabs.org stopped the contract with Vladest for UNIAUD and WarpVision development. This was not an easy decision for me and I would like to give some of the reasons behind this step.

About three years ago I decided to hire a fulltime programmer for UNIAUD and WarpVision, to make sure we had good progress on those projects. We decided to go for Vladest because he worked on both projects already. The monthly salary of more than 500 Euro was payed by usergroups, private sponsors and mainly by myself, which means my very own money. During the past years I spent around 20’000 Euro out of my own pocket for netlabs.org, a big part of that money went into those two projects.

Even as a Swiss this was a lot of money and I can not and do not want to continue like that. Besides this, I was not really happy about the progress of the two projects either, so I decided to stop the labour contract with Vladest. Next to those there were other reasons as well, but I will not ellaborate on those here.

This basically means that there is nobody working on either of these projects right now. Source code of these projects is in Subversion and both projects did get built by other people from time to time so the codebase is there, even if it might not compile that easy.

So what is next? To be honest, I don’t know. In my opinion UNIAUD is an important project, maybe more important than WarpVision. So the question now is if anyone is willing to invest money into it? Are users ready to pay for a sound driver for eComStation? If so, how should that be organized?

I welcome you to join a discussion about that, please post your ideas to the netlabs.org community mailinglist which is also available at gmane.org, so you can contribute using your web browser, news reader or mail client!

In case we find a constructive and working solution we might hire Vladest on a project base with clear goals, but I won’t do that alone anymore.

Adrian Gschwend, founder & webmaster of netlabs.org