Prevent Territoriality

Watch out for participants who try to stake out exclusive ownership of certain areas of the project, and who seem to want to do all the work in those areas, to the extent of aggressively taking over work that others start. Such behavior may even seem healthy at first. After all, on the surface it looks like the person is taking on more responsibility, and showing increased activity within a given area. But in the long run, it is destructive. When people sense a “no trespassing” sign, they stay away. This results in reduced review in that area, and greater fragility, because the lone developer becomes a single point of failure. Worse, it fractures the cooperative, egalitarian spirit of the project. The theory should always be that any developer is welcome to help out on any task at any time.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

Licensing Policy Change: Tests are Now Public Domain

I’ve updated the Mozilla Foundation License Policy to state that:

PD Test Code is Test Code which is Mozilla Code, which does not carry an explicit license header, and which was either committed to the Mozilla repository on or after 10th September 2014, or was committed before that date but all contributors up to that date were Mozilla employees, contractors or interns. PD Test Code is made available under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. Test Code which has not been demonstrated to be PD Test Code should be considered to be under the MPL 2.

So in other words, new tests are now CC0 (public domain) by default, and some or many old tests can be relicensed as well. (We don’t intend to do explicit relicensing of them ourselves, but people have the ability to do so in their copies if they do the necessary research.) This should help us share our tests with external standards bodies.

This was bug 788511.

Survey on FLOSS Contribution Policies

In the “dull but important” category: my friend Allison Randal is doing a survey on people’s attitudes to contribution policies (committer’s agreements, copyright assignment, DCO etc.) in free/libre/open source software projects. I’m rather interested in what she comes up with. So if you have a few minutes (it should take less than 5 – I just did it) to fill in her survey about what you think about such things, she and I would be most grateful:

http://survey.lohutok.net is the link. You want the “FLOSS Developer Contribution Policy Survey” – I’ve done the other one on Mozilla’s behalf.

Incidentally, this survey is notable as I believe it’s the first online multiple-choice survey I’ve ever taken where I didn’t think “my answer doesn’t fit into your narrow categories” about at least one of the questions. So it’s definitely well-designed.

Praise and Criticism

Praise and criticism are not opposites; in many ways, they are very similar. Both are primarily forms of attention, and are most effective when specific rather than generic. Both should be deployed with concrete goals in mind. Both can be diluted by inflation: praise too much or too often and you will devalue your praise; the same is true for criticism, though in practice, criticism is usually reactive and therefore a bit more resistant to devaluation.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Proverbs 27:6

JackPair: Legacy-Compatible Encrypted Point-to-Point Voice

JackPair is a small widget which fits between your headset and your phone using the 3.5mm jack and encrypts your voice calls when you are talking to another JackPair user. Seems a really good design, without any secret sauce crypto, uses open hardware and software, and they need another $7,500 in the next day and a half to build it. Go and back them on Kickstarter :-)

Kingdom Code UK

Kingdom Code is a new initiative to gather together Christians who program, to direct their efforts towards hastening the eventual total triumph of God’s kingdom on earth. There’s a preparatory meet-up on Monday 15th September (tickets) and then a full get-together on Monday 13th October. Check out the website and sign up if you are interested.

(There’s also Code for the Kingdom in various cities in the US and India, if you live nearer those places than here.)

Google Safe Browsing Now Blocks “Deceptive Software”

From the Google Online Security blog:

Starting next week, we’ll be expanding Safe Browsing protection against additional kinds of deceptive software: programs disguised as a helpful download that actually make unexpected changes to your computer—for instance, switching your homepage or other browser settings to ones you don’t want.

I posted a comment asking:

How is it determined, and who determines, what software falls into this category and is therefore blocked?

However, this question has not been approved for publication, let alone answered :-( At Mozilla, we recognise exactly the behaviour this initiative is trying to stop, but without written criteria, transparency and accountability, this could easily devolve into “Chrome now blocks software Google doesn’t like.” Which would be concerning.

Firefox uses the Google Safe Browsing service but enhancements to it are not necessarily automatically reflected in the APIs we use, so I’m not certain whether or not Firefox would also be blocking software Google doesn’t like, and if it did, whether we would get some input into the list.

Someone else asked:

So this will block flash player downloads from https://get.adobe.com/de/flashplayer/ because it unexpectedly changed my default browser to Google Chrome?!

Kudos to Google for at least publishing that comment, but it also hasn’t been answered. Perhaps this change might signal a move by Google away from deals which sideload Chrome? That would be most welcome.

Email Account Phishers Do Manual Work

For a while now, criminals have been breaking into email accounts and using them to spam the account’s address book with phishing emails or the like. More evil criminals will change the account password, and/or delete the address book and the email to make it harder for the account owner to warn people about what’s happened.

My mother recently received an email, purportedly from my cousin’s husband, titled “Confidential Doc”. It was a mock-up of a Dropbox “I’ve shared an item with you” email, with the “View Document” URL actually being http://proshow.kz/excel/OLE/PPS/redirect.php. This (currently) redirects to http://www.affordablewebdesigner.co.uk/components/com_wrapper/views/wrapper/tmpl/dropbox/, although it redirected to another site at the time. That page says “Select your email provider”, explaining “Now, you can sign in to dropbox with your email”. When you click the name of your email provider, it asks you for your email address and password. And boom – they have another account to abuse.

But the really interesting thing was that my mother, not being born yesterday, emailed back saying “I’ve just received an email from you. But it has no text – just an item to share. Is it real, or have you been hacked?” So far, so cautious. But she actually got a reply! It said:

Hi <her shortened first name>,
I sent it, It is safe.
<his first name>

(The random capital was in the original.)

Now, this could have been a very smart templated autoresponder, but I think it’s more likely that the guy stayed logged into the account long enough to “reassure” people and to improve his hit rate. That might tell us interesting things about the value of a captured email account, if it’s worth spending manual effort trying to convince people to hand over their creds.

HSBC Weakens Their Internet Banking Security

From a recent email about “changes to your terms and conditions”. (“Secure Key” is their dedicated keyfob 2-factor solution; it’s currently required both to log in and to pay a new payee. It’s rather well done.)

These changes will also enable us to introduce some enhancements to our service over the coming months. You’ll still have access to the full Internet Banking service by logging on with your Secure Key, but in addition, you’ll also be able log in to a limited service when you don’t use your Secure Key – you’ll simply need to verify your identity by providing other security information we request. We’ll contact you again to let you know when this new feature becomes available to you.

Full details of all the changes can be found below which you should read carefully. If you choose not to accept the changes, you have the right to ask us to stop providing you with the [Personal Internet Banking] service, before they come into effect. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume that you accept the changes.

Translation: we are lowering the security we use to protect your account information from unauthorised viewing and, as long as you still want to be able to access your account online at all, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it.

Absence

I will be away and without email from Thu 14th August to Friday 22nd August, and then mostly away from email for the following week as well (until Friday 29th August).

Accessing Vidyo Meetings Using Free Software: Help Needed

For a long time now, Mozilla has been a heavy user of the Vidyo video-conferencing system. Like Skype, it’s a “pretty much just works” solution where, sadly, the free software and open standards solutions don’t yet cut it in terms of usability. We hope WebRTC might change this. Anyway, in the mean time, we use it, which means that Mozilla staff have had to use a proprietary client, and those without a Vidyo login of their own have had to use a Flash applet. Ick. (I use a dedicated Android tablet for Vidyo, so I don’t have to install either.)

However, this sad situation may now have changed. In this bug, it seems that SIP and H.263/H.264 gateways have been enabled on our Vidyo setup, which should enable people to call in using standards-compliant free software clients. However, I can’t get video to work properly, using Linphone. Is there anyone out there in the Mozilla world who can read the bug and figure out how to do it?

It’s Not All About Efficiency

Delegation is not merely a way to spread the workload around; it is also a political and social tool. Consider all the effects when you ask someone to do something. The most obvious effect is that, if he accepts, he does the task and you don’t. But another effect is that he is made aware that you trusted him to handle the task. Furthermore, if you made the request in a public forum, then he knows that others in the group have been made aware of that trust too. He may also feel some pressure to accept, which means you must ask in a way that allows him to decline gracefully if he doesn’t really want the job. If the task requires coordination with others in the project, you are effectively proposing that he become more involved, form bonds that might not otherwise have been formed, and perhaps become a source of authority in some subdomain of the project. The added involvement may be daunting, or it may lead him to become engaged in other ways as well, from an increased feeling of overall commitment.

Because of all these effects, it often makes sense to ask someone else to do something even when you know you could do it faster or better yourself.

— Karl Fogel, Producing Open Source Software

Laziness

Dear world,

This week, I ordered Haribo Jelly Rings on eBay and had them posted to me. My son brought them from the front door to my office and I am now eating them.

That is all.

Fraudulent Passport Price List

This is a list (URL acquired from spam) of prices for fraudulent (but perhaps “genuine” in terms of the materials used, I don’t know) passports, driving licenses and ID cards. It is a fascinating insight into the relative security of the identification systems of a number of countries. Of course, the prices may also factor in the economic value of the passport, but it’s interesting that a Canadian passport is more expensive than a US one. That probably reflects difficulty of obtaining the passport rather than the greater desirability of Canada over the US. (Sorry, Canadians, I know you’d disagree! Still, you can be happy at the competence and lack of corruption in your passport service.)

One interesting thing to note is that one of the joint lowest-price countries, Latvia (€900), is a member of the EU. A Latvian passport allows you to live and work in any EU country, even Germany, which has the most expensive passports (€5200). The right to live anywhere in the EU – yours for only €900…

Also interesting is to sort by passport price and look if the other prices follow the same curve. A discrepancy may indicate particularly weak or strong security. So Russian ID cards are cheaper than one might expect, whereas Belgian ones are more expensive. Austrian and Belgian driver’s licenses also seem to be particularly hard to forge, but the prize there goes to the UK, which has the top-priced spot (€2000). I wonder if that’s related to the fact that the UK doesn’t have ID cards, so the driver’s license often functions as one?

Here is the data in spreadsheet form (ODS), so you can sort and analyse, and just in case the original page disappears…