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AMA / Leah Rowe / Libreboot / etc

Submitted by libreleah in freeAsInFreedom (edited )

I've been asked to do an AMA here, so feel free to ask me anything... I'm accepting the invitation on a whim. I'm Leah Rowe of Libreboot, etc.

Someone on IRC sent me here. I see no harm in doing an AMA

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18

boringskip wrote (edited )

Any chance of Libreboot becoming compatible with more recent processors, now that Intel ME can be disabled?

23

libreleah wrote

If you're referring to the me_cleaner utility, I must clarify: that utility doesn't fully remove the ME firmware, only some parts, so those systems still technically are not yet libreboot-able.

17

Pop wrote

hi Leah!

ummm, so I'm one of those people on raddle with minimal knowledge around tech and programming stuff

which leads me to ask, what are your politics and how do they relate to your work with Libreboot etc?

(I see a lot of people really interested in free software on this site and though I think I understand the basics part of what I want is to understand how intimately bound up politics are in the question of free software)

20

libreleah wrote

I'm a democratic socialist; I believe in public healthcare, the welfare state and so on. I'm also actively involved with the Labour party in the UK, where I live. Labour is a socialist party. I've always been leftwing, for the most part.

How it relates to Libreboot and free software: I believe that resources and knowledge should be universal to everyone, whether it be healthcare, education, food, transport, basically anything. I even believe in things like universal living wage and so on. I believe in free software for the same reason I'm a socialist: I think that everyone should have the "means to production" so to speak, when they use their computers. I believe that knowledge should be shared.

10

moochmcgee wrote

tbh "the question of free software" uses similar language to hitler talking about "the jewish question" and i have no idea why i noticed that.

14

zod wrote

How do you cope with all the misogyny and transmisogyny in the tech world? Does it ever make you want to change careers?

14

libreleah wrote (edited )

Logically, I know that there are certain things which I cannot control. I do what I can but beyond that, I have a life to lead.

The attitude that I have is: do what I can to improve things, and don't worry about the rest. Each person has their own inherent worth, and at the end of the day, you have to remember: you're just as worthy as anyone else.

I actually run a transgender info/support site, if you're interested: https://transit.org.uk/

EDIT: Actually, in the free software community there is a huge support for trans people, in my experience. I say this, as someone who came out as transgender to said community, having previously presented as a cis guy to it. To answer the question directly: No, I've never considered switching to a new field of study. To do so would only validate bigotry. You have to continue doing what you do regardless of what other people think of you.

I don't really know what to do about mysogyny or anything else, since bigotry/bias is very hard to undo in people. We just have to keep being visible, and keep focusing on educating people properly, so that one day it won't be a problem. Some people's minds won't be changed overnight. I have to keep a rational view of things.

14

LucyParsonsRocks wrote

Do you think 'innovations' like UEFI are going to get even more restrictive and cumbersone, making it even harder to maintain ownership of your own devices?

15

libreleah wrote

UEFI isn't really a "problem", just an unnecessary piece of bloatware (in my opinion). All you really need is basic hardware initialization and some kind of bootloader (in libreboot we use GRUB. on non-libreboot systems, uboot etc are common). The issue is much lower level than UEFI. Nowadays, it's common for systems to not allow modified firmware at all, making libreboot impossible. It goes beyond just UEFI, which is a limited application, and by no means universal. Most of the features on modern Intel systems preventing Libreboot (ME/CSE, intel boot guard, etc) have nothing to do with UEFI

13

_ziq_ wrote

Do you have any opinions about Richard Stallman you'd be willing to share?

16

libreleah wrote

He's one of the most crucially important figures in the history of free software. Without his contributions, most notably the GNU project, it's unlikely that we'd have such a vibrant community as we do now.

Libreboot probably wouldn't exist either, if it wasn't for the hard work put in by RMS and others, in the early days. Free software is always iterative, building upon previous work.

Most notably, I believe that Copyleft was crucial in bringing about the current free software community. Without it, we would have ended up with a fully proprietary world, where only the "reference" code is free, if at all.

I have no strong feelings one way or the other about RMS as a person, outside of his contributions to Free Software.

13

jadedctrl wrote

Thanks for all of the great work you've done (both Libreboot and Transit-- great site, btw)!

I have a few questions:

What do you see in the close future for Libreboot?
What other projects are you involved in?
What's another libre project you're really interested in, but not involved in?

15

libreleah wrote (edited )

Close future for libreboot? Coreboot recently added a few new motherboards that are libreboot candidates, for next release. Swift Geek and Andrew Robbins have been working very hard on the project over the last year (I haven't been as active lately). We might be able to do a new release at some point during 2018.

Other projects: Transit

Libreboot is the only software project that I'm involved with, at present.

I have very little time for projects these days, so I'm mostly just focusing on my own things and not starting anything new at the moment.

7

ca5852b80e34d8861519f3131 wrote

I'm curious. Which motherboards are candidates?

9

libreleah wrote

See: https://notabug.org/libreboot/libreboot/issues/391

Intel G41/ICH7 :

ASRock G41C-GS R2.0 (Still sold brand new, DIP8 socket)

Foxconn G41S-K

Intel Atom D410 :

Intel D410PT (similar to D510mo)

These could very well be added in the next release. We'll have to look into them first to see what issues they have, if any. But yes, there will be some new systems supported in the next release.

13

________deleted wrote

I greatly admire the way you've stood up to transphobes in the past and shut down their abuse, you're one of my personal heroes. Who are your heroes?

12

libreleah wrote (edited )

I find this question difficult to answer. I tend to look only at the work/accomplishments themselves, while being indifferent towards the individual, since a person is never perfect, and they are not what they do. It will take me time to come up with a list.

EDIT:

Major political figures who I admire: Jeremy Corbyn, current leader of the UK labour party. I like him because not only is he principled, and willing to stand up for his beliefs even in the face of adversity (he was arrested several times for protesting in anti-apartheid marches, in the 1980s), he didn't want the job of being leader of the party. He was just asked to stand in the initial party leadership contest, because no other leftwing candidate was available (the contenders in the contest were all centrists). He wasn't even expecting to win, and doesn't care about power, he just wants to do the Right Thing. People like that are the ones who deserve leadership, because they think for the collective, not themselves.

Chelsea Manning: Despite horrendous treatment in prison, she is still campaigning strongly even now. Getting out of prison, she didn't use it and escape to lead a "comfortable" life. She is straight back into politics. She's also a left winger. She has the exact personality type such that I think she might run for president, one day. I really liked the article she wrote in the guardian, about how Obama wasn't leftwing enough during his tenure: I can't find the link at the moment, but it was spot-on. Perhaps one of you can find it. She was talking about how he was too timid, or something like that. All this, after just being released from prison, thanks to the very man she was criticizing. That takes guts, and strength of character. I agreed with most of what she was saying aswell.

As a fellow trans woman, she has my respect.

Those are political figures, though I'm not currently sure who else to write about.

3

xxi wrote

Might this be the article? Sure seem to fit the description anyway.

3

libreleah wrote

Indeed. That is the article in question. Thank you for digging it up. I will now bookmark it.

11

Intel_ME_is_Third_Reich wrote (edited )

Oh wow, thank you so much for doing an AMA on here!

Igor Skochinsky stated in last year's CCC that (IRC) it was unlikely that the ME was specifically built to allow the NSA to spy on everybody following the discovery of that special mode specifically crafted for the US admin. Do you agree with him on this? Or do you think that this is still irrelevant since the ME is a huge attack surface anyway and can be remotely exploited by anyone?

Also do you think that AMD processors and APUs for 2013 and previous years are now the go to for anyone who doesn't want something like the ME or PSP on their processors and who wants the best performance possible?

Finally what are your thoughts on Qubes OS? :)

10

libreleah wrote

Intent is irrelevant. What matters is that the ME is demonstrably insecure, and can be used to invade systems against the will of their users. Whether Igor's correct is not relevant, as far as I'm concerned.

AMD is just as bad as Intel nowadays, but some of their chipsets are supported in Libreboot (KCMA-D8 motherboard and KGPE-D16)

I have no strong feelings one way or the other, regarding Qubes OS. I'm not convinced that true isolation is possible in software. I believe that hardware-based isolation (having multiple physical systems) is better. I do my computing in very much the style of Qubes, but with multiple physical systems.

11

BlackFlagged wrote

How would you overhaul the Free Software Foundation if given the opportunity?

12

libreleah wrote

I'm not going to answer this question. I currently have no strong feelings one way or the other, as regards the management of the FSF.

9

_______deleted__ wrote (edited )

Hi! Do you have a favourite movie / tv show / videogame / song?

10

libreleah wrote

movies: The Man From Earth, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, Logans Run, Back to the Future, Matilda (1996),

tv shows: Rick and Morty, Sailor Moon, Death Note, Star Trek (most seasons, except TOS. TOS is full of sexism, and I find it painful to watch), The Good Place

I don't play videogames at all, not since I was a child.

Not sure about music. I have no specific tastes and don't really pay attention to artists/genres.

8

Copenhagen_Bram wrote

How are you? And where can I join you on IRC?

12

libreleah wrote (edited )

_4of7 on freenode IRC

EDIT: and as someone pointed out, I'm in #libreboot or ##transit

Libreboot is... well, it's libreboot. No explanation needed.

##transit is the IRC channel (on freenode) of the transgender support group that I founded (in November, 2016)

8

kaspaar wrote

Ooooh Leah, happy to see you, really :)

Actually I've got a lot of questions, pretty sure most of them you won't be comfortable to answer, so I won't ask...

I'll reluctantly limit myself to the following: Are you still working on the X220 or is it out of reach?

Not quite sure if this is the right place to ask this, but while you're here: I for myself am working on an exhibition about gender identity, would you be okay with a painting of you to be shown there? In case you're fine with it, wanna choose the photo I work with yourself? Maybe some text in addition to that?

I'd be really glad to have you in. Actually the for me more than disturbing public response (outspoken, I still don't want this to be true) about the actions you took -even if you don't like that to be discussed anymore, are kind of "guilty" for that exhibition to happen.

You've got a lot of time to think about that, it will take me about a year to get everything done :) If you're interested, can I email, pm or jabber you about details?

Regardless of your decision about that one, I really want to take the chance to thank you for founding libreboot, which is one of my favourite free software projects and your work on it, some other things and honestly hope that you'll be happy in your personal life after all. Or one day. Or so. But happy.

10

libreleah wrote

I haven't had time so I've put sandybridge work on hold. I make no promises.

Sure, you can use a picture of me if you'd like. My photo is on minifree.org and there are some on vimuser.org too, my personal site. Feel free to use whichever one you like.

The incidents which you refer to are now buried. I made peace with the community, after another person (Alyssa) in the libreboot project convinced me that it was the correct thing to do. In the end, it didn't even matter whether my accusations were correct; the chaos just needed to end. One must always choose their battles wisely, and that battle was not worth it under the circumstances of the time.

What sort of project are you interested in? Your statements are somewhat vague. What sort of thing do you want to do, which you want my help with? You can email me the details. For non-trivial matters, email is best: my contact details are on minifree.org

6

kaspaar wrote (edited )

Thank you for your positive reply,

I didn't mean to criticise you by any means and I had no intentions to discuss the "incidents", blame my poor English if I came around like this. I followed closely and already got you here -I think. I just mentioned it because this whole ordeal brought up a lot of emotion in me and as a result I felt the need to make gender identity a subject at all and I wanted you to know as to why I'd be glad when you're okay with me making a painting of you in particular as well. I'm aware that I can use a photo of you without your consent, I just prefer to ask, it's a matter of respect...

I'll email you.

3

kaspaar wrote (edited )

Follow up question about porting the X220: In case your time issue is related to money rather than a matter of priorities in life and you still enjoy the work on it, ever thought of making some kind of kickstarter?

Related to that, as someone whose abilities are clearly more analogue to put it very, very milldly, why is it that one can't donate to libreboot directly to give those without any technical talent whatsoever an easy way to give something back nonetheless? Bureaucratic hurdles? Philosophy? Organisational issues?

5

libreleah wrote (edited )

Not money related. I don't need money to work on X220, just time.

If time were legal tender, I'd be running a budget deficit.

We currently cannot accept donations, for we do not have the legal infrastructure in place to do so. The other issue is that we need a neutral third party, one that will oversee our spending. That is either:

  • FSF handling donations to Libreboot (with GNU membership - they have not yet responded to our application to re-join). This would also mean operating under GNU auspices, answering to Richard Stallman.

  • SFC (software freedom conservancy) membership. This is a separate organization to the FSF, but with the same goals, and one of its founding members is Bradley Kuhn, former FSF leader. They provide financial support to projects, and they help with fundraising. They act as a neutral third party, handling funds for projects. They have several member projects. SFC membership is not just the same as GNU membership; projects get more autonomy, and it's generally a much looser affiliation

I have no problem with money in the project. I use some of the money from Minifree sales to help fund the project..

EDIT: To clarify: I'm uneasy about Libreboot itself, as an independent project, having infrastructure of its own for donations. The probability of corruption and misuse of funds increases, under such a scenario. Further, I believe it would take valuable energy out of the project, on the part of the developers. Organizations like FSF/SFC can handle it much more efficiently than we could.

This is not to say that we in the Libreboot project are "bad". Just human. SFC/FSF are operated by humans too, but they're less biased, and more likely to be impartial and do what's best for the project. If Libreboot itself set up its own independent infrastructure, then there is less of an obstacle to corruption.

I'm not arrogant enough to say that I'm perfect, or naive enough to say that anyone else is. All people on this planet are imperfect, and capable of corruption. Corruption/bias is a big problem when handling public donations. The concept of "oversight" was invented, to mitigate this, but that is also not perfect.

EDIT2: and we've discussed this extensively in #libreboot IRC before, amongst ourselves. The above insight is based on those discussions.

EDIT3: There are other organizations too, but FSF/SFC are the ones that I'd trust. I'm on good speaking terms with Bradley at SFC (or at least, we're both friendly to each other when we talk), and I'm currently on neutral terms with the FSF. Both organizations have libreboot's goals (100% free software) in mind, at heart and in principle and in practise.

7

[deleted] wrote

8

libreleah wrote

Thanks :) I only just recently heard about Raddle, actually. Someone on IRC sent me here. I'm surprised to see how active it is.

6

md_ wrote

Hey, thanks for your work in Free Software.

I'm wondering what are, in broad terms, the effects of the Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities on x86 Libreboot systems.

8

libreleah wrote (edited )

It affects libreboot systems the same way as it affects any system. Technically, it has nothing to do with LIbreboot.

There are ways to mitigate it:

  • Make sure to install the latest linux kernel, which has mitigations However, that's not perfect, so I also recommend:

  • Don't run JavaScript on the web (this was already good advice anyway, for freedom reasons). It has always been good advice to not let random code run on your system, especially from random websites which you probably don't trust.

  • Don't let anyone but you execute any code on your system. (if you're a hosting provider, you're screwed. but hosting companies were already a nightmare security-wise before spectre/meltdown anyway)

Just follow good security practises, and you'll be fine. For my own computing, I'm not worried. I think I'm OK security-wise.

EDIT: oh and, fun fact: host your own servers

Either get a static IP from your ISP (maybe even IPv6), or set up an SSH/VPN tunnel through third party that provides IPs.

Never use a VPS! If you're hosting something on a VPS, assume that you're already pwned. VPS hosting was already a bad idea, even before meltdown/spectre. Nowadays, you definitely shouldn't do it. The only thing a VPS is good for is: VPN or SSH tunnel, or downloading things on torrents etc for later retrieval locally. You should be hosting from your own private location, e.g. your home, if you care about security. Take all the right precautions, e.g. ways to detect that the system has been accessed/disassembled, lock the room its in, etc.

4

[deleted] wrote

5

libreleah wrote

get a dedicated vpn provider, they'll optimize for it (performance. encrypted connections especially). it makes little difference in security, in my opinion. the virtual machine is just a pointless extra overhead. VPN provider will typically have you running on bare metal

I highly recommend using one of these VPNs: https://torrentfreak.com/vpn-services-anonymous-review-2017-170304/ (torrentfreak is big on privacy. ignore the other VPN lists, just always look at the torrentfreak list)

6

subatomic0 wrote

Hi Leah, thanks for all your hard work on libreboot.

Do you have any advice for people looking to get involved in writing firmware? I'd like to contribute to libre firmware myself eventually, although at the moment I'm not nearly skilled enough.

4

libreleah wrote

There's not really any specific advice I can give. If you know how these systems work and you have experience with low-level development then my advice is to just get involved with coreboot. Poke at bits here and there and get your bearings that way. Most people start off on something simple

6

emma wrote (edited )

BORN TO DIE

WORLD IS A FUCK

鬼神 Kill Em All 1989

I am trash man

410,757,864,530 DEAD COPS

5

libreleah wrote

What got me into programming was playing videogames as a kid. Ironically, I can't stand them these days, but I still enjoy working on projects related to computing.

My motivation for libreboot was FSF encouragement. Someone working there at the time (Joshua Gay) convinced me to do something along the lines of libreboot, as part of their RYF criteria, then it evolved into a full-scale project. My initial ambitions were much smaller, just to have fun with coreboot basically.

3

Tequila_Wolf wrote

I'd be really interested to know why you can't stand games.

3

libreleah wrote

I just find them boring, mostly. If you put me in front of a videogame I will put the controller down after 10 minutes.

I dabbled in game development when I was in college, but they don't really interest me these days.

5

libre_dev wrote

What are your thoughts on RISC-V?

4

libreleah wrote

I think that it's a wonderful project, which is of critical importance to Libreboot. The main issue that we currently have is lack of control over the most critical hardware. Actual manufacturing of hardware is expensive, but that's not important yet; what matters is having libre hardware designs. You can't manufacture anything otherwise.

I believe ARM (all vendors), Intel/AMD etc are a waste of time in the long run.

3

thegnu wrote

Hi, I know I'm a bit late, and this isn't really a question, but... But I admire your work so much and I especially admire you as a person. For a while I was very discouraged with the free software community because of the things that trans folks have to put up with. While they do still have to put up with them, you've given me the courage to deal with it and push for trans acceptance in the community. You're one of my personal heroes and you've motivated me to get back into the community and even to start programming again. I'm trying to get other trans folks who program into the community, too. Thank you so much! <3

1

autonomous_hippopotamus wrote

Hello, sorry i'm late to this and i think all the good questions have been asked.

Just wanted to say I'm a big fan of your work and keep it up, :)