Kroon Information Systems
Rant: Proprietary software is bad for everyone.

I'm not one of those ultra-uber-anti-proprietary software people. Hell, if it wasn't for proprietary software I probably wouldn't be able to put food on the table. Everything has it's place, when you are supposedly a hardware company selling hardware products and the accompanying software is supposed to make your life easier, but that software only runs on Windows, and the drivers only works on Windows, then I have a problem.

I like games. I especially like games that has a native Linux port. And I just can't imagine that we'd half as many games available on the market if they were opensource. But I support the idea from John Carmack and Id Software to release the source for games (or parts thereof) after the lifetime of the game has passed. Id rather buy a game that works natively in Linux than a game that works in Cedega. Cedega is very good at what it does. It is, however, not good enough.

I don't mind the approach that nVidia is taking. Their drivers work and they work well. ATi takes a similar approach. Their drivers however doesn't always work. And they cause my notebook to kernel panic on shutdown. They also sometimes cause kernel memory corruption when switching between virtual consoles which can cause a hang. Still, I'm up for that, I understand the "Intellectual Property" claims that companies such as these have on their devices.

nVidia and ATi

Take these companies as examples of what can be done. I'm not particularly fond of ATi, as explained above, but they are at least not refusing to support OSS entirely. Whilst there is no access to the "full" source, I'm quite happy with the fact that we are at least receiving support from these guys.

I'm particularly impressed by the quality of the nVidia drivers to be perfectly honest.


And flash. Works fairly well on a 32-bit x86 system. Right, now what about my 64-bit AMD system?

Movie players

mplayer is an awesome piece of hardware. But it can't (and probably never will be able to) use the proprietary 32-bit codecs on an AMD64 system.


Right, so I figured since I did pay $500 for my GNX4 guitar effects unit, I may just as well take a chance on this. Anyway, I reckon the emails is self-explanatory. I seriously doubt I would follow up on some of the statements I make here, and I wouldn't even know where to begin if I have to reverse engineer the protocol. And unless the files is somehow encrypted/viciously encoded (highly unlikely considering the nature of the device) these should at least be relatively easy to figure out.

It's also cool that at least some information was made available. I doubt they'll appreciate me making it public here though, but I didn't sign any NDAs or anything.

So that which is working at the moment (not tested really well - I'll do so at some point and write a proper howto) is the USB audio interface (snd-usb-audio registers an extra sound card, providing 2 MIDI interfaces and two audio streaming devices).

The email (reformatted slightly to make reading easier and anonymised the support person, I did not re-order - oh how I despise top posting):

I understand the "no obligation".  I was just being very hopeful.  Thank
you very much for you patience and assistance.


Foo, Bob wrote:

>> Hi,
>>  All PC editing can done with a standard System Exclusive Librarian, but
>> running drivers written for Windows on  linux for hands free recording
>> or conversion to linux drivers would be proprietary information.
>>  Besides that, we aren't obligated to support Linux in any way. Nor are
>> we supplied with that information in Customer Service.
>> Bob Foo
>> Technical Support
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: Jaco Kroon [] 
>> Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:34 PM
>> To: Foo, Bill
>> Subject: Re: Technical Assistance
>> Foo, Bob wrote:

>>>>It is on the package itself, and in all the ads that it is set up to
>>>>work with Windows XP. There is no references anywhere to using it with

>> I'm aware of that.  And the pedal can function separately _without_ the
>> software.  It's just easier to use the software.  And I can probably get
>> away with buying a compact flash card reader and working with the
>> filesystem directly on the flash card.
>> But it would be beneficial for me to be able to interact with the unit
>> directly from an environment that I'm comfortable with.  It would also
>> be beneficial to your company if it was possible to interact with the
>> pedal from Linux.
>> Please note that I'm not asking for the actual source code (the correct
>> term to refer to the text version of the instructions used to generate
>> the computer-based codes that is interpreted by the CPU).  I'm asking
>> whether it would be possible to get the hardware interface specification
>> in a written form.
>> It is perfectly possible to obtain the required parts of the "hardware
>> specification" from sniffing the USB traffic whilst using the pedal on
>> Windows, or even the extreme case of disassembling the executables you
>> supply with the pedal and reading this information from the assembler
>> version of the source code.  This may or may not be permitted by your
>> "license" though - I haven't read anything to this effect in the
>> documentation though.  And it obviously relies on the fact that your
>> license agreement holds in my country of residence.
>> As an example, a simple lsusb already shows the following about the
>> device:
>> Bus 003 Device 009: ID 1210:0004
>> Bus 003 Device 008: ID 0451:2036 Texas Instruments, Inc. TUSB2036 Hub
>> dmesg gives some additional info regarding the HUB:
>> hub 3-2:1.0: USB hub found
>> hub 3-2:1.0: 2 ports detected
>> lsusb -v -s 1210:0004 already reveals a lot of information with regards
>> to the inner workings of the device.  Including the fact that it might
>> potentially be possible to access the 8-track recorder device using a
>> standard USB sound-card interface, I can't seem to find anything related
>> to the FC by just skimming the output though (just over 2000 lines of
>> output).
>> I beg of you, I would love to make this work with the minimum of fuss,
>> and preferably by not breaking any laws and not making any nasty
>> friends.  I am going to publish any information that I can legally
>> gather regarding the device, and every bit of functionality that I can
>> make work in a similar fashion.
>> Jaco
>>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>>From: Jaco Kroon [] 
>>>>Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 10:21 AM
>>>>To: Foo, Bob
>>>>Subject: Re: Technical Assistance
>>>>Foo, Bob wrote:
>>>>>>All of the codes are proprietary information and not available to the
>>>>In short:  In addition to the $700 US dollars I pay for the effects unit
>>>>I need to pay an _additional_ $600 US for an operating system that is
>>>>capable of interacting with the unit.  And considering the warnings in
>>>>the box about absolutely having to install the drivers first or Windows
>>>>will crash, it seems not very well either.
>>>>From what I've read, the MAC OS/X support isn't that brilliant either.
>>>>Sir, honestly:  How do you expect to keep clients?
>>>>>>Bob Foo
>>>>>>Technical Support
>>>>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>>>>From: Jaco Kroon [] 
>>>>>>Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 9:36 AM
>>>>>>To: Foo, Bob
>>>>>>Subject: Re: Technical Assistance
>>>>>>Foo, Bob wrote:
>>>>>>>We do not support Linux for the GNX4.
>>>>>>That is sad.  Perhaps next round I'll rather find a lesser product that
>>>>>>does support Linux.
>>>>>>In the mean time, is there any way to get hold of the technical
>>>>>>specifications that would allow me to support the GNX4 product on Linux
>>>>>>>>Bob Foo
>>>>>>>>Technical Support
>>>>>>>>-----Original Message-----
>>>>>>>>From: [] 
>>>>>>>>Sent: Tuesday, May 16, 2006 1:53 AM
>>>>>>>>Subject: Technical Assistance
>>>>>>>>From: (Jaco Kroon)
>>>>>>>>Subject: Technical Assistance
>>>>>>>>This information request was submitted by
>>>>>>>>Jaco Kroon ( on Tuesday, May 16, 2006 at 01:52:56
>>>>>>>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>>>>>>>>Operating System...
>>>>>>>>Gentoo Linux (AMD64+x86)
>>>>>>>>Hi there,
>>>>>>>>I'm very happy with the GNX4 product so far.  I would, however, like to
>>>>>>>>be able to access the functionality exposed by the USB interface on the
>>>>>>>>pedal from Linux.
>>>>>>>>From what I can determine the unit exposes a USB1.1 HUB and some other
>>>>>>>>unknown device behind that.  What exactly this "unknown" device is I
>>>>>>>>don't know, I'm guessing it's some kind of "control" interface.
>>>>>>>>I've been googling for a while now and whilst being able to find a
>>>>>>>>couple of other enthusiasts that would also like to be able to use the
>>>>>>>>pedal with Linux I've been unable to locate any workable solution.
>>>>>>>>I have no problem with writing the required software if you don't wish
>>>>>>>>to do so, but I will require some specifications of some sorts.  I
>>>>>>>>really don't feel like writing drivers for this hardware by trail and
>>>>>>>>error and usb sniffing under Windows though.


Somebody else had a similar experience with Lexmark (Reformatted slightly to ease reading):

Someone will be with you shortly...
[Antony] I need to know where the postscript driver for the X6150 is located so
  I can print from my Linux computer.
[Richard] Thank you for using Lexmark's chat support service. I am Richard. I
  very much appreciate the opportunity to serve you, and I look forward to
  providing you with a speedy and effective solution.
[Antony] YW
[Richard] Hi Antony.
[Richard] Please give me 2 minutes while I go through my resources.
[Antony] Okay.
[Richard] Thank you for waiting.
[Richard] Please accept my apologies for the problems you are experiencing with
  your Lexmark product. I'd like to send you drivers, however, there are no Linux
  drivers available for your printer. Thank you for notifying us of this request.
[Antony] I understand there are no drivers, that's why I asked you. I am asking
  where the postscript drivers are located that Windows using to access the
[Antony] *windows is using
[Richard] Please give me 2 minutes while I go through my resources.
[Antony] Are you still going through your resources?
[Antony] I would appreciate it if you would respond to me.
[Richard] Thank you for waiting.
[Richard] Lexmark Inkjet printers do not have the ability to process any
  postscript printer files, as the printer has no processor - it only takes the
  information sent to it from the computer, which does all the image processing
  for the printer. Lexmark does not have any fixes for this issue, unfortunately,
  though you might want to look into software solutions that process postscript
  image files and turn them into high quality bitmaps. Some fonts, like Truetype,
  are 'rendered' with the computer hardware before sending to the printer, and
  will print out correctly. Our printers can only still print at the maximum
  bitmap resolution of the printer, though. You may wish to check with Adobe's
  website ( for some Postscript text options, for example.
[Antony] It is an All In One X6150 Printer...
[Richard] Lexmark printers do not have the ability to process any postscript
  printer files, as the printer has no processor - it only takes the information
  sent to it from the computer, which does all the image processing for the
[Antony] So, I'll have to use an Adobe postscript driver and then that'll
  change it into a bitmap. I also want to ask, what is the state of your Linux
  support and how may it change in the future?
[Antony] Also, could you tell me which Adobe postscript files would be
  compatible for this printer?
[Antony] I found one for the Lexmark 4039 LaserPrinter plus - would that be compatible?
[Antony] This might ring a bell. I managed to setup cups and samba to do remote
  printing. The printing dialog on the Windows computer comes up, and it says
  this: Remote Downlevel Document. Does that indicate any progress?
[Antony] No printing progress bars are shown and no paper is ejected from the
[Antony] Can I just confirm that you are still there?
[Richard] For more information Lexmark Laser Printer, please call our technical
  support at 1-800-332-4120.
[Antony] I've been waiting for 10 minutes and you just cop out/give up?
  Couldn't you at least try?
[Antony] I'm sure technical support won't be any easier.
[Richard] In chat support we only deal with Inkjet and AIO printers. I
  apologise for the inconvenience caused.
[Antony] Alright. If I call this number, will I be talking to you?
[Antony] Or will I be endlessly parried to other support lines.
[Richard] No, they will provide you the information.
[Antony] It would probably be easier if I just buy a Linux compatible printer,
  wouldn't it?