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Old 02-18-2011, 10:40 PM
IgnorantGuru
 
Default Your signature please

Greetings - I was directed to this list as the place where stuff is getting done on package signing. I would like to share some thoughts on this which I hope you'll give some serious consideration. One, I would like to convince you to change your order of operations slightly to the benefit of both users and developers, and two I would like to share some thoughts on open security approaches.

First, thanks to Allan and the others who have put some real effort into making this a reality.

Nevertheless it is proceeding very slowly and from what I gather is not being given much priority. Obviously that's because the devs don't feel it is worthy of priority. So be it. But if you're going to proceed this slowly with it, please consider changing your order of operations so we users can help ourselves. Specifically, please put providing signatures first, even before your automated signature checking or your final design is complete. If you need to later change how the signatures are stored or keys or other details, that's fine. But get the packages signed and get the signatures onto the mirrors in some usable form.

You're currently having armchair debates about arcane replay attacks while the data on the servers is sitting there completely unprotected, and users have no way of verifying its authenticity. Just getting the signatures out there will improve security by several orders of magnitude. The threat is not just a matter of data integrity on the mirrors, but providing a way for users to verify data coming over their networks, from shared caches, stored locally, etc. As one commenter on my blog expressed:

"I think you’ve motivated me to try another Linux distribution after years
with Ubuntu. You’ve interested me in Arch too, but there is no way I’m
going to install it on my desktop, let alone server before they implement
package signing. Their mailing list suggests that this is a milestone of
not so near future. Unsigned package installation is a security breach of
cyclopic proportions, anyone who hacks your old wifi AP will be able to
inject malicious Arch packages by repository proxying, this isn’t even
possible with Windows updates."

And repository proxying is just one of a whole host of security issues unsigned packages create, which have nothing to do with the security of the mirrors. It's a local thing. Arch is depending on very flimsy security through obscurity at this point - hoping no one will go to the trouble - and providing no options to users.

If you require the packagers to routinely sign packages now with their keys, get their keys onto key servers, and get the package signatures on the mirrors, at least we have some way of verifying the data. You don't need to rewrite GPG - it's there. I for one would be happy to write a script that scans the pkg cache and checks the sigs. This way when someone says "Arch doesn't have package signing" we can reply "Actually packages ARE signed - we're working on the automatic checking, until then check them yourself". Archers are very good at this sort of thing. But we can't do anything until the sigs are available, and that requires a minimum of effort on your part. It's probably already implemented. And the security precautions you need to take at this point are minimal - just publish the signatures somewhere - they are self-protecting. You don't have to tell anyone what they should do with them or how they are best used - let us worry about that for now.

This will also give you the time to get pacman's automated signature checking available on your own timetable, while your servers have some minimal protection (actually quite a bit). Plus instead of rolling out the whole system at once, you'll have the signing and distribution of signatures and keys already in use - perfect for you to test your checking on the real mirrors, and to be exposed to some of the issues that will arise. And you'll have scripts by then which can double-check your checking, so you don't have to feel like everyone's security is on your shoulders alone. As you've probably noticed by now, security development is a high stress endeavor. Break up the load and let problems be found in a more gradual way.

Users who have higher security needs or who operate on questionable networks will then have a way to verify their packages. Users who don't want to be bothered can wait until you finish your pacman adjustments.

In short, please make the signatures and keys available ASAP. That's great you're working on your security design and automatic checking, taking your time and being careful, but at least give us some sigs for now so we can help ourselves.


On the subject of security formats and protocols, I wanted to throw a few ideas in there. First, I think keeping it simple is very important, especially for Arch. I believe any user with GPG should be able to verify a package, no other tools required, and no digging into databases for signatures.

Instead of placing signatures in a db file, I think serious thought should be given to using the built-in encapsulation features of GPG. Why have a separate sig file or db mechanism? Wrap the data in the signature - that way it begs to be checked. It can be as simple as package.tar.gz.gpg And checking it can be as simple as manually running the package through GPG. This is very good for security - users can use GPG directly to examine signatures, keyrings, and anomalies. (Pacman in the short term could be adjusted so it simply removes the signature layer without checking.)

Also, devs love to make code efficient, but in this area consider not making that your top priority. There are many PGP/GPG libraries which are ill-maintained compared to the long-lived GPG, and they can introduce security problems. They also further remove the user from control of security, which makes for bad security. I suggest having pacman run gpg for its security needs, in a transparent way to the user. No reliance on other libraries. This will have a minor cost in efficiency, but it is a good KISS model and in the long run will improve security. (Many of the PGP APIs were little more than attempts to weaken PGP.) This also makes your job easier. Why reinvent the wheel? The command line does just fine, and gpg gets much more scrutiny in cryptographic circles than the many libraries that allege to duplicate it. Use the real article.

When modifying pacman, don't make it overcomplicated. I think users should have some way to specify a custom keyring to be used, and a way to disable or ignore signature checking. Beyond that, keep it minimal and simple. The more complex you make it, the less secure it will be in real world applications.

As for replay attacks, you may want to consider this an opportunity to change the way package management is handled more generally. It has some weaknesses that are not based solely in package integrity. If you try to address those weakness with the wrong tools (such as signatures), you're going to create an unnecessarily complex system with compromised security. I suggest making package signatures available now, then working carefully on the overall management system. Change is good.

Obviously Arch devs are new to some of these security models, which I believe is one reason you have shown so much reluctance to tackle it. You don't want to mess it up and be embarrassed. Everyone who works in security plays the fool sometimes - ask Phil. Security is very tough and imperfect work compared to many areas of development, cryptographic security especially so. But don't let this reluctance make you choose a total lack of security, which is the current status quo in Arch packaging. Do your best with it, move on, and do your best some more.

The weakest link in your security BY FAR will be the key maintenance practices of the packagers, and the security of their personal systems. They should be advised to self-sign their keys, have their keys signed by others, use strong passphrases, not use passphrase caching or convenience tools of any kind, have 6 month expiration dates on keys, and revoke keys routinely anytime local system security may have been compromised. This issue completely blows away replay threat models in severity, and its an imperfect science. You just do your best. But some guidelines should be provided to packagers at some point, and should be enforced where possible.

Yet on these issues, please don't debate them before providing signatures to current packages. Get it started, imperfect as it is. If you change keys, file formats, or protocols later, than is not only fine, but such changes should be considered a routine part of the development of Arch's secure package management. Let's get it started.
 
Old 02-19-2011, 12:21 AM
Allan McRae
 
Default Your signature please

On 19/02/11 09:40, IgnorantGuru wrote:
<snip>

In short, please make the signatures and keys available ASAP. That's great you're working on your security design and automatic checking, taking your time and being careful, but at least give us some sigs for now so we can help ourselves.


Everything up until this point is not related to pacman development at
all and should be taken up with whoever provides the repos you use.
Pacman is not Arch Linux specific...


Note that the current implementation does not preclude having the
signatures alongside packages in the repos. It just uses the version
provided in the repo database. Also, if you use "pacman -U <url>"
pacman will try downloading any signature alongside the package, so it
is more than likely the signatures will end up there.


<snip>


Also, devs love to make code efficient, but in this area consider not making that your top priority. There are many PGP/GPG libraries which are ill-maintained compared to the long-lived GPG, and they can introduce security problems. They also further remove the user from control of security, which makes for bad security. I suggest having pacman run gpg for its security needs, in a transparent way to the user. No reliance on other libraries. This will have a minor cost in efficiency, but it is a good KISS model and in the long run will improve security. (Many of the PGP APIs were little more than attempts to weaken PGP.) This also makes your job easier. Why reinvent the wheel? The command line does just fine, and gpg gets much more scrutiny in cryptographic circles than the many libraries that allege to duplicate it. Use the real article.


We are using gpgme which is maintained by gpg developers. So we are not
reinventing any wheel. If that is an ill-maintained and contains
security issues, then why trust gpg at all?



When modifying pacman, don't make it overcomplicated. I think users should have some way to specify a custom keyring to be used, and a way to disable or ignore signature checking. Beyond that, keep it minimal and simple. The more complex you make it, the less secure it will be in real world applications.


Have you actually looked at the current implementation at all? I'm not
sure how much simpler it could get. The package is downloaded and its
signature - either in the repo or detached - is checked using gpg via
gpgme. There is a way to disable signature check and select which
keyring is being used. And that is about it...



Obviously Arch devs are new to some of these security models, which I believe is one reason you have shown so much reluctance to tackle it.You don't want to mess it up and be embarrassed.


Umm... no... the *pacman* devs just feel the have better things to do
with their lives, including things of higher interest to develop in
pacman. Also, (almost) no-one who considers this super-critical to
implement has done anything about it. And those that have obviously
have not (yet?) seen it through to the finish.



In the end, the only way anything will get implemented is if patches are
provided. (That includes the suggestion of providing signatures in
repos on Arch Linux - look at that devtools/db-scripts projects). Dan
and I have also mentioned our consulting rates in the past, which may or
may not increase motivation to finish this...


Finally, *succinct* reports on where the current implementation in
pacman can be improved are also appreciated. But that requires actually
paying attention to what has already been done.


Allan


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Hi,

These pathces are kind of sitting here in my drive. So
I would like to send it, so we can discuss them.

They are named after some items in the TODO list for
package signing:


https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/User:Allan/Package_Signing


Just a little fix to make it the way other pacman related
scripts are doing.



This is a merge of the two first TODO items for makepkg. They are very
interdependent, so one patch is better than two, IMHO.


When I was implementing the changes in makepkg, I discovered a little problem
with some options handling, so this fixes it. Also implements the first TODO
item for pacman-key.


I have some questions about repo-add, but I'll put it in another email.

So, comments very much appreciated, as always.

--
Denis Falqueto


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Old 02-19-2011, 01:00 AM
IgnorantGuru
 
Default Your signature please

On Sat, 19 Feb 2011 11:21:47 +1000
Allan McRae <allan@archlinux.org> wrote:
> We are using gpgme which is maintained by gpg developers. So we are
> not reinventing any wheel. If that is an ill-maintained and contains
> security issues, then why trust gpg at all?

I'm not up on the latest in gpg, what is being developed, or how well it has been cryptographically tested, and it sounds like you're not either to some extent. I was offering general suggestions - try to see the bigger picture and the details won't be so much work. I still think using command line gpg gives users better control over their own security solutions and provides better security. But you're obviously too deeply invested in the libraries now to even consider anything else (which is one reason why I advise against them). So be it.

> Have you actually looked at the current implementation at all?

I read some discussions of it, but I have not looked at it. Frankly it interests me far less than having signatures available at this point. I trust that you can implement checking. I think you're putting the cart before the horse, which is why package signing is getting nowhere (no real usable results). But if you have kept it as simple as you describe, good work.

> In the end, the only way anything will get implemented is if patches
> are provided. (That includes the suggestion of providing signatures
> in repos on Arch Linux - look at that devtools/db-scripts projects).
> Dan and I have also mentioned our consulting rates in the past, which
> may or may not increase motivation to finish this...

Surely you have some mechanism in makepkg or elsewhere for generating the signatures used in your test repo for your pacman sig checking features. Why not push this through to the packaging or database tools now while you're still working on pacman? Or have you completely ignored the need to generate signatures (I know you haven't from what I've read, so that's rhetorical).

It seems you or others are stalling on providing signatures because you want exclusive control of checking those signatures. It's trivial to implement providing them and surely you know that - man gpg for help. Like everything done by committee, I think you're making things more complicated than they need to be. It's okay, I didn't have high hopes for this communication. This issue is obviously too mired in politics and ego for anything to budge (not you personally).

> Finally, *succinct* reports on where the current implementation in
> pacman can be improved are also appreciated. But that requires
> actually paying attention to what has already been done.

Agreed. FWIW, I think your pacman changes will see reality (as in popular use) much more quickly if signatures show up on mirrors sooner rather than later. Once the sigs are there, the appetite for your pacman work will be there, and the dev politics of Arch will sway.

Simply put, there can be no logical or technical reason for not providing signatures for packages. At the minimum, they can only vastly improve the situation, which currently is a complete abdication of any form of responsible package security, and they are trivial to add. The only reason for not providing them is a human one - IOW irrational. I'm no diplomat - I just make things work. I'll leave you to your politics.
 
Old 02-19-2011, 01:10 AM
Denis A. Alto Falqueto
 
Default Your signature please

On Sat, Feb 19, 2011 at 12:00 AM, IgnorantGuru
<jgj7.pacmandev@mailnull.com> wrote:
> [.... lots of talk....]

There's no political problems here. It's just lack of manpower to make
it. That's it. This is a standard open source community, there's just
momentum when there is personal interest.

In the other hand, I kind of enjoy your stimulus, because I'm just so
lazy..... Sometime I need some push over to make me do things
Sorry, but it's the truth.

--
A: Because it obfuscates the reading.
Q: Why is top posting so bad?

-------------------------------------------
Denis A. Altoe Falqueto
Linux user #524555
-------------------------------------------
 
Old 02-19-2011, 01:38 AM
Allan McRae
 
Default Your signature please

On 19/02/11 12:00, IgnorantGuru wrote:

On Sat, 19 Feb 2011 11:21:47 +1000
Allan McRae<allan@archlinux.org> wrote:

We are using gpgme which is maintained by gpg developers. So we are
not reinventing any wheel. If that is an ill-maintained and contains
security issues, then why trust gpg at all?


I'm not up on the latest in gpg, what is being developed, or how well it has been cryptographically tested, and it sounds like you're not either to some extent. I was offering general suggestions - try to see the bigger picture and the details won't be so much work. I still think using command line gpg gives users better control over their own security solutions and provides better security. But you're obviously too deeply invested in the libraries now to even consider anything else (which is one reason why I advise against them). So be it.


We are not too deeply invested in anything. No release has been made...
I was just pointed out that you appear to have no idea what the
library we are using is and what it actually does. It makes absolutely
no sense to have pacman manually fork a process to run gpg to verify a
package/database and then manually parse the output when the upstream
gpg developers provide a library to do just that.



Have you actually looked at the current implementation at all?


I read some discussions of it, but I have not looked at it. Frankly it interests me far less than having signatures available at this point. I trust that you can implement checking. I think you're putting the cart before the horse, which is why package signing is getting nowhere (no real usable results). But if you have kept it as simple as you describe, good work.


In the end, the only way anything will get implemented is if patches
are provided. (That includes the suggestion of providing signatures
in repos on Arch Linux - look at that devtools/db-scripts projects).
Dan and I have also mentioned our consulting rates in the past, which
may or may not increase motivation to finish this...


Surely you have some mechanism in makepkg or elsewhere for generating the signatures used in your test repo for your pacman sig checking features. Why not push this through to the packaging or database tools now while you're still working on pacman? Or have you completely ignored the need to generate signatures (I know you haven't from what I've read, so that's rhetorical).

It seems you or others are stalling on providing signatures because you want exclusive control of checking those signatures. It's trivial to implement providing them and surely you know that - man gpg for help. Like everything done by committee, I think you're making things more complicated than they need to be. It's okay, I didn't have high hopes for this communication. This issue is obviously too mired in politics and ego for anything to budge (not you personally).


Design by committee implies there is an actually committee making
decisions around here, which is far from the truth...


The reason the makepkg changes have not been pushed yet is because they
are not finished. As someone who has run the gpg branch version of
makepkg for a while, I found it really annoying to not be able to
disable/enable signing from the command line. I see Denis just sent a
patch for that so it may be possible to push the makepkg changes in the
future. But that is very unlikely to happen before the next release
which is scheduled to occur quite soon.


Offtopic: Not that this actually matters as far as Arch Linux is
concerned. The support needs added to devtools/db-scripts. The package
upload script could have a temporary line in it to do the package
signing while waiting on makepkg to do that automatically.



Finally, *succinct* reports on where the current implementation in
pacman can be improved are also appreciated. But that requires
actually paying attention to what has already been done.


Agreed. FWIW, I think your pacman changes will see reality (as in popular use) much more quickly if signatures show up on mirrors sooner rather than later. Once the sigs are there, the appetite for your pacman work will be there, and the dev politics of Arch will sway.

Simply put, there can be no logical or technical reason for not providing signatures for packages. At the minimum, they can only vastly improve the situation, which currently is a complete abdication of any form of responsible package security, and they are trivial to add. The only reason for not providing them is a human one - IOW irrational. I'm no diplomat - I just make things work. I'll leave you to your politics.


I'll repeat, talk to the providers of the repos about getting signatures
provided. This list is for pacman-development only and thus any
distribution specific conversation is off-topic.. But to be the guy who
"makes things work", patches will be required.


Allan
 
Old 02-19-2011, 04:18 AM
Daniel Mendler
 
Default Your signature please

The mail by IgnorantGuru is very much what I was going to write. There
is no problem in adding signatures to the Arch repositories immediately.

You always say that pacman is not the same as Arch. This might be true,
but which major distribution uses pacman? We should not argue about
those subtile differences.

I pulled the main pacman branch, merged Allan's gpg-patches and created
a signed repository - everything worked fine (Except for example
overwriting the db with a unverified one before verifing - I can provide
patches for this in one week). You always say that you need patches, but
what exactly? You seem to have a working implementation but you don't
integrate these into master. Instead you work on minor performance
issues (Single file database for example) even though we have a very
serious security problem.

Regards
Daniel
 
Old 02-19-2011, 06:35 AM
Allan McRae
 
Default Your signature please

On 19/02/11 15:18, Daniel Mendler wrote:

The mail by IgnorantGuru is very much what I was going to write. There
is no problem in adding signatures to the Arch repositories immediately.

You always say that pacman is not the same as Arch. This might be true,
but which major distribution uses pacman? We should not argue about
those subtile differences.

I pulled the main pacman branch, merged Allan's gpg-patches and created
a signed repository - everything worked fine (Except for example
overwriting the db with a unverified one before verifing - I can provide
patches for this in one week). You always say that you need patches, but
what exactly? You seem to have a working implementation but you don't
integrate these into master. Instead you work on minor performance
issues (Single file database for example) even though we have a very
serious security problem.


I will repeat myself again... Patches for pacman do bugger all for
getting signatures into Arch Linux repos. Patches for the Arch Linux
devtools/db-scripts packages are needed.


And I will once again point to the package signing TODO page for a list
of what we need to do at a minimum before this becomes integrated in the
main pacman branch:

https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/User:Allan/Package_Signing
As with all feature branches, they integrated into master when they are
finished. Otherwise we can not make a release without actually getting
it fully completed or backing out the unfinished work. Given the rate
this has been developed, the second seems the likely outcome.


Finally, "minor" performance issues interest me a hell of a lot more
than package signing. Mainly because that actually affects me whereas
unsigned packages really does not... That is why I spent my free time
implementing them. Thinking about it, improving optdepends handling,
transaction hooks, VCS support in makepkg, adding a test suite for
makepkg, automatic creation of debug packages, .... all affect me more
than package signing does, so I maybe will start work on package signing
again once those are finished.


Allan
 
Old 02-19-2011, 08:25 AM
Pierre Schmitz
 
Default Your signature please

On Sat, 19 Feb 2011 17:35:21 +1000, Allan McRae wrote:
> I will repeat myself again... Patches for pacman do bugger all for
> getting signatures into Arch Linux repos. Patches for the Arch Linux
> devtools/db-scripts packages are needed.

To be honest, I don't think it's worth to work on patches for devtools
dbscripts right now. I'd prefer to be pointed at some documents which
describe exactly the wrokflow to sign a package with makepkg, upload it,
add it to a db, update, replace and delete it.

Once there is a version of pacman which supports signed packages I can
start implementing these ideas.

And last but not least we need to think about key management which is
less technical but very important.

Greetings,

Pierre

--
Pierre Schmitz, https://users.archlinux.de/~pierre
 
Old 02-19-2011, 11:55 AM
Daniel Mendler
 
Default Your signature please

Hi Allan

> I will repeat myself again... Patches for pacman do bugger all for
> getting signatures into Arch Linux repos. Patches for the Arch Linux
> devtools/db-scripts packages are needed.

Well, Pierre says the same for pacman. Someone has to take the first
initiative here.

> And I will once again point to the package signing TODO page for a list
> of what we need to do at a minimum before this becomes integrated in the
> main pacman branch:
> https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/User:Allan/Package_Signing
> As with all feature branches, they integrated into master when they are
> finished. Otherwise we can not make a release without actually getting
> it fully completed or backing out the unfinished work. Given the rate
> this has been developed, the second seems the likely outcome.

I understand that it should be finished before it is merged. What is
missing is a strong statement from the development team that they want
signatures asap. I think there are enough people who are willing to
provide patches (me included) if you show real interest in package signing.

> Finally, "minor" performance issues interest me a hell of a lot more
> than package signing. Mainly because that actually affects me whereas
> unsigned packages really does not... That is why I spent my free time
> implementing them. Thinking about it, improving optdepends handling,
> transaction hooks, VCS support in makepkg, adding a test suite for
> makepkg, automatic creation of debug packages, .... all affect me more
> than package signing does, so I maybe will start work on package signing
> again once those are finished.

You really have to rethink your priority list here. Those attacks on
package managers are known for a long time and the package signing point
has come up very often on the pacman mailing list. So there are people
who are concerned about it.

Daniel
 
Old 02-19-2011, 12:06 PM
IgnorantGuru
 
Default Your signature please

On Sat, 19 Feb 2011 12:38:07 +1000
Allan McRae <allan@archlinux.org> wrote:

> It makes
> absolutely no sense to have pacman manually fork a process to run gpg
> to verify a package/database and then manually parse the output when
> the upstream gpg developers provide a library to do just that.

Perhaps if you look at it from a different perspective, it will make sense to you. This is what I meant by code efficiency not always being optimum in security dev. I still think you've already precluded another solution, but I'll see if I can enlighten you on what I'm getting at.

If pacman forks a call to gpg using a command line, it is transparent. I can replace gpg with a script and catch the call, examine it, log it, even alter the text stream returned to see how pacman reacts. I can do this on an executable of unknown origin and with possibly tampered source, without needed the source. I can even use a custom gpg or wrapper script to do other things you and I aren't able to anticipate right now - it is open-ended. The interprocess communication is open, flexible, and transparent. That is why linux programs operate on the command line and on text streams - it makes for transparency and flexibility.

Check out
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_philosophy#Mike_Gancarz:_The_UNIX_Philosophy
In particular, ponder how these might apply, doubly so in security:
4. Choose portability over efficiency.
5. Store data in flat text files.
6. Use shell scripts to increase leverage and portability.
8. Avoid captive user interfaces.
9. Make every program a filter.

And especially:
1a. Allow the user to tailor the environment.

In addition, if I want to sabotage the source, API calls make for easy hiding of changes that may not be detected, whereas changing command line usage makes a lot of noise and can be detected. Will you notice one value changed in 10,000 lines to create a buffer overrun where I can later inject traceless code? Probably not. In sophisticated security breaches, that's how things are done. They're 'accidents' which can later be denied if discovered. Let's see you deny changing the keyring used on the command line.

That's just a small sample of why open and flexible interprocess communication is valuable in security dev. That's not to say it's always done this way - far from it, sometimes with ulterior motives.

> Finally, "minor" performance issues interest me a hell of a lot more than package signing.

Obvious Allan, you don't understand the importance of package signing and with that poor attitude and lack of awareness I don't think you should be working on security at all. All you're apparently doing is sabotaging it by procrastinating. Obviously you're the type that needs to see a huge security breach in Arch to understand the importance of this. And even without a huge breach, unsigned packages create a local lack of security for admins. Which part of this aren't you getting? Why do you think Microsoft bothers to sign their updates? Just for the heck of it? (Sad that in this case Microsoft is being used as an example of good security practice - that's how out of line Arch's package security is.)

It's great when one of the devs responsible for package signing announces he doesn't care about package signing, it's just stupid. Very professional. I'll not be contracting your services, thanks.

> I found it really annoying to not be able to
> disable/enable signing from the command line.

While I might agree, you seem to find this whole package security subject "really annoying" and too much trouble to bother with.

I find a disconcerting lack of good security practices in Arch, and I'm beginning to see why.

> But to be the guy who "makes things work", patches will be required.

Interesting that you think so, because patches are the way to make non-secure junk. The way to make things work is for the person most familiar with the code and protocols to make those changes rather than him begging others to write ill-fitting patches. Patches are also a big waste of time because what someone familiar with the code can do in a few minutes (and do well) may take hours of research for someone unfamiliar (to do poorly). Talk about efficiency - try applying it to your work in larger ways. Maybe that's one reason why it takes you so long to develop - you're unwilling to take on responsibility for the project as a whole. You definitely seem a very reluctant and whining freeware developer. Get over yourself and put some quality into your work, regardless of what you're paid or not paid. Or don't - in which case you're not worth your complaining.
 

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