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01.01.13

Links 1/1/2013: digiKam 3.0.0, Android-Based Game Console Ships

Posted in News Roundup at 8:40 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

GNOME bluefish

Contents

GNU/Linux

Free Software/Open Source

  • Resolve to more open in 2013
  • Open Source Speech Recognition Tool, Simon, Gets An Update
  • Five Biggest Open Source Developments in 2012
  • Tech Jobs In 2013: Open Source All The Way Down
  • The H Year: 2012′s Wins, Fails and Mehs

    Welcome to The H’s look back at 2012. We’ve broken down the events of the year by what The H thinks was full of win, who was getting on the failboat and what made us just say “Meh”. From the corporate giants and how they handled open source and the community to the battle to be the best browser, and from the best new open source software to the worst mis-steps in the community.

  • Kolab Systems spearheads an open-source solution for the third pillar of productivity: groupware

    Why is the founder and former president of the Free Software Foundation of Europe currently leading a for-profit software company in the groupware space?

  • Egyptians decide Open Source is the Sphinx’s bollocks

    Open Sauce appears to be a major victor of the Arab Spring which led to a change of leadership in Egypt.

    It appears that the nation which worked out how to build the world’s largest public building with just copper tools, has decided that proprietary software is a bad thing.

    Egypt is apparently drawing up plans to cast out the Voles, Oracles, Apples and other followers of Apep, into the Lands of the West in favour of a decent open sauce plan for its public software projects.

  • Events

    • Google DocCamp 2012: Book sprints

      There are three new books about free software thanks to Google’s 2012 Summer of Code Documentation Camp. The week-long event started off with an unconference, but the main objective was for each participating project to produce a cohesive, book-length work of documentation. All three projects delivered, and thanks to the arrangement made by FLOSSManuals with a local printer, 30 copies of each book were in print late Friday evening. FLOSSManuals has the sprint process down to a science, which is good news for open projects of all stripes, but it is still feeling out how best to sustain the sprint’s energy after the participants part company.

  • Web Browsers

    • Mozilla

      • Firefox OS AppDays Hackathon Brings Mozilla’s Coveted OS Too India!

        No one needs an introduction to Mozilla. Yes, the makers of the Firefox internet browser. For years, Mozilla has been encouraging open web standards, trying to promote the web as a platform for all. And with the advent of HTML5 things have gotten much simpler with almost everything being able to be implemented in web. With HTML5, developers would no longer have to worry about creating applications intended for cross platform usage – if based on web-standards, it runs on any platform with a standard compliant browser! Building apps is quite easy as well.

      • Mozilla Firefox in 2012
  • SaaS/Big Data

  • Databases

  • Oracle/Java/LibreOffice

  • Business

    • 2012 Trends and 2013 Predictions for Open Source eCommerce

      I’ve been writing about Open Source eCommerce (OSC) shopping carts for a decade now, and many carts have risen and fallen in popularity during that time. For the past five years I’ve tracked the popularity of OSC carts every month by doing an exact Google search and recording the results. This doesn’t track the actual number of carts installed, and popularity can be positive or negative, but over time it becomes more and more valuable as the search results mirror the life cycle of a cart. Carts that are becoming more popular show rapid increases in the number of search results. It is possible to see exact the month a cart peaks in popularity. Year-to-year results are even more revealing.

  • Funding

  • BSD

  • FSF/FSFE/GNU/SFLC

  • Project Releases

    • Simon 0.4.0 Speech Recognition System Released

      Version 0.4.0 of the Simon open-source speech recognition system has been released. This release, which represents years of development, brings many improvements.

      Simon 0.4.0 for speech recognition brings a whole new recognition layer, context-awareness for improved accuracy and performance, a dialog system, and much more. The main user-interface of Simon has also been reworked for improved usability.

  • Openness/Sharing

    • Open Access/Content

    • Open Hardware

      • “Sit. Stay. Good lamp!”

        Shanshan Zhou had a longtime childhood fantasy: she dreamt her otherwise static belongings would suddenly begin to play with her—she used to pretend they were alive. So when it came time to do a project for her Physical Computing class at Victoria University-Wellington, she took the opportunity to turn an inanimate object into “living art.” Zhou gave character to an object which, despite its lack of human features, could now connect with people.

  • Programming

  • Standards/Consortia

    • HTML5 is now stable and “feature complete”

      The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has said that a stable specification of the HTML5 web markup language has been laid down for web application developers to now focus on.

      Although this new stable version is not yet a W3C standard, it has been called “feature complete” a this stage.

Leftovers

  • William Baer Confirmed as Justice Department Antitrust Chief

    William J. Baer was confirmed by the Senate on Sunday as the government’s top antitrust lawyer, placing him in charge of the Justice Department division that reviews corporate mergers and prosecutes price-fixing cases.

    Amid the heated negotiations to reach an agreement to head off large tax increases and vast spending cuts in the new year, the Senate voted 64 to 26 in favor of Mr. Baer, a prominent antitrust lawyer at the law firm Arnold & Porter.

  • Haiku: BeOS for the 21st Century
  • Health/Nutrition

  • Security

    • Report: $91 million spent on secret NSA tests probing domestic computer systems
    • Privacy group gets NSA files on utility research

      Files obtained by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and provided to CNET show that the National Security Agency (NSA) under its secret Perfect Citizen program is looking at the computerized systems that control large-scale utilities, checking for vulnerabilities including power grid and gas pipeline controllers. The U.S. government relies on commercial utilities for electricity, telecommunications, and other infrastructure requirements The program seeks to carry out “vulnerability exploration and research” against computerized controllers involved in these utilities.

    • NSA secret cyber security testing no longer secret
    • Pentagon Looks to Fix ‘Pervasive Vulnerability’ in Drones

      In our homes and our offices, this weakness is only a medium-sized deal: developers can release a patched version of Safari or Microsoft Word whenever they find a hole; anti-virus and intrusion-detection systems can handle many other threats. But updating the control software on a drone means practically re-certifying the entire aircraft. And those security programs often introduce all sorts of new vulnerabilities. “The traditional approaches to security won’t work,” Fisher tells Danger Room.

      Fisher is spearheading a far-flung, $60 million, four-year effort to try to develop a new, secure way of coding — and then run that software on a series of drones and ground robots. It’s called High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS.

      Drones and other important systems were once considered relatively safe from hack attacks. (They weren’t directly connected to the internet, after all.) But that was before viruses started infecting drone cockpits; before the robotic planes began leaking their classified video streams; before malware ordered nuclear centrifuges to self-destruct; before hackers figured out how to remotely access pacemakers and insulin pumps; and before academics figured out how to hijack a car without ever touching the vehicle.

  • Defence/Police/Secrecy/Aggression

    • CIA Sued To Release NYPD Spying Report

      A non-profit government watchdog has sued the Central Intelligence Agency to uncover information about its controversial collaboration with the New York City Police Department’s counter-terrorism surveillance program. The suit, filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center on Dec. 20, seeks to force the release of a report by the agency’s inspector general into whether it violated legal prohibitions against spying on American soil. In 2011, the Associated Press revealed that the agency was deeply involved in training the NYPD’s Intelligence Unit, which spied on Muslims in New York even when there was no evidence they had committed any crimes.

    • Drone victim to appeal ruling over UK support for CIA strikes in Pakistan

      A Pakistani man whose father was killed by a US drone strike is to appeal a judgement in a case seeking to determine the legality of intelligence sharing in relation to GCHQ assistance in CIA drone strikes.

      Noor Khan – whose father was killed in a CIA strike on a peaceful meeting in March 2011 –issued legal proceedings in March of this year against the Foreign Secretary in order to clarify the British Government’s reported policy of supporting the CIA’s covert campaign of attacks on his home region of Waziristan, using remotely-controlled robotic aircraft.

      Supported by legal action charity Reprieve and solicitors Leigh Day & Co, Mr Khan’s legal challenge asserts that this practice are illegal. British law makes it clear that in these circumstances UK intelligence staff and those who direct their actions could be committing various criminal offences, including conspiracy to murder.

    • Senate report: FBI, CIA, intelligence officials caused confusing Benghazi explanations
    • NDAA Threatens Americans’ Constitutional Rights and Should Be Vetoed By Obama
    • Crossover Drones

      The rapid advance of drone technology has sparked interest by police and sheriff offices in acquiring drones. This new eagerness of many nonfederal law enforcement agencies to acquire drones has been also closely nurtured by the federal government.

    • Drones: More Than Mechanized Warfare
    • Imran Khan | Ground the drones in 2013

      Although 2012 saw an accelerating drawdown of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) forces in Afghanistan, a grim aspect of that decade-long war—reliance on air strikes by unmanned drones—continued unabated. Indeed, those attacks were stepped up, with America’s use of drone warfare in Pakistan reaching an unprecedented height over the past year. With President Barack Obama re-elected and no longer facing the pressure of a campaign, it would be in America’s interest—and certainly in the interests of my country, Pakistan—to use the first year of his new term to de-escalate the violence.

    • Interesting revelations from the OWS FBI files
    • EGYPT PROSECUTORS INVESTIGATE POPULAR TV COMEDIAN

      Egyptian prosecutors launched an investigation on Tuesday against a popular television satirist for allegedly insulting the president in the latest case raised by Islamist lawyers against outspoken media personalities.

  • Cablegate

    • GREEN LEFT REPORT #11: Christine Assange, Carlo Sands + more

      The final Green Left Report for 2012 features Christine Assange, mother of Julian Assange, on why the Australian government fears WikiLeaks, the problems of the corporate press, and the WikiLeaks releases that impacted the most on her.

    • Syrian rebels eulogise Aussie ‘martyr’

      The man’s name and date of birth correspond with that given for one person in a secret 2010 cable sent by the US embassy in Canberra, detailing people to be added to the US government’s Terrorist Screening Database. However, his family deny he was a member of any extremist group.

    • Ethiopian Review’s 2012 Person of the Year

      Because of Julian Assange’s effort, the world knows that heroic Ethiopians such as Andualem Aragie, Eskindir Nega, Reeyot Alemu, Woubshet Taye, and countless others are languishing in jail after being falsely accused of terrorism by a regime that is bankrolled by the U.S. Government and the European Union, and assisted by China.

  • Finance

  • PR/AstroTurf/Lobbying

    • King Coal Gets a Boost through ALEC

      As Americans experienced epic droughts, freakish hurricanes, and other extreme weather over the past few years, many are eager to see our nation secure a sustainable energy supply for the future that won’t break our climate. But others – most notably the polluting fossil fuel industries – are eager to double down on the same old technologies that are responsible for the climate crisis in the first place.

    • The GOP House Is Dysfunctional By Design

      In short, John Boehner has committed himself to a set of principles for operating the House that makes the body fundamentally dysfunctional. A functional legislative body either needs a mechanism for the majority leader to get members of his caucus to toe the party line, or he needs the ability to “reach across the aisle” to get the votes he needs from the minority. John Boehner lacks the former, and by ruling out the latter he’s effectively painted himself into a corner where he might not be able to get any piece of “fiscal cliff” legislation passed by the full House of Representatives.

  • Censorship

  • Privacy

  • Civil Rights

  • Internet/Net Neutrality

  • Intellectual Monopolies

    • Make No Mistake, Corporate Ed Reform is Hurting Kids

      Corporate Education Reform hurts children. This truth needs to be said a million times over. No longer can we allow reformers to hide behind the rhetoric of reform and ignore the realities. Words like “poverty is not destiny” “high expectations” “quality school options” and “choice” all mask the very real impact of these reforms. There are consequences to the disruption of school closings, to purposeful disinvestment in neighborhood schools, to layoffs of experienced educators, to the haphazard expansion of largely low-quality charters.

      As most who read this blog know, I work in a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. Unlike many teachers out there who see only their small window of the reform world, I get to see the cross-section. Students cycle through my program so quickly (too quickly, thanks to massive cuts in mental health services) that I hear dozens of stories a week from all over the city and surrounding suburbs. And what’s happening out there is beyond heart-breaking, it is wrong. Kids have come in to the hospital with massive anxiety, depression, and aggression related, in part, to school policies. I have students who report fear of “getting jumped” on the way to schools across town after their neighborhood school was shut down. I’ve had kids with school refusal due to the very real fear of a dangerous bus route through rival neighborhoods. Young people are afraid of the increases in violence and gang activity as kids from all parts of the city are thrust together in schools whose only response to the rage is zero tolerance lockdown. There is no healing, just ignoring and punishing the problem, pushing the fights off of school grounds. Almost every child I work with from the neighborhoods targeted for the brunt of school reform has symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They have difficulty sitting still, are quick to react to any perceived threat with violence or aggression, cannot concentrate on school work, and have come to hate the experience of school. And yet all they get from school leadership is school closures, fired teachers, and false choices.

    • We Need Your Help! Join Our Fight to Keep 3D Printing Open

      A few weeks ago, we asked for your help to identify patent applications that threaten to stifle innovation in the 3D printing community. Now more than ever, it’s critical to make sure the free and open source community and others who work in the space have freedom to operate and to continue to innovate.
      With your help, we have identified a lineup of top-priority patent applications that seem both overly-broad and dangerous to the free and open source community. Now it’s time to find proof that these patent applicants do not deserve the monopolies they are asking for: that what they are trying to patent was known or was obvious before the patent was filed.

    • Copyrights

      • New Zealand’s largest paper calls Kim Dotcom “good for this country”

        Kim Doctom could fill his own Year in Review list for 2012. The Megaupload mega-personality planned a cloud music service called Megabox. He unveiled a new domain, Me.ga, only to lose it in a preemptive strike by the African nation of Gabon. There were even rap songs and accusations against Joe Biden.

        But hanging over all that was Dotcom’s ongoing soap opera in New Zealand. On January 20, 2012, 76 police officers raided Dotcom’s mansion on behalf of the US and took him into custody for extradition to face charges of racketeering, money-laundering, and copyright infringement. Twelve months later, the legal woes aren’t over, and Megaupload remains down… but Dotcom is being invited to ceremonially turn on Christmas lights in the country.

      • The File Sharing Lawsuits Begin: Thousands Targeted at TekSavvy

        Given recent reports that a Montreal-based company has captured data on one million Canadians who it says have engaged in unauthorized file sharing, it seemed like it was only a matter of time before widespread file sharing lawsuits came to Canada. It now appears that those lawsuits are one step closer as TekSavvy, a leading independent ISP, has announced that it has received a motion seeking the names and contact information of thousands of customers (legal documents here). To TekSavvy’s credit, the company insists that it will not provide subscriber information without a court order and it has sent notices to affected customers.

      • Hollywood and Google Square Off Over Pirate Search Results

        The MPAA is still not happy with Google’s efforts to reduce online piracy and says that the search giant continues to facilitate a “staggering amount of copyright infringement.” For their part Google is warning policymakers of the damaging effects the recent surge of DMCA takedown requests is having on the flow of information online. Both Google and the MPAA agree that the current DMCA takedown procedures are not ideal, but the solutions both parties have in mind are quite different.

      • Copyright disappears books
      • Apple fined by China court for copyright violation

        A court in China has ordered Apple to pay compensation to eight Chinese writers and two companies for violating their copyrights.

Groups of Lawyers Will Not Solve the Patent Problem

Posted in Patents at 2:05 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Quentin Massys painting
16th century painting of a civil law notary

Summary: Scientists, engineers, programmers, technologists etc. — not government bodies — will help the rest of the public abolish government-granted monopolies

The European Commission doesn't get FRAND, or maybe it pretends not to, or perhaps it was bribed or deceived by Apple and Microsoft lobbyists. Either way, this recent event proved some malice in today’s Commission, which also ushered in the unitary patent. Glyn Moody writes on the subject:

There was – of course – disagreement on the place of FRAND, since those in the open source world know that it has none if the object is to produce a level playing-field for all to compete on equally. And for that very reason those in the world of proprietary software want FRAND baked into standards since it excludes nearly all of the key open source licences and the projects using them. It’s the perfect solution for those who are afraid to compete fairly: skew the rules so that open source is excluded, and then claim victory when it doesn’t offer solutions.

Also worth noting in the above statement from the report is the claim that “the distinction between software and hardware is increasingly artificial”. I think if we decode this, what it means is that in the old world of hardware – for example, in telecommunications or codecs – FRAND standards were common, and that’s perfectly true. But in the world of software, the key modern forums for standards such as W3C or OASIS require RF, not FRAND. So this is a crude attempt to force old-fashioned hardware approaches on modern software, because once again the convenient result is that open source is excluded.

Indeed, given the manifestly greater success of the modern approach – as demonstrated by the unprecedented rate of growth of the Internet ecosystem compared to earlier technologies – the move to implementing hardware features in software is a strong argument for making older hardware standards RF instead of FRAND; that would allow them to enjoy the same kind of accelerated deployment the software world has experienced in the last two decades.

Thus there is no “dilemma” that needs resolving, and no need for stakeholder dialogue – another code term for “opportunity for wealthy US software companies to spend huge sums lobbying for what they want in the corridors of Brussels,” since “stakeholders” never seems to include groups representing the public interest, who were similarly excluded from the ACTA negotiations until they took to the streets across Europe.

Even Kroes lost her way when it comes to patents as she gave implicit consent to FRAND [1, 2, 3]. These career politicians are typically lawyers by trade, so the poor comprehension of scientists’ desire is not surprising. See what IBM’s Kappos says to provide ammo to a lawyers’ firm after he had joined the USPTO and later announced that he would leave amid public scolding [1, 2, 3]:

USPTO Director Discusses Software “Patent Wars” By: Sheldon Mak & Anderson http://www.eyeonip.net/David Kappos, the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, recently addressed the socalled “patent wars” impacting the software industry. Although he acknowledged several concerns about patent quality, he also highlighted the importance of IP rights to the software industry. “Patent protection is every bit as well-deserved for software-implemented innovation as for the innovations that enabled man to fly, and before that for the innovations that enabled man to light the dark with electricity, and before that for the innovations that enabled the industrial revolution,” Kappos stated. However, he also acknowledged that patent protection must be “properly tailored in scope, so that programmers can write code and engineers can design devices without fear of unfounded accusations of infringement.” Kappos also debunked reports that the “patent wars” between companies like Samsung and Apple signal that the system is broken. He cited a USPTO study that found that in over 80 percent of the smartphone lawsuits, the courts have construed the software patents at issue as valid. He further noted that rejections in software patent applications taken to the USPTO appeals board are upheld at a slightly higher rate than for the office as a whole, and those few decisions appealed to the Federal Circuit are affirmed 95 percent of the time. Kappos also noted that the changes implemented under the America Invents Act should improve the quality of software patents. He specifically listed new procedures, such as post-grant opposition, inter partes review, and covered business method patents review. He also noted that additional changes are forthcoming as the USPTO completes the rollout of the AIA. “So to the commentators declaring the system is “broken” I say: give it a rest already, and give the AIA a chance to work. Give it a chance to even get started. But we’re not done. Not nearly,” Kappos stated.

We already shared some rebuttals to this. The conclusion we can reach is that too many government bodies are occupied by lawyers who represent corporations (not people) and it shows. Groups that are led by lawyers do not want to solve the problem from which they profit.

Egypt Besieged by Microsoft, the Egyptian People Fight the Oppressor

Posted in Africa, Free/Libre Software, Microsoft at 1:30 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Pyramid

Summary: Microsoft colludes with dubious officials in order to pass a lot of public money to crooks who habitually misuse their power over code

The Egyptians seem to have learned from their neighbour Tunisia [1, 2, 3] and given that Microsoft and Gates Foundation actively work to occupy Egypt they should keep their eyes open. This week they rise up against a Microsoft deal that discriminates against software fostered by local developers for autonomy and freedom. To quote one report:

A group of organisations, companies and high-profile individuals have released a statement calling for a protest on Sunday in front of the Cabinet in Cairo, in response to a recent government decision to purchase Microsoft software licenses and products to upgrade government agencies. Under the name Open Egypt, the signees demand the government re-evaluate their deal.

At a cost of more than 43 million dollars, activists such as Abdel Rahman Mansour from the We are all Khaled Sayeed and human rights’ organisations such as the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights say it is a waste of money, considering the availability of Free Open Source Software (FOSS) and Egypt’s current economic state.

Indeed, the use of FOSS is seen as the more strategic option, as it allows the government to invest that money elsewhere and with the added benefit of utilising existing FOSS software already operating in many agencies.

So the rule by puppets may remain after Mubarak was toppled. The North Americans can control Egypt through software, just as Vodafone did through networks. Here is another article on this matter:

Egypt: The People Demand Free and Open Source Software

[...]

Things did not stop here, but members of the Open Source community in Egypt called for a silent demonstration in front of the cabinet of ministers on the 30th of December. Other demonstrations are also being arranged in different parts of Egypt. And the hashtag #OpenEgypt is now being used to introduce people to Open Source Software, and their benefits.

We covered many such stories from different nations in prior years. The plot always repeated itself and rarely did we see the public rising up in opposition. So well done, people of Egypt, fight the good fight and show the rest of the world how it’s done. One reader sent us this link (Arabic with translation) an hour ago. It seems like the protests are paying off!

2013: The Age of Linux-Hostile PCs

Posted in GNU/Linux, Microsoft, Red Hat, Vista 8, Windows at 1:08 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Securitywashing anticompetitive practices

Nigeria Windows logo

Summary: How Microsoft popularised the concept of machines that are tied to just one operating system and how vendors like Canonical and Red Hat played along

UEFI celebrity DR. Garrett says that Surface is Linux-hostile and other sites say the same. Watch this bottom line from the latter article:

It’s not as though the market for those wanting Surface to install alternate OSes is great, but this is without question an unfortunate implementation on Microsoft’s part.

It is not unfortunate and it is deliberate. This malicious practice is being spread by pressure to OEMs as well, making it hard for people to embrace free operating systems on expensive new machines. Watch the work of Microsoft lawyers to properly understand how they actively work to make this practice common outside of Microsoft itself. OEMs are under pressure.

We have been very active in opposing UEFI because it is Microsoft’s latest anticompetitive action against Linux, BSD, the GPL, and GNU. A prominent FOSS advocate says that Microsoft’s tactics have been effective because installing anything but Vista 8 on new PCs is hard:

In security’s name, Microsoft has made it difficult to install Linux, or any other operating system, including older versions of Windows, on Windows 8 PCS. In addition, Microsoft has made it all but impossible to install Linux on Windows RT devices such as the Surface RT.

Microsoft has done this by adding a feature to UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), the next generation of BIOS, called secure boot. Its avowed purpose is to prevent rootkits, malicious programs that run before the operating system boots, from running.

So far, so good as even the Free Software Foundation (FSF), an organization with no love for Microsoft recently admitted.

Here is refutation of a common Microsoft apologists’ line. It says:

The solution, of course, is to add the Linux file/driver hashes to the secure boot chip — but to do that, you need a secret password. In the case of Windows 8 machines (i.e. official OEM machines bearing the Windows 8 logo), only Microsoft and the OEM know the password.

In other words, Microsoft has made many systems inherently incompatible with Linux, like firmware. Working around it is hard for the vast majority of distro developers. Where are the antitrust regulators and why didn’t Linux and GNU vendors such as Red Hat file a complaint? Some helped legitimise it. They are complicit. It’s like OOXML apologists in 2007.

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