EditorsAbout the SiteComes vs. MicrosoftUsing This Web SiteSite ArchivesCredibility IndexOOXMLOpenDocumentPatentsNovellNews DigestSite NewsRSS

08.23.13

Keeping Free Software Free (Libre)

Posted in GNOME, Google at 11:22 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Smartphone

Summary: The real danger that the leading Linux-based operating system (Android) will cease to be free/libre

Autonomy of a nation depends on various factors which need to be pursued and assured. If your country is under the surveillance of another, then it is being controlled — determination-wise — by another. If the surveillance is bi-directional, as in the case of Russia and the United States for example, then neither country is in charge of another. Here in the UK we have at least two NSA bases (the ones we know about), whereas Britain has no army or surveillance bases in the US. It helps show who is in control. Today I travelled to Yorkshire, where protesters habitually go to an NSA base where they denounce US imperialism.

This rule extends to software. If the programmer can watch the user but the user cannot see the programmer or even the program’s code, then the user is essentially occupied. He or she has no control and the possibility of self determination is lowered. Espionage makes it possible for the software owner to weaken the user. Think how Google would cope if its infrastructure was Windows-based. It is not just a matter of immediate monetary cost. The hidden costs are rarely taken into account, but they matter.

Earlier this month Google and Qualcomm found themselves in hot water following a public resignation over the closing of Android. Google has since then retracted an apparent decision to go along with Qualcomm, but there is still no assurance that source code will be free in the future. This is a serious cause for concern.

Back in the days it seemed inevitable that one Linux-based platform or another would dominate the mobile world [1] and even expand to desktops [2]. It was hard to tell which one because several multi-vendor alliances were created, decoupled, merged, etc. Some platforms, like WebOS for instance, were proprietary (except the kernel, Linux). Some had GNU, some did not [3,4]. Some were Web-oriented, whereas others encouraged development of native applications. Google clearly won this race and is, for now, the market leader. Almost a dozen other Linux-based platforms are still contenders and all of them are now Free software (or claim to be, even if source code is not yet publicly available).

Earlier this week there was a discussion on the Web about whether or not Android qualifies as a “Linux distro” (can’t add “GNU” in this case). Some said that proprietary programs on Android disqualify it. Whatever the case is, Android itself — the platform — is Free software in a very weird, Google-like sense. Like other FOSS projects from Google, development is done privately and code released periodically. If new versions of Android can be ‘leaked’, then we know development is not quite so open to the community (non-OHA parties).

The final point to be made here is that in order to empower users and developers now that Android is a universal platform (or rapidly getting there) we should keep pressure on Google to keep Android free/libre. The wider the usage of Android, the smaller the proportion of users who care about freedom will get. Then, Google will be able to reason about de-emphasising FOSS and community participation in the same way canonical did. Currently, the only reason Android is somewhat respectful of some technology rights like privacy is that its free nature permits derivatives like Replicant to compete on key terms and compel OHA partners to catch up. If Android was ever to shut out ‘foreign’ developers, then we would expect Android to become more user-hostile and therein lies a principal argument for software freedom. If malicious features can be removed, one developer or another will make sure they do get removed. This limits what companies like Google can get away with.

Free software is not about price or even about enabling every single user to modify his or her software. Software freedom helps us assure that competition acts as a regulator against malicious features. The less free/libre the software is, the more menacing the software will become over time. Just watch what Vista did with DRM and Vista 8 does with restricted boot and other malicious ‘features’ which treat the user like an enemy.

From the news:

  1. Open Source Mobile OS: The Four Contenders

    Google and Apple currently enjoy a virtual duopoly in the worldwide smartphone market, with Android and iOS commanding 79 percent and 14.2 percent of sales respectively, according to Gartner.

    Their nearest challenger is Windows Phone with 3.3 percent and BlackBerry is back further still, but such dominance has not been enough to dissuade four new mobile operating systems from believing they can upset the market leaders.

  2. HDMI-stick mini-PC runs Android on quad-core ARM SoC

    China-based Ugoos announced a quad-core, HDMI-stick style mini-PC available for a special price of $65 (normally $100). The Ugoos UM2 runs Android 4.2 on a quad-core Rockchip RK3188 ARM Cortex-A9 SoC, offers an HDMI port, WiFi, and Bluetooth 4.0, and provides dual USB 2.0 host ports for external peripheral connection.

  3. MeeGo Startup Jolla Closes Pre-Sales Campaign For Its First Phone, Booking Orders Of Up To 50,000 Units

    Jolla, the Finnish startup comprised of ex-Nokians that’s building its own MeeGo-based smartphone platform and phone hardware has closed out a pre-sales campaign for the device it showed off in May. Thing is, it’s not saying how many phones are in this first pre-order batch — so it’s not really saying very much about the level of demand it’s seeing (or not seeing).

  4. Tizen, your next HTML5 mobile operating system

    The open source Tizen operating system could be your next mobile device experience.

Share this post: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages.
  • Digg
  • del.icio.us
  • Reddit
  • co.mments
  • DZone
  • email
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • NewsVine
  • Print
  • Technorati
  • TwitThis
  • Facebook

If you liked this post, consider subscribing to the RSS feed or join us now at the IRC channels.

Pages that cross-reference this one

What Else is New


  1. Links 19/12/2014: Robolinux 7.7.1 LXDE, Red Hat Thriving

    Links for the day



  2. Another Microsoft Partner Markets Linux FUD Using Logo, Name, and Lies

    Microsoft's partner Alert Logic is trying to label a feature of Linux a security flaw and even makes marketing buzz for it



  3. Redmonk is Spreading Black Duck's Anti-GPL Talking Points After Payments From Black Duck, Microsoft

    CBS' ZDNet spreads the GNU-hostile narrative which comes from Redmonk, funded by Microsoft and Black Duck, citing Black Duck, which also comes from Microsoft and is a partner of Microsoft



  4. 'Good' Software Patents From EA Show Cases Where DRM is a Patent Infringement

    Where two evils collide the public benefits, or how some software patents discourage the use of DRM



  5. Richard Stallman: What Does It Mean for Your Computer to Be Loyal?

    New article from Richard Stallman



  6. Links 18/12/2014: LinuxQuestions.org Polls, Fedora for POWER

    Links for the day



  7. Links 16/12/2014: Google and ODF, Civilization: Beyond Earth Comes to GNU/Linux

    Links for the day



  8. Bill Gates' Pet Troll Intellectual Ventures is Collapsing as Founder Quits

    Intellectual Ventures founder leaves after an exceptionally large round of layoffs, despite [cref 77299 recent subsidies from Sony and Microsoft]



  9. Keeping Software Patents Out of Europe Following the Demise of Software Patents in the US

    Instability in the EPO seemingly prevents further expansion of patent scope, which is the subject of scrutiny of EPO staff



  10. Links 15/12/2014: OSI 2014 Annual Report, GPLv2 Court Test

    Links for the day



  11. Links 14/12/2014: Calligra 2.9 Beta, Krita 2.9 Beta

    Links for the day



  12. Software Patents Are Dying in the US, But Patent Lawyers Refuse to Admit It

    Patent lawyers continue to distort the reality of software patents' demise in the United States



  13. Links 13/12/2014: Android Wear “Lollipop”, European Commission and FOSS

    Links for the day



  14. Time to Take Microsoft Out of British Aviation Before Planes Crash Into Buildings

    London's mighty Heathrow Airport among those affected by a Microsoft-reliant air traffic control system which is not being able to properly recover from an outage, and not for the first time either



  15. News From France and Germany: Battistelli Under Fire, But Not Fired Yet, Just Firing His Opposition

    The régime headed by Benoît Battistelli and his criminal deputy continues to overthrow or pressure out everyone who is not 'loyal' to the régime



  16. Links 12/12/2014: Linux++, KDE Frameworks 5.5.0, Calligra 2.8.7

    Links for the day



  17. The USPTO is Broken: New Evidence Presented

    The scope of patents, as evidenced by some statistical figures and individual patents, shows that the USPTO is broken and must be reformed or dismantled



  18. US Patent Reform (on Trolls Only) More or Less Buried or Ineffective

    An update on efforts to reform the patent system in the United States, including the possibly imminent appointment of Michelle Lee to USPTO leadership role



  19. Software Patents in Canada Not Dead Yet

    Canada's patent status quo increasingly like that of the United States and Canadian giants like BlackBerry now pose a threat to software developers



  20. Dreaming of a Just Christmas: When a Third of EPO Walks Out to Revolt and European Judges Attack the EPO Over Abuses

    Information about the abuses of Battistelli et al. at the EPO are finally receiving wider coverage and increasing the strain on Battistelli's authoritarian reign



  21. Links 11/12/2014: Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.1 Beta, Firefox 35 Plans

    Links for the day



  22. Ubuntu Core Announcement is Not About Microsoft and Hosting Ubuntu on Azure is Worse Than Stupid

    The power of media spin makes the idea of hosting Free software under the control of an NSA PRISM and back doors partner seem alluring



  23. France Gets Involved in Battistelli's Abuses in the EPO - Part XII (Updated)

    The EPO scandal has officially spilled over to France, where a French Senator got involved and starts asking serious questions



  24. Rolling of Heads Likely Imminent at EPO

    The European patent system is shaking as management breaks the rules, staff is protesting against the management every week, and charges of corruption resurface



  25. Links 11/12/2014: systemd 218, Empire Total War

    Links for the day



  26. Links 10/12/2014: Fedora 21, Ubuntu Core

    Links for the day



  27. Links 9/12/2014: Fedora 21 and Torture Report Are Out

    Links for the day



  28. Exclusive: The Enlarged Board of Appeal Complains About Battistelli's Corrupt Management to the Administrative Council (Updated)

    Text of the complaint from the Enlarged Board of Appeal (EBoA) reaches Techrights, demonstrating just how rampant the abuse in Battistelli's EPO has become



  29. Protests Against EPO Corruption Approach 1,000 in Attendance

    EPO staff at all levels is revolting against the management of the EPO, whose dismissal seems to be only a matter of time



  30. Links 9/12/2014: Greg Kroah-Hartman Interview, Fedora 21 Imminent

    Links for the day


CoPilotCo

RSS 64x64RSS Feed: subscribe to the RSS feed for regular updates

Home iconSite Wiki: You can improve this site by helping the extension of the site's content

Home iconSite Home: Background about the site and some key features in the front page

Chat iconIRC Channel: Come and chat with us in real time

CoPilotCo

Recent Posts