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12.26.13

Recent Releases of Magazines, Shows

Posted in News Roundup at 8:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: For entertainment during the holidays we present some recent picks

Valve Did Well by Going Ahead With Debian Wheezy

Posted in Debian, GNU/Linux at 6:13 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Defending the choice of Debian Wheezy as the GNU/Linux distribution of choice when it comes to cutting-edge, high-performance gaming

COINCIDING with the release of Debian 7.3 [1] it was discovered that SteamOS runs games on a Debian-based system, not Ubuntu. This has been a major bragging right for Debian. SteamOS is still not ready for the public at large [2] as tweaks continue to be made [3] to improve performance [4]. One of the advantages of using Debian is that one can choose what to install, not what to un-install. One starts with a rather bare-bones base and then adds well-tested and properly-tailored packages (or meta-packages), such as KDE. antiX, a lightweight distribution that got some attention a few days ago, uses Debian as its base system [5]. Debian is good when one wants to avoid bloat and optimise for performance (Gentoo or Arch are more advanced in that regard).

There are those who criticise SteamOS for technical [6] and philosophical [7] reasons. Putting aside the latter, which can only alienate Valve and thus be counter-productive, it is argued that Debian Wheezy is “outdated which is not ideal for gaming”. Actually, stability is more important than cutting-edge. Does one want Steambox (or “Steam Machine”) to crash while people play games, perhaps due to faulty drivers? Probably not.

Valve’s choice of Debian Wheezy was probably wise. It’s a safe bet. Sitting next to me (I am using my secondary workstation) is my Debian box with an uptime of 80+ days. This machine has just half a gigabyte of RAM, yet it runs the latest KDE with many applications and remote sessions running. Stability- and performance-wise Debian is fantastic.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Debian 7.3 Officially Released
  2. SteamOS ‘Alchemist’ Enters Public Beta
  3. New SteamOS Build Updates the Intel Graphics Stack

    Valve has released a couple of days ago, December 19, a new build of its SteamOS gaming Linux operating system based on Debian GNU/Linux, bringing updated Intel drivers, as well as many other interesting features that were missing from the initial build of the distro.

  4. SteamOS vs. Ubuntu 13.10 Linux Benchmarks

    Complementing the SteamOS vs. Windows 8.1 performance benchmarks published earlier in the week, here are more NVIDIA OpenGL Linux benchmarks when comparing Valve’s Debian-based SteamOS performance to Ubuntu 13.10.

  5. Give that old computer a boost with antiX Linux

    The antiX homepage says that it is designed to be fast, lightweight and easy to install.

    Based on Debian’s testing branch, antiX is truly one of those distributions designed to run on older machines.

    The homepage states that it will comfortably work on a Pentium PII computer with 64 megabytes of RAM.

    There are 3 versions of antiX available varying in size from 690 megabytes down to a core version weighing in at just 135 megabytes. Last but not least antiX is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

  6. What is wrong with Steam OS ?

    Valve has warned non-hackers to stay away from the beta version but if Steam OS is based on Debian Wheezy, how can the OS be unstable ? Debian has no definite release cycle and most of the stuff under the hood is pretty outdated which is not ideal for gaming as Linux is going through an evolution, Nvidia and AMD are working hard to optimize their drivers for Linux and each Kernel update brings a lot of performance improvements. So it is very important to use up to date kernel & graphic drivers and that is what Valve is doing. They have picked the good old debian core and pumped it with new Kernel, DE and graphic drivers but then why does the title of the post says ‘What is wrong with Steam OS ?’

  7. Opinion: Steam and DRM

    DRM (Digital Rights Management) is often thought of as, well, a naughty concept. Especially amongst GNU/Linux users, as many often think about their freedoms and openness.

Urge Hardware Companies to Stop Using UEFI (or Boycott Them), Don’t Work on UEFI

Posted in Antitrust, GNU/Linux, Hardware, Kernel, Microsoft at 6:10 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

UEFI logo

Summary: Gummiboot developers continue to weaken the case for abolishing UEFI, which we now know is a serious security risk, not a feature

EARLIER this year I advised the managers of UEFI to withdraw ‘secure’ boot support — an unnecessary addition which is basically an antifeature that can remotely brick hardware (rendering it unbootable, as has been attempted before based on an NSA programme).

There is some project called Gummiboot (inflatable dingy in German) which acts as a boot manager for UEFI. This package is developed by Red Hat, but “Red Hat’s Fedora Project does not use gummiboot for booting UEFI systems,” according to Wikipedia and other sources. This package, unlike GRUB, is not GPLv3-licensed. Gummiboot 42 was released some days ago and as Nathan Willis put it a year and a half ago “the biggest question that remains is whether it is wise to tacitly endorse secure boot by playing its games in first place.”

The answer is no and as we approach 2014 (the article above is from June 2012) it is clear that Microsoft got away with this Intel-backed antifeature, which has not been widely abolished as we hoped. Vista 8 was a massive failure (exceptionally poor adoption), so it will be more constructive to urge OEMs to shun UEFI (saying it proved to be Linux- and GNU-hostile), not adopt it. This is not a goal that’s unachievable and it is too late to work on in. Any effort, such as the above, simply weakens the antitrust complaint over Microsoft and UEFI. It has been very disappointing to see Red Hat joining NSA allies like Intel, IBM, and Microsoft, first tacitly promoting TPM and now treacherous/restricted boot.

Google Should Boycott ECMA, Not Pay ECMA

Posted in ECMA, Microsoft, Open XML, OpenDocument at 5:15 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Too many hirings from Microsoft?

Protests in Norway (OOXML)

Summary: Google is paying the very same people who helped Microsoft’s OOXML crimes, having also started using OOXML by default

TECHRIGHTS spent a lot of time showing that ECMA is seriously corrupt (we still have an “ECMA” category filled with stories about this laughable organisation). It basically is the moral of equivalent of a regulator who receives a bribe to not only turn a blind eye but also to publicly go to other regulators and glorify the one who bribes. So why would Google, a former ODF promoter (not anymore), pay ECMA money?

One has to recall what ECMA did back in the OOXML days — the time when Microsoft was going around the world bribing just about everyone in the process (business and governments) in order to rig votes, shame the opposition, etc. Microsoft showed a deeply criminal nature at that time. Now we’re left with FRAND-laden ‘standards’ which are basically not compatible with FOSS, as Andy Updegrove (Linux Foundation) explained the other day [1]. It is clear why we need standards that everyone can implement [2] (it is good for manufacturers and purchasers, not for monopolists) and ODF is one such standard that still makes some headlines [3] and finds selective support from governments (even here in the Microsoft-centric UK [4]).

Google should really be promoting ODF, but it doesn't. This is one of the areas where Google disappoints in a very major way and adding insult to injury, Google pays ECMA right now [5]. What has happened to the Google we knew until about 5 years ago? Except many hirings from Microsoft Google has hired many patent lawyers and done other dubious things.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. When FRAND meets FOSS: Bottom Up or Top Down?

    Fourth in a series of public-private exchanges jointly convened by the EC and EPO on the topic of ICT standardization and Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs), the “main highlights” are of particular note.

  2. One charger to power nearly every laptop coming from standards group
  3. OpenDocument ODF Support Coming To The Web

    WebODF is a new open-source projet that allows ODF document files to be displayed within a web-browser. WebODF is used by the new OwnCloud release for its collaborative, web-based ODF file editing.

    WebODF is similar to PDF.js, the JavaScript library for rendering PDF files natively in the web-browser, but this project is of course all about supporting the Open Document Format.

  4. Christmas comes early for the Open Document Faithful (ODF)

    Jingle Bells. The UK government has spruced its open document policy up for Christmas.

    The Cabinet Office began a public consultation on open document formats this week, three and a half years after it came to power promising they would be one of the first things it delivered.

    The consultation might signify the government has renewed its commitment to the policy. It had struggled so much since the coalition’s first failed attempt to introduce it in 2011 that it seemed it would never deliver at all.

  5. ECMA Is Working On Standardizing Google’s Dart

    ECMA International has formed a technical committee to work on a standard specification for the Dart web programming language that’s developed by Google as an alternative to JavaScript.

GNU/Linux Web Site of the Year: LinuxGizmos (Formerly LinuxDevices)

Posted in GNU/Linux at 5:12 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

LinuxDevices

Summary: The Web site which has, under one name or another, covered GNU/Linux for a decade and a half deserves special credit for refusing to go idle or altogether die

BACK in the old days of Linux and GNU (without GNU programs like GCC there may be no Linux) there was a site called LinuxDevices, founded by a technologist whom I later came to know personally (some time in the middle of the last decade). LinuxDevices produced very high quality articles, ushering Linux (and often GNU) as it quietly grew inside devices and embedded systems. After a series of takeovers the site went dark and I spent a lot of time/efforts trying to bring it back online one way or another (I was even, at one point, planning to scrape it all from the Web Archive and rehost it). Thankfully, some people at QuinStreet (new owner of LinuxDevices) realised that rather than keep a huge number of high quality articles offline they could let the authors host them all (at their own expense) while basically licensing everything (as there are copyrights) and then linking back to QuinStreet. This makes perfect business sense and everyone is happy (QuinStreet, the authors, and of course all visitors, except Linux and GNU foes). The people at QuinStreet who helped make this happen deserve huge gratitude because they did help bring LinuxDevices — unlike some other sites (e.g. the Microsoft boosting site “Microsoft Watch”) — back to the Web almost under the full control of the original writers (not to be confused with publishers). This shows the common aspiration of many writers and demonstrates the importance of writing for oneself under one’s own control (no self-censorship) — a subject for another day for sure.

The LinuxDevices founder got a massive gift for the holidays, having spent the past couple of weeks working on CMS conversions, then announcing the good news in LinuxGizmos and later in Slashdot (which also covered the news about the site going dark). What a lot of people don’t know is how much effort — lasting months — it took to get to this point. Techrights played a role.

The staff of LinuxDevices has not gone away; in fact, some time ago the new site/domain, called LinuxGizmos, was created to keep alive the tradition of the then-defunct LinuxDevices (the founder of LinuxDevices had also created Device Guru for a personal venture that achieves something similar). In recent weeks Device Guru published some interesting articles about AirPlay and Safeplug, two Linux-powered devices [2,3]

A lot of people never truly appreciated all those sites that show a steady and straight trajectory from “underdog” status to what we now consider “world domination” (Android and other UNIX/Linux platforms). For that, many people are unknowingly indebted to the above people; they are the ones interviewing, helping, and covering the news about industrial friends of Linux. Without them, history would have possibly been written differently. This is why LinuxGizmos, now more officially a successor of LinuxDevices (containing all its articles), is our site of the year. In recent weeks, LinuxGizmos wrote many articles about Linux devices [4-17], covering many new examples like crowdfunded Linux devices, Roku, a networking server, BeagleBone, Haswell Mini-ITX boards, and SkyJack. Two former writers of LinuxDevices (and one who still writes in LinuxGizmos) contribute to Linux.com (Linux Foundation), which also covered some Linux devices quite recently [18-21]. There’s more from Linux BSD OS [22-23], Linux Journal [24-25] (focusing on Raspberry Pi these days), and various other publications [26-36]. Rather than individually cover every example (LinuxGizmos covers almost every important new example in this area) we shall point readers to LinuxGizmos, which deserves the title “GNU/Linux Web Site of the Year” for 2013. In over 15,000 articles/pages LinuxGizmos now has what could be named the “chronicles of GNU and Linux in physical machines”.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. LinuxDevices content returns to the Web

    One of most widely respected repositories of embedded and mobile Linux news and information has returned to the web as an archive hosted here at LinuxGizmos.com.

    QuinStreet acquired LinuxDevices.com in Feb. 2012 through its purchase of a group of websites from publisher Ziff Davis Enterprise. After the acquisition, LinuxDevices remained frozen in time for about a year before vanishing in May, shortly after I launched LinuxGizmos.com. Following a constructive discussion about possibilities for bringing the LinuxDevices content back online, QuinStreet generously offered to license LinuxGizmos to host the LinuxDevices Archive on our site, as a “holiday present to the Linux community.”

  2. AirPlay alternative mirrors and streams to TVs and PCs

    AirTame is developing an AirPlay-like protocol for PC-to-PC content streaming and screen mirroring, plus a Linux-based dongle for AirTame rendering on TVs.

  3. Linux-based Tor gadget protects IP identity

    Pogoplug announced a $49, Linux-based security device called the Safeplug that taps into the Tor network to hide your IP information when using the web.

  4. Taking stock of 2013′s crowdfunded Linux devices

    What’s the latest status on all those cool embedded Linux and Android Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects of 2013? Most are moving forward, but delays are a common problem.

  5. Roku gains YouTube
  6. RJ45-sized Linux networking server goes IPv6
  7. Linux-ready module features quad-core AMD SoC
  8. Linux-ready 3.5-inch SBC rides on AMD SoC
  9. Mini-PCs support analog and IP video surveillance

    CompuLab unveiled two Linux-friendly, x86 based surveillance oriented mini-PCs: the Fit-CCTV supports 16 analog cameras, and the Fit-PoE supports four PoE-fueled IP cameras.

  10. BeagleBone Black gains 720p camera cape

    RadiumBoards announced a $50 “HD Camera Cape” for the BeagleBone Black with a 1.3-megapixel Aptina sensor that provides 720p, 30fps video and Linux and Android support.

  11. Haswell Mini-ITX boards get expansive
  12. Linux-based TOR gadget protects IP identity

    Pogoplug announced a $49, Linux-based security device called the Safeplug that taps into the Tor network to hide your IP information when using the web.

  13. Industrial computer runs Linux on quad-core i.MX6
  14. Embedded Linux dev tools speed up

    Mentor Graphics has updated its Mentor Embedded Sourcery CodeBench and Analyzer embedded development tools with faster performance and improved debugging.

  15. Linux drone hijacks other drones in mid flight

    After Amazon tipped plans to build delivery drones, hacker Samy Kamkar unveiled a SkyJack drone designed to hijack them with an AR.Drone and a Raspberry Pi.

  16. COM runs Linux on 2GHz quad-core AMD SoC

    MSC Embedded announced a Linux-ready COM Express Type 6 computer-on-module built around AMD’s Embedded G-Series system-on-chip, ranging from a quad-core 2GHz SoC to a dual-core 1GHz processor that runs on only 9 Watts. MSC’s C6C-GX COM measures 95 x 95 mm, and features I/O including dual display interfaces at up to 4096 x 2160 pixels, dual SATA, eight USB ports, and PCI Express expansion.

  17. Rugged COM Express Mini module runs Linux on Bay Trail

    Kontron announced a tiny, COM Express Mini Type 10 computer-on-module fitted with a choice of five Intel Atom and Celeron Bay Trail SoCs. The 84 x 55mm COMe-mBT10 module offers up to 8GB of DDR3 RAM and up to 64GB flash, supports I/O interfaces including gigabit Ethernet, dual SATA, USB 3.0 and up to eight USB 2.0, plus dual DisplayPort and LVDS displays, and is available in a model rated for -40 to 85°C operation.

  18. Inforce IFC6410: Quad-Core Snapdragon SBC for $150
  19. Linux Likely to Run Google Robots and Amazon Drones
  20. 10 Linux-Based Robots by Air, Land and Sea
  21. Slideshow: 10 Linux-Based Robots by Land, Air, And Sea
  22. New MCUs from TI bring Haptics to the fingertips of Joe Developer

    Texas Instruments has announced the release of a new MSP430TCH5E haptics-enabled microcontrollers.

  23. SkyJack software can hijack any drone, Prime Air drones included
  24. A Plexible Pi

    RasPlex is a custom Linux distribution based on the popular (and awesome) OpenELEC Raspberry Pi port. Rather than installing XBMC on an RPi, however, RasPlex installs the Plex Home Theater application. Granted, the Raspberry Pi does struggle with menu speed in Plex until the cache of thumbnails is built, but with a developer focusing strictly on making Plex work for the RPi, those caching issues will be solved soon!

  25. Two Pi R
  26. Linux navigating photon laser disturbance in Google self-driving cars

    Linux is making impressive inroads (sorry) in the field of in-vehicle infotainment (IVI), the automobile technology we use to group navigation, entertainment, location-based services, external connectivity to social media and even radio usage.

  27. OpenBCI develops an open source brain-computer interface for the masses

    A new low-cost, high-quality, and programmable EEG platform has been announced by OpenBCI, a team made up of two creative technologists in Brooklyn NY, Joel Murphy and Conor Russomanno. They have also launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the production of their affordable and above all open source BCI product.

  28. Raima Adds National Instruments Linux Real-Time Capabilities to Embedded Database Technology
  29. Silex Wins Editor’s Choice Award for Linux Software Development Kit

    The editors selected the SX-580-2700DM-SDK, a Software Development Kit (SDK) used to develop software programs in Linux for embedded devices.

  30. Airtame wants to mirror (almost) any screen to any other screen

    The Airtame dongle itself is running a modified version of Raspbian…

  31. Raspberry Pi powered interceptor can hijack Amazon Drone
  32. Cluster update

    I am delighted to say that the Raspberry Pi cluster project is now fully funded to the first target of £2,500, this means that the Indiegogo fees will be 4% of the total rather than the 9% which applies to partly funded flexible campaigns. The money received by Paypal has already partially cleared, so we have been out spending some of it, here is a collection of Raspberry Pi units doing some load testing.

  33. Linutop 5 is a fanless, Linux mini-desktop (without outdated specs)
  34. Linutop 5 Fanless Linux Mini Desktop Launches For €390
  35. Arduino Yun integrates open-source Arduino architecture with Linux
  36. Eben Upton comments on open source Pi concerns

    The primary mission of the Raspberry Pi has always been to teach kids how to code the same way the BBC Micro did. In this issue we have another ten fantastic projects you can use it with, but for the Raspberry Pi foundation this is just a happy side-effect of the way they’ve created it. It also doesn’t hurt that these kind of practical applications can get children interested in technology as well.

Android Devices Open the Door to GNU/Linux

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google, Microsoft, Windows at 4:44 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: The new reality of Android domination and how this affects the race for GNU/Linux domination

Android may not be a very freedom-respecting system (the “apps” in particular) and by default it is quite privacy-hostile; sure, there are Android derivatives or forks (if not branches) which can be installed, but being a derivative of something privacy-hostile is unlikely to be the right recipe (or best starting point). So, in a way, many people have been hoping that once Android conquers the market (of smartphones and tablets at the very least) it should become easier to install GNU/Linux on billions of devices, having paid nothing at all for Android (the Android ‘tax’ is $0). Google is not Microsoft, so rarely will it go to great lengths to prevent GNU/Linux from being fitted onto devices; Google is, after all, itself somewhat of a GNU/Linux vendor.

There was interesting news earlier this month about a “[n]ew indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer” [1]. Remember that some GNU/Linux vendors already eye these opportunities [2] and some explore dual-booting as an entry ramp [3] (Microsoft is trying that too, with very little success). Let us hope that in years to come Microsoft will fail to bundle Windows as a second operating system (even if Windows get rented to OEMs free of charge) and many Android devices will come with a desktop option (like Ubuntu Edge) by default. Android already has some decent GNU/Linux integration [4]. Almost nobody complains about Android being Windows-centric on the desktop side, e.g. development and synchronisation, unlike some other portable Linux-powered devices and operating systems (Palm’s WebOS comes to mind and it’s not alone). In fact, developing for Android on Android [5] is possible if one does not mind proprietary software (which has gotten hard to trust on Android [6]).

In 2014 we are going to see Android pre-installed on almost every device; the Apple stores around Manchester have been rather empty during December (noticeably under-occupied whenever I pass near them) and all the Apple-faithful can do is rely on Android revisionism [7], ignoring that fact that Samsung is already overtaking Apple and creating its own retail stores [8]. Android devices are self-upgrading and self-improving [9,10] (remote update without users’ consent is a problem though), which makes them distinctly better than anything Apple has to offer. Android’s founder and former boss is meanwhile taking Linux forward to land on robotics [11], not just devices like Google’s CCTV Glass.

Now that Android has become one of the most popular platforms (if not the most popular platform) for proprietary software developers (new examples in [12-15]) we just know that Windows has lost its inertia and for GNU/Linux (‘true’ distros) to become popular it’s important to find new ways to fit them on devices with Android, essentially liberating them with Free/libre software.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. New indiegogo project to turn your Android device into a full Linux desktop computer
  2. Five reasons why the Ubuntu tablet could shock naysayers in 2014

    With a recent proclamation by Mark Shuttleworth that an “interesting set of household brands’ are looking at putting Ubuntu Touch on their own phones and tablets,” the mobile landscape has become quite interesting. Prior to this, it seemed like the Ubuntu Phone was having serious issues gaining any traction with major brands. However, with Ubuntu 14.04 placing a major focus on honing the Ubuntu tablet experience, things are going to get interesting.

  3. Canonical Shows Off New Dual Boot Feature For Ubuntu In Latest Developer Preview

    Canonical today unveiled their latest work on their underdog Ubuntu mobile operating system. If you can remember, it was only October when Canonical announced Ubuntu 13.10 for smartphones, with a fully featured system attempting to rival Android. Today, in a somewhat odd move, the company has announced the availability of a developer preview of a new dual boot feature allowing supported Nexus devices to switch quickly between an Android-based OS and Ubuntu.

  4. How to get Android notifications on your Linux desktop

    Stop reaching into your pocket and wondering about every vibration with this clever Android/Linux mirroring tool.

  5. AIDE—Developing for Android on Android

    Android, as a platform, is one of the fastest growing on the planet. It is available on smartphones and a series of different tablet sizes. Most devices also include a full spectrum of sensors that are available to programs you install, so it’s a very inviting platform for development. The usual workflow involves installing a development environment on some other machine, either a Windows or Linux desktop or laptop. You then do all of your code writing, compiling and debugging there before you actually copy it and install it onto your Android device.

  6. Google in hot water over removed Android permissions app

    App Ops Launcher was introduced to Android 4.4 Kitkat and allowed users to install apps and then decide how much information they wanted each app to have access to, such as location data, contact details and so on.

  7. Android ‘started over’ the day the iPhone was announced

    Already in intensive development for two years by 2007, Android was Google’s vision for a mobile operating system of the future. Still, in spite of all the work that had already gone into it, the Mountain View company was sure it couldn’t carry on along the trajectory it’d been following — the earliest Android devices looked very much like Googlified BlackBerrys — and had to alter its plans to compete with the iPhone’s new touch-centric interface. A book excerpt in The Atlantic cites Andy Rubin, who led the early development of Android, as saying “I guess we’re not going to ship that phone,” in reference to the Sooner project Google was initially planning to reveal to the world.

  8. Samsung Galaxy stores could be the next big thing in tech retail
  9. Benchmarking the ODroid XU: A Fast-Clocked Quad A15 ARM Machine

    The ODroid-XU contains 8 CPU cores in a big.LITTLE configuration where four of the cores are active at any time. The Single Board Computer comes with 2Gb of RAM, USB 3, a microHDMI connector able to output 1080p, 10/100 network connectivity, a microSD slot, and the ability to connect up to 64Gb of eMMC flash memory to the system.

  10. Android 4.3 flavors Sony Xperia Z1, Xperia Z Ultra

    Owners of Sony’s Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra should now start to see Android 4.3 pop up on their phones.

    Sony spilled the beans about the Xperia Z1 and Xperia Z Ultra on Monday but cautioned that the actual arrival time of the Android update will vary by market and carrier. Android 4.3 offers several enhancements and tweaks for Xperia phones.

  11. Google’s robotics program has legs, but where is it going?

    Now that all the foundational research has been done by startups and universities, often with military funding, Google is swooping in. The effort is being led by former Android operating system chief Andy Rubin, a known robotics buff. Rubin is a big-picture thinker, and he’s been obsessed with robots for decades. Angle recalls selling Rubin an iRobot B24 — a 2-foot-diameter research robot with three wheels and sonar sensors — in 1989 or 1990. “This is something that an individual would never buy,” he says. “The only people who would buy it would be research universities and Andy Rubin.”

  12. Circle social media app for Android keeps you in touch with your local community
  13. Monopoly Slots brings a free slot machine to your Android device
  14. Startup Manager Renews Shine on Android’s Boot

    I tested Imoblife’s Startup Manager Full Version on a newish Samsung Galaxy Young and an aging Motorola Photon 4G. By disabling all startup user apps — the ones I had installed myself — I was able to obtain a system boot time of 1 minute, 11 seconds on the Y. That’s a 6-second speedup over boot without Startup Manager. I obtained similarly powerful testing results on the Photon 4G.

  15. Free DU Speed Booster app for Android

CyanogenMod Integrates Proprietary Software, Replicant Does Not

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google at 4:26 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Replicant

Summary: Why people should embrace, where possible, Replicant rather than CyanogenMod, despite the latter being better funded and more widely supported

CyanogenMod, which is now a company, recently got another 23 million dollars in financing [1-3], assuring the company’s short-term growth. Over 10 million devices are believed to be running CyanogenMod [4] and the first CyanogenMod Android smartphone is said to be on its way [5] (running CyanogenMod out of the box, hence no need to replace Android or other operating systems).

We have already explained why Replicant,not CyanogenMod, should be preferred. Replicant is focused on software freedom. It’s not a matter of prejudice based on envy; this preference has nothing to do with CyanogenMod’s business orientation (which may, in due course, take it further away from privacy and freedom). Even before CyanogenMod was a business it did not speak about freedom but about modification.

Last month when I met Richard Stallman he explained to me (off the record) why Replicant is the Android contender/counterpart to root for. As its own Web site states, “Replicant is a fully free Android distribution running on several devices. The software included in Replicant is free software [whereas CyanogenMod says “open source”] that is owned by various copyright holders and released under various free software licenses.”

Replicant’s site stresses that the project was founded by Bradley M. Kuhn (formerly FSF and SFLC), Aaron Williamson (SFLC), Graziano Sorbaioli, and Denis Carikli (Free software people). Contrariwise, CyanogenMod was created (by forking/branching) by Steve Kondik, who integrated proprietary applications like Gmail and Google back in 2009. These facilitate spying which cannot be studied properly because the source code is secret.

In order to move portable devices in the right direction we need to insist on software freedom at all levels, the applications level included.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Cyanogenmod Nabs $23 Million in Financing for its Android Variant
  2. Cyanogen grabs $23m, will ship mod-installed N1 smartmobe on Xmas Eve

    Cyanogen, the company behind alternative Android distribution CyanogenMod, has banked $23m in series-B funding – and Google has given its blessing to allow a smartphone to ship with the team’s operating system installed.

  3. CyanogenMod raises $23 million
  4. CyanogenMod Is Now Installed On Over 10 Million Android Devices

    If you’re a fan of the CyanogenMod family of custom Android ROMs, then you’re in extremely good company. According to CyanogenMod’s official statistics page, the ROM and its derivatives are now running on just over 10 million Android phones and tablets. Those statistics come from CyanogenMod users who voluntarily report activity via the built-in CMStats function, so the actual number of devices could be higher. CyanogenMod’s head honcho and Cyanogen Inc. CTO Steve Kondik announced the news on Google+.

  5. OPPO N1: The first CyanogenMod Android smartphone is on its way

    CyanogenMod, the popular alternative Android operating system for smartphones, has always been for people who wanted a newer version of Android for their older smartphones. Now, for the first time, Cyanogen, CyanogenMod’s parent company, in partnership with Oppo, a high-end consumer electronics company, are about to release the first dedicated CyanogenMod smartphone: The OPPO N1.

On Google Chrome, ChromeOS, Chromecast, and the Lesser Benign

Posted in GNU/Linux, Google at 3:59 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Summary: Thoughts about Google’s self-branded free/libre Web browser, operating system (not just Android), and efforts which extend that to surveillance-rich computing (“cloud”) with DRM

WHEN Google first introduced the world to Chrome it was a Windows program (in 2008). Google has an iffy history when it comes to desktop GNU/Linux, but in recent years, especially now that Google is selling Chromebooks (running GNU/Linux), there is a gradual change of policy. GNU/Linux itself is improving, which makes it easier for Google to serve applications and service to GNU/Linux users.

The other day Chromebase was introduced [1]. It is basically a GNU/Linux computer which looks similar to an Apple iMac. Chromebase, as the name suggests, runs a locked-down operating system similar to Apple’s. This is where Google seems to be taking GNU/Linux, for better or for worse. People’s positions on this vary; some say it’s a good thing (attracting more users), others say it’s a step in the right direction, and some say that it’s a distraction which takes us further away from freedom-respecting GNU and Linux.

Then there’s Chrome, the Web browser. Android usually comes with it and they are difficult (if not impossible on some devices) to decouple. Version 31 recently came out [2,3], promising PDF viewing and Voice Search (lets Google record, then indefinitely retain one’s search strings and also voice) [4,5]. Google is eager to get developers involved in Chrome extensions (or Android extensions) [6], introducing Chromecast to them as well [7] (may include a lot of DRM). The main problem with the browser (Web-facing) layer is that interaction with distant/remote servers makes surveillance (domestic or overseas) very simple. Chrome hardly tries to prevent this and by default it is quite privacy-infringing, based on my findings over the years. Then there’s the problem with DRM, which Google now advances as part of Web standards (threatening the Internet as we know it, not just by abandoning net neutrality).

The sure thing is, Chrome and other well known browsers are becoming rather heavy (too many features at the core) while simpler, lighter options exist [8] (I like Rekonq myself). The same goes for operating systems. It does not, however, mean that the big and potentially clumpy options are bad; it’s just that in practice they’re being optimised not for performance but for surveillance, lock-in, capturing of one’s tasks (even PDF readings/multimedia), and tying to various online service (YouTube, Microsoft's surveillance-friendly search, or remote-stored bookmarks).

Google — like Ubuntu — shows that just because something is free/libre software does not automatically make it benign.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Does the LG Chromebase look too much like an iMac?

    Is the LG Chromebase too much like an iMac? And will Apple sue because of it?

  2. Google Launches Its Latest Chrome Web Browser, Version 31

    Chrome 31 includes some 25 bug fixes to the world’s most popular Web browser.

  3. Google Chrome 31 out now

    Google Chrome for Mac, Windows, and Linux has reached version 31, bringing the features we saw in the Chrome beta. In this update you’ll find…

  4. Google: Chrome safer than Acrobat for PDFs

    Google’s François Beaufort has confirmed that starting with the Chrome Canary release for developers, users who have downloaded a PDF while in Chrome will find that the browser itself opens the file, rather than the native application.

  5. Google Delivers Voice Search Hotword Extension for Chrome
  6. Google Woos Developers with Packaged App Strategy, Updated Plumbing

    At its recent Chrome Developer Summit, Google officials made more clear than ever that they see the Chrome platform as a strategic on-ramp for Google’s services, with packaged apps and mobile apps playing a central role in that effort. As I’ve been covering recently, Google Chrome is, effectively, behaving much more like an operating system, in the sense that it is gaining plumbing and services that make it an effective springboard for applications.

  7. Google: Hey, devs – grab ahold of our Chromecast pipe and work it

    Google is working on a webbified development to build the “next generation” of Chrome Apps.

  8. 5 lesser-known browsers: Free, lightweight and low-maintenance

    Are Internet Explorer, Firefox or Chrome slowing your machine — or are they simply more than you need? We look at some alternatives.

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