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Apple Patents Gestures, Secure Boot Is Here, Android Bests iPhone

Does a Hard Disk Shortage Loom?

On Saturday, Brooke Crothers reported on CNET that we might be facing a shortage of hard drives in the near future. The culprit is the flooding in Thailand, and the first rumblings of the possible shortage came from Apple’s Tim Cook during an earnings conference call. Cook’s fears were later confirmed by IT analysts at DisplaySearch and IHS-iSuppli, who pointed to Nidec, supplier of up to 80% of hard drive motors. Hitachi, Toshiba, and Western Digital, who all have hard drive factories in Thailand, have cut back on production because of the supply shortage:

“But warnings about production aside, what’s the bottom line on supply and prices? ‘Typically, notebook brands carry up to four weeks of hard disk drive inventory to respond to market dynamics and logistics…some brands were leaning towards the lower end of inventory ranges, two to three weeks, for most components,’ wrote Shim, referring to the fourth quarter.

“And in a phone interview on Friday, Shim said that in the short term, prices should not rise, at least not considerably. ‘In the short term, no. Because most of the brands have several weeks [inventory]. But if it becomes this perfect storm of events where there is a lot of demand and the flooding continues to have an impact, then we could have a problem,’ he said.”

With the authorities in Thailand saying Bangkok might be under water for several months, this might eventually have an impact, no?

Qt Is Now an Open Source Project

Last Friday, Eric Brown reported for eWeek that Nokia is making Qt an open source project and says that cross-platform code will be available to Nokia and to the open source community:

“Patches submitted to the project’s Gerrit patch server can be reviewed by anyone with an account with the project’s ‘Jira’ bug-tracking tool, says the project. Changes will then be reviewed and commented on by all, and eventually accepted or rejected by specified approvers and maintainers. These individuals now include “some non Nokians,” says the project, which encourages other independent Qt developers to apply for the positions.”

Since Qt is the framework upon which KDE is built, this means Penguinistas can breath a little easier now. There had been some concern over the future of Qt after Nokia announced they would be partnering with Microsoft and using Windows as the platform for all of their smartphones.

Spammers Have Their Own URL Shortening Services

I am often amazed at how brazen the black hats can be. According to an article published Tuesday on PCWorld, spammers now have their own URL shortening sites, since traditional URL shorteners like bit.ly and ow.ly have taken security measures to make them unusable by the bad guys. Symantec says they’ve discovered 87 shortening sites being used by spammers. So far, the shortened URLs have only been used in emails advertising pharmaceutical products.

“In May, Symantec noticed some spammers were using their own shortened URLs, but further investigation showed it was actually just a website that appeared to be a shortened URL but then redirected people to the spam websites. This is the first time the spammers have employed a real URL shortener, Symantec said in its latest intelligence report for October. Why the sites have been left public is unknown.

“All of the websites that are advertised in the spam runs, which are on several different IP addresses, are hosted by a U.K. division of a hosting company, which Johnston declined to identify. The company has been notified, but many of the spam sites are still online, he said. All of the domain names were registered in Russia, he said.”

I still think that if these guys put as much work into legitimate businesses, they’d probably make just as much money, and wouldn’t have to be looking over their shoulders all the time.

More Government Contracts in the Works for Red Hat?

Also on Tuesday, Raleigh based Triangle Business Journal opined that home grown Red Hat might be in line to make some more bucks from U.S. government contracts if predictions come true on increased government IT spending:

“According to a study by Deltek Information Solutions, the demand for vendor-furnished software products by the U.S. government will increase from $10.1 billion in 2011 to $13.7 billion in 2016. Forbes, in a report on the study, speculated that companies like Red Hat, Microsoft and VMWare could benefit from increased demand for virtualization products.”

No news yet from Red Hat on what they think about all this.

Apple Patents Touchscreen Lock Gestures

You know those moves you make on your smartphone to unlock it? Well, now Apple has been granted a patent on that application, the BBC reports. This is a feature that’s built into nearly all smartphone platforms, including Android and Windows Phone 7.

US patent number 7657549 states that “A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch-sensitive display. The device is unlocked if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device.”

According to the Beeb, this doesn’t necessarily give Apple outright ownership of the application, especially giving the broad wording of the patent:

“However, that did not necessarily mean that Apple would be able to exert its will, according to Silas Brown, an intellectual property solicitor with London-based law firm Briffa.

“‘Often you will have situations where patents are argued through long and hard to get to registration, but when they are challenged there is a counter action to claim that the patent shouldn’t have been granted.’

“Mr Brown explained that such patents could be invalidated for a number of reasons, including being too broad, too simple or ‘obvious’ in the current technological context.”

Whether the patent holds up or not, one thing is certain – this will eventually lead to more money flowing into the pockets of lawyers. Although their retainers will be paid with checks written by Microsoft, Google, HTC, etc., it will be the consumer who will eventually pay.

Canonical Reorganizes Corporate Structure

This week Canonical, owner of the popular Ubuntu Linux distro, announced a restructuring, mainly for the purpose of helping them handle paying enterprise customers. The restructuring was announced by CEO Jane Silber and reported by Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols on ZDNet:

“’Historically,’ Silber explained, ‘we have had three business units geared to match the customers and established ecosystems which Canonical, as a start up, needed to penetrate: enterprises who want services in support of Ubuntu deployments (Corporate Services), industry players who want to deploy and distribute Ubuntu on their machines (OEM Services), and end users who want web-based content and services on top of the free platform (Online Services).’

“That was then. This is now. Today, Canonical is finding that many of its enterprise customers are also buying hardware at the same time they’re switching over to Ubuntu. Therefore, since ‘our OEM partners and their corporate sales teams often introduce Ubuntu and Canonical to their customers. And of course at times OEMs are also our corporate customers, as the recent announcement of the HP Cloud based on Ubuntu demonstrates … our internal separation of sales and delivery of services to OEM and Corporate users began to make less sense.’

“Silber continued, ‘Therefore in order to better meet our customers’ and partners’ needs, we have brought together the sales and sales support teams of OEM and Corporate Services into a single Sales and Business Development team led by Chris Kenyon. Chris has been with the company for five years and has led many of our largest sales, as well as guiding our most significant partnerships.’”

Again, nearly all of the changes will deal with how Canonical does business with the enterprise. Users of the freely downloadable version of Ubuntu should experience little difference, although there might be some changes upcoming for the Ubuntu Software Center, as that will be consolidated into their Online Services group under Cristian Parrino. Mark Shuttleworth, of course, remains head honcho.

Secure Boot Problems for Linux Users Are Here Already

More disturbing news on the UEFI/Secure Boot situation. Evidently, we don’t have to wait until the release of Windows 8 to find GRUB locked out of the boot sector on new computers. On Monday, Benjamin Kerensa reported on his blog that he’d received the following email regarded a failed attempt to install Linux on an HP PC:

“Recent articles regarding UEFI and Windows 8 suggest the problem of the former blocking Linux bootloader installation is a matter that will appear at the introduction of the latter. That is not the case. It is on Win 7 machines and blocking GRUB installation now.

“My friend recently got an HP s5-1110 with Win 7 installed. UEFI has prevented the installation of GRUB on this machine. I could find no way in the BIOS to disable the feature and so far, as I work my way up the HP tech support ladder, I have found no HP techs who have a clue what I’m talking about.”

Kerensa says that he’s looked further into this issue and has found that UEFI is already in use on some Dell and HP laptops. Evidently the folks over at Ubuntu are already aware of this problem and have posted some possible workarounds.

We need to make a lot of noise about this issue to convince the OEMs it would be to their advantage to take a position on this that doesn’t only benefit Microsoft.

Is Microsoft Reintegrating Browser Into Windows?

Many will remember that once upon a time Internet Explorer couldn’t be removed from Windows. Indeed, in the antitrust case that nearly had Microsoft broken in two, Redmond claimed IE to be so integrated into the operating system that it couldn’t be removed without breaking Windows. That didn’t fly with the courts, and Microsoft was ordered to make changes so that OEMs could remove the browser and offer another, if they so chose. Well, that court order, in effect for more than a decade, ended earlier this year and guess what? Microsoft is evidently tying IE to Windows again.

On Thursday, the VAR site CRM reported that when playing around with Windows 8 Developer Preview they’ve been unable to uninstall the browser:

“In prior versions of Internet Explorer, including versions 8 and 9, Microsoft provided instructions for uninstalling the browser from the Windows PC operating system.

“Instead, Microsoft has provided a method for “turning on” or “turning off” some Windows 8 features, including the browser. This is almost identical to the process in Microsoft’s Windows Server 2008 for turning on and off several features and functions, including its Hyper-V virtualization software.

“But turning off IE 10 doesn’t appear to remove it completely from Windows 8.”

This only means one thing. Court order or no, a leopard can’t change its spots. Or, even if it can, it won’t.

**********

That’s going to do it for this week, I’ll see you on Monday. In the meantime, may the FOSS be with you!

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Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux.

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4 comments to Apple Patents Gestures, Secure Boot Is Here, Android Bests iPhone

  • Michael

    At first the “Foss force – keeping tech free” heading at the top of the site seemed promising but after further reading I got very disappointed.

    Words such as “free” and “open” are used interchangeably altough these words have very different meaning when it comes to software.
    Surely the authors on this website should know this.

    Android is Not FOSS so why bother mentioning them at all other than to mention this fact?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/sep/19/android-free-software-stallman

    If Android were going for freedom then that would really be something but the facts are pointing in the other direction.

    Qt may be open but is it free?

    Please distinguish between “free” and “open” when writing abouts FOSS, that’s the least we should request from a site publishing news on Free and Open Source Software.

  • @Michael
    Really?
    I get your point, but come one. Linux may have some long term issues with Android but in the short term, any success for Android is a success for Linux on the Desktop.

    Linux IS a real, viable DESKTOP OS. I believe in the FOSS model, but we need to be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water.

    This new Secure Boot issue can kill the ENTIRE scope of Linux on the Desktop in 6 months time. Then we will have OSX or MS and that’s it. We need to quit throwing rocks at folks who actually make money with Linux (Android IS Linux) and team up with them. Anyone who is an enemy of MS is an ally of Linux.

  • @Michael I agree with you. Android is not free. About the best we can say for it is that it’s freer than any other mobile platform. If we want to point fingers here, the blame lies not only with Google, but with the handset makers who utilize the platform, and the wireless carriers who can and will pull the plug on anything they don’t want running on their website. I have written about the GPL problems with Android ( http://fossforce.com/2011/08/will-android-be-crushed-for-gpl-violations/ ).

    If you ever decide to take on the thankless task of delving into my articles on this site, you will see that I do make a distinction between open-source and free software. I do not do this with my use of the acronym FOSS, but will refer to “open source” and “free software”.

    We cover both on this site. In most cases, once we get away from GNU, Linux and LibreOffice, some sort of open source licensing is about as good as it gets, and we are much more likely to push non-free OSS projects to become truly free software than we are to convince Oracle or Microsoft (or Apple for that matter) to embrace free software.

    In the meantime, when you read my articles I’m sure that you can figure out where my heart and mind lie on this issue. I would much rather you judge me by the knowledge you glean about me as a person, than to have you judge me by whether my use of the term FOSS fits completely with your version of political correctness. I guarantee you, I will never fit your, or anyone else’s, version of political correctness – nor would I want to.

  • [...] at Christine’s good site there is one among several claims that UEFI is already here: Secure Boot Problems for Linux Users Are Here [...]