FOSS Week in Review
Ubuntu Edge–computing on the go-go
Probably the biggest news in all of tech this week, not just the FOSS world, came with Canonical’s announcement on Monday of the Ubuntu Edge. In case you’ve been away camping somewhere all week, the Edge is a hybrid device that can function both as a high end smartphone, running either Android or Ubuntu Touch, or it can be hooked up to a monitor, keyboard and mouse to work as a conventional PC running Ubuntu Linux.
That news alone would be dumbfounding enough, but as the pitchman on TV always says, “Wait! There’s more…”
Ubuntu wants to produce about 40,000 of these babies, which they plan to crowdfund through Indiegogo. Most donations are actually preorders for an Edge to be delivered in May, 2014. Prices started at $600 for the first day only, after which they low-balled at $665 (sorry, that bargain rate is already gone) up to $830. Two can be had for $1,400. A collectors item, a numbered one of the first fifty to roll off the assembly line, can be preordered for merely $10,000.
But wait! There’s still more! For merely $80,000 there’s the “Enterprise 100 Bundle” which includes “100 Ubuntu Edge smartphones, plus access to best-practice workshops and 30 days of online support to help CIOs and IT managers integrate Ubuntu for Android into the workplace.”Mark Shuttleworth is leaving no stone unturned. Those who merely want to make a small donation to the cause can easily pledge $20 and there’s a special $30 donation for those who forgot to add the cost of shipping to their preorder “donation.” Shipping is free is you live in the UK or the US, by the way.
Canonical wants to raise $32 million in a month, making this the largest crowdfunded project ever. As we’re writing this, they’ve raised slightly over $6.5 million with 27 days left to go. The Edge is not intended to ever become a mass produced production model, but will serve as a proof of project device.
Depending on who you read, the Ubuntu Edge is either a brialliant idea or the high tech version of the Edsel. On Wednesday, Sebastian Anthony at Extreme Tech called it “The desktop-replacement smartphone that’s doomed to fail.”
“As I have said before, I believe that the desktop replacement smartphone is the future of computing. The future simply isn’t here yet, though, and the Ubuntu Edge is destined to fail. Putting aside the fact that it will almost certainly not reach its funding goal (current estimates put the total at around $20 million after 31 days), there are a slew of hardware and software challenges that cannot be overcome for the next few years.”
On the same day, over at ZDNet, Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols praised Canonical’s vision and said the device “might just change the computing world.” He predicted the fundraising goal would be met, mainly because he doesn’t believe the gadget-nuts will be able to resist the chance to own one of these.
Addressing Canonical’s vision on the future of computing, he said:
“One of my ZDNet colleagues argues that RT’s failure may herald the death of Windows. Another thinks that it shows that the Windows PC is becoming irrelevant. Google would agree but maintain that desktop computing’s future belongs to the cloud-based Chromebook. The Chromebook’s sales numbers would seem to bear this out.
“Canonical looked at this same market and came up with its own take. Yes, they say, people want a handheld device not a PC. But they also know that many of us will always need a keyboard-based device as well.…
“Will people buy into this bet? I think they will.”
Mr. Shuttleworth is putting in overtime in an attempt to generate as much excitement as he can around this project. According to Chris Valazco at TechCrunch, yesterday Canonical’s deity-for-life spent some time answering questions on Reddit, during which time he made the same promise to early supporters of the Edge that he once made to the Ubuntu user community–that being a voice in product development:
“This first version of the Edge is to prove the concept of crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, backed by crowdfunding. If it gets greenlighted, then I think we’ll have an annual process by which the previous generation backers get to vote on the spec for the next generation of Edge.”
Take that promise with or without a grain of salt. Right now, Mr. Shuttleworth is interested in getting the public behind his new offering. He’ll say anything as long as it’s not in a legally binding contract.
However, we think he has a good idea.
Although it’ll help him sell the OEMs if can completely crowdfund this, he can go to pocket for some of the cash if needed. What’s most important is that he produce a device that works and works well. If he does, then he should be able to get an OEM or two on board to design and market other devices following the same basic idea–especially in light of the fact he’s already generated plenty of excitement around the concept.
Ubuntu forum hacked
On Saturday, just two days before Canonical was set to announce their Ubuntu Edge plans, the Ubuntu forums were hacked and the login information and emails for all 1.82 million users were stolen. The timing was so bad for Ubuntu as to make it almost suspicious enough to question Google, Apple and Microsoft to ask what they were doing Saturday afternoon. According to Zack Whittaker on ZDNet, Canonical made the announcement on Saturday:
“The notice said ‘every user’s local username, password and email address’ from their database was stolen. The company confirmed that though the passwords are not stored in plain text, users who share passwords across sites are encouraged to change them.
“‘Ubuntu One, Launchpad and other Ubuntu/Canonical services are not affected by the breach,’ the open-source company stated.
The site was also defaced.
It’s official–Eolas doesn’t own the Internet
An federal appeals court has finally upheld a ruling made in Texas in February, 2012 making it official–patent troll Eolas doesn’t own the Internet.
Reporting on Tuesday, the BBC said:
“Sir Tim Berners-Lee testified at that original Texas trial and said that if Eolas’s patent claims were upheld it would ‘substantially impair the usability of the web’. The broad patents cover many familiar features of webpages including playing videos, responding to user input and manipulating images.
“Eolas was founded by American computer scientist Michael Doyle who claimed to have written the program that pioneered interactive use of the world wide web. A patent for this was granted to Mr Doyle in 1994 and soon after was used to win court cases against tech giants such as Microsoft which were accused of using the technology without permission.
Evidently Microsoft and Oracle can quit paying license fees now.
Congress lets NSA continue collecting phone info
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives rejected a plan that would’ve stopped the NSA’s practice of collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. residents. According to an article written by Grant Gross and posted to ZDNet:
“The amendment, considered as part of the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, would have allowed the NSA to continue collecting phone records of suspects, but only when relevant to an antiterrorism investigation.”
The House approved another amendment, from Florida Republican Richard Nugent, that pretty much restates the rules as they currently apply to the NSA. However, this amendment does prohibit the NSA from spending money to target US residents in an online surveillance program focused on foreign targets. It also prohibits them from storing the contents of telephone calls, which the NSA claims it doesn’t do anyway.
In other words, it appears as if the House spent Wednesday maintaining the status quo. They need to take a look around and see that the status quo isn’t working out for us. We need a new status quo–quickly.
Well, that does it for this week. We’ll see you next week with another Week in Review. Until then, may the FOSS be with you…