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Blackberry Trolls, Coke in Patent Suit & More…

FOSS Week in Review

India drops deal with Google over spying fears

Since the Snowden leaks revealed that Microsoft has allegedly built back doors into Windows for the NSA, we’ve been saying that the spy agency’s actions are going to hurt the U.S. tech industry’s business abroad. Well, it’s started to happen. On Thursday, Reuters reported that India has decided to drop out of a planned partnership with Google designed to help voters access information.

“…the plan was opposed by the Indian Infosec Consortium, a government and private sector-backed alliance of cyber security experts, who feared Google would collaborate with “American agencies” for espionage purposes.”

cokeadThere’s even been more digital security news from the EU, where there’s been a scramble to address privacy and security issues since the NSA scandal began. On January 3, phoneArena.com reported that European phone makers have been coming out with pricey phones designed for the security conscious.

Mark our words. This is only the beginning.

“Scan-to-email” patents hit Coke and Dillards

Last year there was news that $1,000 per worker was being demanded of small businesses using the scan-to-email function on their all-in-one printers. The demands were coming from MPHJ Technology Investments, which claims to hold patents covering the feature.

According to an article published Monday on Ars Technica, these demands have now escalated.

“After a year of threats, MPHJ filed its first actual lawsuit in November. Now, a batch of four new suits have been filed against three large companies and one medium-sized one. The defendants, all sued on January 3 in Delaware, are: the Coca-Cola Company (PDF); Dillard’s (PDF), a department store that operates in 29 states and has about 38,000 employees; Unum Group (PDF), a Tennessee-based insurance company with over 10,000 workers; and Huhtamaki (PDF), a consumer goods and packaging company with 400 employees.”

The company is claiming they have two patents being infringed by use of “multifunction peripherals” made by Xerox and Lexmark. Although the patents were issued in 2009 and 2013, the company is claiming they cover infringements going back to 1996.

Blackberry goes trolling

Typo Products patent dispute

Typo keyboard attachment for iPhone

In light of their association with the Rockstar Consortium, we already knew that Blackberry was trolling by proxy. Now it appears as if they’re doing a little patent trolling on their own. On January 3 the Canadian firm announced they had filed a patent infringement suite against Typo Products LLC, a company co-founded by “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest. Typo has been taking pre-orders for a keyboard that can be attached to some iPhone models.

Blackberry, which ruled the smartphone market as recently as five years ago, has fallen on hard times. By most accounts, their phones now lag behind even Microsoft in sales. However, they retain a core customer base of users who prefer a physical keyboard. Evidently the device being marketed by Typo utilizes angled keys that are similar to those found on Blackberry devices.

The suit was filed in the United States District Court for the northern district of California.

12 Geeks of Christmas a success

Ken Starks announced on his website that the Reglue’s “12 Geeks of Christmas” campaign was a success. Reglue is an Austin, Texas based non-profit that puts refurbished computers running Linux into the hands of school children who need them. The 12 Geeks campaign was an effort to broaden the charity’s boundaries by placing computers into needy homes outside of Texas.

We at FOSS Force were one of the 12 Geeks, volunteered to the task by Christine Hall when she wrote an article on the program in November. With Santa’s help, we placed the dual core Dell laptop we received from Reglue, running Zorin OS, into the home of a six year old named Dylan, who lives not far from the FOSS Force office in rural North Carolina.

Despite his tender age, the young man was already showing his grandmother how to do things on her Windows machine whenever he visited her. He had told his parents that all he wanted for Christmas was a computer of his own.

On the day after Christmas, after Santa had left the laptop for Dylan, Christine went to the young man’s home to show him how to use the machine. She needn’t have bothered, as Dylan had already figured things out and had already discovered all the neat and interesting kid’s programs installed by default by Reglue.

Ken Starks is also a writer for FOSS Force.

First Ubuntu Phone set for China?

According to an article posted Sunday on Phoronix, the first Ubuntu Phone might soon be a reality. However, if you want one you might have to by a ticket to Beijing. Some images have been surfacing on the web of a phone, made by Meizu, apparently running Canonical’s mobile OS.

“This apparent Meizu Ubuntu Phone could end up being another engagement Canonical has gotten involved in, but it would make sense if this is their first hardware partner they’ve struck. Very few earth-grounded developers and users would expect the first Ubuntu Phone to come from any major American or European device manufacturer and carrier. Canonical and Ubuntu have also shown growing interest in China, especially with last year’s launch of the Ubuntu Kylin version, etc.”

Evidently Meizu is known as something of an upscale phone maker, so there’s some talk that this might a nice first offering for the Ubuntu folks.

According to an article published Wednesday by Linux User & Developer, we can expect other Ubuntu phones in 2014 as well.

RollApp sets sights on mobile

rollapplogoSince we posted our review of rollApp, a cloud service featuring online versions of open source applications such as LibreOffice, we’ve heard from the company behind the project.

We had contacted them with a couple of questions. We wondered if the copy and paste function would eventually be expanded to include the ability to copy and past between the users computer and the online app. We also inquired as to whether users would eventually be able to open and save files to their computers instead of to online storage services such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

Our questions were answered, via email, by Alex Grechanowski, a community manager with rollApp. We learned that copy and past between the user’s computer and rollApp is definitely in the works. He also told us they’re currently working on an app for Android devices. Unfortunately, however, there are no plans to allow users to save their work to their local computers.

“We support only cloud storage services – Dropbox, Box, Google Drive and 4Shared – as it allows users to work across multiple devices, literally in the cloud. Moreover, our iPad and Chromebook (and soon Android) users simply do not have (an easy to use) local file system so using cloud storage is the only way to get the apps working.”

So, evidently they’re only going after the smartphone, tablet and Chromebook market and will be ignoring the users of real computers.

This is too bad. We were ready to sign-up for their paid service, as we often upload editorial content on which we’re working to Google Drive for access at remote locations. But if we can’t upload a file to their cloud service or download it to our network after we’re finished without the added step of going through Google Drive, the service is pretty much useless. Pity.

The rollApp service is free in a video ad supported version. In addition, the company offers an ad free version. $6.99 monthly buys ad free access to all of rollApp’s applications. Ad free access to single apps start at $0.99″ monthly.

CentOS teams-up with Red Hat

CentOS announced on Tuesday that the project will be joining forces with Red Hat, which seems only natural to us.

“With great excitement I’d like to announce that we are joining the Red Hat family. The CentOS Project is joining forces with Red Hat. Working as part of the Open Source and Standards team to foster rapid innovation beyond the platform into the next generation of emerging technologies. Working alongside the Fedora and RHEL ecosystems, we hope to further expand on the community offerings by providing a platform that is easily consumed, by other projects to promote their code while we maintain the established base.”

That’s one thing we like about the open source community. We tend to work and play well with others.

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That does it for this week. Until our next Week in Review, may the FOSS be with you…

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