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Cloud Based LibreOffice, Facebook Reads PMs & More…

FOSS Week in Review

In 2013, Linux hits grand slam

Now that companies are closing-out their books on the old year, it’s becoming evident that Linux devices were a big hit in 2013.

On Friday, CNET’s Brooke Crothers reported that Chromebooks, those nifty laptops running Google’s Chrome OS that let the cloud do the heavy lifting, accounted for 21% of all laptop sales last year. As impressive as that may be, the numbers get even better when Android tablets are added to the mix. According to market research company NPD Group, January to November saw 1.76 million Chromebooks and Android tablets sold, up from only 400,000 during all of 2012.

The OEMs, of course, are paying attention and are readying new Linux devices for the market.

“Traditional PC makers are responding by bringing out new Chromebook models. Dell, for instance, will offer its first Chromebook in January for the educational market, where Chromebooks have been particularly popular.

“The world’s largest PC maker, HP, is also putting more emphasis on Google’s Chrome OS and Android. HP sells both the Chromebook 14 and the Chromebook 11. …”

On Monday we learned from Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols at ZDNet that Linux devices were a big hit with Amazon’s holiday shoppers as well. As might be expected, Amazon’s best selling tablets were in its own Kindle Fire family, which runs Android.

“A closer look at Amazon tablet sales shows Android powered all of the top ten selling tablets. Other than Amazon’s own tablets, the top ten sellers were low-end, sub-$100 7” tablets from Chromo and Tablet Express/Dragon Touch, along with Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 3.

“Apple? Microsoft? They came in at 11 and 12, respectively, with Apple’s low-end 16GB iPad mini and Microsoft’s 32GB Surface RT.”

Amazon also sold a boatload of Chromebooks during the holiday shopping period as well.

“Overall, Amazon’s top 10 laptop list included four Chromebooks and six Windows systems. Apple? You have to drop all the way to number 15 to find a MacBook.”

As Crothers pointed-out in the CNET article, this doesn’t bode well for Windows.

ACLU sues for NSA details

The BBC reported on Christmas Eve that the ACLU and Yale University’s Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic have jointly filed a suit in an attempt to gain information regarding the NSA’s overseas spying activities.

“The ACLU wants the courts to make the US government provide details of the executive order that established the overseas spying programme. It said that there being little or no oversight of the programme was cause for concern.”

This suit was filed just three days after New York District Judge William Pauley dismissed a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June which claimed that the methods used by the NSA to track phone calls are unconstitutional.

“In his ruling, Judge Pauley said there was no evidence that the ‘bulk telephony data’ collected by the NSA was used for anything other than ‘investigating and disrupting terrorist attacks.’ The ACLU said it would appeal against the ruling.”

In that case, Grant Gross with PCWorld has reported that the ACLU filed a notice of appeal yesterday.

“‘We believe that the NSA’s call-tracking program violates both statutory law and the Constitution, and we look forward to making our case in the appeals court,’ ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said in a statement. ‘The government has a legitimate interest in tracking the associations of suspected terrorists, but tracking those associations does not require the government to subject every citizen to permanent surveillance.'”

Meanwhile, we learned on Monday from USA Today that retired general Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, wants President Obama to reject recommendations on how to deal with the NSA from a five-member advisory committee. The panel, headed by former acting CIA director Michael Morell, was appointed by the president in the wake of the Snowden leaks. The committee has said the recommendations were designed to increase transparency, accountability and oversight at the NSA.

Evidently, Hayden has problems with the committee’s findings.

“‘Right now, since there have been no abuses and almost all the court decisions on this program have held that it’s constitutional, I really don’t know what problem we’re trying to solve by changing how we do this,’ he said, saying the debate was sparked after ‘somebody stirred up the crowd.’ That’s a reference to Snowden, who was granted asylum in Russia.

Hayden was head of the NSA from 1999 to 2005.

Happy birthday to Mr. Torvalds

Opps, we missed Linus Torvalds birthday, which was on December 28th, which was last Saturday. He turned 44. Happy belated birthday, Linus!

Microsoft building non-Windows operating system?

We would think the folks in Redmond would want to fix Windows before moving on to build another operating system, but that’s just us. Evidently, according to Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley at ZDNet, the folks at Microsoft have been working on an operating system called Midori since 2008. Evidently things are going swimmingly, as the project has just been taken out of incubation and moved to the company’s Unified Operating System group.

“Early Midori design documents indicated that the Midori OS would be built with distributed concurrency and cloud computing in mind. Microsoft also supposedly planned to try to provide some kind of compatibility path between Windows and Midori (which isn’t based on Windows at all). The early design documents also indicated that Microsoft Research’s ‘Bartok’ ahead-of-time compiler work influenced the team.”

We think that’s all really nice. From what we’ve seen, Microsoft needs some practice building operating systems. It just needs to rethink the name. Midori just happens to be a damn sweet little FOSS web browser which is used by default in elementary OS, Bodhi Linux and SliTaz Linux.

Goodbye Google Docs, hello LibreOffice

LibreOffice Writer

LibreOffice Writer on rollApp
click to enlarge

Here at FOSS Force we use Google Docs quite a bit, due to it’s portability (write once, edit anywhere). There’s just one thing we don’t like. Google Docs doesn’t support the free and open ODF standard. Well, we don’t have to worry about that anymore, as rollApp is offering-up LibreOffice as a cloud based app that runs in a browser. The service is free if you don’t mind video ads, although the site is offering a 14 day ad free trial run.

In addition to LibreOffice, the site offers a browser based version of OpenOffice, which seems a little redundant to us, as well as other applications, such as the open source desktop publishing app, Scribus.

Is Facebook reading private messages?

A class action lawsuit filed earlier this week claims that Facebook has been monitoring users’ private messages. According to a report published yesterday on the BBC’s website, the social network’s motive is profit.

“The lawsuit claims that when users share a link to another website via a private message, Facebook scans it to profile the sender’s web activity.

“It alleges that Facebook systematically intercepts messages to mine user data and profits by sharing it with data aggregators, advertisers and marketers.”

If this lawsuit bears fruit, it could be costly for Facebook. The BBC says the suit “is claiming the greater of either $100 (£61) a day for each day of alleged violations or $10,000, for each user.”

Welcoming Ken Starks

Finally, in an effort to grow our site and offer more quality content, in December we took-on a new writer, and one who might be familiar to many of you who spend time perusing FOSS websites.

Many of you will know Ken Starks from his Blog of Helios. Others may know of the great work he does handing-out refurbished Linux computers to needy school children, with the Reglue project, which he founded. Everybody who’s read his work knows he has a heart as wide as a Los Angeles freeway, as tall as the Empire State Building and as deep as the Mariana Trench — and a writing style that is nothing if not entertaining. We’re pleased to have him as part of our team.

All-Righty Then…

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Well, that does it for our first Week in Review for 2014. Until next week, may the FOSS be with you…

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