FOSS Week in Review
U.S. giving up control of DNS root zone
On Friday, March 14, the U.S. announced it’ll relinquish control of the Internet’s root zone file, which contains all information about top-level domain names. According to Ars Technica, the move came as a surprise, although the United States has promised for many years that eventually the system would be put in the hands of an international body.
Currently, the Department of Commerce has ultimate control over the Internet’s domain name system (DNS), which is managed by contract by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). That contract will expire on September 30, 2015.
The timing of the move indicates it’s perhaps in response to international blow back against Washington as a result of the Snowden/NSA revelations. The next ICANN meeting is scheduled to be held in Brazil in April, just one of many countries taking action to isolate the Internet within its borders from the U.S.
ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé addressed the U.S. announcement in a special conference call on the day the announcement was made, calling the move “historic.”
“Naturally, journalists on the call asked whether the sudden and stunning change was brought about by new pressures after the leaks made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But Chehadé and Crocker, who was also on the call, offered evasive answers.
“‘I think what is important to focus on today is the trust in the global community that is displayed in the US’ decision here,’ Chehadé told the press. ‘There is now full trust in the superiority of the multi-stakeholder model, the open model that enabled the Internet to be what it is today. That’s the news today, really.’”
IBM says it hasn’t given NSA client data
Also on the 14th, Big Blue announced in a blog that it has never handed any of it’s customer’s data over U.S. intelligence agencies. Not only that, the company says that it would challenge any such order in court, according to Reuters.
“‘IBM has not provided client data to the NSA or any other government agency under any surveillance program involving the bulk collection of content or metadata,’ Robert Weber, IBM’s senior vice president of legal and regulatory affairs, wrote in the blog post.
“‘If the U.S. government were to serve a national security order on IBM to obtain data from an enterprise client and impose a gag order that prohibits IBM from notifying that client, IBM will take appropriate steps to challenge the gag order through judicial action or other means,’ Weber said.
“He added that the New York-based company would challenge national security orders to obtain data stored outside the United States and that efforts to access that data should go through recognized legal channels like treaties.”
IBM is just one of many U.S. tech companies facing financial consequences since the news of the NSA’s dirty tricks began being revealed. The company has reported that sales to China dropped by more than 20% in the second half of 2013 due to Beijing’s fears of U.S. government spying through software developed in the USA. Instead, China is pushing for the purchase of both hardware and software developed within its borders.
Meanwhile, the wonder kid of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, placed a phone call to President Obama to complain about the way U.S. spies have been conducting their business. Even though Obama took the call, the conversation evidently didn’t go as Zuck had hoped, as it prompted him to publicly criticize our government’s policies in a blog post.
“When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.
“The US government should be the champion for the internet, not a threat. They need to be much more transparent about what they’re doing, or otherwise people will believe the worst.
“I’ve called President Obama to express my frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future. Unfortunately, it seems like it will take a very long time for true full reform.”
If this issn’t enough to illustrate to the powers that be which way the PR wind’s blowing, there’s more.
Wired reported on Tuesday that Tim Berners-Lee, the man that many consider to be “the father of the Internet,” referred to Snowden as a “hero” at the TED conference in Vancouver after a digital appearance by Snowden.
“Asked by Anderson whether he thought Snowden was a traitor or a hero, Berners-Lee went with ‘hero, if you have to make the choice between the two.’ Snowden said internet rights were not just about principles but about technology. ‘I believe a magna carta for the internet is exactly what we need,’ Snowden said. ‘We need to encode our values not just in writing but in the structure of the internet.’
Android tablets being made in Haiti
Last Sunday we learned from Reuters that a factory making entry level Android tablets has opened in Haiti.
“Sandwiched between textile factories in a Port-au-Prince industrial park next to a slum, a Haitian-founded company has begun manufacturing the low-cost tablet called Sûrtab, a made-up name using the French adjective ‘sûr,’ meaning ‘sure,’ to suggest reliability.
“Unlike the factories next door where low-paid textile workers churn out cheap undergarments for the U.S. market, Sûrtab workers are equipped with soldering irons, not sewing machines.
“Dressed in sterile white work clothes, and a hair net, Sergine Brice is proud of her job. ‘I never imagined I could, one day, make a tablet by myself,’ she said.
If this works out, it could eventually be good news on many fronts. Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, could certainly use these high tech jobs and moving these jobs from Asia to our backyard would also be good for the environment and our pocketbooks. Good for the environment because Port-au-Prince is only 712 miles from Miami, meaning a lot less fossil fuel gets burned bringing the devices to market. If the likes of Apple and Google could start making phones and tablets there it’d also help their bottom line as shipping costs would be drastically reduced as well.
Google cuts cloud storage costs
In what signals either a good old fashioned price war, the cloud becoming commoditized or a little of both, Google is lowering its cloud storage prices according to eWeek.
“Google Drive has just slashed the prices of its cloud data storage to entice more users with rates of $1.99 per month for 100GB, down from the previous rate of $4.99, and $9.99 per month for 1TB, down from the previous rate of $49.99 per month.”
Given the fact that some of us here at FOSS Force are old enough to remember when storage for home computing was done on cassette tapes, these prices seem like incredible bargains — if you trust the cloud, that is.
And now for something completely different…
Finally, we found a cartoon floating around on Google+ this week that we absolutely had to share. Please, Ubuntu fans, don’t take offense. It’s only a joke, and we all need a good chuckle.
Well, that does it for another week. Oh, and guess what…we’ve got another wintry mix coming up here in our neck of the woods. Anyway, until next time, may the FOSS be with you…