Friday FOSS Week in Review
Google drops open Talk for closed Hangouts
There’s been a lot of back-and-forth going on now that Google has announced intentions to replace Talk, the open standards supporting instant messaging service, with proprietary Hangouts. While Talk works with the XMPP industry standard which allows cross-platform use, Hangouts will be completely closed and proprietary. In other words, if you want to talk to someone on Hangouts, that person must be using Hangouts as well.
Needless to say, this hasn’t been going over so well in the FOSS community. Over at Linux Advocates, Dietrich Schmitz ran up a “Red Flag” and declared, “This should be a BIG concern for everyone. Google has removed transparency from a major component used by millions in electronic communication. Google+ Hangouts is proprietary and there is now NO Transparency. No one except Google knows how the code is written or what it does or doesn’t do.”
Hyperbole aside, this is a big deal. It also may very well be much ado about nothing.
As expected, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has jumped into the fray, urging Google to integrate XMPP support into the new implementation. Good for them, that’s why they’re there, and we certainly need to be pushing Google (and anyone else developing software of any kind) in the direction of openness.
However, as PCWorld reports, Google makes a strong case to support the reasoning behind their move:
“‘Over the past several years, we’ve worked to bring the world an open messaging system, but no company has been willing to join our efforts,’ she [an unnamed Google spokesperson] wrote…
“‘After seven years, it’s evident that the rest of the industry is not moving to embrace this open system. If at some point in the future, the industry shows interest, we would then be open to discussions about developing an interface that’s designed for modern needs’…”
We have no reason to doubt there is validity to Google’s claims; we’ve been down this road before. Although the XMPP Standards Foundation executive director Peter Saint-Andre has been wagging a finger at Google on Twitter (“Google can stop supporting XMPP, but it’s impossible for them to kill it. That’s the beauty of distributed technologies!”), neither he nor his organization has directly addressed Google’s claims–probably because they’re true.
Again, we’ve been down this road before. We’ve been waiting for Linux Standard Base to become a functional reality for so long we no longer believe it possible–and that’s a project being run entirely by FOSS loving Linux folks. XMPP requires the cooperation of everyone from AOL (who has their own problems) to Yahoo and Google–each company having an agenda tied to dollars and cents.
Good intentions and an obviously good idea sometimes isn’t enough to overcome all obstacles.
Techrights gives UEFI Forum an earful on Secure Boot
We learned this week that Roy Schestowitz over at Techrights was able to give the folks at the UEFI Forum (presumably in the UK) a piece of FOSS mind when he was asked to drop by for “an interview for exchange of thoughts and ideas.” Evidently, things went well.
“To summarise some of the key points, it was agreed that ‘secure’ boot only gives UEFI Forum a lot of negative publicity. Other issues were raised, but none else got the same amount of coverage. I had not prepared notes, mostly because the goal was to focus on freedom and not to deviate from that. UEFI Forum’s President was understanding. He said I was asking the right questions and did acknowledge that some of my concerns were legitimate…”
We attempted to get in touch with Mr. Schestowitz for more information but were unable to do so.
Shuttleworth says good things about Windows 8
We’ve always said that Mark Shuttleworth is bound and determined to make Canonical Ubuntu the Linux version of Microsoft Windows. We’ve also said this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, the best way to get entrenched Windows users to move over to the Penguin is to offer them an experience that’s very Windows like. That doesn’t mean the rest of us have to use it, eh?
Anyway, this week the folks at Softpedia reported that at Ubuntu Open Week, Shuttleworth was asked for his opinion on Windows 8, to which he replied:
“‘Bold choices, right vision, stumbled at the gate but the race is just beginning. Change is hard and the vision of convergence is the right one, so I respect Microsoft for seeing that and focusing on that.
“‘I think they left their actual desktop too much in the past (Win 7.5) and they pushed their tablet too much to the foreground (tiles with a mouse),’ stated Mark Shuttleworth.”
We also learned this week from PCWorld (and practically every other tech site on the planet) that after nearly nine years, Shuttleworth has closed Ubuntu’s “Bug#1” which stated “Microsoft has a majority market share in the new desktop PC marketplace. This is a bug which Ubuntu and other projects are meant to fix.”
If you want to know why it’s considered fixed, you can read Mr. Shuttleworth’s remarks here for yourself. Or, you can save yourself the trouble and read what a Ubuntu user had to say: “The closure comment reads like something agreed to as part of a deal with Microsoft.”
Samsung opening R&D facility in Nokia’s hometown
Last week we learned that a bunch of out-of-work Nokia workers have banded together to create an impressive looking phone running an implementation of MeeGo/Mer called Sailfish, which they plan to bring to market later this year.
Wait a minute! That means there are a lot of highly talented tech folks hanging around Finland looking for work. It also means they know a lot about smartphones–probably more than the big-brains in Nokia’s front office who’ve bet the farm on Windows.
It seems this has occurred to Samsung.
On Wednesday we learned from CNET that the smartphone and tablet giant is planing to open a research and development plant on June 13 in Espoo, Finland–the same town that houses Nokia’s corporate headquarters.
If true, this makes us very happy. It’s pretty obvious that Nokia won’t be returning to it’s old glory for quite some time, if ever. It’s nice to see there will be some jobs for the good folks put out of work by management’s shortsightedness.
DrupalCon coders help Oklahoma City
This really should’ve been included in last week’s news review, but we didn’t learn about it until this weekend by way of the Portland, Oregon Business Journal. It’s a great positive story, one that reflects well on our community, so we had to give it some space here, even if we are a little late.
Last week, after tornados devastated Moore and other Oklahoma City suburbs, some coders attending DrupalCon in Portland, pulled an all-nighter to do what they could to help:
“The 70-plus DrupalCon attendees teamed with FEMA representatives on an all-night hack-a-thon to develop a website to assist in the recovery. The result is help4ok.org, where volunteers wishing to help in the recovery can coordinate rides to prevent area roads from becoming clogged. The site also helps connect volunteers with homeowners who are willing to house out-of-towners.”
Below is a video of the coders in action coordinating their efforts from the DrupalCon organization:
We’d like to offer our heartfelt thanks to the coders who took part in this hack-a-thon and used their abilities for the greater good. Great going!
DrupalCon, a biannual event centered around the open source Drupal content management system, ended last Friday. An estimated 630,000 attended the event.
Happy birthday Groklaw!
Finally, we’d like to send out happy birthday hugs and wishes to PJ and the whole gang over at Groklaw, which has been online for a decade as of May 28th. PJ’s dedication, born out of her love of Linux and free software, is an inspiration to us all–and we mean that sincerely. Thank you, PJ. Thank you Groklaw. Our lives would be less rich without you. You give us more than just legal explanations.
Well, that does it for another week. See you next week–same time, same station–for another Week in Review. In the meantime, may the FOSS be with you…