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November 28th, 2014

Debian, Ubuntu Touch & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Larry’s taking a much deserved day off, so I got elected to do this Week in Review. Glad to be back in the saddle.

Here’s hoping that all in the U.S. had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and that those of you who don’t live here managed to make it through all of the online articles on our quaint little holiday. As always, one thing leads to another. In this case, giving thanks for what we have morphs into the great Christmas shopping race, in which we make a grab for stuff we don’t yet own.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

Google and the EU

Google logoWhile we in the States were dealing with family and turkey, the EU was busy working on preparing Google’s head for the platter. The European Parliament yesterday passed by a wide margin a non-binding resolution urging anti-trust regulators to break up the company. For those keeping score, the final vote was 384 yeas and 174 nays.

Yesterday also saw France and Germany seeking a review, from the European Competition Commission, of the EU’s rules to ensure that international Internet companies could be targeted in the olde world.

Google has been tangling with our friends across the pond since at least 2010 on a host of subjects, which include privacy issues, “right to be forgotten” rules, copyrights, tax questions and more. The resolution didn’t mention Google by name, but asked for the Commission to consider proposals to separate search engines from their other services.

While that’s all well and good, I do have one little question.

What if Google decides to “not go gentle into that good night”? How would this work, considering that Google is a U.S. company? If the EU orders Google to spin-off search into a separate company and Google refuses, does Google then disappear from the Internet within the EU nations? Or will European companies no longer be able to deduct money spent with Google’s advertising arm as a business expense?

And what if a government outside the EU, say Brazil or Canada, issues some kind of regulatory order that’s contrary to what the Europeans want?

This is most confusing, if you ask me.

Facebook wants mom & pop’s money

Facebook.svgIt appears as if Facebook intends to make the field a little less level for small mom and pop online retailers who use the social network to get the word out about their offerings. The word from Zuckerberg & Company: pay up or we’ll shut you up.

According to The Wall Street Journal:

“But small-business owners…will soon get less benefit from the unpaid marketing pitches they post on Facebook. That’s because, as of mid-January, the social network will intensify its efforts to filter out unpaid promotional material in user news feeds that businesses have posted as status updates.

“The change will make it more difficult for entrepreneurs…to reach fans of their Facebook pages with marketing posts that aren’t paid advertising.

“Businesses that post free marketing pitches or reuse content from existing ads will suffer ‘a significant decrease in distribution,’ Facebook warned in a post earlier this month announcing the coming change.”

So, what does this have to do with free software? I hear you ask.

Maybe nothing, but it has everything to do with free-as-in-speech tech. Facebook’s new policy will make it harder for struggling online stores, many of which are operated out of homes, to compete with bigger players with big wads of cash in their pockets.

In my estimation, that’s not a good thing.

Ubuntu on your phone?

According to Digital Trends, we can expect to see a phone from Chinese manufacturer Meizu running Ubuntu Touch in early 2015. Problem is, it won’t be available in the United States, and how much it’ll cost seems to be anybody’s guess.

“…Meizu and Canonical will initially sell the Ubuntu Mobile phone in China and Europe. America isn’t mentioned, and the dream of international availability appears to have been shattered. The all-important price, along with the exact specification of the phone is also a mystery. Rather than produce an entirely new phone, Meizu may adapt its MX4 or MX4 Pro for the OS. At MWC [Mobile World Conference], the software was demonstrated on the MX3 smartphone.”

In the meantime, it appears that phones running Firefox OS are as close as we Americans can get to having a truly free software experience in our pockets.

A case for Debian as “top dog” distro

This week, Bruce Byfield used his blog to talk about Debian’s place in Linuxland. He points out that of the 285 distros on Distrowatch, 132 are based on Debian and 67 on Ubuntu. What this means, if I understand how Mr. Byfield is slicing the cake, is that there are 199 distros based on Debian, since all Ubuntu derivatives are based on Debian by proxy.

So much for the too many distros argument, eh?

There are plenty of reasons why distro makers decide to ride on Debian’s back, but I suspect that Byfield has found a reason near the top of the list when he writes:

“…the technical structure is even more important to Debian’s current position. With close to fifty thousand packages, Debian may be the largest distribution ever. You may not find every possible application in Debian, but on the whole the odds are better than in another distribution. If you are doing a derivative, it only makes sense to draw upon the largest set of repositories. This chain of logic, I suspect, has been followed again and again as new distros have been created.”

50 thousand packages? Wow. Maybe we should quit complaining about too many distros and whip up a lynch mob over too many packages.

Just kidding…


Until the next time I get to do the Week in Review, may the FOSS be with you…

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

2 comments to Debian, Ubuntu Touch & More…

  • While I am not anywhere near well-read and knowledgable concerning the EU’s gripes with Google, I can foresee a future where we won’t have a global Internet. It’s going to become geographically segreated with the EU having their little chunk (without Google influence). China is probably well into the concept and planning stages…building The Great Tech Wall Of China. And the Soviet Union will do what they’ve always done best and use this bickering to sequester information from its citizens, regardless of cost. You think not? That’s what the Americans thought as Russia began building the wall that separated East and West Germany. Never, ever underestimate The Soviet audacity.

    The EU’s insistance upon making Google Kowtow to their will is just the first little chunk of dam falling away and weakening the whole structure.

  • Uncle Ed

    I’d say you may be right about the end result of all the stuff going on. However, I’m inclined to spread the responsibility over a few more participants. Yes, the EU has a squabble with Google, probably mostly because of Google’s taking economic advantage of its monopoly position. However, there is some fairly pure anti-American in it (why? I don’t have enough fingers…), and then there’s the matter of Google’s sharing their knowledge of the users with the intelligence agencies. Top it off with the reality that this vote was most likely just the delegates playing to the crowd, anyway.

    The thinkers among them, if any, know their votes on the non-binding resolution can make points with the audience back home without having effects that could come back to haunt them. After all, it’s just a suggestion. We didn’t TELL you what to do. We expect you anti-trust regulators to make your decisions independently, based on ALL the information. And if something bad happens, we didn’t do it.

    We in the US of A never see anything like this from our congresscritters, of course.