FOSS Week in Review
While Facebook and Google work to better identify you by your typing skills and Red Hat counts the bucks from its best ever year, Ubuntu finally makes it possible to launch from the bottom.
If you depend only on mainstream tech media’s coverage of FOSS, you might be excused for thinking that the biggest news of the week revolved either around Ubuntu’s new summer home in the world of BSD — which isn’t a Canonical project by the way — or Microsoft’s open sourcing of every scrap of code it can find that might benefit Microsoft if it were open sourced.
In my not-so-humble opinion, both of these stories were yawners. Of course somebody’s attempted to create a BSD *buntu. There are already Ubuntu flavors for every single desktop environment known to mankind, as well as a few DEs that are figments of Canonical’s imagination, so where else was there to go but to another operating system? What’s next? Given the way Ubuntu has been cozying up to Microsoft, I’m expecting Ubuntu for Windows.
As for Microsoft’s continuing open sourcing? There’s nothing new here, move on. When Redmond loves Linux and open source enough to quit suing open source projects over patents it claims it has — that will be news.
Also not new — because we’ve been told to expect this since about the middle of the year — is Red Hat hitting the $2 billion mark in earnings, just four years after becoming the planet’s first billion dollar open source company. Now, that’s news.
At first glance, this might seem to the the type of story that’s of most interest to Wall Street and the tech business sector, but it also should be important news to those who advocate free tech. Red Hat is a huge and powerful force standing in the corner with those who believe in software freedom — and in this day and age, we the people can use all the support we can get.
I get it that the company does some things many people don’t like, but none of us always agree with our mothers either. When all is said and done, Red Hat has demonstrated it respects the “free” aspect of FOSS, where other tech giants only see the “open source” part.
This news also sends a note to those few who might still be on the proprietary-is-the-only-way-to-go bandwagon that OSS and FOSS are the development models of the future.
Meanwhile, Canonical is still waiting to show any kind of profit.
While the Ubuntu-dances-with-BSD story was getting everyone’s attention this week, another Ubuntu story barely got notice. It seems that the developer and designer folks at Ubuntu have been attentively listening to their user base and responding as quickly as possible — in this case, “quickly” being a scant six years — to make requests reality. Guess what, folks? You can now move the launcher to the bottom of the screen in Unity.
The news came last Friday by way of a post on Google+ by Marco Trevisan, who even included the command that needs to be run —
gsettings set com.canonical.Unity.Launcher launcher-position Bottom — for those who want to make it so. If you can’t wait to see what Unity looks like with a bottom launcher, Softpedia has pics.
Staying ahead of the cracker/hackers in the advertising world doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Ever heard of keystroke fingerprinting? Neither had I until Michael Larabel published an article on it on Thursday. It seems that the way you use a keyboard — just like your retinas, face, fingerprints, genes and probably even your body odor — is unique. So unique that when you type into a text box on a website, that site can analyse the way you type and identify you if you happen to be in their database. Evidently, the usual suspects, folks such as Facebook and Google, have been perfecting the technology for the purpose of — what else? — targeting ads.
This one will be easy to thwart, however. A proposal was emailed on Wednesday by Freedesktop.org calling for changes to made either at the kernel level or in Wayland or X.Org to make this problem go away. All that needs done is to cache keystrokes and introduce a random delay before passing them on to a website. I say, get ‘er done.
Quote of the week: About 10 days ago in a discussion about Microsoft’s current habit of kidnapping and forceably “upgrading” computers to Windows 10, Reddit user Heck_Tate wrote: “I had to wait for the entire thing to complete, decline the EULA, and then wait for it to reinstall previous OS. It’s now in the process of doing the exact same thing again and I’m about ready to just say f*** Windows and go with Linux.”
If I had his address, I’d send him a USB thumb drive loaded with the live version of Linux Mint Xfce to get him started.
Another day, another distro: LXLE OS 14.04.4, a lightweight distro designed for older hardware built atop Ubuntu/Lubuntu LTS and featuring — you guessed it — the LXLE desktop, was released on Thursday. Download or order a DVD or USB drive copy from the LXLE website.
Quick takes: I know it’s not funny but I still have to laugh: the Certified Ethical Hackers website — I won’t link to it right now for what will be obvious reasons — has been spreading ransomware through malicious advertisements on its site. Worse, after being notified of the problem by Fox IT, it didn’t make any immediate moves to take the offending ads down. Read the entire story on Ars Technica…. For those of you hankering to get your hands on the Linux version of Microsoft SQL Server, Redmond has announced a date: 2017. Better start camping outside your local Microsoft Store now to get a good place in line so you can get your copy before they sell out.
Parting shot: Kudos to online computer and software retailer Newegg. Not only does the company have the courage to duke it out with patent trolls in court, it’s now ready to hand over $10,000 to Jordan Gwyther, owner of Larping.org, who’s fighting a patent case over the use of foam arrows. It may not be an open source company, but it has the sharing thing down.
That’s it for this week. Have a happy Easter, or whatever you celebrate around the time of the Spring Equinox (or Fall Equinox if you’re in one of the lands down under). Until next week, may the FOSS be with you…