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Posts tagged as “NSA”

What’s the Cost of NSA Spying?

Back when Edward Snowden first began revealing details of the depth of NSA spying on foreign governments and companies, as well as U.S. citizens, I said that this would end up costing U.S. tech companies dearly. Now we’re beginning to see just how much: $47 billion according to Forrester Research. As large as that figure is, it could have been worse. Back in 2013, the folks at Forrester were estimating that the stateside tech industry would take a $180 billion hit.

By design, the research company’s numbers don’t reflect the amount of money spent by U.S. taxpayers funding the NSA’s operations. Nor do they indicate how much of this $47 billion is being born by the likes of Microsoft and Oracle, as far as I can tell. What I do know is that many foreign governments have been publicly investing in Linux and open source projects since Snowden’s revelations that back doors for the NSA have been built into many proprietary U.S. enterprise software products.

2014’s Five Biggest Stories Affecting FOSS

Another year has come and gone, and as you might have guessed, 2014 still wasn’t the year of the Linux desktop.

Covering FOSS and Linux isn’t nearly as exciting as it was a decade or so ago — but that’s a good thing. Back then, we were at war with nearly every proprietary software vendor on the planet and faced threats from all directions, including up and down. To be sure, we didn’t start the wars we were fighting, as PROFAL (the People’s Republic of FOSS and Linux) only wished for peaceful coexistence.

The dust settled long ago and it appears as if we won most of these wars we didn’t start. Even our old arch enemy Microsoft is now waving the flag of peace and is seeking to normalize relations with us. And our old arch-arch enemy, SCO, doesn’t even exist any more — at least not in any form that we would recognize as the SCO of old. May Caldera rest in peace.

That doesn’t mean there’s not still news to be covered in the FOSS world. There is — and plenty of it. But these days, it’s mostly about advancements in technology, new start-ups and new alliances. We still face threats, to be sure, from crackers, spooks, politicians, the RIAA and the MPAA, but these forces threaten all of computerdom, not just FOSS, so we’ve been able to nurture some new strange bedfellows to join us in our struggles.

As years go, 2014 wasn’t the most boring year in the history of the free software movement, but it also wasn’t overly exciting. Again, that’s a good thing as it means there was no battening down the hatches and stuff. Still, there were many trends in the news this year which directly affect the purveyors and users of FOSS.

Here’s my top five list:

Christine HallChristine Hall

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

The Ongoing Wars Against Free Tech

After a few months of not hearing much from Microsoft, the company has been in the news a bit recently. First there was the brouhaha when it announced it was offering the .NET framework as open source. Then there were several big security problems with Windows, with one serious vulnerability going all the way back to Windows 95.

Although this would’ve been big news in the old days, the FOSS press has been relatively quiet about all this. There were a few articles about the .NET thing, with some writers pointing out that the MIT license which Redmond is using will offer no patent protection for Redmond owned .NET related patents, and the Windows security issues got next to no FOSS coverage at all.

My how times have changed.

A decade ago the open sourcing of any major program by Microsoft would have FOSS writers in a dither, even if released under the GPL. We would’ve been uber suspicious, certain that this was only the front end of a plan to end Linux and FOSS as we know it. As for the Windows security woes, we’d be rubbing our hands with glee, writing paragraph after paragraph on how much this proves the inferiority of Windows and the superiority of our beloved Linux. In those days, we had to take our good news wherever we could find it.

Christine HallChristine Hall

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

When the Police Can Brick Your Phone

“Tyranny. Pure and simple. If it is software, somebody will find a way to hack it. If it is hardware, ‘old’ smartphones will be worth their weight in platinum.”

My friend Ross from Toronto made this comment with a link he posted on Facebook to The Free Thought Project’s article on a new about-to-be law in California. The law mandates a kill switch on all new smartphones, allowing the owner of a stolen phone to disable it until it’s recovered. The bill, CA SB 962, now only needs the expected signature of governor Jerry Brown to become law. In July, a similar law went into effect in Minnesota.

Organized using smartphones.
Photo by Jonas Naimark – Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0
On the surface, a law with the purpose of protecting expensive smartphones from theft might seem to be a no-brainer good thing. Just render the device inoperable, while activating a homing program to locate it. Presto! In no time at all the phone is back in the hands of its rightful owner and made operable again. Supporters also hope the kill switch becomes a deterrent that greatly reduces the number of phone thefts.

Christine HallChristine Hall

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

China Says ‘No’ to Windows 8

Reuters reported yesterday that the Chinese government has banned the use of Windows 8 on Chinese government computers. According to the official Xinhua news agency, the ban is being put in place by the Central Government Procurement Center primarily over security concerns now that Microsoft has ended support for XP, which is thought to be the most widely used operating system within China. This news has led Forbes to speculate that this may prompt Redmond to continue to support the OS within the People’s Republic.

Christine HallChristine Hall

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

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