Chinmoy Kanjilal is a FOSS enthusiast and evangelist. He is passionate about Android. Security exploits turn him on and he loves to tinker with computer networks. He rants occasionally at Techarraz.com. You can connect with him on Twitter @ckandroid.
We all know how Megaupload was shutdown accompanied with the dramatic arrest of its flamboyant founder Kim Dotcom. The arrest was made on January 20, and it has been over a month since then. Shortly after his arrest, Kim Dotcom applied for a bail, but his application was rejected soon. After a month, on February 22, Kim Dotcom filed another bail request, which was granted eventually. The judge found it unlikely that he would flee New Zealand.
However, the prosecutors acting on behalf of the US Government appealed that he might still attempt to flee. Sadly, this appeal was rejected on Wednesday as Kim Dotcom’s bank accounts have been frozen. This makes it unlikely for him to attempt to flee. Torrent Freak writes,
The prosecution, acting on behalf of the US Government, argued that Dotcom had hidden resources that would enable him to flee the country should he be granted bail. Although four additional bank accounts in the Philippines were discovered, all of them were empty, and the Judge concluded that there was no evidence of significant funds elsewhere.
The US appointed prosecutors cried foul when two more bank accounts were discovered shortly after his bail, with $2000 in them. They also tried to present the possibility of Kim Dotcom having access to forged travel documents, but in vain.
Therefore, currently, Kim Dotcom is free on bail. The US Government is attempting to extradite Kim Dotcom for trial in the US, though the case is expected to begin only in July. Kim Dotcom has four months until then. In an attempt to put pressure on Kim Dotcom, the US Government is also trying to implicate Kim’s wife Mona Dotcom for a possible involvement in Megaupload.
Raspberry Pi is a revolutionary idea from the Raspberry Foundation in the UK. The idea started in 2006 and has been under development for six years. The hardware for Raspberry Pi is open source and its plans can be downloaded online. Like the FXI Cotton Candy we covered a few hours ago, the Raspberry Pi too supports both USB and HDMI. However, the Raspberry Pi device costs pretty low, and the closest competitor from the One Laptop per Child project is priced at $100.
Yesterday, the foundation launched two Raspberry Pi devices, one priced at $25 and another for $35. The tech specs reads as a Broadcom BCM2835 SoC that includes a 700 MHz ARM 11 processor, 256 MB RAM and a VideoCore IV GPU. Although there is no built-in storage, it requires an SD card for storage and booting. The device supports Python, C and Perl. It is designed to run flavors of Linux.
After a wait period of six years, the response was so overwhelming that the Raspberry Pi website crashed under heavy load. They came back with an announcement, saying,
We’ve temporarily changed to a static site, while we’re experiencing a very high level of traffic for the launch of the Raspberry Pi. The full site will return once traffic levels have subsided, hopefully later on today. For up-to-the-minute news on what’s happening, follow @Raspberry_Pi on Twitter.
Raspberry Pi had 10,000 devices for the first sale lot. They identified two sellers Premier Farnell and RS Components out of which, Premier Farnell have sold out and RS Components will ship only in the UK.
The European chapter of the Free Software Foundation has decided to help people liberate their Android devices from various lock-ins created by handset manufacturers and apps. The idea of this liberation superimposes with various free software ideologies and this is the first formal step taken by any organization to make the Android platform free as in free speech, and not free beer.
The Free Software foundation Europe announced this wonderful campaign on their website.
Android is a mostly free operating system mainly developed by Google. Unfortunately, the drivers for most devices and most applications from the “market” are not free (as in free speech, not free beer). They frequently work against the interest of the users, spy on them and sometimes cannot even be removed. This campaign can help you to regain control of your Android device and your data. It collects information about running an Android system as free as possible and tries to coordinate the efforts in this area.
The campaign wants to liberate our phone on two levels. For the Android OS, the campaign recommends us to use Replicant OS, which is based on Android and is completely free. However, Replicant OS has minimal device support. Alternatively, we can use CyanogenMod, which is supported by many more devices.
To liberate our apps, the campaign points us to the F-Droid project, which is a repository for free apps without any proprietary code. The Android project has been touted as being open-source and free. However, the ground reality is that handset manufacturers do not give back their codes on time, and many proprietary apps run on Android without people knowing their inner technicalities and operations. It is only when someone looks for the pin in the haystack, that apps like CarrierIQ are discovered.
Even if this campaign does not succeed in “liberating” Android initially, it will create some awareness about the limited amount of control that Android users enjoy on their mobile devices. Nonetheless, this is a good beginning.
FXI, a Norwegian startup is working on Cotton Candy, an Android based system with USB connectivity to boot your PC or tablet, and HDMI connectivity to connect to your TV. This is a revolutionary concept, as it is independent of the device you run it on. The processing units present inside Cotton Candy let it run standalone on a TV, and the USB stick allows it to boot up on any display device with USB connectivity.
Cotton Candy will sport a 1.2 GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor with a 1 GB RAM. It also has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity. HD video playback has been made possible, thanks to the powerful Mali 400 Quad Core GPU packed inside it.
The vision for Cotton Candy is to allow users a single, secure point of access to all personal Cloud services and apps through their favorite operating system, while delivering a consistent experience on any screen. The device will serve as a companion to smartphones, tablets, notebook PC and Macs, as well add smart capabilities to existing displays, TVs, set top boxes and game consoles.
The idea of an OS on a pluggable stick is not new. However, what is definitely new, is a full-fledged processing unit with a dedicated GPU packed into a USB + HDMI stick. This stick leverages the screen real estate of any device with a USB port or an HDMI port, and takes portability to a new level. This reminds me of the Mac Mini, but we see how obviously this is better than an idea from 2005.
Just last week, we reported Canonical’s announcement of Ubuntu for Android. MWC has recently showcased Ubuntu for Android at MWC, and it is impressive with some great tricks up its sleeves. Initially, it might look like a desktop remote control for your Android phone, but there are innumerable features and behind-the-scene events that will change this outlook soon.
Ubuntu for Android shows all our Android applications, contacts and calls in a Unity style application dashboard. It also lets us read and write text messages remotely, from the desktop. All this is facilitated with a custom Linux kernel, and this custom kernel will let us run Android and Ubuntu in parallel. Once we plug our computer into the dock, it will automatically switch to Ubuntu. However, the part that impressed me was where Phil from Android Central tells us that we can use this phone as a thin-client to connect to an application server and demoed it by launching MS PowerPoint from a Windows 7 server.
Mark Shuttleworth announced the plan of Ubuntu for Android, saying,
We’ll show Ubuntu neatly integrated into Android at Mobile World Congress next week. Carry just the phone, and connect it to any monitor to get a full Ubuntu desktop with all the native apps you want, running on the same device at the same time as Android. Magic. Everything important is shared across the desktop and the phone in real time.
Although the feature was showcased at MWC, it is not ready for a public release yet. The release declaration of this year-end still holds. There is a long wait before we can go ahead and use Ubuntu for Android. Until then, this hands-on review from Android Central will keep us interested.
Mozilla has plans for a device that can boot and go online, without requiring a middle app platform like Android or iOS. This is an excellent thought, although there are many initial challenges. The ultimate goal of this project is to reduce the cost of cellphones by allowing them to have less processing powers and compensate local apps with HTML5 based web-apps.
Boot to Gecko wants to create an open platform, that will let developers and users get on the web to use apps, without depending on platform specific technologies. Undoubtedly, in theory, this is as good as any other open idea. However, in my opinion, the ground realities will not permit this project to have a smooth take-off. The mobile space is saturated beyond comparison. While Android has managed to show its head after an aggressive push by Google, it is doubtful whether there is room for another platform in the mobile room.
In a joint press conference, Telefónica revealed their intention to work with us to deliver the very first open Web devices in 2012. These devices, architected entirely on the Web and built based on an HTML5 stack with powerful Web APIs, will mean significant advances in speed and cost reduction for mobile devices in
The target hardware platform for these devices is a Qualcomm chipset. The plans for this Open Web Device will be submitted to the W3C for standardization.
Here is a proof-of-concept video of Open Web Device from YouTube. It clearly shows the Gaia UI from Boot to Gecko.
Intel has recently joined The Document Foundation. The Document Foundation is a German organization that works for the promotion of open source software. It was specifically created by OpenOffice.org members to manage the LibreOffice fork. LibreOffice aimed to create a truly Open Source office suite, in contrast to OpenOffice.org, which required copyright assignment to Oracle.
LibreOffice is the power-packed free, libre and open source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and GNU/Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs.
The Document Foundation was announced in September 2010, and its identity was laid down formally only recently, on February 17, after clearing all legal hurdles. One of the primary aims of TDF is
to eliminate the digital divide in society by giving everyone access to office productivity tools free of charge to enable them to participate as full citizens in the 21st century.
The Document Foundation (TDF) has an advisory board, which was formed back in June last year. The initial members of this foundation included Google, SUSE, Red Hat and the FSF. Although Canonical is missing from the advisory board, Intel will be a valuable addition to it. It is important to remember that although Advisory Board is not a formal body of the foundation, it helps the Board of Directors to further various TDF projects.
Google has changed the way we think about web search. It has constantly innovated with search, and with Android, it found a new platform for its services and products. However, Android provides a touch interface, and search on Android was following the desktop way until now. The good news is Google is about to change that.
Google has patented a search gesture on Android that follows the letter+lasso style. Therefore, if you want to Google text content anywhere, you simply have to draw a lowercase ‘g’ and draw a lasso around the content. As soon as you lift your finger, the search will be performed automatically. Likewise, you can also search on Yahoo or Wikipedia with a ‘s’ followed by the lasso. In this case, a pop-up will ask you for a choice between Yahoo and Wikipedia. The gestures are explained better in the image shown below.
According to Patently Apple, this patent will solve a practical problem that touchscreen device users face frequently.
Touch-sensitive devices present problems with respect to the detection of user input that are not present with more classical devices as described above. For example, if a user seeks to select text via a touch-sensitive device, it may be difficult for the user to pinpoint the desired text because the user’s finger (or stylus) is larger than the desired text presented on the display.
This is a welcome change. Google is known for search, and searching on Android has been sloppy until now, with the use of selection markers to mark text, and then copy pasting them to search. This patent will let Google bring its remarkable search engine into all content on an Android phone, with lesser number of steps between identifying a searchable content, and getting search results.
There is a certain faction of people who are paranoid about privacy. They use Tor networks to surf the web, a Google or Facebook account is a big no-no for them, and they like to move in and out of the Internet without a trace, like clockwork. These people are not necessarily hackers or anything, but they take their privacy very seriously. As privacy controls become more intrusive, these paranoid people exist to cry “privacy breach” every time a privacy change is made, exercising just-in-time control.
Constant monitoring attempts by the Government have given rise to a famous line-
Big brother is watching you.
Big Brother here is a fictional character from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-four. Today, the line is being used as a symbol of mass surveillance and abuse of government power. There is no doubt about monitoring attempts and constant supervision of our online activities. Nevertheless, what happens with all the data that governments capture as part of this monitoring?
The various federal and intelligence agencies of the US are not able to handle the amount of data they monitor everyday, and the signs are showing in CIA’s recent urge for a software revolution. Reuters US quotes CIA’s top Technology Officer, saying,
The old way of contracting for proprietary software inhibits flexibility, postponing the CIA’s chance to take advantage of emerging capabilities early on, Hunt said. He added that this made it harder to keep up with “big data” at a time that such challenges are growing while federal agencies are tightening their belts for deficit reduction.
As it turns out, the CIA is having problems analyzing the massive amount of data it sniffs from various sources. To make amends to the situation and match the budget deficit, it recently told its software vendors to gear up, and get ready for a new business model. Hereupon, the CIA wants to pay for software services on a usage basis, rather than contracting the entire development of a product to a vendor.
Adobe Flash creates an extra layer of content on top of the open web. No wonder it is loathed by all open web enthusiasts. It is full of security vulnerabilities, requiring patches after every few days. However, there are some things it does really well (think flash video). With the advent of HTML 5, all the reasons to use Adobe Flash are dying fast, and Adobe can sense it too.
In its roadmap for Flash runtimes, Adobe made it clear that it is not going to develop Flash for Linux anymore. Flash Player will not be available for a direct download from Adobe. Instead, Adobe is relying on Google Chrome to release Adobe Flash bundled with their browser product.
Adobe has been working closely with Google to develop a single, modern API for hosting plug-ins within the browser. The PPAPI, code-named “Pepper”, aims to provide a layer between the plug-in and browser that abstracts away differences between browser and operating system implementations. You can find more information on the Pepper API at http://code.google.com/p/ppapi/.
Google Chrome already runs Adobe Flash in a sandbox, and the Pepper API will allow it to go cross-platform with its plugin support. Moreover, the Pepper API will provide Flash for both x86 and x64 installations, although Adobe killed Flash for x64 Linux desktops back in June 2010.
Google Chrome will start including the peppered Flash Player later this year. The canonical version of the code for Pepper API has already been moved to the Chromium subversion repository. However, with the size of the Google Chrome bundle already being an issue, I wonder how bloating it further will help anyone.