Geeky Animosity. Is it Tribalism?

A recent interesting article by Mark Shuttleworth on his blog talks about an unheard term: Tribalism. I knew otherwise of Tribalism until now. Mark Shuttleworth defines this new Tribalism as,

Tribalism is when one group of people starts to think people from another group are wrong by default. It’s the great-granddaddy of racism and sexism. And the most dangerous kind of tribalism is completely invisible: it has nothing to do with someone’s birth tribeand everything to do with their affiliations: where they work, which sports team they support, which Linux distribution they love.

According to this, Tribalism arguments; that make people think they belong to a better tribe are as baseless as “the other tribe has not done anything useful” or “my world is more important than his” or “evidence contrary to my belief does not count” and so on.

With this in view, Shuttleworth has pointed out how this is hampering the free software world. Tribalism here, does not necessarily relate to tribes from jungles. It can be ultra-modern urban tribes. We can consider tribes of music fans who hate other bands and likewise. In the free software world, this behavior is seen as fanaticism. Shuttleworth writes about this saying,

Right now, for a number of reasons, there is a fever pitch of tribalism in plain sight in the free software world. It’s sad. It’s not constructive. It’s ultimately going to be embarrassing for the people involved, because the Internet doesn’t forget. It’s certainly not helping us lift free software to the forefront of public expectations of what software can be.

However, in my opinion fanaticism is not exactly the root cause of Tribalism. However, it can lead to Tribalism if two fanatics clash in time.

Google Chrome Plans to Release One Stable version every Six Weeks

Google Chrome has announced that it will release two major versions every three months now unlike the earlier one every three months. The Chrome blog announces this saying,

Running under ideal conditions, we will be looking to release a new stable version about once every six weeks, roughly twice as often as we do today.


So why the change? We have three fundamental goals in reducing the cycle time:

  • Shorten the release cycle and still get great features in front of users when they are ready
  • Make the schedule more predictable and easier to scope
  • Reduce the pressure on engineering to makea release

However, they are holding up the words “under ideal conditions” strongly and have mentioned again that,

when we faced a deadline with an incomplete feature, we had three options, all undesirable: (1) Engineers had to rush or work overtime to complete the feature by the deadline, (2) We delayed the release to complete that feature (which affected other un-related features), or (3) The feature was disabled and had to wait approximately 3 months for the next release. With the new schedule, if a given feature is not complete, it will simply ride on the the next release train when it’s ready. Since those trains come quickly and regularly (every six weeks), there is less stress.

Thus, a lot of load will be taken off the engineers and the time window of six months weeks will give developers ample time to work on any incomplete feature. In addition, with every new release, the software version will increase as 6.0, 7.0, 8.0 and so on. This marks a continuous development of Google Chrome and clearly indicates how seriously Google is taking the web-browser market.


Wikileaks gets Pirate Party offer of Refuge, Servers and Hosting

The Pirate Party has declared an open war against the media industry. It has started providing bandwidth and hosting to the Pirate Bay and wants to bring more such names under its banner. Next on its list of godchildren is Wikileaks. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange became an online phenomenon after his interview by TED and his leakage of confidential video footages from the Iraq war.

Many term him as a conspiracy theorist and others call him an elite hacker. Whatever he is, USA is not ready to take it and the next best place he can be at is either Sweden or Ireland. Sweden and Ireland have lenient laws, which are inclined to support the EFF and denounce the DMCA laws. The Swedish Pirate Party has offered help and support to the Wikileaks website by offering free hosting and bandwidth.

Concerned voices have raised questions and made statements on this matter saying,

Now is the decisive moment for our Swedish politicians. Will they have enough backbone to stand up on Wikileaks and democracy, or will they give way to the U.S. and go after PRQ and Wikileaks?

The United States will  ask  for an  explanation  from the Swedish Government for this refuge and they had better have a good answer to continue doing whatever this is that they are doing.


Khronos Group Releases OpenGL 4.1 with claims of it being better than Direct3D 11

Back in March, when Khronos released OpenGL 4.0, it was a hit and was presumed to be a DirectX 11 killer. I covered the release of OpenGL 4.0 and wrote,

This new version of OpenGL introduces a better support for GPU and an advanced tessalation, which breaks a model into smaller patches or surfaces for better handling and rendering. The OpenGL standard, when adapted to the version 4.0, is presumed to match the qualities of that of DirectX 11, which is the current dominant API for Windows graphics.


With the release of OpenGL 4.1, Khronos claims that it has surpassed the features of Microsoft’s Direct 3D. OpenGL 4.1 has better error handling and debugging. OpenGL 4.0 needed the Shader program to be compiled at runtime each time a program runs. This can cause significant initialization delay. However, with OpenGL 4.1, the compiled code can be cached for later reuse. The same improvements are present in WebGL, which will make for improved security in web browsing. The debugging features can help developers trace the behavior of any exploit. Further, Microsoft currently does not have any alternative to WebGL and this can make it the standalone champion in this field. (Source)

Is Google Killing the new Image Search, now that people hate it?

A few days ago, Google tried to make a vague attempt at beautifying its Image Search and complicated things in the process. Image searches became more taxing on the browser. Google Image search loaded all the pages in a single view and needed us to scroll down to see results. This was good for those with fast internet connections. However, on slow connections, it simply did not load any further pages apart from the first or, in some cases; it did not load the thumbnails after the first few pages. To add to that, the thumbnail preview on hover was a user-interface disaster and made it extremely hard to use Google Image Search anymore.


Put simply, people hate the new Google Image Search and switched to other alternatives quickly. Today, while making a quick search, I found that the old image search is back for me. I have not used the  URL trick or the switch to basic view either. That can mean only one thing. Google is reverting to the old Image Search.

Google could clearly see how this change was scaring away users. This is quite a fast response from Google. Lately, many changes made by Google are falling far below standards and are not really adding to the usability. However, I am happy to have the good old Image Search back.

Google Apps for Government, with Improved Security and Enterprise Features

Google has released new and improved Google apps for use by the government. It has a better security features and is built on the enterprise flavor of Google apps. Google has recently received the FISMA (Federal Information Security Management Act) certification, which lets it store sensitive government data.

FISMA as  described by Wikipedia:

The act recognized the importance of  information security to the economic and national security interests of the United States.[1] The act requires each  federal agency to develop, document, and implement an agency-wide program to provide  information security for the information and  information systems that support the operations and assets of the agency, including those provided or managed by another agency,  contractor, or other source.[1]

The servers used to store this data are separate from the servers used to store other data and are geographically located inside the United States. Google has been a strong contender for FISMA and only has Microsoft as a potential competitor. Google aims to provide cost effective and safe solutions to putting data in the cloud with this latest offering.

The government has been  skeptic  about having a third party control sensitive data. However, it is showing more acceptances for this now. FISMA goes a long way in developing this level of trust and will opened a new war-zone for enterprise solutions to provide services to the Government.

(Via: ZDNet)

Thesis Bows down to Open Source Still keeping its Rightful Ownership

The Thesis vs. WordPress war was just catching up but could not go far as it was compelled to use open source licensing finally. If you were not following, Thesis theme developer Chris Pearson was interviewed a few days ago when he spilled the beans regarding his profits from Thesis.

This was enough to upset WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, who wanted Thesis to respect the open source License WordPress is based on. Thesis has maintained a low profile and saved itself from the attention of FOSS fanatics. However, the recent interview fired up the FOSS community fueled by Mullenweg’s tweets. This was enough to force Pearson to accept that his code indeed used some of open source and now, Thesis is available under a split GPL.

Does that mean we all can use Thesis now? No. This move will hardly affect anyone. The split GPL Thesis is using will make the PHP part of the code open keeping back the JavaScript and the CSS. However, this was necessary at the same time. Pearson had to keep his business based on Thesis.

Matt Mullenweg was of the opinion,

Even if Thesis hadn’t copy and pasted large swathes of code from WordPress (and GPL plugins) its PHP would still need to be under the GPL. We write software that empowers and protects the freedoms of  users, it’s our Bill of Rights. People should respect that.

The move has saved Thesis from further scrutiny and has ended a cold war between Thesis and WordPress. The last time a tech giant used open source code, the media booed it heavily. This move helped Thesis save its reputation at the same time.


15-Year Old Pwnes Apple App Store Quality Check

Today I am presenting to you, the iPhone App Handy Light. Possibly developed by a 15-year old and with the Fisher Price look and feel, it has got nothing more to it than five simple colors in which you can make the screen glow respectively. This might come in handy as torchlight. However, running in the background, is an app, which lets you tether your internet connection over Wifi.

Apple app store needs strict quality checks. However, this $.99 torchlight app was so simple that it could not give them a thought that such capabilities can co-exist in this KISS from a 15 year old!

Using this app, you can use your iPhone as a 3G modem to dial an Internet connection from your computer. I know. You will say this can already be done but, the catch with Handy Light is that you do not pay the stupid $20 per month that AT&T so badly wants from you for dialing an internet connection using the 3G modem in your iPhone.

As obvious, such awesomeness does not remain hidden for long and as word started spreading, Apple came to know about this app. Apple has now removed Handy Lights from the app store. However, those who have it installed already, can still reap the benefits.


Adobe Planning to Introduce Sandboxing Technologies in Reader

Adobe Acrobat Reader and Microsoft Internet explorer have become a top favorite with hackers. Internet Explorer with its innumerable vulnerabilities forms an excellent learning ground for crackers. Another hot favorite with them is Adobe Reader.


Both Adobe and its users are fed up by continuous release of updates and follow up hack attempts in spite of these updates. In a recent announcement, Adobe has announced that it will release its next Reader software as a sandboxed application.

Sandboxing prevents an application from accessing the underlying data and creates a virtual environment for the application to run. This keeps the processes within the application free from each other and prevents them from accessing data from the computer.

Brad Arkin, Adobe’s director of security and privacy says,

With sandboxing, anyone who encounters a malicious PDF will find that a successful exploit is kept within the sandbox.

The sandboxing approach however, cannot ensure complete safety, as the sandbox itself has to be powerful enough. However, it will need two levels of breach before any actual data is compromised.


Lightspark, an Open Source Flash Alternative gets more Browser Friendly

Lightspark is an excellent Open Source Flash video player with support for the latest technologies in Flash. It supports ActionScript 3.0 and hardware accelerated graphics rendering based on OpenGL.

Lightspark has released the latest version 0.4.2. However, apart from regular flash playback, the reason to use this plugin can be numerous. To start with, the plugin is new and open source and will not gain wide acceptance and usage for a long time. This keeps it safe from the vulnerabilities Adobe flash runs into continuously. Moreover, the plugin has allowed real usage by releasing a Firefox plugin, which can make Lightspark the flash player on Mozilla. Apart from that, the Lightspark also supports the out-of-process feature Mozilla added for its plugins.

The official blog  reports this release saying,

More than a year has passed since the beginning of the Lightspark project. It was a long time indeed, but not wasted. I’m extremely pleased with the current level of support and the robust ness of the system.

With Lightspark, there is something for everyone. It has excellent debugging information on display and this can come in handy for developers who are targeting this platform.