Ask Slashdot: Best Phone Apps?
I tend to gravitate towards FOSS when possible to be used on a rooted, custom Android ROM. Here are a few useful ones I've found...
Note: Most of the following can be found on GooglePlay, in addition to other locations. They may also be on other app marketplaces, but these are those I've confirmed. Sometimes, there is a difference in version number or whatnot between F-Droid, GooglePlay, and an .apk downloaded from a homepage, so be aware.
F-Droid (www.f-droid.org) - a FOSS app marketplace. Not the only place to find FOSS apps, but a great option for any interested uses.
RomToolbox Pro (Google Play) - If you like to tweak, mess around with rooting and custom ROMs, RomToolbox has a great selection of utilities. Not entirely
FOSS, but it is basically a wrapper for a ton of utilities, some of which have source available. The Pro version opens a few new features and supports the platform; generally worthwhile!
Firefox for Android (Google Play) - Mozilla's privacy focused, FOSS browser. Has many of the same great features (add-ons etc..) as on desktop.
GuardianProject apps (www.guardianproject.info) - Lots of great utilities here, including Orbot (TOR for Android) and Orweb (TOR browser bundle for Android so to speak, based on Orbot and Firefox Mobile), ChatSecure (OTR-enabled XMPP client), and more. They also support Ostel.co, a SIP provider with privacy in mind.
Antox (www.tox.im) - Android version of the FOSS "Skype alternative, but secure" TOX project
OpenWhisperSystems apps (www.whispersystems.org) - TextSecure and RedPhone are FOSS, encrypted SMS (and other text messaging) and mobile dialing apps respectively. If talking to a fellow user of the program, it automatically negotiates a secure connection, yet they still both work to send common texts and calls. Using them as your main apps still have some benefits (ie such as TextSecure taking both text and pictures you receive and storing them in an encrypted form on arrival). Note - TextSecure is new and up to par, RedPhone is a bit sparse and is being completely redone. They also offer Flock (very newly developed), a CardDAV/CalDAV FOSS app that allows you to sync contacts, calendars and more. Pay a couple a bucks and user their servers, or host your own.
FreeOTP (Google Play) - With Google Authenticator no longer FOSS, this is your new best friend in Android 2-factor Authentication. You can generate and pair lots of different codes; if I remember correctly a RedHat dev wrote/maintains it. Works with all major 2FA standards and has lots of options!
CSipSimple (https://code.google.com/p/csipsimple/) - A ZRTP/OTR supporting SIP client for Android. LinPhone (found on F-Droid) is a good alternative as well.
K9 Mail (F-Droid) - This is a great, full featured Android mail client, that just happens to be FOSS. Plugin system too.
MediaCrush (https://mediacru.sh) - Not really an app per se, but one of my favorite image/media hosting sites around. Works with just about every media format, has an API, clients, and plug-ins for various browsers and platforms. FOSS, if you want to host your own MediaCrush site. Privacy focused too.
KeePass2Android (https://keepass2android.codeplex.com/ and GooglePlay) - A FOSS, full-featured, modern form of the KeePass database software for Android. Works with the newest KeePass 2.x database (.kdbx) styles. There's even an offline-only version if you prefer! Note, this is different from "KeePassDroid", which has less features and limited compatibility with the 2.x database format.
Plumble (F-Droid) - A quality Android client for connecting to Mumble servers (Mumble being the gaming-focused, FOSS VOIP system)
OwnCloud (www.owncloud.org, GooglePlay ) - One of the best FOSS cloud storage options, OwnCloud has an official client for Android. You can compile it yourself, but the pre-compiled version on GooglePlay is $0.99. You will need an OwnCloud server to connect to somewhere, of course. Consider this an alternative to something like Dropbox, Box.net and the like.
OsmAnd (F-Droid) - Maps and navigation using the OpenStreetMap data, for times when you don't want to use Google Maps!
Clover, RedReader (F-Droid) - Ever browse 4chan or other image boards, or read Reddit? Clover (4chan style imageboards) and RedReader (Reddit) are comprehensive FOSS clients for these sites that have extensive features and mobile formatting.
These are just a few general-use, FOSS/privacy focused alternative applications that some may find interesting. Don't be afraid to browse around F-Droid's repository, go to www.prism-break.org, or check around for other applications that could serve you well. If you have a specific interest, you'll likely find an app that relates to it, but especially in these days its important to ensure that the latest shiny doesn't require giving up one's personal information or privacy. At least, it is an important consideration in my eyes.
Dropbox Caught Between Warring Giants Amazon and Google
I don't know how long ago you used OwnCloud, but it may be worth another look. OwnCloud has come onto the scene relatively recently and there have been major quality improvements as the version number increased. What may have been lacking a given feature or feeling kludgy in 4.x, could be replaced by a smooth implementation when 5.x rolls around. The latest OwnCloud 7.x highlights many of its most recent improvements here, for instance - https://owncloud.org/seven/ , some of which seem like they may be beneficial to you use cases. Likewise, improvements to the client apps seem to come almost as swiftly.
It may also be worthwhile to consider using other means to connect aside from the official clients - there are many applications that have integrated support for OwnCloud, and if the clients aren't working out to your liking, enabling say.. WebDAV/CardDAV/CalDAV etc.. and then connecting to these services with whatever best suits your users, can also be a worthwhile endeavor.
For enterprise production use, it doesn't seem like you should be reliant on community forums and documentation, as they have what appears to be subscription enterprise variants and support services, similar to many other high-end FOSS projects.
Now admittedly I've never worked with OwnCloud in a business environment as you describe and it may not be for your needs, but these are just a few things to consider as the software matures.
Mozilla Working On a New Website Comment System
While I generally support Mozilla's endeavors, as one of the last bastion of noob-to-guru accessible, Free/open source, secure and most important privacy respecting software around, this has me worried. The statement about "Publishers will then be able to collect and use this content for other forms of storytelling and spark ongoing discussions by providing readers with targeted content and notifications." could mean yet another data mining and targeted advertising opportunity, for instance.
The only way I could see any value in this for users is if it adheres to privacy-respecting principles. We've seen a handful of alternatives on the net, such as Disqus, but ultimately these tend to centralize personal information, not much different than 'log in via Facebook, Google etc.." . We don't need any more of this; I give up convenience all the time and create a variety individual site accounts specifically to avoid someone being able to see and profile all the sites upon which I comment.
I suppose time will tell. I can only hope Mozilla has the fortitude to make the decisions that put user intent and privacy before the whinging financial desires of data miners and trackers.
Mozilla Ditches Firefox's New-Tab Monetization Plans
This is yet another reason that I'm a great fan of Firefox and Mozilla as a whole. Firefox (and Mozilla) remains the only major browser that has the user's privacy, functions, and security in mind; not to mention a great example of FOSS that is equally viable and usable to the neophyte as the guru. I'm glad that they backed off their latest endeavor in response to user worries, but we users need to figure out a palatable way to support Mozilla monetization soon!
Now personally, I didn't have a problem with the sponsored starting "quickslots" as I understood them. They only existed on a completely new install, were visibly marked as being sponsored, didn't send back any sort of user data or have other privacy issue, and vanished as soon as the user visited 9 web pages to take up all the "quick dial" slots with their own content! People being worried that it could bleed into something more is understandable, but we need to avoid lashing out at ANY monetization system, because we'll end up in a much worse state.
Like it or not, Mozilla needs funds to do what they do; acting the paragon of web virtue and privacy, having full time developers etc... isn't cheap. Especially in a market where the "bad guys' are offering "FREE SHINY SUPER CONVENIENCE FEATURE HEY LOOK AT THIS" at every turn, while simultaneously selling the user's data to the highest bidder (see: Google) , it is hard to offer a competing level of service and features with a better ethical bend; its even worse when the "bad guys" offer the biggest bucks (ie the reason that porn, faux antivirus sites, other dataminers and outright malware ads pay the most per click. On the other side, those like American health insurance companies, people search slime etc.. are willing to pay top dollar for your data if Google or whomever gathers it. Atop all of this, Google has to compete with "Joe User's" preferences. Though they do an excellent job bringing their support of an open web and privacy to light, Joe User still may like Chrome Widget A or Feature B, which is part of the reason that Firefox is trying to provide "Chrome UI styles" to those that want them in recent variants.
Ultimately, I want Mozilla to continue with its FOSS, openness, and privacy-focused mission and I am willing (and do) donate to the foundation in the hopes to help them do so. However, I know I am a minority - most people aren't going to donate and/or pay for a browser. If it is true that Firefox is going to lose a huge chunk of its revenue from including Google as one of its Search Bar default engines, they are going to have to make that up somehow. Honest and innocuous attempts to do so like the previous "quickdial sponsored starting pages" idea should likely be supported. Especially the tech and FOSS geek community shouldn't be rebuking any attempt for monetization, lest we end up with Mozilla either falling further and further behind as they don't have the money to keep up, or worse abandoning their principles to pay the bills. Instead, we need to be supporting Mozilla's attempts to make money that is still in line with their mission and our desires for openness, privacy, security and the like.
P.S. Despite being one of my favorite pieces of software, recently Thunderbird really needs some support too (especially, being able to detect the new Gmail Categories etc... that's something that the clout of Mozilla should be able to sit down with Google and work out a way to handle it) . Its sad that Mozilla hasn't the resources to invest in continuous improvements and have put the project on the back burner. We don't want to see this happen to Firefox too!
Ouya CEO Talks Console's Tough First Year, and Ambitious "Ouya Everywhere" Plan
I was an original Kickstarter backer of the Ouya. I have my "chocolate metallic" version sitting right next to my bedroom TV at the moment. Overall, I've been happy with the little box. For $99, it is probably the best "network media player" out there, with XBMC for Android installed. The fact that it plays games is simply a plus. The hardware was sufficiently powerful and of good quality at the time it launched (aside from the snafu with the first controllers). However, there are only a handful of things that keep it from being the magic device everyone spoke of, and most of them are only semi-technical decisions that could easily be reversed.
First of all, one of the biggest failings in my mind is that while it is very close to an Android device, it isn't exactly compatible with every Android app. Now most of them can be sideloaded by a technically proficient user, but I think they'd do much better of instead of having an Ouya OS that is essentially designed to disguise the "androidness" of the whole thing, it should highlight it. Offer a core AOSP experience, frequently updated (last I checked the OuyaOS is based on Android 4.1), and offer a custom, FOSS UI that is made to be navigated with the controller instead. Make it easy for people to update and use Android apps! Put installers for other app stores in the Ouya marketplace when possible, even! Let people load up Netflix for Android etc... They are paying the price in terms of content and developers coming to the platform because it is seen as an additional platform, not simply as hardware that can be tapped by those already developing on Android! They had a great idea with it being an "open" console, but it would be even more 'open' if it was completely Android compliant!
Next, they should have provided users a better installed experience from the very start. While I've gotten tons of use out of my Ouya with XBMC, I had to find the correct Android alpha build that had all the proper flags and sideload it, then launch it from the "Make" entry on the Ouya menu (because all sideloaded stuff basically requires developer-are access - not hard to acquire of course, but it does present a barrier. They could have made a separate menu for sideloaded content that was more accessible). Why wasn't it installed by default, and automatically updated? Way back in the beginning, the company stated they were working with XBMC for compatibility etc.. why wasn't it installed on every Ouya? Or at least, available in the Ouya Store to be installed with a few button presses? This was a simple change that really could have made it a much better out of the box experience for a ton of people. An Ouya with XMBC alone is a better media streamer that is more powerful and flexible than competing "WDTV" style boxes, for the same or a much lower price!
Ouya should take a page from Valve! They seems to be doing the right thing with regards to SteamOS / Steam Machines, by basing it on a fully open and compliant Linux distro, thereby making it easy for anyone who wanted to add any other repo or download any other Linux program. Ouya should react the same with with regards to Android. Make a great experience for their game/app repository, but bring in the entire Android community through compatibility. The current and future Ouya hardware could come to be known as the premiere device in its price range, in a sea of Android gumsticks and other devices, but only if they fully embrace the inclusiveness of the Android community, give users options, as well as a fantastic out of the box experience.
How Can Nintendo Recover?
I think the smartest thing that Nintendo can do right now is to give up on the idea of a "console". This will be difficult for a number of reasons (ie Japanese tradition), but I think if they can be the first to do so, it can be incredibly lucrative.
There was a time when a Console, mobile or not, was the only affordable way for many people (especially kids) to play games - you needed purpose built hardware. That is no longer the case. Modern consoles are simply proprietary, locked down PCs that limit users and developers for reasons of control and monetization. This is incredibly evident in the latest generation of the PS4 and XboxOne, but also to some degree touches on the Wii U as well. There is no technical reason that every single game on modern consoles couldn't instead be on open, PC platforms. There have been tons of success stories for indies and big developers alike who bring a version of their game to PC (often, via Steam) and make a greater profit while selling the item at a lower cost, than what they used to do on consoles! In my opinion, it is time for "consoles" to die off, in favor of gaming on whichever open platforms a user may choose instead; better for users, better for developers, better for everyone save those middlemen who want locked down, proprietary hardware they can control and charge for the pleasure of using!
Nintendo is in a great position to be the first of the "big 3" to realize this. They have a beloved stable of 1st party content, a ton of partner developers (ie GameFreak), and a huge back catalog of great game from the past. However, there have been many a time that I've thought "You know, why can't I play Fire Emblem and Legend of Zelda on my existing Android devices, instead of a 3DS. Why can't I play Xenosaga, LoS: Skyward Sword, and the new Smash Bros WiiU on PC instead of a Wii or Wii U?" If Nintendo could stop thinking in the hardware platform mindset, they'd have a chance to rocket to the top. They don't even have to give up developing hardware, entirely - just switch to peripherals. Make peripherals for the PC market - controllers and the like! You have a great idea for motion control - great! Don't limit it to a single platform, use some open technologies and write some drivers for them. Hell, this is a reason that Microsoft's Xbox360 controllers are used so frequently on PC! Atop that, create games exclusively for the PC market (not just Windows either, but Linux too!), and then put that Nintendo marketing genius to work. For instance, what about a Pokemon MMO? Super Smash Bros Kerfuffle for the PC, sold via Steam? Hell, partner with Valve and not only sell Mario PC on Steam, but make it a pack-in download code for every Steam Box purchased! On the mobile side, develop for Android, FirefoxOS and the most open mobile platforms around! Of course, the huge Nintendo back catalog could be made available for sale on mobile and PC alike, introducing them to a whole new audience. Some of the "iPad kids" have never played various SNES titles - make them available for $1.99 and watch their quality soar above average "app store" drivel!
I can see a new world for Nintendo that is better for the consumer, better for developers, and overall fantastic - but only if Nintendo can look beyond seeing consoles as their primary venture.
BitTorrent Unveils Secure Chat To Counter 'NSA Dragnet Surveillance'
Much like MEGA, the other projects of BitTorrent labs (most notably - Snyc), and a whole host of pseudo-security minded programs and services popping up recently, this is sadly proprietary bullshit. Much like BitTorrent Inc absorbing uTorrent as the main client etc... they've repeatedly demonstrated that they view their greatest success - the Bit Torrent protocol itself, as a mistake to be avoided. Why did BitTorrent itself grow to be so prevalent? Exactly the thing they seem to hate - its openness. BitTorrent protocol and most of its extensions (ie DHT, uTP, PEX and more) are all free and open source, to be implemented in a variety of clients. This is its greatest strength, from the slashdot-reading hacktivist running Deluge/Transmission/rTorrent, to World of Warcraft's client updater/patcher, BitTorrent is not just a great protocol for both tracker-based and trackerless sharing, but its implementations are as wide as can be and interoperable.
So long as this ideal reigns, I won't be using these projects. Especially when it comes to privacy and security it is simply too important than to trust a proprietary, unverifiable item of this sort. There are already a variety of projects that offer better privacy and more secure messaging - RetroShare for instance. If you're interested in some of the best, check out www.prism-break.org for a directory of privacy and security respecting, mostly FOSS, programs for many uses. Until those like BitTorrent Inc wake up and realize that openness is one of their greatest strengths, I don't see any reason to consider what they provide.
Free Software Foundation Announces 2013 Holiday Giving Guide
As a great proponent of software freedom, digital (and other) privacy etc... I can applaud the FSF for bringing to light the issues with common software and hardware and offering alternatives. However, from a practical standpoint, as others have said - these items are only alluring to those who value software freedom above all else. Why? These items typically will be less functional, easy to use, or are otherwise encumbered for all but those who see the value of software freedom and are willing to put in the effort to use it despite the above.
While I know the FSF needs to have uncompromising ideals and push for them - , I do think this can be a starting point for the Linux, FOSS, privacy/security etc... community to use as a learning experience for how to mate the ideals we value to the pragmatic needs of others, especially non-gurus. Taking the items provided as a basis, perhaps we can go a little further..
OS: The FSF suggests Trisquel and an alternative for Windows. While the idea of submitting a Linux distro as a substitute OS is a good one, the difference in experience between Trisquel and Windows for a Windows user may be staggering. This is a distro that does not include, even as an option, anything with a license that doesn't meet FSF standards of freedom. Thus, you're losing a lot of things there even compared to other Linux distros. Telling someone "Oh hey, try this new OS out on your laptop, it respects your freedom and privacy. But uh... your wireless card may not be supported. Sorry. Here's a list of additional dongles you can buy that are supported, through!" isn't going to go very far. There are many distros that may be a better compromise out there. Linux Mint Debian Edition for instance (or even plain Debian) protects a user's freedom/privacy (something Ubuntu sadly, does not), but gives many more options including things like the use of 3D binary GPU drivers etc.
3D Printer - While I'm not versed in depth regarding the state of 3D printing comparisons, it seems like the Lulzbot is a great alternative to the Makerbot; competitive in cost and functionality, while being Free hardware and software. However, it does not seem to be currently available, instead being on backorder. Hard to consider a holiday gift item that may not make it by the holidays! The bigger issue with this item instead is that a 3D printer is a very niche device, especially one as expensive as this. There could probably be a lot of other options for this entry instead; I'll go into that later.
Gift Cards - This was just a missed opportunity. While I do think that a FSF donation/membership gift could be mentioned, this is again a very niche community that is best sought out by those who are most interested. Those without the technical interest and know how, will probably think "gee...thanks" and look at it the same way as if someone bought them one of those "congratulations, someone has purchased a cow for some impoverished people somewhere in your name!" - unless the person is very into the "cause", its not so much a gift for them as it is spending money on something the buyer values but the recipient may not. However, there are tons of alternatives for an iTunes giftcard that would be a good FOSS analog. How about one of the DRM-free media stores, like Magnatune or 7Digital? Even FSF's own Defective By Design campaign lists many of them - http://www.defectivebydesign.org/guide/audio - wouldn't this be a better alternative, showing people that they can buy music unencumbered by DRM elsewhere?
Laptop - This is where I get a little frustrated. I'd love to go out of my way to buy a Libre laptop, or even just one that comes with Linux installed and supported natively. However, so many of the Linux system integrators..well, just don't cut it. Consider that we're increasingly pushing towards "tablet convertible" laptops, ultrabooks, and even luxe power/aesthetic balanced models. 10 point multitouch screens, glass trackpads, high resolution and color gamut displays, new GPUs from both AMD and Nvidia a well as Intel in certain models, backlit keyboards, premium metal chassis and construction, magnetic power adapters and wireless charging. . By comparison, the hardware offered by ThinkPenguin and many other Linux system integrators seem positively antiquated and cheap-feeling. (Admittedly, System76 does seem to take a step above and offers some models with backlit keyboards, a full GPU etc). Big black hunks of thick plastic, typically Clevo rebrands, lacking many features from the aesthetic to the performance related isn't going to show the greatness of Linux. I know I'm a minority who searches for "luxe" laptops that offer high quality features, aesthetics and the best performance/form factor ratios available and have been saying for years, I'd love to buy a laptop that had pretty much all the features and more, plus the aesthetic level of the MacBook Pro (or the Razer Blade Pro) but built with Linux and FOSS compatibility in mind. However, even Joe User isn't going to want a heavy, blocky, plastic laptop that lacks the neat features they could find elsewhere. This, moreso than any other entry in the guide is something I think the Linux and FOSS community should consider planning an endeavor to design and have high quality laptops with Linux in mind available for sale.
Ebook - Another missed opportunity. While Project Gutenberg is a great resource for those wanting copies of public domain works as DRM free Ebooks, Joe and Jane user who is thinking of picking up a Kindle, Nook, or another Android tablet isn't likely to be interested in classics. You're not going to be able to get Harry Potter on Project Gutenberg! There are two great recommendations for this category. First, the FOSS software "Calibre", a perfect example of FOSS that is the best in its class. Calibre can manage pretty much any hardware or software Ebook reader application, act as a great virtual library, and convert ebooks between just about any common file types. With the correct plug ins, it can even strip existing DRM (which of course have to be installed separately for legal reasons). It also has a ton of built-in links to ebook stores, many of which are DRM free. Why not suggest some of these? Baen Books for instance offers inexpensive, DRM free ebooks for hardcore science fiction fans. Again, the DefectiveByDesign campaign has as list of its own - http://www.defectivebydesign.org/guide/ebooks . Project Gutenberg is great for what it is, but it isn't going to hook users who are otherwise thinking of purchasing bestselling Kindle ebooks from Amazon.
MobileOS: While I certainly would suggest that Android is superior iOS in terms of freedom, focusing exclusively on Replicant is very limiting. Replicant only works on a few, mostly older, Android hardware. It would be better to focus on Android, which can be configured to use as much AOSP data as possible, and ROM customizations like CyanogenMod, Paranoid Android, and PACMan, that give the user the option to reject Google applications if they wish. How about suggesting the use of F-Droid as an alternate repository, and why it is beneficial? How about talking about The Guardian Project and its applications for protecting privacy on Android? Giving them other alternatives and allowing them to choose (and yes, some of them will choose Google Play and Angry Birds) will encourage them to see the benefits of Android FOSS that apply to them (Hey, this Open Street Map app is really cool. I like it more than Google Maps) without limiting their choices of the games and apps they may wish.
OnlineStorage: Tahoe-LAFS is by far an enthusiast-only solution. Go ahead, check out LeastAuthority and look at the setup steps and then tell me that the average Dropbox or Google Drive user is going to be interested or capable of using it? This just isn't being realistic. Why not look to something a bit more realistic yet still FOSS, like Kolab and OwnCloud, which are user friendly and have options to purchase a pre-configured hosted instance through a variety of vendors like MyKolab and OwnCube, many of which contribute money, time, and code to the projects!
Media Hosting: This isn't actually a bad idea, but a little expansion would be better. Right now, a user can go to YouTube and immediately upload a video and have a link to post on Facebook or give to their friends and family. MediaGoblin isn't quite that easy; when they have complete federation up so that users can seamlessly run their own instances or rent a configured instance hosted for them, that will be a nice alternative. Right now however, it still requires users to have the skill to deploy MediaGoblin on a web-facing server of their own, or find one of the few websites that already offer it. I'd expand to MediaCrush as well, which is ready to use immediately with a public-hosted instance as opposed to just a run-your-own deployment.
In summation, the FOSS community, if not necessarily the FSF, needs to realize the needs and wants of users cannot all be handwaved away just by answering "Well no, you can't...BUT FREEDOM". Yes, software freedom, privacy etc.. is important and we'd live in a better world if these elements were the norm. However, it has to be up to an individual user how much compromise they're willing to put up with to attain these ideals and, perhaps pessimistically, the average response will be "not much". Thus, if we want to make any headway at all besides tiny niches, we need to offer the things people actually want and provide them in an ethical manner. Firefox is a great example of FOSS for instance - Free and Open Source, made for the user not for advertisers or other 3rd parties, extensible and customizable, has tons of great features, and can be used with relative ease by both novices and gurus to do what they wish. It would not have made it to such prominence if all the average and novice users weren't able to find it preferable to other options; the fact that it is FOSS acts as a bonus. These kind of successes each advance the cause of FOSS an openness in general, as users vote with their dollars and clicks. This is what will bring about a future for FOSS beyond just niche tools for niche developers and gurus, realizing that the pragmatism of average users needs to be taken into account!
IAB Urges People To Stop "Mozilla From Hijacking the Internet"
If the feculent leeches in the Internet advertising/data mining industry (and/or social media industry, for that matter) object, this is a great indication that Mozilla is doing the right thing. On the backs of Google, DoubleClick, Facebook, and a host of other advertising and data mining organizations, the Web has become infected with a continually encroaching plague of bots, cookies, tracking, and other privacy obliteration techniques that become even more and more egregious as time continues. Hostile and persistent, pervasive and privacy-obliterating, advertising on the Internet has gotten out of hand. Monetizing "You" has become the primary target and is completely unfettered by privacy regulations in the US (though, the EU is at least a little better in this regard). The data mined and sold by these advertisers has become so all-encompassing and we've all see the ramifications thereof.
If blocking third party cookies is such a major blow to these advertisers, so much the better. Crying over lacking the ability to follow users with invisible 1-pixel trackers across their entire browsing experience is insulting. Users can and should always opt in to their information being stored elsewhere or allowed to be tracked - I'd be quite satisfied if Firefox's default turned off cookies all together. While I'd like to see more of the feature set of AdBlock Plus/Edge, Disconnect, HTTPS Everywhere, BetterPrivacy, and NoScript actually implemented natively in Firefox with sane defaults, this is a great first start. Mozilla has again proved that products like Firefox and Thunderbird are some of the only major, "Newbie to Guru Usable", cross-platform FOSS programs of their kind that are built with the user's experience as the primary goal, rather than to cater to some sort of data mining or advertising network. Sane defaults that place the choice to reveal information and do so in a way that ensures the user is fully informed of the options, is paramount. Anything that can be done to cut the lifeline of these disgusting, shameless, money-grubbing entities is a benefit, and so I applaud Mozilla and hope they are not dissuaded by this temper-tantrum thrown by these corrupt, petulant children.
Elementary OS 0.2 "Luna" Released
Considering that there is nothing in the style (ie it doesn't even have the "traffic light" button arrangement) that is a direct analog to Apple OSX, nor any applications named in such a way that could confuse users (ie Music is as generic as one can get for a player, and is nothing like calling it iTunes etc), I don't think they have any ground to stand on. Apple may try to litigate everything under the sun, but for the moment simply having a dock and clean design isn't exclusively the purview of Apple. There are tons of far more "OSX-like" visual styles for both Windows and Linux, and thus far Apple has been unable to squash even the most popular of them - thankfully.
ElementaryOS may be developed to fill some of the same design needs as Apple, but does it in a suitably unique way that demonstrates it is a Linux distribution wholly divorced from Apple. I should also mention that they aren't "selling" the OS so much as they are asking for donations. There link right next to the donate button allows you to download for free.
Elementary OS 0.2 "Luna" Released
ElementaryOS is likely a bigger benefit to Linux and the FOSS community than those that are focusing solely on its technical shortcomings perceive it to be. Is there room for improvement? Of course. I'd love to see them base it upon a "Linux Mint Debian Edition" or "Arch/Manjaro" style rolling release, to keep everything leading, if not bleeding edge. Heck, I'd like to see a more modern Ubuntu and/or Mint release used as a base. I'd certainly like to see all the "Pantheon" content released upstream and available to be packaged into other distros. However, lets not overlook the benefits that ElementaryOS provides, which will touch the entire Linux community in time.
For years a huge contingent of users and potential users have voiced their experience that most Linux UIs are made "by gurus, for gurus", and lack aesthetically pleasing and functional elements that are the hallmark of a UI developed by a UI designer. In addition, when it comes to desktop Linux, some feel that even current full-featured DEs lack a "unified experience", where tools that are simple, easy to use, and functional are provided from the start. In short, it is the reason that many are drawn to Apple OSX - design, and experience. Well, ElementaryOS provides this, without the restrictions that plague Apple. This is a Linux distro that is not supposed to simply apply an OSX skin to a desktop environment - that can be done easily - but instead replicate the overall experience thereof within the framework of Freedom that Linux provides. They took a long time developing Luna because they wanted to tweak it to a perfect experience and develop new programs to showcase that ideal and experience. It may not be the OS for everyone, but it most certainly brings something new to the the table without impeding the ability of the user to update and customize it as they wish.
Desktop Linux adoption is on the rise thanks to making the platform more accessible, functional, and alluring to users of other operating systems. ElementaryOS is an important step in this regard. It rebukes the idea that Linux developers "just don't get design", and as such it can be a tool to leverage those who are interested in an OSX-like experience to come to Linux and see the benefits thereof. This is a bigger step forward than many are giving credit, and it is thanks to these evolutions that we have greater adoption and it shall only continue to build (ie Linux as a viable desktop platform, bring Steam for Linux, which brings more users to Linux and improvements in GPU drivers etc...) upon these successes.
Ask Slashdot: Video Streaming For the Elderly?
It really depends on exactly what the people in question are looking to do and what they are comfortable with. For instance, do they pretty much want to watch "Something", or do they have particular tastes and will request access to different media from multiple sources.
The first major decision basically comes down to form-factor - will they best enjoy a tablet that they can carry around with them (possibly usable for other things like acting as an e-reader), and generally keep close by? Or do they have a TV/Monitor that they'd prefer to use, thereby necessitating some sort of streamer box? Perhaps both? Also, make sure you take into account if they need any additional networking hardware or ISP services. You say they have the Internet, but if you're going to be looking into streaming media, they at least need some decent broadband lest they feel the thing is always "on the fritz" because of insufficient bandwidth. Thankfully, Cable/Fiber or even DSL (though, I'd go cable/FIOS if available) would be able to provide a sufficient package for relatively cheap, easily under $50 a month, that will ensure they will have the bandwidth for everything they could want. Likewise, you may need to provide them some networking hardware, like a sufficient wireless router and/or run some ethernet cables depending on what you decide.
If a tablet is the best option (or a part of the plan), then I suggest something like a Nexus 7 or 10 depending on the size/form factor that would be best for them. They're inexpensive, high quality, easy for you to support/configure, and have lots of options while also allowing you to hide any complexity under the hood. Using an Android tablet, they can bring it as close to their eyes as necessary for optimal enjoyment. There are plenty of media options for Android that you can configure for them, from Netflix/Roku clients to being able to watch local media (perhaps they have converted home media on their PCs?) and more. You could even us XBMC for Android and configure it for them, to download captions/subtitles for everything. There's also the additional bonus of being able to use the tablet as an e-reader or to play little games, communicate via email, or manage their schedules, if they are interested in these features. I've found that older people who are reasonably open to new technology (as long as it isn't too confusing and there is someone to set it up/give them a tutorial on average) generally don't have much trouble with today's tablets. While I suggest Android for a number of reasons including ease of maintenance, cost and options, if you or they are completely enamored with Apple and are comfortable staying in the Apple ecosystem nearly entirely (ie Getting everything from iTunes etc..), that path is open as well - though I really think it can be limiting and expensive.
If they want some sort of device that is going to basically operate as a television, hooked up to a monitor/TV, that is another path worthwhile. Here, you can decide on "all in one" boxes such as the WDTV lineup and Roku, but this will depend on how much your grandparents will be interested in? That is to say, most of these boxes have a limited featureset - Netflix etc... apps are all pre-installed on these "SmartTV-like" devices and you aren't going to deviate too much from them without hitting a wall. A Roku 3 could be a great option if they like the "channels" present on one of those, but will they also have local media they want to view as well? The WDTV doesn't have quite as many channels as the Roku, but has better codec support for local media. If they want more than just Netflix and Hulu, it may be worth looking for a more "custom" option such as one of the "Android sticks", building them a HTPC or the like which can be configured with XBMC and all sorts of things that could interest them.
No matter what, it is important to consider the long-term prices they (or you) will be willing to pay for these streaming channels if you plan to go that route. Its one thing to provide them the hardware and whatnot to help ease the financial burden of transition, but for Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBOGo, any live sports etc... will require subscriptions. Depending on their viewing preferences, this could become costly. Something to keep aware of. Depending on the kind of programming they enjoy, some free services (ie BBC iPlayer ) may have what they're looking for. Others (like Vimeo, YouTube etc..) may have "lower quality" programming or require more searching to find what they wish; that's often the cost of "free".
There are lots of choices available to you and your grandparents, depending on their particular interests, your/their finances, and more.
Limitations and All, Chromebooks Appear To Be Selling
For those of us on Slashdot, we've seen Google sliding down the slope from "Don't Be Evil" and a single bar of text ads besides your email that pulled data exclusively from that particular email, to today's monstrous data mining, privacy obliteration machine. Its really frustrating because if it wasn't for this abhorrent behavior, Google services are otherwise high quality. Though there have been people who have seen the signs of the increasingly pathogenic information gathering for years, Snowden's information provides proof that one shouldn't even consider trusting Microsoft, Google, Apple and other major tech companies; in all cases they've been completely compromised by US Gov't agencies and/or or corporate interests.
With this in mind, why should it even be a discussion about a "cloud" comprised of and controlled by these monolithic entities. Yes, I gather that there are benefits for Chromebooks and/or cloud storage, but knowing what we know, is there really any question that it isn't worth continuing to feed the machine simply for a little more convenience? This doesn't mean we need to discount the user desires that drive people towards Chromebooks and the Cloud, but what about offering alternatives that fulfill many of these same convenience factors without giving approval to the abhorrent behavior of these corporations?
For instance, how about focusing on and enhancing technologies like OwnCloud, which is FOSS, can be hosted anywhere you choose, and gives access to many of those same convenience functions that drive people towards "The Cloud". I'm sure it wouldn't be too difficult to roll up a desktop Linux distribution that was designed from the start to sync with an OwnCloud (and similar technologies) instance to give the same "Chromebook" experience of sorts. FirefoxOS also appears promising and could easily mesh with OwnCloud and other technologies.
The issues facing our privacy today, assaulted by moneyed private interests and government overreach alike, may seem insurmountable, but we can make a stand and resist. I'm pragmatic enough to know that it isn't feasible to ask Joe User to act like a cypherpunk, but there are technologies that are increasingly user friendly that can both protect a user's privacy and have access to the ease of use they crave. If a significant part of the population started rebuking the use of these privacy invading technologies, it would start to "hit them where it hurts" - in the wallet. Imagine if Xbox One sales were way below normal projection, with letters from potential users citing the Microsoft's kowtowing to the NSA and data miners alike as a reason they refuse to put a always-on camera in their home. Imagine if businesses gave up using services from Microsoft and Google because of the privacy implications? If there was a major downturn in search and application use in the face of users changing their behavior? If encryption was applied by even a relatively small percentage of the general public? Though these changes won't be enough by themselves to stop the financial/corporate/government overreach, they'll at least show people are paying attention - something that right now, is still in question. As long as those in power can frame the debate on their own terms and see that the populace is willing to continually accept these increasing breaches of privacy, liberty, and the common good, nothing will change.
Refusing to buy a Chromebook is a small act of protest, but these everyday decisions made by millions of Americans (and those the world over) add up. Lets not encourage complacency and ignorance.
Ouya Android Game Console Launches, Quickly Sells Out
The Ouya's ability to act as a networked media player (including from SMB shares) is one of the main reason I backed the project. I was in the market for a "WDTV" like device and figured that the added openness and game-friendliness were great bonuses for the price!
When my Ouya arrived a few weeks back, I loaded and installed XBMC using the AOSP Browser that is installed under the "make" tab. It is very important to note that the mainstream XBMC package, even the XBMC for Android and/or ARM etc.. did not support hardware acceleration on the Ouya. There was a very specific Nightly version compiled to be compatible with the Ouya's hardware - at the time, it was " xbmc-20130604-249ada1-Gotham_alpha4SF-armeabi-v7a.apk ". There is likely a newer one now. I encourage you to check the XBMC forums and find the Ouya threads, and also head over to XDA Developers who have Ouya boards that are involved in more advanced hacking around the Ouya in general - there are instructions there for how to get the Play store working, and lots of others etc..
Once installed, XBMC is easily activated from the Ouya's "Make" screen (where all Sideloaded items go at the moment) and works very well. It plays 1080p mkv content w/ subtitles perfectly, thus far, from Samba shares hosted on the local network. There may be a few issues with very particular setups (ie I hear DTS passthrough isn't active yet), but on average it seems to work well. There were a few recoverable crashes here and there, but nothing I wouldn't expect on any alpha build - its very workable. I am to understand it will only grow to be a better experience. I expect in the future as it matures for the Ouya, well vetted builds will be included in the Ouya Store to make installing XBMC more accessible to Joe User.
POTI, Creators of the Songbird Media Player, Call It Quits
When the first iteration of Songbird arrived, I wanted to see it succeed. Something open source, cross platform, with XUL/Mozilla style addons seemed like a great idea. Unfortunately, Songbird seemed to fall short in many areas.
For instance, it was rarely updated and lacked features such as iPod/iPhone sync etc.. that caused many to turn away. It was unfortunate that it didn't say... implement gtkPod etc.. and other facets of FOSS "media jukebox" style players that would have enabled it to provide a better featureset. As others have said, it just didn't do any particular thing "well enough" to distinguish itself, but moreover it fell down on the job in many areas and seemed to lose direction. It started to drift away towards pushing the "SOCIAL SOCIAL SOCIAL" aspect , then fixated on Android, became a semi-proprietary Last.FM clone etc... all without doing coming to a level of competency in a number of core features that made it noteworthy; it just seemed erratic. The "on again, off again" relationship with Linux is a prime example. First they were going to develop/build it for Linux, then it lagged behind, then they basically ignored it and eventually said they weren't going to bother, leading to the creation of the Nightingale fork, then coming back to Linux again with 2.0 etc... Nightingale has come into its own but still languishes behind other FOSS media players in many features; its a pity they were not supported properly from the beginning.
I'm sad to see what could have been a promising project fall short, but it really lacked direction (switching to all the "social, proprietary" nonsense was a great indicator ) and simply someone to come out and say "Can we at least offer a baseline of what Amarok/Banshee/Rhythmbox/Clementine/Miro etc.. does and after we do that, where do we distinguish ourselves?. Thankfully, there are other FOSS media players out there that have made more progress and shine at what they do.
FSF Certifies Atheros-Based ThinkPenguin 802.11 N USB Adapter
I applaud the idea and implementation of the RYF certification; its nice to know that the software/firmware/drivers etc... needed to run a given piece of hardware are "verified" FOSS meaning that it is going to work just about everywhere (sometimes by default, like merged into Linux kernels, sometimes with a little work such as if someone wants to modify the damn thing to work in a special capacity). I'm even willing to a pay a reasonable amount more for RYF certified software/hardware. In an age where everything is obfuscated for the purpose of attempting to mine as much money and personal information from the populace as possible, we need principled, open entities out there certifying everything from respecting one's software freedom to respecting one's privacy (ie I'd like to see EFF, pirate parties, TOR etc...and other privacy advocates get together and certify the implementation of software and services as respecting one's privacy, being transparent with the "costs" associated etc..).
However, I have to say that for a large percentage of less hardcore uses, the fact that the first device certified via RYF is based on what is now older technology (combined with the extremely high price of the item in relation to others) it is going to appear that the FSF (and perhaps, Linux users as a whole) are glossing over the real-world usability and performance in favor of licensing. This 802.11N adapter for instance is based on 2x2, ~150mb max bandwidth, which is amongst the eldest of the now-old-hat 802.11N standard. On top of this, it is being sold for ~$50 USD! When one considers that a user could easily find a $5-10 similar USB adapter out there (that in many cases, will end up working on Linux) it is going to be hard to justify to all but the most fervent Free Software aficionados who have the skill and desire to put together a product that specifically benefits from RYF certification.
Considering that these days there are a variety of chipsets where the source is available (Intel, Atheros, Broadcoms) etc.. would there have been a better debut? I realize that it may be a bit much to ask as of yet for there to be a RYF 802.11AC chipset vetted (though, it would be awesome if the in the Asus RT-AC66U, could be RYF - given that the firmware is based on WRT etc...)would it be really difficult to find one of the most recent 802.11N 3x3 5ghz+2.4ghz Dual Band 450mb+450mb (or even 450+300? 300+300?) adapters instead? Those would be be more likely to be useful for typical wireless connectivity duties today (ie connecting to a share/streaming HD content...), and are relatively affordable ($15-45 or so depending. There are even some 802.11AC adapter that are even faster and are only in the $40-60 range!). Asking a user to purchase generations-older tech variants, for a high price, that may not have any directly visible benefit to said user, is going to be a hard sell indeed. It just seems like that there were likely a number of alternatives that could have been vetted instead and that the RYF certification, combined with a reasonable price, would actually inspire the community to seek out RYF certified parts and thus bring attention to RYF, FOSS, and eventually inspire manufacturers to see the market finds these feature desirable Was this truly the best/only piece of hardware to debut the RYF label?
As an ideal the RYF certification sounds great, but really hope its implementation isn't going to turn into something that is only interested to most license-savvy FSF follower instead of showing the benefits of Free software to the masses and thus, inspire future developments in FOSS and RYF certified hardware.
BitTorrent Opens Up Its Sync Alpha To the Public For Windows, Mac, and Linux
After reading over threads such as http://forum.bittorrent.com/topic/8816-will-syncapp-be-open-source/ on their website, I am disappointed to find that SyncApp (as well as Surf, and Live, other BTLabs projects) is not currently open source, and apparently the most they're shooting for at the moment is some sort of API in the future. While I was initially intrigued by Sync's feature set, especially the "shared secret" encryption variations (master key, one way sync, one time sync and more.), as well as that they could be integrated within BitTorrent's existing (and open source) protocols such as DHT, using a BitTorrent tracker, PEX, stream encryption etc, when I read that the implementation was not planning to be free and open source, that is a major blow to its long-term viability as part of next-generation file-sharing protocols.
Especially in a world of "Six Strikes", overzealous industry groups and corporate cronies, government censorship and more, it is absolutely imperative that the tools that those interested in privacy, activism, journalism etc...be free and open source. From being able to audit the code if you have the skills, to crafting decentralized and inter-operative networks across multiple platforms, operating systems and more etc... FOSS is necessary. I can nearly guarantee that if the original BitTorrent protocol had not been released free and open source (along with many of the most popular evolutions of said protocol, such as DHT/PEX/uTP, encryption, private trackers etc..) it would not have come to such prominence. I personally am no fan of the proprietary uTorrent client, but thankfully I can make use of Deluge, KTorrent, or Transmission and have access to the latest features on the BitTorrent network, able to interact with others so long as they were using open protocols. I'd love to see this extend to Sync, which I feel could be excellent not just for users syncing their data amongst multiple computing devices of their own, or sharing with friends, but creating another protective web when it comes to file-sharing, adding privacy protections - an intermediary step that doesn't have nearly the speed/hardware demands of say, operating BitTorrent exclusively through Tor.
Sync, Torque/btapp.js (One has to install the proprietary, headless Torque client (or uTorrent) which has very little documentation on its features/privacy etc... why not have them simply integrate with an open API that any BT client with sufficient support can be called to utilize - thus, using all the safety features like my blocklist, encryption preferences etc... in my client of choice?), Live, Surf (Which I hope will be open and customizable, available on Firefox ASAP,) SoShare - all of these BitTorrent Labs productions sadly seam to be proprietary in nature (though, I must give them kudos for offering Linux versions of Sync for instance). Much like the acquisition of the proprietary uTorrent and the "Plus" version of the client being sold, BitTorrent's latest ventures seem to be steering away from the free and open source paradigm that made the protocol such a great advance in filesharing.
When it comes to file sharing in today's legal and technical clime, proprietary and centralized just won't do. What Sync offers is novel and could create additional layers of security (consider an entire tracker using Sync technology where connecting to each torrent requires a unique "Shared secret", which is available exclusively on a totally different site, extrapolating another legal level of obfuscation, deny-ability, and privacy protection), the community cannot trust it offered as a proprietary service with a central point of failure (legally) and the inability to audit the code. Hopefully, this will change and that Sync and other elements will help to extend BitTorrent as the excellent, multifaceted, free and open tool for disseminating data... but for the time being, it is a curiosity that is in the hands of a company that seems to put profit and control above user privacy and technical freedom/openness
Why You Should Worry About the Future of Chromebooks
I purchased a Nexus 7 (and then a Nexus 4) because these were the devices that, despite the hardware limitation you mention in terms of SD cards (which hasn't been much of a problem to me. I can run everything from large games, to media etc... I don't need to carry a HUGE amount of my entire collection; I'm fine with being able to sync - manually, and on my terms - what I want, when I want it. If I want to use "the cloud" I can decide which vectors are my preference, such as an OwnCloud install etc.
Nexus devices are "pure" Android, made for developers and hackers with unlocked bootloaders and fully compliant Android stacks. This means that I can actually flash a custom ROM with any combination of features I want, built from Android open source software. Head over to XDA-Developers and you'll see some amazing things that can be done - look at CyanogenMod, AOKP, Paranoid Android ROMs, and lots of replacement kernels that can do all kinds of things from including new toolchains and other custom work. Hackers here found out that for instance, the Nexus 4 does have the hardware and capability to use LTE connections, and found out how to activate it (and how to replace it by flashing the radio baseband when Google deactivated it in an update, likely because of lack of FCC registration) The Nexus devices are always fully "open" to this kind of tinkering and while I'd like to see SD cards, I value this open access to the hardware - I can even decide not to install the Google applications if I don't wish to do so (due to licensing, the "GApps" are all a separate install during the flashing process). While other non-Nexus devices have hobbyists at work on them, depending on each device there can be some serious lack of access and openess which impacts what changes can be made; with Nexus at least thus far, one doesn't have to worry about that.
I have similar concerns about privacy when it comes to Google and the direction that moneyed interests are pushing us towards, but one can use Android, especially on Nexus devices, balancing ease of use with privacy protection, thanks both to those elements at Google who are actually not doing evil (ie Android Open Source Project etc...) and a community of hackers and developers who, while a minority of Android users, are passionate about having complete control of their devices and making the hardware and software work to their ends, not the interests of 3rd parties.
Anonymous Warhead Targets US Sentencing Commission
This is only the case if 1) You edit with such intent and change the meaning of the document and 2) Refuse to provide the complete document at a later date. I see no reason that Anonymous would follow either of these practices in this case, and furthermore they have a distinct history of doing the opposite. For instance, several documents from the Arab world that were released initially with redacted names in order to protect a number of opposition voices during various movements, but were revealed in their entirety later.
If someone intends to distort credibility (especially of whistleblowers, as we've seen constantly in these past few years) its easy to say "You're redacting too much, you're not redacting enough, you're releasing too much, you're not releasing enough etc...". You can't make anyone happy, but especially when fighting against a massive foe with a huge disinformation and propaganda complex that is bent on swaying public, you have to make some strategic decisions. The biggest clarion call the US government issued to try Wikileaks in the court of public opinion (aside from calling Assange a rapist, of course) was to claim that because of the leaks, individuals with protected identities would die; the story of agents being revealed and being compromised/killed was a constant hypothetical in the media - despite the fact that proper investigation proved that not a single leaked document led to any vulnerability of the sort! However, it was part of the disinformation campaign to convince the public that whistleblowers and even those who presented leaks like Wikileaks and journalists were responsible for security breaches leading to compromise/death of Americans, repeated frequently enough, that convinced many to overlook the real content of the leaks and instead just have a "gut feeling" that somehow they were against national security - just as planned. Thus, at least an initial, smartly redacted release can provide a factual counterpoint to the propaganda and show that these releases were done "crossing the t's, dotting the i's".
Anonymous Warhead Targets US Sentencing Commission
Anonymous is in no way a "replacement government". They're a loosely confederated group of people who have a problem with the ways that many governments, and the moneyed corporate puppetmasters that control them, are treating their citizens and the world at large; especially, when it comes to privacy, free speech, and The Internet. They're acting in ways to reveal the corruption and give the people a fighting chance, through dissemination of information. That's it. They are not lobbying to be a replacement for the current government; it is up to the people to, when given a more even playing field, decide that for themselves. Hell, if anything this makes them MORE credible; especially when it comes to politics, the people who really are deserving of respect and would serve the people as intended, often do not want the job. Anonymous isn't "sheparding" you, simply making information available to put We The People on a slightly more even field with those that have done us harm by claiming equality when in truth "Some animals are more equal than others"; its up to all of us what to do with it.
In respect to the redaction and issue, I am gathering it is two-fold and in no way compromises their integrity. First, it shows restraint and that Anonymous is willing to work within the 'whistleblower' framework, not (as many opponents would have you believe) that this is the work of anarchists who just spew information about without a thought to the process or ramifications thereof. Many have forgotten how Wikileaks offered to work with the Pentagon and State department prior to their releases, asked for where to redact if there were some actual credible national security issues etc... and were met with a simple "Don't do it, we're not even going to talk to you". By redacting information where necessary and offering it through verifiable journalist sources, Anonymous counters the propaganda of the opponents in word and deed. Secondly, it provides some insurance against attempts to litigate, arrest, capture, or kill individuals involved. The insane Wikileaks debacle (along with other leaks from Stratfor, cables, FBI etc...) shows to what level the US government is willing to go to pretend malfeasance and embarrassment is to be cloaked as national security, up to and including ruining the lives of those who are doing nothing but showing the emperor is wearing no clothes. Showing a redacted form of a document can always be followed up by a further revealed one, especially if those involved are smart about distributing the files, encryption keys etc. Ultimately, Anonymous is doing the right thing by this process of events, assuming it comes to its logical conclusion.
Anonymous isn't asking for your trust, but simply putting data before you and asking for you to make your own damn mind.