Why Free Software Is More Important Now Than Ever Before | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

Much has changed since the beginning of the free software movement: Most people in advanced countries now own computers — sometimes called “phones” — and use the internet with them. Non-free software still makes the users surrender control over their computing to someone else, but now there is another way to lose it: Service as a Software Substitute, or SaaSS, which means letting someone else’s server do your own computing activities.

Both non-free software and SaaSS can spy on the user, shackle the user, and even attack the user. Malware is common in services and proprietary software products because the users don’t have control over them. That’s the fundamental issue: while non-free software and SaaSS are controlled by some other entity (typically a corporation or a state), free software is controlled by its users.

Why does this control matter? Because freedom means having control over your own life.



Google’s Gmail scanning unclear to users, judge finds | ITworld

“Google has cited no case that stands for the proposition that users who send emails impliedly consent to interceptions and use of their communications by third parties other than the intended recipient of the email,” Koh wrote.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit consumer advocate group based in Washington, D.C., called Koh’s ruling a “tremendous victory for online privacy.”


Downloading Is Mean! Content Industry Drafts Anti-Piracy Curriculum for Elementary Schools | Electronic Frontier Foundation

“This thinly disguised corporate propaganda is inaccurate and inappropriate,” says Mitch Stoltz, an intellectual property attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who reviewed the material at WIRED’s request.

“It suggests, falsely, that ideas are property and that building on others’ ideas always requires permission,” Stoltz says. “The overriding message of this curriculum is that students’ time should be consumed not in creating but in worrying about their impact on corporate profits.”
— David Kravets

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

EFF: https://www.eff.org/mention/downloading-mean-content-industry-drafts-anti-piracy-curriculum-elementary-schools

Wired article: http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/09/mpaa-school-propaganda/

BlackBerry says BBM for Android and iOS won’t relaunch this week as blocking leaked app ‘will take some time’ – The Next Web

The team is now focused on adjusting the system to completely block this unreleased version of the Android app when we go live with the official BBM for Android app. We are also making sure that the system is reinforced to handle this kind of scenario in the future. While this may sound like a simple task – it’s not. This will take some time and I do not anticipate launching this week.

This smacks of a considerable level of architectural inelegance. With all the experience the industry has in access control and registration, the pre-release cannot simply be blocked by version number? Maybe these guys should have a drink with Mozilla developers – forever adept at blocking old addons from Firefox with incredibly simplistic logic. That this wasn’t thought of in the case of BBM is shocking.

What kind of massively deployed messaging system would not ship with a method of blocking unauthorized clients, or at least a group of admins clever enough to accomplish it?

Sometimes I worry about the future.


Is the Cloud ready for mission critical apps? | The Next Web

No it isn’t. I’ve consulted for companies that try to rely on third parties, and their false promises of redundancy and reliability bite them every time.

Even those reliant on Amazon EC2 now simply accept that they must pay double or even triple the monthly rate to run copies of their virtual machines in 3 different Amazon data centers. Such a joke.


Smart Scopes to anonymize images before landing in the user’s Dash (privacy oriented) | Iloveubuntu: Ubuntu blog

As seen in the demo URL, the Canonical severs are anonymizing directly the URL with the probable behavior: typing a word in the Dash, pushes the word against (along with the locally-installed scopes) the Canonical servers, the Canonical servers decide the best results, the results are then anonymized and finally landed in the Dash.

This isn’t enough. Anonymity means that no one, not Amazon, not Canonical, receives your personal information. Canonical simply becomes the focal point of attention when “they” come knocking.


Al Franken questions privacy of iPhone 5S fingerprint scanner | CNET News

“Passwords are secret and dynamic; fingerprints are public and permanent,” Franken wrote. “If you don’t tell anyone your password, no one will know what it is. If someone hacks your password, you can change it — as many times as you want. You can’t change your fingerprints. You have only ten of them. And you leave them on everything you touch; they are definitely not a secret. What’s more, a password doesn’t uniquely identify its owner — a fingerprint does. Let me put it this way: if hackers get a hold of your thumbprint, they could use it to identify and impersonate you for the rest of your life.”


Google Chrome is Spyware.

On its first run, Google Chrome silently imports your browser history from Firefox and Internet Explorer. This combined with its incessant prompting to sign into your Google Account guarantees quite a bit of unauthorized data collection on their part, considering this history data will then be synchronized, unencrypted, with them.

It is the only piece of software I know which:

  • logs your keystrokes
  • logs your browser history
  • logs your affiliations
  • lists your installed software
  • sends all this information to unnamed third parties

All known traits of spyware programs, which would be removed swiftly and decisively by users if found. Google Chrome, however, which exhibits all the above traits of a spyware program (because it is one) is universally accepted.

Don’t be evil.

Great New Features in GNOME 3.8

I’m quite enjoying GNOME 3.8 so far. Despite my initial objections to the GNOME 3 environment (Linus Torvalds had the same objections), I’ve found that much of the UI decision making involved in the desktop environment has been more than sensible, and lent a natural feel to it (Linus feels the same way!).

The latest version of GNOME even requires one to switch their init system from SysV init to SystemD, if their distribution of choice has not yet done so (looking at you, Gentoo). I had no objection to this either, has SystemD has been a great improvement in various areas of the system, from boot time to proper logging and tracking of who’s logged in, and good integration with the desktop. This is a mature and modern init system.

But the thing that impressed me most just now is the Epiphany browser – I’ve been using it for about 50% of my browsing activities since about GNOME 3.2, as it effectively sandboxes things like Facebook and prevents their tracking cookies from sifting through all my other activities on the web. Very nice. No, Ghostery and Adblock Plus as Firefox addons are not quite as effective as a sandboxing strategy, so don’t go there.

New in Epiphany is the ‘Allow advertisements’ checkbox:



In concert with the ‘Cookies – Only from sites you visit’ radio button in the Privacy tab:



Which, when checked, both permits ads and allows those third party cookies from known advertisers even if ‘Only from sites you visit’ is also selected. Smooth and fair. Permit advertising behavior, or completely block advertising behavior.

Overall, the GNOME 3.8 desktop is much smoother and the feel has really taken shape. I still use a couple of extensions, but my usage of native GNOME apps has even increased – I’ve been using Evolution regularly where in years past stability issues had pushed me back to Mozilla Thunderbird. The latest Empathy has replaced Pidgin on my desktop. The list will expand as things continue to take shape.

If you’ve been upset with GNOME 3’s radical change in user interface design, I recommend you take a second look. The desktop has really come a long way.