Stories from the most revered brand in tech

A normal day for an Apple customer:

my nine-year-old daughter, Flora, bought a new £39 iPod shuffle with her pocket money, and I treated myself to an iPhone 4. I connected the shuffle to our computer, but a message came up saying the iPod “cannot be used because it requires iTunes version 10.0 or later”. So I downloaded iTunes 10, but then another message popped up: “Open Failed … This package type requires Mac OS X 10.5.” It was the same story with the iPhone 4.

[… Apple support said] I could solve this by buying Leopard […] though it would cost £87.

When Microsoft does stuff like this the normal customers get very upset. Apple with its cult followers can do this and more evil stuff. Look at the comments on the original article Apple upgrades leave bitter taste on The Guardian to understand how lucky/good Apple has been at creating a cult for its brand.

Things I said on 2011-05-22

Nintendo is evil and they admit it too

I can’t believe what Nintendo just said! In a statement to respond to information campaign launched by Defective by Design the company said:

Nintendo would like to reassure any concerned consumers that under our European terms and conditions and in compliance with European requirements Nintendo does not have rights to user content, such as comments, messages, images, photos or movies, which are shared in private communications between users or simply stored on Nintendo 3DS.

So, they’re admitting that parts of the terms of service of Nintendo 3DS are so horrible that they’re not even legal in Europe! No mention about the rest of the world, where such terms may be legal but equally immoral!

And the company doesn’t mention the fact that even if you buy the hardware they can wipe it out remotely and make it impossible for you to use it anymore.

Shame on you, Nintendo, shame on you.

via Outcry leads to 200 bricks ordered and reprehensible Nintendo response |

New release for Neubot, the Net Neutrality monitor

Neubot is a “software application that runs automated tasks over the Internet” in order to quantify network neutrality. The software is aresearch project on network neutrality of the NEXA Center for Internet & Society at Politecnico di Torino. The project is based on a lightweight open-source program that interested users can download and install on their computers. The program runs in background and periodically performs transmission tests with some test servers and with other instances of the program itself. These transmission tests probe the Internet using various application level protocols. The program saves tests results locally and uploads them on the project servers. The collected dataset contains samples from various Providers and allows to monitor network neutrality.

Monitoring network neutrality is crucial because it enables a deeper understanding of operators behavior. This is paramount at a time when there is a broad discussion regarding changes in network neutrality policies. The availability of quantitative datasets collected by independent researchers should rebalance, at least in part, the deep information asymmetry between Internet Service Providers and other interested stakeholders (including regulators and citizens), and should provide a more reliable basis for discussing policies.

It is distributed as: a .deb package for Debian and Ubuntu; a zipped application for MacOSX; an installer for Windows XP SP3+. It is also available in source format.

Read Neubot 0.3.7 release notes.

Mini-review of my ExoPC running Ubuntu

Intel is missing the mobile boat: its Atom architecture is losing the battle against the ARM-based competitors and they’ve started spreading FUD. They’re bashing Windows on ARM with compatibility issues but, as Ars says, they’re missing the point.

Intel is right that legacy software runs on its x86 chips. The Exopc Slate that Intel gave me is nothing but a PC. The thing has even has a fan, and the infamous black screen BIOS peeks when you turn it on! I soon realized that Meego is not ready for prime time, so being the Slate a PC, I was able to install Ubuntu easily: as Intel says, its Atom chips run ‘legacy’ applications. What Intel forgot to mention is that legacy applications have little practical use. Ubuntu is a desktop system and on a keyboard-less PC it becomes basically unusable. Intel is spreading FUD when they say that support for legacy applications on small, portable devices is valuable.

The first thing to do after putting Ubuntu on the tablet is to setup the virtual keyboard. I tried Florence but it’s buggy and in my experience it locked the screen (or crashed the touchpad driver –I didn’t investigate) too often so I removed it. I configured Onboard, the default onscreen keyboard to stay always on top and appear when entering passwords. The second thing to do is to remap the ‘Home’ key to actually go home instead of launching Banshee. Multitouch doesn’t work, neither does the automatic rotation of the screen. If you have an ExoPC and want to know more read here, here and here (read the comments too).

I can do some web browsing with Firefox after installing the Touch-n-Grab extension. And I can do some reading of PDF with Evince. That’s it for me. Email is impossible with Evolution: the scrolling widgets are too thin to scroll the list of email and writing anything with the virtual keyboard requires painful accommodation and resizing of the windows poking the screen with your finger. Changing from Unity to ‘Classic’ doesn’t change anything.

GN/Linux software runs on the Exopc Slate but that’s pretty much it: it runs but you can tell it’s not made for it.

All my hope of finding good use for piattola2 (named after the original piattola that my friend used a long time ago, I think it had a Transmeta processor) now rest in Meego 1.2, due next week or a decent port of x86 Android. See you at the Meego conference.


MediaGoblin project brings GNU into the cloud

GNU MediaGoblin is a new software project that will enable people to publish, share and distribute their photos, video and other media in the cloud. Think of it as mix of social sites like Flickr, YouTube, DeviantArt or Facebook but better. Being a GNU project, it respects users freedom will be licensed under the GNU Affero General Public License and federated using OStatus. Like and, you’ll be able to run your instance of MediaGoblin and still be able to follow your friends across different domains.

It’s good to see the GNU project lead the way in cloud computing and provide an example of how to do social web applications right, respecting users freedom. Just like the FSF took the lead in the late ’80s redefining the operating systems with GNU, there is a need to experimenting with code while keeping moral leadership. As Simon Phipps wrote, the cloud is here to stay so we better learn fast how to transport the principles that worked for servers and desktop computers to cloud and mobile.

The team developing MediaGoblin has a long series of success: Chris Webber and Will Kahn-Greene, both longtime Miro contributors, are leading the Development Team. Matt Lee and Rob Myers from FooCorp, the makers of GNU FM (the software that powers and GNU social, are providing infrastructure. Deb Nicholson, founder of the Women’s Caucus, is helping with community outreach.

Good luck to all of them: I hope to see working code soon.


Is Google Docs the weakest link in Chromebook?

Interesting thoughts on what Google should do to take over Windows with its Chromebook. I don’t agree with all of it, especially I don’t think that Google Docs should necessarily get all the features of MS Word (including the unnecessary ones) in order to succeed, but definitely worth reading.

So when Google brags about the advantages of Chromebooks, I’m completely unimpressed because they are more than wiped out by the enormous sacrifices in basic compatibility and productivity that most people would have to make in order to move off Windows. The most fundamental problem is Google Docs.

There’s no way to put this politely: As a replacement for Microsoft Office, Google Docs stinks. Its word processor is adequate but limited, its spreadsheet is rudimentary, and its presentation program is so awkward and inflexible that it makes me want to throw something.

via Mobile Opportunity: Can Google’s Chromebook Break Windows?.

SCO lost, Groklaw evolves

Tip of the hat to Pamela Jones and a big thank you for all the good information she collected. After 8 years writing and maintaining the vast legal community of Groklaw she decided to stop publishing new articles.

Groklaw started as a blog about the SCO claims against Linux: it was the ultimate source of information to read the official documents and follow the legal battle as you were in court. Today she handed the keys to the site to Mark Webbink, former general counsel at Red Hat, law professor, and board member at the Software Freedom Law Center.

PJ recognized victory and moved on: this is a rare quality in the free software world. Thank you.

via Interview: PJ on the beginning, ending, and future of Groklaw |

Things I said on 2011-05-15

Looking for freedom respecting alternatives to Skype

Now that Microsoft has bought Skype many people I know are wondering what will happen to Skype’s GNU/Linux client. Will Microsoft keep it or will they drop support for it? I don’t know, nobody can predict what Microsoft will do at the moment.

From a conversation I started on I learned a few things about the state of VoIP with free/libre software. The good news is that all you need is to make voice calls over Internet, computer to computer, there are many alternatives based on free software and open standards. The two main protocols are XMPP and SIP. Software like Jitsi (aka sip-communicator), Ekiga, Coccinella, QuteCom (aka openwengo), Telepathy/Empathy, Pidgin and other provide the same basic voice calls.

Some of these programs claim to have video capabilities but I haven’t tested this function deeply. The fact that Carlo can’t make video calls with Ekiga is not a good start. I tested Empathy video call with a friend on Empathy, both of us using our Google Talk accounts on Ubuntu and the video call worked. I’m not aware of any other XMPP server that allows video calls or if there are services using software from Muji project. I learned a little bit about SIP Witch, OpenMSRP and GNU Telephony, all seem very promising tools to help stay away from proprietary VoIP software.

Some clients, like Jitsi work also on Windows and Mac OS X. Others are GNU/Linux specific but this shouldn’t be a problem: being based on open standard one should be able to run any other SIP or XMPP client on those platform and still be able to call each other. A search on iTunes App Store and Android Market reveals lots of SIP and XMPP clients, I’m not sure about their capabilities though.

None of these clients allow desktop sharing: this is not a big limitation for me though, as I rarely used that. The main features missing from all these programs are:

  1. a global addressbook to discover your friend’s address
  2. simple ways to make calls from computer to phone or viceversa

Discoverability of new accounts is crucial to drive adoption: I have lots of contacts in my addressbook and I would like to be able to find them online instead of having to ask them for their latest VoIP address. The complexity of SIP broker white pages is intimidating, I’m not even sure I understand how it works.  Honestly, I don’t even want to know: I want to call my friends and family.

Enabling calls from and to regular phones could finance further development of these applications. I can’t believe that none of them seem to offer an easy way to buy credit from the application itself.

Since the Free Software Foundation considers a replacement to Skype an High Priority project I would suggest them to put it on a more visible page.  I keep looking for a good free software alternative to Skype that I can use to talk to my mom: leave your thoughts and notes in the comments.