Internet has more and more borders

Today I wanted to check the availability of Google’s Nexus 4 and here is what I saw:

which begs the question: why would someone think I live in a place I visit? My country is, maybe, where I want something physical to be delivered, you morons.  Stop filtering online content based on my bloody IP! My IP is not a geographic thing! And stupidly enough, Google should know where “my country” is since I told them in my account where I live.

Why are we allowing Internet to become a place with stupid borders?

Intel desperate to further Meego

I spent a few hours listening to Intel’s presentation about Meego and the new app store (another) from Intel. AppUp, the name of the store, is just another store. The only new thing that I remember is that AppUp allows to integrate other stores into this store… For example, if you published an app on AppUp, this will also appear on BestBuy’s app store. Not sure what to make of that: as with many other features of the afternoon, I and others in the audience were not impressed.

Intel will review and validate every app submitted in the store and, contrary to Apple’s total opacity, they have published the validation guidelines. The validation process will take ‘at most’ 7 business days and every updated version of the app will have to go through the validation process again. The developers in the room didn’t like that: it’s a huge problem because if your release has a bug, it may take over a week to send a fix to your users.

Admittedly, this validation process is a hard nut to crack but one would expect that a new app store would at least try. I would suggest Intel to give up the subjective control on the ‘objectionable content’ and relegate porn material in a section of the store behind an additional credit card. I would make this section graphically anonymous and before anybody can access it, they have to enter a credit card number, all the time. Developers that publish bad content out of the porn-wall are permanently banned. Fool proof? No, but neither is the existing system with Apple constantly under fire for its decisions to pass or block apps.

My advice: put automatic checks in place for malware and trust your developers until they screw it up. You can also imagine a crowdsourced moderation system after the publication of the app. A model based on trust may not work but at least it would give Inte’s AppUp a differentiating factor compared to the leading stores.

By the way, if you are developing a sync application, port it to Meego and enter the contest for Best App to Stay in Sync at Intel AppUp(SM) developer program.

Apple and software freedom clashing again

Another app has to be removed from the Apple iTunes mobile App Store. This time, after GNU Go, it’s the iOS port of the popular free VLC Player because the terms of the GNU General Public License are incompatible with those of Apple’s store.

Difficult situation and I still think that the best way out is for FSF to sponsor a mobile app repository for free software applications. What would be better?

via How to avoid public GPL floggings on Apple’s App Store | ZDNet.

Beyond removing GNU software from mobile stores

Last week the Free Software Foundation asked Apple to either remove the game GNU Go from the iTunes App Store or change the terms of service on it. Apple chose to simply remove GNU Go from the store and the move was not a surprise, as FSF Compliance Engineer said in the blog post.  I am puzzled by this move.

I don’t think that FSF goal it to prevent iPhone users to run GNU software on their device, as David ‘Lefty’ Schlesinger paints it and seems to discuss,but nevertheless this is the immediate effect.  Mobile app stores and locked down devices are hostile to free/libre software and GPLv3 can have a difficult life in the mobile environment because of its ‘full installation instructions’ provision. Also, there are still too few free/libre mobile applications.

Having this in mind, a plausible explanation of FSF’s move was to educate free software developers that mobile app stores are not designed to respect users freedom. Fine, but the following question is: how to we proceed from here? What’s the next step of this education and what’s FSF’s plan to bring freedom to the users of mobile phones? I suggest for FSF to sponsor a mobile app repository for free/libre apps: it would have to run on non-free operating systems, but that’s what GNU had to do when there was no Linux. Also, it would be good and probably easy to extend the Free Software Directory to take mobile world into account. What else should FSF do to promote freedom in the mobile world?

Mobile phone markets are designed to split our community

Apple’s iPhone biggest innovation is its mobile app store: for the first time it allowed installing software on the mobile device with the convenience of any modern GNU/Linux distribution. Like in Debian, Fedora, Ubuntu, installing software is just a matter of browsing a repository and click on a button. It’s such a good idea that now every mobile phone manufacturer has created its own mobile app store version. Nokia has Ovi Store, RIM/BlackBerry has App World, Android has its Market. I’m sure that more will come, also from the network operators.

Differently from GNU/Linux software repositories, though, these markets only allow non-free software. The manufacturers together with the network operators act as strict gatekeepers, allowing to reach the users only binaries signed with developers keys. Even if there are many free/libre software projects distributed on the mobile stores (Funambol, WordPress, and many other), the users cannot practically enjoy the freedom to modify the software autonomously because of tivoization.  So we have in our hands powerful computers, always connected to the network but its users are deprived of one significant freedom. The worst effect of these mobile stores is that they split our community, forcing free developers to choose between distributing their software while compromising their morality or not distribute at all.

Given the sad news about OpenMoko ceasing development of the new phone, it’s necessary to gather up and think of alternatives. Jailbreak and Cydia on iPhone is a start, and other phones will need similar liberation. But these are just short-term palliatives. In the long run, I hope we’ll have more OpenMoko-like devices, with full freedom attached.