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Why free media standards are important

Do you trust your newspaper? How about the news on TV?  Maybe you prefer getting your fix for what’s happening around you online. In other words, do you trust the media?

If your answer is no, you’re not alone. According to a 2012 Gallup Poll, 60% of Americans have little to no trust of the mass media in terms of accuracy and fairness in reporting. The U.K. also has a similar problem when it comes to trust of the media. When looking at the world, a great number of countries are dissatisfied with their local media or media in some way.

Some more insights can be found here. The big question at this point is how to improve the media? What’s the starting point?

To understand what I’m going to be arguing, we need to take a look at some history. In the middle ages in Europe, books were rather expensive. Only the clergy and wealthy were able to afford to obtain books and read them; after all, copying was an expensive process and they had to know Latin.

Enter Gutenberg and his printing press. When the cost of book making went down as a result of what he accomplished, the demand for books in local languages and education increased. Though Gutenberg was not the first to make such machine, it did have an impact.

This meant that printing became cheaper, and so did publication.

The reason I went back to the 1400’s is rather simple; in order for alternative media to become better than traditional venues, they need to stop relying on proprietary software. Virtually everywhere one looks for rich content, they will run into software that isn’t liberated.

Popular outlets utilize YouTube and other sites to get their message out to their respective audiences, but are they liberated from corporate influence, or are they shackled without realizing it? Even Russia’s RT relies on Adobe Flash for their 24/7 streaming video channel.

Most corporate media sites that provide streaming video use the same technology, and are paying for it with licensing costs. Those who own their own digital printing press are able to control their message, but they don’t truly own it if they have to use proprietary technology in order to broadcast their message.

So why worry about this anyway? Just ask the likes of Ernie Ball and others. The Business Software Alliance has overstepped their bounds before, and will continue to do so.

With the arcane way that licenses have to be archived and tracked (with receipts no less), perhaps it’s time to move away from proprietary media standards and move towards free standards.  Here are some examples:

  • Instead of using MP3 for streaming audio/podcasting, why not use OGG instead?
  • For video, there’s WebM instead of the other formats.
  • Instead of Skype, why not look into WebRTC?
  • Instead of relying on YouTube or other websites that could censor your video at any time, why not look into MediaGoblin and build your own media server?

By relying on free media standards instead of proprietary standards, you’re not only freeing yourself from licensing costs. You’re also freeing yourself from the control of major corporations. If you don’t truly own your digital printing press, then your speech isn’t truly free.

Malaysia Airlines flight mysteriously went missing

Now you can help find the missing Malaysia Airlines flight

Reports across media are loaded with speculations about the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. The flight mysteriously went missing and lost contact with air traffic control. The situation is getting increasingly confusing with the conflicting statements of the Malaysian officials. But there seems to be some ray of hope for the family of 239 people onboard.

Colorado-based DigitalGlobe has floated two of its satellites to monitor the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. They will be focusing on areas that are not covered by other satellites or places where weather played a spoilt sport.

The company will be posting images online where volunteers can help scan the images. They will be published on crowdsourcing site, Tomnod, where anyone can help identify the debris from natural disasters or other incidents.

The company published its first satellite images on Monday, which got a huge inflow of traffic that the site was not prepared for, leading it to reboot its servers. The images were viewed by almost 100,000 volunteers who went carefully through each pixel.

Luke Barrington, senior manager for geospatial big data at DigitalGlobe, told WSJ that fresh images of the Strait of Malacca should be available early Wednesday U.S. time.


Here comes Onyxphone, an Ink Phone made for reading

Have a need for a phone that is focused more on reading consumption than multimedia use? Look no further, Onyx Midia may have you covered with their Onyxphone. The device features a 1 Ghz Rockchip processor, 512 MB of ram, an 1,800 mAh battery. The OnyxPhone is a 4.3″ phone that uses an energy saving e-Ink screen instead of the LCDs, OLEDs and other technologies that dominate the selected screen technology of smart and feature phones today. It also doesn’t use a hybrid E Ink/LCD strategy like the Yotaphone, it’s pure E Ink only.

You will sacrifice color and fast refresh rates so be prepared to say goodbye to videos and many games on this device. That’s not to say that this idea is bad or crazy, in fact I believe it to be the opposite. It’s a brilliant invention for people that primarily uses their cell phones to consume text but may often be annoyed at how often they may need to charge their devices.

Onyxphone is a hybird of smartphone and eReader. We have not forget about our main goals. If you choose our device you will get smart eBook reader that gives you possibility to calling, sms texting and web connection. – Onyx

(They’re a Chinese company, their translations may not be the best but are more than sufficient)

Very often our modern smart phones may have disappointing battery life. six hour to two day battery life has become the accepted range. A modern smart phone that lasts for two days isn’t bad at all but in another light it could be seen as disappointing. How? Many of the devices it replaces (terrestrial phones, cameras, books, computers, mp3 players, address books, flash lights, etc) traditionally lasted longer before needing maintenance or charging. Now you would be hard pressed to find a more versatile and useful device than the modern smart phone, but we could still hope for other interpretations of that device that helps to fill lost niches and types of uses.

Low-end Android phones may struggle to hit the lower end of that range while a semi-tablet like the Galaxy Note is praised for being able to run for a couple of days. Looking at all that these devices enable today, they’re right. It’s a technological marvel to have a 5″ device that is always connected to the internet, able to allow for communication in a myriad of ways while being more powerful than 6th, and very soon 7th, Generation game consoles (GCN/PS2/Xbox).

It’s nearly obscene that we have so much power and versatility in our pockets yet it’s our reality. Even so, maybe this tech overshoots the needs of some users. Not everyone cares for watching Youtube on the go or looking at pictures. In fact, how many of us just use our phones as a convenient way to read online sites like this one, ebooks or any other form of text(ing)? For those type of uses, color isn’t needed. The modern smart phone is arguably a cellular enabled tablet, but how much longer will that near monopoly last?

Getting back to the main point, the OnyxPhone reveal, it seems like a good idea that is limited by current technology unfortunately. According to Engadget the ebook functionality is smooth but normal phone navigation is beyond sluggish. The specs are low (still partially undefined) and the monochrome screen will be off-putting to the mainstream users. Instead of destroying this concept for what it isn’t, it’s very thrilling because of what it is and for what it may be a prelude to. There is on-going work to develop color e-ink screens, that will be a game changer for future iterations as well as dedicated e-readers. A faster cpu, more ram and more OS customization (it runs Android, and yes it can sideload apks) would make this a very useful and cheap device.

Imagine a color e-ink screen, a more fluid user interface, improved reader-focused features and a solid calling and texting experience – all on a device that only needs to be charged every two weeks. I very rarely stream video and wouldn’t miss the feature on a phone like this. I make heavy use of Digg Reader, Comixology, Nook, Pocket, Wikipedia and many other apps that would benefit greatly from an improved reading experience. I’d happily use an ereader phone in place of the current status quo devices if it could perform its’ reading and communication jobs at an equally high level of quality. The OnyxPhone is that first step, let’s hope that Onyx or others will be fit to see this through to the end.

Source: Onyx via Engadget”


Dell justifies charging £16.25 to install Mozilla Firefox

Computer and accessories manufacturer Dell is charging customers ₤16.25 to install free and open source software, Mozilla Firefox. This is quite shocking, as this browser is available free of cost and also its policy dictates not to charge users for its download or installation.

As reported by TheNextWeb, the Mozilla foundation was not aware of this practice by Dell and there has been no agreement between Mozilla and Dell to charge customers for the Firefox browser:

“There is no agreement between Dell and Mozilla which allows Dell or anyone else to charge for installing Firefox using that brand name,” Mozilla’s Vice President and General Counsel Denelle Dixon-Thayer told TNW. “Our trademark policy makes clear that this is not permitted and we are investigating this specific report.”

However, as per the following screenshot, customers do get charged of they opt for the browser while checking out online.


As per Mozilla’s trademark policy:

“If you are using the Mozilla Mark(s) for the unaltered binaries you are distributing, you may not charge for that product. By not charging, we mean the Mozilla product must be without cost and its distribution (whether by download or other media) may not be subject to a fee, or tied to subscribing to or purchasing a service, or the collection of personal information. If you want to sell the product, you may do so, but you must call that product by another name—one unrelated to Mozilla or any of the Mozilla Marks. Remember that we do not want the public to be confused.”

Dell, however clarified that the practice is justified as they are charging for the “service” not the “product”. The service ensures that the customers have a completely running and ready system when they get the product and the user doesn’t need to do any configuration or installation to use the system.


Intel reportedly buys smartwatch company, but what will they do with it?

Intel has reportedly expanded its portfolio of wearable devices and sensors with the acquisition of San Francisco-based smartwatch maker Basis Science. The deal is believed to be between $100 and $150 million, according to TechCrunch sources.

Basis Science, the company behind the Basis Health Tracker Watch, was earlier reportedly in talks with Google, Apple and possibly Samsung and Microsoft about a potential sale.

Norwest Venture Partners, Mayfield Fund and Intel Capital have invested over $30 million in Basis. The company is said to have secured approx. 7 percent of the wearable fitness tracker market (versus competitor Jawbone’s 21 percent).

At CES 2014, Intel showcased a range of gadgets and wearable devices (reference designs only) ranging from an earpiece called Jarvis which is worn like a Bluetooth headset on the ear to smart earbuds that monitor your heart rate.

If the chip maker has indeed acquired Basis, this is likely to make it easier for Intel to tap in to smartwatches by using the team behind one of the most comprehensive wearables to date with technology already available.

Intel’s rivals have already made an entry into the wearables market with sensors and devices. Texas Instruments, Qualcomm and STMicroelectronics currently supply the bulk of the sensors for wearables.

With wearables pretty much the hottest thing these days, Samsung and LG have also made their wearable devices available in the market. Google’s long-rumored smartwatch is expected to start shipping soon.

[Source: TechCrunch]


Facebook in talks to buy drone company!

Facebook is in discussions to buy Titan Aerospace for $60 million, a source “with access to information about the deal” told TechCrunch. Titan Aerospace, a New Mexico startup founded by Max Yaney and led by CEO Vern Raburn, makes solar-powered drones that can stay aloft for up to five years at a time.

With this acquisition, Facebook aims to use the high-altitude drones to bring Internet access to around 5 billion people around the world not yet connected. The goal is part of Internet.org, a coalition of mobile tech companies spearheaded by Facebook.

According to the report by TechCrunch, “Facebook is interested in using these high-flying drones to blanket parts of the world without Internet access, beginning with Africa. The company would start by building 11,000 of these unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), specifically the ‘Solara 60’ model.”

The company seems especially interested in the Solara 60, a featherweight aircraft built of composite materials. Thanks to thousands of solar cells blanketing the aircraft, Solara 60 can successfully maintain an altitude of 65,000 feet for years without refuelling.

The SOLARA atmosat platform provides customers around the world with easy access to real-time high-resolution images of the earth, voice and data services, navigation and mapping services, and atmospheric-based monitoring systems, according to the company.

Last year, we heard about hot air ballon-powered Internet access from Google. The search giant has already launched a pilot project in New Zealand with 50 testers trying to connect via a solar-powered helium balloon.


India’s NCERT recommends GNU/Linux for schools across the country

National Council Of Education, Research and Training (NCERT) has released a notification on their website which promotes the use of Free and Open Source software in Indian schools. This notice is released well in time, as other schools, colleges and government institutions in India are already moving to open source software to save costs and prevent vendor locking. NCERT is responsible for maintaining standards in most government and private schools and educational institutions in India.

Earlier CBSE, one of the major national education board, also made changes to the syllabus which made the curriculum vendor neutral. Years ago, the government of Kerela also migrated to GNU/Linux operating systems for schools, thus making one of the largest migrations to open source in India ever.

The advantages of moving to open source software are many, though most institutions adopt it to save cost over licensing. Other benefits include:

  • No vendor locking, and the institution can switch to software they like any time
  • The ability to choose over a large number of flavours of GNU/Linux and use the one that they like the best.
  • Ability to work in a standard, open format that is free from binary blobs and accessible to anyone.
  • Commercial support available on demand. Community support is free of cost.

The notification read:

The requirements of the curricula are not to be hardware or software specific. Undoing the general trend of limiting software to office applications, which are not only ill suited for educational purposes but also tend to narrow down the view of what computers and ICT can achieve, a wide range of software applications specifically designed for education are introduced. Use of proprietary software would become very expensive and make the implementation unviable. Therefore, Free and Open Source software have been suggested throughout the curricula. The use of FOSS applications will also obviate software piracy and enable customisation to suit local needs

You can have a look at the full notification here.


California Court: Checking out mobile maps while driving is acceptable

A court in Fresno, California has ruled that it’s acceptable to use mobile phones while driving as long as they are only employed to get directions via mapping apps. The ruling comes in favor of Steven Spriggs, who appealed a traffic ticket he received from a California Highway Patrol officer two years ago. He was ticketed $165 for using a navigation app on his iPhone 4 while stuck in traffic on a congested highway.

It is worth mentioning here that many states in the US and in the rest of the world have banned the use of mobile phones while driving, especially for texting or chatting.

“Spriggs contends he did not violate the statute because he was not talking on the telephone. We agree,” the court said in its 18-page ruling. “Based on the statute’s language, its legislative history, and subsequent legislative enactments, we conclude that the statute means what it says—it prohibits a driver only from holding a wireless telephone while conversing on it. Consequently, we reverse his conviction.”

“Had the Legislature intended to prohibit drivers from holding the telephone and using it for all purposes, it would not have limited the telephone’s required design and configuration to ‘hands-free listening and talking,’ but would have used broader language, such as ‘hands-free operation’ or ‘hands-free use.’ To interpret section 23123(a) as applying to any use of a wireless telephone renders the ‘listening and talking’ element nonsensical, as not all uses of a wireless telephone involve listening and talking, including looking at a map application,” the opinion stated.

As per another California law passed after Spriggs’ case, texting while driving continues to remain illegal.

Spriggs, 59, told The Associated Press that “he’s no champion of those who think they can get away with cruising down the road while staring at their phone or engaging in other such dangerous behavior. Spriggs would like the law that ensnared him to be rewritten so officers can do their job unencumbered.”

“We’re distracted all the time,” he said. “If our distractions cause us to drive erratically, we should be arrested for driving erratically.”


Samsung teases ‘Exynos Infinity’. Could it be 64-bit?

Besides the long-rumoured Galaxy Gear successor, the Samsung Galaxy S5 smartphone and some new tablets, we could also see the next-generation of Exynos chipsets from Samsung at Mobile World Congress (MWC) this year. The official Samsung Exynos Twitter account has posted a picture that shows a tagline “Exynos Infinity in Barcelona”. Though details are scarce, the image clearly hints at a new Exynos chipset ready for arrival at MWC next week.

The tweet by Samsung Exynos reads, “Continuing our market-leading innovation and leadership, we bring you our latest innovations. Please stay tuned.”

Rumor has it that the Exynos Infinity could be Samsung’s next-gen 64-bit processor that will compete with Apple’s A7. A recent Linux kernel patch also points to a Samsung quad-core processor under the codename GH7 that appears to be 64-bit. After Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 5s (the first smartphone with an ARM chip that has 64-bit support), Samsung’s mobile business chief Shin Jong-kyun said that the upcoming Galaxy-branded smartphones from the South Korean electronics giant would come with 64-bit processing capability.

“Not in the shortest time. But yes, our next smartphones will have 64-bit processing functionality,” Shin was quoted as saying. The Exynos Infinity could also be a next-gen 64-bit processor made for the Galaxy S5, expected to debut at Samsung’s ‘Unpacked 5’ event on February 24 in Barcelona.

Stay tuned as we are sure to find out more next week!


Google launches ‘Project Tango’ to create 3D map of the world around you

Google has just released details about their newly launched Project Tango. The project features a 5″ Android phone which possesses 3D sensors, akin to those on Microsoft’s Kinect. The Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at Google is responsible for this innovative progress, and the group is lead by none other than Regina Dugan.

The phone is unlike any other in that it uses its sensors to not only track movement, but also to create a 3D map of its surroundings as it moves. The result, as you will see in the video below, is a stunning yet complicated array of calculations and renderings in real time. The team at Google are excited about the possibilities that this technology will make available to them and stated that “The goal of Project Tango is to give mobile devices a human-scale understanding of space and motion.” The prototype device features customized hardware and software which covers a wide range of movement, and is able to calculate space and distance as it does this. As expected, it runs on Android and its APIs, though still in development, should be ready for developers to begin creating applications soon. 

Besides navigation and mapping, the team hopes that games will soon be able to take advantage of the technology. This could easily pave the way for another round of Ingress-like games — games that are based on our real world surroundings, and not just virtual ones. All this is made possible with the use of a processor named the Myriad 1. This chip is manufactured by Movidius, a startup which focuses on extreme levels of mobile performance and efficiency, and which possesses a wealth of talent; powerful enough to reshape and restructure the way we use our phones.

Despite the selling of Motorola by Google, they decided to hold on to not just the patents, but the ATAP team also, and with good reason. Before today’s revelation, there was no leak, hint or suggestion of this device, but here we have it, and with what seems to be a working demo as well. Our minds have officially began straying as we anticipate the great things that this team will produce in the near future. Google has once again stuck it’s head out ahead of the competition with this move, but I can’t help but wonder about who actually designed and manufactured this phone. I would love to see a Google built phone in the future. Wouldn’t you?

Sources: Google