July 2012 Archives

12 ways web browsers differentiate themselves

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Everybody uses a browser to surf the Internet right?

So it's simply a matter of choosing your preferred application for this task... and this is a decision often influenced by pre-installed options on a user's preferred choice of hardware and therefore platform.

If you don't get on with Internet Explorer, then there's always Chrome, Safari, Opera, Firefox -- and even Flock, Maxthon, Deepnet Explorer and Phaseout 5.

Browsers differentiate themselves by virtue of the way they handle elements such as:

• tab scrolling and pinning,
• session restore options,
• mobile device connectivity,
• efficiency in CPU usage & therefore speed,
• automated update options,
• notification bars and alerts,
• search direct from URL bar option,
• tab stacking,
• CSS3 features,
• keyboard navigation options
• the way downloads are handled,
• and... customisability and add-on options.
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Now that group of a dozen characteristics aren't the de facto 12 architectural commandments for browser app creation, but they do cover most of the basics.

The last point, customisability and Add-on options is what probably gives the open source Firefox browser its particular flavour (and not inconsiderable success) among its users.

On this very point then, Mozilla has just announced that Firefox Add-ons downloads have now crossed the three billion mark. Introduced in 2004 to desktop and 2009 to mobile devices, Firefox Add-ons enable users to customise the features, functionality and the look of their web experience.

Firefox was in fact the first browser to introduce Add-ons for desktop and mobile devices and Mozilla now confirms that more than 85% of Firefox users have Add-ons installed, which is an average of five Add-ons installed per user.

According to the Mozilla official developer blog, "The most popular add-ons include AdBlock Plus, Firebug, NoScript, Personas Plus and Video DownloadHelper. Most popular categories include privacy and security, search tools, bookmarks and themes."

"There are more than 150,000 user-created collections of Firefox Add-ons to choose from, including Family Organizer, Traveler's Pack, Sports Fanatic, The Paranoid Kit, Web Developer's Toolbox and Online Shopping."

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UK Electric Vehicle charger network must be open source

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It's not a term particularly well embedded in our collective vernacular just yet, but "EV Chargers" does of course refer to 'Electric Vehicle Chargers', the units we need to keep the next generation of environmentally sustainable cars on our roads.

But could EV Chargers go open source?

Eco-transport website Hybridcars.com reports this week on Charge Your Car Limited, a project originating in the North East that is part of the Department for Transport's Plugged in Places project funded by One North East, OLEV, public and private partners

NOTE: Over 60 partners in the North East including all twelve local authorities, private businesses, transport providers, academia, NHS, retailers, business park operators, fleet operators and electricity distributors/suppliers are already signed up to host chargers.

Charge Your Car has aspirations to become the first national EV Charger network open to any driver.

As such, it is said to be taking a markedly open architectural approach to the development, creation and management of its part in the UK's EV recharging infrastructure.

While most electric vehicle drivers still charge their vehicles at home, the project aims to create 10,000 pay-as-you-go EC Charge points right across the UK.

The open source goal here is to work towards an industry-standard Open Charge Point Protocol (OCPP), where drivers could potentially charge their cars on EV Charge points belonging to any manufacturer.

The parallel with the nightmare of different smartphone charger form factors just comes whizzing past your brain doesn't it?

Hybridcars.com quotes Alexandra Prescott, operations manager at Charge Your Car as follows, "EV users cannot 'roam;' they need to join multiple membership schemes, pay multiple subscriptions, and use multiple means of accessing the charge points. All of this creates hassle and imposes unnecessary expense. Now we are using the insights gained from the past year to develop a second-generation back office based on our 'open source' approach and we will share our plans with our industry colleagues at LCV2012. The new service will be fully operational next year."

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Linus Torvalds holds 'ultimate authority' on Linux

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Below you can view a nice video explaining the mechanics of how Linux is actually built from a real world software application development perspective.

The video explains that 10,000 patches go into each new release of Linux, but that after each submission has been checked over by a senior level Linux developer or "maintainer", when the maintainer finishes his or her review they will pass it on to Linus Torvalds himself how holds "ultimate authority" on Linux before each new kernel can be released.

Torvalds himself will be talking about the latest developments to the kernel in person at the LinuxCon Europe and Embedded Linux Conference Europe (ELCE) taking place in Barcelona Nov. 5-7, 2012.

It's an illustrious line up also featuring Intel's Linux chief Dirk Hohndel, Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth (talking about how Ubuntu is advancing the user experience both on the desktop and in the cloud), Eucalyptus Systems' CEO Marten Mickos, SUSE's VP of engineering Ralf Flaxa and Evernote's CTO Dave Engberg.

According to the Linux Foundation's official communications arm, speakers will also include Open Materials co-founder Catarina Mota who will discuss her research as it relates to open hardware. Mota is a TED Fellow, co-chair of the 2012 Open Hardware Summit and a member of NYC Resistor and OSHWA.



Should tax-funded government software be free?

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The non-governmental Open Source for America (OSFA) organisation has called upon the U.S. Federal Government to free up code produced as "custom-developed, taxpayer-funded software" for general use under an open source license.

President of selection pressure John Scott has explained that his group is specifically interested in how publicly funded software code developed by the government (which isn't already covered by a proprietary license) should be made available to the wider public.
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The Washington DC headquartered OSFA organisation is made up of technology industry leaders, non-government associations and academic/research institutions.

John Scott and Deb Bryant of the Open Source Initiative (OSI) co-chaired a "Free the Code" session at the Open Source Conference (OSCON) this week in Portland, Oregon to invite interested parties to join the debate.

"Releasing code as open source would significantly increase reuse and collaborative development between federal agencies and the private sector," said Bryant. "We hope that others agree and will sign our petition at We the People asking the Federal Government to share government-developed software under an open source license whenever possible."

Free the Code is asking anyone with an interest in taxpayer-funded software to sign the petition at: http://goo.gl/K920J

The White House has pledged to respond to any petition on the We the People site that garners 25,000 signatures within 30 days.

Software freedom guru, champion, activist and all round GNU project hero Richard Stallman wrote the following in 2005:

"The UK government has funded the development of software useful for e-government, and now doesn't know what to do with it. Someone had the bright idea to hand it over to local councils, inviting them to turn themselves into software companies."

"The public have already paid to develop this software. Isn't it absurd to make them pay, now, for permission to use it? Isn't it absurd to restrict what they can do with it? Alas, such absurdity is not unusual; it is standard practice for governments to deliver publicly funded software into private hands, to companies that make the public -- and even the government -- beg for permission to use it afterwards."

You can read his full post here: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/second-sight.html

Video is a golden ticket to the knowledge economy

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This is a guest post for the Computer Weekly Open Source Inside blog by Iddo Shai, who is knowledge and video production manager at Kaltura, the world's first open source video platform.

Shai writes as follows...

We know that today we are living in the age of the so-called knowledge economy. This is a natural shift from the (previous) industrial economy that ruled our world before terms like microprocessors, dot.com and Facebook were born.

So today the knowledge economy is all about innovation... and in the realm of enterprises that means two things:

Knowledge - inside "learning organisations"

"Firms must become learning organisations, continuously adapting management and skills to accommodate to new technologies. They will be increasingly connected via networks, where interactive learning involving creators, producers and users in experimentation and exchange of information drives innovation."

Collaboration -

"A knowledge economy is, in effect, a hierarchy of networks, driven by the acceleration of the rate of change and the rate of learning, where the opportunity and capability to get access to and join knowledge-intensive and learning-intensive relations determines the socio-economic position of individuals and firms."
(Source: The Knowledge-based Economy, Organization For Economy Co-operation and Development, 1996)

Here is a visual representation of the same ideas:
lindsey.png

These are important factors but we should also keep in mind the most important one - the human factor. By 2018, "digital natives" will transform the workplace. The use of IT will intensify in financial institutions as well as education and media companies that wish to stay competitive.

... and this is where video becomes vital.

Communication - "webcams will become the new pens"
For younger workers, video is a part of their way of life: playing video games and using YouTube. As young adults, they tend to record a video version of their CVs and once they get hired they will be comfortable creating video memos and video pitches. I strongly suggest to you that webcams will become the new pens and organisations will need a solution to manage this content and make it available internally and externally.

Remote Learning -
Today there are more students than ever before; by contrast, there are fewer teachers and fewer classrooms. Technology is helping bridge this gap by offering low-cost, open-source solutions like lecture capturing, live streaming and video presentations. The students of today are the workforce of tomorrow and for them video in learning is becoming ubiquitous. In order to distribute knowledge and keep costs low, large organisations need to adapt remote learning tools as well.

What does this mean for the CIO?

The democratisation of IT isn't a trend - it's a reality. Just take a look at the three year-old toddlers that are already using touchscreens. Can you imagine what they will expect from technology by the time they start their first job?

A lot, no doubt...

Those CIOs who choose to drive video adoption in order to enhance enterprise collaboration and communication will be at the forefront of the knowledge economy; those that don't will lag behind.

The key to open source: "thousands of eyes"

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Black Duck Software has this week updated the Ohloh.net online directory of open source projects, contributors and code.

Ohloh.net data has been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 "Unported" license.

duck 1.png

"Visible metrics help open source project teams better manage the operations of their projects, track progress, recruit new members and share their progress with others," said Mike Milinkovich, executive director for the Eclipse Foundation.

"Black Duck's decision to open up the data in Ohloh will make it easier for open source projects to be more transparent about the success and activity of a project."

Ohloh provides a single aggregate source of information about the world's open source projects from over 5,000 repositories and forges including GitHub, SourceForge and Google Code, as well as open source foundation repositories including the Eclipse, Mozilla, Apache and Linux.

"The more, better data that is available on the thousands of open source projects today, the easier it is to identify new patterns, trends and insights on the evolution of open source itself," said Stephen O'Grady, principal analyst with RedMonk.

Thousands of eyes

"While we've partnered with Black Duck in mining Ohloh data in the past to inform our analysis, making the data more widely available will add thousands of eyes to the data, and allow for collaborative research in ways that we haven't seen before."

duck 2.png

In addition, the company announced availability of a public Beta version of a new open source code search engine, Ohloh Code.

Self-service Business Intelligence "democratized" for all, with a Z

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US tech vendors love a Z don't they?

As organizations analyze their informationalized personalization projects using de-serialized data in newly virtualized environments with optimum memory utilization, there clearly is a need for some spelling tuition somewhere.

So it is then that we must make the ever so slightly tender journey to Business Intelligence "democratization"...

... or to be clearer - BI reports that all employees can benefit from rather than just upper management or people in specific financial or technical roles.

Americanized_Encyclopaedia_Britannica.jpeg

This is how Jaspersoft is positioning its Business Intelligence 4.7 tools which (resting upon an open source business model with zero-cost per-user licensing fees as it does) aims to make interactive "democratized" reporting affordable for even the largest scale reporting projects.

Put simply, Jaspersoft 4.7 takes a "self-service" approach to production reporting environments. The new release claims to be able to reduce report development costs through built-in interactivity, which enables personalization (ah, there they go again) of web-based reports.

The enhanced report functionality lets users move, hide, sort and filter their data without the help of a BI expert or the need to export to Microsoft Excel, says the company.

Jaspersoft is also aiming to create the industry's first open source Mobile BI solution for iOS, while also offering a new native Android application and software development kit (SDK).

"Jaspersoft's complete mobile solution allows developers to embed BI in their native mobile smartphone applications while also offering full-featured tablet-based, touch-screen BI through a mobile browser," said the company, in a press statement.

Jaspersoft CEO Brian Gentile enjoys a bit of grandiose terminology and describes his company's solution as nothing less than a "revolution" in affordable interactive reporting.

"Up until now, reports with a wide-scale distribution such as transaction reports or client statements have been largely static. Jaspersoft customers can now create competitive advantage by offering superior customer service through advanced reporting and analytics, whether they deliver via the web, mobile devices or embedded in their applications," said Gentile

There's a free download available or (after a quick registration page) a free online "cloud-based" evaluation option too.

From accountancy, to e-accountancy, to lion taming

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Electronic business has many levels. No surprise then that e-business (or e-commerce if you prefer) is served by e-accounting, which itself comprises of e-payments and (before that) e-invoicing... and every other level of e-accounting if you have the stomach for an endless stream of new-age e- prefixes.

One such vendor operating in this space is Tradeshift. The company's e-invoicing platform has this week announced its "Real Supplier Choice Movement", an initiative which has been engineered to bring new openness to the heady world of e-invoicing.

Why, what's the problem?

Tradeshift contends that we need to, "Stand up against the business models of e-invoicing companies such as Ariba and OB10 which charge expensive fees to submit invoices through their systems."

As such, Tradeshift's business model allows suppliers to submit unlimited e-invoices for free. Umm, apart from when those suppliers are in fact big businesses... who still need bespoke deployments in with additional and incremental commercially charged for services.

NOTE: In fairness, this is because Tradeshift has to refactor those businesses' entire supply chain infrastructure so they are doing all their business through the company and this is said to be "no small task" to bring about.

But hey that's OK, the traditional open source model accommodates perfectly for "charged for" enterprise level services, right?

... and regardless, says the company, this model still benefits buyers as well who see much higher supplier adoption rates on the Tradeshift Network.

Behold -- the e-invoicing evolution/revolution cometh!

Tradeshift CEO Christian Lanng has explained what the campaign is all about. "We are very excited to be bringing Real Supplier Choice to the e-invoicing sphere. We haven't seen much evolution over the years when we look at e-invoicing business models."

"Suppliers have been getting the short end of the stick and footing the bill for everyone for a long time. It doesn't have to be that way. We can provide invoicing and networking solutions that provide value to everyone - on either side of the transaction. Listening to suppliers is long overdue, and listening to suppliers' needs will ultimately benefit their customers as well. It's truly a win-win," said Lanng.

NOTE: The Real Supplier Choice campaign is described as a grassroots movement designed to elevate the voice of small business and suppliers. The goal is to learn exactly what hardships suppliers experience from being forced to use large, corporate EDI systems and expensive electronic invoicing platforms such as Ariba and OB10, to submit their invoices.

The bigger picture here is something in fact something that Tradeshift is calling "network-powered business" more than e-accounting; since once the network is built out, it can actually be used for anything, not limited to accounting.

Of course, it's a bit of jump isn't it? Traditional e-accountancy into new world open source e-accounting all in one go. That's rather like jumping from traditional accountancy to lion taming in one brave move surely?

Well perhaps no, the days of Monty Pyhton's chartered accountants have (arguably) passed us by now and e-invoicing in the open model was meant to be, right?


Is a community approach to IT security ever safe?

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Back in February of this year we heard about security firm AlienVault's creation of the OSSIM standard open source SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) information base.

Described (arguably) somewhat hopefully by its makers as a new "de facto" standard mechanism for sharing cyber threat intelligence, the AlienVault Open Threat Exchange (OTX) system is free to all users of OSSIM (and the firm's own customers) as it aggregates, validates and publishes threat data.

But where does this data come from and is it safe?

AlienVault says that the data originates from what it calls "the broadest range of security devices" across a community of more than 18,000 OSSIM and AlienVault deployments.

The idea is that an attack on any single member of the community "alerts and arms" the entire community with "timely intelligence", so that all users can then (in theory) be ready to better manage a similar attack.

"The OSSIM community is spread among many industries and countries, and is composed of organisations of all sizes, making it the most diverse and comprehensive threat feed possible," said AlienVault CTO Roger Thornton.

Gartner vs. reality

That's great - but is the security data sourced via this community driven approach as safe is it needs to be? Gartner ranked the company in its visionaries quadrant for the so-called 2012 "Magic Quadrant for Security Information and Event Management"...

... but the analyst firm's amazing quadrants can probably be safely argued to appear in a lot more press releases than they do corporate IT strategy documents.

Editorial comment: Of course this is not just "community sourced" security data as if it were some sort of open season for malware information sharing, AlienVault's data is based upon real world registered devices. Although, this is not to say that hackers, miscreants and ne'er-do-wellers couldn't just infiltrate this system and start sending spurious data through the information chain. AlienVault will no doubt tell us that controls are in place to catch and stop and kind of internal hacking of this kind. But, it would largely appear, we are not about to offload too much of our IT security controls to any community powered resource despite the rise in prominence of open source software and tools. When electricity, petrol and the drinking water supply go open source, then IT security may come next.

Digital video's killer-app-factor: open source openness

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The world of television and digital video needs more standards.

We already have a situation where we suffer under the incongruous six-way DVD world region code system, which has been developed as a Digital Rights Management (DRM) technique to allow film distributors to control disk prices, release dates and actual content.
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So is the web and Internet-based video content any better?

Not really, we still have a "situation" where no single universal world standard exists for all video formats to play to. Neither Windows, Mac OS X or any other pretender to the global video crown has truly won through in a sort of online "VHS beats BetaMax" kind of a way.

... and that is of course why we have VLC.

We have recently been treated to the version 2.0.2 release of this free and open source media player, with the new version covering both Windows and Mac OS X users with its updates.

Now already downloaded more than 100 million times, VLC will now offer "interface improvements" for the Mac OS X platform as well as better performance and "retina display" support.

According to the VideoLAN Organization (the body that oversees VLC) press page, "VLC 2.0.2 fixes the video playback on older devices both on MS Windows and Mac OS X, includes overall performance improvements and fixes for a couple of hundreds of bugs."

If you are a devout Windows or OS X user you may not have come across VLC thus far, although many Apple converts will have come to it via their use of the iPad (where it also performs well) if they extended their personal Apple ecosystem to the company's famed tablet device.

So what is VLC capable of playing now?
VLC.png

VLC can actually display everything from JPEGs and MP3 files to MP4 videos/movies and onward. The player is also compatible with MPEG-2, FLV Flash, DivX, H.264, MKV, WebM, and Window Media Video (WMV) files.

The VLC FAQ page at http://www.videolan.org/support/faq.html should answer any additional questions if you really intend to start playing around with multi-region disks and screen shots etc.

Where does video go from here?

Industry commentators have pointed out that Android plays a wider array of video formats that any Windows device or indeed Apple's iOS iPhone and iPad. So, by that argument, if we also accept that the future of digital video is on mobile, then future open source alignment between VLC and Android as an open operating system could potentially supersede any developments that Apple might have up its sleeve.

So what's the "killer-app-factor" in the video space then?

Users want the ability NOT TO HAVE TO CONVERT before they watch, that's all it takes.

Are we there yet? No, we're not.

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This page is an archive of entries from July 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

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