You Should Care That the Firefox Phone is Dead

I wasn’t too excited when Mozilla announced the Firefox phone, but competition IS good!

Why the death of the Firefox phone matters

c|net – By: Stephen Shankland – “Maybe you didn’t bat an eye when Mozilla killed off Firefox phones.

The nonprofit, after all, faced long odds in taking on Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android mobile software. And the Firefox OS software had been on a downward trajectory over the past year.

But you should care that Mozilla admitted defeat Thursday because it’s further evidence that we live in an Apple-and-Google-only mobile world. Both increasingly draw you into their universe of native apps, where they have more control over what you use. Mozilla, by contrast, offered a more open alternative. The nonprofit’s overall waning influence has made it harder to build a vibrant Web, extend its utility to phones, and keep Google and Apple power in check.

Not that Google or Apple are up to anything nefarious, but history is full of examples of big companies abusing their powers, including Microsoft, IBM and the old Ma Bell version of AT&T. You already see heavy-handed behavior with your phone. Don’t like Apple Maps on iOS? Tough luck. It’s the default.

When the first Firefox OS phones arrived two and a half years ago, Mozilla hoped to repeat its success from a decade earlier when the Firefox browser successfully challenged Microsoft’s dominant Internet Explorer and sparked a tremendous burst of innovation and competition. Instead, Firefox OS was bunched with mobile software also-rans like BlackBerry, Canonical’s Ubuntu and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

‘The circumstances of multiple established operating systems and app ecosystems meant that we were playing catch-up,’ John Bernard, director of collaboration for connected devices, and George Roter, head of core contributor participation, said Thursday in a note.

Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s senior vice president of connected devices, said in a blog post that Mozilla will instead focus Firefox OS on the Internet of Things, shorthand for the spread of computing technology to countless devices in homes and businesses.

Firefox as a whole is losing clout, though. The Firefox browser’s market share plunged from 19 percent to 9 percent worldwide over the last three years, while Google’s Chrome rose from 32 percent to 48 percent, according to analytics firm StatCounter. On smartphones, you’re more likely to use Apple’s Safari browser on your iPhone or Chrome on your Android device. Increasingly, you’re also relying more on so-called native apps.

Not that the Web has disappeared. Who wants to laboriously search for, download and install an app when all you need is a museum’s hours or a flight check-in? Even if you do end up installing a company’s app, its website is often how you interact first.

Mountain View, California-based Mozilla used Firefox OS to advance Web technology on mobile devices during a time when Apple became more interested in supporting developers of native apps. Despite its focus on Android, Google remains interested in Web development. Yet for years, Mozilla has helped vet and validate Google’s plans even as it introduced new technologies like asm.js for faster Web apps and WebGL for hardware-accelerated graphics.

Mobile failures

Firefox OS struggled throughout its development. In May, Mozilla Chief Executive Chris Beard concluded that the company’s effort to find a Firefox OS foothold in low-end, low-cost phones had failed despite partnerships with major carriers like Deutsche Telekom and handset makers like Huawei. In December, Mozilla abandoned partnerships with companies like Verizon.

Plan B was to encourage enthusiasts to install Firefox OS on their own phones and turn them into evangelists, replaying the Firefox 1.0 playbook from 2004. But few phones are compatible, installing Firefox OS is harder than installing an app, and popular software like the WhatsApp messaging app is missing.

Tellingly, two high-ranking ex-Mozilla executives rely on Google’s Chrome technology. Former CTO Andreas Gal’s Internet of Things startup, Silk Labs, uses the Node.js project, which is based on a crucial part of Chrome called V8. Former CEO Brendan Eich’s new Brave browser is a variation of Chrome’s fundamentals, too.

‘We did a careful head-to-head comparison and by every measure’ Google’s technology won, Eich said in a January mailing list message. ‘We wish Mozilla well, but as a startup, we must use all sound leverage available to us.’

Firefox OS will live on in another form, H5OS, at Acadine Technologies, the startup of former Mozilla President Li Gong. Gong will release the first version of H5OS at the Mobile World Congress show this month and believes Mozilla’s withdrawal means more attention for Acadine.

‘We are the standard bearer in the open and Web-based mobile OS space,’ Gong said.

Mozilla itself will continue to push the Firefox browser for Android and iOS devices and for personal computers. Nick Nguyen, vice president of Firefox, promises better performance and new features over the next year.

‘Hundreds of millions of users worldwide depend on desktop Firefox,’ Nguyen said. ‘We will continue to dedicate the resources needed to build a great browser.'”

Copy Cloud Storage to Die May 1st

Here’s what they say for themselves:

Copy and CudaDrive services will be discontinued.

We are announcing today that the Copy and CudaDrive services will be discontinued on May 1, 2016.

Copy and CudaDrive have provided easy-to-use cloud file services and sharing functionality to millions of users the past 4+ years. However, as our business focus has shifted, we had to make the difficult decision to discontinue the Copy and CudaDrive services and allocate those resources elsewhere. For more information on this decision, please view the blog post from Rod Mathews our VP & GM, Storage Business.

We know this comes as disappointing news to our users, but rest assured that we will do everything we can to take care of each of you in the manner for which Barracuda is known. We have partnered with Mover to make migrating your data to another service as easy as possible and have created a step by step guide that walks you through the process of moving your data to a local hard drive or another cloud storage solution.

If you are on a paid subscription for either Copy or CudaDrive, please keep an eye out in the coming days for an email with more detailed information on your options. For additional information, please visit our FAQ page.

Thank you to everyone for your support.

All the best,
The Copy & CudaDrive Team

Let the Cheap Windows PCs Die

Asus Chromebook FlipFrom The Chromest Blog: Kinda like Captain Kirk said about the Klingons, “Let them die!” The point that super cheap Windows PCs are, well, cheap, is a very valid point! Chromebooks may not run Windows, but they run the Chrome OS VERY well! You can’t say the same about cheap Windows PCs running Windows!

Chromebooks are reportedly killing low-end PC laptops. Good.

ExtremeTech – By: Joel Hruska – “A new report suggests Windows PCs don’t just face a challenge from tablets and smartphones, but are increasingly under fire from within their own brand segment. Chromebooks, the web-based Google alternative to a Microsoft or Apple-powered laptop, have been slowly gaining ground since they debuted in 2011.

Chromebooks are just a fraction of the PC market, at 2.8% in 2015, but that’s up from 1.9% in 2014. That’s an increase of 47% in just a year — not bad for growth when the PC market as a whole continues to take a beating. In response, companies like HP and Dell are reportedly cutting their losses and mostly leaving the sub-$300 space. Acer, Asus, and Lenovo continue to offer some products from $180 to $300, but we may see these products gradually phase out if they don’t sell well enough to justify their own existence.

You could argue the surge in Chromebook sales is proof the venerable Wintel Alliance is no longer capable of defending itself, even on its own turf. After all, Microsoft and Intel may have failed to capture much of the mobile market, but they at least maintained a lock on the laptop and desktop industry. Chromebooks could threaten that lock, at least in the long term.

On the other hand, dumping the sub-$300 market could be the smartest thing Dell, HP, and the other OEMs have done in years.

Let’s be honest: Cheap Windows systems suck

I realize that the header above may sound a bit pejorative or unprofessional, but I’d challenge anyone to refute it. Anyone who has had to guide a friend or family member through a budget-restricted, low-end laptop purchase knows that the entire process is a nightmare. Because manufacturers often run specials or markdowns on specific SKUs, trying to identify the best system on any given day involves wading through a morass of nearly identical specifications. Many of these bottom-end systems have at least one ‘gotcha’ — a terrible keyboard, an insanely sensitive trackpad, or a display with viewing angles so narrow, it accidentally doubles as a security window. Inexpensive systems tend to have more bloatware than more-expensive hardware, and often carry the fewest support options.

There is a difference between buying a no-frills budget product with solid basic performance and a bad laptop. All too often, inexpensive computer hardware crosses that line — and the cheaper you go, the worse it gets.

HP, Dell, and the other OEMs are all aware of this, of course. They’ve continued to offer these systems as a way of eking out tiny profits on huge hardware volumes and, I think, partly out of an institutional memory for a time when less expensive PC hardware was automatically equated with better PC hardware.

It’s hard to remember now, but there was a time when the race to the bottom of PC prices was seen as a unilaterally good thing for all involved. Consumer PC margins were shrinking, but volumes were growing even faster. I bought my first computer with my own money when manufacturers started offering $999 boxes without a monitor. As desktop and laptop prices fell, more and more people were able to get online for the first time. This was, and is, a very good thing, and I’d never argue for a return to the days when buying a computer meant slapping down a few grand for the privilege.

At some point, however, the model stopped working. Blame Microsoft’s ‘Windows tax,’ or Intel’s high margins, or the OEMs themselves for being so willing to race to the bottom — it doesn’t really matter. What matters is the experience of using a low-end Windows laptop is often much worse than it objectively should be. Given that laptop average selling price (ASP) fell to $430 in 2014 and hasn’t budged much since, it’s reasonable to conclude the majority of Windows users are experiencing the operating system on these low-end systems.

Low quality OEM systems aren’t the reason why the PC market has slumped so badly, but it’s hard to get excited about buying a new PC when previous purchases have shown you that however nice the hardware seems out of the box, it quickly disappoints. The low-end PC experience is compromised in ways you don’t see with $199 to $299 tablets.

Let the market go

If HP, Lenovo, and other OEMs can improve their profit margins and their higher-end product lines by killing their lowest-cost hardware, I say do it — not because people on a budget shouldn’t be able to buy Windows computers, but because the current system doesn’t work for anyone. Consumers aren’t happy with the hardware they purchase, OEMs aren’t happy with their profit margins, and Microsoft wants people to actually want to use its operating systems.

In the short term, this kind of switch would depress PC sales, but in the long run, it might well improve them. Give people a better day-to-day experience, and they’ll be more likely to replace aging hardware with devices in the same ecosystem. Hand them a consistently mediocre-to-terrible experience, and they’ll jump ship the first chance they get. We’ve already seen how people react to the mediocre-to-terrible option, so why not try building fewer PCs at somewhat higher margins, with hardware and software loadouts people want to use?”

Google Chrome to Mark all HTTP only sites as ‘Bad’!

Oh, no you don't!What if you have a simple web site that doesn’t need encryption? Why should you have to but an expensive SSL certificate? Bummer!

Google Chrome gets ready to mark all HTTP sites as ‘bad’

ZDNet – By: Liam Tung – “A year after Google’s Chromium Security team proposed marking all HTTP sites which are non-secure, the company is preparing to implement the policy in Chrome.

As the company highlighted in its proposal in 2014, HTTP sites provide no data security to users, so why don’t browsers warn users of this fact, say, by displaying a red cross over a padlock next to the URL instead of the status quo, which is no warning at all?

Google called on Apple, Microsoft, and Mozilla to reverse the situation gradually, so that one day the only unmarked sites are those that have enabled the more secure protocol, HTTPS.

With HTTPS, the connection to users is encrypted and the site’s digital certificate has been verified by a third-party certificate authority.

The new marking in Chrome is designed to be the stick to the carrots Google has dangled to encourage wider adoption of HTTPS.

Google argues that properly secured connections can frustrate surveillance attacks on the web. In 2014, it began using HTTPS as a positive ranking signal and in December adjusted its indexing system to crawl for HTTPS equivalents of HTTP pages and prioritize them where they’re available.

However, until this week it hadn’t announced any progress on its proposal. At the Usenix Enigma 2016 security conference, Google offered a snapshot of the future, showing what The New York Times website would like when Google implements the feature in Chrome.

Chrome users can look at how the markings would work by typing chrome://flags/ in the URL bar and enabling the experimental feature ‘Mark non-secure origins as non-secure’.

It is not clear when Google will introduce the new marking system by default in Chrome, though some observers, such as Eric Mill from the US General Services Administration’s tech savvy unit 18F, have taken it as a sure sign the plan will proceed.

Google’s Chromium issue tracker also indicates it is pressing ahead with the feature: ‘Our goal is to mark non-secure pages like HTTP, using the same bad indicator as broken HTTPS, since this 1) is more accurate than marking such pages as neutral, and 2) simplifies the set of security indicators.’

And as the company prepares to begin marking HTTP as bad, it has also released new tools to help developers deploy HTTPS.

On Tuesday, Google announced Security Panel, a new developer tool in Chrome that will help them identify common issues preventing sites from attaining the green padlock that represents a properly secured connection.

The tool will check the validity of a digital certificate and whether the site is using a secure protocol, cipher suite, and key exchange.

It will also help pinpoint the source of mixed content issues, such as a non-secure image on an otherwise secured page, which today in Chrome will trigger a grey padlock with a yellow triangle.”

Finally! VLC Player for Chrome OS is Out!

VLC LogoI LOVE VLC Player. It plays anything! So, I use it all the time on Linux and Windows… even my Macbook Pro! Now, I can use it on my Chromebook!

VLC finally available for Chrome OS

Android Authority – By: Edgar Cervantes – “When in doubt of whether you’ll be able to play some obscure media file or not, just download VLC. That has been our philosophy for a long time. VLC is famous for supporting the largest variety of media formats. I have personally never encountered a file which doesn’t work with this player, and now Chrome OS users can finally enjoy it.

This happens to be huge news, as Chrome OS was one of the last major operating systems without official VLC support. VLC is pretty much everywhere right now. There are versions for Android, iOS, Windows, Linux and OS X, as well as more obscure operating systems like Solaris, Haiku, ReactOS and others.

Chrome OS was certainly late to the party, but that is due to very valid reasons. Adopting solutions like PPAPI, NaCL and Javascript would require rewriting all the code and would bring some issues to the database. Of course, this was before Google announced ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome), a feature that would allow Chromebooks to run Android apps.

This changed everything for VLC. They were able to keep 95% of the code they already had, and adapting the rest to work with the web-based operating system. The final result is an application that works just as well as all other VLC versions.

It supports the same video and audio formats, as well as subtitle files. You can even play streams. Other supported features include playlists, accelerated playback, an audio equalizer, audio/video synchronization and hardware-accelerated video/audio decoding.

The only trick here is that the team has only tested it with two Chrome OS devices: the Chromebook Pixel and the HP Chromebook 14, which are the only two machines the team had access to. Please do test it on your own devices, though, and try to report any bugs you find.

Ready for some mad media playback? Just click through the button below to download the app from the Chrome Web Store. And don’t forget to hit the comments and let us know how VLC for Chrome OS is treating you!”

Will I Need to Register My Drone?

Parrot Bebop DroneLooks like I have to register my drone. Stupid government. Grump.

A complete list of drones that need to be registered with the FAA

BGR – By: Yoni Heisler – “Just in time for the holidays, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this week donned their Grinch costume and announced that individuals with drones that weigh more than half a pound (.55 pounds or 250 grams, to be exact) will have to register it with the FAA. On top of that, the registration process requires drone owners to fork over $5.

It may sound like your everyday email scam at first glance, but rest assured that the FAA’s new guidelines are legit and are set to go into effect on December 21. To encourage drone registration, the FAA is willing to waive the aforementioned $5 fee if users register by January 20, 2016.

‘Registering unmanned aircraft will help build a culture of accountability and responsibility, especially with new users who have no experience operating in the U.S. aviation system,’ U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said this week. ‘It will help protect public safety in the air and on the ground.’

And lest you think this is some registration you can gleefully ignore, the penalties for not registering eligible drones are stiff, and include civil fines in the $27,000 range, criminal fines as high as $250,000, and up to three years in prison.

All that said, if you’re at all curious if you need to register a drone you might have in your possession, Wired has come out with an exhaustive list detailing which drones from which manufacturers need to be accounted for. Suffice it to say, if you have a drone that can take video footage, you’re going to have to register. On the flipside, most drones that can fit inside your hand will likely pass muster.

Drones that must be registered include the following:

3DRobotics

3DR
3DR Solo (with gimbal)
3DR Solo (without gimbal)

DJI
DJI Inspire 1
DJI Inspire Pro
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
DJI Phantom 3 Standard

Helimax RC
Helimax FORM500
Helimax Voltage 500

Parrot
Parrot AR.Drone 2.0 (Elite Edition)
Parrot Bebop
Parrot Bebop

Yuneec

Yuneec Typhoon G Yes

Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4
Yuneec Typhoon Q500+

Amazon
Hubsan x4 FPV
Hubsan x4 Pro

BH Photo
UDI U818A-1 Discovery HD
UDI U842 Falcon

Drones that do not need to be registered include the following:

Parrot Rolling Spider minidrone from Parrot
Sky Viper s670 Stunt Drone
Syma X5
Syma X5C
Hubsan x4 camera
Hubsan x4 Nano
Hubsan x4 (H107L
Extreme Fliers Micro Drone 2.0
Air Hogs Millenium Falco
Helimax 1SQ No Helimax RC $100 0.07
Helimax 1SQ V-cam No Helimax RC $130 0.07
Helimax 1Si (with camera
Helimax 230Si (with camera)
Parrot Airborne Cargo minidrone
Parrot Airborne Night minidrone

For more context, the FAA has a page up with a few illustrative examples indicating which type of drones are likely to need registration and which ones don’t. Of course, if you just google the weight of any drones you own, you should be good to go.

Happy flying.”

Is Firefox Doomed?

FirefoxOur ol’ buddy By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols seems to think so!

Amid abandonment and failures, ?is Firefox the walking dead?

ZDNet – By: By Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols – “Once upon a time I was a big Firefox fan.

Firefox 1.0 was a world better than the decrepit Internet Explorer 6 in 2005. A decade later it’s a different story. Mozilla and Firefox are the zombies, and IE — alongside its Windows 10 browser cousin Edge, are alive and well.

How did Firefox go from being a popular, open-source web browser to the unpopular program it is today? It happened a little something like this.

It’s been getting slower and klutzier release after release. I run all the major browsers and Firefox can’t compete. I like Google Chrome the best today, but I think it could stand some improvement and competition.

Unfortunately, Firefox is no longer a competitor.

This isn’t just my opinion. The federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP), shows that Firefox has dropped in popularity from 11 percent in March to 9.7 percent in December. That’s far behind, Chrome, with shy of 42 percent, and all varieties of IE with 22.2 percent.

In short, fewer and fewer people like Firefox.

It’s not simply that Firefox is slow and prone to bugs. Mozilla, Firefox’s parent organization, seems to be falling apart at the seams.

I date Mozilla’s collapse to Brendan Eich, Mozilla co-founder and creator of JavaScript, being forced out as CEO in June 2014. Nine days after being named CEO, Eich went from Mozilla’s savior to a pariah. Eich’s donation of $1,000 to the campaign supporting California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 in 2008 led to a bloody internal fight. Eich eventually backpedaled from his position, but it was too little, too late.

Since then Mozilla has drifted both with its goals and its technology. Firefox, the web browser, became an after-thought. Mozilla’s leadership put its focus on Firefox OS, its smartphone operating system rival to Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android.

It failed — badly.

By early December, the word was out. Mozilla was giving up on Firefox OS. Ari Jaaksi, Mozilla’s senior vice president of connected devices, explained (perhaps as he was packing his desk): “Because we were not able to deliver the best user experience possible, we decided to stop offering Firefox OS smartphones through carrier channels.”

Oh, in theory, Firefox OS will live on as Internet of Things (IoT), but that won’t save Mozilla’s bacon.

Neither will Thunderbird, a once popular e-mail client. Mozilla is trying, for the second time, to kill off Thunderbird. While web-based e-mail is now much more popular than clients, many old-time Mozilla fans aren’t happy with Mozilla booting Thunderbird to the curb.

Equally damaging was when Mozilla alienated its loyal developer community by deprecating XPCOM and XUL, the foundations of its once popular extension system. Mozilla also annoyed its users by quietly deploying Suggested Tiles, a built-in commercial ad system.

Three months later Mozilla killed the unpopular program.

Mozilla also replaced its profitable Google ad deal with three different search engine deals: Yahoo, Yandex, and Baidu. How much does Mozilla make from these deals? We don’t know. Mozilla isn’t saying.

We do know, however, that Yahoo is in a world of hurt thanks to its many mistakes.

Ironically, in its latest financial report for 2014 but just released earlier this month, the Mozilla Foundation has its best financial year ever. The foundation increased its revenue from $314 million to more than $329 million. In the bank, Mozilla has $266.5 million in assets. Of course, this was all before Mozilla turned away from Google and to Yahoo for its main revenue stream.

While Mozilla may be cash-rich, it’s hard to see where it goes from here. It’s grand plan for the future, Firefox OS, is a dead operating system walking. The Firefox web browser continues to bleed both users and developers.

Mozilla and Firefox will continue to stumble forward, but it’s both a zombie group and product. It’s only a matter of time until both expire once and for all.”

Google Will No Longer Support Older Windows with Chrome

More good reasons to abandon old OS platforms!

Google will retire Chrome support for Windows XP, Vista, OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8 in April 2016

VentureBeat – By: Emil Protalinski – “Google today announced it is extending Chrome support for Windows XP until April 2016. The company will also end Chrome support for Windows Vista, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, OS X 10.7 Lion, and OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion at the same time.

This means Google will provide regular Chrome updates and security patches for users on these operating systems for five more months. After that, the browser will still work, but it will be stuck on the last version released in April.

Google rightly explained that ‘such older platforms are missing critical security updates,’ ‘have a greater potential to be infected by viruses and malware,’ and ‘are no longer actively supported by Microsoft and Apple.’ If you want to receive the latest Chrome versions and features, the company thus advises you to move to a newer operating system.

In October 2013, Google originally announced it would retire Chrome support for Windows XP in April 2015. The company then pushed the date back until December 2015. Now it’s being pushed back yet again.

Keep in mind that Microsoft retired Mainstream Support for Windows XP on April 14, 2009, and then pulled Extended Support for the operating system on April 8, 2014. Google’s extensions are a little ridiculous. The company was already going out of its way to support XP a year longer than Microsoft, but two years is really bending over backwards.

Windows XP users cannot upgrade to newer versions of Microsoft’s browser: IE8 is the latest version they can install. IE9 is only available for Windows Vista and Windows 7, while IE10 and IE11 are only for Windows 7 and Windows 8. Many XP users thus choose to use third-party browsers like Chrome.

Last month, XP still had over 11 percent market share, according to Net Applications. Vista had 1.74 percent market share, and the three old OS X versions had a combined 1.17 percent. That’s exactly why Google keeps updating Chrome for XP users: There are still hundreds of millions using the browser on the ancient OS.

But with all these extensions, Google isn’t helping — it’s encouraging users not to upgrade. Even with an up-to-date browser, using Windows XP is simply a poor security choice.”

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