Imagination is hosting a raffle for a 9.7-inch, MIPS-based Ingenic tablet that runs a MIPS port of Firefox OS, which will also support its Creator C120 SBC.
An “experimental” version of Firefox OS has been ported to the MIPS architecture in the form of an unnamed Ingenic reference tablet announced by Imagination Technologies. Imagination designs the IP for the MIPS32 cores and PowerVR SGX540 GPU incorporated in the tablet’s Ingenic XBurst SoC. There are five days left to sign up for an Imagination raffle of 15 of the tablets, which are loaded with Firefox OS, but also support Android 4.4
A couple of weeks ago, in a shadowy corner of a fancy coffee house in London, I was handed a rather interesting gadget: a white, nondescript 9.7-inch tablet. I tapped the power button, and the Firefox OS lock screen appeared. That wasn't the surprising bit, though. Rather unusually, there was a MIPS-based CPU inside the device.
But even when Microsoft engineers built a TCP/IP stack into Windows, the pain continued. Andreessen and his colleagues left university to found Netscape, wrote a new browser from scratch and released it as Netscape Navigator. This spread like wildfire and led Netscape’s founders to speculate (hubristically) that the browser would eventually become the only piece of software that computer users really needed – thereby relegating the operating system to a mere life-support system for the browser.
Now that got Microsoft’s attention. It was an operating-system company, after all. On May 26, 1995 Gates wrote an internal memo (entitled “The Internet Tidal Wave”) which ordered his subordinates to throw all the company’s resources into launching a single-minded attack on the web browser market. Given that Netscape had a 90% share of that market, Gates was effectively declaring war on Netscape. Microsoft hastily built its own browser, named it Internet Explorer (IE), and set out to destroy the upstart by incorporating Explorer into the Windows operating system, so that it was the default browser for every PC sold.
The strategy worked: Microsoft succeeded in exterminating Netscape, but in the process also nearly destroyed itself, because the campaign triggered an antitrust (unfair competition) suit which looked like breaking up the company, only to founder at the last moment. So Microsoft lived to tell the tale, and Internet Explorer became the world’s browser. By 2000, IE had a 95% market share; it was the de facto industry standard, which meant that if you wanted to make a living from software development you had to make sure that your stuff worked in IE. The Explorer franchise was a monopoly on steroids.
Seamonkey has an interesting history, in that it is both older and younger than Firefox. Older, because originally it was built from Mozilla Suite code (for those of you that don’t know, Mozilla Application Suite is the parent of Firefox, and was originally built from the code of Netscape Navigator which was open-sourced in 1998).
Seamonkey is also younger than Firefox in that Seamonkey’s first version, 1.0, was not released until 2006, 2 years after Firefox 1.0. Quite a few people are not even aware of the existence of Seamonkey or the Mozilla Suite, thinking that Firefox was the successor to Netscape Navigator, created deliberately to enact their vendetta against Microsoft for their monopolistic practices that killed Netscape. But glorious fantasies aside, Mozilla Application Suite was the real successor.
Mozilla has released an open source memory forensics tool that some college students designed and built during the company’s recent Winter of Security event.
The new tool, known as Masche, is designed specifically for investigating server memory and has the advantage of being able to scan running processes without causing any problems with the machine. Masche runs on Linux, OS X and Windows and Mozilla has posted the code on GitHub.
GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software. While the Firefox source code from the Mozilla project is free software, they distribute and recommend non-free software as plug-ins and addons. Also their trademark license restricts distribution in several ways incompatible with freedom 0.
But wait, there’s more. If Mozilla is really backpedaling on dumping Thunderbird, it needs to do much more than this timid come-back. It needs to do something about Groupware. It needs to port Thunderbird (or develop an email client) for Android. Or Firefox OS. In comparison of the kind of investments Mozilla does in other areas (Firefox OS, Webmaker…) Thunderbird cannot possibly be that demanding. Instead of witnessing this -or am I too impatient?- we still have to deal with the constant half-hearted, nose-blocked attempt at maintaining Thunderbird. I wish we could go beyond this. I wish Mozilla could be clearer. Very few FOSS projects have the knowledge and expertise to derive a product out of their code: Mozilla did this Firefox, and is doing it with Firefox OS, both of them brilliantly. Why it won’t do this with Thunderbird is mind-boggling. But enough wasting everybody’s time with my rant: I’ll go back tinkering with my mails on Emacs.
So why does that matter? After all, there are lots of ways of accessing email, so why should we care whether Thunderbird has been semi-abandoned or not? As I wrote at the end of 2013, the world has changed dramatically in the wake of Edward Snowden's leaks about massive surveillance of our online activities. That makes using encryption crucial, and that, in its turn, gives Thunderbird a renewed importance, because it is currently one of the most popular ways for using GNU Privacy Guard, the free software version of the core PGP technology, via Enigmail. Indeed, it's fascinating to see from the Thunderbird blog post on "Active Daily Installations" that privacy-loving Germany headed the list with 1.7 million out of a total of 9.3 million (UK could only manage a rather feeble 254,000.)