Tag: report

Open source app developers do it on company time

Over two-thirds of open source developers make non-work related apps on company time, according to new figures by research firm Evans Data.

The report, entitled Open Source Software Development Survey, revealed that 67 percent of developers who work on open source applications spend some of their working hours on the projects, even though they are not authorised or sanctioned by their boss.

The figures were generated after 350 open source software developers were asked about when and where they make their apps, revealing that only 33 percent of developers don’t use company time on non-company app projects.

“It may be a discouraging thing for employers to hear but developers working on open source projects can become very involved with them and may find it hard to completely leave them alone when they’re on the clock,” said Janel Garvin, CEO of Evans Data. “And few open source developers make much money from their apps – sixty-five percent report they make next to nothing for their open source work, and they have to support themselves.”

While bosses will not be keen to hear the news, particularly if the company is struggling financially during the current economic downturn, there are plenty of worse ways to spend company time, and the majority of workers with access to the internet will admit that they spend time at work browsing the net or checking their emails, which is often far less productive.

Google operates a work policy that allows 20 percent of job time to work on personal projects, a move that Google believes increases productivity and aids the overall progress of technology. With so many app developers using company time as is, we wonder if more jobs should include this personal project time to encourage non-work related developments.

The survey also revealed that 67 percent of app developers finish their projects on time or ahead of schedule. 28.8 percent of developers make proprietary software to better meet requirements, while 27.9 percent do so to generate revenue. More than half of developers said they could resolve most major bugs within eight hours, while 63 percent said that they will be making more use of open source databases over the next year.

Foxconn's factory scandal shows no improvement

A new report from rights group Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior (SACOM) says conditions at the notorious Shenzhen factory in China have not improved.

Despite public breast-beating and treats for staff such as days out at worker rallies – what fun! –Foxconn and its customers, which include Apple, HP and Dell, are still treating workers as machines, says SACOM.

The organisation interviewed 100 Foxconn workers to reach its conclusions, and says, most notably, that the promised pay rise to Y2,000 per month has failed to materialise – indeed, most workers haven’t even been told about it.

“This is the result of permanent pressure from buyers on their suppliers to produce cheaper,” says Chantal Peyer, from the Swiss NGO Bread for All, which supports the findings of the report.

“A brand like Apple has a very high profit margin on hardware: more than 40 percent. But it asks suppliers, which have a much lower profit margin of about four percent, to lower production costs. As a result, labour costs are squeezed and workers never get living wages.”

And working hours haven’t fallen either, says SACOM. While staff are now in theory limited to a positively leisurely 80 hours a week, they are reporting pressure to cheat on overtime records. They’re also subjected to an hour’s worth of unpaid meetings a day, in which they are harangued about production targets.

There’s still ‘a culture of absolute obedience’, says SACOM, which stretches even to a ban on hairdryers. Disciplinary actions are harsh, including public confessions and making workers copy out sayings of CEO Terry Gou – possibly including our two favourites, “A harsh environment is a good thing,” and “Hungry people have especially clear minds”.

“In the aftermath of the series of suicides, Foxconn attributes suicides to ‘the personal problems’ of victims and denies there is problem in its management methodology,” says Debby Chan of SACOM.

If Foxconn hasn’t managed to clean up its act even at Shenzhen, a factory with such a media spotlight on it, there’s little hope for the company’s other employees around the world, says Pauline Overeem, coordinator at campaigning group GoodElectronics.

“The electronics industry should acknowledge that the problems at Foxconn do not stand alone; the Foxconn suicides represent a tip of an iceberg of labour issues that occur throughout the global electronics supply chain”, she says.

“Foxconn is producing in India, Czech Republic, Mexico, and other countries and is producing for all major consumers brands, as are Foxconn’s competitors.

We contacted Apple, HP and Dell, but they’ve yet to respond with comment.

*Update Dell offered us some comment-free comment: “As a company with an extensive global supply chain, Dell recognizes its responsibility to work with suppliers promoting sustainable environmental practices, the health and safety of people, and fundamental human rights and dignity.

“Dell expects our suppliers to employ the same high standards we do in our own facilities. We enforce these standards through a variety of tools including the Electronics Industry code of conduct, business reviews with suppliers, self-assessments and audits. Any reports of poor working conditions in Dell’s supply chain are investigated and appropriate action is taken.” 

Security software firm Omniquad reported for data breach

Security software firm Omniquad has been criticised and reported for a serious data breach that saw the publication of customer details online.

The company, which makes anti-malware and firewall software and is the “NetworkWorld ClearChoice Award winner” for its AntiSpy software, said a glitch in its helpdesk software resulted in the details of its customers broadcasted on the net.

Omniquad was keen to point out that the vulnerability was in a third-party software which Omniquad uses to manage helpdesk calls. The exploit published customer log-in details online, but Omniquad said that the information was taken down and the system put offline as soon as the situation was discovered.

“This is not a case of negligence on our part. We have acted quickly to fix the situation and notify any customers who may have been put at risk,” said Daniel Sobstel, managing director of Omniquad. “The software has been in place for a few years and this is the first time we have had any kind of problem like this with it.”

While Omniquad may not have been negligent, a security company facing a problem like this doesn’t instil much faith. If one piece of software has a vulnerability like this, then what potential problems are hidden within the other software? Security software should make customers feel more safe, not risk having their details put online. They’re always on about being on the safe side and best practice.

Sobstel tried to reassure customers that the majority of them would be unaffected. He said that it would take days to exploit the published data, meaning it was only really a problem for a small number of people. That will be little comfort to those affected.

Privacy International was strongly condemnatory of the affair. It reported the company to the Information Commissioner over the incident, while a spokesperson said: “Security and privacy should be at the core of everything they do and that includes carrying out security audits of all third-party software and services they offer.”

Android sales skyrocketing past BlackBerry, iPhone

The little green robot reigns supreme, with sales of Android phones skyrocketing past those of RIM’s BlackBerry and Apple’s iPhone, yet another sign of a rapidly changing smartphone market.

A report by research firm Nielsen Company showed that many more people in the US bought Android devices than its rivals in a six month period ending in August 2010, nudging it into the number one slot for devices sold.

A massive 32 percent of the market was held by Android, followed by 26 percent for the BlackBerry, and 25 percent for the iPhone. The other 17 percent went to other phones and operating systems which hold a less sway.

The figures for August show a surge in Android sales compared to July when it held 28 percent of the market. Growth between April and July was minimal, only a percent or two.

However, January to April growth was phenomenal, rising from 14 percent to 26 percent due to the launch of a wide range of new Android phones.

The sudden rise in August suggests another leap up the ladder for Android, which may continue into subsequent months. Meanwhile, the BlackBerry has been steadily losing in sales, while the iPhone has been stable or falling from month to month, suggesting that customers are jumping ship to try out Google’s OS.

This is all good news for Android, but it remains in third place for overall smartphones owned, which takes into consideration sales from previous years when Android was only launching. The BlackBerry remains in top position with 31 percent, down from 37 percent earlier this year. The iPhone is second at 28 percent, rising and falling between 27 and 29 percent throughout the year. 

Android is in third place at 19 percent, but unlike its rivals it has been steadily growing, more than doubling its figures from the beginning of the year when it was at 8 percent.

If growth continues along these lines, which analysts are predicting, then Google’s platform will surpass the iPhone and BlackBerry in terms of smartphone ownership as well as sales.

Android Report 1

Android Report 2

Short supply of LGPs to stunt LED LCD TV market in 2011

Demand for LED LCD TVs has been on the rise, but sales have been stunted by the fact that key components, such as Light Guide Plates (LGPs), are in short supply. This is set to continue well into 2011, causing concern for many in the industry.

The shortages in LGPs and raw materials for edge-type LED LCD panels was first raised during the first half of this year. LGP manufacturers have been attempting to deal with the problem by turning their diffusion plate lines into LGP lines, increasing competition dramatically, but still failing to meet the increasing demand.

A slight ease up on demand has recently helped, forcing many retailers to sell of overstocked units at sale prices. This has resulted in some manufacturers producing less LGPs than their capacity allows. However, this slowing demand is expected to change for the worse in 2011, according to the LGP for LED LCD TV 2011 report by Displaybank.

The report highlights that 78 million units of LED LCD Tvs will be sold next year, double that of 2010, while the edge-type LED LCD market will boom thanks to increasing demand. It predicts that the slowdown in production of LGPs could have a detrimental effect on the market when things pick up, as there simply will not be enough to go around.

With the market expected to double in 2011, supply of LGPs and raw materials will be essential. To ease the problem some LGP manufacturers are attempting to make slimmer LGPs, which will utilise less raw materials and therefore result in more end products.

Many LGP makers are still producing the plates with a thickness of 4mm, despite the ability to lower this to 3.5mm or even 3mm and save the extra raw materials for other LGPs.

LGP manufacturers are also experimenting with new processes and the development of new materials, which could help the situation. Some are also increasing the brightness of their LGPs, but this is unlikely to have a positive effect on supply.

Green IT trusted to top dogs instead of dedicated staff

Only 13 percent of organisations in the UK employ a dedicated “green” staff member to look after the move to greener IT, leaving the majority of green IT projects in the hands of the top dogs, which is hindering progress in this area.

The figures come from a survey of green IT initiatives in UK companies by green IT specialists Externus, which revealed that 34 percent of firms trust their company directors and senior management to make the move to green IT, an approach which many believe will not garner the same results as having someone dedicated to green technology.

Seventeen percent employed facilities managers, who deal with utility bills, to sort out the IT department with a greener approach, while six percent left the job to office managers and administrators. Four percent fobbed the job onto human resources staff.

The survey suggests that the job is seen as more of a chore, thrown onto departments not qualified to deal with it, with only 13 percent of companies employing an individual to look primarily after green IT.

The National Computing Centre also released a report, which showed that green IT programmes are at the bottom of the list of priorities for the UK construction industry. Focus is mainly on cost-saving technology, such as virtualisation, software as a service, and cloud computing. This is not all that surprising, however, considering the dire straights the construction sector is currently in.

Half of companies worried about Web 2.0 and social media

Over half of companies are worried about the security of “Web 2.0”, including social media outlets like Twitter. Twitter recently saw a major exploit affect thousands of people, but companies still do not understand the security implications or how to best make use of social notworking.

Research from security vendor McAfee, which was recently acquired by chip giant Intel, shows that businesses are concerned about the safety of Web 2.0 and are facing difficulties due to being unable to adapt to the rise of new technology.

Social media is already an established and important tool, and is still growing, but 60 percent of companies are worried about how websites like Twitter and Facebook will affect their reputation.

Eight percent have ended up with litigation or legal issues due to employees disclosing confidential company information, which goes to show how unprepared most are with education and proper usage of social media.

To deal with Web 2.0, or avoid dealing with it, companies are actively blocking websites. 13 percent revealed that they block “Web 2.0”, while 81 percent said they restrict at least one social media network.

A third cited security concerns as why Web 2.0 is not more widely employed within business.

The report also found that a third of companies lack any formal policy on the use of social media, while a quarter monitor the social media websites their employees use.

Despite the distrust of Web 2.0, three quarters of companies admitted that it has boosted revenue streams. But 40 percent said that the technologies added to marketing efforts and increased productivity.

The report showed Brazil, Spain and India as the leading countries for the adoption of Web 2.0. The UK, US, and Canada are found to be trailing despite the popularity outside the workplace.

A vote for the Gallo Report is a vote for Sarkozy, not Europe

On Wednesday next week, the European Parliament will be voting on three different reports concerned with future copyright policy within the common market. One of these reports, the so-called Gallo Report, is not worth the paper it is written on and should be defenestrated by MEPs truly concerned with the development of Europe as an information society.

To understand the Gallo Report and its contents, one need look no further than to France’s current government. The Gallo Report, despite being non-legislative, is a direct result of France’s policies and legislation pertaining to the internet, both based on inability of the country’s government to comprehend today’s digital society. This inability is in turn based on what Zbigniew Brzezinski precisely defined as a “special vocation, generated by a deeply felt sense of historical destiny and fortified by a unique cultural pride.” (Brzezinski: 1997)

It can be reasoned the most recent antics of Nicholas Sarkozy, pitting him toe-to-toe against the European Commission, its president José Manuel Barroso and creating a huge annoyance for the heads of the EU’s member states wishing to discuss important matters instead of posing as a platform for Sarkozy to look strong at home, are due to the unique non-qualities of France as a political entity.

France’s overwrought cultural pride and sense of destiny has also led to singular paths in the field of technology – one need merely think of Minitel, introduced by France Telecom way back with total support of the state, which gave the terminals away for free.

Apart from trying to give France a much-needed technological push, Minitel was also France’s specific answer to technology developed by scientists in the state France resents most, i.e. the USA. Anything a yank can do, we can do better, we can do anything better than you.

Minitel by design is a locked-in, walled platform, making it similar to certain modern-day walled garden atrocities. Minitel is a platform that could be controlled by the French state through France Telecom – rather in contrast to the internet.

The rise of the internet and network society has led to many a politician, lobbyist and industrialist scratch their individual noggins. As an industry, major record labels for instance have been totally unable to cope with the change of medium through which content is now distributed. Millions and millions have been spent on lobbyists sent forth to the capitals of the western world to keep citizens from sharing online – just like back in the 1980s and the rise of the cassette recorder.

In England, the Digital Economy Bill was able to pass through parliament without much to-do. In contrast, Germany has stayed resilient to the demands of an antiquated industry, whose business model is merely based on a tangible way to distribute content. German ministress of justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger made it clear a couple of months ago it was not the role of government to favour a certain method of distribution, questioning the existence of record labels. 

France, however, feels its, er, unique cultural spirit is threatened by that cursed US invention, the internet. Add a president married to a recording artist, and the result is an utter catastrophe.

Sarkozy and his cronies saw it fit to introduce Hadopi, a law and an institution to regulate access to the internet and keep citizens swapping songs on the internet. Example: If Pierre gets nicked three times downloading some song by Carla Bruni, Pierre will be barred from using the internet for a period of two to 12 months. A spiffing idea for a country governed by a benevolent dictator, but not for one governed by codified law.

Shortly after the dire Hadopi affair, a bloke named Patrick Zelnik came up with the idea to tax online advertising revenue and use the money to subsidise French newspapers. After all, la grande newspapers had to be protected from Google News.

France’s establishment rejoiced, whereas others shook their heads. For Monsieur Zelnik happened to be the founder of Naive, a French record label. Naive also just happens to be the home of French recording artist Carla Bruni, who is married to… Nicholas Sarkozy!

One may joke about the country’s infernal affairs, but it is of importance to recognise that a European copyright policy dictated by France would be a nightmare.

The Gallo Report is, put simply, the essence of a French desire to steer European policy in direction of what it sees as a totally sensible method to protect France, and, being French, must be good for Europe as well. This isn’t the case.

First off, the Gallo Report “on enforcement of intellectual property rights in the internal market” does not differentiate counterfeiting perpetrated by organised crime from petty infringements not made for a profit, i.e. some sysadmin downloading the newest episode of The IT Crowd through, say, Bittorrent.

Secondly, the repressive measures called for by the Gallo Report, are based on false figures and research which does not withstand review. A study penned by French business Tera Consultants, the so-called BASCAP/ Tera study, was utilised by France to sway sentiment in the European Parliament. According to the methodology employed in the study, “piracy” will lead to 611.000 to 1.217.000 jobs go down the drain in Europe. This is not the case.

The Social Science Research Council blasted the biased methodology of the BASCAP/ Tera study shortly after its release. According to the SSRC, which is conducting a thorough and unbiased, scientific study concerning intellectual property, “IP imports, legal sales represent an outflow of revenue from the national economy. The piracy of IP imports, in contrast, represents a welfare gain in the form of expanded access to valuable goods. In film and software, European countries are primarily IP importers.”

In the case of The Netherlands, “the welfare impact of music piracy in the Netherlands [estimates] at a net positive €100 million.” No jobs lost there.

Thirdly, there is no proof justifying the measures called for in the Gallo Report. There is no true finding on the impact of internet-related behaviour in terms of content.

Depending on methodology, it can be argued for either side of the medal. At the moment, the discussion is even heading in the opposite direction of what has found its way into Mrs. Gallo’s report – one need merely look at the findings of a review study conducted by the US Government Accountability Office.

By placing petty behaviour of the average European on a level with that of organised, for-profit crime, a vote for the Gallo Report would open the gate for future repressive measures in terms of internet usage.

Repressive sanctions are not only limited to punishing the uploading of a music video of Carla Bruni to Youtube, or downloading a movie. Once institutionalised, they can also evolve to bar the populace from visiting certain sites – think Wikileaks. Where repression lurks, censorship is near.

MEPs would do well to vote for the S&D/ Greens alternative, instead of tickling Sarkozy’s overblown ego, to the detriment of the entire union.

Over half of European businesses outsourcing IT

More than half of organisations in Europe are outsourcing their IT, while 40 percent are planning to spend more on IT outsourcing in 2010, according to the latest report by Gartner published today.

The study, which surveyed 206 companies throughout Europe, found that 53 percent of organisations resort to external IT companies to provide them with essential IT services, and that figure is set to rise with further spending on outsourcing.

Many of the companies surveyed spent between 50 and 75 percent of their IT budget on external services, with some spending significantly more. 40 percent plan to increase their external IT budget even further, while 24 percent will increase their budget for providers.

While outsourcing budgets are up, overall IT budgets are down, due to the prolonged economic downturn and general fears for the European economy. 25 percent of companies plan to continue cutting their IT budgets throughout the rest of the year, with the possibility of further cuts in 2011.

Smaller companies with lower IT budgets are making the move to outsourcing more than in previous years. For those with an IT budget of less than €1 million, 14.7 percent are considering outsourcing, compared to only 6.1 percent in the same bracket in 2009.

The reason for the surge in outsourcing is the cheaper alternatives it often offers to running your own IT, which is pivotal for many companies who have been forced to cut their IT budgets amidst lower profits or, in worst cases, actual losses. On the other hand external IT specialists must be delighted with the move, ensuring that their businesses survive any possible drought caused by the recession.

Women using mobile web rises 575 percent

The number of women using the web on mobile phones has risen by 575 percent over the last two years, according to the latest State of the Mobile Web Report published by Opera today.

Opera polled 300,000 Opera Mini users from 15 countries to discover how many people were using the mobile web.

The report found that men still dominate the net, with 77 percent of mobile web users being male and only 23 percent being female. However, this is still an improvement on two years ago, where the figures were 88 percent male and only 12 percent female. 

Between May 2008 and July 2010 the number of male mobile web users increased by 233 percent, but the number of female users was more than double that at 575 percent. Opera believes this indicates a trend towards greater gender equality online, but clearly there is still a way to go.

The report found that South Africa had the most female users at 43.5 percent, up from 24.7 percent in the last Opera report in 2008. The US took second place at 35.6 percent, up from 19.4 percent. Russia came in third at 32.4 percent, up from 12.5 percent, while the UK took fourth place at 31.5 percent, up from 16.6 percent.

Conversely, India had the lowest number of female users at only 4.0 percent, but that’s still an increase on its previous figure of 2.8 percent two years ago. Nigeria was only slightly better at 5.4 percent. China was third worst at 11.6 percent, but that’s more than double its previous figure of 5.5 percent. Finally Vietnam took the fourth worst slot at 17.9 percent.

“We believe access to the Web is a universal right and the mobile Web is all about breaking down barriers to access,” said Jon von Tetzchner, co-founder of Opera. “Seeing more women on the mobile Web is important to ensuring the mobile Web remains the rich tapestry of ideas it is. Further diversity can only improve things for everyone.”