Smart phone running Ubuntu

Ubuntu smart phone: Is this what the future looks like?

Software developer Canonical has announced that it intends to release a smart phone interface for Ubuntu, its widely popular Linux-based enterprise desktop operating system. It is designed to work seamlessly with other Ubuntu installations, allowing network administrators to integrate phone and desktop functionality into something akin to a super phone.

Ubuntu, which in October arrived in Version 12.10, is one of the flavors of Linux that is approved for government agencies, although that doesn’t mean it’s in wide use in the public sector. And although agencies are moving to mobile in a big way, the field is already crowded with adoption on Apple iOS, Android and, potentially this year, BlackBerry 10 devices.

Linux smart phones becoming the next big thing in public sector enterprises might be a longshot, but Canonical’s model for a smart phone that can operate as a desktop computer could be a glimpse of what the future holds. It seems to take Microsoft’s Windows 8 idea of one OS for all devices a step further, allowing a smart phone to function as any device.

Given the Ubuntu OS’ small footprint resource-wise, it is no surprise that the company will be able to put in on a smart phone without paring it down. In fact, the original operating system is intact -- allowing  users full functionality if the phone were docked to a keyboard, mouse and monitor.

Canonical seems to be sticking with the same name for its “mobile version,” probably in order to reinforce the idea that it is the same OS. That's a shame, because I thought of the name they could have used – Mobuntu.

Canonical says that this mobile version of Ubuntu also has many distinctive features. “Edge magic” allows use of thumb gestures from all four edges of the device’s display. This goes well with hide-away controls that are only there when needed. Voice controls will be available in nearly every application.

In order to attract manufacturers, Canonical has promised to provide engineering services to help with integration with phones. The company recognizes that adding yet another platform for network administrators to fold in to their BYOD strategy will be a bit of a burden, so it is making every effort to help alleviate that.

The first Ubuntu smart phones reportedly will arrive sometime in 2014. Whether they catch on with smart-phone users is anybody’s guess, but the idea that people could use their smart phones for any computing task is one that might catch on.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Jan 04, 2013 at 9:03 AM1 comments

Smart phone giftwrapped

FCC's free 'checker' helps users secure smart phones

Mobile devices are always susceptible to security threats, simply by virtue of being mobile devices connected to the Internet. An estimated 20 million new smart-phones will be added to the mix by virtue of holiday gifts, and users will only make themselves vulnerable to cyberattacks if their defenses are not prepared.

So the Federal Communications Commission, partnering with many public- and private-sector mobile security experts, has released the Smartphone Security Checker. You tell it what OS you have (Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile), and the site will return a 10-step checklist specific to that OS of things you need to do to help protect your device.

The checker includes advice on such best practices as pins and passwords, security apps, remote locating and data wiping, backing up and securing data in the event a device is lost or stolen, and how to use public WiFi networks safely.

“With less than half of smartphone owners using passwords to protect their devices, this new tool will be of particular value to millions of Americans,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in an FCC release. “The holiday gift-giving season is a perfect time to remind consumers to take simple steps, like setting a password, to protect themselves from mobile security threats,” he added.

The FCC’s partners in this endeavor include people from the Homeland Security Department, National Cyber Security Alliance, Federal Trade Commission, CTIA, Lookout, BlackBerry, Chertoff Group, Sophos, McAfee, Symantec and others.

This is definitely an “all hands on deck” effort — and good advice for the whole year, not just the holiday season. Now all we need to do is rely upon the average user’s ability to take the initiative and follow the simple steps to make themselves secure. So in other words, we are doomed.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Dec 21, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments

BlackBerry 10

ICE gives BlackBerry 10 a chance with pilot program

Research In Motion (RIM) just announced that it will begin a pilot program with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a division of the Homeland Security Department, for the BlackBerry Enterprise Service 10 as well as BlackBerry 10 smart phones starting in early 2013. The pilot will be shortly after RIM’s launch announcement of BB10 on January 30.

This seems to be a reversal on mobile device management for ICE, which in October announced a plan to procure monthly cellular service for iPhones for its 17,600 employees. At the time, I wrote that it did seem odd that any agency would put all (or most) of its user eggs in the same mobile-device basket. And now we find out that ICE is in fact keeping its options open.

BlackBerry for years was the dominant mobile device among public-sector users, but it has lost some ground as agencies and bring-your-own-device users have brought Apple iPhones and Android devices into their enterprises. The shift has been great enough that some observers have even written BlackBerry off as a viable smart phone.

But as we reported last month, the improvements in BlackBerry 10 are quite significant and seem tailored for public-sector use, with the integrated messaging center and separated work- and personal-user profiles. RIM even got its FIPS 140-2 certification lined up ahead of BB10’s Jan. 30 launch, which is a first for the company.

It’ll be interesting to see if ICE’s move signals a trend, for some agencies at least, back toward BlackBerry.

Some agencies might already be too far down the path in their switch to iOS or Android, such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But for other agencies, such as ICE, BB10 might come just in time.

"Along with providing workers with secure access to behind-the-firewall confidential information, BlackBerry 10 can help organizations fully leverage the potential of mobile technology to offer new services, improve service delivery and increase organizational productivity,” Scott Totzke, RIM’s senior vice president for BlackBerry Security, said in a statement.

Posted by Greg Crowe on Dec 13, 2012 at 9:39 AM0 comments