Weekly News: December 6 - 11, 2015

Mozilla's content blocker, new JavaScript engine, and more open source news

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In this week's edition of our open source news roundup, Mozilla announces new content blocker and ends Firefox OS, the Edge browser's JavaScript engine source released, and more.

Open source news for your reading pleasure.

December 6 - 11, 2015

Mozilla announces new content blocker and ends Firefox OS 

The week brought some mixed news from Mozilla about its open source efforts. First up, the organization best know for its web browser a new content blocker for iOS. Called Focus by Firefox, the app "blocks mobile websites from tracking user data as well as displaying web fonts." What separates Focus from other content blockers is that it uses an open source block list from Disconnect. According to Mozilla, the Disconnect block list is transparent and gives blocked content providers an avenue to "improve and become unblocked."

On the other hand, Mozilla threw in the towel in the smartphone wars and shut down its effort to develop Firefox OS for phones. As PC World noted, "the devices never gained significant market traction" and app developers didn't embrace the platform. While Firefox OS is dead on the phone, Mozilla plans to "focus on products and technologies that allow people to access and manage their world of connected devices," said Ari Jaaksi, Senior Vice President, Connected Devices at Mozilla.

Edge browser JavaScript engine source released

Microsoft continues to surprise with the amount of software it's been releasing as open source. This last week, the company announced it will release the code for Chakra, the Javascript engine of its Edge browser, next month. Microsoft will accept code contributions via GitHub and, according to Wired, Chakra will find a home in "a wide range of applications, such as games, cloud services and Internet of Things devices."

Also released on GitHub was the source code for Live Writer, a widely-loved (though neglected) blog editor. Now known as Open Live Writer, the code has been released with an MIT license. However, according to Ars Technica, "a few features dependent on third-party code—spell checking and OneDrive photo album viewing—had to be removed."

New AI hardware design released

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming hot again. A number of the big players are throwing brains and money in that direction. And open source is playing a key role—recently, both Google and Microsoft released open source AI solutions into the wild. Facebook is following suit by releasing the design for its Big Sur AI server as open source.

As Kurt Wanger writes at re/code, "researchers and companies using deep learning tech can use both Facebook’s software and hardware." What does that mean for those reasearchers and companies? ZDNet reports that "open sourced AI hardware built from scratch is both more efficient and versatile than off-the-shelf options because the servers can be operated within data centers based on Open Compute Project standards." On top of that, Big Sur is faster than any previous version of Facebook's AI servers. That means it could teach larger networks far more quickly than in the past.

Global banks back development of open source blockchain

One of the key strengths of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is the blockchain (which Investopedia defines as "a public ledger of all Bitcoin transactions that have ever been executed" that is secured against tampering). That would seem like something a traditional bank could use.

A group of nine banks seems to think so. They're joining forces to fund a company called R3 to develop "an open-sourced, generic blockchain for banks." According to Tim Swanson, R3's Head of Research, "Many banks feel they can reduce, or eliminate altogether, various costs, by adopting some sort of common shared ledger and let that proliferate through the industry."

According to Bitcoin Magazine, while the R3 blockchain will be open source "the way in which the new blockchain will operate has not been decided." R3 hasn't mentioned whether the blockchain will be permissioned (where write permissions are kept centralized to one organization) or permissionless (where the blockchain is public and decentralized).

In other news

A big thanks, as always, to the Opensource.com moderators and staff for their help this week.


About the author

That idiot Scott Nesbitt ...
Scott Nesbitt - I'm a long-time user of free/open source software, and write various things for both fun and profit. I don't take myself all that seriously and I do all of my own stunts. You can find me at these fine establishments on the web: The Plain Text Project, Open Source Musings, The Monday Kickoff...