Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd May 2015 13:12 UTC
Apple

Setting aside the absurdity of longtime Apple users arguing in favour of this kind of almost impenetrable complexity, John Gruber's recent piece on the behaviour of the button inside the Apple Watch's crown is telling.

Here's a better way to think about it - and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren't frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It's best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.

You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.

The UI complexity problem of the Apple Watch stems from two sets of overlapping user interface elements: applications/glances and the homescreen/watch face (which are both, in turn, overlapped by the communications application and its dedicated button). For reasons that I do not understand (okay I totally understand why), the designers of the Apple Watch UI couldn't say no and couldn't make any decisions, leading to the clusterfrick of a UI it has now.

What puzzles me the most is that untangling this mess would not have been complicated - just copy the iPhone. Homescreen with application icons, and a (centered!) crown to act as a home button. Bam, done. Everything else is needless complexity, especially on such a small device you're not supposed to stare at for longer than a few seconds at a time anyway.

Gruber's piece is telling, because as a longtime Apple user, you should never need that many words to explain something that could be as elementary as the homescreen/home button combination of the iPhone. Needing this many words should raise all kinds of red flags that it's just not intuitive.

There're several reasons why it's easier to pick up an iPhone than an Android device, and the simplicity of its homescreen/home button is a big one.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th May 2015 23:38 UTC
Games

While AMD seems to have made up with Slightly Mad Studios, at least if this tweet from Taylor is anything to go by, the company is facing yet another supposedly GameWorks-related struggle with CD Projekt Red's freshly released RPG The Witcher 3. The game makes use of several GameWorks technologies, most notably HBAO+ and HairWorks. The latter, which adds tens of thousands of tessellated hair strands to characters, dramatically decreases frame rate performance on AMD graphics cards, sometimes by as much as 50 percent.

I got bitten by this just the other day. I'm currently enjoying my time with The Witcher III - go out and buy it, it's worth your money - but the first few hours of the game were troubled with lots of stutter and sudden framerate drops. I was stumped, because the drops didn't occur out in the open world, but only when the head of the player - a guy named Geralt - came close to the camera, or was in focus in a cutscene. It didn't make any sense, since I have one of the fancier Radeon R9 270X models, which should handle the game at the highest settings just fine.

It wasn't until a friend said "uh, you've got NVIDIA HairWorks turned off, right?" Turns out, it was set to "Geralt only". Turning it off completely solved all performance problems. It simply hadn't registered with me that this feature is pretty much entirely tied to NVIDIA cards.

While I would prefer all these technologies to be open, the cold and harsh truth is that in this case, they give NVIDIA an edge, and I don't blame them for keeping them closed - we're not talking crucial communication protocols or internet standards, but an API to render hair. I do blame the developers of The Witcher for not warning me about this. Better yet: automatically disable and/or hide NVIDIA-specific options for Radeon owners altogether. It seems like a no-brainer to prevent disgruntled consumers. Not a big deal - but still.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th May 2015 23:25 UTC
Android

Over on its product forums, Google announced that it has started rolling out Android 5.1.1 to Android Wear watches. Additionally, according to several users on Reddit, and at least one person on our own forums, the update has already started landing on the LG G Watch and G Watch R.

Nothing on my Moto 360 just yet.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th May 2015 15:43 UTC
Games

One particularly tricky problem encountered during the development of Star Versus was detecting screen wrap. The solution involved discovering a neat trick that exploits the NES's 6502 processor.

Very interesting. Here's a somewhat similar story concerning the Apple IIgs.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th May 2015 15:32 UTC
.NET (dotGNU too)

WCF targets the .NET Core framework which is designed to support multiple computer architectures and to run cross-platform. Right now the WCF project builds on Windows, but .NET Core offers the potential for it to run on OS X and Linux. The WCF team are working hard to make this a reality and to keep up to date as platform support for .NET Core grows, but if you want to help I know they would love contributions especially around improving and testing the platform support.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th May 2015 22:10 UTC
Morphos

Supposedly, MorphOS is being ported to x86 - AMD64 to be more exact. MorphOS developer 'bigfoot':

I've mentioned it before, but I'll happily mention it again: When MorphOS gets ported to AMD64, we will not be supporting Macs. AMD64 Macs have all the wrong hardware for that to make any sense. When such a time does come, expect us to support one desktop motherboard (with one family of CPUs and GPUs) and one laptop. We'll of course make sure it's hardware that's actually available one way or another.

MorphOS has undergone a lot of development lately, and the currently available pool of hardware to run it on (G4-based Macs) has grown considerably. The developers have shown they are capable and willing to sustain relatively fast-paced development, which bodes well for the future. Porting it to x86 is the only possible way forward in the long-term.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th May 2015 17:02 UTC
Apple

Watch OS 1.0.1 includes performance improvements and bug fixes for Siri, measuring stand activity, calculating calories for indoor cycling and rowing workouts, distance and pace during outdoor walk and run workouts, accessibility, and third-party apps. The software update also includes support for new emojis found in iOS 8.3 and provides additional language support for Brazilian Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, Swedish, Russian, Thai, and Turkish.

Download it through the Apple Watch application on your phone.

Meanwhile, the big Android Wear 5.1.1 update is available by buying the new LG Watch Urbane, or for LG ZenWatch owners. Oh Google.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th May 2015 13:15 UTC
Android

"We're evolving Android and creating an open computing platform that will change the way consumers interact with their mobile devices," said Kirt McMaster, CEO of Cyanogen Inc. "Foxconn and our diverse group of strategic investors and partners reflect the mobile value chain, from device manufacturers and mobile network operators to chipset makers and 3rd party developers. They see the great potential of what we're doing in creating the next major paradigm shift in mobile computing."

If you're into Microsoft Android, Cyanogen is just the thing for you. I wouldn't trust such a venture capital-backed startup spouting such grandiose words only to bite the hand that feeds it - Google - while being in bed with Microsoft. New Microsoft or no, it has a history of patent abuse towards Android and Linux, and by letting it infect your Android device you're just asking for trouble.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th May 2015 13:09 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

According to the RBC Newspaper, The Russian Ministry of Communications has decided that the country needs a national phone operating system which accordingly will be Jolla's own Sailfish OS which has been built from the scratch and the ashes oc MeeGo after the death of the mentioned OS announced by Nokia as The Burning Platform.

I can't read Russian or Finnish, so I can't get into the details here, It's supposedly part of a greater push by Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa. Sounds like good news for Sailfish.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th May 2015 13:07 UTC
Google

Most Chrome users can relate to this: you have a bunch of important tabs open, your laptop’s fans start to sound like a rocket taking off, your computer slows to a crawl, and finally it crashes, losing everything.

No way in hell I'm using Chrome on my retina MacBook Pro - accepting its horrible tab management, I opt for Safari. Especially on OS X, Chrome's got some serious soul-searching to do when it comes to its resource usage. On Windows, Chrome is performing just fine for me.

That being said, this article's Google Trends graph is silly. Sure, there's a rise in queries for "Chrome slow", but that aligns perfectly with Chrome's rising popularity.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 16th May 2015 00:39 UTC, submitted by cybergorf
Morphos

The MorphOS development team is proud to announce the public release of MorphOS 3.8, which introduces support for ACube's Sam460 series of mainboards and numerous Radeon graphics cards from AMD's X1000 and HD series. In addition to various performance improvements related to the Quark kernel, Exec, 3D graphics and video playback, MorphOS 3.8 also adds the ability to use state-of-the-art 4K displays in their native resolution. For a more extensive overview of the included changes, please read our release notes.

Looks like a great release. It's so tempting to get a G4 Mac for this one.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 16th May 2015 00:13 UTC
Windows

Remember when Microsoft said everyone would get windows 10 for free, even users of pirated copies? Yeah - no, ain't going to happen.

Microsoft and our OEM partners know that many consumers are unwitting victims of piracy, and with Windows 10, we would like all of our customers to move forward with us together. While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we've always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state. In addition, in partnership with some of our valued OEM partners, we are planning very attractive Windows 10 upgrade offers for their customers running one of their older devices in a Non-Genuine state.

Communication has never been the company's strong point.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th May 2015 21:00 UTC
General Development

Today we are very proud to announce the 1.0 release of Rust, a new programming language aiming to make it easier to build reliable, efficient systems. Rust combines low-level control over performance with high-level convenience and safety guarantees. Better yet, it achieves these goals without requiring a garbage collector or runtime, making it possible to use Rust libraries as a "drop-in replacement" for C. If you'd like to experiment with Rust, the "Getting Started" section of the Rust book is your best bet (if you prefer to use an e-reader, Pascal Hertleif maintains unofficial e-book versions as well).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th May 2015 18:09 UTC, submitted by spudley99
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Panasonic Smart TVs powered by Firefox OS are optimized for HTML5 to provide strong performance of Web apps and come with a new intuitive and customizable user interface which allows quick access to favorite channels, apps, websites and content on other devices. Through Mozilla-pioneered WebAPIs, developers can leverage the flexibility of the Web to create customized and innovative apps and experiences across connected devices.

Great news for Mozilla, of course, but I honestly wonder about the longevity of the smart TV. Much like the smartwatch, it feels like whole lot of forced hype with little to show for itself.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th May 2015 13:54 UTC, submitted by Rohan Pearce
OSNews, Generic OSes

MenuetOS 1.0 has been released.

It all started as a question if computer programming could be made more efficient. And Menuet has matured to be an operating system with modern features including pre-emptive multitasking, smp, usb, tcp/ip, transparent GUI and many other features. And above all, MenuetOS is 100% assembly written operating system. With version 1.00, we made small history today.

Congratulations to the MenuetOS team for sticking with it - this is a great achievement. ComputerWorld Australia has an interview with Ville Turjanmaa, its creator.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th May 2015 20:45 UTC
Windows

Windows 10 is coming this summer in 190 countries and 111 languages. Today, we are excited to share more details on the Windows 10 Editions.

We designed Windows 10 to deliver a more personal computing experience across a range of devices. An experience optimized for each device type, but familiar to all. Windows 10 will power an incredibly broad range of devices - everything from PCs, tablets, phones, Xbox One, Microsoft HoloLens and Surface Hub. It will also power the world around us, core to devices making up the Internet of Things, everything from elevators to ATMs to heart rate monitors to wearables. No matter which Windows 10 device our customers use, the experience will feel comfortable, and there will be a single, universal Windows Store where they can find, try and buy Universal Windows apps.

The supposed appeal of Windows 10 is that's universal, no matter the device, so to still have different versions for consumer devices (i.e., I can understand separate server and IoT stuff) seems counter-intuitive.

That being said - Windows Mobile is back. Makes it all worthwhile.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th May 2015 21:49 UTC
Android

Today Google announced that it has officially expanded Android One to Turkey. The launch represents the program's debut in Europe, and brings the total count (so far) to seven countries. Android One, which Google unveiled last September, aims to spread affordable smartphones throughout the developing world. The devices run a close-to-stock version of Android, though up until now the hardware has been somewhat underwhelming.

Do we have an Indian readers with Android One devices? How has the experience been?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th May 2015 21:44 UTC
Games

The strangest thing about Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is how it's over a decade and a half old and I'm not sick of it. I don't just mean it's old but I still like it: I mean I still play it regularly. I don't think I ever really stopped. I can hardly remember when I didn't play it. I have no idea how many times I've finished it.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of the best games ever made, and the very pinnacle of the 2D pixellated era. The textures, the animations, the level backgrounds, the monster design - it's the best that era had to offer, and as far I'm concerned, it's never been topped. While I understand some consider Super Metroid to be the better of the two, I strongly believe Symphony of the Night is the better of the two.

Luck would have it, then, that its creator, Koji Igarashi, just managed to get its spiritual successor funded via a Kickstarter campaign. Big name studios were not interested in helping him build it, so he decided to do it on his own. Castlevania composer Michiru Yamane is also on the team, as is the studio behind several Mega Man games, as well as several other big names.

We're living in a great era for gaming right now. Thanks to crowdfunding, we're already in the middle of a great renaissance for the classic isometric RPGs, with brand new, successful titles such as Pillars of Eternity, Wasteland 2, Divinity: Original Sin, and many others rekindling the glory of games like Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment, and many other genres no longer deemed interesting by the big players are now seeing new games thanks to crowdfunding. I can't stress how thrilled I am that the man behind Symphony of the Night will finally be able to make the successor he always wanted, but that the big names wouldn't let him.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th May 2015 14:48 UTC
Google

Following a Reddit AMA on government surveillance, Google has admitted that while it does encrypt Hangouts conversations, it does not use end-to-end encryption, meaning the company itself can tap into those sessions when it receives a government court order requiring it to do so. This contrasts with the end-to-end encryption used by some services, like Apple's FaceTime, which cannot be tapped even by the company offering the service.

Wait, you mean to tell me large technology companies are shady and nebulous for PR reasons?

Surely that can't be true, right? Why would they lie?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th May 2015 14:45 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Moscow Center of SPARC Technologies (MCST) has announced it's now taking orders for its Russian-made microprocessors from domestic computer and server manufacturers. The chip, called Elbrus-4C, was fully designed and developed in MCST's Moscow labs. It's claimed to be the most high-tech processor ever built in Russia, and is comparable with Intel Corp's Core i3 and Intel Core i5 processors.

I'd rather have a processor hand-built by the director of the NSA than one designed and built in Russia.