Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 16th Apr 2014 09:06 UTC, submitted by arsipaani
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

As it turns out, Nokia developed an internet tablet all the way back in 2001. It was called the Nokia M510, several thousand units were made, and it was functional. Sadly, market research showed that consumers were not yet ready for a device like this, and so the project was cancelled. It had a 800x600 display, ran EPOC (Symbian), and sported wifi. The stories are in Finnish, and since I don't speak Finnish, I had to rely on Google Translate (as a translator, this made me feel dirty).

Now that Nokia's devices division is essentially dead, it wouldn't surprise me to see more of these stories to come out. There must be some truly outrageous stuff locked away at Nokia.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Apr 2014 16:59 UTC
Windows

Microsoft released Windows Phone 8.1 to those who enrolled in the developer preview program (i.e., everyone).

Ars' Peter Bright in his review of 8.1:

The result feels a whole lot more mature and a whole lot more capable than its predecessor. The 0.1 version bump, chosen to align the phone platform with its desktop sibling, belies the true nature of this upgrade. It is substantial, and makes Windows Phone tremendously better.

We might still wish that there were a few more apps, and that developers spoke of the platform in the same breath as iOS and Android, but even in spite of this, Windows Phone 8.1 is a polished, fun, clever, and personal smartphone platform that's just about everyone can enjoy. It's a magnificent smartphone platform.

I've been using it since earlier today, and the notification centre (finally) alone is more than enough to make this a fantastic update. Sadly, my HTC 8X does not seem to be supported by Cortana - other 8X owners are reporting the same, as do 8X owners on Twitter - which makes me worry a little about Cortana, perhaps, being an exclusive feature for Nokia phones, or it having some other restrictive limitations. That, honestly, would be a shame.

Update: Here's an 8X with Cortana working just fine, so the original worries clearly aren't necessary.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Apr 2014 16:40 UTC
Google

From a 2006 (pre-iPhone) Android specification document:

Touchscreens will not be supported: the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption.

However, there is nothing fundamental in the Product's architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future.

The same document, but a few versions later, from 2007 (post-iPhone):

A touchscreen for finger-based navigation - including multi-touch capabilites - is required.

The impact of the iPhone on Android in two documents. Google knew the iPhone would change the market, while Microsoft, Nokia, and BlackBerry did not. That's why Android is now the most popular smartphone platform, while the mentioned three are essentially irrelevant.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 20:21 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA's decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

I'm so surprised.

Update: NSA denies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 20:09 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

There's certainly some hope on the horizon with Apple and Google, though just how good these systems will be remains to be seen. One thing is clear, though: the current state of all in-car experiences is incredibly bad. For those manufacturers looking to go it alone, I don't expect much.

In-car software is absolutely horrifying and crazy complex. A good friend of mine regularly drives brand new and super-expensive cars (in the hundreds of thousands of euros category), and even in those cars, the user interfaces are just terrible. There's a lot of room for improvement and disruption here.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 09:49 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

And the updates keep on coming.

  • Two-way sync of Exchange contacts.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) provisioning: Receive mobile data and MMS access point settings from your operator over-the-air
  • Share and receive pictures and contacts via MMS (experimental)
  • EXIF data is now stored in photos taken with camera.
  • Save GPS coordinates in captured photos [Settings->Apps->Camera]
  • Set default account to be used for sending emails [Settings->Apps->Email]
  • Swipe to close gesture available as a setting and disabled by default for new users [Settings->System->Shortcuts]
  • Visual interaction hints in events view, browser, camera, email, phone and messages apps
  • Keyboard sounds [Settings->System->Sounds and feedback->Touch screen tones]

The update also fixes the Heartbleed security issue.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 20:05 UTC, submitted by nfeske
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Behind the term TrustZone lies a security technology that is almost omnipresent in ARM-based devices, ranging from low-cost development boards to most mobile phones. Yet, there hardly exists a public body of knowledge around it. This prompted the Genode developers to investigate. Today, they published their findings in the form of a comprehensive article and an demonstration video.

In contrast to TPMs, which were designed as fixed-function devices with a predefined feature set, TrustZone represented a much more flexible approach by leveraging the CPU as a freely programmable trusted platform module. To do that, ARM introduced a special CPU mode called "secure mode" in addition to the regular normal mode, thereby establishing the notions of a "secure world" and a "normal world". The distinction between both worlds is completely orthogonal to the normal ring protection between user-level and kernel-level code and hidden from the operating system running in the normal world. Furthermore, it is not limited to the CPU but propagated over the system bus to peripheral devices and memory controllers. This way, ARM-based platforms become effectively kind of a split personality. When secure mode is active, the software running on the CPU has a different view on the whole system than software running in non-secure mode.

The Genode team is nothing short of amazing. Not only are they developing unique software, they're also doing stuff like this. Much respect for these women and men.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 19:56 UTC
Google

Building on Verify apps, which already protects people when they're installing apps outside of Google Play at the time of installation, we're rolling out a new enhancement which will now continually check devices to make sure that all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after installation. In the last year, the foundation of this service - Verify apps - has been used more than 4 billion times to check apps at the time of install. This enhancement will take that protection even further, using Android's powerful app scanning system developed by the Android security and Safe Browsing teams.

Available for Android 2.3 and up with Google Play - so effectively for every proper Android device out there.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 15:34 UTC
Google

Google has released the Module Developers Kit for Project Ara.

The Module Developers Kit (MDK) defines the Ara platform for module developers and provides reference implementations for various design features. The Ara platform consists of an on-device packet-switched data network based on the MIPI UniPro protocol stack, a flexible power bus, and an elegant industrial design that mechanically unites the modules with an endoskeleton. Throughout 2014, the Project Ara team will be working on a series of alpha and beta MDK releases. We welcome developer input to the MDK: either through the Ara Module Developers mailing list/forum or at one of the series of Developers Conferences.

These phones will be crazy flexible in their design - and they look pretty good too. I don't know if it'll be a small niche or a runaway success, but I definitely appreciate them for trying to do something different.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 10:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Interested in the Nokia X, but not the horrible Frankendroid Nokia cooked up? Good news - stock Android has been ported to the Nokia X. Everything works, it's stable - but it is, like Nokia Frankendroid, only Android 4.1.2.

There are better Android phones for the money, but it's still great that the Nokia X gets a taste of proper Android (via!).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 10:44 UTC
Windows

It wasn't meant to be this way. Windows XP, now no longer supported, wasn't meant to be popular. For all its popularity and sustained usage, people seem to have forgotten something important about it: it sucked.

The Ars forums are a place for geeks to hang out and chat about tech, and especially in the light of the hostility shown towards Windows 8, we thought it might be fun to take a look at how our forum dwellers reacted when first introduced to Microsoft's ancient operating system.

How times change.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Apr 2014 22:42 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Fortunately though, Mozilla keeps on trucking, and Firefox OS appears to be constantly improving. The latest version available is 1.3.0, with the latest preview being 1.4. Now, sources from China have gotten their hands on a ton of screenshots and new information regarding Firefox OS 2.0, and we must say, the UI looks quite pretty.

This looks quite good indeed.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 22:13 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

HTC's latest flagship device, the One M8, is one of the best Android smartphones now available on the market, but what would happen to it if Google stripped the phone of some of its customizations? That's essentially what the Google Play edition of the new One offers. Plunk down $699 and you'll have access to an unlocked and (mostly) unadulterated version of the M8 with stock Android 4.4 (also known as KitKat).

While the market will deem the Galaxy S5 the best Android flagship of the current crop of phones, I personally think it's this one. However, if the major Chinese manufacturers manage to get Google Play editions, I honestly would see no reason for anyone to avoid them. Chinese OEMs like Oppo offer the same (or better) specifications, have top-notch build quality, and usually sport great community support - but at half the price.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 22:06 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Heartbleed, a long-undiscovered bug in cryptographic software called OpenSSL that secures Web communications, may have left roughly two-thirds of the Web vulnerable to eavesdropping for the past two years. Heartbleed isn't your garden-variety vulnerability, so here's a quick guide to what it is, why it's so serious, and what you can do to keep your data safe.

Serious.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 15:38 UTC
Windows

It's finally here. After 12 years, 6 months, and 12 days on the market, Windows XP has hit its end of life. It will receive its last ever set of patches on Windows Update today, and for the most part, that will be that. Any flaws discovered from now on - and it's inevitable that some will be discovered - will never be publicly patched.

How bad is this going to be? It's probably going to be pretty bad. By some measures, about 28 percent of the Web-using public is still using Windows XP, and these systems are going to be ripe for exploitation.

I never liked Windows XP (I used BeOS during XP's early days, and Mac OS X and Linux during XP's later days), so I'm glad to see it go. This terrible operating system should have died out years ago.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 12:02 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

AnandTech's usual in-depth review.

Overall the Galaxy S 5 is a solid replacement to the GS4 (and definitely to any previous Samsung device). I find that pretty much all the flagships offer some set of tradeoffs that prevent any one from being the perfect device (iPhone's screen size, GS5's materials, M8's camera). It's unfortunate because I'd really like to crown a single device the king of them all, but instead we're faced with a handful of differing optimization points. Samsung got it almost perfect with the GS5. With a metal body, a rear facing camera with larger pixels (perhaps with some tweaks to camera output processing), a better NAND controller, and stereo front facing speakers, the GS5 would probably be perfect.

As much as I dislike Samsung - they simply have no taste - the fact of the matter is that reviews of their flagships are virtually always positive, and users have clearly voted with their wallets. Apparently I belong to a minority.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th Apr 2014 22:17 UTC
Microsoft

It looks like the Internet of Things could be the next big computing battleground, and Microsoft seems willing to sacrifice a few battles in order to win that war. Facebook is chasing virtual reality; Google wants home automation, smartwatches, and internet-connected glasses. More than 200 billion devices are likely to be connected to the internet by 2020, a huge example of the way the technology industry will shift and new battles will emerge. Satya Nadella believes the future isn't Windows desktops, Windows tablets, and Windows Phones. It's not Windows everywhere, it's Microsoft everywhere, offering software and services for every device - including an entire world of interconnected devices that have yet to be built.

The speed with which is doing this u-turn makes it quite clear that people within the company wanted to do this for a long, long time (otherwise it could not have been done this quickly), which implies that Ballmer may have simply held these changes back.

The elephant in the room here is that while people talk about Microsoft as if the company is down and out, it's still hugely profitable and has consistently been posting great financial results. It's just that Microsoft's money isn't coming from sexy products like smartphones and tablets, but from enterprise and backend stuff - stuff the technology press either can't write about, doesn't understand, or both. It's very similar to all those articles claiming Apple no longer innovates and disrupts, even though the company sent shockwaves through the microprocessor world.

In any case, it seems like Microsoft finally found the right direction in this new world.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th Apr 2014 19:55 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

I'm using the URL slug headline for this one (check the link).

This map showing the locations of 280 million individual posts on Twitter shows a depressing divide in America: Tweets coming from Manhattan tend to come from iPhones. Tweets coming from Newark, N.J., tend to come from Android phones.

If you live in the New York metro area, you don't need to be told that Manhattan is where the region's rich people live, and the poor live in Newark. Manhattan's median income is $67,000 a year. Newark's is $17,000, according to U.S. Census data.

This fascinates me, as it seems to be a very American thing. In The Netherlands, Android has an 80% market share, and we have far lower poverty rates than the US (that Newark median income is crazy low by Dutch standards). I'm pretty sure the situation is similar for many other West-European nations.

This raises an interesting question: is it 'Android is for poor people' - or is it 'Android is for poor people in America'?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th Apr 2014 17:39 UTC, submitted by kallisti5
BeOS & Derivatives

PulkoMandy of the Haiku operating systems reported that he has successfully added HTML5 video support to WebPositive (the default Haiku web browser) as part of his ongoing contract work. The report on the Haiku website gives some more details about the work that went into getting HTML5 video to work.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 5th Apr 2014 19:53 UTC
Google

According to documents obtained exclusively by The Verge, Google is about to launch a renewed assault on your television set called Android TV. Major video app providers are building for the platform right now. Android TV may sound like a semantic difference - after all, Google TV was based on Android - but it's something very different. Android TV is no longer a crazy attempt to turn your TV into a bigger, more powerful smartphone. "Android TV is an entertainment interface, not a computing platform," writes Google. "It's all about finding and enjoying content with the least amount of friction." It will be "cinematic, fun, fluid, and fast."

What does that all mean? It means that Android TV will look and feel a lot more like the rest of the set top boxes on the market, including Apple TV, Amazon's Fire TV, and Roku.

All these devices look the same. It's going to be very hard to stand out if they all have the same services. On top of that - I'm not putting a separate box next to my TV. Why can't my tablet or PC act as the box? This is 2014, is it not?

If you see a separate box, they blew it.