Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Jul 2014 16:51 UTC
X11, Window Managers

However, I still field plenty of questions from lots of people about this, and a lot of the time, it's extremely simple stuff: "What is X?" "How does it interact with my graphics card and mouse/keyboard?" "What do apps use X for?" "What is Wayland, and how does it fit into the picture?" "What problems did X have that made us want to write new display server technologies?"

These sort of questions were what inspired me to write "The Linux Graphics Stack" in the first place, but there's really never been a comprehensive, historical writeup of our display server technologies in general. So, I chose to spend my free time at Red Hat writing it.

A very fun look at what X actually is - including embedded X server sessions running in your browser using HTML5 canvas. Fancy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Jul 2014 16:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Great keyboards are in our DNA. With BlackBerry Passport, we set out to create a smartphone that would break some cherished rules in order to set a new bar for real productivity. In particular, BlackBerry Passport's keyboard will show there is an easier way to do more.

This is exactly the kind of stuff I want to see from BlackBerry: instead of trying to copy everyone else and build yet another black glass slab, they should build on their strength and go from there. The Passport looks to be exactly that. I have no idea if anyone cares or if it's too late, but I love this thing.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Jul 2014 20:33 UTC
Apple

Accessibility is something that seldom gets the attention it deserves. Most of us go about our day without ever wondering how accessible an iPhone or iPad or Mac is to the blind or the deaf, to those with autism or motor disfunction, or how accessible the apps that run on them are. Yet there are people who do care deeply about accessibility. Those who need iPhones and iPads and Macs to be ever-more accessible, of course, and those working to make iPhone and iPads and Macs ever-more accessible. Among technology companies, Apple does a tremendous job not only implementing accessibility, but promoting it and prioritizing it as well. And it starts at the very top.

An area where Apple leads. It might not be an area that's considered very sexy or flashy, but it's hugely important for large numbers of people.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Jul 2014 14:45 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has just published a letter to employees about... Uh, yeah, about what exactly?

The day I took on my new role I said that our industry does not respect tradition - it only respects innovation. I also said that in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul - our unique core. We must all understand and embrace what only Microsoft can contribute to the world and how we can once again change the world. I consider the job before us to be bolder and more ambitious than anything we have ever done.

I've read through the whole thing - twice - but I still have no idea what I'm supposed to take from this. There's nothing concrete, nothing we haven't heard before - it's so vague that I'm not really sure it even has a point to begin with. I think it's supposed to announce some sort of change in direction, but that's the problem - there isn't one.

Especially these two successive paragraphs are startling.

More recently, we have described ourselves as a "devices and services" company. While the devices and services description was helpful in starting our transformation, we now need to hone in on our unique strategy.

At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.

What's the difference between "devices and services" and "mobile-first and cloud-first"?

That's the problem with vague, abstracted drivel from company executives. It's essentially homeopathic communication - so watered down it's essentially just water with zero medicinal effects.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Jul 2014 23:50 UTC
Games

Another Xbox One communication failure by Microsoft - but this time, with a good outcome, sort of. At launch, the company promised that every Xbox One could eventually be used as a development kit, but comments by Microsoft's Martin Fuller earlier today made it clear that idea was dropped and not going to happen. Turns out, though, that Fuller was wrong.

"The comments today were inaccurate. We remain committed to ensuring the best possible solutions for developers and hobbyists to create games for Xbox One. We will share more details at a later date," said the Microsoft representative.

I would have liked a more resolute confirmation here - "best possible solutions" could be anything - but I'm hoping Microsoft persists with the idea of turning every Xbox One into a development kit. I'm sure it would lead to some amazing games that would otherwise never make it to the Xbox, and that's, after, what gaming is about.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Jul 2014 23:41 UTC
Legal

A coalition of technology companies large and small has created a sort of arms-control treaty to prevent future abuses of their intellectual property.

Among Google, Canon, SAP, Newegg, Dropbox and Asana, there are nearly 300,000 patent assets on the line. But the companies aren't licensing all of each others' patents today. Instead, by agreeing to join the License on Transfer network, they promise to grant licenses to one another whenever one of those patents is sold.

Clever. Sad, though, that companies have to resort to complicated tricks like this instead of just having the damn law changed to align with reality.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Jul 2014 15:49 UTC
Android

Android's various screen sizes - how big of a problem is it, really, for developers? Not a big one, according to iOS and Android developer Russell Ivanovic:

The answer tends to surprise pretty much everyone: It's not that hard, and honestly causes us less headaches than most people imagine. Firstly, the tools Google give us to lay out interfaces have supported this from day one. You've been able to define one or more layouts that scale to various sizes, and if you want to get everything perfect, you can have as many of these layouts as you like, while still keeping the one codebase. The layouts are XML, and don't live in your code. If you're an iOS developer they are pretty much the equivalent of XIB files with size classes like iOS 8. The other part people don't realise is that Android has standardised on screen resolutions for a long time now.

I've long since accepted that certain complaints and issues are mostly only perpetuated by people with an agenda, even long after the actual problems are solved or no longer relevant. There's Windows and security, Apple and pricing, Android and security - you name it. In order to get a real finger on the true extent of these problems, you have to cut out the official bloggers and party parrots.

Windows has been secure for almost a decade now. Apple's devices and PCs are not expensive. Android has never been insecure. These are all cases of 'fear, uncertainty, and doubt' perpetuated and/or made excessively worse than they really are by people of questionable nature.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Jul 2014 23:30 UTC
Apple

The latest updates to iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite introduce some very welcomed changes to the way Security and Privacy is dealt with on these platforms and may serve as an inspiration for others.

I've gathered this information by watching over 17 hours of WWDC 2014 sessions and carefully reviewing, analyzing what was said, and writing a huge number of notes on Security, Privacy, UX and other areas which I will be publishing here in the coming weeks.

A very detailed look at all that's coming to the Apple platforms in terms of privacy and security.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Jul 2014 21:23 UTC, submitted by Ari
Red Hat

The CentOS Project is pleased to announce the immediate availability of CentOS 7 for x86_64, including images for docker, and various cloud providers. There are many fundamental changes in this release, compared to previous releases of CentOS. Notably the inclusion of systemd, Gnome3, and a default filesystem of XFS. For more information about what makes CentOS 7 stand out, please see our release notes.

CentOS 6 can be upgraded to 7, but that functionality is still being tested.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Jul 2014 21:20 UTC, submitted by JRepin
KDE

The KDE Community is proud to announce KDE Frameworks 5.0. Frameworks 5 is the next generation of KDE libraries, modularized and optimized for easy integration in Qt applications. The Frameworks offer a wide variety of commonly needed functionality in mature, peer reviewed and well tested libraries with friendly licensing terms. There are over 50 different Frameworks as part of this release providing solutions including hardware integration, file format support, additional widgets, plotting functions, spell checking and more. Many of the Frameworks are cross platform and have minimal or no extra dependencies making them easy to build and add to any Qt application.

The release candidate for Plasma 5 has also been released.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th Jul 2014 20:23 UTC, submitted by andymc
OSNews, Generic OSes

Visopsys has seen a new release.

This maintenance release features enhanced internationalization support with Spanish and German translations, per-user settings, and extensive stability and performance improvements, most notably to the kernel memory, user input, disk I/O, and GUI subsystems.

More details can be found in the changelog.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th Jul 2014 15:59 UTC
Microsoft

While most leaks concerning the Lumia series fall under the purview of Windows Phone, a recent rumor by @evleaks suggests that Microsoft may be considering launching a Lumia branded handset that runs on Android.

There is no further information regarding the handset, when Microsoft intends to launch it. Nokia had previously launched Android powered handsets under the X series, but those devices ran a forked version of Android with Nokia's own digital store in lieu of Google's services.

Do Lumias running Android exist? No doubt. Will they actually make it onto shelves? Honestly, I don't think anybody knows for sure at this point. The Nokia X is weird enough as it is, and I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Microsoft releasing an Android Lumia. If they do, however, the real question is going to be if it'll come with the suite of Google applications, or with nothing but Microsoft services - greatly reducing its usefulness, at least here in the west.

I'd be very interested in a Lumia running Android, but only if it's got Google services. I don't think we need another Frankendroid.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 4th Jul 2014 12:57 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

A Sailfish developer (third party, so not affiliated with Jolla) has developed a swipe keyboard for Jolla. It's essentially done and ready to go, but he was too afraid to release it. The reason?

I'd like to release this as an open source project, but at the moment I'm not comfortable with the patent issue (I'm interested in any advice on this topic). I live in a country outside the US (and without software patents), so should I just find a code hosting service with no relation with the US?

Fellow Sailfish developers and users chimed in, arguing he should be fine with releasing it as open source and hosting it outside of the US, with a warning that it should not be used in the US. He has accepted this advice, and is currently working on releasing it. While this is great news for Sailfish users, this does highlight the destructive nature of software patents.

Since he's going to release the code as open source, we can be 100% sure that none of the code in there is stolen from Swype and that none of it violates the open source license governing possible other swipe-like functionality (e.g. Google's Android keyboard). Ergo, he has developed this on his own, and has produced his own code, or used code that is freely available. It's a fruit of his labour, possibly infused with code that was meant to be used in a sharing manner.

And yet, despite the above, it's very likely that yes, he is violating a bunch of patents by producing this keyboard, and is, potentially, running a risk. I'm not so sure the legal advice given in the thread holds up - I'm not a lawyer, and neither are (I'm assuming) the people in the thread - but I'm at least happy he is willing to run the risk for us.

Now, I ask you: is this fair? Is this the future that we want for developers and programmers? Is this the message that the United States government, its technology companies, and said companies' public advocates want to send to aspiring hobby developers the world over? Should Europe, India, China, and the rest of the world just accept this?

I'm sure the proponents of software patents will wave this away to solve their state of cognitive dissonance, but I'm honestly and seriously worried about the developers who have not released, are not releasing, or will not release their code because of the bribes changing hands from Apple, Microsoft, IBM, Google, and the rest to Washington legislators.

Patents are supposed to spur innovation, not hinder it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Jul 2014 17:48 UTC
Android

This year's Google I/O developer conference was a massively Android-centric affair. The OS dominated the two-and-a-half-hour keynote presentation, which saw a new platform version - Android "L" - previewed to developers, alongside new form factors in Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV.

It really does seem as if Android is 'winning' inside Google. Android on phones, TVs, cars, and watches - the only exception here is laptops, but even those are getting sort-of Android because Android application will run on Chrome OS. You have to wonder how long it'll take for Chrome OS itself to more or less turn into Android.

The second interesting point that became very clear during Google I/O is that the company is taking control away from OEMs. OEMs cannot alter Android TV and Android Wear's user experience, and that's a huge customer win. The downside here is that there's a very real possibility that these platforms won't become part of AOSP, ruling out things like CyanogenMod TV or OmniROM Wear.

Third, while it's clear that Google is trying to exert more control of phone/tablet Android too, it's still not clear how far they're willing to go. There was nothing on 'Android Silver', and the fact that the company confirmed that the Nexus programme will not go away means they still see a need for OEM-less Android - which would not be necessary if Google managed to get the same kind of control over phones/tablets as it will have over TV/Wear.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd Jul 2014 17:35 UTC
Android

Google didn't spend enough time on Material Design during the keynote. We saw a beautiful video and learned a little bit about the intent and thought behind Google's new cross-platform look (which we actually saw a bit earlier than anticipated), but there's so much more to be said. Having attended as many design sessions as possible during I/O, I think it's worth taking a somewhat closer look at Material Design. In this post we'll attempt to scratch a little bit deeper into what Material means, why it's awesome, and why it's a forward-looking move for Google.

I personally really like this new design direction, but the big question is going to be whether or not third party developers will embrace it. I still see non-Holo applications today, so I'm not getting my hopes up.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd Jul 2014 21:52 UTC
Internet & Networking

When you Google someone from within the EU, you no longer see what the search giant thinks is the most important and relevant information about an individual. You see the most important information the target of your search is not trying to hide.

Stark evidence of this fact, the result of a European court ruling that individuals had the right to remove material about themselves from search engine results, arrived in the Guardian's inbox this morning, in the form of an automated notification that six Guardian articles have been scrubbed from search results.

And then the EU wonders why support for even more 'Europe' is at an all-time low.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd Jul 2014 21:46 UTC
KDE

And this is the second part of the future of KDE. We already covered part one.

This is the second half of the 'where KDE is going' write-up. Last week, I discussed what is happening with KDE's technologies: Platform is turning modular in Frameworks, Plasma is moving to new technologies and the Applications change their release schedule. In this post, I will discuss the social and organizational aspects: our governance.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd Jul 2014 12:20 UTC
Android

So yes, this story is pretty much an excuse to show off our fancy new Android story category (it's 2014. We thought it was time), but hey, it's still informative.

In case you've been wondering why you don't see many applications with Google's new Material Design just yet, it's because applications created with the Android L Preview SDK may not yet be submitted to the Google Play Store. In fact, said applications won't even run on non-Preview devices to begin with.

Alongside the release of the Android L Developer Preview images, Google also released the Android L Preview SDK. Using the L Preview SDK, developers are now able to make use of Theme.Material.* and give their applications this highly sought after theme. And in fact, this is only available when using the preview SDK. However, Google makes it very clear that applications created with the preview SDK should not be published to the Google Play Store.

It's pretty clear Material Design simply isn't done yet, and as such, Google has wisely decided to not let developers use it in the real world just yet.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Jul 2014 12:17 UTC
Windows

There's a lot of information coming out about the future versions of Windows - and it's looking like Microsoft is listening to its users. First and foremost, it seems like the Metro interface will be disabled completely when Windows runs on traditional laptops and desktops; however, Metro applications will still run in windows on the desktop.

The Desktop/laptop SKU of Threshold will include, as previously rumored, the Mini-Start menu - a new version of the traditional Microsoft Start menu, an early concept of which Microsoft showed off at the company's Build developers conference in April. It also will include the ability to run Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in windows on the Desktop. Will it turn off completely the Metro-Style Start screen with its live-tile interface, as Neowin is reporting, and make the tiled Start Menu a toggleable option from the Mini Start menu? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, convertible devices will work pretty much like Windows 8.x does today, switching between the two modes. Microsoft will also do the inevitable: merge its phone and tablet operating system into one product.

The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won't have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side by side, my sources are reconfirming. This "Threshold Mobile" SKU will work on ARM-based Windows Phones (not just Lumias), ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based tablets.

These are all looking like some very decent changes, and something they should have done from the get-go. In fact - they should have never tried to shove Metro down desktop user's throats to begin with. They should have moved Windows Phone over to NT (which they did anyway), and scale that up to tablets.

I am, though, quite interested in what the Metro-on-desktop apologists are going to say now. For entertainment value, of course!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Jul 2014 08:37 UTC
Google

Russell Ivanovic comparing his experiences at WWDC and Google I/O. For instance, the differences between Apple and Google developer representatives.

Perhaps it's just the ones I've met at Apple, but I've never had this experience before. Our developer rep is a nice guy, but he's not the least bit technical, and in general I could only talk to him when he contacts me. I say 'could' because ever since we've had success on the Android platform he's made it very clear that his services are no longer available to us. Perhaps that makes me bitter and jaded about the Developer Rep experience at Apple, but if you ask me it's justified.

Seems to be in line with how Apple handles the press. A long, long time ago, Apple loaned me one of the first Intel MacBook Pros. Those models got notoriously hot to the touch under heavy use. I dared to mention in my review that the device would sometimes get uncomfortably warm. Let me just say that it did not exactly go down well with Apple.

Moving on, it's not just the companies' employees that have differing attitudes.

One of the first things that struck me was the contrast between the kind of people that attend I/O vs those at WWDC. Granted in both cases I didn't meet all 5000 attendees, so there's nothing scientific about what follows. That said everyone I met at I/O was open-minded and tended to work on more than one platform. As such it wasn't the least bit strange when someone pulled out their iPhone to check something on it. The majority of phones there seemed to be Androids, with the Nexus 5 making up the lions share of the devices I saw. What I'm getting at, and let me put it bluntly if I may, is that it highlighted just how insular and superior a lot of Apple developers act and feel. If you don't believe me, just join a group of them at WWDC and whip out your Android phone. Within moments, you'll wish you had whipped out something less offensive, like your genitalia instead.

Apple's employees seem "overly obsessed with Google", he notes, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the amount of time Tim Cook spends bashing Android during a keynote - often with facts of questionable value. This kind of stuff trickles down to lower employees, too, of course.

In any case, this doesn't exactly seem like a great way to treat developers. I wonder if this will ever come back to bite Apple in the butt.