Linked by twitterfire on Sat 20th Dec 2014 00:02 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

German researchers have discovered security flaws that could let hackers, spies and criminals listen to private phone calls and intercept text messages on a potentially massive scale - even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available.

The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are the latest evidence of widespread insecurity on SS7, the global network that allows the world's cellular carriers to route calls, texts and other services to each other. Experts say it's increasingly clear that SS7, first designed in the 1980s, is riddled with serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Dec 2014 17:47 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jolla released the tenth major update for Sailfish today, bumping the version number to the as always very useful and helpful The name of the update, also as always in Finnish, isn't helping either: Vaarainjärvi. Joking aside, this tenth update is a massive one - virtually every aspect of the operating system is touched upon in some way, from the lower levels all the way up to UI tweaks.

It's 1.5GB in size, which is pretty huge in Sailfish terms, so make sure to have enough free space for the initial download.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Dec 2014 17:44 UTC, submitted by toralux
OSNews, Generic OSes

Hewlett-Packard will take a big step toward shaking up its own troubled business and the entire computing industry next year when it releases an operating system for an exotic new computer.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Dec 2014 12:04 UTC

The Federal Court of Canada agreed on Wednesday to order Apple Inc's Canadian subsidiary to turn over documents to the Competition Bureau to help investigate whether Apple unfairly used its market power to promote the sale of iPhones.

In seeking the order, the Competition Bureau said agreements Apple negotiated with wireless carriers may have cut into competition by encouraging the companies to maintain or boost the price of rival phones.

It'd be very welcome if the relationships between major OEMs and carriers, as well as between the individual carriers, came under very close scrutiny. In most countries, the wireless market is dominated by only a few major carriers and OEMs, creating a lot of opportunity for anti-competitive - and thus, anti-consumer - practices. Good on Canada for taking these steps, but other countries need to follow.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Dec 2014 23:07 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

Since the last time, the expression parser has grown several new capabilities. We are now able to infer the types of operands, and as such one no longer needs to set the type that one wishes the value to be returned as. A further consequence is that expressions can now return arbitrarily typed values as results, not just simple numeric values. This means that, for instance, an expression can return a data member of a class, and if that member is itself an object or other more complex type, it can then be expanded to look at its internal values.

I am by far not knowledgeable enough to comment on any of this - but I do know it's a number of improvements to Haiku's debugger.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Dec 2014 23:03 UTC
In the News

Hundreds of millions of tablets and e-readers have been sold, but today we're still inclined to think of a book as words on a page. Amazon's success with Kindle has hinged on recognizing how much more they can be. So where does the company go from here? In a series of rare, on-the-record interviews for Kindle's 7th anniversary, Amazon executives sketched out their evolving vision for the future of reading. It's wild - and it's coming into focus faster than you might have guessed.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Dec 2014 23:01 UTC
Multimedia, AV

Sony Pictures has cancelled the planned release on 25 December of the film The Interview, after major cinema chains decided not to screen it.

The film is about a fictional plot to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Hackers have already carried out a cyber attack on Sony and warned the public to stay away from cinemas screening the film.

Sony hacked, documents released, theatres and Sony threatened by terrorists, and now, the film in question cancelled.

Een volk dat voor tirannen zwicht, zal meer dan lijf en goed verliezen, dan dooft het licht.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Dec 2014 22:55 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Amazon is continuing to fiddle with the Fire Phone's software even after it became apparent that the device isn't selling terribly well. An OTA is going out right now to the AT&T and GSM unlocked devices with a ton of improvements to the camera, battery life, lock screen, and more.

Did anyone - anyone - buy this phone?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Dec 2014 20:11 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The wait is over. The BlackBerry Classic has now arrived, and it brings the promise of the speed and performance of BlackBerry 10 with the familiar and classic navigation keys you know and love. All that in a package that is 'designed from the ground up to meet the needs of productive people who appreciate the speed and accuracy that can only be found with a physical QWERTY keyboard'.

It's a device purposefully built to be reliable, durable, made with high-quality materials, and that delivers on quality and fits neatly in your pocket. From the official announcement of its eventual release back in February at Mobile World Congress 2014 to now, many folks have been waiting for the BlackBerry Classic and now that it's here, it's time to take a look and see if it delivers on all those points.

The Classic has officially been released today, and has one of the first reviews.


Linked by jessesmith on Tue 16th Dec 2014 21:13 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source

The GNU General Public License (version 2) is one of the most widely used open source licenses in the world. The GNU GPLv2 is commonly used in Linux distributions and open source applications. Yet, despite being widely used for decades, the GPLv2 has not been tested much in the legal system. Most GPL violations do not result in a trial and so the power of the license has remained largely untested. That is about to change. As posted,

This lack of court decisions is about to change due to the five interrelated cases arising from a dispute between Versata Software, Inc. ("Versata") (its parent company, Trilogy Development Corporation, is also involved, but Versata is taking the lead) and Ameriprise Financial, Inc. ("Ameriprise")

It is expected the court cases will help define what qualifies as a derivative work and how the GPL affects software patents along with other details of how the license is interpreted.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Dec 2014 21:13 UTC

Permissions on Android are tricky to get right from a user perspective. Usually you only want to do something minor and innocuous (pre-fill a form with a contact's info) but the actual permission you have to request gives you much more power than necessary (access to ALL contact details, ever).

It's understandable that users might be suspicious of you. If your app is closed-source then they have no way of verifying you're not downloading all their contacts to their servers. Even if you explain the permission request people may not trust you. In the past I've chosen not to implement what might be handy features just to avoid user distrust.

That said, one thing that bothers me is that you don't always have to ask for permission to do some actions.

Exactly, because on Android, you can use Intents.

Android's Intents system is fascinating from a historical perspective. Like so many other aspects of smartphones we take for granted today, it comes from PalmOS (and not from iOS or Android). I detailed PalmOS' "multitasking" capabilities in my Palm retrospective, but it basically comes down to this: in PalmOS, applications could 'sublaunch' other applications, let them do stuff, and then return to the original application. Many of the people working on these PalmOS capabilities (some of whom came from Be) would later work for the Android team at Google, where they further evolved it into the Intents system Android currently has.

The current smartphone platforms owe way more to Palm than modern pundits will ever be capable of understanding or willing to admit. Want to talk about inconsequential crap beveled edges and rounded corners some more?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Dec 2014 19:37 UTC

An eight-person jury has decided that Apple is not on the hook for what could have been more than $1 billion in a trial centering on extra security measures the company added to iTunes and iPods starting in 2006.

Delivering a unanimous verdict today, the group said Apple's iTunes 7.0, released in the fall of 2006, was a "genuine product improvement," meaning that new features (though importantly increased security) were good for consumers. Plaintiffs in the case unsuccessfully argued that those features not only thwarted competition, but also made Apple's products less useful since customers could not as easily use purchased music or jukebox software from other companies with the iPod.

This was a dumb case and a waste of court resources. Good to see the jury agree with that.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Dec 2014 22:56 UTC

Microsoft's Skype software will start translating voice calls between people today. As part of a preview program, Skype Translator makes it possible for English and Spanish speakers to communicate in their native language, without having to learn a new one. It sounds like magic, but it's the result of years of work from Microsoft's research team and Skype to provide an early working copy of software that could help change the way the world communicates in the future.

Pretty cool. I don't speak Spanish, so I can't test just how good it is.


Linked by moorewierdos on Mon 15th Dec 2014 22:43 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

From an Imgur Post of the same title:

I was moved out to an extremely remote country area in the middle of NSW Australia to live with people I didn't want to live with and isolated with no internet for 7 years during my childhood/teenhood. Using the 1980s reference books from my high school library, I decided to build my own OS so that I had a more manageable way of dealing with files than the standard DOS structure.

A short but interesting read about the author's experience with pictures of the finsished product.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Dec 2014 19:29 UTC

Unlike previous years, Google's keeping the older Nexus handset around for the time being, selling it alongside the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 at the same price point it launched at in November 2013. (Though Play Store availability remains sporadic.) So the Nexus 5 isn't quite dead yet. But how does it compare to other handsets running Android 5.0? Is it still worth the money twelve months on? And might we see another smaller Nexus handset in 2015? Read on for our take on the Nexus 5, twelve months on.

Android is at a bit of a strange point right now when it comes to flagship devices. For me, personally, while some of the OEMs make very nice devices (especially Sony), they are all laden with crapware and customisations nobody is asking for, and worse yet, they will not get updates in a timely fashion. I would not buy from them until they Google Play Editions - but those are either not available at all, or not sold in many countries (they are not available in The Netherlands).

Nexus-wise, I am not at all impressed with the Nexus 6 - it's far, far too large for my tastes, and I really dislike the bulgy Motorola designs.

Which brings us back to the Nexus 5: still the best Android phone you can buy right now, in my view. It's relatively cheap, looks decent (the red one actually has the most pleasant material), it's more than up to the job, gets prompt updates, and runs proper Android.

I hope Google keeps it around for a long time - or better yet, updates its internals if needed at some point.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Dec 2014 15:02 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Om Malik looks at data about the Apple App Store from an analyst. The conclusions, in list form:

  • Video games continue to dominate the App Store charts and drive the vast majority of App Store revenue (est. 75%+) for AAP
  • Similar to the last two years, non-gaming apps remain under-represented at the top of the charts, with just one of the top 10 grossing apps, two of the top 20, four of the top 30, and five of the top 40 in the App Store for 2014
  • The App Store alone reached nearly $10 billion in sales in FY 2013 and we think that this can grow to nearly $20 billion by FY 2015
  • Net App Store revenues to pass gross iTunes revenues in dollar terms (both as-reported) in the second half of FY 2015.
  • Of the $1 in App Store sales, 24 cents is operating income while remaining 6 cents are spread across operational expenses and costs-of-goods-sold.

Looks good right? Growth, growth, growth.

It looks good when you're Apple, but when you look at this from the perspective of the user, a different picture emerges. Of the top 50 'applications' in the App Store, virtually all of them are games. Of those games, virtually all are "freemium", the semi-scummy or outright scummy pay-to-win games we all despise (the one exception: Minecraft). Actual applications are virtually nowhere to be found in the top lists. Accordingly, the vast majority of revenue - more than 75%, this analyst claims - goes to game companies, not application developers.

This isn't an 'Appy Apple' - it's a 'scummy freemium Apple'.

And before the usual people blame me of being anti-Apple again because they have nothing better to do: I'm pretty sure the exact same trends apply to the Play Store - just with far lower revenue numbers.

The application store model is working out great for a few large players and Apple/Google, but as an independent developer, the odds of making it big in either the Android or iOS application store are very slim; in fact, the few large players are so dominant that your work will most likely never bubble to the surface of the ocean filled with freemium crap.

This is further highlighted by the countless stories of whining users on both the iOS and Android side whenever a developer decides to charge for an update or add-on to an existing application. We know the story of Monument Valley, a beautifully crafted mobile game that drew ire from cheapskates because the developers dared to charge a few bucks for an expansion pack to the game that nearly doubled the original game's content. More recently, Android developer Chris Lacey faced similar criticisms (see the comments here and in other places) when he charged a few bucks for a ground-up rewrite of his Android launcher.

This is what the application store model has done to development. Because large companies can release seemingly "free" games and applications, stupid people expect every mobile game and application to be free. Apple (and Google) have instigated a race to the bottom, massively devaluing the work of developers. The developers of Monument Valley as well as Chris Lacey have put a lot of hard work in their game and application, yet people expect it to be free, and are enraged when they are confronted with the fact that developers need to eat too, and that games and applications do not just magically materialise out of the the æther. While sipping their triple-a-day 8 dollar 'coffee', of course.

I have never made a secret out of my dislike of the application store model, exactly because of what it does to independent developers. It devalues their work, and independent, small development houses will simply be unable to survive in this race to the bottom. The end result? Apple and a few large companies win, but independent developers and users lose.

Well, unless you like the virtual equivalent of slot machines.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Dec 2014 15:01 UTC

Would you pay thousands of extra dollars for an Apple gadget made of gold?

Perhaps not, but the company is betting that at least some people will. Its Apple Watch Edition is made from 18-karat gold and will likely be very expensive - think thousands of dollars expensive - despite offering little to no extra functionality over the aluminum and steel models. Who would pay for such a thing?

Well, just ask Vertu.

Somehow, I don't think many people are going to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for a watch, only to realise that everybody and their dog has the exact same one for 350 dollars. But hey, what do I know - I'm not rich.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Dec 2014 22:35 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

If you're visiting any Yahoo property today, chances are you'll see an "Upgrade to the new Firefox" link in the top-right corner of your browser window. The prompt also appears if you're using Internet Explorer, Opera and even the new Yandex browser. However, the prompt is missing from Safari, which will surely prompt a new round of speculation about Apple's rumored switch to Yahoo as its default search engine.

Given that Firefox now uses Yahoo as its default search engine, this move doesn't come as a huge surprise. Yahoo clearly wants as many people as possible to use Firefox - and with it its search engine (which is powered by Microsoft Bing).

A good deal for Firefox, but one has to wonder - how many people actually visit Yahoo properties who would also "upgrade" their browser?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Dec 2014 18:20 UTC
Internet & Networking

At the beginning of this year, the MPAA and six studios - Universal, Sony, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Disney - joined together to begin a new campaign against piracy on the web. A January 25th email lays out a series of legally and technically ambitious new tools, including new measures that would block infringing sites from reaching customers of many major ISPs. Documents reviewed by The Verge detail the beginning of a new plan to attack piracy after the federal SOPA efforts failed by working with state attorneys general and major ISPs like Comcast to expand court power over the way data is served. If successful, the result would fundamentally alter the open nature of the internet.

Those who try to halt progress eventually always lose.

As a sidenote, because I absolutely love stressing this: of the companies mentioned, Disney is the absolute worst. Disney's entire fortune was built almost exclusively on taking public domain works from Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world, build an empire with those, and then proceed to lock everyone else out through corruption and buying off the US government. Without the open and limited copyright laws that Disney seeks to eliminate and has eliminated, the company itself would not have existed.

Behind the friendly facade, the Disney company is pure, unadulterated evil. Apple, Google, Microsoft - they're saints compared to the damage Disney has done to the progress of culture and the free flow of information in the 20th century.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Dec 2014 15:01 UTC, submitted by twitterfire
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The Hardkernel ODROID-C1 features an Amlogic S805 SoC that features a 1.5GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A5 processor and Mali 450MP2 graphics. This board also has 1GB of DDDR3 memory, Gigabit Ethernet, 40 GPIO pins, eMMC / microSD storage, four USB 2.0 ports, and one USB OTG port. While coming in close to the size and price, the specs of the ODROID-C1 are far superior to the Raspberry Pi with a better SoC, double the RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, and an extra USB port.

I've always wanted something like this to run Android with a mouse and keyboard. Why? Well, why not? Seems like it could be fun.