Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 7th Oct 2015 20:24 UTC
Internet & Networking

Facebook's got Instant Articles and Apple's got Apple News, and now Google has something called Accelerated Mobile Pages, or AMP, together with a whole bunch of partners.

AMP HTML is a new way to make web pages that are optimized to load instantly on users' mobile devices. It is designed to support smart caching, predictable performance, and modern, beautiful mobile content. Since AMP HTML is built on existing web technologies, and not a template based system, publishers continue to host their own content, innovate on their user experiences, and flexibly integrate their advertising and business models - all within a technical architecture optimized for speed and performance.

The big difference between AMP and other initiatives: AMP is open source and available on Github, and anybody can use the code as they see fit.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 7th Oct 2015 20:19 UTC
General Development

League of Legends players collectively send millions of messages every day. They're asking friends to duo-queue, suggesting a team comp on the champ select screen, and thanking opponents for a good game. On July 21st of this year (I picked a day at random), players forged 1.7 million new friendships in the game - that's a lot of love! And each time players send a message they trigger a number of operations on the back-end technology that powers Riot chat.

In the previous episode of this series on chat, I discussed the protocol we chose to communicate between client and server: XMPP (Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol). Today I'll dive into the mechanisms in place on the server-side and the architecture of the infrastructure, and I’ll discuss the work we’ve done to ensure that our servers are scalable and robust. Like the last article, I hope it’ll be interesting to anyone building out chat features to a distributed client base.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Oct 2015 21:53 UTC

Microsoft announced a whole bunch of new products today - all from the devices team. We've got two new high-end Lumia phones, the 950 and 950XL. These phones have all the latest specifications, and peculiarly enough, they are water-cooled (I'm not joking). They obviously run Windows Phone 10, and support the Continuum feature, so you can hook them up to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse, and you'll be greeted by something that looks a lot like a regular windows 10 desktop. Universal application swill automatically scale between the two different screen sizes. Pretty nifty.

Microsoft also unveiled two new Surface devices: the Surface Pro 4 - a thinner, faster, and all-around better version of the Surface Pro 3 - but also the long-awaited Surface laptop, dubbed the Surface Book. The Surface Book is crazy powerful, has a beautiful display and full, regular keyboard, a crazy hinge that really sets it apart, and just like any other Surface, the screen can some off - but this time, using something Microsoft calls "Muscle Wire", electrified attachment points that keep the two parts firmly together - you can grab it by the screen and dangle it without any fear of the two parts disconnecting.

The keyboard half contains a discrete graphics chip and some batteries, while the rest of the computery parts are housed within the display. Microsoft makes some crazy claims about performance, but we'll have to see some proper benchmarks first. In any case, it looks like the kind of laptop Microsoft wanted its partner to build - but we all know something like this is simply beyond the capabilities of the likes of Dell or HP.

That being said, the Surface Book ain't cheap, and starts at $1500.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Oct 2015 09:34 UTC

Last night, Google posted the Android 6.0 Marshmallow factory images online, for the Nexus 5, 6, 7 (2013), 9 (Wi-Fi), and Player. since these are factory images, you'll have to perform a wipe and install. If you don't want to go through the hassle of doing so, you'll have to wait for the OTA updates rolling out in the coming weeks.

If you want to take the plunge, AndroidCentral has a great guide on how to do so.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Oct 2015 09:30 UTC

The European Court of Justice has just ruled that the transatlantic Safe Harbour agreement, which lets American companies use a single standard for consumer privacy and data storage in both the US and Europe, is invalid. The ruling came after Edward Snowden's NSA leaks showed that European data stored by US companies was not safe from surveillance that would be illegal in Europe.

This could have far-reaching consequences for Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and other US tech giants operating in Europe.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Oct 2015 09:24 UTC

If we were to ask for any new feature from a new Android version, it would be some kind of scalable update solution. Right now a custom update still needs to be built for every single individual device model, and that's really not a workable solution when you have more than 24,000 models out there. The Stagefright vulnerability seemed to be a wakeup call for the Android ecosystem, but it came too late to affect anything in Marshmallow. Google instituted monthly updates for Nexus devices, and OEMs are pledging to bring the monthly update program to flagship devices. The majority of Android devices, though - the low-end devices - are being ignored. Monthly updates for Google, Samsung, and LG flagships only works out to a very small percentage of the Android install base.

Android 6.0 could dispense gold nuggets and clean my bathroom for free, but as long as this update hell exists, it's all for naught.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 6th Oct 2015 00:18 UTC
Internet & Networking

HP today announced the launch of the OpenSwitch community and a new open source network operating system (NOS). HP and key supporters, Accton Technology Corporation, Arista, Broadcom, Intel, and VMware, are delivering a community-based platform that provides developers and users the ability to accelerate innovation, avoid vendor lock-in, and realize investment protection as they rapidly build data center networks customized for unique business applications.

Here's the official OpenSwitch site - and I'll admit, this goes way over my head.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Oct 2015 19:35 UTC

The Lumia 950 and its bigger sibling are intended not as a revolution, but as a solid foundation to a brighter and better future for Microsoft's mobile efforts. They should be judged on that basis, not on whether they're able to make a dent in the Apple and Google duopoly. To achieve that lofty goal, Microsoft will need multiple generations of devices as well as the collaboration of other service providers willing to bring their apps to its platform. Tomorrow's event will be indicative of how progress is going along that path, while also giving us a pair of interesting new devices to talk about.

I have little to no hope for Windows Phone. It's done.

One interesting note for tomorrow's Microsoft event: there's rumblings and rumours about Google unveiling official Google applications for Windows 10 tomorrow. It's nothing solid, and take it with some salt, but it wouldn't be that surprising - just as Microsoft needed Apple almost 20 years ago, Google may need Microsoft today.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Oct 2015 19:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

September means the beginning of sweater weather, the return of Pumpkin Spice Lattes and the launch of a new iPhone. Now that the highly anticipated iPhone 6s line has finally hit stores and is smashing sales records, the Pornhub statisticians have decided to dig through the data and found out what it is that separates iPhone-wielding Pornhub users from our Android-loyal visitors, in terms of how they interact with the site and what kinds of content they prefer. Currently, just over 60% of our traffic comes from mobile devices, so without any further ado, let's take a look at what makes each of these major subsets of Pornhub's viewership tick.

I didn't put the link in the copied blurb itself. The following link is to the company blog, and not the Pornhub site itself, so it's completely safe for work, and contains no nudity or otherwise inappropriate content, so you can read it for the interesting mobile stats without any worries. It's still a link to the Pornhub domain, so you might want to skip this one if you're on a work computer or someone else's machine.

Here's the link. And yes I find it totally hilarious the OSNews database now contains a link to the Pornhub domain.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 2nd Oct 2015 16:45 UTC

I've spent the past couple of days desperately trying to puzzle out the purpose behind Google's newly announced Nexus 5X and 6P smartphones. Unlike predecessors such as the Nexus One and Nexus 5, these phones don't have a clear reason for being, and are not in themselves terribly unique. That's led me (and others) to question Google's overall aim with the Nexus line of pure Android smartphones, and I think I've finally arrived at an answer. The Nexus program is not so much about carrier independence or purity of Android design as it is about presenting Google in an overwhelmingly positive light. In other words, Google, the ultimate ad seller, sells Nexus phones as ads for itself.

This article feels a bit like a trainwreck to me. It just doesn't make any sense. Of course Nexus devices are built specifically to put Android and Google's services on a pedestal - has anyone ever claimed otherwise? Has anyone ever seen them as anything but? The tone of the article also tries to somehow posit this as a negative thing, which I don't understand either. Some of the very best Android phones of all time have been Nexus phones, so aren't they a great thing for us consumers? What's the problem here?

Making Android profitable for Android phone makers is one of the great challenges of our time. We're all better off when we buy things from sustainable companies that we know will still be around when we have an issue months or years down the line. I wish Google would recognize that and try to do more to support Android as a whole rather than just its own good name. Nexus devices have in the past and can still serve nobler purposes than just making Google look good.

No, it's not. The goal of Android is to reach as many people as possible, and do so in a way that benefits us as consumers as much as possible. Expensive Android devices with 50% profit margins don't benefit us at all - they just allow major corporations to suck money out the economy and shadily funnel it to foreign tax havens. We benefit from access to high-quality phones at reasonable prices running Android-proper - and anything that pushes the Samsungs and HTCs of this world to do so is a huge win for consumers.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Oct 2015 08:55 UTC
Mac OS X

With El Capitan released, there's one 'feature' that really needs to be highlighted - for better or worse.

System Integrity Protection (SIP, sometimes referred to as rootless) is a security feature of OS X El Capitan, the operating system by Apple Inc. It protects certain system processes, files and folders from being modified or tampered with by other processes even when executed by the root user or by a user with root privileges (sudo). Apple says that the root user can be a significant risk factor to the system's security, especially on systems with a single user account on which that user is also the administrator. System Integrity Protection is enabled by default, but can be disabled.

Here's Apple's WWDC presentation about SIP, and here's the Ars review's section about it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Sep 2015 23:45 UTC, submitted by jonsmirl

Google and Microsoft have agreed to end their long-running patent feud over smartphones and video game systems, dropping about 20 lawsuits in the U.S. and Germany.

The two companies, which didn't disclose financial terms, have been litigating over technology innovations for five years. Google's former Motorola Mobility unit had been demanding royalties on the Xbox video-gaming system, and Microsoft had sought to block Motorola mobile phones from using certain features.

If you've been paying attention, you know why this is taking place now.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Sep 2015 20:10 UTC
Internet & Networking

An interesting website that lets you go back in time, to see what the island of Manhattan looked like before it was appropriated by the Dutch and turned into New Amsterdam (now New York, of course). The native forest, streams, pond - they're all gone, obviously, and quite a bit of land was 'added' to the island to accommodate the city's needs (quite fitting, considering its founders).

Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out here, by navigating through the map of the city in 1609. You can find your block, explore the native landscape of today's famous landmarks, research the flora and fauna block by block, and help our team continue to rediscover 1609.

A few weeks ago, in honour of the 200 year anniversary of the Kingdom of The Netherlands, the Dutch Kadaster and Topografisch Bureau (do I really need to translate that?) launched a fantastic website showing how much The Netherlands has changed over just the past 200 years. The site shows a Google Maps-like interface containing all topographical maps of the country made over the past 200 years, so you can navigate around the country and use the timeline slider to see when changes took place. Compare the Zuiderzee area in 1815 to the same area (now IJsselmeer) today, and it's completely different (we're basically just removing all the water and reclaiming all the land to bring us back to how it was 2000 years ago).

Even at the very local level, you can find really interesting things. If you ever wanted a clear image of the absolutely devastating effect the government policy of "ruilverkaveling" (land swap) and the '70s ideals of the "malleable society" in its most literal form had on the landscape of The Netherlands (and who doesn't, right?), look no further than this 1973 map of my hometown/area. You can clearly see what it used to look like (the messy part), and the straight, ordered, boring, and artificial nothingness they turned it into. A few years later, the last remaining "old" landscape was destroyed, and now it all looks straight and orderly.

This was all done to maximise agricultural production and make it easier for local, provincial and the national government to initiate new construction projects. It also allowed water management engineers to completely redesign our water management, which is kind of important in the western half of the country, since it consists almost entirely out of polders.

I love how computers and the web can bring the old and the new together like this, and visualise so well something you otherwise would never be able to get this clear an image of.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Sep 2015 19:35 UTC

Microsoft said a highly suspicious Windows update that was delivered to customers around the world was the result of a test that wasn't correctly implemented.

"We incorrectly published a test update and are in the process of removing it," a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to Ars. The message included no other information.

The explanation came more than 12 hours after people around the world began receiving the software bulletin through the official Windows Update, raising widespread speculation that Microsoft's automatic patching mechanism was broken or, worse, had been compromised to attack end users. Fortunately, now that Microsoft has finally weighed in, that worst-case scenario can be ruled out.

I'd be terrified if I had seen this.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Sep 2015 19:33 UTC
Mac OS X

All the reviews are already published, but today, Apple also actually, you know, released OS X El Capitan.

OS X El Capitan, the latest version of the Mac operating system, builds on the groundbreaking features and beautiful design introduced in OS X Yosemite, refining the experience and improving performance in lots of ways that you’ll enjoy everyday.

Y'all know where to get it!


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Sep 2015 22:52 UTC
Mac OS X

Sadly no longer written by John Siracusa, but still a good read: Ars' Max OS X El Capitan review.

Really, this is the first time in several years that iOS and OS X have felt like they've gotten (and needed) the same amount of attention from Apple - both get to spend a release in the slow lane as Apple puts its marketing muscle behind newer platforms like the Apple Watch and the new Apple TV. Like iOS 9 (and Mountain Lion, and Snow Leopard), El Capitan is about refinement. Yosemite's big statement was "This is what OS X looks like now." El Capitan's is a relatively meek "Hey, I have a couple neat tricks to show you."


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Sep 2015 22:50 UTC

They all got leaked, so you probably knew everything going in, but today, Google unveiled its new Nexus phones, two new Chromecasts, and the Pixel C. The Nexus 5X is built by LG and really looks and feels like a Nexus 5 successor (sadly not available in the colour of my Nexus 5: orange-red-I-still-don't-know-oh-my-god-my-eyes-are-burning). Its bigger sister, the Nexus 6P, features an all-metal construction, a larger display with far more pixels, and a better camera - in fact, this could very well be the first Nexus with a camera that doesn't suck.

They both sport fingerprint sensors, big batteries, and, of course, run Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Android 6.0 will be released for other Nexus devices over the coming weeks). The 16GB Nexus 5X is available for $379, while the 32GB Nexus 6P starts at $499. You can opt for more storage, too, if you wish. They'll be available in October.

The Pixel C was a bit of a surprise to me, but apparently, it was also leaked, so the rest of the world wasn't as surprised as I was. It's a really premium 10.2" Android tablet, with a magnetically detachable keyboard - yes, my friends, after Apple, this is Google's stab at a Surface clone. Thanks to the clever keyboard, this is, actually, the Android 'PC' I've always wanted - I know there are tons of Android laptops and convertibles out there, but I refuse to buy non-Nexus for obvious reasons.

Sadly, though, it doesn't seem like there's any special software work being done on Android to facilitate the more laptop-like design of the Pixel C. While Apple made sure to copy Metro's multiwindow implementation verbatim for its own Surface clone, Google doesn't seem to have done so for the Pixel C. There's no side-by-side stuff, no multiple windows, nothing. Some groundwork for multiwindow was laid in Marshmallow, but it was nowhere near final state and probably won't make it to Android until a future release.

Speaking of future releases: the Pixel C will be getting updates every six weeks. Yes. An Android device with updates every six weeks. It'll set you back $499 for just the tablet, and the Bluetooth, magnetic keyboard, which is charged inductively via the tablet itself and can run on a single charge for two months, will set you back another $149. It'll be available later this year.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:22 UTC

Customer Match is a new product designed to help you reach your highest-value customers on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail - when it matters most. Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience.

So I have this crazy, revolutionary idea that could change everything. You ready? You sitting tight?

I'd pay for Google services to not have ads and tracking.

Here's some water for the shock.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:10 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

When was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While still used as the save icon in modern software packages like Microsoft's Office suite, it's unusual to see one out in the wild. Given that a typical floppy disk offers up a minuscule 1.44MB of space - not even enough to house a three-minute pop song in MP3 format - there's seemingly no reason for these disks to stay in circulation.

But while the average user might not have any cause to use a floppy disk, there are those out there who can't settle for anything else. They're in dire need of the disks, which most manufacturers have stopped producing. The floppy disk might seem like something better left in the 1990s. Instead it's a product that's alive and well in the 21st century.

When my friends and I were in the US late last year, we got into an accident with our rental car - an old and kind Canadian lady rear-ended us while doing 110kph on the I-89 near the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. The accident was entirely her fault, so she accepted all responsibility, the state trooper made an incident report, and sent us on our way to the nearest Avis office so we could get a new car, because the car's rear end was all mangled up. We were a bit shaken up, but luckily, nobody got hurt, and the Canadian lady bought us a bottle of maple syrup, and I bought a cheesy Vermont baseball cap to commemorate our grand adventure of meeting a state trooper.

In any event, it turned out the nearest Avis office was at the Lebanon Municipal Airport, an absolutely amazing place that seemed frozen in time - a tiny airport with an adorable terminal and sliding doors leading straight to the runway. Mildly condescending adjectives like 'adorable', 'quaint', 'cute', and 'darling' don't do this place justice. In the terminal, while we waited for one of two airport employees present to fill out some paperwork, I noticed something remarkable: there, in the middle of the terminal, next to an old soda machine, sat an old TTY, a Minicom IV.

Much like the TTY, the answer to the question of old technology lingering around is always the same: because it works.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:09 UTC

Microsoft posted a blog post today about Windows 10's data collection and privacy, and Ars Technica's Peter Bright dissected it.

The second category is personalization data, the things Windows - and especially Cortana - knows regarding what your handwriting looks like, what your voice sounds like, which sports teams you follow, and so on. Nothing is changing here. Microsoft says that users are in control, but our own testing suggests that the situation is murkier. Even when set to use the most private settings, there is unexpected communication between Windows 10 and Microsoft. We continue to advocate settings that are both clearer and stricter in their effect.

Microsoft's got a trust problem.