Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 29th Jun 2015 17:01 UTC

On Monday, the Supreme Court opted not to review a 2014 ruling on copyright law that held Google's Android operating system infringed copyrights relating to Oracle's Java platform. This is a disaster for the software industry.

Here's the problem: the digital economy depends on gadgets and software being able to communicate seamlessly. Last year's decision by the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals opened the possibility that efforts to make software work together better could trigger copyright liability. The result could be more compatibility problems and less innovation.

The most disgusting and most despicable lawsuit in technology. Oracle is a horrible, horrible company.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 26th Jun 2015 21:47 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Researchers have shown that machines are inching closer to self-learning, and perhaps even copping a little attitude.

Over at Google, a computer program using a database of movie scripts was asked again and again by researchers to define morality. It struggles to do so, and in a conversation recorded by its human engineers, becomes exasperated and ends the conversation by lashing out at its human inquisitor.

Eerie. The full paper is more interesting.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 26th Jun 2015 21:42 UTC

Every year we see the same promise: this is the year that Android-first development will become a reality. At the same time we see big companies like Instagram repeatedly introduce new apps that are iOS-only. Android has been able to tout more market share than iOS for quite some time, but that doesn't seem to have translated into app developers releasing Android apps at the same time as their iOS counterparts, much less Android-first. Over the past few weeks I've been talking with developers and researching why this is still the case.

A major reason not discussed in this article: the large companies - Twitter, Facebook, etc. - as well as the major technology press outlets, are all US-based, and clearly have a very US-centric view of the world (or maybe at the very least an Anglo-Saxon view). In the US, iOS and Android both sit at around ~45% market share, so it makes sense that developers working for these companies focus on iOS more than on Android, simply because iOS development tends to be an easier experience (I'm simply echoing what I hear from developers on both sides of the aisle). The same applies to the technology press.

Outside of the English-speaking countries, however, Android reigns supreme. If these companies had a more world-centric view, their Android efforts would surely improve - because as it stands right now, most major companies' Android applications lag behind their iOS counterparts considerably. Over here in The Netherlands, though, every major new local application - banks, brands, stores, etc. - are always iOS+Android on day one.

It'd be great if American companies finally started getting their acts together too. Don't assume that veteran iOS developers are automatically also good Android developers (they're not), and hire real, proper Android developers. I translate English to Dutch, and my clients would never ask me to translate, I don't know, Spanish documents into Dutch. Small indie Android developers have proven that, even if it may be a little harder, it's perfectly possible to create Android applications that are just as good as, and often even better, than their iOS counterparts.

In 2015, there's no excuse for releasing lousy, crappy Android applications. You only have yourself to blame.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 26th Jun 2015 12:10 UTC

Who would spend more than the cost of a PS4 on a video game console that only plays NES games? Well, who would spend thousands of dollars on a digital camera that can’t autofocus? Leica shooters, of course, and people of similar persuasion might just be interested in the Analogue Nt for their gaming needs. The Nt is a modern Nintendo Entertainment System hewn from a solid block of aluminum, and retails for $499 (plus an extra $79 if you want HDMI output and hardware upscaling.)

Beautiful piece of hardware - and I love the fact that there might be a market for this. There are way more sensible options, of course, but none of them look this good.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 25th Jun 2015 22:36 UTC

The Clear Linux Project for Intel Architecture is a project that is building a Linux OS distribution for various cloud use cases. The goal of Clear Linux OS is to showcase the best of Intel Architecture technology, from low-level kernel features to more complex items that span across the entire operating system stack.

Don't dismiss it - Intel is doing a lot of interesting under-the-hood stuff with this one.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 25th Jun 2015 22:29 UTC

If you've been watching the news recently, you'll know of the huge debate in the U.S over the role of the Confederate flag in contemporary America. Many see it as a reminder of the many pre-Civil War injustices while others see it simply as a way to honor the soldiers who died for the Confederacy. Many large US companies, like Walmart and Amazon, have already banned the sale of any Confederate flag merchandise as a reaction to the recent events. Now, it appears that Apple has decided to join them by pulling many Civil War wargames from the App Store. As of the writing of this story, games like Ultimate General: Gettysburg and all the Hunted Cow Civil War games are nowhere to be found. Apple is famous for reaching for the axe rather than the scalpel when it comes to political issues (like rejecting Hunted Cow's Tank Battle 1942 for depicting Germans and Russians as enemies), so this move doesn't come as a great surprise.

While it's obvious that the Confederate flag has no place in, on, or around government buildings, it seems a bit insane to ban games (movies? Books? Comics?) that take place in the US Civil War era for showing the flag.

On a sidenote - three Apple stories in a row? What's happening?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 25th Jun 2015 20:44 UTC

For a long time, iOS apps have been able to open links as web views. When you tap a link in a Twitter client, an RSS reader, or a bookmark utility, it usually opens in a mini browser that doesn't leave the app, providing you with the convenience of not having to switch between Safari and the app. For years, in spite of some security concerns, this worked well and became the de-facto standard among third-party iOS apps.

With iOS 9, Apple wants this to change - and they're bringing the power of Safari to any app that wants to take advantage of it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 25th Jun 2015 20:43 UTC

I took a little time out today to watch WWDC Session 511 to learn about how Safari Content Blocking will work in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. After an hour, I had a little concept app running. I wont really explain the technical details of how the extensions work or how to create them, that is better done by watching the WWDC Session video directly, but I will say its frightfully easy and the code I used for the blocker detailed below is at the bottom of this page.

I'm not complaining.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jun 2015 23:10 UTC
Mac OS X

It is showing hidden files (that have names starting with a dot) when invoked by root and doesn’t show them (as expected) when running as a normal user. This differs from what ls on Linux (the one coming from coreutils) does.

Why does ls behave this way?

Very interesting answer. I love stuff like this.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jun 2015 23:07 UTC

If you pay close enough attention to these things, you've probably seen Google Play Services updating from time to time on your Android devices. If you follow the more technical side of Android, you'll know it was announced a couple of years ago to introduce new APIs and features in a way that doesn't require a firmware update. You could be forgiven for dismissing it as a dry and technical part of the OS, but in reality it's a crucially important part of the way modern Android works.

Play Services is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because it makes the lives of developers easier and because it bypasses incompetent carriers and OEMs so that users get considerable updates. It's a curse because they're closed source - making it impossible to dig into the code. They make your device less your device, and that's always a bad thing, especially in today's world.

So much of this could be addressed if Google opened up as much of it, but that's very unlikely to happen.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jun 2015 08:16 UTC

On my home forum Sysnative, a user (wavly) was being assisted with a WU issue, which was going well, aside from the fact that wavly's WU kept getting disabled randomly. It was figured out eventually after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing that the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung's SW Update software.

SW Update is your typical OEM updating software that will update your Samsung drivers, the bloatware that came on your Samsung machine, etc. The only difference between other OEM updating software is, Samsung's disables WU.

No matter how much work Microsoft puts into cleaning up Windows, crappy OEMs like Samsung will undo all their work.

How about that line of Surface laptops and desktops, Microsoft?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jun 2015 23:24 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Over in Europe, things work a little differently. The carrier model still dominates, but it's just as easy to pick up unlocked, unbranded versions of Android phones big and small that work on just about any local operator (and often many not-so-local ones.)

Nice overview of the situation in Europe, but to be honest, I haven't seen any carrier-specific models in The Netherlands in years. In fact, at least on my carrier, you can unlock your phone the moment you get it (a low fee may be charged), and after 12 months, the unlock process is always free (at least for T-Mobile - I'm guessing the same applies to the other two carriers).

You can buy unlocked phones from major stores - both online and offline - everywhere, and nobody bats an eye. In fact, in the first quarter of 2014, almost half of all 'mobile connections' were SIM-only - i.e., the mobile phone contract is just the SIM card, without any "free" phone. When you do the maths, clever shopping for a SIM-only contract and an unlocked phone can be hundreds of euros cheaper in the total running time of the contract than going the traditional contract+phone route.

Coincidentally, I'm pretty sure this explains why Android is so popular here. You can get unlocked Android flagship-quality phones or last year's flagships for a few hundreds euros, whereas unlocked iPhones are two to three times as expensive. When you give consumers an honest breakdown of what a contract+phone really costs, most people will opt to save hundreds of euros.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jun 2015 23:11 UTC

Google Inc.'s life sciences group has created a health-tracking wristband that could be used in clinical trials and drug tests, giving researchers or physicians minute-by-minute data on how patients are faring.

The experimental device, developed within the company's Google X research division, can measure pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature, and also environmental information like light exposure and noise levels. It won't be marketed as a consumer device, said Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google.

Like Apple's ResearchKit, I'm really glad technology companies are actively trying to help advance medical research, treatments, and so on. Technology can have a huge impact here.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jun 2015 23:05 UTC

A new iOS 9 feature added in beta 1 was only discovered when users attempted to update to beta 2 earlier today. This new feature will allow the operating system to intelligently delete applications if you don't have enough free space to perform a software update. Once the update is complete, the apps will automatically be reinstalled and your data will remain intact.

Clever feature. I would say 'something for Android to adopt', but then I remembered I'm an idiot.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jun 2015 17:56 UTC, submitted by spudley99
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Like all modern processors the Mega-processor is built from transistors. It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones like those below. Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs.

Hand-built. Insane, but also very cool.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jun 2015 17:54 UTC

Apple's impulsive response to Swift stands in stark contrast to their treatment of indie app developers, who have been lobbying Apple for almost seven years, requesting Apple reform policies in the App Store to no effect. In particular, Cue's use of the word "indie" can only be described as a callous slap in the face given the circumstances that indie developers have been facing.

iOS application developers are expendable, and have zero reach. Taylor Swift is unique, and has a quarter metric frickton of reach.

Do the math.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 22nd Jun 2015 16:02 UTC

Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to "we can do that".

Remember how everyone used to make fun of people like Richard Stallman? Way back in 2012, we already reached the point where we had to acknolwedge Richard Stallman was right all along (useless sidenote: this is one of the three most popular OSNews articles of all time). In recent years, people have been putting stickers and tape on their laptops to cover up built-in webcams. The next step is, apparently, to rip out the built-in microphones, too. That's what you get when you entrust a major technology company with automatic updates.

If it runs software from any of the major companies, your computer isn't yours. Handle it accordingly.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 22nd Jun 2015 11:47 UTC

After being publicly smacked down by music's biggest star, Apple is changing its tune. Late Sunday night, Apple VP Eddy Cue responded to the open letter that Taylor Swift posted earlier in the day, revealing that Apple now plans to pay artists, labels, and publishers for streams during Apple Music's three-month free trial. The premium streaming service is due to launch on June 30th.

Taylor Swift just outsmarted one of the biggest, richest, and most arrogant companies on earth. Impressive.

The fact that Apple announced this sudden tail-between-its-legs change of heart in the middle of the night (might've been late Sunday night for US - I suck at timezones), via Twitter no less, is indicative of how badly thought-out this whole Apple Music thing seems to be. The presentation during WWDC was awkward, the three month trial period heavily criticised, and now this. Curious.


Linked by ricegf on Sun 21st Jun 2015 19:38 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Nokia's CEO Rajeev Suri told Germany's Manager Magazin (in German, Reuters report in English) that they plan to start designing and licensing (but not manufacturing) phones again once their agreement with Microsoft expires in 2016. The license would include the use of the Nokia brand name. Does this open the door for Jolla goodness to eventually return to its roots?


Linked by Louis Barman on Sun 21st Jun 2015 19:36 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

One of the first computers in the world, EDSAC is being rebuilt at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Andrew Herbert takes us on a walk around inside the computer.

The computer memory is pulses of sound waves in long tubes of mercury.