Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th May 2015 21:47 UTC
Internet & Networking

The internet, though, has been a mixed blessing for Esperanto. While providing a place for Esperantists to convene without the hassle of traveling to conventions or local club meetings, some Esperantists believe those meatspace meet ups were what held the community together. The Esperanto Society of New York has 214 members on Facebook, but only eight of them showed up for the meeting. The shift to the web, meanwhile, has been haphazard, consisting mostly of message boards, listservs, and scattered blogs. A website called Lernu! - Esperanto for the imperative "learn!" - is the center of the Esperanto internet, with online classes and an active forum. But it's stuck with a Web 1.0 aesthetic, and the forum is prone to trolls, a byproduct of Esperanto's culture of openness to almost any conversation as long as it's conducted in - or even tangentially related to - Esperanto.

But there's hope that the internet can give the language new life. Wikipedia and its 215,000 pages was a first step, and yesterday, Esperanto debuted on Duolingo, a virtual learning app with 20 million active users - far more people than have ever spoken Esperanto since its invention.

This article is the perfect mix between two of my favourite subjects - technology, and language. A highly recommended read.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th May 2015 21:39 UTC
Google

While Apple's WWDC is of little interest to hard-core Android customers, Google I/O can and often is of significant interest to Apple customers. It's where Google shows off its big new initiatives and previews updates for its existing services. Some years, those are blips on the radar, here for a moment, gone the next. Other years their scope and implications shake the world. This year, for me, fell somewhere in the middle. Google was restrained, relatively speaking, and focused. Yet as much as they acknowledged the need to shore up what came before, the company's focus is clearly on what's coming next. And that's worth a deeper discussion.

How iMore's Rene Ritchie perceived the Google I/O accouncements.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th May 2015 17:17 UTC
Google

The Verge has a long and detailed profile of and interview with Sundar Pichai, the man at Google responsible for just about anything you use.

We sat down with Pichai to hear his vision for the Google of the future. He laid out a plan to improve Google's products through machine learning - but more importantly, he sketched out a grand effort to deliver computing capabilities to billions of people around the world. Both in the way he manages his internal teams, and in his belief that technology can change people's lives for the better, Pichai advocates an egalitarian ethos.

If there's one thing that stood out during the I/O keynote yesterday, it was that Google was really hammering on the fact that it wants to create products for everyone. It wasn't said with so many words, but the clear implication was "unlike Apple, which only builds products for rich people in the west".

This egalitarian view permeated every aspect of the keynote, including the people on stage - instead of the usual procession of western, white 40-something men, almost half of all the presenters were women (I think there were three, like a VP of engineering), and a few people weren't even western to begin with. This is unprecedented for technology companies - Apple, for instance, hasn't ever had a woman present on stage (although Tim Cook did interview a supermodel on stage once).

We need this. Technology needs this. We need people from "new" economies, as well as women, to play a big part in the development of our technology to ensure that technology isn't just designed for rich white people, but for everyone. Pichai knows this, and it was drop-dead obvious throughout the entire keynote.

Say what you want about Google - and there's a lot to say - but in this aspect, they are so far ahead of the competition it's not really a competition to begin with.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th May 2015 23:01 UTC
Google

At its developers conference this afternoon, Google announced two pieces of software for the smart home and the broader collection of connected devices around us, increasingly known as the internet of things. Those two pieces are Brillo, an operating system, and Weave, a common language for devices to talk to one another. And importantly, Weave doesn't have to run on Brillo - so appliance manufacturers can theoretically add it on to their existing products.

I just can't get excited about an internet-connected blender.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th May 2015 18:45 UTC
Google

After Android M, Google also talked a lot about Google Now - which is getting a major upgrade called Now on Tap. In short, Now on Tap is context-aware, and knows what's going on in the application you're using right now. If someone sends you a WhatsApp message that says "Want to have dinner at Chez Fred tonight?", you can bring up a Google Now overlay without leaving WhatsApp that shows you a Google Now card with information pertaining to Chez Fred. Or, if you're listening to a song on Spotify, you can just say "OK Google, who's the lead singer", and Google Now will provide the answer.

We're working to make Google Now a little smarter in the upcoming Android M release, so you can ask it to assist you with whatever you're doing - right in the moment, anywhere on your phone. With "Now on tap," you can simply tap and hold the home button for assistance without having to leave what you’re doing - whether you're in an app or on a website. For example, if a friend emails you about seeing the new movie Tomorrowland, you can invoke Google Now without leaving your app, to quickly see the ratings, watch a trailer, or even buy tickets - then get right back to what you were doing.

Developers do not have to do anything to their applications to make them work with Now on Tap - they only need to be indexed by Google.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th May 2015 18:03 UTC
Android

Google I/O is here, and the company's big keynote is still underway. The biggest announcement so far is - as expected - Android M, the next major Android release scheduled for Q3 of this year. Much like how the last few iOS releases played catch-up to major Android features, Android M is really catching up to a number of major, stand-out iOS features - and all of them are very welcome.

The biggest new feature coming to Android M is App Permissions - and it's exactly what you're thinking. Instead of applications asking for all possible permissions during installation time, they will now only ask for a permission the first time you use the specific feature of the application that requires it. If you've ever used iOS - well, it's that, essentially. In addition, you can go into the Settings application and revoke an application's individual permissions, or the other way around - look at which applications have a specific permission.

If you're familiar with Android, you'll be aware of the incredibly long and confusing list of possible permissions. Alongside implementing an iOS-like permission system, Android M will also pare down the number of permissions to a much smaller number (I think I saw 8 or 10?), making them clearer and more straightforward. All good so far, and yet another example of how competition between the major platforms makes both of them better - consumers, win.

There's bad news, though, and it's this: the new permission system will only work with applications built with the Android M SDK. "Legacy" applications will, sadly, default to the existing permission system. While that in and of itself is disappointing enough, it also means we'll be using two different permission systems at the same time for at least several months, and possibly years.

Another major new feature in M is a new power state, called Doze, which is basically a deeper form of sleep. Your device will learn your usage patterns, and move to this deep sleep state when it's not being used. According to Google, tablets will benefit the most from this, doubling their standby time. For phones, which get used more often, this will deliver less benefit.

Android's intents system is also getting an upgrade, allowing applications to directly link to each other, without throwing up that "open with" dialog. Google Wallet is getting an upgrade and a name change - Android Pay - and now works pretty much exactly like Apple Pay, and it will be available on all Android phones with NFC. In addition, it supports fingerprint readers. Support for these readers will be further integrated and standardised in M.

There's a lot more in Android M, but these are the biggest features. Google is releasing a developer preview for select Nexus devices today, and the final release will happen somewhere in Q3. This being Android, though, the biggest elephant in the room remained unmentioned: updates. As great as Android M looks, you'll most likely not be getting it until somewhere next year. Such is life.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th May 2015 11:30 UTC
Games

A God In Ruins is a novel by the author Kate Atkinson, following on from a previous novel by the same author entitled Life After Life.

The book is 24 cm high and 16.2 cm wide. Across the main surface appears a predominantly brown background, depicting wooden boards. Upon them lies or hangs a rabbit, that is possibly dead, but could also be alive.

A great story about ethics in book journalism.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th May 2015 00:04 UTC
Legal

The Justice Department is weighing in on the hot-button intellectual property dispute between Google and Oracle, telling the Supreme Court that APIs are protected by copyright.

The Obama administration's position means it is siding with Oracle and a federal appeals court that said application programming interfaces are subject to copyright protections. The high court in January asked for the government's views on the closely watched case.

Words can't describe how stupid this is, so here's a picture of a bunny wearing a hat.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 27th May 2015 21:16 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The Verge reviews the Pebble Time - the new Pebble, with all-new hardware and all-new software. They conclude:

Right now, the Time is an accessory to your smartphone, which is exactly what Pebble wants it to be. But while other smartwatches feel like futuristic platforms that just need more refinement and purpose, it’s not clear how the Pebble Time could go beyond what it already is. It has smaller ambitions than Apple and Google, and for the most part, it already achieves those ambitions. The notifications could certainly get better, the timeline integrations could definitely get more plentiful, and the watch faces could get more colorful. But at the end of the day, it’s still a thing that you wear on your wrist so you don’t have to pick up your phone at every incoming text message.

Strange how what they see as a downside for the Pebble compared to Wear and the Apple Watch, I consider to be its strengths. Pebble doesn't waste battery and screen real estate on stuff that's just cumbersome on a watch and only serves to put a really, really complex, cumbersome, and slow UI on a tiny screen on your wrist. The Pebble definitely looks to be a lot more watch and a lot less computer than Google's and Android's offerings, and that's a good thing in my book - not a bad thing.

Much better battery life, always-on display, fast and responsive software, and a really simple and straightforward UI. Too bad that the regular Pebble Time isn't exactly the prettiest watch out there, but luckily, the Pebble Time Steel looks a little better. Still square though, so those of us who prefer round watches will have to wait around a bit longer.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th May 2015 23:31 UTC
Windows

Part of the power of a personal assistant comes from being available on the go, on the device you carry with you everywhere. And for people who don't have the benefit of a Windows phone, we want to extend the advantage of Cortana in Windows 10. How will this work? Today, we're announcing a Cortana application for Android phones and for iPhones which works as a companion to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC. The 'Phone Companion' app on the PC will help you install the Cortana app from the Google Play or Apple App Store onto your phone so you’ll be able to take the intelligence of Cortana with you, wherever you go.

I've never seen anyone use Siri, save for the occasional parlour trick and the odd one out using it to set alarms. I'm not sure these anthropomorphised ones and zeros are really as a big a deal as these companies want us to believe.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th May 2015 22:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Have you noticed an odd bulge in people's shorts around Accra?

It's likely because, like many of my friends, they've recently acquired a new phone. But it's not the iPhone 6 Plus, and it's not the Samsung Galaxy S6.

It's this thing.

I like it. It's functional and has a certain charm to it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th May 2015 22:13 UTC
Mac OS X

After many complaints from the developer community about poor networking performance on Yosemite, the latest beta of OS X 10.10.4 has dropped the discoveryd in favor of the old process used by previous versions of Mac operating system. This should address many of the network stability issues introduced with Yosemite and its new networking stack.

A clearer sign that discoveryd was a mess, there is not.

 

Linked by nfeske on Tue 26th May 2015 19:11 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

The just released version 15.05 of the Genode OS Framework is the most comprehensive release in the project's history. Among its highlights are a brand-new documentation in the form of a book, principal support for the seL4 microkernel, new infrastructure for user-level device drivers, and the feature completion of the framework's custom kernel.

For many years, the Genode OS project was primarily geared towards microkernel enthusiasts and the domain of high-security computing. With version 15.05, the project likes to widen its audience by complementing the release with the downloadable book "Genode Foundations" (PDF). The book equips the reader with a thorough understanding of the architecture, assists developers with the explanation of the development environment and system configuration, and provides a look under the hood of the framework. Furthermore, it contains the specification of the framework's programming interface. If you ever wondered what Genode is all about, the book may hopefully lift the clouds.

Besides the added documentation, the second focus of the new version is the project's custom kernel platform called base-hw. This kernel allows the execution of Genode on raw hardware without the need of a 3rd-party microkernel. This line of work originally started as a research vehicle for ARM platforms. But with the addition of kernel-protected capabilities, it has reached feature completeness. Furthermore, thanks to the developers of the Muen isolation kernel, base-hw has become available on the 64-bit x86 architecture. This represents an intermediate step towards running Genode on top of the Muen kernel.

Speaking of kernels, the current release introduces the principle ability to run Genode-based systems on top of the seL4 microkernel. As the name suggests, seL4 belongs to the L4-family of microkernels. But there are two things that set this kernel apart from all the other family members. First, with the removal of the kernel memory management from the kernel, it solves a fundamental robustness and security issue that plagues all other L4 kernels so far. This alone would be reason enough to embrace seL4. Second, seL4 is the world's first OS kernel that is formally proven to be correct. That means, it is void of implementation bugs. This makes the kernel extremely valuable in application areas that highly depend on the correctness of the kernel.

At the architectural level, the framework thoroughly revised its infrastructure for user-level device drivers, which subjects device drivers to a rigid access-control scheme with respect to hardware resources. The architectural changes come along with added support for message-signaled interrupts and a variety of new device drivers. For example, there is a new AHCI driver, new audio drivers ported from OpenBSD, new SD-card drivers, and added board support for i.MX6.

Further noteworthy improvements are the update of the tool chain to GCC 4.9.2, support for GPT partitions, and the ability to pass USB devices to VirtualBox when running on NOVA. These and the many more topics of the version 15.05 are covered in great detail in the release documentation.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th May 2015 23:11 UTC
Games

The team quickly came to the conclusion that in order to keep Dolphin relevant in an ever-changing environment, it would need to be relicensed under GPLv2+. This would give Dolphin some much needed freedom to breathe within the open source landscape. As such, relicensing formally began in September of 2014.

A massive undertaking.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th May 2015 23:08 UTC
Apple

Apple's Jony Ive has served as the company's Senior Vice President of Design for several years now, but Apple has announced today that the executive is being named Chief Design Officer (a newly-created position). Additionally, Ive and will be handing the managerial reins of both the industrial and software design units at Apple over to two new leaders on July 1st.

[...]

Ive's new role will still leave him in charge of the company's hardware and software design teams overall, but allowing others to handle the day-to-day affairs of each design group will free him up for other tasks. Among those other tasks, Ive says, is a focus on the design of Apple's retail stores and new campus.

Let the pointless speculation, begin.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th May 2015 21:34 UTC
Games

Interesting experiment by the developers of Rust.

When the game was first opened up, all players were given the same default avatar: a bald white man. With the most recent update, Rust's lead developer, Garry Newman, introduced different avatars of different racial origins into the mix. However, they did so with a twist - unlike typical massively multiplayer online role-playing games, Rust does not allow players to choose the race of their avatar. Instead, they are assigned one at random.

Interestingly enough, the inability to choose skin colour only became a problem after a black skin colour was added to the game. I love experiments like this.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 24th May 2015 21:31 UTC
Internet Explorer

Intel has been contributing to Chakra, the JavaScript engine for Microsoft Edge (and previously Internet Explorer), since 2012, bringing their expertise in web runtime development and JIT code generation. Recently, Intel expanded its efforts by contributing to the larger Microsoft Edge codebase, specifically focused in the areas of graphics and performance optimizations. Intel has been a major contributor to open source browser engines such as WebKit, Blink, and Gecko, and with our expanded collaboration, they are now directly contributing to the Microsoft Edge codebase to deliver an improved browsing experience for Windows 10.

While this is very interesting, instead of working with just a few partners, Microsoft should've just opened the code for their new rendering engine altogether. At this point, it makes little sense to keep this kind of important code closed.

When it comes to open source, the new Microsoft is only a little bit new.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 24th May 2015 21:29 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Enter qboot, a minimal x86 firmware that runs on QEMU and, together with a slimmed-down QEMU configuration, boots a virtual machine in 40 milliseconds on an Ivy Bridge Core i7 processor.

The code's on github.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 24th May 2015 21:26 UTC
Games

The year was 1973. They were high school seniors in a work-study program with NASA, tasked with testing the limits of the Imlac PDS-1 and PDS-4 minicomputers. Their maze program flickered into life with simple wireframe graphics and few of the trappings of modern games. You could walk around in first person, looking for a way out of the maze, and that's about it. There were no objects or virtual people. Just a maze.

But Maze would evolve over the summer and the years that followed. Soon two people could occupy the maze together, connected over separate computers. Then they could shoot each other and even peek around corners. Before long, up to eight people could play in the same maze, blasting their friends across the ARPANET - a forebear to the internet. Two decades before id Software changed the game industry with Wolfenstein 3D and Doom, Colley, Palmer and MIT students Greg Thompson and Dave Lebling invented the first-person shooter.

Amazing story.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 23rd May 2015 17:08 UTC
Legal

In a midnight session, the Senate has voted down the USA Freedom Act, putting one of the legal bedrocks of the NSA's bulk surveillance programs into jeopardy. The Patriot Act is set to expire at the end of the month, and the USA Freedom Act would have extended large portions of the act in modified form. Tonight's failure to arrive at a vote makes it likely that many of those powers will automatically expire, although Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY) scheduled a last-minute session on May 31st for one last shot at passing the bill.

The American people won a battle today, but the war is far, far from over.