Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 19th Apr 2014 09:02 UTC
In the News

The Wright brothers' critical insight was the importance of "lateral stability" - that is, wingtip-to-wingtip stability - to flight. And their great innovation was something they called "wing warping," in which they used a series of pulleys that caused the wingtips on one side of the airplane to go up when the wingtips on the other side were pulled down. That allowed the Wrights' airplane to make banked turns and to correct itself when it flew into a gust of wind.

But when the Wrights applied for a patent, they didn't seek one that just covered wing warping; their patent covered any means to achieve lateral stability. There is no question what the Wrights sought: nothing less than a monopoly on the airplane business - every airplane ever manufactured, they believed, owed them a royalty. As Wilbur Wright, who was both the more domineering and the more inventive of the two brothers, put it in a letter: "It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us."

Even though Wrights' competitor Curtiss developed an entirely different system to achieve lateral stability (the ailerons airplanes use to this day), the Wright brothers still believed Curtiss owed them money for it. The legal standoff that ensued in the US airplane industry at the time halted all innovation, so much so that when the WWI broke out, the US government had to step in to force airplane manufacturers to cross-license their patents.

Sadly, by this time, US airplanes weren't good enough for combat.

It seems nobody learns from history.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 18th Apr 2014 09:44 UTC
Legal

Rockstar, the massive patent troll in which Apple is a majority shareholder, sued Google for patent infringement. Of course, Rockstar filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas, the usual venue for patent trolls. Because of Apple's involvement, Google motioned to have the suit take place in California instead, where it stands a much greater chance of winning. Judge Claudia Wilken sides with Google. She states in the ruling:

Google and Apple's rivalry in the smartphone industry is well-documented. Apple's founder stated that he viewed Android as a "rip off" of iPhone features and intended to "destroy" Android by launching a "thermonuclear war." Defendants' litigation strategy of suing Google customers is consistent with Apple's particular business interest... This 'scare the customer and run' tactic advances Apple's interest in interfering with Google's Android business.

Every now and then, someone just gets it. Judge Wilken looked beyond the constructed sham companies and legal cobwebs - such as Rockstar setting up a sham company in Delaware with zero California contacts and transferring all patents-in-suit to that company a day before it sued Google.

The world needs more judges like this. In addition - it seems like Jobs' remarks about Android are catching up to the company. Delightful.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th Apr 2014 22:48 UTC
FreeBSD

The first quarter of 2014 was, again, a hectic and productive time for FreeBSD. The Ports team released their landmark first quarterly stable branch. FreeBSD continues to grow on the ARM architecture, now running on an ARM-based ChromeBook. SMP is now possible on multi-core ARM systems. bhyve, the native FreeBSD hypervisor, continues to improve. An integral test suite is taking shape, and the Jenkins Continuous Integration system has been implemented. FreeBSD patches to GCC are being forward-ported, and LLDB, the Clang/LLVM debugger is being ported. Desktop use has also seen improvements, with work on Gnome, KDE, Xfce, KMS video drivers, X.org, and vt, the new console driver which supports KMS and Unicode. Linux and Wine binary compatibility layers have been improved. UEFI booting support has been merged to head.

I always love how to-the-point the various BSDs are. Please, never change.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th Apr 2014 22:29 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is the first long-term support release with support for the new "arm64" architecture for 64-bit ARM systems, as well as the "ppc64el" architecture for little-endian 64-bit POWER systems. This release also includes several subtle but welcome improvements to Unity, AppArmor, and a host of other great software.

Is it just me, or do releases of major Linux distributions simply not create much excitement anymore? I remember a time when these releases were hotly anticipated and much debated. These days, they go by and nobody really seems to care. Is this a reflection of shifting focus in the industry - towards mobile - or because the interest in desktop Linux in general has waned considerably?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 16th Apr 2014 21:57 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Yoon said Samsung was working to introduce at least two smartphones running on its own Tizen operating system, a major step in the market leader's bid to break out of the Android universe.

Sure.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 16th Apr 2014 09:06 UTC, submitted by arsipaani
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

As it turns out, Nokia developed an internet tablet all the way back in 2001. It was called the Nokia M510, several thousand units were made, and it was functional. Sadly, market research showed that consumers were not yet ready for a device like this, and so the project was cancelled. It had a 800x600 display, ran EPOC (Symbian), and sported wifi. The stories are in Finnish, and since I don't speak Finnish, I had to rely on Google Translate (as a translator, this made me feel dirty).

Now that Nokia's devices division is essentially dead, it wouldn't surprise me to see more of these stories to come out. There must be some truly outrageous stuff locked away at Nokia.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Apr 2014 16:59 UTC
Windows

Microsoft released Windows Phone 8.1 to those who enrolled in the developer preview program (i.e., everyone).

Ars' Peter Bright in his review of 8.1:

The result feels a whole lot more mature and a whole lot more capable than its predecessor. The 0.1 version bump, chosen to align the phone platform with its desktop sibling, belies the true nature of this upgrade. It is substantial, and makes Windows Phone tremendously better.

We might still wish that there were a few more apps, and that developers spoke of the platform in the same breath as iOS and Android, but even in spite of this, Windows Phone 8.1 is a polished, fun, clever, and personal smartphone platform that's just about everyone can enjoy. It's a magnificent smartphone platform.

I've been using it since earlier today, and the notification centre (finally) alone is more than enough to make this a fantastic update. Sadly, my HTC 8X does not seem to be supported by Cortana - other 8X owners are reporting the same, as do 8X owners on Twitter - which makes me worry a little about Cortana, perhaps, being an exclusive feature for Nokia phones, or it having some other restrictive limitations. That, honestly, would be a shame.

Update: Here's an 8X with Cortana working just fine, so the original worries clearly aren't necessary.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Apr 2014 16:40 UTC
Google

From a 2006 (pre-iPhone) Android specification document:

Touchscreens will not be supported: the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption.

However, there is nothing fundamental in the Product's architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future.

The same document, but a few versions later, from 2007 (post-iPhone):

A touchscreen for finger-based navigation - including multi-touch capabilites - is required.

The impact of the iPhone on Android in two documents. Google knew the iPhone would change the market, while Microsoft, Nokia, and BlackBerry did not. That's why Android is now the most popular smartphone platform, while the mentioned three are essentially irrelevant.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 20:21 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA's decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.

I'm so surprised.

Update: NSA denies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 20:09 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

There's certainly some hope on the horizon with Apple and Google, though just how good these systems will be remains to be seen. One thing is clear, though: the current state of all in-car experiences is incredibly bad. For those manufacturers looking to go it alone, I don't expect much.

In-car software is absolutely horrifying and crazy complex. A good friend of mine regularly drives brand new and super-expensive cars (in the hundreds of thousands of euros category), and even in those cars, the user interfaces are just terrible. There's a lot of room for improvement and disruption here.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Apr 2014 09:49 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

And the updates keep on coming.

  • Two-way sync of Exchange contacts.
  • Over-the-air (OTA) provisioning: Receive mobile data and MMS access point settings from your operator over-the-air
  • Share and receive pictures and contacts via MMS (experimental)
  • EXIF data is now stored in photos taken with camera.
  • Save GPS coordinates in captured photos [Settings->Apps->Camera]
  • Set default account to be used for sending emails [Settings->Apps->Email]
  • Swipe to close gesture available as a setting and disabled by default for new users [Settings->System->Shortcuts]
  • Visual interaction hints in events view, browser, camera, email, phone and messages apps
  • Keyboard sounds [Settings->System->Sounds and feedback->Touch screen tones]

The update also fixes the Heartbleed security issue.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 20:05 UTC, submitted by nfeske
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Behind the term TrustZone lies a security technology that is almost omnipresent in ARM-based devices, ranging from low-cost development boards to most mobile phones. Yet, there hardly exists a public body of knowledge around it. This prompted the Genode developers to investigate. Today, they published their findings in the form of a comprehensive article and an demonstration video.

In contrast to TPMs, which were designed as fixed-function devices with a predefined feature set, TrustZone represented a much more flexible approach by leveraging the CPU as a freely programmable trusted platform module. To do that, ARM introduced a special CPU mode called "secure mode" in addition to the regular normal mode, thereby establishing the notions of a "secure world" and a "normal world". The distinction between both worlds is completely orthogonal to the normal ring protection between user-level and kernel-level code and hidden from the operating system running in the normal world. Furthermore, it is not limited to the CPU but propagated over the system bus to peripheral devices and memory controllers. This way, ARM-based platforms become effectively kind of a split personality. When secure mode is active, the software running on the CPU has a different view on the whole system than software running in non-secure mode.

The Genode team is nothing short of amazing. Not only are they developing unique software, they're also doing stuff like this. Much respect for these women and men.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 19:56 UTC
Google

Building on Verify apps, which already protects people when they're installing apps outside of Google Play at the time of installation, we're rolling out a new enhancement which will now continually check devices to make sure that all apps are behaving in a safe manner, even after installation. In the last year, the foundation of this service - Verify apps - has been used more than 4 billion times to check apps at the time of install. This enhancement will take that protection even further, using Android's powerful app scanning system developed by the Android security and Safe Browsing teams.

Available for Android 2.3 and up with Google Play - so effectively for every proper Android device out there.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 15:34 UTC
Google

Google has released the Module Developers Kit for Project Ara.

The Module Developers Kit (MDK) defines the Ara platform for module developers and provides reference implementations for various design features. The Ara platform consists of an on-device packet-switched data network based on the MIPI UniPro protocol stack, a flexible power bus, and an elegant industrial design that mechanically unites the modules with an endoskeleton. Throughout 2014, the Project Ara team will be working on a series of alpha and beta MDK releases. We welcome developer input to the MDK: either through the Ara Module Developers mailing list/forum or at one of the series of Developers Conferences.

These phones will be crazy flexible in their design - and they look pretty good too. I don't know if it'll be a small niche or a runaway success, but I definitely appreciate them for trying to do something different.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 10:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Interested in the Nokia X, but not the horrible Frankendroid Nokia cooked up? Good news - stock Android has been ported to the Nokia X. Everything works, it's stable - but it is, like Nokia Frankendroid, only Android 4.1.2.

There are better Android phones for the money, but it's still great that the Nokia X gets a taste of proper Android (via!).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Apr 2014 10:44 UTC
Windows

It wasn't meant to be this way. Windows XP, now no longer supported, wasn't meant to be popular. For all its popularity and sustained usage, people seem to have forgotten something important about it: it sucked.

The Ars forums are a place for geeks to hang out and chat about tech, and especially in the light of the hostility shown towards Windows 8, we thought it might be fun to take a look at how our forum dwellers reacted when first introduced to Microsoft's ancient operating system.

How times change.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 9th Apr 2014 22:42 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Fortunately though, Mozilla keeps on trucking, and Firefox OS appears to be constantly improving. The latest version available is 1.3.0, with the latest preview being 1.4. Now, sources from China have gotten their hands on a ton of screenshots and new information regarding Firefox OS 2.0, and we must say, the UI looks quite pretty.

This looks quite good indeed.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 22:13 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

HTC's latest flagship device, the One M8, is one of the best Android smartphones now available on the market, but what would happen to it if Google stripped the phone of some of its customizations? That's essentially what the Google Play edition of the new One offers. Plunk down $699 and you'll have access to an unlocked and (mostly) unadulterated version of the M8 with stock Android 4.4 (also known as KitKat).

While the market will deem the Galaxy S5 the best Android flagship of the current crop of phones, I personally think it's this one. However, if the major Chinese manufacturers manage to get Google Play editions, I honestly would see no reason for anyone to avoid them. Chinese OEMs like Oppo offer the same (or better) specifications, have top-notch build quality, and usually sport great community support - but at half the price.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 22:06 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Heartbleed, a long-undiscovered bug in cryptographic software called OpenSSL that secures Web communications, may have left roughly two-thirds of the Web vulnerable to eavesdropping for the past two years. Heartbleed isn't your garden-variety vulnerability, so here's a quick guide to what it is, why it's so serious, and what you can do to keep your data safe.

Serious.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 8th Apr 2014 15:38 UTC
Windows

It's finally here. After 12 years, 6 months, and 12 days on the market, Windows XP has hit its end of life. It will receive its last ever set of patches on Windows Update today, and for the most part, that will be that. Any flaws discovered from now on - and it's inevitable that some will be discovered - will never be publicly patched.

How bad is this going to be? It's probably going to be pretty bad. By some measures, about 28 percent of the Web-using public is still using Windows XP, and these systems are going to be ripe for exploitation.

I never liked Windows XP (I used BeOS during XP's early days, and Mac OS X and Linux during XP's later days), so I'm glad to see it go. This terrible operating system should have died out years ago.