Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th Apr 2016 22:03 UTC
Google

Rick Osterloh is coming back to Google. The former president of Motorola, who left the Lenovo-led handset maker last month, has been hired by Google to run a new division to unify the company's disparate hardware projects, Re/code has learned.

A Google rep confirmed that Osterloh has joined the company as its newest Senior Vice President, running the new hardware product line and reporting to CEO Sundar Pichai.

I hope Google is finally getting serious about hardware. I can't wait for more Pixel laptops, tablets, desktops, and smartphones.

That being said, as much as the Pixel devices generally get great reviews, they aren't exactly massive sales hits, and Google also has a shaky history when it comes to its hardware efforts. We'll have to see how this pans out, but it'll be interesting to see what's going to roll out of this 65th attempt at Google getting serious about hardware.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th Apr 2016 22:02 UTC
Features, Office

One of the fundamental things in a medieval book is letters - those symbols that fill up page after page and that make up meaning. Each one of us human beings writes differently and considering that medieval books were made before the invention of print, it follows that the scripts they carry show a great variety in execution styles. This is perhaps the most amazing experience of spending a day going through a pile of medieval books in the library: the immense variation in the manner in which the text is written on the parchment pages.

From monks and scribes copying books letter by letter, we have now arrived at the point where the best book ever written is just a few clicks away.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Apr 2016 22:09 UTC
Internet & Networking

If you miss the old Opera, the Opera of the Opera 12-era, then Vivaldi is for you. And if the current crop of browsers leaves you wanting more or you end up installing a dozen extensions to get things the way you like them, Vivaldi is well worth a look. But even if you never use this new browser directly, Vivaldi looks to have enough innovative new features that it's very likely some will end up in whatever browser you do use.

Vivaldi has certainly piqued my interest - especially since I'm having major issues with browsers on OS X. I prefer Chrome on Windows, but Chrome on OS X is far too resource-intensive and sucks tons of battery. Safari for OS X is very buggy for me (nine out of ten times it will refuse to load pages after waking from sleep, forcing you to restart the browser) and I'm experiencing a ton of bugs with YouTube in Safari.

So, I'm looking for a browser that I like on both Windows and OS X, and reading all the positive reports about Vivaldi, it's definitely worth a look.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Apr 2016 21:34 UTC
GNU, GPL, Open Source

Richard Stallman, recipient of the ACM Software System Award for the development and leadership of GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), which has enabled extensive software and hardware innovation, and has been a lynchpin of the free software movement. A compiler is a computer program that takes the source code of another program and translates it into machine code that a computer can run directly. GCC compiles code in various programming languages, including Ada, C, C++, Cobol, Java, and FORTRAN. It produces machine code for many kinds of computers, and can run on Unix and GNU/Linux systems as well as others.

GCC was developed for the GNU operating system, which includes thousands of programs from various projects, including applications, libraries, tools such as GCC, and even games. Most importantly, the GNU system is entirely free (libre) software, which means users are free to run all these programs, to study and change their source code, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. GNU is usually used with the kernel, Linux. Stallman has previously been recognized with ACM's Grace Murray Hopper Award.

Well-deserved.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Apr 2016 20:39 UTC
Apple

Don't say they didn't warn you. Apple posted a year-over-year decline in revenue today, the first time the company's failed to grow its business in 13 years. It brought in $50.6 billion in revenue for the second quarter of 2016, and $10.5 billion in profits. That compares with $58 billion in revenue and $13.6 billion in profits during this period last year, a drop of 13 percent for the revenue.

Apple isn't doing badly, it is still one of the most valuable and profitable companies in the world. But it hasn't found a new blockbuster product to pick up the slack as iPhone sales have slowed in many parts of the globe.

All product categories are down too - iPhone down 16%, iPad down 19%, Mac down 12% - but obviously, they're still selling an amazing number of each of these. No, Apple isn't doomed - anyone who says so based on these numbers is an idiot - but it does show that Apple has been unable to find the 'next big thing' after the iPhone (for now!).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Apr 2016 13:32 UTC, submitted by sankazim
Windows

We recently announced Bash on Ubuntu on Windows which enables native Linux ELF64 binaries to run on Windows via the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL). This subsystem was created by the Microsoft Windows Kernel team and has generated a lot of excitement. One of the most frequent question we get asked is how is this approach different from a traditional virtual machine. In this first of a series of blog posts, we will provide an overview of WSL that will answer that and other common questions. In future posts we will dive deep into the component areas introduced.

The subsystem relies on ideas and technologies developed as part of Project Drawbridge (more details).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Apr 2016 13:28 UTC
Gentoo

Some details, this is running a Gentoo arm system, cross-compiled using a qemu-user chroot environment. Yes, that's right, Gentoo, running on a Tesla. All those USE flags, CFLAGS, and optimizations are going to add speed to my car. My 5 second 0-60 will be faster than your 5 second 0-60!

There was probably at least 5 days of continuous compilation going on here. The system is almost completely independent. "OMG did you seriously flash the Tegra?" No, I didn't go that far. I'm running Gentoo in a chroot environment within the Tesla OS itself. I will definitely be making a post later diving into the technical details of it.

Absolutely crazy, and I love it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 25th Apr 2016 14:28 UTC
Android

Google first brought the ability to run Android apps on Chrome OS with a project called the "App Runtime for Chrome (ARC)." Google built an Android runtime on Chrome OS and partnered with select developers to port a handful of Android apps. Now it sounds like Google is ready to unleash millions of Android apps onto the platform by bringing the entire Play Store to Chrome OS.

This is great news, because the more exposure Android applications get to the proper desktop world, the more developers will take that into account when developing Android applications. We need these applications to become properly resizable to prepare them for the future of the desktop/laptop Android Google claimed it's working on.

In addition, it makes Chrome OS - which is going to be phased out in the process - a lot more useful.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Apr 2016 22:04 UTC
Internet & Networking

Recall that Doom is a multi-level first person shooter that ships with an advanced 3D rendering engine and multiple levels, each comprised of maps, sprites and sound effects. By comparison, 2016's web struggles to deliver a page of web content in the same size. If that doesn't give you pause you're missing something. So where does this leave us?

It leaves us with a web that is horrible to use.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Apr 2016 22:00 UTC
Legal

You would think there would be some more tangible action Congress could take, given its constitutional mandate to provide oversight of the executive branch, but you would be wrong. In theory, they might repeal FISA, but it's pretty clear that's not going to happen. We've been doing this dance for three congressional terms now and this is basically all that ever occurs.

It's especially weird since the NSA's charter is for foreign intelligence, so the answer to "how many Americans are you spying on?" should really be zero. But we all know that's not true, thanks to documents leaked by a whistleblower who is unable to enter the country on pain of immediate lifetime imprisonment.

If the current election cycle in the US has proven anything to me, it's that the American 'democracy' is fundamentally broken, down to its very core. How on earth can the NSA just refuse to answer these questions?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Apr 2016 21:57 UTC
Windows

At its Build developer conference a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, a major update for Windows 10 due this summer. One of its biggest aspects was substantially reworked and improved pen support ("Ink" in Microsoft terminology) intended to make pen applications easier to find and use and to make stylus use more powerful. A new Windows build that provides the first access to these new features, version 14328, has just been promoted to the fast ring.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 22:15 UTC
Google

Google is beginning to look beyond search to tap into some of the most lucrative and promising businesses in the tech industry: artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The company, the largest and most significant part of Alphabet Inc., has grown to mammoth proportions off the back of its search-based advertising division. But those revenues are starting to slow. The cloud allows companies to manage and sell server space and software that lives inside its data centers, like AI, to other large companies. That type of service-based business is fast becoming the new way to reap profits in the tech industry.

Google is, effectively, a monoculture, and that's a huge sticking point for the company's future. The company's surely got a number of endeavours that could prove hugely profitable in the future (e.g. its driverless car technology), but that's still a considerable number of years in the future.

For a company with what is probably the biggest server infrastructure in the world, it seems like a logical place to look.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 22:04 UTC, submitted by Adurbe
Opera Software

Today, we want to share with you another big thing that you will first see in the developer channel for Opera for computers.

We are the first major browser maker to integrate an unlimited and free VPN or virtual private network. Now, you don't have to download VPN extensions or pay for VPN subscriptions to access blocked websites and to shield your browsing when on public Wi-Fi.

A great addition to a browser, and in these times, every browser should have it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 13:04 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Canonical announced today it will release Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on 21st April, featuring the new 'snap' package format and LXD pure-container hypervisor. This is the latest version of the world’s most widely used Linux platform across desktop, IoT and cloud computing.

The images are available for download now, but no official announcement just yet.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Apr 2016 10:26 UTC
Android

The European Commission has formally lodged an antitrust complaint regarding Android.

The European Commission has informed Google of its preliminary view that the company has, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.

The Commission's preliminary view is that Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices appear to close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems. In addition, they also seem to harm consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.

Google has already responded in a blog post (read the whole thing):

The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition. We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices. That's how we designed the model.

This EU antitrust complaint is one of the biggest jokes in EU antitrust history; an even bigger joke than the Windows N editions. Not only is Android open source, the operating system has created a vastly more open and consumer- and competition friendly mobile operating system than anything else that has ever existed on the market. The situation before Android was absolutely dreadful - dozens, if not hundreds, of closed little feature phone platforms, the closed-source Windows Mobile, the completely locked-down iOS, the heavily fragmented, obtuse, and effectively locked-down Symbian.

The situation after Android is that any user has a lot of control over the software they run on their phone, with tons of cheap, yet high quality devices to choose from. You can install whatever software you want, from whatever source you want, without having to go through Google or anyone else. Developers can target a vast segment of the market - Android has 80% market share in Europe - without being beholden to the nonsensical whims of a single corporation. In addition, users can run Android on pretty much any phone without any additional Google software or services.

The situation clearly isn't perfect by any means, but the real problems with mobile software are not in Android - or iOS for that matter - but in the baseband processors, firmware, and similar software. Far less sexy, of course, and yet a far bigger problem that needs to be tackled.

This entire antitrust complaint is a complete waste of money and taxpayer resources - which, coincidentally, makes it a very EU thing to do.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Apr 2016 20:01 UTC
Games

Earlier this year, rumors began to fly that Sony would release an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4, a console often called the PS4.5 or the PS4K by fans and press. Today, multiple sources have confirmed for us details of the project, which is internally referred to as the NEO. No price was provided, but previous reports indicate that the NEO would sell at $399. At time of publishing, Sony has not returned our request for comment, but we will update this story if the company responds.

The NEO will feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory. The documents we've received note that the HDD in the NEO is the same as that in the original PlayStation 4, but it's not clear if that means in terms of capacity or connection speed. Starting in October, every PS4 game is required to ship with both a "Base Mode" which will run on the currently available PS4 and a "NEO Mode" for use on the new console.

I'm not sure what to think of this. It just feels like this wouldn't go down well with consumers who just bought a regular PS4, and developers would have to actually worry about all of this, do additional testing, possibly extra coding, and so on. It feels needlessly convoluted, especially since the PS4 isn't that old to begin with.

Meanwhile, Microsoft claims it isn't interested in doing this, but you can bet your vanilla red pinky that Microsoft would follow suit in a heartbeat if this turns out to be a success.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Apr 2016 19:45 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

There is something special happening in a generic office park in an uninspiring suburb near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Inside, amid the low gray cubicles, clustered desks, and empty swivel chairs, an impossible 8-inch robot drone from an alien planet hovers chest-high in front of a row of potted plants. It is steampunk-cute, minutely detailed. I can walk around it and examine it from any angle. I can squat to look at its ornate underside. Bending closer, I bring my face to within inches of it to inspect its tiny pipes and protruding armatures. I can see polishing swirls where the metallic surface was “milled.” When I raise a hand, it approaches and extends a glowing appendage to touch my fingertip. I reach out and move it around. I step back across the room to view it from afar. All the while it hums and slowly rotates above a desk. It looks as real as the lamps and computer monitors around it. It’s not. I’m seeing all this through a synthetic-reality headset. Intellectually, I know this drone is an elaborate simulation, but as far as my eyes are concerned it’s really there, in that ordinary office. It is a virtual object, but there is no evidence of pixels or digital artifacts in its three-dimensional fullness. If I reposition my head just so, I can get the virtual drone to line up in front of a bright office lamp and perceive that it is faintly transparent, but that hint does not impede the strong sense of it being present. This, of course, is one of the great promises of artificial reality - either you get teleported to magical places or magical things get teleported to you. And in this prototype headset, created by the much speculated about, ultrasecretive company called Magic Leap, this alien drone certainly does seem to be transported to this office in Florida - and its reality is stronger than I thought possible.

The video is very cool, but the rig they're using makes it very clear this is still very early days. That being said - it looks amazing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Apr 2016 22:38 UTC
Games

The recent update to NetHack has been eagerly awaited by fans of that game for the last thirteen years. This shadowy group behind the update, known by fans simply as DevTeam, can be very tight-lipped about what they're up to. The community has generally viewed them with a sort of worshipful awe as they have slowly added new depth and sophistication to the game with each iteration. (A popular catchphrase is TDTTOE, or "The DevTeam Thinks of Everything.")

The release of the update seemed like a great time to talk to the developers of this beloved title, about the past and future of the game, and the devotion of the fan community that makes its ongoing development possible.

I've only ever played NetHack a few times, but I'm definitely aware of its status. Fascinating to see it has such a peculiar development.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Apr 2016 22:36 UTC
Apple

To emphasize this point, Apple shared a great statistic: their average users unlocks their phones 80 times a day. Other reports state people look at their phones upwards of 130 times a day but those are less of the average and more the heavier users. Regardless, the simple act of logging into our phone via a secure form of login like passcodes or fingerprints is now taken for granted in much of Apple's ecosystem when, just a few years ago, anyone could have stolen my phone and have access to my personal information. Here again, Apple shared that 89% of their users with a Touch ID-capable device have set it up and use it.

While using a fingerprint reader or scanner for security purposes obviously wasn't invented by Apple, this is yet another one of those cases where Apple took an existing idea, made it incredibly user-friendly, improved the hardware a ton, and now it's the standard on every phone.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Apr 2016 22:23 UTC
Android

The HTC 10 takes the HTC design formula and distills it down to its purest form. There's nothing but excellent smartphone here - no silly gimmicks or odd design decisions. Even the software was treated rather well, with any curiosities relegated to optional parts of the OS that can be turned off or replaced.

HTC really seems to have taken the feedback from the One M9 to heart. The design is much more compact, with less bezel dead space dedicated to speakers and an HTC logo. The SoC is improved by dumping one of the first and hottest Snapdragon 810 implementations for the cooler, faster 820. The ugly side ridge design of the M9 is gone. The camera is a lot better, too, particularly when it comes to low light.

I have a soft spot for HTC, but with Nexus phones being the Android enthusiasts' phones, and with Samsung taking everything else, it's going to be hard for them to sit somewhere in the middle. People who buy Samsung aren't going to suddenly buy an HTC, and toned-down Sense or no, this is still not Android-proper, so updates will be a mess (it's already running outdated software), so enthusiasts won't really be enticed either.

I'm not really sure where HTC's smartphone business is going.