Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Apr 2014 23:12 UTC
Windows

Peter Bright making the case for subscription-based Windows.

Microsoft has already made Windows free to OEMs for tablets with screens below a certain size. Making it free to everyone but without the desktop would be a logical extension of this. It gives Microsoft the tools to compete with both Android on tablets and Chrome OS on laptops, while still not cutting it out of the revenue loop entirely. Desktop-less Windows should provide Microsoft with some amount of revenue through applications bought in the Store.

To this, add a couple of levels of unlocks: one tier for regular Windows desktop features (offering parity with the feature set of Windows 8.1 today), and a second, higher tier for Windows corporate features (offering parity with Windows 8.1 Pro). These could be both persistent unlocks or periodic subscriptions. Microsoft has already had persistent operating system unlocks since Windows Vista's Anytime Upgrade feature, so none of this would be hugely different from what's gone before.

The facts and rumours do line up, but honestly - free/subscription-based Windows is right up there with a TV from Apple when it comes to long-running, always-returning but never materialising rumours.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Apr 2014 23:06 UTC, submitted by sheokand
PC-BSD

The PC-BSD project is developing its own desktop environment from scratch! The ultimate plan is for Lumina to become a full-featured, open-source desktop environment that may ultimately replace KDE as its default desktop environment.

A Phoronix reader, Ryan Bram, wrote in to share word on this new desktop environment being developed by the PC-BSD crew, the popular desktop-focused derivative of FreeBSD. This new desktop is called Lumina and is being developed as a home-grown desktop environment catered toward this BSD operating system.

While it's obviously cool, I wonder if it's a wise idea to undertake such a huge endeavour. I honestly doubt PC-BSD has the developers, testers, and users required for creating, maintaining, and improving an entire desktop environment.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Apr 2014 19:19 UTC
Amiga & AROS

Via Ars Technica.

A multi-institutional team of new-media artists, computer experts, and museum professionals have discovered a dozen previously unknown experiments by Andy Warhol (BFA, 1949) on aging floppy disks from 1985.

[...]

Warhol's Amiga experiments were the products of a commission by Commodore International to demonstrate the graphic arts capabilities of the Amiga 1000 personal computer. Created by Warhol on prototype Amiga hardware in his unmistakable visual style, the recovered images reveal an early exploration of the visual potential of software imaging tools, and show new ways in which the preeminent American artist of the 20th century was years ahead of his time.

Great to have this stuff preserved properly now. At the time, the Amiga was so ahead of the competition that most people didn't really understand what they were looking at. It took the competition - Apple, Microsoft - a decade, or even longer, to catch up. Andy Warhol demonstrated this huge technical lead by creating these works of art on the Amiga in 1985.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Apr 2014 10:22 UTC
Legal

A Google lawyer testified on Tuesday that the software maker, pursuant to its contractual obligations, agreed to take over defense of some of the claims in Apple’s current patent lawsuit as well as to indemnify Samsung should it lose on those claims.

Apple played deposition testimony from Google lawyer James Maccoun, who verified emails in which Google agreed to provide partial or full indemnity with regard to four patents as well as to take over defense of those claims.

If this case was really about "justice", as Apple claims it is, they should just get it over with and sue Google directly, instead of playing these proxy games. In any case, it's good to know Google is taking responsibility for its OEMs here - long overdue.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Apr 2014 22:23 UTC
Internet & Networking

The Federal Communication Commission's proposal for new net neutrality rules will allow internet service providers to charge companies for preferential treatment, effectively undermining the concept of net neutrality, according to The Wall Street Journal. The rules will allow providers to charge companies for preferential treatment so long as they offer that treatment to all interested parties on "commercially reasonable" terms, with the FCC deciding whether the terms are reasonable on a case-by-case basis. Providers will reportedly not be able to block individual websites, however.

While several parts of the world - Chile first, Netherlands second, EU followed only recently - move towards proper net neutrality, the US tries to kill it dead for its own citizens.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Apr 2014 22:19 UTC, submitted by mlauzon
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Members of the OpenBSD project, already known for the OpenBSD operating system and related projects such as OpenSSH, OpenBGPD, OpenNTPD, OpenSMTPD, are creating a fork of the OpenSSL project, likely to be called LibreSSL. (OpenSSL and OpenBSD are completely separate projects with different people working on them.)

Apparently, the focus is not so much on taking OpenSSL into a completely different direction, but more on a massive code cleanup and long-overdue maintenance.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Apr 2014 11:08 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The folks at OnePlus have been building up hype around their first smartphone launch, and today the OnePlus One finally became official. Announced at an event in China, the Magnesium constructed One weighs just 162g, has a recessed bezel round the edges, what it says are "beautiful contours" and a ton of beefy hardware inside.

The price was also built up ahead of launch and OnePlus hasn't disappointed on this front. The 16GB version will be available unlocked and SIM-free for just $299 while the 64GB is an extremely impressive $349. In Europe those prices translate to £229/£269 and €269/€299 which on the face of it alone is extremely good value for the hardware alone. It's set to become available sometime in Q2.

OnePlus is founded by the founder of Oppo. Unsurprisingly, the OnePlus One looks like a Find 5 successor, which can only be seen as a good thing in my view - especially because it ships with CyanogenMod by default. The end result is that I'm pretty sure that the best Android phones are currently not made by Samsung or HTC - but by tiny Chinese manufacturers.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if I were Samsung, HTC, or Sony - I'd be afraid of these companies. Great build quality, unique design, top-notch specifications, and usually great community support - at half the price of Samsung/HTC/etc. flagships, fully unlocked.

Two things will happen. Expect increased lobbying spending on discrediting Chinese manufacturers, and I expect more and and more public talk about how Chinese electronics cannot be trusted.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 21:33 UTC
Mac OS X

Join the OS X Beta Seed Program and help make OS X even better. Install the latest pre-release software, try it out, and submit your feedback.

Apple opens its OS X beta program to everyone. Interesting move.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd Apr 2014 19:38 UTC
General Development

Over the past few years, I have been slowly but surely building my own music player. It's been a wild ride. The codebase has radically changed several times, but is always converging on a better music listening experience.

In this article my goal is to take you along for the ride.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Apr 2014 19:48 UTC
Microsoft

Nokia-Microsoft deal is going to close soon and a leaked Nokia letter to its existing Devices and Services business suppliers base reveals two interesting things. First revelation is about renaming of Nokia Oyj to Microsoft Mobile Oy, which will be a wholly-owned Microsoft subsidiary and may be the name of Microsoft’s mobile devices arm.

Microsoft Mobile Oy? Too easy.

 

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.