Written by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th May 2016 09:33 UTC
Apple

Jason Snell, in an article about Google's iOS applications importing Material Design into iOS:

Users choose platforms for various reasons, but once they’ve chosen a platform, they deserve consistency.

Someone should tell this to Apple and virtually all iOS application developers, because iOS is an inconsistent mess of an operating system.

Here's a few examples taken from my never-to-be-published iPhone 6S/iOS 9 review that I wrote during the six months I used the thing (up until a few weeks ago, when I went running back to Android because iOS couldn't even get the basics like multitasking and inter-application communication right).

Take something like application settings. In Outlook, tap the settings icon in the bottom bar. In Alien Blue, tap the blue dot in the top right, then settings. In Tweetbot, tap your account picture (!?), then settings. In the Wikipedia application, tap the W logo, then "More..." (!?). For many cross-platform applications that are also available on Android, tap the hamburger, then find something that sounds like settings. For Apple's own applications, close the application (I wish I was joking), open iOS' Settings application, scroll down for days, figure out in which unnamed grouping it belongs, then tap its name.

[...]

So it goes for settings, so it goes for many other things. Navigating between main parts of the user interface of an application is sometimes done via a tab bar at the bottom, sometimes it's done via a full-screen root-level list menu, sometimes it's done with a slide-in drawer, sometimes there's a tab bar at the top. Sometimes you can swipe between tabs, sometimes you can't. Animations for identical actions often differ from application to application (e.g. closing an image in iMessage vs. closing it in TweetBot).

[...]

It goes deeper than that, though. The official Twitter application, as well as Apple's own compose tweet dialog, for instance, replace the enter key on the iOS keyboard with a pound sign, hiding the enter key in the numbers panel. Why is this even allowed in the first place? Or, even more infuriating: the "switch between keyboards button" (the globe) is actually in a different place on the Emoji keyboard compared to regular language keyboards. So when I'm cycling between my keyboards - which I do a million times a day - from English to Dutch, the process comes to a grinding halt because of the Emoji keyboard.

The problem is that while Google's efforts on first Holo and then Material Design have given Android developers a relatively clear set of rules and instructions on how Android applications should look, feel, and behave, there's no such set of clear rules for iOS. The iOS HIG is vague, open to interpretation, and Apple itself regularly casts it aside to do whatever it feels like (look up the section on where to put application settings. It's comically open to interpretation so as to be effectively useless).

That's how you end up with impenetrably convoluted applications like TweetBot - often held up as a shining light of iOS application design - where you can perform up to 15-20 different actions with various gestures, taps, taps-and-holds, hard-taps, etc., both operating system-level and application-level, on a single tweet in its timeline (good luck not mixing those up, either because you used the wrong gesture or tap or because the operating system's touch/tap algorithms buckle under the pressure). Or, the popular and praised Overcast podcasting application by iOS star developer Marco Arment, which ditches the standard iOS fonts for its own comical font because... Reasons? And on it goes.

I've been a strong proponent of militant consistency in user interface design and behaviour for as long as I can remember, and while neither iOS nor Android are shining examples of the concept, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Holo and Material Design have done a far better job of propelling at least a modicum of consistency in Android application design than anything Apple has ever done for iOS. From that same never-to-be-published iOS review:

Interactions with a smartphone tend to be quick, focused, and often involve cycling through a number of applications very quickly. Unlike desktops or laptops, we tend to not use the same application for long periods of time, but instead quickly jump in and out of a number of applications, and then put the phone back in our pocket. Given this usage pattern, the less you have to think about where stuff is and how to do a thing, the more fluid and pleasant your workflow will be.

And this is one of the many reasons why using iOS is such an incredibly frustrating experience for me. Every step of the way, I have to fight with iOS to get it to do what I want, whether it's every application doing things in its own specific way, applications not at all talking to each other, the inability to set default applications - it all adds up to an experience where I have to spend way too much time and energy thinking about how to get around iOS' limitations, iOS developers' auteur application design, and Apple's inability to write, apply, and consistently enforce its own HIG - even after six months of exclusive use and spending €800 (I really tried).

It's great to ask of Google to make its iOS applications consistent with iOS' design principles - but you might want to ask Apple what those are, exactly, first.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th May 2016 22:13 UTC
Legal

At the end of their third day of deliberation, the jury found that Google's use of the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the Java APIs in the Android code was a fair use.

After the verdict was read aloud, Judge William Alsup thanked the jury for their service, noting that the jurors - who often came to court even earlier than the set start time of 7:45 AM, and lingered after hours to pore over their notes - had been "attentive" and "worked hard."

Great news for the industry.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th May 2016 11:57 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jolla C is the first ever Sailfish OS community device, with a limited 1,000 units available for our developer and fan community. It is expected to ship in July 2016. Jolla C is used by Jolla developers and community members, and its users will naturally get all the latest vanilla Sailfish OS releases. Selected Jolla C users will be also invited to test Beta OS releases. With a quad-core Snapdragon™ processor, 2 GB memory, beautiful 5” HD display and dual SIM, the Jolla C works beautifully with Sailfish OS. You will get to keep the device for yourself after the Program.

Jolla is releasing a new smartphone, but in a very limited number - only a 1000 pieces - for selected users. It's not exactly a massive step forward compared to the first Jolla device, but it's a nice spec bump nonetheless.

It's unlikely many of us will own this one.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th May 2016 10:34 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Plan 9 is a research operating system from Bell Labs. For several years it was my primary environment and I still use it regularly. Despite its conceptual and implementation simplicity, I've found that folks often don't immediately understand the system's fundamentals: hence this series of articles.

Bookmark this website, folks.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th May 2016 10:33 UTC
Android

The Raspberry Pi 3 is not hurting for operating system choices. The tiny ARM computer is supported by several Linux distributions and even has a version of Windows 10 IoT core available. Now, it looks like the Pi is about to get official support for one of the most popular operating systems out there: Android. In Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, a new device tree recently popped up for the Raspberry Pi 3.

A great little device for Android on the desktop - where Android is going.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th May 2016 22:11 UTC, submitted by arsipaani
Microsoft

Microsoft is signalling the end of its Nokia experiment today. After acquiring Nokia's phone business for $7.2 billion two years ago, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion last year and cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its phone efforts. Microsoft is now writing off an additional $950 million today as part of its failed Nokia acquisition, and the company plans to cut a further 1,850 jobs. Most of the layoffs will affect employees at Microsoft's Mobile division in Finland, with 1,350 job losses there and 500 globally. Around $200 million of the $950 million impairment charge is being used for severance payments.

Everything about this entire deal needs to be investigated for all kinds of shady practices. My gut is telling me there's a bunch of people that perhaps ought to be in jail on this one. Meanwhile, this is absolutely terrible for all the people involved. I've got the feeling thousands of people's jobs have been used as a ball in a very expensive executive game.

Luckily, the remnants of Nokia in Finland seem to be doing well, so that's at least something, and in case you've got a hunkering for the good old days: there's a video out of Nokia Meltemi on a device called the Clipr - a very rare look at a Linux-based mobile operating system Nokia was developing around 2012.

 

Written by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 22:52 UTC
Microsoft

Update: it happened again today. Here's the ad, and here's the "proof" it's coming from Word (when you long-press the notification and tap 'i').


It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.

Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.

I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?

I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?

Right?

I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.

Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 22:19 UTC
Windows

Ars Technica:

Windows Vista was a shock to many Windows users, as its hardware requirements represented a steep upgrade over those required to run Windows XP: most 32-bit versions required a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, DirectX 9 graphics, and 40 GB of mass storage with 15GB free. But those 2006-era requirements looked much less steep once Windows 7 rolled out in 2009: it required almost the same system specs, but now 16GB of available disk space instead of 15. Windows 8 again stuck with the same specs and, at its release, so did Windows 10.

But the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (referred to in documentation as version 1607, so it ought to ship in July) changes that, with the first meaningful change in the Windows system requirements in almost a decade. The RAM requirement is going up, with 2GB the new floor for 32-bit installations. This happens to bring the system in line with the 64-bit requirements, which has called for 2GB since Windows 7.

The changed requirements were first spotted by Nokia Power User and WinBeta.

After so many years, I'm okay with a small memory bump. Considering the state of software development today, it's amazing enough as it is that Microsoft had managed to keep the minimum requirements level for this long.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 19:16 UTC
Android

Ara is going to be the first ever phone that Google is making itself (it has already made laptops and a tablet, among other things). And even though what I saw last week was just a prototype, it was working well enough that I believe Google can fulfill its promise to release a consumer product next year. Yes, we've seen Google kill off hardware before, but this is a high-profile launch from a newly independent division. It's the first truly big swing from Google's new hardware group under Rick Osterloh, and to back off now would be a colossal embarrassment.

Given all that, really the only questions that matter are simple: Is Google really making a phone? Will this plan to make it modular really work this time? Is this more than just an experiment?

Coming out of the meeting, had I shaken a Magic 8 ball, it would have said, "Signs point to yes."

I want this to succeed - finally something new, beyond the square slab - but this is so radical in the smartphone (or feature phone and PDA before that) market that I honestly just don't know if it'll work out.

In any case, people are taking sides, but a this point in time, I think either option - "this will be a massive success" or "this is nonsense" - is equally shortsighted, and especially the latter not at all unlike this infamous quote.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th May 2016 13:47 UTC, submitted by Adurbe
Google

Reports say about 100 tax officials entered Google's offices in central Paris early in the morning. Police sources confirmed the raid, but Google itself has so far made no comment. Google is accused of owing the French state €1.6bn ($1.8bn; £1.3bn) in unpaid taxes.

Good.

We're coming for you.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th May 2016 11:22 UTC
Google

The reason we're making this change is that users regularly lose data because they hit the backspace button thinking that a form field is focused. After years of this issue, we realize we're not going to have a better way to solve that problem.

I absolutely hate this change. I deeply, deeply, deeply hate this change. This is a classic case of instead of addressing the core problem - web forms shouldn't lose their content when you navigate back and forth - you just try to hide it a little more by making navigation harder.

Emblematic of software development today, especially in operating systems: instead of fixing core problems, let's just add more layers to hide the ugliness. You see it everywhere - from still relying on an operating system written for timesharing machines with punchcards, to trying to hide broken, complicated and obtuse file system layouts behind "just use convoluted cloud storage".

People carrying around ugly battery packs just to get through a day of use on their devices running an outdated timesharing mainframe punchcard operating system from the '60s tells you all you need to know about the complete failure of modern software development - and this tiny little change in Chrome only underlines it.

Good software does not exist.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th May 2016 21:58 UTC
Android

It's really happening. Android apps are coming to Chrome OS. And it's not just a small subset of apps; the entire Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. More than 1.5 million apps will come to a platform that before today was "just a browser," and Android and Chrome OS take yet another step closer together.

In advance of the show, we were able to sit down with members of the Chrome OS team and get a better idea of exactly what Chrome OS users are in for. The goal is an "It just works" solution, with zero effort from developers required to get their Android app up and running. Notifications and in-line replies should all work. Android apps live in native Chrome OS windows, making them look like part of the OS. Chrome OS has picked up some Android tricks too - sharing and intent systems should work fine, even from one type of app or website to another. Google is aiming for a unified, seamless user experience.

Interestingly enough, this project is actually not ARC, the technology Google used before to bring Android applications to Chrome. ARC wasn't good enough for Google, as it still required developers to make changes to their code. In fact - and this is kind of funny - ARC didn't even pass Google's own Compatibility Test Suite Android variants have to comply with. So, they started from scratch, and used containers instead.

The new model dumps the native-client based implementation for an unmodified copy of the Android Framework running in a container. Containers usually bundle an app up with all of its dependencies, like the runtime, libraries, binaries, and anything else the app needs to run. This allows the difference between application environments to be abstracted away. In this case, Google is putting the entire Android Framework into a container, all the way down to the Hardware Abstraction Layer.

I'm hoping Google will eventually bringing Android applications to all variants of Chrome, including the one on Windows.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th May 2016 13:07 UTC
Google

During the Google I/O keynote last night, the company introduced a number of new products and talked some more about Android N. There's Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor, which will be available somewhere later this year. The company also announced two (!) more messaging applications, and at this point I'm not sure whatever the hell Google is thinking with their 3027 messaging applications. There was also a lot of talk about virtual reality, but I still just can't get excited about it at all.

More interesting were the portions about Android N and Android Wear 2.0. Android N has gone beta, and you can enroll eligible Nexus devices into the developer preview program to get the beta now (Developer Preview devices should get the beta update over the air).

New things announced regarding Android N are seamless operating system updates (much like Chrome OS, but only useful for those devices actually getting updates), a Vulkan graphics API, Java 8 language features, and a lot more. Google is also working on running Android applications without installing them.

Android Wear 2.0 was also announced, introducing a slightly improved application launcher, better input methods (handwriting recognition and a tiny keyboard), and support for a feature that allows watchfaces to display information from applications - very similar to what many third-party Wear watchfaces already allow.

Tying all of Google announcements together was Google Assistant, an improved take on Google Now that integrates contextually-aware conversation speech into Google's virtual assistant. Google Assistant is what ties Google Home, Android, Android TV, Wear, the web, and everything else together. We'll have to see if it's actually any good in real tests, of course, but it looks kind of interesting.

That being said, I've been firmly in the "these virtual assistants are useless" camp, and this new stuff does little to pull me out. It just doesn't feel as efficient and quick as just using your device or PC with your hands, and on top of that, there's the huge problem of Silicon Valley - all technology companies, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft - having absolutely no clue about the fact that endless amounts of people lead bilingual lives.

To this day, all these virtual assistants and voice input technologies are entirely useless to people such as myself, who lead about 50/50 bilingual lives, because only one language can be set. Things like Wear and the Apple Watch require a goddamn full-on reset and wipe to switch voice input language, meaning that no matter what language I set, it'll be useless 50% of the time. If you're American and used to only speaking in English, you might think this is a small problem... Until you realise there are dozens of millions of Spanish/English bilingual people in the US alone. It's high time Silicon Valley goes on a trip out into the real world, beyond the 2.3 kids/golden retriever/cat/minivan perfect suburban model families they always show in their videos.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th May 2016 16:06 UTC
Android

The once beloved ES File Explorer was revealed recently to be little more than a Trojan Horse, used to get adware installed on thousands of devices with one update. This was apparently just the beginning. Users have started compiling a spreadsheet of apps that sneak the same adware-infused charging lock screen onto your device. There are already about 20 of them. Google, where are you?

Google needs to address this grotesque abuse of its users quickly and decisively, and remove all applications that install this adware from the Play Store, no questions asked. This is in direct violation of the Play Store rules.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th May 2016 15:10 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Nokia has announced plans that will see the Nokia brand return to the mobile phone and tablet markets on a global basis. Under a strategic agreement covering branding rights and intellectual property licensing, Nokia Technologies will grant HMD global Oy (HMD), a newly founded company based in Finland, an exclusive global license [1] to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next ten years. Under the agreement, Nokia Technologies will receive royalty payments from HMD for sales of Nokia-branded mobile products, covering both brand and intellectual property rights.

All these devices will run Android.

With the news that Microsoft is selling the feature phone branch it bought from Nokia, and the additional news that Microsoft is hinting at killing its Lumia line and brand, can we all finally agree what many smart people - including myself - said from the very beginning, namely that Microsoft acquiring Nokia was nothing more but yet another disaster in a long line of Microsoft/Windows Phone disasters? One that cost thousands and thousands of people their jobs?

I still feel the circumstances around the Microsoft/Nokia deal needs to be investigated for... Shenanigans.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th May 2016 10:56 UTC, submitted by AmineKhaldi
ReactOS

The ReactOS team is proud to announce the release of version 0.4.1 a mere three months after the release of 0.4.0. The team has long desired an increased release tempo and the hope is that this will be the first of many of faster iterations.

Due to the brief period of time between the two releases, 0.4.1 is ultimately a refinement of what was in 0.4.0.

I'm glad ReactOS has been picking up steam again. I still doubt it'll ever serve a production purpose, but the effort is incredibly impressive nonetheless.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th May 2016 10:37 UTC
Windows

Possibly the most despised feature of Windows 10 is advertisements. They show up in your apps list, lock screen, and even the Start Menu. Sadly, Microsoft plans to double the amount of Promoted Apps that you'll find hiding in the Start Menu when the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is released this summer.

To be fair, this supposedly only applies to fresh installs of Windows 10 (though that is unconfirmed), but it just feels so dirty. Apple is already stuffing iOS full of ads and unremovable ads disguised as applications, and now Microsoft is making Windows 10 worse too. This is a horrible trend.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th May 2016 21:39 UTC
Internet & Networking

Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site

And so the slow march of death of Flash continues, ever onward, never looking back, into the abyss, a neverending blackness, cold and deep, nevermore to return.

 

Linked by diegocg on Mon 16th May 2016 21:37 UTC
Linux

Linux 4.6 has been released. This release adds support for USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps), the new distributed file system OrangeFS, a more reliable out-of-memory handling, support for Intel memory protection keys, a facility to make easier and faster implementations of application layer protocols, support for 802.1AE MAC-level encryption (MACsec), support for the version V of the BATMAN protocol, a OCFS2 online inode checker, support for cgroup namespaces, and support for the pNFS SCSI layout, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th May 2016 19:44 UTC
Google

I downloaded the new Gboard for iOS today, and have been really enjoying it so far. Along with wondering about what Google will tell advertisers now that they can read every single thing I type, I came to the realization that pretty much every major function of my iPhone has now been taken over by Google software.

I use Google products for email, search, photos, maps, and video. Gboard effectively puts Google inside every app I use that requires me to type, from texting to taking notes. The only activity that isn't really mediated by the search giant at this point are voice calls, although in the past I have used Google Voice.

This is why, despite rumblings, we've not yet seen Apple allowing iOS users to set default applications.

The day Apple allows this, we're going to see a whole lot of Google iPhones.