Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Sep 2015 22:50 UTC

They all got leaked, so you probably knew everything going in, but today, Google unveiled its new Nexus phones, two new Chromecasts, and the Pixel C. The Nexus 5X is built by LG and really looks and feels like a Nexus 5 successor (sadly not available in the colour of my Nexus 5: orange-red-I-still-don't-know-oh-my-god-my-eyes-are-burning). Its bigger sister, the Nexus 6P, features an all-metal construction, a larger display with far more pixels, and a better camera - in fact, this could very well be the first Nexus with a camera that doesn't suck.

They both sport fingerprint sensors, big batteries, and, of course, run Android 6.0 Marshmallow (Android 6.0 will be released for other Nexus devices over the coming weeks). The 16GB Nexus 5X is available for $379, while the 32GB Nexus 6P starts at $499. You can opt for more storage, too, if you wish. They'll be available in October.

The Pixel C was a bit of a surprise to me, but apparently, it was also leaked, so the rest of the world wasn't as surprised as I was. It's a really premium 10.2" Android tablet, with a magnetically detachable keyboard - yes, my friends, after Apple, this is Google's stab at a Surface clone. Thanks to the clever keyboard, this is, actually, the Android 'PC' I've always wanted - I know there are tons of Android laptops and convertibles out there, but I refuse to buy non-Nexus for obvious reasons.

Sadly, though, it doesn't seem like there's any special software work being done on Android to facilitate the more laptop-like design of the Pixel C. While Apple made sure to copy Metro's multiwindow implementation verbatim for its own Surface clone, Google doesn't seem to have done so for the Pixel C. There's no side-by-side stuff, no multiple windows, nothing. Some groundwork for multiwindow was laid in Marshmallow, but it was nowhere near final state and probably won't make it to Android until a future release.

Speaking of future releases: the Pixel C will be getting updates every six weeks. Yes. An Android device with updates every six weeks. It'll set you back $499 for just the tablet, and the Bluetooth, magnetic keyboard, which is charged inductively via the tablet itself and can run on a single charge for two months, will set you back another $149. It'll be available later this year.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:22 UTC

Customer Match is a new product designed to help you reach your highest-value customers on Google Search, YouTube, and Gmail - when it matters most. Customer Match allows you to upload a list of email addresses, which can be matched to signed-in users on Google in a secure and privacy-safe way. From there, you can build campaigns and ads specifically designed to reach your audience.

So I have this crazy, revolutionary idea that could change everything. You ready? You sitting tight?

I'd pay for Google services to not have ads and tracking.

Here's some water for the shock.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:10 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

When was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While still used as the save icon in modern software packages like Microsoft's Office suite, it's unusual to see one out in the wild. Given that a typical floppy disk offers up a minuscule 1.44MB of space - not even enough to house a three-minute pop song in MP3 format - there's seemingly no reason for these disks to stay in circulation.

But while the average user might not have any cause to use a floppy disk, there are those out there who can't settle for anything else. They're in dire need of the disks, which most manufacturers have stopped producing. The floppy disk might seem like something better left in the 1990s. Instead it's a product that's alive and well in the 21st century.

When my friends and I were in the US late last year, we got into an accident with our rental car - an old and kind Canadian lady rear-ended us while doing 110kph on the I-89 near the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. The accident was entirely her fault, so she accepted all responsibility, the state trooper made an incident report, and sent us on our way to the nearest Avis office so we could get a new car, because the car's rear end was all mangled up. We were a bit shaken up, but luckily, nobody got hurt, and the Canadian lady bought us a bottle of maple syrup, and I bought a cheesy Vermont baseball cap to commemorate our grand adventure of meeting a state trooper.

In any event, it turned out the nearest Avis office was at the Lebanon Municipal Airport, an absolutely amazing place that seemed frozen in time - a tiny airport with an adorable terminal and sliding doors leading straight to the runway. Mildly condescending adjectives like 'adorable', 'quaint', 'cute', and 'darling' don't do this place justice. In the terminal, while we waited for one of two airport employees present to fill out some paperwork, I noticed something remarkable: there, in the middle of the terminal, next to an old soda machine, sat an old TTY, a Minicom IV.

Much like the TTY, the answer to the question of old technology lingering around is always the same: because it works.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Sep 2015 23:09 UTC

Microsoft posted a blog post today about Windows 10's data collection and privacy, and Ars Technica's Peter Bright dissected it.

The second category is personalization data, the things Windows - and especially Cortana - knows regarding what your handwriting looks like, what your voice sounds like, which sports teams you follow, and so on. Nothing is changing here. Microsoft says that users are in control, but our own testing suggests that the situation is murkier. Even when set to use the most private settings, there is unexpected communication between Windows 10 and Microsoft. We continue to advocate settings that are both clearer and stricter in their effect.

Microsoft's got a trust problem.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th Sep 2015 22:45 UTC

AnandTech's conclusion:

It's probably not surprising to hear that iOS 9 is better than iOS 8. On the iPhone I think iOS 9 brings along many smaller improvements throughout the OS, along with new APIs that developers can implement to improve the user experience. There are definitely some big changes such as the addition of Apple News and Transit in Apple Maps, but these are again just strengthening the core services of iOS rather than adding incredible new abilities and features. iOS 9 is definitely a huge release for the iPad though, and because I've been limited to Apple's own applications I've only been able to scratch the surface of what capabilities the new multitasking features can enable. I think the iPad definitely deserved a major release that focused on it though, and it's clear that Apple has had many of these changes in the pipeline for quite some time now.

In the end, iOS 9 offers something new and great for all iOS users, and particularly those who use an iPad. With Apple expanding their portfolio of iOS devices and implementing new features like 3D Touch there are a number of directions they could go in with future releases of iOS, and only time will tell which direction they choose.

Seems like a great release all around, but I don't think there's anything in there that will make people jump ship - in that sense, it's a lot like Android M.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th Sep 2015 22:42 UTC

When Windows 10 was first announced, one of the first questions was would this upgrade be available for Windows RT devices running on ARM based platforms. The answer was no, but Microsoft said that it would bring some of the functionality of Windows 10 to Windows RT users though an update sometime after Windows 10 shipped. Apparently that day was yesterday, as Microsoft pushed out patch KB3033055 which enables the Windows 10 style Start Menu in Windows RT.

I'm sure my Surface RT is brimming with excitement. In storage. Somewhere. I don't even know.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th Sep 2015 22:40 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Yesterday at the Maker Faire in New York, we had a chance to check out the Rephone, a clever little project that comprises a bunch of modules that let you cobble together your own tiny little cell phone. Actually, making a cute little cardboard-encased phone is the least interesting thing aboutt the Rephone kit. The group behind it, Seeed Studio, has made dozens of modules and an SDK that enables you to build out nearly any sort of cellular-based gadget you can imagine. They've strapped it on a dog collar so you can locate your dog (or just call him to come home). They've strapped it to a kite to provide you with real-time telemetry. They've strapped it to a door, a lamp, and (uh), a table.

Really cool stuff.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 27th Sep 2015 22:38 UTC

Together, we will make it easy for Baidu customers to upgrade to Windows 10 and we will deliver a custom experience for customers in China, providing local browsing and search experiences. will become the default homepage and search for the Microsoft Edge browser in Windows 10. Baidu's new Windows 10 distribution channel, Baidu "Windows 10 Express" will make it easy for Chinese Internet users to download an official Windows 10 experience. Additionally, Baidu will deliver Universal Windows Applications for Search, Video, Cloud and Maps for Windows 10.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th Sep 2015 22:59 UTC

Google Inc. is back under U.S. antitrust scrutiny as officials ask whether the tech giant stifled competitors' access to its Android mobile-operating system, said two people familiar with the matter.

The Federal Trade Commission reached an agreement with the Justice Department to spearhead an investigation of Google’s Android business, the people said. FTC officials have met with technology company representatives who say Google gives priority to its own services on the Android platform, while restricting others, added the people, who asked for anonymity because the matter is confidential.

We all know who these "technology company representatives" are. Remember "Fair"search?

That being said, the more investigations into technology giants, the better.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th Sep 2015 20:24 UTC
Internet & Networking

Before long, billions of digital records about ordinary people's online activities were being stored every day. Among them were details cataloging visits to porn, social media and news websites, search engines, chat forums, and blogs.

The mass surveillance operation - code-named KARMA POLICE - was launched by British spies about seven years ago without any public debate or scrutiny. It was just one part of a giant global Internet spying apparatus built by the United Kingdom's electronic eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ.

Severed pig's head.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th Sep 2015 18:54 UTC

Google doesn't hold a monopoly over the entire smartphone market, and it doesn't have the same level of influence globally. But in the two areas where its Android operations have aroused regulatory scrutiny, the United States and Europe, Google enjoys a practical stranglehold over the mobile operating system market - thanks to Apple's non-participation and Microsoft's chronic failure to compete. It's arguable that other tech giants, such as Apple and Amazon, are better subjects for antitrust investigations, but US and European authorities are right to at least consider the circumstances of Google's relationship with its hardware partners.

I don't know if Google has a monopoly over the phone market - and neither do you, because the laws regarding monopolies are ambiguous, incredibly complex, and differ per jurisdiction and sometimes even per sector - but I do know that as far as I can tell, Google isn't blocking anyone from shipping Windows Phone devices, nor is it stopping developers from publishing applications for other platforms or even in other Android application stores, nor does it stop anyone from taking Android's code and building something that competes with it (see China and Amazon, for instance).

In fact, we should thank Google for building and releasing Android, because without it, iOS would've evolved a lot slower, we'd have less choice, and we could've even been stuck with just iOS and something from Microsoft - much like on the desktop.

That being said - I'm always in favour of keeping very close tabs on powerful companies like this, and in my view, the Microsofts, Googles, and Apples of this world should always be kept an eye on. Better yet, in an ideal world, all code in our computers and mobile phones should be open - from operating system to firmware - because of how crucial they've become to our society, but alas, that will never happen because reasons.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Sep 2015 20:53 UTC

Eyeo is now reaching out to developers of other ad-blocking tools to cut deals that allow certain ads to pass ads through their filters, too, in exchange for payment. Mr. Murphy said he has taken Eyeo up on its offer, and plans to implement an option within his app whereby “acceptable” ads will be displayed to users. The feature will be switched on by default, Mr. Murphy said, and he will receive a flat monthly fee from Eyeo in return. Mr. Murphy declined to disclose the fee, but said he expects to make less money from Eyeo’s payments than from sales of the app itself.

So, they sell their ad-blocker in the App Store, and then double-dip by also effectively allowing ad brokers to sell ads to him. Kind of scummy.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Sep 2015 15:40 UTC

Microsoft Windows is the dominant operating system in China, but the government is trying to encourage homegrown replacements. The most popular one is called NeoKylin. We gave it a whirl to see how the hottest China-made OS looks and feels.

Exactly what you'd expect.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Sep 2015 23:49 UTC

That's justified bias. That's relevant context derived from history and experience. Without it, we'd be reciting facts and figures, but no meaning. Megabytes and millimeters matter only after they've been passed through the prism of human judgment, and we shouldn't pretend that it can, or should, ever be unbiased.

While I agree with the article, there is one thing that tends to stand out in reviews of smartphones: while non-iPhone reviews always highlight the things the reviewed device lacks compared to the iPhone, the reverse is rarely - if ever - true.

Which has nothing to do with bias, and everything with a lack of empathy. Tech journalism is almost exclusively an American affair, and all of these reviewers carry iPhones themselves. This is perfectly fine, were it not that they seem to be incapable to put themselves in someone else's shoes and look at all the things, say, an Android user in Germany would have to give up were she or he to buy an iPhone.

I'm buying the iPhone 6S in a few months, and you can expect me to not make that mistake.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Sep 2015 23:08 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Relatively shortly after the Pebble Time and Time Steel, Pebble has announced the Pebble Time Round - and, you guessed it, it's a round Pebble. It looks absolutely fantastic, so much so that it makes you wonder why they bothered with the Time and Steel to begin with. Much like other round Android Wear watches, this thing further drives the point home that round is the way to go for those of us who want to wear a watch, and not a mini smartphone.

Pebble Time Round is faithful to timeless watch design while being a true Pebble at heart. The beautiful, always-on, e-paper display discreetly camouflages the smarts within.


At 7.5mm thin and weighing just 28 grams, Pebble Time Round is the thinnest and lightest smartwatch in the world.

It's $249, and there's a trade-in program in place for Pebble Time and Steel backers who may want to switch to the Round.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Sep 2015 17:59 UTC

The following companies just betrayed billions of people.

Apple, Microsoft, Adobe, Symantec, and a handful of other tech companies just began publicly lobbying Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that would give corporations total legal immunity when they share private user data with the government and with each other. Many of these companies have previously claimed to fight for their users' privacy rights, but by supporting this bill they've made it clear that they've abandoned that position, and are willing to endanger their users' security and civil rights in exchange for government handouts and protection.

Wait, you mean to tell me all that talk about caring about users' privacy was just shallow PR speak gullible people fell for?

I'm so surprised.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd Sep 2015 21:30 UTC

Following the successful attack on the iOS App Store this week, in which hundreds (and maybe even thousands) of applications were infected with malware and distributed by the App Store, Apple has published a support document urging developers to validate their installation of Xcode.

We recently removed apps from the App Store that were built with a counterfeit version of Xcode which had the potential to cause harm to customers. You should always download Xcode directly from the Mac App Store, or from the Apple Developer website, and leave Gatekeeper enabled on all your systems to protect against tampered software.

This successful attack on the App Store is fascinating in that it raises a whole number of interesting questions. First, how many applications have been infected with this attack? The number seems to keep on growing - from a few dozen to hundreds and even thousands - and includes several high-profile, popular applications like the Chinese WeChat (installed on virtually every Chinese iPhone), but also popular games such as Angry Birds 2. In fact, according to SourceDNA, several of the infected applications are still live in the App Store.

Second, how many more applications have been infected with other types of malware? If so many popular applications with this malware could be uploaded to and distributed by the App Store, you have to wonder how many more types of malware are currently lurking in the App Store that we don't know about yet or that haven't been detected by Apple.

Third - and this isn't really a question but more of a tongue-in-cheek pondering - does this attack make iOS the least secure mobile operating system? This single attack alone has definitely successfully infected more iPhones than the total number of Android phones that have ever been infected - which I find strangely hilarious. WeChat alone has about 500 million users, and is installed on pretty much every Chinese iPhone, and several other of the infected applications are also hugely popular. Depending on how many people installed the infected updates, and how many of the applications 'overlap', we're definitely looking at millions of infected iPhones, possible even more.

To quote Apple's own Phil Schiller - "be safe out there".


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd Sep 2015 21:05 UTC

Please tell me I'm dreaming. While working on the new version of CTLInfo (screenshot below), I ran across an unexpected and rather scary finding: A key security component of Windows, the so-called 'Disallowed' CTL, has a validity of 15 months and is going to expire in 25 hours.

Running certutil -verifyCTL disallowed indeed confirms it on my Windows 10 machine, but like the author, I have no idea what this means. If it really is what it looks like... Wow.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Sep 2015 23:12 UTC

Apple today released watchOS 2 to the public, making the first major update to the watchOS software available to all Apple Watch owners. The update requires iOS 9 and can be downloaded over-the-air through the Apple Watch app on the iPhone by going to General --> Software Update.

The support for native applications is a big deal.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Sep 2015 22:23 UTC

Late last week, hell had apparently frozen over with the news that Microsoft had developed a Linux distribution of its own. The work was done as part of the company's Azure cloud platform, which uses Linux-based network switches as part of its software-defined networking infrastructure.

While the software is real, Microsoft isn't characterizing it as a Linux distribution, telling us that it's an internal project. That's an important distinction, and we suspect that we're not going to see a Microsoft Linux any time soon.

Microsoft BeOS, and the world will be just.