Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 14th Nov 2015 14:01 UTC

Windows Central is now hearing from multiple sources that Project Astoria is on hold indefinitely, and maybe even shelved completely. Although Microsoft is not publicly - even privately - stating Astoria is cancelled, they are not openly talking about it anymore, or even privately discussing it with developers.

One source has told us that "the Android app porting is not going as planned."

The interpretation by others familiar with the matter is that Astoria is not happening anytime soon and Microsoft has yet to find a way to announce the news publicly. Indeed, while the news will be welcomed by Windows developers, it could come across as a failure by the company to execute on a publicly announced strategy.

All evidence is pointing towards the Android application support promised for Windows 10 being axed.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Nov 2015 20:28 UTC
General Development

Today, the US Department of Energy announced that it had established a partnership with NVIDIA that would be enhancing the LLVM compiler collection. The goal will be to port an existing FORTRAN compiler that targets massively parallel GPUs. The results are expected to be released as open source in late 2016.

Cutting-edge research still universally involves Fortran; a trio of challengers wants in. While FORTRAN isn't a mainstream language, it's still heavily used in scientific computing, and there's lots of legacy code that relies on it. A lot of that code is maintained by people at the US National Labs, and the new project is being organized by staff at Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and Los Alamos.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Nov 2015 19:00 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Today we have made Firefox OS 2.5 available worldwide. We are also making an early, experimental build of the OS - Firefox OS 2.5 Developer Preview - available for developers to download on Android devices.

So you can flash Firefox OS 2.5 as a standalone operating system, or run parts of it atop your existing Android device.

On a related note:

Firefox for iOS lets you take your favorite browser with you wherever you go with the Firefox features you already love including smart and flexible search, intuitive tab management, syncing with Firefox Accounts and Private Browsing.

iOS, of course, doesn't provide real browser choice to its users, so even this Firefox iOS browser uses iOS' own rendering engine.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Nov 2015 17:48 UTC
Mac OS X

Mac users faced trouble with their apps overnight after the security certificate Apple uses to prevent piracy expired late on Wednesday.

Applications downloaded from the Mac App Store were temporarily unavailable from 10pm UK time, when a security certificate expired, five years after its creation, with no replacement immediately available.

Even once Apple fixed the error, issuing a new certificate for the apps (with an expiry date of April 2035, this time), users were still faced with problems. Those who could not connect to the internet couldn’t verify the new certificate, while those who had forgotten their password or couldn’t log in to iCloud for some other reason are also unable to use the downloaded apps until they can log in to the service.

My tweet from yesterday seems apt here. Unbelievably incompetent.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Nov 2015 17:43 UTC

The Windows 10 November update is available now to everyone running Windows 10. This first major update has a handful of visible features, a variety of bug fixes, and even some enterprise features. Microsoft's message to businesses is that if they were following the traditional policy of waiting for the first Service Pack or major update to Windows before deploying it, this is it: time to take the plunge.

It's also the time for gamers to make the switch too - in parallel with this release, Microsoft is rolling out the new Xbox Experience, which is based on Windows 10, and gives the dashboard a big shake-up.

Only a Windows update could extoll the virtues of reducing the number of differently design context menus.


Written by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Nov 2015 13:53 UTC

The reviews for the Apple Surface are coming in. There's two reviews at The Verge, one at the Wall Street Journal, and John Gruber's got early access from Apple as well.

The general gist? If you've ever read a Surface Pro review, you've read all the iPad Pro reviews. Well, mostly - the complaints leveled at the Surface Pro are being tip-toed around a bit now that they apply to an Apple product, of course, and suddenly, the magic argument "but it will get better in the future" is now completely valid, while the same argument is never considered valid for the Surface Pro (or something like the Priv and its early bugs).

That being said, all reviews dive into just how uncomfortable the iPad Pro is to use as a laptop - and the problem, of course, is iOS itself. iOS is a mobile, touch-first operating system that Apple is now trying to shoehorn into a laptop role. iOS provides no support for mice or trackpads, and the keyboard and iOS lack most basic shortcut keys, so in order to do anything other than typing, you'll need to lift your arm and reach for the screen to use touch. This is something Apple has mocked for years as the reason not to include touch on laptops, and now they release a device which requires it 100%.

This is what happens when you run out of ideas and try to shoehorn your cashcow - iOS - into a role it was never intended to fulfill, without being gutsy enough to make the changes it requires. The iPad Pro is clearly screaming for a touchpad (and proper keyboard shortcuts), but it doesn't have any, and according to John Gruber, it never will (a comment I filed away for later when Apple inevitably adds mouse support to iOS).

Microsoft's Surface may not be perfect, but its problems stem almost exclusively not from a lack in hardware capability or a faulty concept, but from Microsoft's Metro environment being utterly shit. The concept of having a tablet and a laptop in the same device, seamlessly switching between a tablet UI and a desktop UI, is sound - the only problem is that Microsoft doesn't have a working tablet UI and applications. Meanwhile, trying to shoehorn a mobile, touch-first UI into a laptop form factor is just as silly and idiotic as trying to shoehorn a desktop UI into a mobile, touch-first form factor - and Apple should know better.

Or should they? Paul Thurrott, earlier this week:

While the iPad Pro was in many ways inevitable, it also points to a crisis of original thought at Apple, which has been coasting on the iPhone’s coattails for perhaps too long. At Apple, the solution to every problem is another iPhone. And the iPad Pro, like the new Apple TV and the Apple Watch, is really just another attempt to duplicate that singular success in other markets.

Thurrott really hits the nail on the head. The iPhone became a success because Apple sought - and succeeded in - designing an interface and interaction model that was specifically designed for the iPhone's input methods - the multitouch display, the home button. Ever since that major big hit, they've been trying to shoehorn that exact same interface and interaction model into every major new product - the Apple Watch, the new Apple TV, and now the iPad Pro. However, if there's one thing we've learned from Palm OS (pen-first, mobile-first) and iOS (multitouch-first, mobile-first), it's that every form factor needs a tailored interaction model - not a shoehorned one.

When you're a hammer, every problem looks like a nail - which sums up Apple's new major product lines ever since the release of the iPhone, and the iPad Pro seems no different. It will do great as an iPad+, but beyond that? It's not going to make a single, meaningful dent, without considerable restructuring of iOS' UI and interaction models - and lots and lots of crow.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Nov 2015 00:13 UTC

Today, we're announcing the end of Chrome's support for Windows XP, as well as Windows Vista, and Mac OS X 10.6, 10.7, and 10.8, since these platforms are no longer actively supported by Microsoft and Apple. Starting April 2016, Chrome will continue to function on these platforms but will no longer receive updates and security fixes.

Yet another reason for those few stragglers to finally dump that silly excuse for an operating system called Windows XP, and move towards something newer. Windows XP was dreadful the day it got released, and has only become more so over the years. Really - there's no excuse.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th Nov 2015 22:54 UTC

Tag Heuer has teamed up with Google and Intel to launch the Connected Watch, its first Android Wear timepiece. The Connected isn't just any average Android Wear watch, however. It's a $1,500 luxury timepiece clad in titanium and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Tag Heuer's analog watches.

Tag Heuer has so much faith in this pig of a watch that it includes a special trade-in program where you can replace the Connected Watch with a real watch down the line.

Confusing messaging there.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th Nov 2015 17:04 UTC

"Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones," Cook argues in his distinctly Southern accent (he was born in Alabama). He highlights two other markets for his 12.9 inch devices, which go on sale online on Wednesday. The first are creatives: "if you sketch then it’s don't want to use a pad anymore," Cook says.

Aside from the fact that the death of the PC has been predicted just as often as the death of Apple, I'm obviously not going to claim the man successfully running the largest company in the world is wrong, but I am going to state I'm rather skeptical of the iPad Pro. I predicted the original iPad would do well, but this Microsoft Surface clone?

The doubt is very real.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Nov 2015 20:03 UTC
Internet & Networking

According to a draft communication on copyright reform leaked yesterday (via IPKat), the Commission is considering putting the simple act of linking to content under copyright protection. This idea flies in the face of both existing interpretation and spirit of the law as well as common sense. Each weblink would become a legal landmine and would allow press publishers to hold every single actor on the Internet liable.

The stupidity of the unelected bureaucrats in Brussels/Strasbourg never ceases to amaze me. Fresh from royally doing terrible things to the poohc regarding net neutrality, out comes this insane plan.

And then people wonder why the EU has such a bad reputation.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Nov 2015 20:03 UTC

The BlackBerry Priv has been released, and the first reviews have been coming in over the weekend. It's a bit of a mixed bag - people like the hardware and the keyboard, but the software seems to have bugs and issues. Some reviews, like the one from AndroidCentral, are radiant:

This is absolutely one of the best phones to be released this year, and while BlackBerry still has to demonstrate it can keep its promises when it comes to software updates this is already an exceptional experience. It's only going to get better from here.

The review from Dieter Bohn at The Verge - certified keyboard enthusiast and Palm fan and thus an awesome person you can trust because anyone who sings the praises of Palm is a great person, as well all undoubtedly know - is, overall, positive, but the software issues he experienced did mar the experience considerably.

In truth, I wanted to tell him to do it. But I couldn't. There are enough software bugs and slowdowns that I had to tell him to hold off and see if BlackBerry could finish the job it started here. Take those good ideas and buff off their rough edges, make the software just a little more stable. Because as a first effort at an Android phone, the Priv is remarkable, and I couldn't wait to see what a second push would do for it (assuming, of course, that BlackBerry gets the chance).

I agree with Bohn that such software issues on a flagship device that's supposed to save a company's handset business are dealbreaker - this machine costs a hefty €699, and for that, you deserve a phone without such issues.

That being said, I'm still excited for the phone, if only because it will surely be picked up by the Android ROM community soon enough. This one is definitely on my list to eventually replace my Nexus 5.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Nov 2015 23:58 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Android registered a slight year-on-year increase in marketshare, while Apple gained traction, driven by strong demand for new iPhone models. Microsoft, BlackBerry and Firefox drifted down, while Tizen posted tangible growth and overtook BlackBerry being the fourth largest OS platform for the first time ever.

Good news to see Tizen gain at least some traction - although admittedly taking over BlackBerry OS is like winning the 100 m sprint while your competitors are all asleep. In case you're not familiar with Tizen, this helpful video will explain... Wait what did I just watch?

In any event, I'm genuinely interested in getting a Tizen device once they hit Europe at a justifiable price point. Great addition to the collection.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Nov 2015 23:56 UTC

Google is reportedly taking a page out of Apple's playbook and expressing interest in co-developing Android chips based on its own designs, according to a report today from The Information. Similar to how the iPhone carries a Ax chip designed by Apple but manufactured by companies like Samsung, Google wants to bring its own expertise and consistency to the Android ecosystem. To do that, it would need to convince a company like Qualcomm, which produces some of the top Android smartphone chips today using its own technology, to sacrifice some of its competitive edge. Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Within a few years, Google will be competing head-to-head with Apple, with its own line of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and maybe even desktops, all running Android.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Nov 2015 00:06 UTC
Red Hat

The partnership we are announcing today with Red Hat extends our commitment to offer unmatched choice and flexibility in an enterprise-grade cloud experience across the hybrid cloud. With more than 80 percent of the Fortune 500 using Microsoft’s cloud, for us to team with the leader in enterprise Linux allows even more businesses to move to the cloud on their terms. By working with Red Hat, we will address common enterprise, ISV and developer needs for building, deploying and managing applications on Red Hat software across private and public clouds, including the following.

Only fourteen short years ago:

Linux is not in the public domain. Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches.

What a time to be alive.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Nov 2015 23:28 UTC, submitted by Mark Glenn
OSNews, Generic OSes

OOSMOS, the Object Oriented State Machine Operating System, is an open source implementation of threadless concurrency for C/C++. The portable, single-source file implementation makes it easy to integrate into any environment - from bare boards to mainframes. Out of the box, it compiles and runs on many small processors and boards (including Arduino) as well as on Windows and Linux. It is our goal for developers of any skill level to be able to use OOSMOS effectively, whether building a science project on an Arduino or building an advanced medical device.

We've already talked about OOSMOS before, but the project's just gone open source.


Linked by avgalen on Wed 4th Nov 2015 23:19 UTC

The bad news:

For months, privacy advocates have asked Congress to kill or reform the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, a bill that they say hides new government surveillance mechanisms in the guise of security protections. Now the Senate has shot down a series of attempts to change the legislation’s most controversial measures, and then passed it with those privacy-invasive features fully intact.

The good news:

The new rules for exemptions to copyright's DRM-circumvention laws were issued today, and the Librarian of Congress has granted much of what EFF asked for over the course of months of extensive briefs and hearings. The exemptions we requested - ripping DVDs and Blurays for making fair use remixes and analysis; preserving video games and running multiplayer servers after publishers have abandoned them; jailbreaking cell phones, tablets, and other portable computing devices to run third party software; and security research and modification and repairs on cars - have each been accepted, subject to some important caveats.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Nov 2015 11:32 UTC

Google's Project Zero, which investigates the security of popular software, recently turned its attention to the Galaxy S6 Edge.

A week of investigation showed that there are a number of weak points in the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. Over the course of a week, we found a total of 11 issues with a serious security impact. Several issues were found in device drivers and image processing, and there were also some logic issues in the device that were high impact and easy-to-exploit.

The majority of these issues were fixed on the device we tested via an OTA update within 90 days, though three lower-severity issues remain unfixed. It is promising that the highest severity issues were fixed and updated on-device in a reasonable time frame.

I love that Google has Project Zero, and that the Zero team is not afraid of exposing the weaknesses in the company's own products (in this case, Android). Few companies out there would allow this.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Nov 2015 21:29 UTC

Great article at Polygon, looking into the position of women in esports and the abuse they're receiving.

Every coaching position she's held has come with abuse. There's the European rival who thinks it's funny to goad her with extravagant compliments about her appearance. There's the South American player who promises to kiss her when they meet at a live event. There's the Israeli player who said he didn't want her advice because she's a woman. And there's the countless spectators who spew insults at her through social media and streaming feeds.

But there are also those who recognize her abilities, including her players, other top coaches, senior people at Smite publisher Hi-Rez Studios and commentators who recognize the stamp of her tactics and her influence on improving teams.

Aside from the Baghdad Bobs in gaming, we all know the gaming world - and by extension, esports - isn't exactly the most welcoming environment for women. Luckily, it's starting to dawn on the companies in esports, such as Hi-Rez discussed in the linked article, that things need to change, and that steps need to be made to significantly curb the misogyny and abuse.

The League of Legends world championships, the most popular esports event in the world, just concluded this weekend. One weekend earlier, the semifinals were held in Brussels. One quite prominent figure in the League of Legends esports community, presenter and interviewer Eefje "Sjokz" Depoortere, is from Belgium, and parent company Riot took the opportunity to play a fantastic spotlight of her at the start of the event, in front of 17000 people and the millions of viewers around the world. The video details the work that she does, and the prominent way in which the spotlight was played - just before the semifinals started - really drove the point home just how important she's become.

In an article posted today, Depoortere recalled the moment the video was played.

Sjokz had her own fair share of cherished moments throughout the weekend, particularly when a video feature about her life in Belgium and her work at Riot aired in the 17,000-seat arena. "It was very emotional!" she says. "I hadn't thought through that I would be on stage listening to myself! I felt kind of embarrassed, because I thought, 'Oh, these people have to sit through it,' but all the people were quiet. They were actually listening and watching and it was an extremely heartwarming moment for me."

The feature touched on some less savoury aspects of being a successful, high-profile woman in a male-dominated industry, particularly sexism and a lack of respect for Sjokz's work, but since it aired she has received a huge influx of support. Even from people who have been less than pleasant in the past. "Some of them wrote to me and they said, 'Hey, I'm actually very sorry. I didn't realise what I was doing. I really respect your work.'"

We're a long way off from women being treated matter-of-factly universally throughout esports in particular and gaming in general, but it's at least encouraging to see that steps are being taken. Maybe, just maybe, we'll eventually see women players feel secure and safe enough to compete at the highest levels.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Nov 2015 21:12 UTC

In 2003 I used PfaEdit, now FontForge, to convert screen to a TrueType font so it'd work on OS X, and I have used it as my standard bitmapped font since. I would have made the conversions public earlier, but I was concerned about whether this would be a licensing violation. It turns out the SGI fonts were released under a MIT license a few months after I initially converted them back in 2003, but I didn’t notice until today. So, here are the fonts for you to download.

The SGI font is classic. So memorable.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Nov 2015 21:09 UTC
Internet & Networking

British re-elected prime-minister Cameron is continuing his life's mission of invading the British people's privacy and severely restricting their freedoms.

Internet and social media companies will be banned from putting customer communications beyond their own reach under new laws to be unveiled on Wednesday.

Companies such as Apple, Google and others will no longer be able to offer encryption so advanced that even they cannot decipher it when asked to, the Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Measures in the Investigatory Powers Bill will place in law a requirement on tech firms and service providers to be able to provide unencrypted communications to the police or spy agencies if requested through a warrant.

How on earth did you Brits manage to not only elect this dangerous man, but also re-elect him?