Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Jul 2014 12:17 UTC
Windows

There's a lot of information coming out about the future versions of Windows - and it's looking like Microsoft is listening to its users. First and foremost, it seems like the Metro interface will be disabled completely when Windows runs on traditional laptops and desktops; however, Metro applications will still run in windows on the desktop.

The Desktop/laptop SKU of Threshold will include, as previously rumored, the Mini-Start menu - a new version of the traditional Microsoft Start menu, an early concept of which Microsoft showed off at the company's Build developers conference in April. It also will include the ability to run Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in windows on the Desktop. Will it turn off completely the Metro-Style Start screen with its live-tile interface, as Neowin is reporting, and make the tiled Start Menu a toggleable option from the Mini Start menu? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Meanwhile, convertible devices will work pretty much like Windows 8.x does today, switching between the two modes. Microsoft will also do the inevitable: merge its phone and tablet operating system into one product.

The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won't have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side by side, my sources are reconfirming. This "Threshold Mobile" SKU will work on ARM-based Windows Phones (not just Lumias), ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based tablets.

These are all looking like some very decent changes, and something they should have done from the get-go. In fact - they should have never tried to shove Metro down desktop user's throats to begin with. They should have moved Windows Phone over to NT (which they did anyway), and scale that up to tablets.

I am, though, quite interested in what the Metro-on-desktop apologists are going to say now. For entertainment value, of course!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Jul 2014 08:37 UTC
Google

Russell Ivanovic comparing his experiences at WWDC and Google I/O. For instance, the differences between Apple and Google developer representatives.

Perhaps it's just the ones I've met at Apple, but I've never had this experience before. Our developer rep is a nice guy, but he's not the least bit technical, and in general I could only talk to him when he contacts me. I say 'could' because ever since we've had success on the Android platform he's made it very clear that his services are no longer available to us. Perhaps that makes me bitter and jaded about the Developer Rep experience at Apple, but if you ask me it's justified.

Seems to be in line with how Apple handles the press. A long, long time ago, Apple loaned me one of the first Intel MacBook Pros. Those models got notoriously hot to the touch under heavy use. I dared to mention in my review that the device would sometimes get uncomfortably warm. Let me just say that it did not exactly go down well with Apple.

Moving on, it's not just the companies' employees that have differing attitudes.

One of the first things that struck me was the contrast between the kind of people that attend I/O vs those at WWDC. Granted in both cases I didn't meet all 5000 attendees, so there's nothing scientific about what follows. That said everyone I met at I/O was open-minded and tended to work on more than one platform. As such it wasn't the least bit strange when someone pulled out their iPhone to check something on it. The majority of phones there seemed to be Androids, with the Nexus 5 making up the lions share of the devices I saw. What I'm getting at, and let me put it bluntly if I may, is that it highlighted just how insular and superior a lot of Apple developers act and feel. If you don't believe me, just join a group of them at WWDC and whip out your Android phone. Within moments, you'll wish you had whipped out something less offensive, like your genitalia instead.

Apple's employees seem "overly obsessed with Google", he notes, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the amount of time Tim Cook spends bashing Android during a keynote - often with facts of questionable value. This kind of stuff trickles down to lower employees, too, of course.

In any case, this doesn't exactly seem like a great way to treat developers. I wonder if this will ever come back to bite Apple in the butt.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jun 2014 23:38 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

A few days ago, the crazy BlackBerry Passport reared its... Square head. Over the weekend, Crackberry.com posted a review of a pre-release version of the device.

It fits in dress shirt pockets and you can hold it with one hand. You just need two hands to use it. The battery lasts forever and the screen is a breath of fresh air for the 'cramped' Q10 users. The keyboard is a delicious treat that is a different approach compared to anything BlackBerry has done before it and anything that the market has ever seen. The combination of physical and onscreen this time around is exciting and intuitive. It is what we have been waiting for all along. A breath of fresh air.

This seems to be the device BlackBerry should have put out years ago. It's different, it's fresh, yet retains what makes a BlackBerry, well, a BlackBerry. This is exactly the kind of device us hardware keyboard lovers need.

Bring it on, BlackBerry. Do it. Release it. Everywhere.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jun 2014 19:56 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Ars Technica reviews the BlackPhone, a device which claims to be much more secure than other smartphones.

After configuring the various pieces of Blackphone's privacy armor, it was time to check it for leaks. I connected my loaner phone to a Wi-Fi access point that was set up to perform a packet capture of my traffic, and we started to walk through the features. I also launched a few Wi-Fi attacks on the phone in an attempt to gather data from it.

[...]

For my last trick, I unleashed a malicious wireless access point on Blackphone, first passively listening and then actively trying to get it to connect. While I did capture the MAC address of the phone’s Wi-Fi interface passively, I was unable to get it to fall for a spoofed network or even give up the names of its trusted networks.

So, we've verified it: Blackphone is pretty damn secure.

A very disappointing test of the essential claim to fame of this smartphone. All Ars has done is confirm it does not leak data - something you can easily achieve on any phone. This review does not spend a single word on the baseband operating system of the device, which is a crucial part of any smartphone that we know little about. There's no indication whatsoever that the baseband operating system used by the NVIDIA chipset inside the Blackphone is in any way more secure than that of others.

Unless we have a truly open baseband processor, the idea of a secure phone for heroes like Edward Snowden will always be a pipe dream. I certainly commend Blackphone's effort, but there's a hell of a lot more work to be done.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jun 2014 19:28 UTC
General Development

Steven Troughton-Smith points to an article by Brad Larson:

I always find it more effective to learn new programming concepts by building projects using them, so I decided to do the same for Apple's new Swift language. I also wanted to see how well it would interact with my open source GPUImage framework. As a result, I made GPUImage fully Swift-compatible and I've built and committed to the GitHub repository a couple of Swift sample applications. I wanted to write down some of the things that I learned when building these.

It's interesting to see programmers get their hands dirty with what most likely will be the way forward for iOS developers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Jun 2014 18:29 UTC
Apple

Some operating system updates from Cupertino today. First up, OS X 10.9.4.

This update:

  • Fixes an issue that prevented some Macs from automatically connecting to known Wi-Fi networks
  • Fixes issue causing the background or Apple logo to appear incorrectly on startup
  • Improves the reliability of waking from sleep
  • Includes Safari 7.0.5

iOS 7.1.2 has also been released.

Apple has released iOS 7.1.2. This update contains bug fixes and security updates. These include an update to iBeacon connectivity and stability, data transfers for 3rd party accessories, and data protection class issues with Mail attachments.

To round it all off, Apple also updated the Apple TV to version 6.2.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 29th Jun 2014 09:30 UTC, submitted by -ujb-
Morphos

This new version can now utilize the built-in Wi-Fi hardware in all Apple systems that feature Broadcom's BCM43 chipset. In addition, MorphOS further extends its support of graphics chipsets to include AMD's R400 series by adding compatibility with Radeon X800 XT/Pro and FireGL X3 cards. Moreover, the latest version of MorphOS now enables laptop owners to define custom screen modes and provides default modes for increasingly common high resolution displays.

Improving interoperability and overall convenience, MorphOS 3.6 adds a new SMBFS filesystem handler with 64-bit I/O support for easy file sharing via network storage devices, a new VNC server to control your MorphOS systems remotely or even without a display, and a Synergy client for sharing a nearby mouse and keyboard with any Linux, MacOS or Windows machine that is part of your local network and acts as a Synergy server.

Seems like a pretty big update. I'm keeping my eyes open for a nice PowerBook G4 so that I can re-review MorphOS somewhere in the near future.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Jun 2014 17:42 UTC
Apple

Metal. If the name sounds hardcore, it's because it's a hardcore improvement to the way games will be able to perform on iOS 8. Metal represents a much more no-nonsense approach to getting the most out of the Apple A7's gaming performance, assuring users of the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display that their devices will continue to be top-notch game systems come this fall.

Right now in iOS 7 software called OpenGL ES sits in between the game and the core hardware that runs it, translating function calls into graphics commands that are sent to the hardware. It's a lot of overhead. And iOS 8 is getting rid of a lot of it.

A nice overview of Apple's Metal.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Jun 2014 17:00 UTC
Apple

"With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. "When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X."

Apple says that it will provide compatibility updates to Aperture that allow it to run on OS X Yosemite, but will not continue to develop it. In addition, it is working with Adobe to work on a transitionary workflow for users moving to Lightroom.

If your workflow depends on Aperture, you might want to start planning for its demise.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Jun 2014 15:36 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The success of Android has brought Linux to many millions of new users and that, in turn, has increased the development community for Linux itself. But those who value free software and privacy can be forgiven for seeing Android as a step backward in some ways; Android systems include significant amounts of proprietary software, and they report vast amounts of information back to the Google mothership. But Android is, at its heart, an open-source system, meaning that it should be possible to cast it into a more freedom- and privacy-respecting form. Your editor has spent some time working on that goal; the good news is that it is indeed possible to create a (mostly) free system on the Android platform.

Meanwhile, some claim AOSP is a "featurephone" and a "barebones husk". It's always nice to see reality beat punditry.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Jun 2014 14:51 UTC
Apple

Chances are you've used something developed by Dutchman Bas Ording. Ording is responsible for the OS X dock (in fact, Steve Jobs hired him on the spot because Ording showed him dock magnification in 1998), the little pinheads for text selection and magnification in iOS, iOS' kinetic and bouncy scrolling, the pre-iOS 7 keyboard, and probably more. He's listed on a long list of Apple patents, including those Apple is asserting against its competitors.

After about 15 years at the company as User Interface Designer, he left about a year ago for unknown reasons - until now. Speaking at a conference here in The Netherlands, and noted by Emerce (via Tweakers), Ording explains that he decided to leave Apple because he was fed up with having to appear in court.

"Because my name is listed on patents, I increasingly had to appear in court cases versus HTC and Samsung," he said, "That started to annoy me. I spent more time in court than designing. Aside from that, I missed the interaction with Steve Jobs. We discussed matters every fourteen days."

It's easy to forget - and I'm certainly guilty of that - that companies like Apple, in the end, consist of people like you and me, who dislike all this patent crap just as much as we do. Developers and designers working at Apple are not magically different from everyone else, and since developers almost unanimously dislike software patents, so do Apple's developers.

It does make you wonder - how many more talented people have left companies like Apple and Microsoft for their patent aggression?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Jun 2014 10:17 UTC
General Development

The μg Project aims to provide a free, fully compatible replacement of the often used proprietary GAPPS package by Google.

Very little information is available at this point, but I've always wondered why nobody ever tried to create open source replacements for the various Google Apps - most notably Google Play Services. This is clearly in its very early stages, but it'd be fantastic if we could one day have a drop-in replacement for Play Services, ensuring you could have a truly Google-free Android device while still being able to run applications that use the Play Services APIs.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th Jun 2014 23:07 UTC
Google

Google CEO Larry Page on privacy issues:

I'm not trying to minimize the issues. For me, I'm so excited about the possibilities to improve things for people, my worry would be the opposite. We get so worried about these things that we don't get the benefits. I think that's what's happened in health care. We've decided, through regulation largely, that data is so locked up that it can't be used to benefit people very well.

Right now we don't data-mine health care data. If we did we'd probably save 100,000 lives next year. I'm very worried that the media and governments will try to stoke the people's fears and we'll end up in a state where we could benefit a lot of people but we re not able to do that. That's the likely outcome.

The problem is not that people aren't open to the possible benefits from information gleamed from large piles of data. No, the problem is that both governments and companies alike have a history of abusing and/or leaking this data. In other words, the people's skepticism is entirely the industry's own fault.

Introspection, Mr. Page.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 26th Jun 2014 13:44 UTC
KDE

This article explores where the KDE community currently stands and where it is going. Frameworks, Plasma, KDE e.V., Qt5, KDE Free Qt Foundation, QtAddons - you heard some of these terms and want to know what all the fuss is about? A set of articles on the Dot aims to bring some clarity in the changes and constants of the KDE community in 2014 and further. This is the first article, diving into the technical side of things: Plasma, applications and libraries.

An update on where KDE stands today.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jun 2014 19:50 UTC
Google

So, the Google I/O keynote just finished, so I guess it's time to start summarising the most important announcements so we can go on to discuss them to death. Google announced a lot today - and most of it focused on Android. They detailed the next version of Android, dubbed the L release, which brings biggest visual overhaul of the platform since Honeycomb.

Google calls it Material Design, and it covers every aspect from Google - from Android to web. Material Design covers both how the user interface looks and how it behaves - with entirely new animations, dynamic shadows, and Z-depth. It is accompanied by loads of new APIs - both on Android and for the web - to make all these new transitions and Z-depth as easy as possible to code, and to ensure it always runs at 60 FPS (both on Android and on the web). Material Design covers all screen sizes - from round watches to big televisions.

There's a stylised video and a website laden with designer talk, and The Verge has the Android screenshots to show it off. Still images don't do the subtle animations and transitions any justice, but as you can see, if you've used Google Now you already have a very basic idea of where Google is going with this. The transitions, Z-depth, and dynamic shadows counter the lifelessness and coldness that are inherent to modern 'flat' design, making it feel livelier and warmer. It feels like it sits somewhere between the neon garishness of iOS 7/8 and the starkness of Metro.

While the focus was on the visual redesign, Android L will bring more to the table. One personal favourite of mine is a completely redesigned application switcher, which now resembles the card stack already in use by Chrome for Android, and displays Chrome tabs as individual applications. I've always found the current application switcher in Android to be cumbersome, and often very slow and choppy. This one looks very, very smooth on a Nexus 5.

Another huge change for Android is the definitive switch from Dalvik to ART, Android's new runtime. You've been able to use it for a while now, and I'm sure some of you already were, but Android L will run exclusively on ARt. It'll improve performance and all that, but it's also ready for 64bit, and supports ARM, x86, and MIPS. For developers - literally nothing changes. They won't have to change a single line of code to be ART-compatible.

Google showed off more features, such as battery life improvements and better notifications, but these were definitely the most prominent. The Android L SDK and developer images for the Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 (2013) will be available tomorrow, and the final release will take place in autumn. As for when you can get it on your phone - this is Android, so all bets are off, of course. Nexus devices will het it first, custom ROMs will follow shortly after that, and those of you running stock Samsung, HTC, etc. ROMs are at the OEM's mercy. HTC has promised to begin rolling out Android L to the HTC One flagships within 90 days after Google drops the code, but OEMs have broken these kinds of promises before.

Google also shed much more light on Android Wear, but there was little here we didn't already know. The LG and Samsung Android Wear devices will be available in Google Play starting today, but the much more awesome Moto 360 will only become available later this summer. Google also unveiled Android Auto (whatever) and Android TV (I'm sure it will take off this time). While the Moto 360 is quite interesting because of its round display and just how awesome it looks, the rest of these devices and platforms aren't particularly exciting to me. The good thing for developers is that all these platforms have SDKs available starting today, and a single APK can cover all of them.

Moving on to Chrome, Google dropped the inevitable bombshell: Android applications can now run in windows on Chrome OS. On top of that, there will be a lot of integration between Android and Chrome OS to bridge the gap between the two. The latter looks very similar to what Apple is doing with Yosemite and iOS 8, and is a very welcome addition to the Chrome OS platform. In fact, these two additions - especially Android applications on Chrome OS - actually make me interested in trying out Chrome OS.

The last announcement I want to touch upon is the first major announcement during the keynote: Android One. This is a new initiative in which Google creates a reference platform for entry-level devices that smaller OEMs in developing countries can use to build devices and sell them at prices below $100. These devices will ship with stock Android, but carriers can install localised applications. Luckily, though, users will be able to uninstall those. The cherry on top: Google will be solely responsible for updating these devices, meaning they will always be running the latest Android release.

This was a very interesting keynote, and especially the Android stuff consisted of solid, welcome improvements to the platform. I'm very excited about the new design, since we're not just looking at a coat of paint, but also new behaviour and the APIs and developer tools to back it up.

In 2012, Patrick Gibson wrote down a remark by one of his friends: "Google is getting better at design faster than Apple is getting better at web services". Now that we know what iOS 8 and Android L will look like - it sure looks like this remark has come full circle.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Jun 2014 15:37 UTC
Features, Office

Way back in 2009, I wrote about a few specific cases in which computers led to (subtle) changes in the Dutch language. While the changes highlighted in that article were subtle and not particularly substantial, there are cases around the world where computing threatens much more than a few subtle, barely noticeable features of a language.

This article is a bit too politicised for my taste, but if you set that aside and focus on its linguistic and technological aspects, it's quite, quite fascinating.

Urdu is traditionally written in a Perso-Arabic script called nastaliq, a flowy and ornate and hanging script. But when rendered on the web and on smartphones and the entire gamut of digital devices at our disposal, Urdu is getting depicted in naskh, an angular and rather stodgy script that comes from Arabic. And those that don’t like it can go write in Western letters.

It'd be fantastic if Microsoft, Google, and Apple could include proper support for nastaliq into their products. It's one thing to see Dutch embrace a new method of displaying direct quotes under the influences of computers, but to see an entire form of script threatened is another.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Jun 2014 22:06 UTC
Linux

In the latest contest, not only did Linux dominate, but Linux showed that is slowly pushing out all its competitors. In the June 2014 Top 500 supercomputer list, the top open-source operating system set a new high with 485 systems out of the fastest 500 running Linux. In other words 97 percent of the fastest computers in the world are based on Linux.

With numbers like this, it's easy to forget that this project started with the words "just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu".

This hobby now dominates almost every field of computing - from mobile to supercomputing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Jun 2014 21:56 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Ever wanted to try LG's webOS for smart televisions, but without buying an LG TV? Fret not, as LG has the answer for you - there's an emulator in the SDK. You can download the SDK from here, and opt to only install the emulator. This is clearly geared towards developers, so there's not a whole lot you can do once you load up the emulator (a VirtualBox image), but for those of you interested in webOS development this is very interesting.

 

Written by Eugenia Loli on Tue 24th Jun 2014 07:41 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless The OnePlus One is among the most talked-about phones these days. Both because of its high-end features and affordable price, making it one of the flagship models of 2014, but also because it's... impossible to get one. These are my first impressions of the device so far.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 23rd Jun 2014 23:53 UTC
Google

Announced three weeks ago, the Diane Von Furstenberg accessory set offers five new frames and eight shades designed specifically for ladies. They're available for sale individually (i.e., separate from Glass, for existing Explorers) in the official online Glass store, and they're available with Glass on the luxury fashion site, Net-A-Porter.

I haven't spent a whole many words on Google Glass on OSNews thus far, partly because these things are quite expensive and only available to a select group of Americans.

Since this is as good a time as any to show my cards on Glass: I think Google has been botching, and continues to botch, the publicity around Glass in a spectacular way. They've been positioning it as a consumer product that you wear all the time, through all your daily activities, but I don't think that's where the real value of Glass (and technology like it) will come into its own.

Glass is geeky, and while that's not really a bad thing in my book (no matter what certain looks-obsessed bloggers say), it does limit the device's appeal. They can make it really small and unobtrusive, but that'll raise concerns regarding privacy even more than Glass already does today. On top of that, I simply doubt that most people have any need for Glass in their regular, day-to-day life.

No, I think the real value of Glass lies in an entirely different area Google seems to have been ignoring so far. It's a far less sexy area than the world of designer glasses and paragliders, but one that offers far, far more potential: 'traditional' workplaces. Construction. Road works. Law enforcement. The military. Farmers. Firefighters. Plumbers. Roofers. You name it. People who work with their hands in potentially dangerous environments, who can use the heads-up display for at-a-glance, crucial information while out in the field.

In short, I think Glass could be huge for people who do what I admiringly refer to as "real work" (to differentiate it from my own job, which comes down to sitting behind a desk translating crap). Sadly, Google seems to ignore this area, overflowing with potential, completely, continuing down its path of trying to make Google Glass hip and fashionable. I am much more interested in seeing what Glass can do for the kinds of professions I just mentioned.

Those traditional workers might not be VC-sexy, but I'm convinced they'd benefit a whole lot more from Glass than privileged tech bloggers, supermodels, and translators.