Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Mar 2015 21:56 UTC
Apple

From complaints about the Intel Core-M processor to the color choices to the decision to use USB-C, it seems that anyone with skin in the Mac game has found something to pick on regarding the new Macbook. I think it's all utter bullshit.

The thing that spec monkeys need to remember is that most people don't care about what they care about. Most people buying new computers aren't interest in how many cores a CPU has or how many GB of RAM or storage it has. Very few of the people I sell computers to have more than a passing interest. They want to know what the computer can do. What problems it solves for them.

While the gushing, endless praise for Apple/Mac/OS X in the article borders on the nauseating (hey it's iMore, what did you expect), I do agree with the main point. A similar reaction could be seen when Samsung announced the new Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, where 'power users' started complaining about the non-removable back and lack of an SD card slot as if it these 'issues' matter one bit to the masses buying Galaxy phones (or any other brand, for that matter).

It's something I like to refer to as 'the bubble'. You can become so enveloped in the platforms and devices you use that you end up in a bubble. Your own specific use case becomes all that you can see, and because you read the same websites as other people inside your bubble do, it's easy to lose perspective of what lies beyond your bubble.

The end result is that you think stuff like removable batteries or SD card slots actually matter to more than 0.1% of the smartphone buying public, or that not having an USB port matters to the people buying this new MacBook. The same happened with the original iPhone, the first iMac, and god knows what else. A lot of people - vocal people - assume their own use case is the benchmark for everyone, and as such, if some new piece of kit does not fit that use case, it must, inevitably, fail.

I always try to make sure that I look beyond my own bubble - that's how I can lament the Apple Watch as a ugly, square, computery iPhone Wrist, while still acknowledging that it will most likely do quite well, because what I want in a smartwatch - watch first, computer fourth or fifth - is probably not what most other people want.

This new MacBook is going to be a huge success, and so will the new Galaxy S6. Nobody cares about removable backs, SD card slots, or ports.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Mar 2015 20:38 UTC, submitted by dsuden
BeOS & Derivatives

"Discover HAIKU" is your gateway to the world of HAIKU. Delivered to you on a premium quality 8GB USB stick, you can boot to it directly, or install it to an empty hard drive volume on your computer. It comes with a new, up-to-date version of HAIKU, introductory videos, and a mile-long list of tested, proven programs and tools that will make your adventure exciting.

Looks like it's made by TuneTracker Systems - not exactly an unknown name in the BeOS world. Still, couldn't you just download the latest Haiku nightly? I don't think Haiku has an update system in place yet, so I wonder how this 'distribution' keeps itself up to date.

 



Linked by ddc_ on Fri 13th Mar 2015 20:33 UTC
Google

Google has announced the end of its project hosting service.

As developers migrated away from Google Code, a growing share of the remaining projects were spam or abuse. Lately, the administrative load has consisted almost exclusively of abuse management. After profiling non-abusive activity on Google Code, it has become clear to us that the service simply isn’t needed anymore.

New project creation is already disabled on March 12. On August 24 the site will go read-only, to be completely shut down by Janury 25, 2016. Project data is promised to be available as tarball download throughout 2016.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Mar 2015 20:31 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft is working on an advanced version of its competitor to Apple's Siri, using research from an artificial intelligence project called "Einstein."

Microsoft has been running its "personal assistant" Cortana on its Windows phones for a year, and will put the new version on the desktop with the arrival of Windows 10 this autumn. Later, Cortana will be available as a standalone app, usable on phones and tablets powered by Apple's iOS and Google's Android, people familiar with the project said.

Does anybody actually use these digital assistants? Google Now is kind of useful because it actually anticipates what you need, but even then, it seems like it's for a niche group of people (e.g. those who travel a lot). Aside from the gimmick factor of asking Siri or Cortana funny questions, and the occasional setting of an alarm - does anybody actually use these things?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Mar 2015 23:19 UTC
Internet & Networking

In April, one of the open source code movement's first and biggest success stories, the Network Time Protocol, will reach a decision point. At 30 years old, will NTP continue as the pre-eminent time synchronization system for Macs, Windows, and Linux computers and most servers on networks?

Or will this protocol go into a decline marked by drastically slowed development, fewer bug fixes, and greater security risks for the computers that use it? The question hinges to a surprising degree on the personal finances of a 59-year-old technologist in Talent, Ore., named Harlan Stenn.

Amazing how such an important protocol hinges on just one man.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Mar 2015 17:36 UTC
Google

Google has stopped selling the Nexus 5, the company's 2014 flagship Android smartphone. A Google spokesperson told The Verge today that "while some inventory of Nexus 5 still exists (with our retail and carrier partners), our focus is on the Nexus 6 at this time." Searches for the older model on Google's new hardware store show that the Nexus 5 is no longer available for purchase direct from Google.

This leaves the Nexus series without an affordable, yet powerful smartphone - which in turn means that right now, I have absolutely no idea which Android smartphone to recommend. The Nexus 6 is too expensive and too large (and personally, I find it hideous), and everything else leaves you at the mercy of OEMs when it comes to updates (i.e., you ain't getting any). I really hope Google has a refreshed Nexus 5 in the pipeline.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th Mar 2015 17:31 UTC, submitted by Louis
General Development

The BBC will be giving away mini-computers to 11-year-olds across the country as part of its push to make the UK more digital.

One million Micro Bits - a stripped-down computer similar to a Raspberry Pi - will be given to all pupils starting secondary school in the autumn term.

The BBC is also launching a season of coding-based programmes and activities.

 

Linked by nfeske on Thu 12th Mar 2015 16:27 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

In their just-published article, the Genode OS developers closely examine the virtualization extensions of the ARM architecture and document the process of turning their custom kernel into a microhypervisor - a hybrid of microkernel and hypervisor. Besides covering the virtualization of memory, interrupts, time, and CPU resources, the article also presents a series of experiments with ARM's protection mechanism against DMA-based attacks.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Mar 2015 23:40 UTC
Games

Exactly 20 years ago today, one of the best - I would argue, the best - video game(s) of all time was released: Chrono Trigger. This Gamastura article from 2012 gives a lot of fantastic insights into the game's complex, modular story.

From Mass Effect to Skyrim, modern RPGs go to great lengths to merge linear, carefully crafted narrative with dynamic, emergent gameplay. Hundreds of thousands of man-hours are poured into these incredibly complex works, all in the effort to create a believable, cohesive story while giving players a sense of freedom in the way they play their game. The results of these efforts have been best-loved play experiences video games have offered.

But the goal of marrying linear narrative to dynamic gameplay is not out of reach for developers that don't have the resources to create such complex systems. No game shows this better than the classic RPG Chrono Trigger. Crafted by Square's "Dream Team" of RPG developers, Chrono Trigger balances developer control with player freedom using carefully-designed mechanics and a modular approach to narrative.

Chrono Trigger is something special, something one-of-a-kind that cannot be replicated. You see its influence in so many games today, and even on its own, despite its age, it can still hold itself up very well next to all the Quadruple Turbo HD Mega Graphics games of today. While Marle (or Nadia in the Japanese version) is my favourite character, it's hard to deny that as far as storyarcs go, Glenn's story is the most heartbreaking and emotional story ever told in 16 bits - and beyond (well - almost beyond).

While originally a SNES game, Chrono Trigger is currently available for both iOS and Android.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Mar 2015 18:23 UTC
Google

Google has unveiled its new Chromebook Pixel, and The Verge has its review up.

The new Chromebook Pixel is slightly cheaper than its predecessor, at $999, but it's still wildly more expensive than other Chromebooks. It has almost the exact same design as the original, and thus is a beautiful machine. It still runs Chrome OS, which has advanced significantly in the past two years, but not enough to be a real replacement for what you can do on a Mac or a PC.

But the improvements in battery life and speed are both huge. When you use it, the dichotomy between what your heart wants and what your brain says is almost bittersweet. It's an amazing laptop that I want to use all the time, but when I really need to do more intensive "computer" things, it's not quite enough.

Core i5, 8GB RAM, 12.85" 2560x1700 touchscreen, 12 hours of battery life (The Verge got 14 hours), $999 - but ChromeOS.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th Mar 2015 17:30 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

While some things about computers are "virtual," they still must operate in the physical world and cannot ignore the challenges of that world. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper (one of the most important pioneers in our field, whose achievements include creating the first compiler) used to illustrate this point by giving each of her students a piece of wire 11.8 inches long, the maximum distance that electricity can travel in one nanosecond. This physical representation of the relationship between information, time, and distance served as a tool for explaining why signals (like my metaphorical sign above) must always and unavoidably take time to arrive at their destinations. Given these delays, it can be difficult to reason about exactly what "now" means in computer systems.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th Mar 2015 12:08 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Researchers working with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple's iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the "Jamboree," where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

Outrage something something not surprised exclamation point.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th Mar 2015 11:56 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Last month my fourth iPhone in six years was, in medical terms, crashing. The screen, which had pulled away from its glue, was behaving strangely. The charging port, no matter how thoroughly I cleaned it, only occasionally took power. Repair would be expensive, especially considering that my contract would be up in about six months. Buying a newer iPhone would mean spending $650 up-front, spending $450 with a new two-year contract or amortizing the price with my carrier's new early upgrade plan. I felt trapped, as every smartphone owner occasionally does, between two much more powerful entities that take me, an effectively captive chain-buying contract iPhone user, for granted. I began to take offense at the malfunctioning iPhone's familiarity. Our relationship was strained and decreasingly rational. I was on a trip and away from home for a few weeks, out of sorts and out of climate, slightly unmoored and very impatient.

And so the same stubborn retail-limbic response that prevented me from avoiding this mess in the first place - by buying an AppleCare insurance plan - activated once more, and I placed an order I had been thinking about for months: One BLU Advance 4.0 Unlocked Dual Sim Phone (White), $89.99 suggested retail (but usually listed lower), $76.14 open-box with overnight shipping. 1,829 customer reviews, 4.3 stars. "This isn't the best phone out there, but it is by far the best phone for only around $80-90," wrote Amazon reviewer Anne.

Excellent article about what it's like to move from a top-of-the-line smartphone to the cheapest models.

This is eventually going to be a huge problem for companies relying on high-end smartphones. It won't affect Apple as much (in fact, it isn't affecting them at all), but Android OEMs are feeling the heat. While the really cheap ones are probably not that interesting to us, the €200-€300 models (no contract) certainly are. They deliver similar performance at less than half the price of the latest iPhone or Galaxy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th Mar 2015 11:40 UTC
In the News

Watch expert Benjamin Clymer, founder and executive editor of luxury watch site HODINKEE, writing for The Verge:

With Apple Watch, the price differentiation between the entry-level Sport at $349, the standard Apple Watch at $549, and the Edition at $10,000 is about perceived value - what materials are used in the case, bracelet, and straps, but also how much people believe they should be paying for the product. In addition to perceived value, mechanical watches are also priced by human value: how much of the work is done by hand (in many cases using 200-year-old methods). For example, a watchmaker named Philippe Dufour makes just 12 watches per year, alone in his one-room atelier in the mountains of Switzerland. A simple, time-only piece can cost $100,000. Whether the case is gold or platinum, the price of a Philippe Dufour watch remains (roughly) static - you are not paying for materials, you are paying for Mr. Dufour's time and touch. The Apple Watch has minimal human value, and that is the biggest difference between it and its mechanical counterparts.

Just how much human value can a customer expect from a mechanical watch, relative to a similarly priced Apple Watch? The difference is startling.

I'm linking this excellent piece not because I believe the Apple Watch - or any other smartwatch - competes with mechanical watches; I link to it to illustrate why it does not. No matter how much Ive-narrated gold you encase your smatwatch with, at its core, it's still just a machine-produced mass-market gadget that will be obsolete only a few years down the line. This is antithetical to what traditional, high-end horology is all about.

As I've detailed before, I love watches. I'm not rich, so I buy watches in the €150-200 range. However, I dream of one day owning a watch from my favourite watch brand, Officine Panerai (something like this one). This company doesn't make a lot of watches, and many models are only sold on invitation. It's the kind of brand where if you have to ask about the price, you can't afford it. Luckily, the used market is a bit more forgiving.

Buying a watch like this is not something you do with your mind - but with your heart. It's like buying a beautiful painting or a classic car; something that can eventually be passed down onto your children and become part of the family heritage. That's either something that appeals to you, or it doesn't. It will take a long time before smartwatches can achieve that kind of status.

This, however, does not mean the gold Apple Watch models will fail - quite the opposite. I'm only trying to illustrate that high-end mechanical watches and the golden Apple Watch do not really compete with each other; they kind of exist on a plane where money doesn't matter. It's a world that us non-rich folk do not understand. A golden Apple Watch will not take the place of a high-end mechanical watch in the same way that someone's BMW 6 series isn't taking the place of her classic Jaguar E-Type.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Mar 2015 21:32 UTC
Android

Today we are rolling out Android 5.1 - an update to Lollipop that improves stability and performance and offers a few new features like support for multiple SIM cards, Device Protection and high definition (HD) voice on compatible phones.

Not coming any time soon to an Android device near you.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Mar 2015 20:13 UTC
Apple

Apple held its Apple Watch event today, but despite all the hype, the two most exciting announcements had nothing to do with the Apple Watch. I want to start the announcement that excited me the most, even though the general public won't care all that much: ResearchKit. ResearchKit combines the iPhone and HealthKit to allow iPhone owners to participate in medical research.

This may sound like something trivial, but anyone who has ever done any serious scientific research - medical or otherwise - knows how hard it is to find enough quality participants. ResearchKit will allow users to opt-in into medical research programs, so you can collect data through your iPhone and send it straight to researchers. They can then use this data to aid in research for conditions like diabetes or breast cancer.

In addition - and this is hugely important - Apple announced that it will release ResearchKit as open source, so that other platforms can participate in this endeavour too. In other words, Android or Windows Phone users could install applications to aid medical research as well, assuming developers implement support for it. I'm really hoping the big players - Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. - come together to make sure this is a proper open standard, implemented on all the major smartphone platforms.

Cancer has had a huge impact on my life - even though I - thank the goddess - have never had cancer, I've had people close to me and my family die all around me ever since I can remember. I've seen families torn apart by it, I've seen people fight through it to live another day (like my mother), and I've seen people suffer horrendous pain. In fact, I'm sure we all have.

However, I've also seen what medical research has done for those suffering from cancer. Even a few years can make a huge difference - breast cancer treatment today is better than it was only a few years ago. And of course, while my personal frame of reference is cancer, there are countless other horrible diseases that could benefit greatly from more and easier research participation.

So yes, this was, at least for me, as a human being who cares about the people around him, the most significant and most important part of today's event. I'm setting my cynical self aside for a second, and I'm really hoping the industry gets behind this as quickly as possible. Please.

That being said, on to new products. Apple announced a new MacBook that's crazy thin, has a fancy new keyboard, and a nice new touchpad. It's only 0.92kg, 13.1mm thick, and has a 12" 2304x1440 display, and comes in silver, blackish-silver and gold. The specifications are a bit disappointing, though: a 1.1GHz dual-core Intel Core M with Intel HD Graphics 5300. It's got 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD (configurable to 512GB). Best thing: it's completely fanless.

The keyboard replaces the scissor mechanism with a butterfly one, which sounds like marketing nonsense, but actually makes sense. Whereas scissor hinges causes keys to wobble upon keypress, the butterfly gine has a more uniform keypress. I'll have to try it out to see if it translates into actual benefit, but it sure does look like it. Similarly, the touchpad has been redone as well, and now implements Apple's confusing force touch stuff from the Apple Watch. I think a force touch is a harder press, but I still have no clue.

All in all, this looks like a fantastic, if not underpowered laptop - until you hit the price. The price is very hefty - $1549 in the US, and €1449 in the EU. No thanks.

Lastly, we have the Apple Watch. Apple essentially just redid the demo from late last year, showing very little new information or functionality. Basically, take any Android Wear device, add the ability to answer calls on the device itself, make the software more complicated and the UI uglier and messier, add several hundreds of dollars or euros to the price, and you've got yourself an Apple Watch. In other words, dangerously close to that Tizen Samsung Gear thing nobody wanted.

Apple had one job this evening: tell us why we want an Apple Watch. Tell us why we should spend at least $349/€399 (the price of the small version of the cheapest model), all the way up to €17000 (the most expensive gold model) for a gadget so we have to take our phone out of our pockets slightly less often. The cold and harsh truth is that Apple failed to answer that question - what they showed us was a very complicated, finnicky device with an incredibly hefty price tag (only the garish aluminium/rubber small models are $349/€399 - the better-looking models are all around €900-€1000).

You don't have to believe me - take it from The Verge's Nilay Patel, not exactly a vocal Apple critic, who actually tried the device out after the event.

That's sort of the defining theme of the Apple Watch so far: it's nicer than I expected and I'm sure the confusing interface settles down into a familiar pattern after you use it for a while, but I'm still not sure why you'd want to put this thing on your wrist all the time. Apple's big task at this event was convincing people that a use case for the Watch exists, and at this moment it still feels like an awful lot of interesting ideas without a unifying theme. We'll have to wait until we get review units in hand and spend way more time with one to really understand the value of the Apple Watch.

The device is riddled with unintuitive and arbitrary UI conventions, and just as I predicted when the device was first announced, Patel states it feels disjointed and confusing. This is by no means a surprise to me, but it is a surprise for a first-gen Apple product. The iPod, the first iPhone, the iPad - they were all quite intuitive and easy to grasp, but the Watch, clearly, seems not to be so.

This is a matter of taste, of course, but the applications Apple showed didn't look particularly nice, either. Words like garish, information overload, cramped come to mind. Android Wear is already confusing and cumbersome at times due to the small screen, and Apple is cramming a lot more functionality and user interface in that same space. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that's not going to be easy to use. All in all, nor this event, nor the first hands-on reports seem to allay my initial concerns about the confusing and cumbersome UI.

Apple promises "all-day" battery life of 18 hours, which is less than what I get out of my Moto 360 (two days easy, three days with effort), and more or less forces daily charging. It'll be available in select countries starting in April.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Mar 2015 23:02 UTC, submitted by Lawrence Vernon
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The Raspberry Pi 2 offers a striking resemblance to its precedessors, retains its price point of £30, but with design issues ironed out and a stonking increase in performance. It's a must buy. No, buy two or more; they are that good value.

Well, that's a clear endorsement.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Mar 2015 23:00 UTC
Apple

They're at it again.

For years consumers have lifted up iOS as the safe mobile operating system. Comparatively, it does see much less malware than Android likely due to its rigorous manual testing of App Store apps and technological limitations that only allow approved apps on iOS devices. But to believe you’re 100 percent in the clear if you’re using an iOS device is a mistake.

This comes straight from an antivirus peddler - the people who spread lies and FUD non-stop to scare unsuspecting users into buying their useless, crappy, resource-hogging bloated software. For every person here on OSNews who see through these companies' lies, there's a dozen regular users falling for their scams.

Now, it's iOS' turn apparently. I will continue to hammer on this issue until the cows come home. Whether you're using iOS or Android, you do not need antivirus software.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Mar 2015 19:58 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

After years of rapid growth, HiSilicon is now the number one IC design company in China, and in 2013 generated $1.4 billion USD. The company was formed in Shenzhen in 2004 and has since set up offices in: Beijing, Shanghai, Silicon Valley (USA) and Sweden. They predominantly produce the Kirin series of processors for Huawei which is known for appearing in the Honor and Huawei Ascend series of phones. It is possible we may even see a Kirin Processor in the upcoming Nexus which is rumored to be manufactured by the Chinese company. While nothing has been officially confirmed, a Kirin chip in the upcoming nexus would make an interesting advancement for the brand. This would be a large blow for competitor Qualcomm who has made the possessors for the previous models. Much like we saw with the Xiaomi in our article, Huawei's approach with HiSilicon appears to be growing the brand internally and locally until it is big enough and ready to branch out in to the larger world. Despite recent rumors, both Huawei and HiSilicon companies have confirmed that there are no current plans to separate.

Interesting. I never realised Huawei had its own chip maker.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Mar 2015 00:01 UTC
Windows

Microsoft hasn't released a new build of Windows 10 in several weeks but that doesn't mean we can't get a look at the upcoming Spartan browser. Thanks to a new leak from a build that has not been released, we can get a closer view of what this new feature will look like.

A whole bunch of screenshots of Microsoft's new browser.