Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 28th Dec 2015 15:48 UTC
Apple

Quartz looks back at Apple's 2015.

This year, CEO Tim Cook did a lot of interviews by Apple standards, from this month's "60 Minutes" episode to 20 minutes with BuzzFeed in the back seat of a Cadillac Escalade. He "crashed" a coding party - conveniently while a Mashable editor was in attendance - and "wrote a message" to CNBC's Jim Cramer. You might even say he likes the attention.

Meanwhile, Jony Ive, Apple's chief design officer, participated in an FT profile and received the New Yorker treatment earlier this year, inviting a journalist into his Bentley. To the media, a "rare look inside Jony Ive's design lab" seems to be the prized new "rare look inside North Korea." (And similarly staged.)

This PR campaign by Apple seems designed to make the company look more open and inviting, but in the end it just makes it all look fake and staged - which reflects incredibly badly on the media outlets participating in these PR events. For a company and accompanying fanbase riling so heavily against advertising, Apple sure does a lot of advertising thinly veiled as actual "reports" or "news stories".

But hey, people eat it up, so I can't blame either the advertiser or the willing media participant.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 25th Dec 2015 22:17 UTC
Games

So uh, look up from your Christmas dinner for a second, because Steam is having a major security meltdown at the moment.

It's the middle of Steam's big winter sale, which means a huge number of people are browsing, buying, and playing games right now on the platform. Some of them, however, seem to have tripped into a major security hole. A variety of users on Twitter, NeoGAF, and Reddit have noted that they can see other users' account information - including addresses and credit card data - instead of their own details.

From what I can gather online, users would occasionally be logged into not just their own accounts, but also those of others, including being able to see their information. The general consensus seems to be that you couldn't actually abuse said credit card information (you only have the last two digits and you still need the security code to actually buy stuff), but people who use PayPal to pay on Steam might not be safe.

Steam's store has been completely shut down, but you can still play online. Major security problem here, and it seems to be related to caching, although there's no official word on that.

See? This is what I get for buying an Apple Watch. I upset the balance.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Dec 2015 22:36 UTC
Multimedia, AV

Netflix is working on a new video compression strategy, and they've published a very detailed blog post about it.

We've spent years developing an approach, called per-title encoding, where we run analysis on an individual title to determine the optimal encoding recipe based on its complexity. Imagine having very involved action scenes that need more bits to encapsulate the information versus unchanging landscape scenes or animation that need less. This allows us to deliver the same or better experience while using less bandwidth, which will be particularly important in lower bandwidth countries and as we expand to places where video viewing often happens on mobile networks.

The technical details go way over my head, but the basic premise seems to make sense to a layman such as I.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd Dec 2015 19:37 UTC
Internet & Networking

It's the end of 2015, and one fact about the internet is quickly becoming clear this year: Americans' freedom to access the open internet is rapidly dissolving.

Broadband access is declining, data caps are becoming commonplace, surveillance is increasing, and encryption is under attack.

This is not merely my opinion. The evidence is everywhere; the walls are closing in from all sides. The net neutrality victory of early this year has rapidly been tempered by the fact that net neutrality doesn't matter if you don't have solid access to said 'net.

A lot is going to depend on whatever president the American public elects next year. All Republicans are obviously off the table when it comes to an open and free internet, and Clinton, too, considers encryption a problem that needs to be addressed (i.e., broken, users be damned).

I don't want to do any endorsements, but I think y'all can do the math. Make it happen, America.

 

Linked by sb56637 on Wed 23rd Dec 2015 19:32 UTC
Linux

Linux Mint 17.3 is the final Mint 17 release and should put to rest any worries about Mint's plan to stick with Ubuntu LTS releases for its base. Mint has done what it set up to do, namely improve the Cinnamon desktop to the point that it not only matches, but in many places far exceeds the user experience found in other options like GNOME, and especially, Unity.

Indeed, it's hard to look at Mint 17.3 without comparing it to its upstream base. While Mint has been continually working hard on the desktop and cranking out release after release, Ubuntu has stagnated. If Ubuntu wants to leapfrog past some of its pain points, its developers would do well to look downstream. Mint's package management tools are simpler, more comprehensive, and easier to use than anything Ubuntu offers. Mint also manages to do all this without anything even remotely close to the resources Ubuntu enjoys.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd Dec 2015 00:37 UTC
Windows

The Lumia 950 XL simply isn't for me or the vast majority of smartphone users out there. I use Windows 10 on a daily basis on a PC, but the experience on mobile is just lacking. Microsoft has done an excellent job on its apps for other platforms, and my iPhone home screen is full of them. The Lumia 950 XL needed something exciting and unique to convince me to switch back, but it failed.

That might change if a rumored Surface Phone arrives next year, but right now it's the same old waiting game for Windows on phones. A year ago I was tired of waiting, and today nothing feels like it has changed. Windows 10 papers over the cracks, but unless developers buy into Microsoft's vision of universal apps then it won't change much. More and more high-profile apps are disappearing from Windows Phone, and the Lumia 950 XL won't help bring them back.

When your flagship Windows Phone fails to entice even Microsoft enthusiasts, you know you've got serious problems. Love the money quote: "If you're someone that believes Windows Phone is dead, this is the casket you’d bury it in."

Damn that's cold.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Dec 2015 22:27 UTC, submitted by Alfman
Privacy, Security, Encryption

On Thursday, tech giant Juniper Networks revealed in a startling announcement that it had found "unauthorized" code embedded in an operating system running on some of its firewalls.

The code, which appears to have been in multiple versions of the company's ScreenOS software going back to at least August 2012, would have allowed attackers to take complete control of Juniper NetScreen firewalls running the affected software. It also would allow attackers, if they had ample resources and skills, to separately decrypt encrypted traffic running through the Virtual Private Network, or VPN, on the firewalls.

[...]

The security community is particularly alarmed because at least one of the backdoors appears to be the work of a sophisticated nation-state attacker.

Merry Christmas, everybody.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st Dec 2015 22:24 UTC
Android

Android is the most popular mobile OS on the planet, and Google has brought the OS to cars, watches, and televisions. And, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal, Google will soon be bringing Android to yet another form factor: desktop and laptop computers. Re-architecting Android for a mouse and keyboard is going to require major changes to the smartphone operating system, but Android is actually much farther along that path today than most people realize.

It really is - but there's a definitive oddness about it, though. In any event, Google has already confirmed it's working on bringing multiwindow to Android, and if the company is really serious about putting Android on actual laptops and desktops, it's going to have to be more than just the kind of My First Multitasking Windows 8's Metro had (implemented 1:1 in iOS 9). It's going to have to be the real deal, with windows that can be moved around, resized, stacked, etc. - all the kinds of things you'd expect from any other desktop operating system.

I think the biggest problem they're going to run into is the black bar at the bottom of the screen, housing the back/home/windows button. Unless they can come up with a way to logically let the back button handle multiple activity stacks, I would suggest getting rid of the bar entirely, or just converting it into an all-out taskbar. They obviously can't have that black bar on 23" desktop displays or whatever.

Android 7 is going to be very interesting!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 18th Dec 2015 23:04 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Now, it is my pleasure to share you really good news: we're back from the death valley! We have just finished our latest financing round and secured solid new financing to the company. This investment enables the continuation of Sailfish OS development, the community activities and other company operations. It’s clear that this recent struggle hit us hard and left some battle wounds but most importantly this means that the development and life of Sailfish OS will continue strong. This alone is worth a celebration!

Whether this is just a stay or an actual solution remains to be seen, but I'm skeptical.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th Dec 2015 10:20 UTC, submitted by TemporalBeing
Windows

Choice. After all the software improvements, promotional offers and good intentions, 'choice' is the big factor Microsoft forgot to consider with Windows 10. Falling adoption rates have seen the company's initial smugness evolve into incredulity and increasingly dirty tactics and now Microsoft appears to have forgotten about respecting choice entirely because life for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users is about to get a lot worse...

Over the last week Microsoft has begun to roll out a combination of highly questionable changes to the billion+ users of Windows 7 and Windows 8 and these efforts will intensify into early 2016.

Much like Apple's recent sleazy tactics of shoving ads into every corner of its operating system to try and suck you deeper and deeper into their labyrinth of lock-in products and services, Microsoft is trying very hard to forcefully push its users to upgrade to Windows 10 - and it's not eschewing any tactics, no matter how dirty.

The development of operating systems seems to have stagnated considerably, meaning new operating system releases don't really contain any standout features that draw large masses of users to upgrade. In addition, the differences between the operating systems are pretty moot (especially OS X vs. Windows or iOS vs. Android) these days, and there's really no clear benefit choosing one over the other.

It should be no surprise, then, that operating system peddlers are exploring other tactics to retain your business.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 17th Dec 2015 10:11 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

At the end of 2000 I watched some GEOS-pages and asked myself, why not making such a system on CPC, too. Most CPCs have 128K (most C64 only have 64K), a screen-resolution of 320x200 with 4 colours (C64 only has 2 colours for each 8x8 area in 320x200) and some more advantages. So the idea of the SymbOS-Project was born. SymbOS stands for "SYmbiosis Multitasking Based Operating System". SymbOS should become a demonstration, what could be possible on CPC since the last 20 years. I want to give everything to SymbOS what a modern OS needs. Real preemptive Multitasking, a dynamic memory-management for up to 576K and more and a totaly MS-Windows-like GUI are the three most important things.

Impressive project, and lovely retro '90s website.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2015 23:37 UTC
3D News, GL, DirectX

AMD's position in the graphics market continues to be a tricky one. Although the company has important design wins in the console space - both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are built around AMD CPUs with integrated AMD GPUs - its position in the PC space is a little more precarious. Nvidia currently has the outright performance lead, and perhaps more problematically, many games are to a greater or lesser extent optimized for Nvidia GPUs. One of the chief culprits here is Nvidia's GameWorks software, a proprietary library of useful tools for game development - things like realistic hair and shadows, and physics processing for destructible environments - that is optimized for Nvidia's cards. When GameWorks games are played on AMD systems, they can often do so with reduced performance or graphical quality.

To combat this, AMD is today announcing GPUOpen, a comparable set of tools to GameWorks. As the name would suggest, however, there's a key difference between GPUOpen and GameWorks: GPUOpen will, when it is published in January, be open source. AMD will use the permissive MIT license, allowing GPUOpen code to be used without any practical restriction in both open and closed source applications, and will publish all code on GitHub.

Great move by AMD, and definitely a step up from Nvidia's questionable closed tactics that only seem to harm users. HotHardware has more information on AMD's extensive plans.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2015 23:34 UTC
Mac OS X

The makers of MacKeeper - a much-maligned software utility many consider to be little more than scareware that targets Mac users - have acknowledged a breach that exposed the usernames, passwords and other information on more than 13 million customers and, er... Users. Perhaps more interestingly, the guy who found and reported the breach doesn't even own a Mac, and discovered the data trove merely by browsing Shodan - a specialized search engine that looks for and indexes virtually anything that gets connected to the Internet.

The most surprising news here is that apparently at least 13 million Mac users have this piece of scamware installed. You know, it's almost as if Mac users are not the special flower children some people would like us to believe, and are just as susceptible to social engineering and lapses in judgment as anyone else.

Who knew, right?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2015 11:17 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Qubes OS, the security-focused operating system that Edward Snowden said in November he was "really excited" about, announced this week that laptop maker Purism will ship their privacy-focused Librem 13 notebook with Qubes pre-installed.

Built on a security-hardened version of the Xen hypervisor, Qubes protects users by allowing them to partition their digital lives into virtual machines. Rather than focus solely on security by correctness, or hide behind security by obscurity, Qubes implements security by isolation - the OS assumes that the device will eventually be breached, and compartmentalises all of its various subsystems to prevent an attacker from gaining full control of the device. Qubes supports Fedora and Debian Linux VMs, and Windows 7 VMs.

Purism is also aiming to eventually have a completely open laptop - top to bottom - but they're not quite there just yet (e.g. BIOS is still a major issue).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 15th Dec 2015 00:06 UTC
Games

Commander Keen is an episodic video game developed by id Software in the early 1990s. The series focuses on the adventures of Billy Blaze, an 8-year-old boy who travels through space and assumes the secret identity of "Commander Keen". The series was successful at replicating the side-scrolling action of the Nintendo Entertainment System Super Mario Bros. games in DOS. The cartoon-style platform games are notable for their pioneering use of EGA graphics and shareware distribution, and they were some of the first games by id Software (who went on to later develop Wolfenstein 3D, Doom and Quake). The games were also exciting to the PC gaming community of the time because of John D. Carmack's smooth-scrolling graphics game engine, which first allowed smooth side scrollers on PC by only redrawing the elements of the screen that actually changed frame to frame.

Today is Commander Keen's 25th birthday. Keen was one of the very first games I ever played, and everybody I knew at the time was into Keen as well. We swapped floppies around with Keen on them, and I must've finished many of the episodes countless times. Commander Keen is part of my childhood, and a landmark in (PC) gaming.

In honour of Keen's 25th birthday, John Romero published a video today, in which he shows id Software's "port" (reverse engineering is probably more accurate) of Super Mario Bros. 3 to the PC. It was created without Nintendo's consent, and then sent to Nintendo for evaluation. The company had no interest in it, but the knowledge gained would come to use for Keen.

Fascinating.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Dec 2015 23:54 UTC
Apple

Apple is beginning to push fullscreen pop-up ads for the iPhone 6s to people opening the App Store app on some older iPhone models, according to a rush of user complaints.

[...]

Apple has previously marketed new devices through things like App Store banners and collections, but this is the first time Apple has temporarily prevented people from using an app simply for the sake of marketing - at least when excluding the Apple Music sign-up screen seen after launching the iOS Music app for the first time.

I got the ad as well, but on my iPhone 6S, which makes even less sense. This is just sleazy and scummy.

Apple's been pushing a lot of sleazy advertisements into iOS lately, which is kind of ironic when you think about it. The company that keeps spouting the "if you're not paying for it, you're the product" nonsense, is the one pushing sleazy advertisements into their mobile operating system, while Google, the advertising company, is not.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 14th Dec 2015 18:25 UTC
Internet & Networking

I have a Samsung RF4289HARS refrigerator. The Google calendar app on it has been working perfectly since I purchased the refrigerator August 2012. However, with the latest changes in Google Calendar API, I can no longer sign in to my calendar [scroll to top; I have no idea where the permalink is in this horrible UI]. I receive a message stating "Please check your email in Google Calendar website". I can sign in fine on my home PC and have no problem seeing the calendar on my phone. Perhaps this is a Samsung issue, but I thought I would try here first. Has anyone else experienced this problem and what was the solution?

Pretty sure this is in the Book of Revelation somewhere.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Dec 2015 09:05 UTC
Windows

On December 8, 2015, Microsoft released Windows 10 and Windows 10 Mobile updates on a global scale testing the Windows as a Service (WaaS) model. Besides the syncing of cumulative OS updates between desktop and phone, the event revealed that carriers seem to be sidelined. Here is why that is and what changed between Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 Mobile.

Essentially, Microsoft seems to have "blackboxed" the radio stack, so that it can push updates without affecting it. Very, very nice.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 11th Dec 2015 09:02 UTC
Android
It appears that the Pixel C was planned as launch hardware for a new, all-touch version of Chrome OS which at some point got canceled - necessitating a switch to Android. The story is a lot more complicated than that, though. What follows is the best timeline we could piece together showing the Pixel C's troubled development history.

The launch of the Pixel C is baffling. Not only is it lacking features that Android needs to work well on the device, it's also got numerous bugs, indicating the Android port was done in a rush. I just don't understand why Google didn't just wait with this device until Android 6+1 with multiwindow was done. Now they've severely blemished their Pixel name.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 10th Dec 2015 23:23 UTC
Android

An early preview of the new Android Emulator is now available to try out. As a part of Android Studio 2.0, the latest version of the Android Emulator can help you test your app on a wide range of screens size and configurations beyond the physical Android hardware you use to test.Moreover, using the official Android emulator enables you to test with latest Android versions.

Google claims this new version contains serious performance improvements - which were sorely, badly needed - and it sports a brand new interface.