Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 24th Aug 2014 20:29 UTC, submitted by mikeanderson
BeOS & Derivatives

A very interesting discussion is taking place in the Haiku mailing list right now. A developer has created a working prototype implementation of the BeOS API layer on top of the Linux kernel, and he is wondering if the project is worth pursuing. He's got the App, Interface and Networking Kits in good shape within a few months' work.

While there are some minor downsides to having the kits on top of Linux (or one of the BSDs), the upsides include all the drivers in the world (well, the gpu driver situation could be a tad better), a rock solid kernel that works on all kinds of devices (who says BeOS can't run on a phone, mine can), and a working BeOS clone with comparatively little effort (as a musical engineer, my biggest worry was sound system latencies, but it turns out many Linux schedulers can easily be tuned to handle the loads I expect in a BeOS system.)

I think the Haiku project made a monumental mistake in not using an existing kernel - it's simply no longer practical for a small project to keep up with the hardware evolution, handling security requirements and so on. Sad but true, and it was sad but true back in 2001.

A very interesting and in-depth discussion follows. Both 'sides' make a lot of compelling arguments, and it gives a lot of insight into decisions that went into the Haiku project, both past and present. For once, I have no clear opinion on this matter; both sides have merit, and it in the end comes down to what the actual developers want to work on (hint: it's not Linux).

Still, the developer in question will be putting up a repository of his Linux work, so we'll get to see what it's like.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Aug 2014 16:09 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Mobile apps have skyrocketed in popularity and utility since Apple introduced the iPhone App Store in the summer of 2008. Apps now represent 52% of time spent with digital media in the US, according to comScore, up from 40% in early 2013. Apple boasted 75 billion all-time App Store downloads at its developers conference in June, and followed up by declaring July the best month ever for App Store revenue, with a record number of people downloading apps.

Yet most US smartphone owners download zero apps in a typical month, according to comScore's new mobile app report.

Companies like Apple like to boast about the 'app economy', but in reality, the situation is a whole lot less rosy and idealistic than they make it out to be. I think most smartphone buyers download the bare essentials like Facebook, Twitter, Candy Crush, and their local banking application, and call it quits.

Together with the problematic state of application stores, the 'app economy' isn't as sustainable as once thought.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Aug 2014 12:36 UTC
Windows

Microsoft is planning to unveil its Windows 8 successor next month at a special press event. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the software maker is tentatively planning its press event for September 30th to detail upcoming changes to Windows as part of a release codenamed "Threshold." This date may change, but the Threshold version of Windows is currently in development and Microsoft plans to release a preview version of what will likely be named Windows 9 to developers on September 30th or shortly afterwards. The date follows recent reports from ZDNet that suggested Microsoft is planning to release a preview version of Windows 9 in late September or early October.

Microsoft is really stepping up its release schedule. Good.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Aug 2014 21:59 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

Two related stories.

Microsoft's Windows Store is a mess. It's full of apps that exist only to scam people and take their money. Why doesn't Microsoft care that their flagship app store is such a cesspool?

It's now been more than two years since Windows 8 was released, and this has been a problem the entire time, and it is getting worse. If Microsoft was trying to offer a safe app store to Windows users, they've failed.

And:

Flappy Bird wasn't the first game to spawn an entire ecosystem of me-too clones, nor will it be the last. And now that the developer of the insanely difficult but addicting game has released the even more insanely difficult and even more addicting (is that even possible?) Swing Copters, well, we're seeing it again.

This applies to all application stores. They are filled to the brim with crapware nobody wants, making the experience of using them pretty unappealing. Since Apple, Google, and Microsoft care about quantity instead of quality, I don't think this will change any time soon.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Aug 2014 18:15 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

China should end smartphone subsidies to overseas vendors and give more support to local brands, industry insiders said on Tuesday, as telecom carriers pledged to cut operating expenses and Apple Inc gets ready to debut its next-generation iPhone.

Xiang Ligang, a telecom researcher in Beijing, said cutting carriers' subsidies to foreign-made handsets will not only reduce carriers' operating expense but also leave local players with more market demand.

"It will be a one-stone-two-birds move for the Chinese smartphone industry," he said.

I'm all for doing the same here in Europe and overseas in the US - but, of course, only if it applies to all smartphones, regardless of origin. Let people see what they're really paying for their Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5s. Can you imagine if smartphone vendors and carriers can no longer mislead consumers?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Aug 2014 15:13 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

For every Android update, Google's release of code to OEMs starts an industry-wide race to get the new enhancements out to customers. So how did everyone do this year? Who was the first with KitKat, and who was the last? What effect does your carrier have on updates? How has the speed of Android updates changed compared to earlier years?

Nice overview that may help during your next purchasing decision, and which neatly illustrates Android's biggest weakness. Interestingly enough, it doesn't include non-stock ROMs.

 

Linked by jockm on Tue 19th Aug 2014 21:31 UTC
General Unix

Modern microcontrollers are becoming quite beefy. The Microchip PIC32 line is actually an implementation of the MIPS32 4K architecture - and with 512K of flash and 128K of RAM you can even run Unix! RetroBSD is a port of BSD 2.11 for the PIC32. You might not be able to run X11, but it is still very useful and a great reminder of how small Unix used to be - and how far it has come.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Aug 2014 20:24 UTC
Windows

As expected, HTC has just announced a new smartphone with Windows Phone called the HTC One M8 for Windows. The new device is the same as the HTC One M8 with Android, albeit it comes with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 preinstalled.

Sounds great, especially since it may be possible to dual boot or switch operating systems once the XDA crowd gets its hands on this thing. But then...

The HTC One M8 for Windows is an exclusive device for U.S. carrier Verizon.

Yeah. Good luck, with that.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Aug 2014 22:39 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Via TechCrunch:

You want to play Adventure, but don't know how to turn on the PDP-11? These instructions are for booting our dual rack machine from its RL01 drives, although booting the single cabinet machine from the RK05 is very similar.

How to boot a PDP-11. Yes.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Aug 2014 22:34 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

While the article focuses on Jim Yurchenco's work on building Apple's first mouse, as a Palm adept, I'm obviously more interested in his other great contribution to the computing world: he built the Palm V.

"That was a really important product for us, and the industry", Yurchenco says. "It was one of the first cases where the physical design - the feel and touch points - were considered to be as important as the performance." That wasn't lost on users; the device sold like wild and helped shape modern gadget-lust. Ars Technica's review of the device came with a disclaimer: "Remember, if you don't intend to buy a Palm V, under no circumstances should you allow yourself to look/touch/hold/feel/smell/see/inspect/rub/behold/taste or have any type of contact with one."

I touched upon this in a lot of detail in my Palm retrospective, but in this day and age of iOS vs. Android, wherein everybody seems to think the portable computer era started with the iPhone, it can't be stressed enough just how much Apple - and thus, the entire current smartphone industry - owes to Palm. Whether it's software - iOS draws heavily from Palm OS - or hardware. I wrote:

The Pilots that had come before were strictly utilitarian, focused on businessmen and women instead of general consumers. The Palm V changed all this. Its shape would define the company's products for years to come. It had smooth curved sides with a slightly wider bottom than top section, making it all not only look distinct and beautiful, but also very comfortable to hold. Whether you looked at other PDAs, smartphones, or mobile phones of its era - there was nothing else like it. Everybody else was building plastic monstrosities.

[...]

The Palm V was a smashing success. For the first time, a mobile computing device was designed to be beautiful, and "it turned out to be very successful. We turned it into a personal artefact, or a personal piece of jewellery or something and [Microsoft] couldn't compete with that," according to Hawkins.

The Palm V made pocket computing fashionable. The relationship between Palm OS and iOS is very thick - but so is the one between the Palm V and the iPhone.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Aug 2014 20:47 UTC
Internet & Networking

Founded in 2010 and based in San Francisco, Nextdoor is a odd outlier among today's social networks. Signing up is an onerous process, requiring substantial proof of both your identification and address. People post messages, but they are seen only by others in the immediate area, and there is no share or retweet button to proliferate messages across the network. It feels more like a modern update on a message board or web forum than a social network. But it has struck a chord across the country. When The Verge first reported on Nextdoor back in July of 2012, it was in 3,500 neighborhoods. Today, the company is announcing that it reached 40,000 neighborhoods, or roughly one in four American communities, with 10 or more active users.

I had never heard of Nextdoor, but it sounds fascinating. Where Facebook has become an endless stream of crap because people willy-nilly added everyone to their friends list (tip: don't do that. I mostly only 'friend' people I truly care about and lo and behold, my Facebook feed is always interesting), Nextdoor prevents that by focusing solely on the people around you - literally around you.

I would love for this to come to The Netherlands. Sounds very useful in, say, remote communities.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Aug 2014 14:48 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Since the introduction of the Apple iPhone in 2007, the design and function of most modern smartphones have not changed much. And that appears to be the case this upcoming season. Nearly all of the phones are expected to be sequels to existing models.

PCs have been the same for decades. Laptops have been the same for decades. Smartphones will be the same for decades. Get used to it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 16th Aug 2014 19:33 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The long-expected MIUI 6 is finally here! Visually stunning, Stunningly Simple. It's a new chapter for MIUI. And here is a full review for you to get a taste of it.

We believe that it takes more than just good features to create a beautiful design. From orderly workflows, clear hierarchies and fluent responses, we believe that good design exists in every tap, drag and pinch you make. Natural and intuitive, just the way it should be.This is MIUI 6. It's visually stunning, stunningly simple. It's the start of anew chapter.

Had you told me these were shots from some other operating system, I'd have believed you. This is shameless (via Daring Fireball).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Aug 2014 20:17 UTC
Windows

Microsoft is aiming to deliver a "technology preview" of its Windows "Threshold" operating system by late September or early October, according to multiple sources of mine who asked not to be named.

And in a move that signals where Microsoft is heading on the "servicability" front, those who install the tech preview will need to agree to have subsequent monthly updates to it pushed to them automatically, sources added.

I'm excited about this 'Windows 9', because experience has taught us that Windows releases follow an up-down-up-down pattern. Windows Vista was down, 7 was up, 8 was down, so hopefully 9 will be up again. The rumoured changes are all positive, but it's not like Microsoft does not have a history of over-promising and under-delivering.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Aug 2014 11:33 UTC
Windows

Speaking of Windows Phone - it seems like it's not happening.

Telecom executives for years have trumpeted the need for a new cellphone platform to provide a counterweight to the dominance of Google's Android and Apple's iOS. Maybe it could be BlackBerry. Or maybe Windows.

Or maybe not. According to the data from IDC, the two top players are only getting stronger, grabbing 96.4% of global smartphone shipments in the second quarter, up from 92.6% a year ago.

Windows Phone’s share of shipments fell to 2.5% of the total from 3.4% a year ago, as shipments dropped by more than 9%. BlackBerry’s share fell to 0.5% from 2.8% - below the market share of the "other" category - amid a total collapse in shipments.

This is a two-horse race, and the rest is fighting over the scraps. Those scraps are enough for newcomers such as Jolla, who don't really need the massive numbers to keep a small company alive, but it's the death knell for platforms from larger, established companies with demanding shareholders.

So far, the whole Windows Phone experiment has been a disaster for Microsoft (and Nokia). They've had to pour so much money into Windows Phone just to keep it alive that it will take them 5-10 years before they will ever make any profit on the platform - and that's assuming it actually takes off. If it continues to muddle as it does now, it will remain a huge money pit - and at some point, shareholders and the new CEO will question its existence.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Aug 2014 11:25 UTC
Internet Explorer

Microsoft has had "passionate" discussions about renaming Internet Explorer to distance the browser from its tarnished image, according to answers from members of the developer team given in a reddit Ask Me Anything session today.

In spite of significant investment in the browser - with the result that Internet Explorer 11 is really quite good - many still regard the browser with contempt, soured on it by the lengthy period of neglect that came after the release of the once-dominant version 6. Microsoft has been working to court developers and get them to give the browser a second look, but the company still faces an uphill challenge.

Windows Phone faces the same problem. I'm fairly certain 'a Windows phone' just sounds dirty to many people, associating it with viruses and other issues from the past. Can't blame them.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 14th Aug 2014 19:37 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Samsung has officially announced its first metal phone in a very long time: the Samsung Galaxy Alpha. Normally, Samsung goes all-out in the specs department and puts all the pieces in a plastic case - but the Galaxy Alpha is all about design over specs.

Or, as I like to call it, the Samsung Galaxy Oh Crap.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Aug 2014 11:56 UTC
Apple

Steven P. Jobs established Apple University as a way to inculcate employees into Apple’s business culture and educate them about its history, particularly as the company grew and the tech business changed. Courses are not required, only recommended, but getting new employees to enroll is rarely a problem.

Although many companies have such internal programs, sometimes referred to as indoctrination, Apple's version is a topic of speculation and fascination in the tech world.

Mildly interesting puff piece on Apple, but what I found kind of hilarious is how the author chose Apple's mice as a shining example of Apple's philosophy. Apple makes some great, defining products - but Apple's mice are absolutely horrible. The little mice timeline also curiously omits the most horrible mouse in computer history.

About 7-10 years ago, I was talking to a sales person at the oldest and then-largest Apple retail chain in my country (founded by the first Dutchman to own a Mac). The sales person was obviously a fervent Apple fan, but as we were detailing my Mac purchase, he said "do you want an Apple mouse, or a mouse that works?"

The first thing I do when I buy a new Mac is toss out the Apple mouse.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Aug 2014 23:34 UTC, submitted by shotsman
Microsoft

When Microsoft announced its plans to scrap its Asha feature phones and shift its Android-based Nokia X to Windows, it appeared the company might be getting out of the low-end phone business entirely.

That's apparently not the case, though, as Microsoft is introducing the Nokia 130, a 19 euro ($25) cellphone that lacks an Internet connection but includes the ability to play digital music and movies along with an FM radio and flashlight. The new device sits in between the even more basic Nokia 105 and the Nokia 220, which does have some Internet abilities.

I'm glad Microsoft will continue to make phones like this. They are very important in large parts of the world, and these are the kinds of phones that made it possible for Nokia to bring the mobile phone to every corner of the world.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Aug 2014 23:26 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

A recent article in Taiwan and a related report by F-Secure raised privacy concerns by stating that Xiaomi devices are sending phone numbers to Xiaomi's servers. These concerns refer to the MIUI Cloud Messaging service described above. As we believe it is our top priority to protect user data and privacy, we have decided to make MIUI Cloud Messaging an opt-in service and no longer automatically activate users. We have scheduled an OTA system update for today (Aug 10th) to implement this change. After the upgrade, new users or users who factory reset their devices can enable the service by visiting "Settings > Mi Cloud > Cloud Messaging" from their home screen or "Settings > Cloud Messaging" inside the Messaging app - these are also the places where users can turn off Cloud Messaging.

We apologize for any concern caused to our users and Mi fans. We would also like to thank the media and users who have been sending us feedback and suggestions, allowing us to improve and provide better Internet services.

Fast response, but it's exactly this kind of shitty behaviour that especially a Chinese company simply cannot afford out here in the west. If Microsoft, Apple, or Google does something like this, they'll have armies of defenders and a huge PR department to solve it. Upcoming Chinese companies are generally much, much leaner and do not have that at all.

In any case, you're generally much better off with a custom ROM anyway, and this just yet another reason.