Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Oct 2015 11:53 UTC

There's a worrying new trend in the Windows Phone world - applications are disappearing.

American Airlines, Chase Bank, Bank of America, NBC, Pinterest, and Kabam have all discontinued their Windows Phone apps in the past year. These huge apps have simply disappeared or will no longer be updated. Some companies have cited a lack of Windows Phone users, and others have remained silent, but each removal has put Microsoft another step behind in the mobile race.

It's not just third-party apps disappearing, either. Microsoft has removed several MSN apps and its popular Photosynth app, and the software maker has also killed off a number of special Lumia camera apps. Windows Phone users still don't have great Skype or Office apps like Microsoft produces for the iPhone. It's stunning that, after five years, the best experience of using Skype or Office on a phone isn't on one powered by Windows. This will change in Windows 10 Mobile, but it's not available yet.

Considering Microsoft's broken promises, abysmal messaging, glacial development pace, endless resets, and confusing strategies, it's entirely and 100% understandable that developers are giving Windows Phone the boot. I'm sure we'll get comments about "just you wait until Windows Phone 10!", but nobody is falling for those empty promises anymore.

Windows Phone could've been great, if only it hadn't been managed by utter incompetency.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Oct 2015 11:53 UTC

A very in-depth presentation concerning Virtualization Based Security (VBS) in Windows 10/Server 2016, something Microsoft seems to be investing heavily in. It's from Alex Ionescu, of ReactOS fame, delivered at Blackhat 2015.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Oct 2015 10:10 UTC
Internet & Networking

So, Medium tried a new thing on their website in which they render the site in system fonts - San Francisco, Roboto, Segoe - but soon they started getting bug reports from people about Medium showing blocky, pixellated fonts.

I looked again at all the system fonts and none seemed to match any of the descriptions. What was going on? I started asking for screenshots, and eventually a few trickled in.

And, suddenly, I realized I know this font. It was a font I saw on my first PC.

I love this story.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2015 21:04 UTC

If the ads pointing to a Friday pre-order date for the Priv didn't have you salivating already, things are starting to heat up. BlackBerry is now listing the Priv on ShopBlackBerry, and although you can't pre-order just yet, we now have a good look at pricing. For those of us in the U.S., it looks like the BlackBerry Priv is running a cool $750 unlocked. In Canada, on the other hand, it'll set you back $949 - definitely a pricey little beast. In addition, we're looking at a ship date of November 16 after pre-orders begin.

I like the Priv - finally a modern phone with a proper keyboard - but that is one hefty price tag. I think this kills a lot of the possible, albeit modest, success.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2015 20:59 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Earlier this year, Fairphone announced the Fairphone 2, which has been designed by the company from scratch and has a unique feature: the users can (and are encouraged to) easily disassemble the phone themselves, swap or upgrade parts, and keep using the device longer than any other similar smartphone. In a word, it is modular.

Interesting, and a very different approach than Google's Ara.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2015 06:33 UTC

Apple's released both OS X 10.11.1...

Apple today released OS X 10.11.1, which is the first update to the new El Capitan operating system that was launched to the public on September 30. In testing since mid-September, OS X 10.11.1 is a minor performance update that focuses on fixing bugs found in the first version of El Capitan.

...and iOS 9.1.

iOS 9.1 has a limited number of outward facing changes. It includes support for Unicode 7 and 8, introducing a range of new emoji like taco, burrito, cheese wedge, middle finger, champagne bottle, unicorn head, and more.

iOS 9.1 includes an update for Live Photos, which now sense when the iPhone is raised or lowered to refrain from recording unnecessary movements. The update also introduces a new Messages option in the Settings app that is designed to allow users to disable photos for contacts, and it brings Apple News to the UK for the first time.

Apple also released an update for the iPhone Mini, but nobody cares.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2015 06:19 UTC

The new option is called YouTube Red. It costs $9.99 per month and will be available for purchase on October 28th, starting in the US, then rolling out worldwide. Along with removing ads, subscribers will be able to save videos for offline viewing, and keep videos running in the background on mobile. That means you can listen to a music video or a TED Talk while checking email or surfing Instagram. That monthly fee also gives you access to Google Play Music, meaning you get two streaming services for the same price Spotify or Apple Music charge for one without video. As a final enticement, YouTube will also begin putting new, exclusive content behind a paywall.

I use YouTube a lot - several hours of let's plays a day - but the number of YouTube ads I get is so small - maybe once every ten videos, and always skippable - that I don't really see the need to pay €10 a month to get rid of them.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Oct 2015 06:17 UTC

The first reviews of Microsoft's new Surface Book are in - and it's kind of a mixed bag.

Is the Surface really the ultimate laptop that Microsoft claims it is? Nearly. I say that because sometimes I’m using the Surface Book and I just wish Microsoft had made a pure laptop. The display wobble can be irritating, and the weird gap when it’s closed means I have to clean the Surface Book every day. If Microsoft can fix the hinge in future versions and make it a lot less bulky then this could be great. It has a beautiful display, amazing battery life, and the keyboard and trackpad feel great. But even though that’s everything I want in a laptop, the accommodations Microsoft made to enable the tablet end up making the laptop experience less than ideal.

I had hoped for a pure laptop too - while I appreciate what Microsoft is trying to do, the compromises seem rather serious here, for something not a whole lot of people are going to use anyway. Joanna Stern agrees:

The design has some real flaws, though. The 3.3-pound, 0.9-inch-thick computer is chunkier than I’d like. And getting into it is like trying to crack a safe. The magnets that keep the system closed require you to throw too much back into it. Once you’re in, there’s a slight but unfortunate wobble in the display. This is related to that high-tech hinge that releases the screen when you press an eject key.

As for the Surface Pro 4? Well, it's exactly the same as the Pro 3, but with some minor enhancements. If you didn't like the idea of the Surface before, the Pro 4 won't change your mind.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Oct 2015 23:18 UTC

The Verge on the Nexus 6P:

The Nexus 6P effectively levels the playing field with other great phones by offering really beautiful hardware and a camera that can finally compete. And it does that while undercutting all of them on cost. The Nexus 6P starts at $499, and for that price there is not a single phone on the market that's better. Not one.

If you compare it to the other "premium" phones like the iPhone 6S, Galaxy S6, or Note 5, you're going to end up finding yourself putting a different set of things on your decision scales than before. With the Note 5: is a slightly better camera and a stylus worth $240 more, or would you rather have a clean Android experience? And the iPhone 6S: is iOS's superior app ecosystem and 3D Touch worth $150 more, or do you live in Google's ecosystem and want Google Now on Tap?

I find it remarkable that the Nexus 6P has managed to cram so much excellent, high-end phone - a great camera, even! - in such a small price tag. Except if you're European of course, where we're being hit with serious price hikes that really destroy the 6P's value proposition.

Just as remarkable: the Nexus 5X.

Still, if you’ve been holding onto a Nexus 5 for two years just waiting for Google to do right by you, those points might not matter. Barring few exceptions, such as the lack of wireless charging, there’s very little that a Nexus 5 lover will find to complain about with the 5X. It’s compact, cheap, and performs well, even if it’s not the best-looking or best-feeling phone you can get. If you’ve been eyeing Motorola’s new Moto X or the plethora of other phones in the sub-$500 price range, the 5X is a really compelling option. In fact, among phones under $450, I don’t think there’s a better option, and it’s easily the one I’d pick.

As one of those fervent Nexus 5 lovers - I may have bought an iPhone 6S, but my bright orange-red Nexus 5 will remain in my heart for a long time to come - the 5X really does appeal to me. I'm not a fan of the camera bulge, and it definitely needs an orange-red option, but other than that, it looks exactly like I imagined a 2015-2016 Nexus 5 would look.

These two phones are definitely the best Android phones you can buy right now bar none.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Oct 2015 08:50 UTC

OpenBSD 5.8 has been released. As usual, the list of changes goes way beyond my comfort zone - I'm not exactly into the world of BSD - but I'm pretty sure that those that use OpenBSD aren't interested in oversimplified nonsense from people like me anyway.


Linked by Thexder on Tue 20th Oct 2015 08:47 UTC

The Uthernet II is an ethernet card solution for the Apple II computer series that has just arrived on the scene. It provides a built-in TCP/IP stack using the Wiznet W5100 chip making it easier to develop applications. Several programs have already been updated to take advantage of the new card, including Contiki. Order your own card at A2 Retro Systems.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 18th Oct 2015 11:10 UTC, submitted by Wi
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Solu might look like a drinks coaster but don't put your coffee on it; this is a four-inch wide block of curved, wood-encased computer with an edge-to-edge touch screen. Inside is a powerful 2.3GHz processor, battery and Wi-Fi capability. It can be used on its own or paired with a keyboard and a display up to a resolution of 4K. When paired in this way, the Solu acts as an input device instead of a mouse.

I'm obviously sceptical of this ever making any dent anywhere (see, sadly, that other Finnish mobile product), but at least they're trying, and I do wish them all the luck in the world. They'll need it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 18th Oct 2015 10:59 UTC
Mac OS X

I thought it'd be a "fun" project to see what the "El Capitan License" actually says. Cool idea, huh? Kind of like spelunking through a cave that everyone says they’ve been through, but maybe no one really has. What will I find wedged in a wall or lurking in the dark around the next turn?

These software licences are always pretty much the same - and unlike what many people assume, they're really not targeted at us, the user, but more at limiting liability for the company that writes them. Clearly, as always, Apple is no different than all the others.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Oct 2015 18:40 UTC

Yesterday, I linked to a story from Samantha Bielefeld, in which she respectfully and eloquently disagreed with Marco Arment concerning the viability of the patronage model for independent developers. I would've left it at that, but as it turns out, she's really been facing a considerable amount of abuse from Arment and his followers. Yesterday, John C. Welch published a (rather rantish) overview of some of the public tweets going back and forth, which were already pretty bad, but apparently, the private emails and messages Bielefeld received were way, way worse.

I'm new to the idea of writing for an audience, and certainly inexperienced when it comes to receiving hundreds of hurtful emails in response. A word of wisdom to female writers out there; if you publish something negative about Marco, you will receive threats of rape, and physical harm.

I hope Bielefeld doesn't quit writing - even though I would completely understand if she did - because this industry desperately needs people who aren't white, male, well-off, 20-40, and straight. Less people like myself, please.

I'll let Bielefeld take it away.

Marco, I've never argued that your success fell into your lap. You worked for years to get to where you are now, and you've earned your following. I do stand by my belief that your position gives you an immediate leg up, even when it isn't warranted. My article on Wednesday only came to be because of a statement I made when reviewing Overcast 2.0. I said that I was pleased to see your attempt at a patronage model, and this led to many developers reaching out to me, to inform me of the broader discussion, and their disgust that you would attempt to categorize yourself alongside them. So why don't you just do us all a favor, and start acknowledging yourself as the arrogant, privileged rich guy with a huge advantage that we all know you to be? After all, you did earn it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Oct 2015 11:25 UTC

Valve Software's Steam platform has become the go-to source for gamers focused on the PC. With a huge catalog, constant sales and a consumer-first attitude, the digital store for games has exploded. As of the beginning of 2014, it had topped 75 million users.

But can that success translate into the living room and hardware, two arenas Valve has yet to conquer?

Valve's first round of officially branded Steam Machines will roll out from several manufacturers beginning on Nov. 10. Before that happens, Polygon was able to go hands-on with Alienware's version of the Steam Machine, which comes packed with a quad-core Intel Core i7 processor, a custom-built Nvidia GeForce GTX card and 8 GB of RAM. We also got to test out Steam's unique new controller.

I ordered a Steam Link (without controller) which should arrive any day now. I've heard nothing but praise for Steam's streaming, so I'm excited to try it out.


Written by Thom Holwerda on Thu 15th Oct 2015 22:32 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

In the past few weeks, Marco Arment, co-founder of Tumblr and creator of Instapaper, released version 2 of his podcast application for iOS, Overcast, for free. There's only one in-app purchase, which doesn't unlock any additional functionality, but just sends some money Arment's way. Call it patronage, if you will. Coinciding with the release, he published a blog post in which he states that any indie developer can just give away their full work for free, so his 'new' model should work for everyone.

Obviously, this caused a bit of a ruckus, since it's easy for a multimillionaire like Arment to give away his work for free. His situation is clearly unique, and most independent application developers barely get by as it is. Or, as Samantha Bielefeld puts it:

The issue isn't that Marco is successful, there are many app developers who would love to be in the same position. He has earned his time in the spotlight, and it's only natural for him to take advantage of it. Though to state that anyone can simply do the same thing and be successful, is just plain wrong. He has accelerated the race to the bottom for the podcast app category, and he comes bearing a huge following of people who will give him money for nothing in return except for the possibility of further development of Overcast. The average developer isn't being called out by name by Phil Schiller for something negative they have written about Apple. The only thing "indie" about Marco is that he works by himself. He is far removed from the typical experience of app creators, and even if it's deserved, it wouldn't hurt for him to be a little more humble, and realistic.

And she's completely and utterly right, of course.

This doesn't surprise me, though. Over three years ago, when the first Retina MacBook Pro came out, Arment and I had a Twitter exchange about something he said: he said that any web developer should immediately run out and buy this €2300 laptop because retina would be the future, and if they didn't, they weren't taking their work seriously.

I pointed out to him that for the majority of people working on the web, €2300 is a lot of money, and most of us don't have that kind of money just lying around. It might be pocket change to a millionaire, but it's almost a full month's salary for me (now - not so much in 2012, when I earned much less than I do now), and in many places in the world with active web developers, it's probably several months' worth of salary.

This exchange with Arment has always stuck with me, because I wanted to make sure that I would never turn out this way. I'm not rich by any stretch of the imagination (i.e., Dutch standards!), but despite my income being decidedly middle-class, I still belong in the, uh, I don't know, top 5% or so of the world - just by virtue of being Dutch. I'm 'rich' enough to buy several new phones, tablets, and computers a year to make sure I remain familiar with as many platforms as possible for OSNews, but I realise damn well that I'm incredibly lucky I can do so, and would never just assume that everyone else can as well.

So no, this kind of attitude doesn't surprise me at all. I call this the Donald Trump reasoning: everybody can be rich, if only they were Donald Trump.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Oct 2015 23:19 UTC
In the News

This isn't a fully autonomous vehicle in the vein of a Google car, though - the primary feature is what Tesla calls Autosteer, which keeps the car in its current lane once you're already on the road and manages speed and distance from the car ahead. On the call, Elon Musk was careful to call out Autosteer as a "beta" feature - drivers are told to keep their hands on the wheel, even when the function is engaged. "We want people to be quite careful" at first, Musk said, while admitting that "some people" may take their hands off the wheel regardless. "We do not advise that," he added. An upcoming version 7.1 will add the ability to send the car off to a garage on its own and come back to pick you up, another feature teased when Musk first announced autopilot capabilities last year.

Am I the only one who feels a little uncomfortable about a function like this being designated 'beta', but still sent to every Tesla driver? People - including myself, and yes, even Tesla drivers - are idiots, and I don't trust them to follow Musk's advice at all.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Oct 2015 23:15 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Intel and Microsoft are teaming with three leading PC makers on a new ad campaign designed to make potential computer buyers more aware of all the things a modern PC can do.

The campaign, with the slogan "PC Does What?" is set to be announced Thursday at a Webcast featuring the companies' top marketing executives, according to sources familiar with the companies' plans. It will feature TV, print and online advertisements, sources said.

I expect this to be really cringe-inducing. In other words, we'll get some entertainment out of it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Oct 2015 20:55 UTC

Apple's Swift has been available for over a year now, and Apple has promised it will be made available under an Open-Source license by the end of 2015.

That's great, but could I run Swift code on an Android device today?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Oct 2015 23:30 UTC

On October 12th, Microsoft began rolling out Windows 10 build 10565 to the Fast ring. The newly released build includes new changes and improvements on the Start menu, desktop environment, Cortana, brand new apps, including the Messaging, Phone, and Skype video apps. Also, there are new enhancements for the Microsoft Edge web browser and a lot more.

Microsoft really seems to finally be putting some weight behind its own applications, updating them more often, and releasing impactful Windows updates more regularly.

I'm far, far from complaining. Nice.