Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Aug 2016 22:19 UTC

The Note 7 is Samsung's best device ever, and arguably the best big phone ever made. If that's all you're looking to know, then you can stop reading right now and go place your order. It will cost you $849 or more, depending on carrier, and can be preordered now. It will be available in stores starting on August 19th.

But it's interesting to explore why the Note 7 is the best big phone ever. Samsung has more experience with big phones than any other company, and it is leveraging that to improve the big phone experience. It's the only company that's saying a big phone doesn't have to feel like a big phone or be saddled with compromises often associated with them. Samsung wants you to have your cake and eat it too, and that cake’s flavor is the Note 7.

I tried a big phone for the first time. I bought a Nexus 6P, set my iPhone 6S aside. While Android is without a doubt the superior platform compared to iOS, the Nexus 6P just isn't the right phone for me - it's just too big. Big phones are heavy phones, and the whole experience just left my frustrated and annoyed. So for now, I'm back to the iPhone 6S, because despite the inferior software, the smaller size is just a lot more pleasant.

So, I gave the big phone so many people swear by a shot, and it didn't work out for me.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Aug 2016 19:25 UTC, submitted by AmineKhaldi

ReactOS 0.4.2 has been released, as part of the project's new, faster release cycle.

Beyond the usual updates to external dependencies such as Wine and UniATA, much work has gone into refining the experience of using ReactOS, especially with respect to the graphical shell and the file explorer. Perhaps the most user visible change however is the ability now to read from and write to several Unix filesystems, namely ext family, ReiserFS, and UFS. Native built-in support for these filesystems should make for considerably easier interoperability than the current out-of-box experience provided by Windows, and there is more to come in the future.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Aug 2016 19:23 UTC

At IDF in San Francisco today, Microsoft's Terry Myerson said that the Windows Holographic experience, including the shell used on the HoloLens hardware, will be made available as an update to the standard Windows 10 desktop operating system some time next year.

Currently, the HoloLens runs a specialized variant of Windows. Desktop Windows offers many of the same APIs as the HoloLens, but the 3D user interface that mixes existing 2D apps with new 3D ones is only available on the augmented reality headset. Next year's update will make it available to all, opening it up not just to Microsoft's standalone device but also to hardware such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive that provide tethered virtual reality.

Virtual reality and Microsoft's HoloLens stuff seems like great products for professional applications, but I'm still not sold on the current crop of devices having any broader appeal. Maybe five years from now.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Aug 2016 03:43 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

I'm covering the topic of FreeRTOS and interrupts in my university lecture material. But I have seen so many wrong usage of interrupts with the RTOS that I think it deserves a dedicated article. The amazing thing I see many times: even if the interrupts are configured in a clearly wrong way, surprisingly the application 'seems' to work, at least most of the time. Well, I think everyone agrees that 'most of the time' is not good enough. Because problems with interrupts are typically hard to track down, they are not easy to fix.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Aug 2016 01:25 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Motorola and Element14 have launched a development kit for creating add-on modules for the new modular Moto Z smartphone, including an adapter for RPi HATs.

We don’t usually cover smartphones here at HackerBoards because most don’t offer much opportunity for hardware hacking. Yet, Lenovo’s Motorola Mobility subsidiary has spiced up the smartphone space this week by announcing a modular, hackable “Moto Mods” backplate expansion system for its new Android-based Moto Z smartphones.

In addition, Motorola has teamed up with Element14 to offer a $125, hardware-based Moto Mods Development Kit for building custom Moto Mods. Using this, developers can build their own Moto Mods add-ons for applications such as infrared cameras, e-ink displays, game controllers and printers to metal detectors, inventory tag readers, blood pressure monitors, and air pollution sensors, says Element14.


Linked by David Adams on Mon 15th Aug 2016 21:03 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The average selling price of a smartphone in India is just $132, half that of China, so the market for low-end smartphones is brisk. On top of that, there are many languages spoken in india, and support for them in Google's Android and iOS is limited. This created an opening for an Indus OS, which has its own app store with 30,000 Android apps, most available in two or more local languages. Its installed based is currently around 4 million.


Linked by David Adams on Mon 15th Aug 2016 20:51 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

A step-by-step guide on how to download, install, and start using Tails, the world's most secure platform.

Tails, an encrypted and anonymous OS that bundles widely used open source privacy tools on a tiny device, is one of the most secure operating systems in the world. The Linux distribution rose to popularity when it was revealed Edward Snowden relied on Tails to secure his identity while sharing NSA secrets with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. In the past half decade, Tails has been embraced as an essential security suite by journalists, hackers, and IT workers.


Linked by David Adams on Mon 15th Aug 2016 20:42 UTC

On the eve of launch of the latest generation of the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 we are reminded once again of Microsoft's failed Courier project, which was one of the first to propose a pen-first operating system.


Linked by David Adams on Mon 15th Aug 2016 20:38 UTC

Unlike the last major update, which added support for remote streaming to Macs and PCs, the 4.00 firmware beta (codenamed Shingen) is mostly focused on tweaking the PS4’s user interface. One of the biggest changes is the ability to create folders to organize your games and apps, instead of relying purely on Sony’s existing organizational tools. Another is that instead of taking over the whole screen, the Share and Quick menus will open as windows that don’t entirely cover your current game or app, and you’ll be able to add and remove items from the Quick menu to customize it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Aug 2016 09:52 UTC
Internet & Networking

In the years that followed, the future seemed obvious. The number of Gopher users expanded at orders of magnitude more than the World Wide Web. Gopher developers held gatherings around the country, called GopherCons, and issued a Gopher T-shirt - worn by MTV veejay Adam Curry when he announced the network's Gopher site. The White House revealed its Gopher site on Good Morning America. In the race to rule the internet, one observer noted, "Gopher seems to have won out."

Well, things turned out a little differently. Sadly, we tend to only remember the victors, not the ones lying in a ditch by the side of the road to victory.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Aug 2016 22:49 UTC

Update: interesting summary of the repository - "So, the stack seems to be: Dart is the language for GUI apps, Flutter provides the widgets, and Escher renders the layers."

Something intriguing: a new open source operating system from Google, Fuchsia, has found its way to Google's repositories. There's pretty much no information anywhere about this, and maybe I'm making way too much of this, but until we know more - anybody care to speculate?

There's a Fuchsia file that just reads "Pink + Purple == Fuchsia (a new Operating System)", so that's not much help. There's documentation on the kernel, Magenta, which may be of more use - it reads, among other things, "Magenta targets modern phones and modern personal computers with fast processors, non-trivial amounts of ram with arbitrary peripherals doing open ended computation." There's probably a lot more documentation in the repository, but I don't have the proper background to infer too much from what's going on.

Another very, very intriguing piece of information: it turns out several big names from the operating system industry (is that even a thing?) are involved - people who worked on NewOS, BeOS, Danger, iOS, and Palm's webOS, such as Travis Geiselbrecht and Brian Swetland.

This could be "just" a research project, or something more. Very interesting.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Aug 2016 22:35 UTC, submitted by Licaon_Kter

Microsoft has inadvertently demonstrated the intrinsic security problem of including a universal backdoor in its software after it accidentally leaked its so-called "golden key" - which allows users to unlock any device that's supposedly protected by Secure Boot, such as phones and tablets.

The key basically allows anyone to bypass the provisions Microsoft has put in place ostensibly to prevent malicious versions of Windows from being installed, on any device running Windows 8.1 and upwards with Secure Boot enabled.

I am out of snarky remarks. Yes, it's possible.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Aug 2016 22:19 UTC

There's a lot of words being written about the release of No Man's Sky, a long-awaited video game set in a procedurally generated universe with an effectively endless number of planets and lifeforms. The game has been in development by a relatively small team of developers for years, and the hype around the game reached epic proportions - to a point where it just became insane and crazy, with people clearly expecting way, way more of the game than it could ever deliver.

Ars has taken a look at the course of the hype train, and this is the key paragraph for me:

When Murray and Hello Games (as well as console publisher Sony) actually did show and talk about No Man's Sky, though, they were actually relatively restrained and realistic about what they were promising. Unlike Spore and Black and White - both of which saw saturation PR campaigns that promised revolutionary and industry-changing gameplay features that mostly didn't end up working out - it's hard to find many concrete promises made by No Man's Sky's developer and publisher that haven't ended up being true (with the possible exception of the multiplayer issue discussed above).

And that's all she wrote, for me. I've been following the development for this game for years, and it's always been crystal clear for me what this game would offer: collecting resources, discovering new worlds and species, expanding the basic capabilities of your ship and tools, rinse and repeat, until eventually reaching the centre of the universe. That's what the developers promised, and that's what I'm expecting tomorrow when the PC version unlocks.

All the additional hype around No Man's Sky comes from people themselves, and from stupid journalists hyping the game through the stratosphere without ever having played it. Had you stuck to what the developer and publisher have said over the course of the past number of years, instead of letting yourself get strung along the hype train by the press and Reddit, you'd know exactly what to expect tomorrow.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th Aug 2016 23:01 UTC

Adobe Flash Player played a pivotal role in the adoption of video, gaming and animation on the Web. Today, sites typically use technologies like HTML5, giving you improved security, reduced power consumption and faster page load times. Going forward, Chrome will de-emphasize Flash in favor of HTML5. Here's what that means for you.

Today, more than 90% of Flash on the web loads behind the scenes to support things like page analytics. This kind of Flash slows you down, and starting this September, Chrome 53 will begin to block it. HTML5 is much lighter and faster, and publishers are switching over to speed up page loading and save you more battery life. You'll see an improvement in responsiveness and efficiency for many sites.



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Aug 2016 22:39 UTC
In the News

AlphaGo's surprising success points to just how much progress has been made in artificial intelligence over the last few years, after decades of frustration and setbacks often described as an "AI winter." Deep learning means that machines can increasingly teach themselves how to perform complex tasks that only a couple of years ago were thought to require the unique intelligence of humans. Self-­driving cars are already a foreseeable possibility. In the near future, systems based on deep learning will help diagnose diseases and recommend treatments.

Yet despite these impressive advances, one fundamental capability remains elusive: language. Systems like Siri and IBM's Watson can follow simple spoken or typed commands and answer basic questions, but they can't hold a conversation and have no real understanding of the words they use. If AI is to be truly transformative, this must change.

Siri, Google Now, or Cortana are more like slow and cumbersome command line interfaces than actual AIs or deep learning or whatever - they're just a shell to a very limited number of commands, a number of commands they can barely process as it is due to the terrible speech recognition.

Language is incredibly hard. I don't think most people fully realise just how complex language can be. Back when I still had a job in a local hardware store in my area and I spent several days a week among people who spoke the local dialect, my friends from towns only mere kilometres away couldn't understand me if I went full local on them. I didn't actually speak the full dialect - but growing up here and working with people in a store every day had a huge effect on the pronunciation of my Dutch, to the point where friends from out of town had no idea what I was talking about, even though we were speaking the same language and I wasn't using any special or strange words.

That breadth of pronunciation within the same language is incredibly hard to deal with for computers. Even though my town and the next town over are only about 1-2 kilometres apart, there's a distinct pronunciation difference with some words if you listen carefully to longtime residents of either town. It's relatively elementary to program a computer to recognise Standard Dutch with perfect AN pronunciation (which I can actually do if I try; my mother, who is from the area where Standard Dutch is from, speaks it naturally), but any minor variation in pronunciation or even voice can trip them all up - let alone accents, dialects, or local proverbs or fixed expressions.

The question is, then, one that we have discussed before in my article on Palm and Palm OS:

There are several key takeaways from Dimond's Stylator project, the most important of which is that it touches upon a crucial aspect of the implementation of handwriting recognition: do you create a system that tries to recognise handwriting, no matter whose handwriting it is - or, alternatively, do you ask that users learn a specific handwriting that is easier for the system to recognise? This would prove to be a question critical to Palm's success (but it'll be a while before we get to that!).

If speech recognition is going to keep sucking as much as it does, today's engineers either have to brute-force it - throw tons of power at the problem - or ask of their users that they speak Standard Dutch or whatever it's called for your language when talking to their computers.

I'm not optimistic for the coming 10-20 years.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Aug 2016 22:38 UTC

It's time for a new version of Android, and that means I also get to make my yearly predictions about updates. Fun times!

Now, to be sure, unless a manufacturer has already committed to updating an existing phone, these are simply (mostly) educated guesses. We base them on a company's track record, the capabilities of the phone itself, and the number of phones a company makes. It's sort of like a blogger version of reading tea leaves and calling the bookmakers. And it's fun. Even when we get it wrong it's fun.

Since we're here because we are interested in Android, and most of us like to have a little fun, let's jump right in and answer the million dollar question - will my phone get updated to Android 7 Nougat?

These articles are depressing.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Aug 2016 23:50 UTC
Amiga & AROS is continuing its mission to make a whole bunch of older software available online, in your browser, through emulation, with a whole slew of Amiga software - games, mostly, but also some general software, as well as, of course, a whole bunch of demos.

The emulator in question is the Scripted Amiga Emulator, an emulator written in HTML5 and JavaScript. It's based on WinUAE and makes use of AROS' Kickstart replacement.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Aug 2016 20:08 UTC
Internet & Networking

Fast forward to July 15, 2016 (there’s that lab journal again…) when, after receiving an email from Google asking me to indicate how exactly I would like them to use my data to customise adverts around the web, and after thinking for a bit about what kind of machine learning tricks I would be able to pull on you with 12 years of your email, I decided that I really had to make alternative plans for my little email empire.

Somehow FastMail came up and in one of those impulsive LET'S WASTE SOME TIME manoeuvres, I pressed the big red MIGRATE button!

The rest of this post is my mini-review of the FastMail service after almost 3 weeks of intensive use.

I'm pretty sure at least some of you are contemplating a similar migration, away from companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple, to something else.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Aug 2016 18:42 UTC

So, is Apple doomed? Of course not. As John Gruber says, "Any conversation that uses that word is in silly la-la land." With Macs, iPads, and software applications and services, Apple isn’t a one-trick pony like BlackBerry, to use an example cited by those most freaked out about the recent iPhone slowdown. It recorded $50.6 billion in sales during that "disappointing" quarter, more than the combined revenue of Google parent Alphabet ($20.3 billion) and Amazon ($29.1 billion) over the same period. Its $10.5 billion in profits outpaced not just the combination of Alphabet ($4.2 billion) and Amazon ($513 million) but also Facebook ($1.5 billion) and Microsoft ($3.8 billion).

"I don't read all the coverage on Apple that there is," Cook tells me a few days after my lunch with Cue and Federighi. "The way that I look at that is, I really know the truth." And he's ready to talk about it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 6th Aug 2016 01:36 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

Can you spot the differences with the messages above? The left side has a few more capital letters than the right side. Big O, little o. Who cares, right?

Well, if you write for an app or website, you should care. A little thing like capitalization can actually be a big deal. Capitalization affects readability, comprehension, and usability. It even impacts how people view your brand.

While there are some more objective arguments to be made, most arguments for and against either title case or sentence case mostly come down to whatever you're used to - what you grew up with. Title case looks entirely ridiculous and confusing to me, and makes dialog boxes, text, and other things much harder to read than when it's in sentence case.

The reason? We don't use title case in Dutch. Everything is sentence case. In English, it's mostly a case of preference, and either case type is fine as long as you're consistent.

Interestingly enough, Apple - generally considered the poster child for title case - actually localises its choice for case type. When you run Apple software in, say, Dutch - it doesn't use title case at all, opting for sentence case instead, because that's the norm in Dutch.

Title case also appears to be on its way out - generally, while pre-internet publications use title case, publications originating from the internet generally use sentence case. I wouldn't be surprised to see title case fall into disuse almost entirely over the coming decades in English - including at Apple. There's going to be an inflection point where title case will simply look incredibly out of place in English, as younger generations grow up on new publications that do not use it.

Title case is old - very old - probably because lowercase evolved out of uppercase, and over the centuries, we've been slowly pushing uppercase letters to perform very specific functions in text. Capitals have become an integral and core part of punctuation rules in every (?) language using on the Latin, Greek (?), and Cyrillic (?) scripts, and while there is some variation here and there - e.g. German holding on to capitalising every single noun, not just proper nouns - there's a remarkable consistency between them.

I'm fairly certain English' title case is the odd-one out, and as the internet continues to break down barriers between cultures and languages, title case will eventually disappear from English, too.