Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Mar 2014 23:15 UTC
3D News, GL, DirectX

DirectX 12 introduces the next version of Direct3D, the graphics API at the heart of DirectX. Direct3D is one of the most critical pieces of a game or game engine, and we've redesigned it to be faster and more efficient than ever before. Direct3D 12 enables richer scenes, more objects, and full utilization of modern GPU hardware. And it isn’t just for high-end gaming PCs either - Direct3D 12 works across all the Microsoft devices you care about. From phones and tablets, to laptops and desktops, and, of course, Xbox One, Direct3D 12 is the API you've been waiting for.

It's great that DirectX works across "phones and tablets, to laptops and desktops, and, of course, Xbox One", but an important adjective is missing here: Windows. With Microsoft playing little to no role in smartphone and tablets, and the desktop/laptop market being on hold, how much of a plus is DirectX on phones and tablets, really? Doesn't Windows Phone's and Windows 8 Metro's reliance on it only make it harder for game developers and houses to port their iOS and Android games over?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Mar 2014 23:10 UTC
Microsoft

One of the revelations in this week's case of a Microsoft worker who leaked pre-release Windows 8 software was that Microsoft accessed the Hotmail account of the blogger to whom the data was leaked. And it did so without a court order.

Well, it turns out Microsoft was apparently within its rights to do so, having explicitly carved out the right to access communications to protect its own intellectual property.

Yahoo and Google have similar clauses.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Mar 2014 20:01 UTC
Legal

Asked during a Wednesday hearing of the US government's institutional privacy watchdog if collection under the law, known as Section 702 or the Fisa Amendments Act, occurred with the "full knowledge and assistance of any company from which information is obtained," De replied: "Yes."

When the Guardian and the Washington Post broke the Prism story in June, thanks to documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program - Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL - claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers' data. Some, like Apple, said they had "never heard" the term Prism.

So, the companies most likely lied. What a surprise.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Mar 2014 23:00 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Early last year, Oppo was (one of?) the first company to ship a phone with a full HD display, on its Find 5. I bought one, and it became one of my favourite smartphones - a small Chinese company building phones with top-notch build quality, high-end (at the time) specifications, packaged in a distinctive and minimalist design.

A new year, and a new barrier to break - Oppo announced the successor to the Find 5 today. They call it the Find 7, and it ups the display game to crazy levels: it packs a 5.5" 2560x1440 (!) display, the first of its kind on a phone (again, it could be one of the first). I honestly have no idea if it makes any sense whatsoever to have such a crazy display on a phone. Will it really make a noticeable difference over current full HD displays? I doubt it.

It further boasts a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB RAM, and a 3000mAh battery. There's also a Find 7 'lite', which has a more traditional 1080p display, a slightly slower processor, and 2GB RAM. Unlike the Find 5, the Find 7 has a two features which I know will appeal to many OSNews readers: a removable battery and an SD card slot. Both of these features were added after requests from users.

Design-wise, the Find 7 loses some of the straightforward simplicity that I like so much about the Find 5; the phone is busier and messier, and the version with the crazy display has this fake carbon weave on the back that crosses into Samsung-tacky territory. The fancy elongated notification LED at the bottom is a nice touch, though.

All in all, the Find 7 is yet another noteworthy product from a Chinese manufacturer, and further proof of my conviction: Samsung, HTC, and other established players should be worried. I don't think Apple will care much, but Android manufacturers should take note.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Mar 2014 20:10 UTC
Games

The second version of the Oculus Rift development kit is similar to the Crystal Cove prototype in terms of features, but the fit and finish is much closer to what we’re likely to see in the retail virtual reality headset.

Also, last night:

The VR system is currently codenamed Project Morpheus, and will work with PlayStation 4. While still in prototype form, Yoshida says that Morpheus is the "culmination of our work over the last three years to realize our vision of VR for games, and to push the boundaries of play." The headset uses a 1080p LCD, offers a 90-degree field of view, and will integrate with the PlayStation Camera for tracking and PlayStation Move for motion control. It connects via HDMI and USB; while the current prototype uses a 5-meter cable, Sony would like to make it wireless. The company says the headset doesn't put weight on your nose or cheeks, and its design allows for airflow without the lenses fogging up.

I'm not particularly interested in this - it feels like the Pong days of VR. Give this 10-15 years, though, and I'm sure the headsets will not be the size of refrigerators. The future looks quite interesting.

Science, onwards to the holodeck!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Mar 2014 16:34 UTC
Google

Update: the round model is the Moto 360. Motorola has posted a video about its inception.

Android is coming to wearable devices, with the watch being the first focus.

If you're a developer, there's a new section on developer.android.com/wear focused on wearables. Starting today, you can download a Developer Preview so you can tailor your existing app notifications for watches powered by Android Wear. Because Android for wearables works with Android's rich notification system, many apps will already work well. Look out for more developer resources and APIs coming soon. We're also already working with several consumer electronics manufacturers, including Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola and Samsung; chip makers Broadcom, Imagination, Intel, Mediatek and Qualcomm; and fashion brands like the Fossil Group to bring you watches powered by Android Wear later this year.

This actually looks like the first smartwatch interface done right.

Android's notification system, Google Now, and the card UI feel right at home here. I could definitely see myself wanting one of these. LG will ship the first device in the next quarter, but personally I'm holding out for the circular device shown in Google's videos.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Mar 2014 14:13 UTC
Games

We're initially going to be launching our Linux support on GOG.com with the full GOG.com treatment for Ubuntu and Mint. That means that right now, we're hammering away at testing games on a variety of configurations, training up our teams on Linux-speak, and generally getting geared up for a big kick-off in the fall with at least 100 Linux games ready for you to play. This is, of course, going to include games that we sell which already have Linux clients, but we'll also be bringing Linux gamers a variety of classics that are, for the first time, officially supported and maintained by a storefront like ours.

...and the Linux gaming news just keeps on coming. I remember how dismissive many people were back when Valve announced its Steam Machine initiative, stating Microsoft's hold would never ever be broken.

Makes them sound like Nokia and BlackBerry during the iPhone's launch, doesn't it?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Mar 2014 10:28 UTC
Apple

Apple is adding a cheaper 8GB iPhone 5C to its smartphone lineup. The new model first appeared on UK carrier O2's site, but has since been added to a number of international Apple Stores including the UK, Australia, and China. In the UK, it's priced at £429, £40 ($66 including sales tax) less than the 16GB model. Should Apple choose to bring the new budget model to the US, the price seems likely to fall somewhere around $499.

An 8GB smartphone for $500. You can buy six Lumia 520s for that - almost one for every day of the week. You have to be utterly void of common sense to buy this phone. Then again, that seems to be the general attitude towards the 5C anyway.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Mar 2014 21:51 UTC
Microsoft

Satya Nadella is planning to host his first press event as Microsoft CEO next week. The software maker has been inviting members of the media to a special cloud- and mobile-focused event in San Francisco on March 27th. Nadella is expected to discuss Microsoft’s "mobile first, cloud first" strategy, and there will be some major news ahead of the company’s Build conference in early April. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the event will mark the introduction of Office for iPad.

Meanwhile, Office for Metro is nowhere in sight.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Mar 2014 19:17 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jolla has released its latest big update for Sailfish today, the fourth big update since the first release early December. It's got a whole boatload of improvements and fixes - the most important of which, to me at least, are two-way Google Calendar sync and landscape mode for email, messages, and notes. I'm also hoping for actually working sync for Gmail (read my review for more on that). Other improvements include lots of UI fixes, lots of new settings for the camera, improved Exchange ActiveSync support, and lots more.

The update is rolling out to all Jolla phones as we speak.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Mar 2014 17:46 UTC
In the News

The big story over the weekend.

The exit of engineer Julie Ann Horvath from programming network GitHub has sparked yet another conversation concerning women in technology and startups. Her claims that she faced a sexist internal culture at GitHub came as a surprise to some, given her former defense of the startup and her internal work at the company to promote women in technology.

GitHub's response:

We know we have to take action and have begun a full investigation. While that’s ongoing, and effective immediately, the relevant founder has been put on leave, as has the referenced GitHub engineer. The founder’s wife discussed in the media reports has never had hiring or firing power at GitHub and will no longer be permitted in the office.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 15th Mar 2014 16:35 UTC
Games

The GameCube GPU is a complex, tight-knit piece of hardware with impressive features for its time. It is so powerful and so flexible, it was used unmodified within the Wii architecture. For a comparison, just imagine a SNES running with an NES's graphics system. This is completely unheard of, before or since. The GameCube is a remarkable achievement of hardware engineering! With its impressive capabilities, emulating the GameCube's GPU has been one of the most challenging tasks Dolphin has ever faced.

Fantastic in-depth look at specific parts of the GameCube/Wii GPU, written by the developers of the Dolphin emulator.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Mar 2014 23:55 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

Stuff such as United's new offering generally arrives on Android sooner or later, and there are whole categories of apps - such as alternative keyboards - that are Android-only.

Much of the time, I'm an Android user myself, so I'm happy when something is available for Google's operating system and sorry when it isn't. But despite the fact that iOS's market share is much smaller than that of Android, and has been for years, Apple devices are still nearly always first in line when a major company or hot startup has to decide where to allocate its development resources. That's a dynamic that pundits keep telling us makes no sense - but it's happening, and its an enormous competitive advantage for Apple. 'Sounds like a victory to me.

iOS has won the application wars.

Sure, you have to disregard those gazilion Android applications iOS could never support (keyboards, launchers, SMS applications, browsers, task switchers, lock screens, etc., and so on, and so forth), but if you do that, then yes, iOS has won.

The tortoise is faster than the hare. Sure, you have to cut off the hare's legs first, but then, sure, yeah, the tortoise is faster.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Mar 2014 23:43 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

How large is the demand for Android phones made by Nokia? Well, if China is any indication, it's pretty big: Nokia announced today that it has had 1 million pre-orders in China alone. The more of these things sell, the larger a pickle it'll put Microsoft in.

So yeah, I hope Nokia sells lots of them.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Mar 2014 22:40 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

In late 2012, when I started up the Firefox for Metro team (I know that's not what Microsoft calls it anymore, but it remains how we talk about it in Mozilla), it looked like the next battleground for the Web. Windows is a massive ecosystem and Microsoft pushes its new platforms hard. At first, it looked like we would be locked out completely. We eventually broke open Metro (though never the RT line of ARM-based products) and we got to work.

In the months since, as the team built and tested and refined the product, we've been watching Metro's adoption. From what we can see, it's pretty flat. On any given day we have, for instance, millions of people testing pre-release versions of Firefox desktop, but we've never seen more than 1000 active daily users in the Metro environment.

Makes sense.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Mar 2014 11:16 UTC
In the News

A large reason for the halt of sales, says the memo, is Microsoft has a "new policy" of not supporting dual-OS products. Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, told us in January that "Microsoft does not want [dual-OS devices] to happen," and now tells The Wall Street Journal that "Google wants all-Android devices" as well.

While I doubt many consumers are waiting for dual-boot devices, I personally would love to have a tablet that boots both Android and Windows 8. It's a shame that's not going to happen.

I do wonder why the policy is proclaimed to be "new". Microsoft has always fought dual-booting products tooth and nail.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Mar 2014 19:31 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

First it was a huge backdoor, then it turned out not to be a big deal. Whatever is the case with this issue with Samsung phones - it only serves to highlight what I wrote about several months ago:

It's kind of a sobering thought that mobile communications, the cornerstone of the modern world in both developed and developing regions, pivots around software that is of dubious quality, poorly understood, entirely proprietary, and wholly insecure by design.

Whether or not this is actually a huge security issue, I don't care - it just further highlights the dire need for a properly and truly open baseband firmware.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Mar 2014 23:05 UTC, submitted by poundsmack
QNX

QNX 6.6 has been released. There are quite a lot of changes, but - sady - I doubt many of us work with QNX itself. It's quite popular in the embedded world, and, of course forms the foundation for BB10 - which has not exactly been a stellar success. Anywho, there's a pretty big change in 6.6:

The new Screen Graphics Subsystem replaces the Photon microGUI, including PhAB, Phindows, and QNX Neutrino Advanced Graphics. Usually referred to simply as "Screen", the Screen Graphics Subsystem allows off-screen rendering and can composite graphics from different rendering technologies, including HTML5, Elektrobit GUIDE, Crank Storyboard, Qt, and native (e.g., OpenGL ES) code.

Photon has been such a core part of QNX' identity for me that it's kind of weird to see it go.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Mar 2014 22:55 UTC
Mac OS X

In my Mac Pro review I lamented the state of 4K display support under OS X 10.9.0. In my conclusion I wrote: "4K display compatibility under OS X is still a bit like the wild west at this point". Compatibility was pretty much only guaranteed with the ASUS/Sharp 4K displays if you cared about having a refresh rate higher than 30Hz. Even if you had the right monitor, the only really usable resolution was 3840 x 2160 - which ends up making text and UI elements a bit too small for some users. Absent were the wonderful scaling resolutions that Apple introduced with its MacBook Pro with Retina Display. Well it looks like that won't be the case for long, last night I got reports (thanks Mike!) that the latest developer build of OS X 10.9.3 includes expanded support for 4K displays, 4K/60Hz support for rMBPs and scaled resolutions below 4K.

So, OS X is essentially the only desktop operating system with proper HiDPI support, right?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Mar 2014 23:31 UTC
Games

But the hardest thing of all, he says, was something else entirely. He hands me his iPhone so that I can scroll through some messages he's saved. One is from a woman chastising him for "distracting the children of the world." Another laments that "13 kids at my school broke their phones because of your game, and they still play it cause it's addicting like crack." Nguyen tells me of e-mails from workers who had lost their jobs, a mother who had stopped talking to her kids. "At first I thought they were just joking," he says, "but I realize they really hurt themselves." Nguyen - who says he botched tests in high school because he was playing too much Counter-Strike - genuinely took them to heart.

Fascinating interview with the Flappy Bird creator. I like this guy - he seems to have his priorities straight.