Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jun 2014 22:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Xiaomi (pronounced she-yow-mee) is one of the fastest-growing tech companies in the world. It's the sixth-largest handset maker on earth and No.‚ÄČ3 in China, behind Samsung Electronics and Lenovo Group, according to research firm Canalys. Xiaomi's recent growth is impressive, and its potential is even greater. In 2013, the company says, it sold 18.7 million smartphones almost entirely from its own website, bringing in $5 billion in revenue. Earlier this year, Lei set an internal goal of selling 40 million smartphones in 2014, then raised it to 60 million. In a financing round last August, venture capitalists gave Xiaomi a $10 billion valuation, about on par with 30-year-old PC maker Lenovo and Silicon Valley darlings Dropbox and Airbnb. At the same time, Xiaomi has branched out from smartphones to tablets, the large-screen HDTVs, a set-top box and home router, phone cases, and portable chargers, as well as a $16 white plush toy bunny - Mitoo, the company mascot, who wears a red-starred Chinese army hat.

The technology establishment's biggest threat comes from the east.

 

Linked by ddc_ on Thu 5th Jun 2014 22:50 UTC
BSD and Darwin derivatives

The new release includes new USB stack (USB4BSD), which supports USB3; updated video drivers for Intel and AMD cards (although latter are still disabled by default); binaries in /bin and /sbin are now dynamic, allowing for PAM and NSS. The HAMMER2 filesystem is also included, but not ready for general use just yet.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Jun 2014 22:49 UTC
Mac OS X

There are still many rough edges in the new OS but overall I am really excited about the visual direction that Mac OS X Yosemite is taking. It demonstrates a more mature and subtle approach in adapting iOS 7 design language. No ultra thin fonts, no crazy parallax, no ridiculous icons, just subtle use of translucent materials accompanied by a bright and cheerful palette. Using the new OS feels fresher, exciting, and more modern. I am looking forward to exploring other design changes in the the new OS that I may have missed.

I'm definitely pleased with the design direction Apple is taking OS X into, despite the fact that as it currently stands it's clearly still in flux. We're in beta, though, so that's just fine. The two biggest issues to me are one, that text input fields and buttons are not visually different, and two, that neither of them get any mouseover effect whatsoever - both cursor and button/input fields remain exactly the same.

Something else I've noticed: is it just me, or does Apple use a different theme on-stage during a keynote than what actually ships in the beta right now? The transparency and colours pop way more during the keynote than while using the beta. Odd.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th Jun 2014 17:23 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Android's biggest weakness is the horrible upgrade situation. Where iOS and Windows Phone users are generally always running the latest version, Android users generally have to settle for whatever version the likes of Samsung and HTC bothered to release for their device. This is a horrible situation for developers and user alike, and, in my view, should be Google's number one priority.

Unless, of course, you're running a custom ROM. This morning my Find 5 greeted me with an update notification, but that's normal - I get a new OmniROM OTA delta update every morning. This time, however, something was different: the version number clearly stated this update would bump my Find 5 from Android 4.4.2 to 4.4.3. As it turns out, the OmniROM team is already pushing 4.4.3 to all the devices it officially supports (52 phones and tablets).

A mere three days after Google pushed 4.4.3 to AOSP.

Thanks to the tireless work of our own Xplodwild, Omni has now merged the changes to Android 4.4.3, and these will be rolling out in nightly builds for the 5th June. As I write this, builds are scheduled to start in around 20 minutes or so, and will appear at our download pages once they are completed. They will also be available through Omni's inbuilt delta OTA updater, as always.

This is just one of the many, many reasons you should be running a custom ROM. Aside form the fact that a proper custom ROM is lighter and cleaner than the crappy OEM ROMs, they are also more secure because they tend to be up-to-date. In addition, warranty is not an issue because, at least in the EU, rooting and custom ROMs do not void your warranty.

As an aside - the fact that a single person, Xplodwild, can make sure Android 4.4.3 runs on 52 devices within a matter of days of the code becoming available is all the proof you need (in case you still needed it) that carriers and OEMs are simply incredibly incompetent at doing their job. Sure, they have to provide warranty and service so some form of delay is understandable because they require more testing, but the way they refuse to update most, if not all, of their devices in a timely manner or even at all should be a crime.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jun 2014 22:47 UTC
Mac OS X

Virtualizing OS X is a thing that can today be done very easily, with VMware and VirtualBox fully supporting it under OS X hosts. But what about virtualizing it using a bare metal hypervisor and QEMU? Under Linux? Finally I've got Mavericks fully working under QEMU (with no extra kexts(!)) and it wasn't easy.

Impressive.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jun 2014 15:32 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Interesting and detailed review of the OnePlus One by AndroidCentral, but this paragraph stood out to me:

Even with all of the right decisions made here, this isn't revolutionary hardware design. There's no two-tone camera flash, fingerprint scanner, ultra-high resolution display, waterproofing, dedicated two-stage camera key, massive camera sensor, front-facing speakers, heart rate sensor, back buttons or anything of the sort. The OnePlus One is just a phone, basically shaped like every other phone and with absolutely no design flair or features to set it apart from other devices.

In my view, it's exactly this lack of "design flair and features" that sets it apart from the competition. There's no fake leather, no fake metal backplate, nu buttons on the back, no super-sized gimmicky protruding camera sensors, useless fingerprint scanners, double camera sensors, heart rate monitors, flair guns, flamethrowers, fishing poles, and god knows what else the established players shove into and onto phones these days.

It's a minimalist device focused almost entirely on a smartphone's most important aspect - its display. And it's exactly this minimalism that makes it stand our from the pack.

 

Written by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jun 2014 18:24 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

My love and appreciation for Palm OS is somewhat obvious around these parts, culminating in the detailed Palm OS retrospective I wrote a little over a year ago. I consider Palm OS to be the shoulders on which all subsequent mobile operating systems are built, and I believe it would do the current technology press and users a world of good if they acquainted themselves with this prescient masterpiece.

That being said, with Palm OS being old and dead, the only way to experience it is to get your hands on a real device on eBay or its local equivalent in your country of residence. If you go down this route - which I strongly advise everyone to at least look into - try and go for the ultimate Palm device, the Palm T|X. It's the most advanced PDA Palm ever built, and you can pry mine from my cold, dead hands.

Sadly, not everyone has the disposable income, time, will, desire, or any combination thereof, to go out and buy real hardware just to play with a dead operating system and all the hardships that come with it. Since I still want to spread the word of Palm OS, I've been looking into an alternative - namely, the Palm OS Simulator.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jun 2014 12:25 UTC
Mac OS X

Close, minimize, and maximize are now close, minimize, and full screen, eliminating the extra full-screen control and consolidating the window controls in one place. Streamlining these and other elements of the interface means you can navigate the desktop more efficiently.

OS X' idea of "maximise" was "some random window resizing nobody really used anyway", so I'm glad Apple finally replaced it with something else. Too bad OS X' fullscreen view is way too disruptive for my tastes to be of any practical use.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jun 2014 19:44 UTC
Apple

Apple's WWDC kicked off today, with the usual keynote address. Apple unveiled OS X 10.10 Yosemite and iOS 8 - packed with new features, but I can't detail all of them. There's a lot of catch-up going on here with the competition, but even so, they're still great features for iOS users. In fact, I would go as far as to say that iOS 8 may provide a pretty convincing argument for a number of Android users to come back to iOS - especially combined with all the other new features.

For instance, iOS is finally getting a form of Android-like inter-application communication called Extensions. The implementation details will differ, of course, but essentially, iOS is getting Android's Intents for a far more seamless multitasking-like user experience. For applications updated to support Extensions, you no longer have to jump in and out of applications; instead, one application can call up specific parts of another. Similarly, iOS will also finally allow third party keyboards for those of us who don't like the default iOS keyboard. Apple is also opening up the notification tray to third party widgets.

An area where Apple is not playing catch-up but is clearly ahead of the game is a set of features that personally impressed me the most about iOS: Continuity. Essentially, using Bluetooth and proximity information, your iPad/iPhone and Mac can work together to a far greater (and easier) degree than ever before. For instance, an incoming call on your iPhone automatically pops, and can be answered, through your Mac. Working on a Keynote document on your iPad? Keynote on the Mac will notify you of it, allowing you to easily pick up where you left off on your iPad - and vice versa.

There's tons of other examples, and I'm really excited about its potential. To me, this approach to bridging the gap between PC and mobile seems far more useful than Microsoft's one-operating-system-for-all approach. Coincidentally, it highlights Google's problem of not being in control of a major PC operating system.

OS X 10.10 Yosemite is intriguing. It constitutes a complete visual overhaul of OS X, with a lot of blurred transparency, iOS-like visuals, and a sidebar full of widgets. Some of the language used regarding the blurred transparency and the sidebar were the exact same words used by Microsoft for Aero and the Vista sidebar, but overall, I'm really liking the new design. It's a fantastic step forward from a design that, in my view, had become quite stale and messy, to a more unified set of visuals and UI elements that, at least on the stream looked absolutely fantastic - especially in the new 'dark mode', which replaces the white with blacks.

All the above (plus the huge amount of stuff I haven't mentioned) would be more than enough for a really strong keynote, but Apple had one more major trick up its sleeve - and for the developers among you, this is a big one: Apple introduced Swift, a new programming language set to replace Objective-C. Apple claims - of course - that it will be faster and easier than Objective-C, but we'll need proper hands-on from developers to substantiate those claims. It's a huge deal, though: Apple essentially just introduced the way forward for its developers, after twenty years of Objective-C. And nobody saw it coming.

All in all, this keynote was Apple at its very best, in optima forma, showing a set of improvements, new features, and new products that really constitute major steps forward for Apple's ecosystem. iOS still can't grab my attention in any meaningful way (too little, too late), but OS X 10.10 is shaping up to be a fantastic (free!) update, and I can't wait to pull my 2012 iMac out of storage and try it out.

That being said - all the amazing stuff Apple showed today made one distinct part of the keynote stand out like a bright yellow Lumia in a unitary sea of grey iPhones: the competition bashing. The bashing has reached such a low point this year that Tim Cook had to resort to flat-out lying to smear Android. Not only did Cook lie about Android version adoption rates, he also trotted out the baseless scaremongering from anti-virus peddlers about malware writers focusing on Android. Sure, those people target Android - but Android is so secure that despite all this effort from malware makers, their results are absolutely laughable.

With such an incredibly strong showing, the bashing stood out more than usual, especially because many of the features and improvements demonstrated by Apple today consist of things the competition has been enjoying for years. All this bashing detracted from the amazing work done by Apple's engineers, and simply wasn't necessary.

Strong showing marred by unnecessary pettiness.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jun 2014 12:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Finally.

Well, it looks like Samsung finally managed to do what it has been trying to do for a painfully long time - the Korean manufacturer has made its first Tizen-powered phone official. Called the Samsung Z, the phone features a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display of 1280x720 resolution and is powered a quad-core 2.3GHz processor (most like a Snapdragon 800), and runs on version 2.2.1 of Tizen. The Z comes with a new look that should come as a breath of fresh air for those who have gotten bored of Samsung's design language on Android devices (let's face it, who hasn't?), though the overall design seems to be along the same lines as the company's previous efforts.

I want one of these, like, right now. Not only is it an alternative operating system backed by a huge player, it's also very likely to become a rarity a few years down the line. A great and fascinating addition to my collection.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jun 2014 12:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

iTnews points to a study performed by Joseph J. Mueller and Timothy D. Syrett of IP firm WilmerHale, and Ann Armstrong of Intel, which concludes that for an average $400 smartphone (no subsidies), patent royalty costs may be higher than component costs.

Indeed, the royalty data shows that the potential royalties demands on a smartphone could equal or even exceed the cost of the device's components. To be sure, for the reasons described above, many of the so-called "headline" rates on which these royalty figures are based may not withstand negotiation or litigation, but they have nonetheless been sought (and received) from some licensees. With the addition of royalties for the components/technologies for which we did not have sufficient data to include royalty figures, the total potential royalties would increase. Without access to the actual royalty figures paid by smartphone suppliers it is impossible to know for certain their magnitude. But our research demonstrates that they are likely significant. Indeed, the available data suggest that the smartphone royalty stack may be one important reason why selling smartphones is currently a profitable endeavor for only a small number of suppliers.

Let me repeat that last line for you - savour it and let it sink in.

Indeed, the available data suggest that the smartphone royalty stack may be one important reason why selling smartphones is currently a profitable endeavor for only a small number of suppliers.

Bingo. This is exactly why the patent system will never change: this construction benefits the large players immensely. Smaller players will have a hard time keeping up with the patent costs, since they most likely won't have much to barter with patent-wise. The result is less competition for established players.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 1st Jun 2014 21:33 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

There were two striking pieces of business news this week from America's leading technology brands. On the one hand, Google unveiled a prototype of an autonomous car that, if it can be made to work at scale, promises to end mass automobile ownership while drastically reducing car wreck fatalities and auto-related pollution. Meanwhile, Apple bought a company that makes high-end headphones.

Which is to say that Apple's playing checkers while Google plays chess.

For better or worse, this is exactly why many people seem to hold Google in higher regard than they do Apple. Both Apple and Google are rich and wealthy beyond average-person-measure. Now, which company will be liked more: the one that uses said wealth to develop crazy may-or-may -not-work technologies that can change the world at a massively substantial scale, or the one that stuffs $150 billion in shady bank accounts to avoid having to pay taxes?

The more wealth you hoard, the less sympathetic people will be towards you. Unless, of course, you use that wealth in a very public way.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 1st Jun 2014 21:26 UTC
Linux

Subgraph OS was designed from the ground-up to reduce the risks in endpoint systems so that individuals and organizations around the world can communicate, share, and collaborate without fear of surveillance or interference by sophisticated adversaries through network borne attacks.

Subgraph OS is designed to be difficult to attack. This is accomplished through system hardening and a proactive, ongoing focus on security and attack resistance. Subgraph OS also places emphasis on the integrity of installable software packages.

Strange how only a few years ago, I'd call this stuff paranoid.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 31st May 2014 20:29 UTC
Windows

Microsoft has stopped providing XP users with security updates, forcing them to either upgrade to another, newer operating system, or gamble with their safety. While the latest usage figures show that a large portion of users are moving away from XP, there's still a sizable number of users who aren't - or can't.

If you're an XP user, or know some XP users, there's a trick which makes it possible to receive security updates for the aging OS for another five years - right up until April 2019.

I have a better solution. No registry hacks required!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 31st May 2014 00:15 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Samsung has begun rolling out an update to the Galaxy Gear that will bring over Tizen, the company's in-house OS, to the smartwatch. The update carries software version 2.2.0, and while the entire OS will be replaced, most users won't notice any visual differences. However, quite a few improvements and new features are to be had - improved performance and battery life, features such as an standalone music player (you can store music on the watch itself), customizable shortcuts for tap input, voice commands in the camera, among others.

I'm still waiting on the Tizen phones Samsung has been promising for years. Even though it's essentially 'TouchWiz OS' (in other words, cringe-worthy), it's still an alternative operating system I would love to play with.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 31st May 2014 00:12 UTC, submitted by teo
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Over the past 24 hours the website for TrueCrypt (a very widely used encryption solution) was updated with a rather unusually styled message stating that TrueCrypt is "considered harmful" and should not be used.

Very odd story. Lots of little red flags going up all over the place.

 

Linked by nfeske on Fri 30th May 2014 13:10 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes The just released Genode version 14.05 comes with new tools that greatly improve the interoperability of the framework with existing software. Together with a new process-local virtual file system embedded in the C runtime, this change should clear the way to scale Genode well beyond the current state. Besides these infrastructural changes, the release comes with a new block-level encryption facility, enables USB 3.0 on x86, introduces SMP support to the base-hw kernel, enables real-time scheduling on the NOVA hypervisor, and adds guest-addition support for VirtualBox on NOVA.

After the feature-rich release 14.02, the Genode developers took the chance to thoroughly revisit the tooling and overall structure of the framework. The goal was to improve its scalability with steadily growing amount of third-party software combined with the framework. Genode-based system scenarios combine the work of up to 70 open-source projects. However, until now, the framework lacked proper tools to manage such third-party code in a uniform way. In particular, upgrades of third-party software were poorly supported. To overcome those problems, the project took the wonderful Nix package manager as inspiration, created a set of new tools, and reworked the build system to make the porting and use of third-party software much more enjoyable and robust.

Most ported 3rd-party software relies on a C runtime. Genode offers a fairly complete libc based on FreeBSD's libc. However, translating the POSIX API to the Genode API is not straight forward. For example, Genode does not even have a central virtual file system service. Hence, different applications call for different ways of how POSIX calls are translated to the Genode world. Until now, the different use cases were accommodated by specially crafted libc plugins that tailored the behavior of the C runtime per application. However, as the number of applications grew, the number of libc plugins has grown too. In the new version, the framework consolidates the existing libc plugins to a generic virtual file system (VFS) implementation. In contrast to a traditional VFS that resides in the OS kernel, Genode's VFS is a plain library embedded in the C runtime. To the C program, it offers the view on a regular file system. But under the hood, it assembles the virtual file system out of Genode resources such as file-system sessions, terminal sessions, or block sessions. Since each process has its own VFS configured by its parent process, the access to resources can be tailored individually per process.

In addition to the infrastructural changes, the new version comes with plenty of platform-related improvements. Genode's custom kernel platform for ARM devices named base-hw has received multi-processor support and a new memory management that alleviates the need to maintain identity mappings in the kernel. The NOVA microhypervisor has been adapted to make static priority scheduling usable for Genode. Thereby the kernel becomes more attractive for general-purpose OS workloads on the x86 architecture. Also related to NOVA, the project has continued its line of work to run VirtualBox on this kernel by enabling support for guest-additions, namely shared folders, mouse-pointer synchronization, and real-time clock synchronization.

In line with the project's road map, the new version features a first solution for using encrypted block devices. The developers decided to use NetBSD's cryptographic device driver (CDG) as a Genode component. One motivation behind the use of CDG was to intensify the work with the rump kernel project, which allows the execution of NetBSD kernel subsystems at user level. After the project successfully used rump kernels as file-system providers with the previous release, extending the use of rump kernels for other purposes was simply intriguing.

These and more topics are covered in the comprehensive release documentation for Genode 14.05.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th May 2014 11:02 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

My love of typography originated in the 80's with the golden years of 8-bit home computing and their 8x8 pixel monospaced fonts on low-resolution displays.

It's quite easy to find bitmap copies of these fonts and also scalable traced TTF versions but there's very little discussion about the fonts themselves. Let's remedy that by firing up some emulators and investigating the glyphs.

I've been looking at a lot of these 8bit fonts because of recent emulation efforts. I'd like to throw Visi On's fonts into the fray, too.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th May 2014 10:58 UTC, submitted by sb56637
Internet & Networking

The competition between Google and DuckDuckGo proved to be surprisingly fierce. In many respects the tiny DuckDuckGo holds its own against the giant that is Google, and even more so if the user is willing to slightly manipulate the search query to work around DuckDuckGo's temperamental intelligence layer. So it is heartening to see that DuckDuckGo is a viable alternative to Google by its own merits. But the elephant in the room here is Google's extensive tracking of user data. For that reason many users will staunchly avoid it on moral grounds, and for them the natural recourse is DuckDuckGo. Fortunately for them, it's a really great choice. In my case, privacy is not a primary concern. But having a top-notch search engine is. That's why I set DuckDuckGo as my browser's default search engine, and here's hoping it stays there for a long time.

I tried the 'new' DDG as well since it came out, setting it as my default search engine. Sadly, my experience wasn't as positive - it simply didn't find the things I was looking for about 80% of the time. Within a few days, I got into the habit of simply adding !g to every search query to go straight to Google anyway since that gave me the results I was looking for.

DDG's interface and presentation are far superior to Google's, but in the end, it's the results that matter, and not the coat of paint they're covered in. I do agree with the author's note about Google always - infuriatingly always - leading with YouTube video results on every damn query. So annoying.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th May 2014 21:19 UTC
Apple

Apple, the company that turned digital music into a mainstream phenomenon, said on Wednesday that it was buying Beats Electronics, the rising music brand, for $3 billion, in a move that will help it play catch-up with rivals that offer subscription-based music services.

I still have no idea why Apple is buying these guys. Then again, that's probably why I'm not a billionaire.

Coincidentally, I find it highly entertaining that technically, this is now an Apple product.