Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 5th Mar 2014 22:55 UTC
Microsoft

Nadella, who succeeded Ballmer one month ago, took a step this week by unraveling part of a restructuring his predecessor put in place in one of his last acts as chief executive officer. Nadella appointed onetime Democratic political operative Mark Penn to the just-invented post of strategy chief and shuffled other executives to resolve an unwieldy setup Ballmer had established in the marketing department.

Interesting look at the goings-on surround Ballmer's end.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 5th Mar 2014 18:42 UTC
Windows

What's missing on all non-Microsoft platforms, as it turns out, is a formalized way to view at least two mobile apps side-by-side on screen. This is a feature that Microsoft added to Windows 8 and then improved dramatically in Windows 8.1, and while many desktop users scoff at its simplicity, it remains a key differentiator. Windows, as I've noted before, is unparalleled when it comes to productivity, even in the mobile world.

Pretty sure Google will introduce windowing support soon in Android, possibly within the next 18-24 months (Android 5.0, perhaps?). It seems inevitable. iOS, on the other hand - we'll see.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 4th Mar 2014 16:47 UTC
QNX

Connectivity to smartphones and other mobile devices is a key strength of QNX Software Systems’ platform for car infotainment systems, and many automakers and tier one automotive suppliers use our platform to implement smartphone/head-unit integration in their vehicles. We have a long-standing partnership with Apple to ensure high-quality connectivity with their devices, and this partnership extends to support for Apple CarPlay.

Yes, Apple CarPlay runs on QNX. Makes sense - I'm guessing (?) in-car software needs a lot of certification and testing, which QNX' in-car platforms all already have.

 

Linked by dampfmaschinen on Mon 3rd Mar 2014 23:39 UTC
X11, Window Managers

CDE 2.2.1 has been released on March 1. The release includes various bugfixes, a NetBSD port and improvement for UTF-8 locales with a new Greek UTF-8 translation.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 3rd Mar 2014 19:42 UTC, submitted by sheokand
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The inevitable happened. Google apps got installed on the freshly announced Nokia X after a crafty member of XDA Developers rooted the Android handset. The root was achieved via the Framaroot app. The bootloader of the device is unsurprisingly locked, so instead of flashing a single zip file, users need to copy the apk files for Google apps via a root explorer application. After the root, Nokia X also runs Google Now Launcher without breaking a sweat.

And with that Frankenlauncher out of the way, the Nokia X suddenly became worth buying.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 3rd Mar 2014 10:49 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Homegrown mobile phone-maker Karbonn Mobiles is all set to launch dual-OS (operating system) devices, which will support both Android and Windows, by June.

The company has just signed the licence agreement with Microsoft to make Windows-based phones and will put this along with its existing Android system to bring out the dual-OS phones in about six months, the company's chairman Sudhir Hasija said.

I wonder what will happen if Google were to resort to the same illegal tactics that Microsoft used to force OEMs into not dual-booting BeOS back in the day.

In the end, I'm just filing this one under 'poetic justice'. Shoe's on the other foot now, Redmond.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 3rd Mar 2014 10:44 UTC
In the News

A new tipping point in the world of tablets: today the analysts at Gartner have released their tablet sales numbers for 2013, and Android has topped the list for the most popular platform for the first time, outselling Apple’s range of iPad tablets nearly twofold. Of the 195 million tablets sold in 2013, Android took nearly 62% of sales on 121 million tablets, while Apple sold 70 million iPad tablets for a 36% share.

In comparison, last year, Apple led the tablet category with nearly 53% of sales on 61 million units, compared to Android at nearly 46% with 53 million tablets sold.

This was always inevitable. Apple won't mind though - they're still raking in the profits.

 

Linked by nfeske on Fri 28th Feb 2014 21:45 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

With the release of version 14.02, the Genode project has added two major features to the OS-construction framework: Using VirtualBox on top of Genode/NOVA, a wide range of unmodified guest OSes can now be integrated as components into Genode-based systems. The second feature is the addition of the file systems of the NetBSD kernel as rump kernels. The release documentation covers plenty of further improvements.

With storage and virtualization, the new release addresses two topics that are fundamental for using Genode as general-purpose OS, and both topics have been approached in a pretty holistic manner.

When it comes to storage, the project has significantly advanced over the past year but a few key pieces were still missing, namely mature file systems and a block cache. After having investigated FUSE-based file systems in the previous release, the project started exploring so-called rump kernels, which enable the execution of subsystems of the NetBSD kernel at user level. Originally, the rump kernel project was created to ease the development of drivers on NetBSD. The basic idea behind them is to link a driver to a stripped-down version of the NetBSD kernel that does not contain any privileged instruction. Hence, it can be executed in user mode. To interact with the outside world, a rump kernel uses a small so-called "hypercall" interface. By implementing this interface on top of the Genode API, rump kernels have become usable on Genode now. The immediate benefit is the availability of the time-tested file systems of the NetBSD kernel. But in the future, other NetBSD subsystem such as the TCP/IP stack or device drivers could be considered just as well.

At block level, the project took the chance to redesign the internal interfaces of the existing block-level components to support fully asynchronous operation. This step enables the effective use of modern disk-controller features such as native command queuing, and even the out-of-order processing of block requests. As the cherry on top of this line of work, there is a new block-cache component.

Over the past 5 years, virtualization has always played a role for the project. It started with running the paravirtualized OKLinux on top of the OKL4 microkernel. Later L4Linux was made available to Genode running on the Fiasco.OC kernel. Once the NOVA hypervisor found its way to the framework, the project embraced the use of the Vancouver virtual machine monitor, which enabled the use of unmodified Linux kernels. However, none of these solutions appealed well for a large user base, mainly because they were difficult to use or lacked features. By adding support for VirtualBox on top of NOVA, the project has finally found an answer to the question for product-grade virtualization on top of the framework. The integration of VirtualBox with Genode was no ordinary porting work but quite an engineering feat, which turns the architecture of VirtualBox pretty much upside down. In contrast to the host operating systems already supported by VirtualBox, Genode's version does not extend the host kernel in any way. VirtualBox leverages hardware-based virtualization (VT-x) but lives as a plain user-level program with no special privileges.

As with each new version, there are numerous smaller improvements and new features. For example, a new pseudo file system called trace-fs makes it possible to interactively use Genode's event tracing mechanism via Unix tools such as cat, grep, and echo.

All the changes are covered in detail in the release documentation of version 14.02.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Feb 2014 23:35 UTC
Google

Google's Android head, Sundar Pichai, on security (original in French):

We cannot guarantee that Android is designed to be safe, the format was designed to give more freedom. When people talk about 90% of malware for Android, they must of course take into account the fact that it is the most popular operating system in the world. If I had a company dedicated to malware, I would also be addressing my attacks on Android.

Malware authors may be writing a lot of malware for Android, but they're not very good at it - less than 0.001% of all application installations on Android (in and outside of Google Play) penetrate Android's security.

In other words, this is a complete non-issue - no matter how often antivirus companies and certain bloggers drum it up.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Feb 2014 23:21 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

The Ubuntu Touch smartphone OS has come a long way, but it still has further to plod before it's ready for market - all Canonical will tell us that it hopes to see an Ubuntu phone before the end of this year. Nevertheless, now that some phone manufacturers are on board with the project, we've been able to play with a couple of prototypes: One was just a non-functioning handset from a Spanish company called BQ, showing off plain but solid build quality reflective of a mid-tier device. The other was more interesting - a re-purposed Android handset from a second Ubuntu partner, Meizu, which makes light work of the operating system and interface.

It looks a bit choppy to me, but alas, it's a development build.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Feb 2014 14:48 UTC
In the News

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

High Chancellor Cameron will not be pleased this information is out.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 26th Feb 2014 23:28 UTC
Google

We're excited to announce the first Ara Developers' Conference, to be held April 15-16, 2014. The Developers' Conference will be held online, with a live webstream and interactive Q&A capability. A limited number of participants will be able to attend in person at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California.

We plan a series of three Ara Developers' Conferences throughout 2014. The first of these will focus on the alpha release of the Ara Module Developers' Kit (MDK). The MDK, which we expect to release online in early April, is a free and open platform specification and reference implementation that contains everything you need to develop an Ara module.

Project Ara is that modular smartphone concept Google/Motorola unveiled last year. I'm excited to see that it's actually moving beyond concept to arrive in developers' hands. I love crazy, pie-in-the-sky innovation like this. Google is really getting all PARC-y lately.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 26th Feb 2014 23:20 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Samsung has such a large presence at Mobile World Congress that it doesn't just have one giant booth; there are also several smaller ones scattered around the show halls. While the main booth exclusively shows Android phones and the biggest product of the show was the Android-based Galaxy S5, one of the most important areas for Samsung is a small booth tucked away in the last hall of MWC: a Tizen booth. Here, in the "App Planet" section of Mobile World Congress, Samsung has actual Tizen phones on display - phones with an OS that is fully under Samsung's control. Samsung's choice between Android and Tizen is one of the more interesting stories in tech right now, so when we stumbled upon this booth, we immediately grabbed our cameras and started snapping.

Two things stand out while reading the linked article and watching the video. First, just how unremarkable it all looks and functions. It could easily be mistaken for a Samsung Android device if you squint a bit. This is, perhaps, not surprising, considering the TouchWiz influences. Second, and perhaps more surprisingly, just how snappy, complete, and ready-to-go it all seems to be. Despite the obviously sparse application store, this could easily be sold to consumers right now.

I wonder what the future will hold for Tizen. I'm sure the recent agreements between Google and Samsung preclude the operating system from actually shipping on prominent devices, but I wonder if such a moratorium also applies to limited availability phones and tablets in specific markets.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 26th Feb 2014 12:31 UTC
Google

John Gruber, on Google's Project Tango:

Google is starting to remind me of Apple in the '90s: announcing more cool R&D prototypes than they release actual cool products. Even the R&D team names are similar - Google's is called "Advanced Technology and Projects"; Apple's was called "Advanced Technology Group".

Funny. Google's 'moonshots' actually remind me more of another R&D-focused company. Interestingly enough, without that company, the computer industry would have been set back decades, and Apple would most likely have been reduced to a footnote in computer history.

I would rather large companies spend their cash on potentially awesome research that may (or may not) advance computer technology and the human race, than have them stash it away in shady overseas bank accounts.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 25th Feb 2014 20:03 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

If you ever wanted to know why some people - including myself - have such a negative opinion of Samsung devices, consider the following. Let's take the latest CyanogenMod ROM for, say, my Find 51, and add the latest Google Apps package, and it totals at about 300 MB. That's the complete, fully functional Android operating system with all the Google applications and services.

The ROM on the Galaxy S5 takes up a whopping 8 GB.

No wonder Samsung swears by SD card slots.

1 I actually run OmniROM.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Feb 2014 22:19 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The Galaxy S5 is here.

Our main takeaway from our brief time with the Galaxy S5 so far is that Samsung is has been listening to customers and critics alike, and has finally gotten around to addressing many of our gripes with its build quality, software and UI. It's still a plastic phone, and a plastic phone running TouchWiz at that, but the GS5 represents a clear improvement for Samsung in a bunch of important areas. The new Samsung UI strikes us as something we might enjoy using, rather than software that's just there. And the soft-touch back feels infinitely nicer in the hand than the glossy, slimy plastic of old.

It still baffles me how Sony, HTC, and even the Chinese manufacturers can make such beautiful, elegant, and well-built Android phones, and then people go out and buy Samsung Galaxy phones. They're so... Eh.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Feb 2014 11:13 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Today, at Mobile World Congress, Nokia has unveiled its new line of smartphones: Nokia X. Instead of running Windows Phone or even Asha, these devices run Android, altered to look (somewhat) like Windows Phone. There's really not a whole lot of new stuff to say here, since most of it has already been leaked - except for the fact that there will be three Nokia X devices (with more to come!). The Nokia X, Nokia X+ (with slightly more memory), and the Nokia XL (with a larger display).

They look as colourful as any Nokia phone, but specifications are low-end; a dual-core 1Ghz processor, 800x480, and 512 or 768 MB RAM. It runs Android 4.1.2, and not the low-specifications optimised Android 4.4. It turns out that the low specifications impact the user experience, as evidenced by Tom Warren's first impressions:

Using the X can be quite frustrating, however, as the entire interface is prone to slow response and a lot of lag. Closing or switching between apps on the X takes far longer than other, even entry-level, smartphones, and browsing the web will quickly test your patience. The third-party apps we saw on the X, such as Facebook, looked as they do on other Android smartphones, but they too suffered from poor performance. Nokia's choice to combine the functions of home and back into the single back button is confusing, and i's difficult to predict exactly where in the interface the button will take you when you press it.

The user interface feels like Windows Phone, Android, and Harmattan had an illegitimate baby born out of wedlock. The end result is something that looks like a Frankenstein user interface, whose different aspects do not really align very well. The Metro-inspired homescreen, for instance, looks like a Windows Phone knock-off you would find on a cheap no-brand clone. The Android parts - inside applications, mostly - looks weird because Nokia's signature font simply doesn't fit.

I haven't used it, of course, so imagine a big asterisk here, but it looks like a classic example of design-by-committee. The Metro homescreen? Implemented because of Microsoft. The Nokia fonts? Implemented because Nokia. The swipe aspects? Because hey, the N9 is loved, so let's throw that in there as well. It doesn't feel like it has a unifying vision behind it.

The Nokia X looks like great hardware - as always, this is Nokia - but with a rather unusual and unappealing operating system. I honestly cannot wait until the XDA community gets its hands on this thing - I predict Google Play within a few days, and CyanogenMod within a few weeks. With this Android fork being completely void of Google services or Google applications, I would really wait until that's sorted out - unless you want to restrict yourself to a limited set of applications (developers need to port applications).

This raises the question of 'why'. Nokia now ships phones with four different operating systems - Windows Phone, Android, Series 40, Asha platform - which must be a hell to maintain. It doesn't really seem like Nokia needed to make an Android phone, considering that it already sells the 520 with Windows Phone. The only reason I can think of is that Nokia plans to eventually supplant Nokia Asha platform with this Android fork.

However, there's a problem here, and that's Microsoft's reaction to the Nokia X. Microsoft's Joe Belfiore:

We have a great relationship with Nokia. They've built great products. We haven't complete our acquisition. They may do some things we're excited about. Other things we are LESS excited. But whatever they do we are very supportive of the partnership.

That doesn't exactly instill confidence in the future of the Nokia X product line.

All in all, despite the somewhat shoddy first impressions of the user interface, and the warnings of slow performance, I'm still quite excited about the Nokia X. They look great, and once the XDA community gets its hands on it, it will actually become useful - because I saved the best for last: price. It'll be EUR 89 for the Nokia X, EUR 99 for the Nokia X+, and EUR 109 for the Nokia XL. To be honest, I think the X+ is the best deal, since the low resolution's pixelated edges of the 5" XL will most likely cut your eyeballs. Important note: it won't be available in the US.

That's a great price, and once CyanogenMod and other ROMs (4.4 instead of 4.1.2) run on it, it'll be useful too.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 23rd Feb 2014 23:29 UTC, submitted by twitterfire
OSNews, Generic OSes

NuttX is a real-time operating system (RTOS) with an emphasis on standards compliance and small footprint. Scalable from 8-bit to 32-bit microcontroller environments, the primary governing standards in NuttX are Posix and ANSI standards. Additional standard APIs from Unix and other common RTOS's (such as VxWorks) are adopted for functionality not available under these standards, or for functionality that is not appropriate for deeply-embedded environments (such as fork()).

NuttX was first released in 2007 by Gregory Nutt under the permissive BSD license.

NuttX saw its 100th release at the end of last month.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 23rd Feb 2014 23:24 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Unlike the original Galaxy Gear, which has a full build of Android 4.2.2 on board, the Gear 2 and Gear 2 Neo are running the Tizen OS - an open-source OS Samsung played a big hand in developing. That's good and bad, of course. It's great for those who have been waiting to see Tizen on a mainstream product (insofar as smartwatches are mainstream, we suppose) and bad for the tinkerers. That's also led Samsung to drop "Galaxy" from the product name.

I don't care much about the Gear, but I like that Samsung is finally using Tizen for something.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 22nd Feb 2014 20:51 UTC
Windows

Microsoft isn't yet talking about the next update to Windows Phone. Though the company has made a series of small updates to Windows Phone 8, with three delivered so far, the platform is more or less the same as it was in 2012.

A big update is, however, in the cards. A series of leaks over the past few weeks have revealed an abundance of details about what Microsoft is likely to call Windows Phone 8.1. Unlike the three updates already made to Windows 8, Windows Phone 8.1 will be huge: so big that the 8.1 name (no doubt chosen to align the phone operating system with the desktop and tablet one) is downright misleading. If version numbers were determined by the scale of changes alone, this would be called Windows Phone 9.

Inside the bubble of Windows Phone, this is a huge update, and definitely one I'm looking forward to. However, outside of this bubble, this update contains nothing that iOS and Android haven't had for years, making WP 8.1 feel like what the platform should have been from day one.

If Microsoft can keep up with the competition going forward from 8.1, things could (finally) get interesting.