Written by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Oct 2016 10:08 UTC
Apple

iMore's Rene Ritchie, linked by Daring Fireball's John Gruber:

So, everyone who'd been criticizing Apple and iPhone design immediately called Google out for aping it?

Not so much.

Except, every Pixel review did call Google out for this.

Surely they drew the line at Google's 2016 flagship missing optical image stabilization - not just in the regular-size, but in the Plus XL model as well - stereo speakers, and water resistance - things that were pointed to last year as indicators Apple was falling behind?

Turns out, not deal-breakers either.

Except, every Pixel review did call Google out for this. Here's a quick cut/paste image job I did yesterday, highlighting how Pixel reviews did, in fact, call out Google and the Pixel for the things Ritchie claims they are not calling them out for.

It's almost like the Pixel is being graded on a curve.

When you're as deeply enveloped in the Apple bubble as people like Rene Ritchie and John Gruber, reality inside the bubble starts folding in on itself. You sit deep inside your bubble, and when you look outwards, the curves and bends of the bubble's surface twist and turn reality outside of the bubble into ever more grotesque and malformed versions of it.

Ever since the unveiling of the Pixel up to and including the reviews published yesterday, everybody in the technology media has been pointing out the exact same things Ritchie claims are not being pointed out. The amount of mental gymnastics and selective perception one must undertake - one could call such exercises flat-out lies - to claim that the major technology media is "against Apple" or "grading [the Pixel] on a curve" is so humongous that I honestly didn't think it was realistically and humanly possible.

And I say this as someone who once got a flood of really nasty and angry emails because OSNews had not yet separated the FreeBSD category and its icon from the generic BSD category, so FreeBSD and Dragonfly BSD people alike were furious at me for putting a Dragonfly BSD story in the generic BSD category because it had a FreeBSD icon. I've been around the block when it comes to the kind of reality-warping, deeply idiotic bullshit the technology world can conjure up over absolutely nothing.

When I was 17, I went on a trip to Rome, the most beautiful city in the world. As I stood atop the dome of St. Peter's Basilica, looking down upon the countless tourists swarming St. Peter's Square, I realised how easy it would be to lose touch with the people down there if you spent most of your time up here.

The bubble is no different.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Oct 2016 10:08 UTC
Android

A couple of weeks ago we announced that a developer preview of Android 7.1 Nougat was on the way. You can get started with this new release today by downloading the SDK and tools. To get the 7.1 release on your eligible device, enroll your device in the Android Beta program. If your device is already enrolled, you'll receive the update automatically.

I got the update on my Nexus 6P late last night, and it installed without any issues.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Oct 2016 20:43 UTC
Internet & Networking

When it was revealed last week that police used a social media monitoring program to track protestors, it inspired outrage, and major tech companies immediately cut off API access for the tool. But at least one of those companies had prior opportunity to know what the tool, Geofeedia, was capable of. According to three former Geofeedia employees who spoke with The Verge, Facebook itself used the tool for corporate security. Facebook, according to two of the sources, even used Geofeedia to catch an intruder in Mark Zuckerberg's office.

Social media companies like Facebook are weird - and incredibly pervasive. Someone I know - I'm not going to be too specific here - once proudly said he/she does not want Facebook to know where he/she lives, so he/she did not fill in that field in his/her Facebook account. I smiled internally and thought to myself "Facebook knows you are at a specific address between the hours of 18:00 and 8:30 every workday and during the weekend - I'm pretty sure Facebook knows where you live".

Comfort levels with social media and technology companies usually come down to fooling ourselves.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Oct 2016 20:33 UTC
Windows

Microsoft is now hard at work developing the next major update for Windows 10. Codenamed 'Redstone 2', this next update is rumored to launch in the Spring of 2017 and will focus on productivity improvements for the desktop, and will bring much-needed features and enhancements to Windows 10 Mobile users.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 19th Oct 2016 20:23 UTC
In the News

Marco Arment:

Y Combinator is extremely influential in tech startups and startup culture.

Peter Thiel, an investor who often participates in Y Combinator, is donating $1.25 million to Donald Trump's political efforts, which has incited outrage among the tech community with many calling for Y Combinator to sever ties with Thiel.

Y Combinator has apparently decided not to. President Sam Altman defended this position in a blog post, framed as a Clinton endorsement, that begins with a partial overview of how reprehensible and dangerous Trump is, but ends with a defense of continuing Thiel's involvement in Y Combinator that's effectively framed as a free-speech or tolerance issue.

I completely agree with Arment.

One thing doesn't sit entirely right with me about this, though. Y Combinator is getting a decent amount of flack for this, and rightly so - a sexual assaulter like Trump should be in prison, not in the White House. However, where's all the outrage about Tim Cook organising fundraisers for Donald Trump's political party? Why is that fact almost silently swept under the rug and brushed aside, but Y Combinator gets skewered for doing the same thing? Why is Tim Cook supporting Donald Trump okay, but Y Combinator not cutting ties with someone supporting Donald Trump not okay?

Is it, perhaps, because Apple and Tim Cook get graded on a curve, to use a phrase popular in the Apple blogosphere?

It's almost as inconsistent as iOS. I guess that runs deeper than I thought.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 18th Oct 2016 22:15 UTC
Google

The Google Pixel reviews are coming in, and they are quite positive.

The Verge's Dieter Bohn:

This is Google's first phone, and for a first effort it is remarkably good. By almost every metric I can think of - speed, power, camera, smart assistant, you name it - it matches or exceeds the best phones available on the market today. And though the design is far from groundbreaking, it's certainly approachable. The whole package is pretty incredible, and if you're not put off by the premium price, you'll be very happy with this premium phone. I prefer the XL, which isn't huge and seems to get notably better battery life

Walt Mossberg, also for The Verge:

If you're an Android fan, willing to buy a premium phone, the Pixel is your answer. To repeat: it’s simply the best Android phone I've tested. If you're an iPhone user thinking of switching, the Pixel will seem physically familiar, but you'll have to overcome the sticky links you've developed with fellow iPhone users, things like iMessage (which Google can't match yet) and iCloud Photo Sharing (which Google is trying to copy). You'll also have to do without the comfort of your neighborhood Genius Bar.

But my main message, dear readers, is this: Google has come out of the gate with a top-flight phone and suddenly, there’s no longer an Apple-Samsung duopoly in premium handsets.

Joanna Stern for The Wall Street Journal:

Android people, please step forward. Good news! Your next phone-buying decision just got a heck of a lot easier. The Google Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy. The other leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion.

iPhone people, it's your turn. Ask yourself: Why do I have an iPhone? Is it because of its software, services and privacy policies? Or is it because it's a very good phone for things like Google Maps, Gmail, Spotify and Facebook Messenger? If you've answered yes to the latter, the Pixel may be for you, too.

Lastly, the Android Central review:

The Google Pixel XL is my new daily driver. As for the smaller Pixel, I know it's going to take a lot to tear Daniel Bader away from this compact Android powerhouse. Both are excellent smartphones which we can wholeheartedly recommend, even with their sky-high price tags. The question of whether a smartphone can be worth $700 to $1,000 in 2016 is a debate altogether. But if any phone is worth that amount of cash, the Pixels are. Just as that same argument can be made for the iPhone 7 or Galaxy S7.

Interesting how all the American reviewers mention iMessage so often as a barrier to switching. Living in a country where WhatsApp has a 100% market share and iMessage is entirely unused, it's just an annoying junk app to me.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Oct 2016 18:43 UTC
KDE

The KDE Restoration Project was a personal pet project which was born around last QtCon, and I took as a letter of love for the project that basically formed my professional life.

What you're seeing here is the last KDE 1 release running on a modern system from 2016!

This is amazing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Oct 2016 18:37 UTC
Games

It's the tale of an extremely difficult, user-unfriendly game reaching untold heights of success. It's the story of a company that has remained committed to listening to and interacting with its fans even as it at has grown exponentially. More than anything, it's the story of two best friends who liked playing video games and decided one day to make their own.

Riot is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, but to really know how one of the world's biggest development studios got started, you need to go back to Los Angeles in the early aughts. You need to find two University of Southern California business students who formed a bond unrelated to their studies.

More than a hundred million people play League of Legends every month now. For a game as uninviting and complex as this, that's an absolutely astonishing number of people. It's also quite amazing to compare the early years of League to today, and see just how much the game has changed over the years. I don't think many people realise just how different today's League is to that of only a few years ago.

I play League pretty much every day, as a great way to unwind after a day's work. I'm not always happy with every single change Riot implements - anyone remember the tank meta? - but when push comes to shove, I think the company is doing quite a good job of keeping League fresh with interesting new content, gameplay changes, and balance adjustments. They failed spectacularly in the area of communication these past few years, but they seem to have turned that ship around in the second half of this year, with more openness and better communication about the state of the game, their choices, and their reasoning - and, of course, they are finally fulfilling some long-standing player requests and their own promises.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 17th Oct 2016 18:30 UTC
Apple

Apple Inc. has drastically scaled back its automotive ambitions, leading to hundreds of job cuts and a new direction that, for now, no longer includes building its own car, according to people familiar with the project.

Hundreds of members of the car team, which comprises about 1000 people, have been reassigned, let go, or have left of their own volition in recent months, the people said, asking not to be identified because the moves aren't public.

I never quite understood why Apple was building a car when you look at the state of their software and their hardware (except for the iPhone's hardware). Fix that stuff first, before designing and building something that can actually quite easily kill people.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Oct 2016 20:18 UTC
Apple

Yes, Siri can usually place a call or send a text. It can tell you sports standings, Yelp restaurant reviews and movie times - features Apple added years ago. And it must be said that all of its competitors have their own limitations and also make mistakes.

But in its current incarnation, Siri is too limited and unreliable to be an effective weapon for Apple in the coming AI wars. It seems stagnant. Apple didn't become great by just following the data on what customers are doing today. It became great by delighting customers with feats they didn't expect. The AI revolution will demand that.

'Stagnant'?

Seems to be the default state of Apple's software these days.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Oct 2016 20:11 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Ubuntu, the platform used in the majority of cloud deployments worldwide, today released version 16.10 with hybrid cloud operations, bare-metal cloud performance, the ability to lift-and-shift 80% of Linux VMs to machine containers, Kubernetes for world-leading process-container coordination, full container support in OpenStack, and telco-grade networking latency enhancements.

...this isn't really about the desktop anymore, is it?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Oct 2016 19:03 UTC
Android

Last week, I ragged on the Verizon models of the Google Pixel, so in the interest of fairness - here's Verizon and Google responding to the criticism levelled at the usual role carriers in the US play in delaying updates and adding tons of crapware. Verizon told Ars:

First and foremost, all operating system and security updates to the Pixel devices will happen in partnership with Google. In other words, when Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates). Verizon will not stand in the way of any major updates and users will get all updates at the same time as Google.

Also, the Verizon version of the Google Pixel is carrier unlocked, so you can use it where ever you like. Finally, we have three apps pre-installed on the phone Go90, My Verizon (which is your account management tool) and Verizon Messages (your messaging app). As you noted, all three can easily be uninstalled by the user.

Google further confirmed that that updates will not be held back by Verizon. Google told Ars:

OS updates and monthly security patches will be updated on all Pixel devices (Verizon and non-Verizon versions) simultaneously.

That's excellent news.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Oct 2016 22:08 UTC
Android

Today, we're taking the wraps off of Android 7.1 Nougat, the latest version of the platform. You probably saw a sneak peek of it at last week's event. It's an incremental update based on Android 7.0 but includes new features for consumers and developers - from platform Daydream VR support and A/B system updates to app shortcuts and image keyboard support.

The first developer preview will hit later this month.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Oct 2016 09:39 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Samsung Electronics Co. is ending production of its problematic Galaxy Note 7 smartphones, taking the drastic step of killing off a smartphone that became a major headache for the South Korean electronics maker.

After halting sales of the new versions of the large-screen smartphone that failed to fix exploding batteries, Samsung finally pulled the plug on a key product that was supposed to compete with Apple Inc.'s iPhones and other high-end smartphones during the U.S. holiday shopping season.

Production will stop, Samsung said in a statement Tuesday.

The only right decision.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Oct 2016 00:20 UTC
Apple

Remember Dash, which we talked about late last week? Apple released a press statement to its various blogger sites today, claiming:

"Almost 1,000 fraudulent reviews were detected across two accounts and 25 apps for this developer so we removed their apps and accounts from the App Store," Apple spokesperson, Tom Neumayr, said in a statement provided to The Loop on Monday. "Warning was given in advance of the termination and attempts were made to resolve the issue with the developer but they were unsuccessful. We will terminate developer accounts for ratings and review fraud, including actions designed to hurt other developers. This is a responsibility that we take very seriously, on behalf of all of our customers and developers."

Case closed, right? Well... Not entirely. This was just Apple's word, without any proof, posted on blogs that often let themselves be used for saccharine Apple PR. Without any proof, how can we know Apple is telling the truth? Do we just believe them because... Because?

The developer in question, Bogdan Popescu, quickly replied in a blog post, and his story is entirely different - and his story is backed up by recordings of telephone calls between him and Apple (which is legal in Romania). I'm not making this up.

What I've done: 3-4 years ago I helped a relative get started by paying for her Apple's Developer Program Membership using my credit card. I also handed her test hardware that I no longer needed. From then on those accounts were linked in the eyes of Apple. Once that account was involved with review manipulation, my account was closed.

I was not aware my account was linked to another until Apple contacted me Friday, 2 days after closing my account. I was never notified of any kind of wrongdoing before my account was terminated.

What Apple has done: on Friday they told me they'd reactivate my account if I'd make a blog post admitting some wrongdoing. I told them I can't do that, because I did nothing wrong. On Saturday they told me that they are fine with me writing the truth about what happened, and that if I did that, my account would be restored. Saturday night I sent a blog post draft to Apple and have since waited for their approval.

Tonight Apple decided to accuse me of manipulating the App Store in public via a spokesperson.

The recorded phone calls leave nothing to the imagination - they do not line up with Apple's PR speak at all.

In the recorded phone call, Apple admits that they never notified him at all, despite Apple's claims to the contrary. Then, they tried to coerce Popescu into publicly admitting wrongdoing - even though he did nothing wrong. After Popescu told Apple he was not going to do that, Apple tells him that he can tell the truth, but that Apple wants to approve the story before posting it. Popescu complies, sends in the story - and a few days later, Apple sends in its blogger army, by falsely accusing Popescu of manipulating App Store reviews.

And the Apple blogger army - and large swaths of the Apple developer community, which I follow on Twitter - immediately crucified him, believing Apple's every word, without questioning them, even if Apple didn't offer any proof. Brian Gesiak's take says it all: "Good to know: if it's ever my word against Apple's, I know who the 'community' is going to trust."

Maybe Apple's bloggers will learn a valuable lesson from this. Most likely, they will not.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Oct 2016 19:05 UTC
FreeBSD

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 11.0-RELEASE. This is the first release of the stable/11 branch.

Some of the highlights:

  • OpenSSH DSA key generation has been disabled by default. It is important to update OpenSSH keys prior to upgrading. Additionally, Protocol 1 support has been removed.
  • OpenSSH has been updated to 7.2p2.
  • Wireless support for 802.11n has been added.
  • By default, the ifconfig(8) utility will set the default regulatory domain to FCC on wireless interfaces. As a result, newly created wireless interfaces with default settings will have less chance to violate country-specific regulations.
  • The svnlite(1) utility has been updated to version 1.9.4.
  • The libblacklist(3) library and applications have been ported from the NetBSD Project.
  • Support for the AArch64 (arm64) architecture has been added.
  • Native graphics support has been added to the bhyve(8) hypervisor.
  • Broader wireless network driver support has been added.

The release notes provide the in-depth look at the new release, and you can get it from the download page.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Oct 2016 05:05 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Samsung Electronics Co. has temporarily suspended production of the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, an official at a supplier for Samsung said Monday, amid a series of media reports that some Note 7 replacements have caught fire.

The halt is in cooperation with consumer safety regulators from South Korea, the United States and China, the official said on the condition of anonymity.

It's high time regulators around the world initiate a deep investigation into this whole debacle. Samsung's behaviour has been inexcusable, and borders on gross negligence.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Oct 2016 23:28 UTC, submitted by galvanash
Legal

The end may be in sight for software patents - which have long been highly controversial in the tech industry - in the wake of a remarkable appeals court ruling that described such patents as a "deadweight loss on the nation's economy" and a threat to the First Amendment's free speech protections.

There's so much good stuff in the actual ruling (I urge you to read the whole damn thing!) that I don't even know where to start, middle, and end. I think this is the best part?

It is well past time to return software to its historical dwelling place in the domain of copyright. See Benson, 409 U.S. at 72 (citing a report from a presidential commission explaining that copyright is available to protect software and that software development had "undergone substantial and satisfactory growth" even without patent protection (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F.3d 1339, 1380 (Fed. Cir. 2014) (noting that "several commentators" have "argue[d] that the complex and expensive patent system is a terrible fit for the fast-moving software industry" and that copyright provides "[a] perfectly adequate means of protecting and rewarding software developers for their ingenuity" (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)); Peter S. Menell, An Analysis of the Scope of Copyright Protection for Application Programs, 41 Stan. L. Rev. 1045, 1076 (1989) (explaining that patents were historically "not seen as a viable option for the protection of most application program code" and that many software programs "simply do not manifest sufficient novelty or nonobviousness to merit patent protection").

Reading this gives me tinglies in my tummy.

I have no idea about the level of importance of this decision, how many different appeals could wreck it, or even if it is very relevant to begin with - but my god is this an absolutely amazing read that echoes everything I and many, many other people have been saying about software patents for so many years now.

Software need not have more protection than copyright on the written code itself. Anything beyond that is destructive.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Oct 2016 23:10 UTC
Microsoft

Long before Linus Torvalds wrote Linux, Microsoft was the king of Unix world. The company, somehow, developed Xenix, the most popular version of Unix of its time. However, IBM's decision to go ahead with MS-DOS in its PCs acted as a death blow to Xenix and Microsoft lost interest in the OS.

The article's light on details and content, but I figured it'd be an interesting excuse to ask if any of you ever used Xenix in any serious fashion. So, did any of you?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Oct 2016 09:48 UTC
Android

Monthly security updates will come from Google (for all models), and system updates will be managed by Verizon for Verizon models, and Google for unlocked models bought from Google Store.

Pixels bought at Best Buy are the Verizon models, so system updates for those, too, will be managed by Verizon. Combined with the news that Verizon models will have a locked bootloader and come with Verizon crapware, it's pretty clear that Americans among us should really, really opt to buy the Pixel outright from the Google Store. Yes, that means higher upfront costs, but you'll have lower monthly expenses, proper updates, and an unlocked bootloader.

Anybody with even an ounce of common sense should avoid Verizon Pixels like the plague.