Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 25th Oct 2016 10:42 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Xiaomi just unveiled their copy of the next iPhone, and it looks pretty great.

Nothing says sci-fi like a bezel-less screen, and Xiaomi's newly announced Mi Mix Android phablet is very sci-fi with its 91.3 percent screen-to-body ratio. This 6.4-inch device has just been announced as a concept phone by the Chinese company, but weirdly enough, it has a price, ¥3,499 ($516), and a release date of November 4th in its home country.

Think of every out-there spec you could cram into a phone and the Xiaomi Mi Mix probably has it. The rear of this handset and its side buttons are both made out of ceramic. The display is curved at the corners - just like that Sharp prototype we recently saw - and all the top-mounted sensors have been removed. The proximity sensor has been replaced by ultrasound, the earpiece has been replaced with a piezoelectric speaker that uses the metal frame to generate sound, and the front-facing camera is relocated to the bottom (though the phone can thankfully be rotated upside down for more flattering selfies).

It's quite likely the next iPhone will do away with the top and bottom bezel entirely in favour of a display much like this one. There's also been some talk about a ceramic iPhone, also just like this Xiaomi phone. It's pretty blatantly shameless that Xiaomi is ripping off the next iPhone, and I hope Obama (or Clinton, the next president) bans Xiaomi from shipping this shameless ripoff of the next iPhone from sales in the US to protect Apple's courageous innovation from these foul Asian companies.

The shamelessness is just unbelievable here. I can't believe we live in a world that allows Asian companies to copy future Apple products. It makes me sick.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Oct 2016 21:06 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The worldwide smartwatch market experienced a round of growing pains in the third quarter of 2016 (3Q16), resulting in a year-over-year decline in shipment volumes. According to data from the International Data Corporation, (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device Tracker, total smartwatch volumes reached 2.7 million units shipped in 3Q16, a decrease of 51.6% from the 5.6 million units shipped in 3Q15. Although the decline is significant, it is worth noting that 3Q15 was the first time Apple's Watch had widespread retail availability after a limited online launch. Meanwhile, the second generation Apple Watch was only available in the last two weeks of 3Q16.

Only 2.7 million units worldwide? That's a rounding error. Apple experienced a 72% year-over-year decline in sales, to just 1.1 million Apple Watches in Q3 2016. No wonder Apple is refusing to release sales figures for the Apple Watch. Meanwhile, there's no new Android Wear devices coming out this year, and the next big Wear update has been postponed to next year, so Wear is effectively dead. Samsung, Pebble, and the others barely even register.

Of course, IDC, etc. etc., but even if these figures are off by, say, 10%, the smartwatch market is still looking like a flop.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Oct 2016 18:44 UTC

I show that there's yet another impossible coin in the game, located in the huge version of Tiny-Huge Island. Specifically, there's a coin spawner there that's intended to spawn 5 coins in a horizontal line on the ground. However, this coin spawner's located under the ground, causing the most uphill coin to not load properly. In particular, this coin spawns about 49 units below the ground, triggering a failsafe that causes the coin to immediately unload. Currently, there's no known way to collect this coin.

This video is just all around great. No ifs and buts - just great.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 22nd Oct 2016 09:21 UTC

When Google bought the advertising network DoubleClick in 2007, Google founder Sergey Brin said that privacy would be the company's "number one priority when we contemplate new kinds of advertising products."

And, for nearly a decade, Google did in fact keep DoubleClick's massive database of web-browsing records separate by default from the names and other personally identifiable information Google has collected from Gmail and its other login accounts.

But this summer, Google quietly erased that last privacy line in the sand - literally crossing out the lines in its privacy policy that promised to keep the two pots of data separate by default. In its place, Google substituted new language that says browsing habits "may be" combined with what the company learns from the use Gmail and other tools.

The web, by definition, isn't private. The web is like a busy shopping street; you wouldn't shout your secrets for everyone to hear there either. The sooner people accept this fact, the better they'll be for it. Note that I'm not saying I'm happy about this fact - I'm just saying it is what it is. There's nothing any of us can do about it, until authorities or regulators start stepping in.

That being said, Google published a statement about this, stating this change is opt-in.

Our advertising system was designed before the smartphone revolution. It offered user controls and determined ads' relevance, but only on a per-device basis. This past June we updated our ads system, and the associated user controls, to match the way people use Google today: across many different devices. Before we launched this update, we tested it around the world with the goal of understanding how to provide users with clear choice and transparency. As a result, it is 100% optional - if users do not opt-in to these changes, their Google experience will remain unchanged. Equally important: we provided prominent user notifications about this change in easy-to-understand language as well as simple tools that let users control or delete their data. Users can access all of their account controls by visiting My Account and we're pleased that more than a billion have done so in its first year alone.

You can opt-out in the Activity Controls section of your Google account settings.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 20th Oct 2016 14:36 UTC

Nintendo just unveiled its new gaming console - it's called the Nintendo Switch, and it allows you to play both on your TV and while on the go, with the same console and controllers. The introduction video shows very well what the console can do, and I have to admit - it looks pretty awesome.

As both a console and a portable device, the Nintendo Switch will use cartridges known as Game Cards. The portability is one of the system's most important features; Nintendo's trailer showed people using the Switch in handheld mode on a plane, in a car and on a city rooftop. Nintendo said that people can bring multiple Switch units into the same place for "local multiplayer face-to-face competition."

No information on pricing yet, but it should be available March 2017. It's powered by Nvidia hardware, but that's about all we know about its capabilities. I'm quite curious to see if the device takes a performance hit once you undock it and use it on the go.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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

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.


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

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

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

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.