Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Apr 2015 20:31 UTC
Google

So today we're announcing the Patent Purchase Promotion as an experiment to remove friction from the patent market. From May 8, 2015 through May 22, 2015, we'll open a streamlined portal for patent holders to tell Google about patents they're willing to sell at a price they set. As soon as the portal closes, we'll review all the submissions, and let the submitters know whether we're interested in buying their patents by June 26, 2015. If we contact you about purchasing your patent, we'll work through some additional diligence with you and look to close a transaction in short order. We anticipate everyone we transact with getting paid by late August.

Wait.

So instead of selling your patent to a troll, you sell it to Google (while retaining a license to the patent yourself), who can then license it out as it pleases, and, of course, also sue people with it. Are we supposed to believe Google would never abuse its patents? So far, it's got a pretty good track record when it comes to patent abuse - unlike its major competitors such as Microsoft and Apple - but I would place no faith in this always staying this way.

At least former Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Julie Samuels is cautiously optimistic, which is something. She told Ars:

"Google's patent purchase program is promising to the extent it puts patents that could end up in the hands of trolls into Google's own patent portfolio," she said by e-mail. "While it's frankly troubling that a single entity would own as many patents as Google already does (and presumably will), this is an unfortunate byproduct of a broken patent system and a technology culture that often prioritizes the grant of patents above all else. Google has time and again shown its commitment to clean up the patent system, which is cause for some cautious optimism with regard to its new purchase program."

Well, something's better than nothing, I guess.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Apr 2015 17:03 UTC
Apple

This is a new challenge for Apple; can it turn a piece of technology into a massively desired fashion accessory? And can the Apple Watch stand up against its competition, from low-end quartz watches to high-end Rolexes? To answer these and many other questions, we put the Apple Watch in the hands of a mechanical watchmaker, the exact type of person Apple is trying to make obsolete.

John Tarantino is the founder and CEO of Martenero, one of the few mechanical watch companies based in the US. Martenero sells customizable mechanical watches built in New York City for around $500, a price point that undersells the quality of its timepieces. The Verge sat down with Tarantino (and a 42mm Apple Watch with a leather loop) to discuss his initial thoughts on the Apple Watch as a watchmaker and its potential impact on the mechanical watch market, and to find out if he will purchase one.

A very insightful response to the Apple Watch - and let's face it, all current smartwatches.

 



Linked by chrishaney on Sun 26th Apr 2015 10:26 UTC
Debian and its clones

After almost 24 months of constant development the Debian project is proud to present its new stable version 8 (code name Jessie), which will be supported for the next 5 years thanks to the combined work of the Debian Security team and of the Debian Long Term Support team.

Jessie ships with a new default init system, systemd. The systemd suite provides many exciting features such as faster boot times, cgroups for services, and the possibility of isolating part of the services. The sysvinit init system is still available in Jessie.

Screenshots and a screencast are available.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 25th Apr 2015 14:49 UTC
Games

It used to be that the only way to make money from a mod was a) make a standalone sequel or remake b) use it as a portfolio to get hired by a studio or c) back in the pre-broadband days, shovel it onto a dodgy CD-ROM (and even then, it almost certainly wasn't the devs who profited). As of last night, that changed. Mod-makers can now charge for their work, via Steam.

It's far too soon to know the long-term outcome of Valve offering the option for mod creators to charge for their work, which went live yesterday using Skyrim as a test case. Everyone has an opinion, and I'll try to cover the main angles below, but first I simply want to express simple sadness. Not fatalistic sadness - I'm genuinely curious as to how this will play out, and there's high potential for excitement - but End Of An Era sadness.

The backlash Valve is facing over this whole thing is immense. Every gaming website, and sites like Reddit, are swamped with people lashing out against this new Valve policy. This kind of universal backlash is incredibly rare, and it's kind of interesting to see it unfold. Whatever goodwill Valve had with PC gamer - they managed to throw it all away in a day. Absolutely amazing.

As for my personal opinion on this matter - I'm used to mods being free, but considering some of the insane amounts of work people have put into incredibly complex, vast, and terrific mods for games like Skyrim, it does seem more than reasonable to give mod makers the possibility to charge for their work. And let's be absolutely clear here: Valve is forcing nobody to charge for their mods - mod makers choose to make their mods for-pay themselves.

That being said, introducing money into an previously pretty much money-less scene is bound to have a lot of negative results - for instance, free mods from Nexus are being offered for sale on Steam; not by their authors, but by pirates. As a result, mod makers are removing their content from Nexus to prevent others from profiting off their work.

It's a huge mess right now, and it'll be hard for Valve to regain all the goodwill they threw away in just a day.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 25th Apr 2015 11:49 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Ubuntu Desktop will eventually switch to Snappy packages by default, while continuing to provide deb-based images as an alternative, at least for a while. I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprise for some of you, but further details regarding this have been revealed today.

They're slowly moving away more and more from Debian packages.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 25th Apr 2015 11:45 UTC
Legal

The European Union's decision to take on Google last week stems from official complaints by 19 companies in Europe and the United States, including Microsoft and a number of small firms, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Microsoft is actually twice on the list; first as Microsoft-proper, but also as part of a lobby group also on the list. There's also a complaint from a party who remains anonymous.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Apr 2015 23:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Good news for Pebble and iOS users: Pebble has just posted on Reddit that it is working with Apple to make sure that rejections like this will no longer happen.

Still a work-in-progress, but we're working with Apple to clear up any misunderstandings to make sure rejections like the handful of recent ones don't happen again - they're being super responsive the concerns that bubbled up (much appreciated!). Apps are still getting approved with mentions of Pebble support in the description or metadata (e.g. RunKeeper). For now, developers should continue with their iOS app update plans and approval submissions to the iTunes store as normal (i.e. include Pebble support in your app info if that was your original intent).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Apr 2015 23:40 UTC
Multimedia, AV

As mentioned earlier, in film photography, color balance has a lot to do with the chemical composition of the film. For many decades, color film in the United States was calibrated to highlight Caucasian skin tones. This was the most fundamental problem. With an unusual degree of skill and attention, a photographer could compensate for the biases in most stages of production. But there was nothing they could do about the film’s color balance. When the famous New Wave filmmaker Jean Luc Godard was commissioned to make a film about Mozambique, he reportedly refused to use Kodachrome film - the most popular color film at the time. He complained the film, developed for a predominantly white market, was "racist."

Positively fascinating story.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Apr 2015 23:24 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

An update for an actual alternative operating system from the good old days of yore. Yes, it still happens. MenuetOS 0.99.98 has been released, with "MediaPlayer demo, Updated 3DS viewer, Midiplayer, FTP". Here's some of the settings to help you on your way in VirtualBox, an in case you'r eunfamiliar with MenuetOS:

MenuetOS is a real-time and multiprocessor Operating System in development for the PC written entirely in 32/64 bit assembly language. Menuet64 is released under License and Menuet32 under GPL. Menuet supports 32/64 bit x86 assembly programming for smaller, faster and less resource hungry applications.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 23rd Apr 2015 21:40 UTC
Internet & Networking

Comcast Corp. is planning to walk away from its proposed $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., people with knowledge of the matter said, after meeting with opposition from U.S. regulators.

Comcast’s board will meet to finalize the decision on Thursday, and an announcement may come as soon as Friday, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.

Great news for American consumers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 23rd Apr 2015 19:50 UTC
Apple

The trouble is, no one really knows what makes a good Watch app yet. Apple can hand guidelines to developers, but even it doesn't know for certain how people are going to want to use the watch. Developers almost have to code for it, though - waiting means losing ground, users, and publicity to other apps - so thousands are now taking a crack at it and hoping that they get it right.

Even of they aren't any good yet, they will improve rapidly once the Apple Watch is in the hands of the millions of users who have pre-ordered them (and the many millions more buying them over the coming months). We'll have to wait for the real applications to arrive later this year, when the native SDK arrives. The current ones are just small shells who have to beam virtually everything over from your iPhone, causing lots of performance issues across the board.

I do hope they get better looking though, because my god, the current crop is clunky, busy, and ugly. Those dark transparent backgrounds everywhere remind me of old Android widgets.

 

Linked by Nth_Man on Thu 23rd Apr 2015 19:33 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

The new Ubuntu, Kubuntu, etc. are now available and include the change to systemd as the init system, new versions of LibreOffice, Firefox, Chromium, etc. The big change in Kubuntu is KDE Plasma 5 as the default desktop, and also KDE Applications 14.12.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 23rd Apr 2015 14:43 UTC
Apple

In what is surely to surprise no one, and in what will surely be waved away by the usual people, Apple seems to be rejecting applications from the iOS App Store that mention "Pebble".

We have just had the latest version of our SeaNav US iOS app rejected by Apple because we support the Pebble Smartwatch and say so in the app description and meta-data (we also state in the review notes that "This application was approved for use with the Pebble MFI Accessory in the Product Plan xxxxxx-yyyy (Pebble Smartwatch)". See copy of rejection reason below.

SeaNav US has previously been approved by Apple with no problem, we have had Pebble support in SeaNav for nearly 2 years and there are no changes to our support for the Pebble in this version. What are Apple doing? Have they gone Apple Watch crazy? What can we do?

This application has been in the App Store for two years with the same mentions of Pebble and Pebble support, but now that the Apple Watch is here, that's magically no longer allowed. Further down in the comments, another developer has had to remove Pebble screenshots from his application's description page. About a month ago, I already predicted this kind of bevahiour, mostly because I'm really good at pattern recognition.

I think this calls for an official EU investigation into Google's behaviour.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Apr 2015 21:50 UTC
Games

A work-in-progress cut of All Work All Play, a documentary that focuses on the rise of e-sports and some of the best competitive teams in the world, just premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival. All Work All Play profiles a few professional League of Legends teams as well as the programming director of the Electronic Sports League, Michal "Carmac" Blicharz. The film attempts to bring the viewer into the world of competitive gaming while constantly making comparisons to other professional sports by highlighting team changes, grandiose spectacles, intense crowds, and broadcasters.

I watch a lot of let's plays on YouTube, and as far as e-sports go, I only watch the various League of Legends championships, most notably the European and North-American leagues. The idea of watching other people play games is easier to explain if you dig back into your gaming childhood, which for me, meant playing games on the NES, SNES, and PC with friends. A large portion of the time, you would not be the one playing; you'd be one of the people watching.

I have a feeling the surge in let's plays and e-sports has its roots in that. There's something relaxing - and in the case of e-sports, exhilarating - about watching other people play the games you love.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Apr 2015 21:46 UTC
General Development

GCC 5.1 has been released, and you can browse through the changes, improvements, new features, updates, and fixes. I feel no shame in admitting that compilers go way, way over my head, so I can't make much sense of all this.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Apr 2015 18:37 UTC
Google

Google just officially announced its virtual carrier, Google Fi. The pricing:

Project Fi takes a fresh approach to how you pay for wireless, manage your service, and get in touch when you need help. We offer one simple plan at one price with 24/7 support. Here's how it works: for $20 a month you get all the basics (talk, text, Wi-Fi tethering, and international coverage in 120+ countries), and then it's a flat $10 per GB for cellular data while in the U.S. and abroad. 1GB is $10/month, 2GB is $20/month, 3GB is $30/month, and so on. Since it's hard to predict your data usage, you'll get credit for the full value of your unused data. Let's say you go with 3GB for $30 and only use 1.4GB one month. You'll get $16 back, so you only pay for what you use.

The pricing scheme is very interesting, but it's limited to US Nexus 6 owners for now. It intelligently switches between wifi, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Apr 2015 22:50 UTC
Internet & Networking

We believe that users must feel safe on Twitter in order to fully express themselves. As our General Counsel Vijaya Gadde explained last week in an opinion piece for the Washington Post, we need to ensure that voices are not silenced because people are afraid to speak up. To that end, we are today announcing our latest product and policy updates that will help us in continuing to develop a platform on which users can safely engage with the world at large.

They're trying, and that's commendable. This must be an incredible engineering problem.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Apr 2015 22:40 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

At the end of the day, BlackBerry needed to make this device happen, even if fans are screaming from the rooftops that they want a high-end all-touch device. Despite whether or not you personally decide to pick one up, the BlackBerry Leap is a pretty solid and very capable device that comes at a reasonable price, it just so happens that BlackBerry had to make a few compromises to make it all come together.

I get the Passport (still want one!), I get the Classic. I do not, however, get a generic BlackBerry phones that looks like any other default Android device - but with an operating system nobody (except people like me) is asking for.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Apr 2015 22:37 UTC
Android

Let's talk about the Sony Xperia Z4. The Japanese electronics giant announced the latest in its line of premium Z-series smartphones recently for its home market. And it's fair to say the popular reaction to the device has fallen somewhere between bewilderment and outright derision. Consumers and critics alike seem confused as to why this phone exists, questioning the priorities Sony's taken with what appears to be its early-2015 flagship.

With questionable hardware priorities and no word of any global launch, it's a bizarre turn for Sony, coming as the company looks to restructure and streamline its smartphone offerings and focus primarily on the high end of the market. The Xperia Z4 can boast only a couple of meaningful improvements over its six-month-old predecessor, and in one or two important areas it may actually be a regression from the Z3.

Now that the Nexus 5 is being phased out without replacement (could you get on that, Google?), and the Nexus 6 is ugly and huge, I consider the Z3 and Z3 Compact to be the phones to get if you want Android. They're only six months old, modern in every respect, look great, have minimal software customisations, better battery life than the competition, and thanks to Sony's progressive open source efforts, great third party ROM support (mostly).

Hence, it's sad to see that, in the pursuit of thinness, the Z4 actually has a smaller battery, and possibly, shorter battery life.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Apr 2015 18:41 UTC
Windows

When Microsoft releases Windows 10 later this year, it will come with a new design language which has slowly been uncovered with the latest builds of Windows 10 for phones. One member of the Windows community has put together a massive guide that shows the transitions from Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8.1 to both Windows 10 and Windows 10 for phones.

While the appearance is still decidedly Metro, it all feels a lot more dark Material Design-ish.