Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2015 21:57 UTC
Games

EA has shut down Maxis Emeryville, the main Maxis studio and longrunning developer behind SimCity and Spore, among other games. Though the Maxis brand will carry on, the studio that most people knew as "Maxis" is no more.

I played so much SimCity 2000 as a kid. Sad news.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2015 21:53 UTC
Android

Speaking of TV boxes for gaming:

Tonight at a press conference scheduled to coincide with GDC 2015, Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang annouced the latest addition to its Shield line of products. Called simply "Shield," Nvidia's new device is a set-top box powered by Nvidia's Tegra X1 processor, using Google's Android OS and the search giant's new TV platform, Android TV. Shield supports 4K content encoded with H.265, and can stream local content from Nvidia-powered PCs at 1080p60. Shield also supports the company's game-streaming initiative, Grid.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2015 21:51 UTC
Games

The Steam controller is a big part of what makes a Steam Machine a Steam Machine; we were told that running SteamOS and being packaged with the controller were two of the main things that need to be included to use that branding. The controller itself has gone through a number of revisions, but we were able to use what Valve is calling the final version during GDC.

We've been using pretty much the same controller setup for a while now, so I'm glad Valve is trying to see if things can be improved. I have no idea if this will be it - a hands-on is required - but I'm open to try.

In addition to the final Steam controller and the announcement that Steam Machines will hit the shelves later this year (sure, Valve, sure), the company also unveiled a new streaming box for gaming.

Valve will release a new product called Steam Link later this year that will "extend your Steam experience to any room in the house," according to an announcement from the company. Steam Link will work with PCs - including Valve's Steam Machines and Windows, Mac and Linux computers - to stream content from Steam to the device, as long as they're on the same home network.

Steam Link will support 1080p resolution at 60 Hz "with low latency," Valve says. The device will be available this November and will retail for $49.99.

I'm definitely buying the Steam Link, as it seems like a great way to play PC games on my living room TV without having to hook a full PC up to it. Of course, a lot will depend on the latency, and I'm sure using a wired network is preferable (which I do).

The last and final Valve announcement: the Source 2 engine. It's not yet available, but it will be free for developers. The Source engine powers a number of classic titles - Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, Counter-Strike: Source, and so on - and it's hard not to assume that a release of the Source 2 engine also means Hal...

No.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2015 21:34 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

At the Canonical booth at Mobile World Congress, I had a chance meeting with Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical and spiritual leader of Ubuntu. I was actually at the booth to try out the new Ubuntu Edition of the Meizu MX4, a mid- to high-end smartphone, but all of the untethered devices had run out of battery - every phone, that is, except for Shuttleworth's.

Ubuntu Phone looks good on this device. The Verge has an additional story.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Mar 2015 00:06 UTC
Linux

With Linux 4.0, you may never need to reboot your operating system again.

One reason to love Linux on your servers or in your data-center is that you so seldom needed to reboot it. True, critical patches require a reboot, but you could go months without rebooting. Now, with the latest changes to the Linux kernel you may be able to go years between reboots.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Mar 2015 18:44 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Following the hugely successful campaign for the new Pebble Time, Pebble is back with two new products: smartstraps and a whole new Pebble, the Pebbble Time Steel. Let's start with smartstraps - an idea so simple it's almost silly that Google and Apple didn't come up with it first.

Rather than trying to shove every sensor and doohickey into the Pebble Time, we decided to keep the watch simple and functional and give our incredible maker and developer community the opportunity to build from there. Up until now, if you wanted it all you had to compromise... On battery life, size, design or feature set. Not anymore.

That's why we created Pebble smartstraps. It's simple: straps can now contain electronics and sensors to interface directly with apps running on Pebble Time.

Second, the Pebble Time Steel. It's a more luxurious, metal version of the Pebble Time, but aside from its more premium feel and design, it also sports a larger battery (10 days of use instead of 7 days) and its screen is bonded with the glass. For the rest, it's identical to the Time. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm totally loving the gold version with the red band - for a square watch, it simply looks really, really good.

In fact, for me, that specific model is the first Pebble I'd consider wearing. It combines an attractive design with Pebble's superior (over Wear and the Apple Watch) functionality. This could be a winner.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Mar 2015 18:44 UTC
Apple

Criminals in the US are using the new Apple Pay mobile payment system to buy high-value goods - often from Apple Stores - with stolen identities and credit card details.

Banks have been caught by surprise by the level of fraud, and the Guardian understands that some are scrambling to ensure that better verification and checking systems are put in place to prevent the problem running out of control, with around two million Americans already using the system.

The crooks have not broken the secure encryption around Apple Pay's fingerprint-activated wireless payment mechanism. Instead, they are setting up new iPhones with stolen personal information, and then calling banks to “provision” the victim’s card on the phone to use it to buy goods.

Criminals, uh, find a way.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Mar 2015 18:42 UTC
Apple

I've been struggling to get back in shape after chemo.

Since being diagnosed with Hodgkin Lymphoma (Stage IV) in late 2011, my life changed. Beyond the psychological and emotional consequences of how cancer affected me, my family, and my relationships, it is undeniable and abundantly clear that cancer took its toll on me from a physical perspective.

Last year, I decided to regain control of my body, my life habits, and my health. I started tracking everything I could about my activities, my exercise routine, the food I ate, and the time I spent working with my iPad instead of walking, sleeping, or enjoying time with my family. Since then, I've made a decision to not let cancer and its consequences define me any longer.

I want to be healthier, I want to eat better, and I want to take the second chance I was given and make the most of it. What started as an experiment has become a new daily commitment to improve my lifestyle and focus.

And it wouldn't be possible without my iPhone.

Between all the pointless bickering, we sometimes forget how much technology can mean to people when facing hardship like this.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Mar 2015 18:39 UTC
Games

For the better part of the last five years the 35-year-old Swede was that guy, a man who constantly stressed about his creation, Minecraft, the bestselling computer game of all time. Even calling it a game is too limiting. Minecraft became, with 100 million downloads and counting, a canvas for human expression. Players start out in an empty virtual space where they use Lego-like blocks and bricks (which they can actually “mine”) to build whatever they fancy, with the notable feature that other players can then interact with it. Most players are little kids who build basic houses or villages and then host parties in what they’ve constructed or dodge marauding zombies.

Truly obsessed adults, though, have spent hundreds of hours creating full-scale replicas of the Death Star, the Empire State Building and cities from Game of Thrones. The word "Minecraft" is Googled more often than the Bible, Harry Potter and Justin Bieber. And this single game has grossed more than $700 million in its lifetime, the large majority of which is pure profit.

Rare interview with Persson.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Mar 2015 23:11 UTC
Google

Google's Sundar Pichai has essentially confirmed reports that the company will become a wireless provider of sorts in "the coming months." During his appearance at Mobile World Congress today, Pichai acknowledged that Google is working with "existing partners" to create its own MVNO, but stopped short of confirming that Sprint and T-Mobile are those partnering networks, as has been rumored. But he did reveal that Google has been in contact with Verizon Wireless and AT&T about its plans - likely to head off any potential ugly conflict between Mountain View and the largest, most powerful providers in the United States. "Carriers in the US are what powers most of our Android phones, and that model works really well for us," he said.

Additionally, The Verge has an interesting article about just how far along Google's Project Loon is.

 

Linked by robertson on Mon 2nd Mar 2015 23:03 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

As of the release of Ubuntu 15.04 Vivid Vervet Beta 1, Ubuntu MATE is now officially a Canonical project, alongside the likes of Kubuntu, Xubuntu, and friends. MATE is the continuation of GNOME 2.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Mar 2015 22:59 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jolla has "introduced" Sailfish OS 2.0. It didn't really introduce it though as it's not available to anyone right now - it's only potentially available to OEMs.

The independent Sailfish OS is soon reaching a major milestone as it is scaling from smartphones to tablets with the introduction of the Jolla Tablet. The first shipments of Jolla’s second Sailfish OS product are expected to start in Q2/2015. At this point, Sailfish OS is maturing to the next generation, 'Sailfish OS 2.0', and is introducing e.g. a new enhanced user interface, support for Intel architecture, and previously unseen software integration capabilities for partners.

The new interface is interesting - it greatly simplifies all the gestures and seems to function much more like Harmattan on the N9. As awesome as all this sounds, this still doesn't address the biggest concern: applications. Some may be content running Android applications (poorly) on Sailfish, but I want the real deal. However, without - still - any word on paid applications, it doesn't seem like this issue will be addressed any time soon.

That being said - I'm an early backer for the tablet, and can't wait for it to arrive this May. I hope Sailfish OS 2.0 will find its way to my Jolla phone at around the same time.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Mar 2015 17:21 UTC
Android

Big news a few months ago: Google announced that all new devices which ship with Lollipop would have encryption enabled by default. Fast forward to today, and aside from Google's own Nexus devices, none of the new Lollipop devices actually seem to have encryption enabled by default. It turns out that Google has quietly relaxed this requirement in the Android Compatibility Definition, from 'MUST' to 'very strongly RECOMMENDED'.

Why? Performance, supposedly.

Our best guess at this point is that the encrypted-by-default requirement was relaxed to give OEMs more time to prepare their hardware for the transition. The performance problems can be offset by using faster flash memory, faster file systems like F2FS, and chips that are better at encrypting and decrypting data quickly, but phones and tablets take long enough to design that OEMs will need time to make these changes. Whether the change in policy was prompted by external pressure or an internal decision isn't clear, but the performance explanation makes the most logical sense.

Ouch. It's pretty clear Google wanted to quickly gain some positive press, especially after Apple announced it would turn encryption on by default in iOS, but failed to look at any possible performance repercussions. Sleazy move.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Mar 2015 09:14 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

NXP Semiconductors said on Sunday that it would buy a smaller peer, Freescale Semiconductor, in an $11.8 billion deal that would create a big maker of chips for industries as varied as automobiles and mobile payments.

The merger will also offer some relief to the private equity firms that bought Freescale at the height of the leveraged buyout boom, only to see the financial crisis bring the company low.

NXP is Dutch, and I have to admit, seeing a Dutch chip maker acquire Freescale makes me feel a little bit proud. Together with ASML, my little swamp does contribute at least something to the world of computing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 1st Mar 2015 19:10 UTC
Android

Samsung, naturally, is hoping to put the Galaxy S series back on people's radar as a top device, and it's doing so by starting afresh with the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge. Though it numerically follows the GS5, the Galaxy S6 bears little resemblance to the previous model, and marks a pretty significant change in the way Samsung designs phones. At the same time, the S6 edge picks up the fun parts of the Galaxy Note Edge and leaves behind the poor software experience.

There's a brand new design philosophy in play with the Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, starting with the radical hardware change and flowing into a more considered software experience. These are the phones that Samsung's hoping will change the perception of its devices in 2015 - let us show you what they're all about.

After HTC, Samsung was up. Most of the information regarding the new Galasy S6 and Galasy S6 Edge were leaked before their official unveiling, so we already knew what to expect. I'm particularly pleased with Samsung greatly simplifying TouchWiz, and the simplified camera interface and performance are very welcome too. The all-metal construction is nice, and I personally really like the Edge's curved display - not because of any software functionality, but because it just looks really nice and ergonomic.

During the unveiling event, one thing really stood out: confidence. Rarely have I seen Samsung personnel being this genuinely enthousiastic and confident about their new phones. They didn't resort to crazy antics or heavy buzzword dropping - they showed the device, its strengths, and that was it. For the first time, it felt as if Samsung truly believes the S6 and S6 Edge can stand on their own merit, instead of being held up by marketing and similar tricks.

My contract renewal is up later this year, and the S6 looks quite intriguing, and I haven't found any Samsung phone even remotely intriguing since the SII.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 1st Mar 2015 18:28 UTC
Android

It's hard not to have high hopes for the HTC One M9. Its immediate predecessor and the first phone in this rebirth of the HTC's flagship line - that'd be 2014's HTC One M8 and 2013's M7 - were fan favorites, and highly regarded by those of us who critique phones for a living.

But those phones were not without their flaws. And as we've seen HTC slowly address its devices' shortcomings (while growing and innovating in other areas), it's been difficult to not expect it to finally get things - all the things - right.

At least that's what we've been hoping, especially when it comes to its one tragic feature: The inconsistent performance of its UltraPixel camera.

And that brings us to this. The HTC One M9. We've spent a little time with HTC's latest, and this is what we've found thus far.

The HTC One M9 - the new one, announced today - looks very similar to the M8, but of course with better specifications and updated software. As much as I think the One series might be the best Android phones out there in terms of build quality, I just can't get myself to like its overall design. I do hope, though, that the M9 sells in large enough numbers, because HTC is going to need it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 1st Mar 2015 18:23 UTC, submitted by motang
Xfce

Today, after 2 years and 10 months of work, we are pleased to announce the release of the Xfce desktop 4.12, a new stable version that supersedes Xfce 4.10.

This long period can only be explained by how awesome Xfce 4.10 was. But as all things, it needed some refreshing - and for that we saw lots of new contributors providing valuable feedback, features and bugfixes. As always, Xfce follows its steady pace of evolution without revolution that seems to match our users' needs.

In this 4.12 cycle, we mainly focused on polishing our user experience on the desktop and window manager, and on updating some components to take advantage of newly available technologies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 28th Feb 2015 22:39 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Huawei is about to make its presence felt at MWC with the announcement of the Huawei Watch. The watch itself was first spotted yesterday on a billboard, but we now have full promo videos for this Android Wear-powered beauty that will be made official in a few hours. Posted to the Huawei YouTube channel, two videos walk through the design process for the watch and also show how cheesy Euros are when they take vacations with their brosephs.

Aside from the cheese, the videos do show one of the prettiest (this actually might be the prettiest) smartwatches we have seen to date. It features sapphire glass, a heart rate sensor, interchangeable leather or metal straps, crown, a bunch of classy watch faces, and a perfectly round watch face.

This thing is just gorgeous - full stop. Of course, it still has Android Wear which needs a lot of work, but it's clear that round is the way to go. Square just looks bulky, computery, and geeky.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Feb 2015 22:23 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

A Lenovo press release today:

The events of last week reinforce the principle that customer experience, security and privacy must be our top priorities. With this in mind, we will significantly reduce preloaded applications. Our goal is clear: To become the leader in providing cleaner, safer PCs.

We are starting immediately, and by the time we launch our Windows 10 products, our standard image will only include the operating system and related software, software required to make hardware work well (for example, when we include unique hardware in our devices, like a 3D camera), security software and Lenovo applications. This should eliminate what our industry calls "adware" and "bloatware." For some countries, certain applications customarily expected by users will also be included.

A step in the right direction, but still way too much wiggle room. Why, for instance, do they insist on shipping third party antivirus crap when Windows has its own, faster security software built right in? And what are "Lenovo applications"?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Feb 2015 21:55 UTC, submitted by JL
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Although long talked about, the Ubuntu Edge campaign exemplified the concept best with its "super phone" boast: your phone would hook up to a monitor, mouse and keyboard and become a fully functioning Ubuntu desktop PC. Phone apps would run on the desktop in an appropriate guise like responsive websites do on phones.

Today, ahead of Mobile World Congress next month, Ubuntu Desktop Manager Will Cooke has posted a three-minute video that shows how Canonical's engineering team is progressing.

My dream smartphone would be a phone that automatically turns into a PC the moment I get home. It knows I'm home, wirelessly and automatically hooks up to my display, mouse, and keyboard in my office, and done. Of course, it'd also automatically detect other displays and input devices in my house - say, a remote control and my TV.

Ubuntu is working on it.