Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th May 2016 11:22 UTC
Google

The reason we're making this change is that users regularly lose data because they hit the backspace button thinking that a form field is focused. After years of this issue, we realize we're not going to have a better way to solve that problem.

I absolutely hate this change. I deeply, deeply, deeply hate this change. This is a classic case of instead of addressing the core problem - web forms shouldn't lose their content when you navigate back and forth - you just try to hide it a little more by making navigation harder.

Emblematic of software development today, especially in operating systems: instead of fixing core problems, let's just add more layers to hide the ugliness. You see it everywhere - from still relying on an operating system written for timesharing machines with punchcards, to trying to hide broken, complicated and obtuse file system layouts behind "just use convoluted cloud storage".

People carrying around ugly battery packs just to get through a day of use on their devices running an outdated timesharing mainframe punchcard operating system from the '60s tells you all you need to know about the complete failure of modern software development - and this tiny little change in Chrome only underlines it.

Good software does not exist.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th May 2016 21:58 UTC
Android

It's really happening. Android apps are coming to Chrome OS. And it's not just a small subset of apps; the entire Google Play Store is coming to Chrome OS. More than 1.5 million apps will come to a platform that before today was "just a browser," and Android and Chrome OS take yet another step closer together.

In advance of the show, we were able to sit down with members of the Chrome OS team and get a better idea of exactly what Chrome OS users are in for. The goal is an "It just works" solution, with zero effort from developers required to get their Android app up and running. Notifications and in-line replies should all work. Android apps live in native Chrome OS windows, making them look like part of the OS. Chrome OS has picked up some Android tricks too - sharing and intent systems should work fine, even from one type of app or website to another. Google is aiming for a unified, seamless user experience.

Interestingly enough, this project is actually not ARC, the technology Google used before to bring Android applications to Chrome. ARC wasn't good enough for Google, as it still required developers to make changes to their code. In fact - and this is kind of funny - ARC didn't even pass Google's own Compatibility Test Suite Android variants have to comply with. So, they started from scratch, and used containers instead.

The new model dumps the native-client based implementation for an unmodified copy of the Android Framework running in a container. Containers usually bundle an app up with all of its dependencies, like the runtime, libraries, binaries, and anything else the app needs to run. This allows the difference between application environments to be abstracted away. In this case, Google is putting the entire Android Framework into a container, all the way down to the Hardware Abstraction Layer.

I'm hoping Google will eventually bringing Android applications to all variants of Chrome, including the one on Windows.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th May 2016 13:07 UTC
Google

During the Google I/O keynote last night, the company introduced a number of new products and talked some more about Android N. There's Google Home, an Amazon Echo competitor, which will be available somewhere later this year. The company also announced two (!) more messaging applications, and at this point I'm not sure whatever the hell Google is thinking with their 3027 messaging applications. There was also a lot of talk about virtual reality, but I still just can't get excited about it at all.

More interesting were the portions about Android N and Android Wear 2.0. Android N has gone beta, and you can enroll eligible Nexus devices into the developer preview program to get the beta now (Developer Preview devices should get the beta update over the air).

New things announced regarding Android N are seamless operating system updates (much like Chrome OS, but only useful for those devices actually getting updates), a Vulkan graphics API, Java 8 language features, and a lot more. Google is also working on running Android applications without installing them.

Android Wear 2.0 was also announced, introducing a slightly improved application launcher, better input methods (handwriting recognition and a tiny keyboard), and support for a feature that allows watchfaces to display information from applications - very similar to what many third-party Wear watchfaces already allow.

Tying all of Google announcements together was Google Assistant, an improved take on Google Now that integrates contextually-aware conversation speech into Google's virtual assistant. Google Assistant is what ties Google Home, Android, Android TV, Wear, the web, and everything else together. We'll have to see if it's actually any good in real tests, of course, but it looks kind of interesting.

That being said, I've been firmly in the "these virtual assistants are useless" camp, and this new stuff does little to pull me out. It just doesn't feel as efficient and quick as just using your device or PC with your hands, and on top of that, there's the huge problem of Silicon Valley - all technology companies, including Google, Apple, and Microsoft - having absolutely no clue about the fact that endless amounts of people lead bilingual lives.

To this day, all these virtual assistants and voice input technologies are entirely useless to people such as myself, who lead about 50/50 bilingual lives, because only one language can be set. Things like Wear and the Apple Watch require a goddamn full-on reset and wipe to switch voice input language, meaning that no matter what language I set, it'll be useless 50% of the time. If you're American and used to only speaking in English, you might think this is a small problem... Until you realise there are dozens of millions of Spanish/English bilingual people in the US alone. It's high time Silicon Valley goes on a trip out into the real world, beyond the 2.3 kids/golden retriever/cat/minivan perfect suburban model families they always show in their videos.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th May 2016 16:06 UTC
Android

The once beloved ES File Explorer was revealed recently to be little more than a Trojan Horse, used to get adware installed on thousands of devices with one update. This was apparently just the beginning. Users have started compiling a spreadsheet of apps that sneak the same adware-infused charging lock screen onto your device. There are already about 20 of them. Google, where are you?

Google needs to address this grotesque abuse of its users quickly and decisively, and remove all applications that install this adware from the Play Store, no questions asked. This is in direct violation of the Play Store rules.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th May 2016 15:10 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Nokia has announced plans that will see the Nokia brand return to the mobile phone and tablet markets on a global basis. Under a strategic agreement covering branding rights and intellectual property licensing, Nokia Technologies will grant HMD global Oy (HMD), a newly founded company based in Finland, an exclusive global license [1] to create Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets for the next ten years. Under the agreement, Nokia Technologies will receive royalty payments from HMD for sales of Nokia-branded mobile products, covering both brand and intellectual property rights.

All these devices will run Android.

With the news that Microsoft is selling the feature phone branch it bought from Nokia, and the additional news that Microsoft is hinting at killing its Lumia line and brand, can we all finally agree what many smart people - including myself - said from the very beginning, namely that Microsoft acquiring Nokia was nothing more but yet another disaster in a long line of Microsoft/Windows Phone disasters? One that cost thousands and thousands of people their jobs?

I still feel the circumstances around the Microsoft/Nokia deal needs to be investigated for... Shenanigans.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th May 2016 10:56 UTC, submitted by AmineKhaldi
ReactOS

The ReactOS team is proud to announce the release of version 0.4.1 a mere three months after the release of 0.4.0. The team has long desired an increased release tempo and the hope is that this will be the first of many of faster iterations.

Due to the brief period of time between the two releases, 0.4.1 is ultimately a refinement of what was in 0.4.0.

I'm glad ReactOS has been picking up steam again. I still doubt it'll ever serve a production purpose, but the effort is incredibly impressive nonetheless.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th May 2016 10:37 UTC
Windows

Possibly the most despised feature of Windows 10 is advertisements. They show up in your apps list, lock screen, and even the Start Menu. Sadly, Microsoft plans to double the amount of Promoted Apps that you'll find hiding in the Start Menu when the Windows 10 Anniversary Update is released this summer.

To be fair, this supposedly only applies to fresh installs of Windows 10 (though that is unconfirmed), but it just feels so dirty. Apple is already stuffing iOS full of ads and unremovable ads disguised as applications, and now Microsoft is making Windows 10 worse too. This is a horrible trend.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th May 2016 21:39 UTC
Internet & Networking

Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site

And so the slow march of death of Flash continues, ever onward, never looking back, into the abyss, a neverending blackness, cold and deep, nevermore to return.

 

Linked by diegocg on Mon 16th May 2016 21:37 UTC
Linux

Linux 4.6 has been released. This release adds support for USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps), the new distributed file system OrangeFS, a more reliable out-of-memory handling, support for Intel memory protection keys, a facility to make easier and faster implementations of application layer protocols, support for 802.1AE MAC-level encryption (MACsec), support for the version V of the BATMAN protocol, a OCFS2 online inode checker, support for cgroup namespaces, and support for the pNFS SCSI layout, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th May 2016 19:44 UTC
Google

I downloaded the new Gboard for iOS today, and have been really enjoying it so far. Along with wondering about what Google will tell advertisers now that they can read every single thing I type, I came to the realization that pretty much every major function of my iPhone has now been taken over by Google software.

I use Google products for email, search, photos, maps, and video. Gboard effectively puts Google inside every app I use that requires me to type, from texting to taking notes. The only activity that isn't really mediated by the search giant at this point are voice calls, although in the past I have used Google Voice.

This is why, despite rumblings, we've not yet seen Apple allowing iOS users to set default applications.

The day Apple allows this, we're going to see a whole lot of Google iPhones.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th May 2016 23:26 UTC
Android

During hours of unrelenting cross-examination today, Andy Rubin, Google's former Android chief, was on the stand in the Oracle v. Google trial defending how he built the mobile OS.

Rubin's testimony began yesterday. He's another one of the star witnesses in this second courtroom showdown between the two software giants in which Oracle has said it will seek up to $9 billion in damages for Google's use of certain Java APIs in the Android operating system. Since an appeals court decided that APIs can be copyrighted, Google's only remaining defense in this case is that its use of those APIs constitutes "fair use."

The "API's are copyrightable"-ruling is one of those rulings we will look back on decades from now and point to as "that's where it all went wrong", much like how we now look back upon disastrous rulings like Citizens United or the slew of bad rulings that legitimised software patents.

And we have the despicable Oracle to thank for that. As I've pointed out before, it's no coincidence that the three-pronged legal attack on Android - from Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle - all started at around the same time, and that Larry Ellison was a very close friend of Steve Jobs.

When all this stuff hits the fan even harder, you know who to thank.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th May 2016 23:16 UTC
Opera Software

Today, we are sharing with you yet another feature to try out in the developer channel for Opera for computers.

We are the first major browser to include a dedicated power saving mode, designed to extend your laptop battery life by up to 50% compared with, for example, Google Chrome. Depending on your type of hardware, it can mean several hours more browsing before you need to recharge your laptop.

Very interesting feature - but I'll be interested in real-world tests and benchmarks.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:31 UTC
Windows

The other notable change in build 14342 isn't a feature that's been added but rather one that's been removed. Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 both included a contentious feature called Wi-Fi Sense that allowed Wi-Fi credentials to be shared with your Facebook and Skype contacts. Citing the lack of end-user uptake of this feature, it has been removed from 14342.

Windows 10 will still sync Wi-Fi credentials among your own machines, so signing on to a network with one Windows 10 PC will allow all the other PCs that use the same Microsoft Account to also access the network, so this (arguably more important) capability isn't going away, but the one that raised so many hackles after it was spotted a year after its introduction is consigned to the dustbin of history.

Good. This was such an incredibly creepy and potentially dangerous feature that I really cannot fathom that it got through the countless levels of triage Windows features certainly go through.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:28 UTC
Google

Google began digging up dirt and laying fiber optic pipes in Kansas City, Kan., five years ago in April. Its first customers were wired the following year.

For the years after, it was unclear - certainly outside of Google - just what Google wanted to accomplish with this first venture outside of its core business. Now it's evident: Google was using Kansas City as a testbed for an audacious project - one to take on broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, which enjoy long-held duopolies and monopolies across the country, and build out a national service. To provide real competition.

Googlers won't say this out loud, but they despise the cable industry. They find it inert, predatory and, worst, anti-innovation. So Google wants to replace it.

No better microcosm of the complete and utter ineptitude of the US government to implement, maintain, and modernise infrastructure than the US cable industry. I still can't believe that the internet in the US is as dreadfully horrible as it is.

If it takes Google to break the deadlock, so be it - even though it shouldn't be a profit-hungry company to do so.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:21 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

We need competition; we also need diversity. We need the possibility that young, game-changing market entrants might come along. We need that idea to be kept alive, to make sure that all the browsers don't shift from keeping users happy to just keeping a few giant corporations that dominate the Web happy. Because there's always pressure to do that, and if all the browsers end up playing that same old game, the users will always lose.

We need more Firefoxes.

We need more browsers that treat their users, rather than publishers, as their customers. It's the natural cycle of concentration-disruption-renewal that has kept the Web vibrant for nearly 20 years (eons, in web-years).

We may never get another one, though.

Sometimes, I feel a little dirty for using Chrome just about anywhere, instead of Firefox. The problem is that switching browsers is not something I just do willy-nilly; you build up certain ways of using a browser, and with it being by far the most-used and most important application on my PC, even the tiniest of things become ingrained, and the tiniest of differences between browsers will annoy the crap out of me. I do give other browsers a chance every now and then, just to keep up with the times - but I always end up back at Chrome.

That being said, Doctorow's article paints a very bleak picture of the future of browsers, because according to him, the W3C has basically become a tool for the few big tech companies to dictate the direction of browsers and therefore the web with it, with disastrous consequences.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th May 2016 09:29 UTC
In the News

Ghost in the Shell is the product of and response to decades of physical erasure and technological alienation. It's pop cultural fallout, a delicately layered croissant of appropriation upon appropriation. It's as timely as ever, but it feels wildly inappropriate for an American studio and the British director of Snow White and the Huntsman to pick it up and sell it back to us. At the same time, Japan and the US have been stealing and selling images to each other for decades, and the result hasn't always been awful. I would still argue, though, that the knotty history that leads to Motoko Kusanagi will be lost in translation. This isn't The Matrix or Pacific Rim, this isn't just a look and a vibe being lifted. This is the entire history of Japan's relationship with itself, the US and technology, and without that, you're left with nothing but an empty prosthesis.

Beautifully written analysis of the Ghost in the Shell casting issue, by Emily Yoshida.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th May 2016 22:17 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Minoca OS is a leading-edge, highly customizable, general purpose operating system. It features application level functionality such as virtual memory, networking, and POSIX compatibility, but at a significantly reduced image and memory footprint. Unique development, debugging, and real-time profiling tools make getting to the bottom of issues straightforward and easy. Direct support from the development team behind Minoca OS simplifies the process of creating OS images tailored to your application, saving on engineering resources and development time. Minoca OS is a one-stop shop for systems-level design.

Since this will be the main question: no, it is not open source (count the buzzwords). There's a free version that's free to use in non-commercial settings, and a pro version that isn't free, but does come with source access. So no, not open source - but not everything has to be. It's not like open source operating system folks are starved for entertainment in that department.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th May 2016 21:33 UTC
OpenBSD

OpenBSD is an operating system that prioritizes security, encryption, and free (as in free and open) software. It's built in the open - anyone can see the code and discussions around it. That's no accident - the earliest contributors recognized that transparency and public discussion are essential to effective security. If you follow the project and the email lists for any length of time, it becomes clear that the core contributors are passionate about security and quality. These are volunteers that spend their limited, precious spare time on building a great operating system that they give away for free because they want to see secure, high quality software thrive in the world. They've been doing it for 20 years.

What they've made works really well. While it's not as easy for a consumer to use as Windows or OS X, to someone more technically inclined, it's straightforward to use as a server or as a desktop for many use cases. And the big feature: it starts our very secure and if you're careful you can keep it that way as you customize it to suit your purpose.

A heartfelt case for OpenBSD.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th May 2016 22:39 UTC
Windows

Microsoft had been planning to introduce a unique 3D Touch feature with a flagship Windows phone back in 2014. While the device was canceled, the work behind Microsoft's Kinect-like gestures lives on. In a new Microsoft Research video, the software maker is revealing some of the features it was working on under the guise of "pre-touch sensing for mobile interaction."

This is exactly the kind of cool stuff that could've given Windows Phone a very interesting edge. Unlike Apple's 3D touch, which is a completely pointless gimmick, the examples in the Microsoft video seem quite useful, and do actually streamline a number of mobile UI interactions.

I hope this isn't shelved permanently.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th May 2016 09:39 UTC
Android

Two weeks shy of Google detailing the next big revision of Android at its annual developer conference, the current Android version is still struggling to make its way out to devices. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is currently running on just 7.5 percent of active Android devices that have access to the Google Play Store. The rest of the field is dominated by 2014's Android Lollipop at 35.6 percent, 2013's KitKat at 32.5 percent, and 2012's Jelly Bean at 20.1 percent. 2011's Ice Cream Sandwich still clings on to a stubborn 2 percent and the immortal Android Gingerbread (version 2.3!) accounts for 2.2 percent of Android smartphones.

Using an iPhone 6S since it came out has made me appreciate more and more just how much better Android is than iOS - but it's all for naught if Google doesn't get off its bum and fixes this long-running problem. Now that Android at 6.x is definitively better than iOS, it's way, way, way, way beyond time for Google to drop everything they're doing and somehow find a way to forcefully and resolutely address this deficit.

If the latest version of Android is the best (i.e., the least crappy) mobile operating system out there, but nobody is running it, is it really the best mobile operating system?