Nextbit, a company founded by former Android engineers from Google, HTC, and others, has unveiled its first smartphone. The Robin has a pretty unique and fun design, but the major selling point - they claim - is that the phone intelligently manages its limited storage by offloading lesser-used or unused stuff (content and applications) to the internet. An interesting strategy in the current climate of privacy wariness - especially since these more boutique Android phones tend to be for technologically inclined users, who will be more aware of these issues. One also has to wonder how well this will work and how reliable it'll be, considering the company's young age.
As for specifications:
Speaking of hardware, the Robin is a uniquely designed mid-range Android phone. Nextbit tapped former HTC designer Scott Croyle as its head of design in 2014, and set out to make a phone that stands out among the sea of similar looking phones. The result is a device that's starkly rectangular, but with circular details throughout. The Robin's all-plastic chassis houses a 5.2-inch, 1080p display, Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, 3GB of RAM, a 2,680mAh battery, and 13-megapixel camera. Unique additions include a USB Type-C charging port and fingerprint scanner embedded into the side-mounted power button. The Robin is completely carrier and bootloader unlocked and is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile LTE.
Decidedly midrange for a phone that's on Kickstarter right now and will (supposedly) ship in January.
The web and tech journalists were all afire yesterday. A major new innovation? A brand new software release? Nope - Google has a new logo. Yeah. That's the hard-hitting tech news deserving of totally unbiased and very unpredictable hot takes.
There was actually real Google news too - the company made some changes to how search is displayed on mobile.
With mobile devices in mind, we've also made some changes to our search results page to help you more easily find what you need and dive into diverse content such as images, videos, news stories and more - by simply swiping and tapping.
Microsoft, Google, Mozilla, Cisco, Intel, Netflix, and Amazon today launched a new consortium, the Alliance for Open Media. The group plans to develop next-generation media formats - including audio and still images, but with video as the top priority - and deliver them as royalty-free open source, suitable for both commercial and noncommercial content.
The problem is that the supposed next-generation codec, HVEC, is going to be a lot more expensive, whereas other initiatives, such as Google's VP9/VP10, would surely face patent trolling from the other major players. By coming together like this, all these players can have a say, without fear of them suing each other. That being said, smaller players will still want to sue, but at least the united front should make that a little harder.
And, unsurprisingly, one major player is not part of this new initiative. I guess they didn't like the open and royalty-free part.
Where monolithic kernel architectures represent one extreme with respect to kernel complexity, separation kernels mark the opposite end. The code complexity of monolithic OS kernels such as Linux is usually counted in terms of millions of lines of code. In stark contrast, modern microkernels such as NOVA and seL4 are comprised of only ten thousand lines of code. Separation kernels go even a step further by reducing the code complexity to only a few thousand lines of code. How is that possible? The answer lies in the scope of functionality addressed by the different types of kernels. The high complexity of monolithic kernels stems from the fact that all major OS functionalities are considered as being in the scope of the kernel. In particular, device drivers and protocol stacks account for most of the code in such kernels. Microkernels disregard such functionalities from the scope of the kernel by moving them to user-level components. The kernel solely retains the functionality that is fundamentally needed to enable those components to work and collaborate. In order to accommodate a wide range of workloads, microkernels typically provide interfaces to user land that enable the dynamic management of low-level resources such as memory, devices, and processing time. Genode's designated role is to supplement microkernels with a scalable and secure user-level OS architecture. In contrast to microkernels, separation kernels disregard dynamic resource management from their scope. All physical resources are statically assigned to a fixed set of partitions at system-integration time and remain unchanged over the lifetime of the system. The flexibility of microkernels is traded for the benefit of further complexity reduction. Their low complexity of just a few thousand lines of code make separation kernels appealing for high-assurance computing. On the other hand, their static nature imposes limitations on their application areas.
Muen as a representative of separation kernels is special in two ways. First, whereas most separation kernels are proprietary software solutions, Muen is an open-source project. Second, the kernel is implemented in the safe SPARK programming language, which is able to formally verify the absence of implementation bugs such as buffer overflows, integer-range violations, and exceptions. Thanks to the close collaboration between the Muen developers and the Genode community, the assurance of the Muen separation kernel can now be combined with the rich component infrastructure provided by Genode. From Genode's perspective, Muen is another architecture for their custom base-hw kernel. In fact, with Genode on Muen, a microkernel-based system is running within the static boundaries of one Muen partition. This way, the component isolation enforced by the base-hw kernel and the static isolation boundaries enforced by Muen form two lines of defense for protecting security-critical system functions from untrusted code sandboxed within a Genode subsystem.
The second major theme of the current release is the use of Genode as the day-to-day operating system by its developers. Since the beginning of June, one of the core developers is exclusively working with a Genode/NOVA-based system. The key element is VirtualBox with its powerful guest-host integration features. It allows for an evolutionary transition from Linux-centric work flows to the use of native Genode applications. Network connectivity is provided by the Intel wireless stack ported from the Linux kernel. File-system access is based on NetBSD's rump kernels. For using command-line based GNU software directly on Genode, the Noux runtime environment comes in handy. The daily use of Genode as general-purpose OS motivated many recent developments, ranging from the management of kernel memory in NOVA, over new system monitoring facilities, SMP guest support in VirtualBox, to user-facing improvements of the GUI stack. These and many more topics are covered by the comprehensive release documentation.
This new release - one of the final 1.x released before 2.0 and the tablet hit, I suppose - integrates a whole bunch of options and settings related to the Android application support into the Sailfish settings applications, such as stopping/restarting Alien Dalvik, blocking Android applications from accessing your Sailfish contacts, allowing Android applications to keep running properly in the background, and so on.
There's more, so be sure to update.
I have been using Windows 10 off and on since October of 2014, and as the operating system on my main computer since January 22nd of this year. I honestly could not see me moving back to an older version ever. The improvements to Windows 10 are both dramatic and subtle, and the improvements keep occurring even this shortly after launch. Better for the desktop, better for the tablet, and a platform than runs on practically any computer system. Windows 10 is here, and Microsoft has made a bold statement with it. It is the return of the old, plus the addition of the new, all in a package that works very well on a huge variety of devices.
Just be sure to ignore all the crappy Metro applications, and you'll be fine with Windows 10.
That's right: beginning today, a select set of Android Wear smartwatches (and all future watches) will work with the iPhone. The app should be rolling out worldwide soon. It’s been a long time coming - and it means that Google will be challenging the Apple Watch on its home turf. Those Android Wear watches will be both cheaper and more varied than the Apple Watch - just like Android itself.
Some very smart people I've been talking to suggest that, by building a platform, Apple is generating leverage that it can use to great effect in these negotiations. A mid-market breakout box offering is one thing, but a huge, rumbling platform with an upward trajectory of living-room dominating apps and third-party content is another beast. If, obviously if, Apple is successful with the Apple TV, it could be in a position to dominate content in a way that no other 'smart' TV platform has before it.
If Apple did indeed 'delay' the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we've had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.
If you see another annoying settopbox, they blew it.
Microsoft released Windows 10 four weeks ago today, and now the company is providing a fresh update on its upgrade figures. 14 million machines had been upgraded to Windows 10 within 24 hours of the operating system release last month, and that figure has now risen to more than 75 million in just four weeks.
As somebody who uses Windows every day, and who upgraded to Windows 10 a few weeks before it was released, let me make a statement about all the positive Windows 10 reviews that not everyone is going to like. There are only two reasons Windows 10 is getting positive reviews. First, because it's free. This one's a given. Second, and more importantly: Windows 10 is getting positive reviews because none of the reviewers have forced themselves to use nothing but Metro applications.
Here's the cold and harsh truth as I see it: despite all the promises, Metro applications are still complete and utter garbage. Let me explain why.
While Google remains committed to industry-wide adoption of HTTPS, there isn't always full compliance on third party ad networks and custom creative code served via our systems. To ensure ads continue to serve on iOS9 devices for developers transitioning to HTTPS, the recommended short term fix is to add an exception that allows HTTP requests to succeed and non-secure content to load successfully.
Confirmed: Google wants me to switch to iOS.
This year's Galaxy Note 5 is an outstanding device - combining power with grace, and utility with handsome looks - but it also has a pretty major design flaw. The phone's stylus can be inserted into its silo in both orientations, which is a change from previous S Pen designs, and one of those orientations can result in permanent damage to the Note's functionality. If you are unfortunate enough to slide your S Pen in the wrong way, you'll have a hard time unjamming it from the slot (though eventually you should be able to pry it away), but more importantly, you might disable the Note's stylus detection feature. It's a big problem that can result from a very small mistake. Samsung has now issued a response, and well, the answer is that you should read and adhere to the manual.
Grab the pitchforks everyone, we got ourselves 'nother -gate!
I can't believe they shipped this thing with this design flaw, especially since it's so easy to fix: just make the 'wrong' end of the stylus a little bit wider so you can't stick it in the wrong way et voilà, problem fixed.
Samsung's response is silly. They should've said "we're replacing all Note 5 styluses with a newer model that can't be inserted the wrong way around, and all damaged devices will be replaced free of charge".
Today the Contiki team announced the release of Contiki 3.0, the latest version of the open source IoT operating system! The 3.0 release is a huge step up from the 2.x branch and brings support for new and exciting hardware, a set of new network protocols, a bunch of improvements in the low-power mesh networking protocols, along with a large number of general stability improvements.
This release of Plasma brings many nice touches for our users such as much improved high DPI support, KRunner auto-completion and many new beautiful Breeze icons. It also lays the ground for the future with a tech preview of Wayland session available. We're shipping a few new components such as an Audio Volume Plasma Widget, monitor calibration tool and the User Manager tool comes out beta.
There's a video too.
Over the last few days I've been testing an experimental content blocker called Crystal, which promises to speed up browsing on iOS. I've been particularly impressed by the results and taken aback by how much removing trackers, ads and other scripts makes a difference over a cellular connection.
The content blocker is a major selling point for iOS, in my opinion. On Android, this will always be a hack - third party tools, root, that sort of thing - and never properly integrated into the operating system, even though it should be.
Good move by Apple, and together with a lack of a decent Android headset out right now, it's pushing me towards an iPhone when my contract renewal is up in October.
The level of Windows 10 paranoia reached new heights this week when reports suggested that Microsoft would wipe torrents and pirated software from people's hard drives. Nonsense, of course, but all the recent privacy concerns were enough to have the operating system banned from several torrent trackers.
Another creepy story here. Windows 10's privacy is turning into a headache for Microsoft. It won't be long now until prime time and daytime news shows start picking this stuff up, and blow it out of proportion - deserved or no.
Ever since I wrote on Thursday about the Ashley Madison hack and resulting reactions and consequences, I've heard from dozens of people who used the site. They offer a remarkably wide range of reasons for having done so. I'm posting below one email I received that I find particularly illuminating, which I very lightly edited to correct a few obvious typographical errors.
It gets even worse than this email. There are gay men and women in countries where being gay is punishable by death, who were using this site to meet other gay men and women, in secret. This hack will out them, possibly leading to their death.
This hack and spreading of private information is just as bad as any other, similar hacks. Despicable as it is, cheating is not a crime, and even if it were, do we really want to live in a world with mob justice? And yes, the parent company in this particular case isn't exactly of clear conscience, but that's no reason to throw its users under the bus - or have them murdered by barbaric, mediaeval governments.
I know a lot of people like the world to be black and white, because it's simple, easy to understand, and doesn't strain the brain. Sadly for them, that's not how the world works.
What went unannounced was that most of the original team that built Now had departed, many of them just before I/O, according to multiple sources. Some had grown frustrated that the product, born within Android, was shuttered into search inside of Google, they said. And Sundar Pichai, Google's SVP and incoming CEO, did not prioritize the product as much as Page.
The exits reveal the hiccups Google has incubating new products that reach across multiple units of the tech giant. They also expose some key traits of Pichai's leadership style - and some of the many hurdles he has ahead as he marshals Google’s core business.
I didn't believe it would be possible at first, but after spending the better part of a week on Chrome 46 I'm blown away. Memory consumption seems to have halved, groggy slow tabs are snappier than ever and my battery life isn't shamefully bad anymore - also, my laptop's fans aren't constantly blowing.
It's going to take a lot of convincing to get me to switch from Safari back to Chrome on my MacBook Pro.
For those who haven't kept up with bcache, the bcache codebase has been evolving/metastasizing into a full blown, general purpose posix filesystem - a modern COW filesystem with checksumming, compression, multiple devices, caching, and eventually snapshots and all kinds of other nifty features.
I'll admit I had to do a bit of reading to educate myself on what bcache actually is. Fascinating to see that it has evolved into a full-blown file system.