Yesterday, we published a blog post lauding an extremely important app privacy feature that was added in Android 4.3. That feature allows users to install apps while preventing the app from collecting sensitive data like the user's location or address book.
After we published the post, several people contacted us to say that the feature had actually been removed in Android 4.4.2, which was released earlier this week. Today, we installed that update to our test device, and can confirm that the App Ops privacy feature that we were excited about yesterday is in fact now gone.
If there's one thing that needs some serious love in Android, it's the application permissions. I carefully look at them every time I install an application, but I'm guessing most people don't. While there's only so much stupidity technology can solve, Android's application permissions are, indeed, quite overwhelming at times. I'm not a particular fan of modal dialogs every time an application needs permission for something (the iOS way) either, so I'm not sure how this can be addressed in a user-friendly way.
App Ops seemed like a decent compromise that allowed for lots of finetuning of permissions, per application. Luckily, I'm using a custom ROM that re-enables it, Google be damned. Google claims App Ops may break some applications - well, that's not really any of my concern. If an application breaks because I do not give it permission to find out if I'm on the toilet or not - there's always an uninstall button.
So, Google better have some serious improvement in mind for application permissions, or they're just making sure regular users don't get into the habit of blocking Google's data collection. I hope the former, but I'm reasonably sure it's the latter.
Reviving an old computer is like restoring a classic car: There's a thrill from bringing the ancient into the modern world. So it was with my first "real" computer, my Mac Plus, when I decided to bring it forward three decades and introduce it to the modern Web.
It's amazing what's possible on these old machines.
This website runs an emulator of the Amiga 500 inside of Chrome by using Portable Native Client, a way to run existing C/C++ in the browser in a safe way across operating systems and across machine architectures. On the main page you can boot the Amiga, insert floppy disks, play the games, and generally pretend it's still the late 80s.
SteamOS will be made available when the prototype hardware ships. It will be downloadable by individual users and commercial OEMs. (But unless you're an intrepid Linux hacker already, we're going to recommend that you wait until later in 2014 to try it out.) We'll post info soon about that. Oh, and stay tuned for the in-home streaming beta to begin soon, too!
The first moment of truth for Valve.
The Verge is reporting that Microsoft is considering making Windows RT and Windows Phone free for OEMs, to combat Android.
We understand that any decision to axe the license fees for Windows Phone and Windows RT would be backed by a push for revenue from Microsoft’s apps and services. Microsoft has been experimenting with ads in Windows 8 apps, and any associated revenue from those apps and the company’s built-in Bing search results would help offset the lack of license fees. Microsoft would also push consumers to subscribe to services like SkyDrive, Office, and Skype for additional revenue.
So, let me get this straight. In April this year, a Microsoft-sponsored antitrust complaint about Android had this to say:
Google's predatory distribution of Android at below-cost makes it difficult for other providers of operating systems to recoup investments in competing with Google's dominant mobile platform.
And we have the whole Scroogled campaign (I felt dirty just for visiting that site).
And now they're considering doing the exact same things they claim Google is doing unfairly? Does this company have any internal consistency whatsoever?
Ina Fried has just confirmed the Nokia Android phone - and even argues that Microsoft might go ahead with actually releasing it.
According to a Nokia source, the software has a look more similar to Windows Phone than to the "squircle" icons used on the Asha. Normandy would also serve as a way to deliver Microsoft services such as Bing and Skype.
That is seen by some at Microsoft as a more palatable alternative than seeing more of those first-time smartphone buyers sign up not just for Android but also for Google's array of services.
Makes sense. It does raise another question, though: wouldn't this be yet another operating system Microsoft would need to develop and support?
Nokia has been building its own Android phone according to multiple sources familiar with the company's plans. Codenamed Normandy, and known internally at Nokia under a number of other names, the handset is designed as the next step in low-end phones from the Finnish smartphone maker. We understand that Nokia has been testing "Normandy" with a special "forked" variant of Android that's not aligned with Google's own version, akin to what Amazon does with its Kindle Fire line.
The release of this phone is slated for 2014, and is supposedly "full steam ahead". I guess this will depend on how quickly Microsoft can complete the acquisition.
Unfounded speculation on my end: could this be the reason Microsoft went ahead and bought Nokia's devices division? A successful Nokia Android phone would be quite embarrassing for them, after all.
Canonical has just signed its first deal to supply a smartphone with its mobile operating system, Canonical founder and product strategy leader Mark Shuttleworth revealed in an interview here at the LeWeb conference. He wouldn't say which company has agreed to use the Linux-based OS, but said it will be offered on high-end phones in 2014.
Two changes supposedly coming to the next version of Windows, according to veteran Paul Thurrott:
Metro apps running in windows on the desktop. As you can today with third-party utilities such as ModernMix, the next version of Windows will let users optionally run Metro apps in floating windows on the desktop.
Start menu. After bringing back the Start button in Windows 8.1, Microsoft will take the next logical step in the next Windows version and make the Start menu available as an option. It's possible this will appear only on those product versions that support the desktop.
This would be Microsoft admitting they got Windows 8 all wrong.
Joaquin Almunia's strongest language was reserved for Nokia, which is in the process of selling its devices business to Microsoft, giving rise to fears that the remaining part of Nokia will make more aggressive use of its patents portfolio.
Almunia said that the commission had dismissed the possibility that "Nokia would be tempted to behave like a patent troll" when it cleared the way for Microsoft to acquire Nokia's devices division - but warned that "if Nokia were to take illegal advantage of its patents in the future, we will open an antitrust case."
This is a real threat. The gutted Nokia still holds a considerable amount of patents, and they've already shown remarkable willingness to sue Android device makers over them. Good to know the EU is on top of it.
While my Jolla still hasn't shipped, the community isn't sitting still at all. Sailfish has already been ported to Jolla's spiritual predecessor - yes, the Nokia N9 can now run Sailfish OS. The beautify of it all is that you don't even need to remove Harmattan, since it can dual-boot. It's relatively complete too, since GPS, A-GPS, Bluetooth, wifi and 'Calling Functions' are already working.
In addition, Sailfish' first update, version 18.104.22.168 has been detailed in its changelog - it's mostly a bugfix and stability release. So, when the pre-order devices arrive at our doorsteps, we'll have a software update waiting
The giants of the tech industry are uniting to wage a campaign for sweeping reforms to the National Security Agency.
Google, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple, LinkedIn and AOL are setting aside their business rivalries to demand that Congress and President Obama scale back the government's voracious surveillance.
These companies had little to no qualms about teaming up with the US government back when it was all done in relative secrecy, but now that it's out in the open, they're acting like heroes. This campaign would never have been launched if Snowden hadn't blown the whistle, which means the motive behind this new campaign is money - not morality.
The Microsoft CEO succession process appears to be stalled. This is a company with immense human, technical, and financial resources; the tech industry is filled with intelligent, energetic, dedicated candidates. What's wrong with the matchmaking process?
The gist: Microsoft needs someone strong enough to stand up to the old guard still looking over everyone's shoulder (Gates and Ballmer) - and essentially dismiss them - since the company needs to look to the future, not the past.
Good luck with that.
"It's pretty much a brick," says Pawn Stars' Rick Harrison as he rejects a Samsung Chromebook brought in by an actor playing a customer. Microsoft really doesn't want you buying this thing.
But why? Just how big of a threat are Chromebooks, Google's oft-ridiculed web-only laptops, to Microsoft's core business?
I'm puzzled too. It doesn't seem like Chromebooks are that big of a threat - why create terrible advertisements that only provide Google with free publicity?
RIM grew into one of the world's most valuable tech companies. The BlackBerry became the indispensable accessory of business executives, heads of state, and Hollywood celebrities - until iPhone and Android came along and spoiled the party. Today the company, which has been renamed, simply, BlackBerry, is burning through cash as sales keep falling. On Nov. 21, BlackBerry shares closed at just above $6, the lowest it's been in almost 15 years.
Over the last two months, Bloomberg Businessweek spoke to dozens of current and former BlackBerry employees, vendors, and associates. Here is their account of the thrill of BlackBerry's ascension - and the heartache of watching its demise.
Aside from of course the personal tragedies that may arise from a possible complete BlackBerry collapse, I have little to no connection to the company or its products.
Except for one product.
I hope they release it as open source before it's too late.
Having access to your data and being able to take it with you is important, especially if that data contains precious memories like old love letters, your first job offer, or that 100-message thread discussing the merits of various cat videos. Starting today we're rolling out the ability to export a copy of your Gmail and Google Calendar data, making it easy to back up your data or move to another service.
You can download all of your mail and calendars or choose a subset of labels and calendars. You can also download a single archive file for multiple products with a copy of your Gmail, Calendar, Google+, YouTube, Drive, and other Google data.
Great move by Google. The Data Liberation Front had gotten a bit stale, and it was about time exporting all your emails from Gmail became easier. Good backup tool, too - for, you know, company stuff. Or emails from a girl you like.
About 2 years back, I read this article on Michael Degusta's personal blog. It was a revelation. Michael ripped the Android ecosystem apart with a simple chart. The chart converted me from an Android user to an iPhone user. I hope this chart helps other folks make an informed decision when their next smartphone upgrade is due.
Charts like this do great in certain areas of the web, but it's too simplistic. First, it does not take into account that many core aspects of Android are updated through Google Play, such as Chrome, Gmail, Maps, the keyboard, and so on. Whereas iOS needs an entire update to fix a small bug in, say, Maps - Android does not. Many core parts that require an entire OS update for iOS are updated weekly on Android.
Second, it does not mention that even though older iPhone models get the latest version of iOS, some functionality of these latest versions is disabled due to marketing, and in some cases due to hardware constraints (if you were to believe Apple, that is).
Third and foremost, though: I'm betting each and every one of those devices has at least an Android 4.2 or 4.3 release (and some have 4.4 too, like my Find 5) from, for instance, CyanogenMod - and countless other ROM makers. Installing a custom ROM is one of the strengths of Android, and not nearly as hard or difficult as some make it out to be. If your iPhone becomes unsupported or really slow due to iOS7 - you're screwed. You have no other options. If Samsung's TouchWiz crap makes your Galaxy slow,
run out and get a quality phone install a custom ROM.
I see this all the time: people ignoring core strengths of Android because they don't understand them or because they don't belong to their interests - "this is just for nerds and geeks, so it's irrelevant!" Take discussions about application on iOS and Android, for instance; those arguing in favour of iOS routinely ignore that Android has access to types of applications iOS users could only dream of. If you leave those out, it's easy to make Android's application offering look weaker. The same happens when looking at Android and updates.
All this doesn't negate the fact that updates are by far Android's weakest link, although not nearly as much of an issue as it used to be during the gingerbread days. Moving more and more parts of Android to Play will eventually all but solve the issue completely.
USB cable developers have announced that a forthcoming version of the connector's plug is to be reversible.
It means users of the Universal Serial Bus cables will no longer have to worry which way round the part is facing when plugging it into a device.
The specification is due to be completed by mid-2014, and the first product on the market by 2016.
Spend only a few days using Apple's Lightning connector, and you'll realise how small things like it being reversible just makes life that tiny little bit less frustrating. About time USB did this.
I recently scored a Hewlett Packard 1670A Deep Memory Logic Analyzer and I finally had a chance to fire it up. This unit dates back to 1992 and is packed with all sorts of interesting options for connecting peripherals to it. One particular feature that caught my eye was the option to connect to an X Server.
Aside from the really cool stuff regarding X11, I'm absolutely fascinated by the user interface of this exotic piece of hardware. It's quite utilitarian, but still has an interesting sense of beauty and focus. I'd love to play with this (even though I have no idea what this equipment actually does).