Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th Feb 2016 22:26 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) are introducing a bill today to effectively override bad state-level encryption bills. The ENCRYPT Act of 2016, or by its longer name, the Ensuring National Constitutional Rights of Your Private Telecommunications Act, would preempt state and local government encryption laws. The two men said today they are "deeply concerned" that varying bills surrounding encryption would endanger the country as well as the competitiveness of American companies. The argument is that it wouldn't be easy or even feasible to tailor phone encryption capabilities for specific states.

We're going to need a lot of these laws - all over the world.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th Feb 2016 22:18 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Community mapping applications come in all shapes and sizes. There are apps to help drivers avoid speed traps, maneuver around traffic jams, and find cheap gas. And now there's one that helps people avoid being pulled from their car by the Ershad - Iran's morals police.

Anonymous developers in Iran recently released an Android app that is intended to help young Iranians share intelligence about Ershad checkpoints. Called "Gershad," the app depends on crowdsourced reports from users to help others avoid being stopped, harassed, or even possibly beaten or arrested for failing to adhere to the Ershad interpretations of Islamic morality.

Fascinating what technology can do for people.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Feb 2016 22:16 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

But in bounding after large screens, phone makers seemed to ignore the usability issues that accompany them. Small studies have shown before that 4.3 inches is about as big as a phone can get before people start struggling to use it. The time to operate the phone slows down significantly because one-hand use is awkward - and that's for average men's hands. Assuming a normal distribution, for half of men and most women, a phone bigger than 4.3 inches - like the current smallest iPhone - is too big.

The increasing size of smartphones is one of the big mysteries of the technology world. The mystery lies not in phones getting larger - a lot of people prefer it - but in smaller phones, which a lot of people also prefer, disappearing, or being treated as second-class citizens.

Such an odd development.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Feb 2016 22:09 UTC, submitted by Radio
Internet & Networking

Major desktop browsers push automatic security updates directly to users on a regular basis, so most users don't have to worry about security updates. But Linux users are dependent on their distributions to release updates. Apple fixed over 100 vulnerabilities in WebKit last year, so getting updates out to users is critical.

This is the story of how that process has gone wrong for WebKit.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th Feb 2016 22:07 UTC, submitted by Radio
Apple

I've often predicted the current crop of smartwatches - be they Wear or the Apple Watch - are designed to end up in drawers, forgotten, unloved. However, I had no idea that even Marco Arment would eventually realise the same thing.

Shortly before Christmas, I accidentally found the first mechanical watch that infected my mind so much that I actually wanted - quite badly - to own it. I had many doubts: Would I look ridiculous wearing it? Would I hate setting or winding it? Would I miss notifications, activity tracking, and weather on my watch? Would I wear it briefly but then run back to my Apple Watch and let the mechanical rot in a drawer?

Nope.

Well worth a read. Turns out that even an ardent Apple fan's smartwatch ends up in a drawer, replaced by a real watch.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 4th Feb 2016 23:01 UTC, submitted by R_T_F_M
FreeBSD

The latest FreeBSD Quarterly Status Report is out.

Efforts to bring our BSD high standards to new architectures continue, with impressive work on arm64 leading to its promotion to Tier-2 status and a flurry of work bringing up the new RISC-V hardware architecture. Software architecture is also under active development, including system startup and service management. A handful of potential init system replacements are mentioned in this report: launchd, relaunchd, and nosh. Architectural changes originating both from academic research (multipath TCP) and from the realities of industry (sendfile(2) improvements) are also under way. It is heartening to see how FreeBSD provides a welcoming platform for contributions from both research and industry.

Everything you need to know to be up to date with FreeBSD.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 4th Feb 2016 22:59 UTC
Android

Evidence has been mounting over the last few days and it looks like it's finally happening: Android 6.0 for Wear is starting to roll out. Googler Wayne Piekarski just announced on his Google+ feed that OTAs have begun and should continue over the next few weeks.

An official blog post by Google lists some of the new features we can expect in the new firmware, including: newly navigation gestures, audio support on speaker-equipped watches, and expanded support for messaging clients.

The update itself seems a bit 'eh', but the interesting thing here is that all Android Wear devices will be getting this update to Marshmallow, even the first generation Wear smartwatches.

Goes to show that Google does, in fact, know how to do this - now they just need to apply this to phones and tablets.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 3rd Feb 2016 23:38 UTC
Microsoft

I'm pleased to announce that Microsoft has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire SwiftKey, whose highly rated, highly engaging software keyboard and SDK powers more than 300 million Android and iOS devices. In this cloud-first, mobile-first world, SwiftKey's technology aligns with our vision for more personal computing experiences that anticipate our needs versus responding to our commands, and directly supports our ambition to reinvent productivity by leveraging the intelligent cloud. SwiftKey estimates that its users have saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes, across 100 languages, saving more than 100,000 years in combined typing time. Those are impressive results for an app that launched initially on Android in 2010 and arrived on iOS less than two years ago.

The 'saved nearly 10 trillion keystrokes' thing sent shivers down my spine.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 3rd Feb 2016 23:34 UTC
Android

Two very interesting articles about Android's future that are strongly related. First, Vlad Savov wonders why Android OEMs continue to make Android phones when there's little to no profit to be gained.

If there's no money in it, why would a company continue to be an Android OEM today? Ideally, every mobile OEM would like a bottom line that looks like Samsung's, but no others have achieved it. It's not even certain that Samsung Mobile will sustain its profitability, with industry analysts describing its present Herculean efforts as "running to stand still." So how do others bridge the cognitive dissonance between the desired outcome and the perpetual failure to achieve it?

It's no secret that Android OEMs are facing hard times, and since there are no alternatives people are willing to buy, they really don't have anywhere to go... Except exit the smartphone business.

Interestingly enough, that's where the second article, from Ars Technica, comes into play.

A report from The Information (subscription required) states that Google wants to take "greater control" over the design and building of Nexus phones. Currently, a Nexus device is a co-branded partnership between Google's Android team and an OEM, but this report says Google wants to move to a more "Apple-like" approach.

The report says that in the future, "hardware makers will be much more like order-takers, similar to the way contract manufacturers like Hon Hai (Foxconn) follow Apple's directions for producing the iPhone." Apple designs its phones, SoC, and other parts and then ships the plans off to third-party factories to have them built.

I'm sure Google is looking at the massive profits Apple is raking in with its iPhone, as well as the tight control Apple gets to exert over its hardware, and thinking to itself: why aren't we doing this? Looking at the complete failure of OEMs to properly update phones, I can't do anything but strongly applaud Google taking the Nexus program closer to its chest, and build true Google phones.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Feb 2016 22:57 UTC
Google

When we talk about laptops still being popular and important, we tend to talk about things like the precision of the mouse and the power and flexibility of a desktop operating system. We talk about all the things they can do better than a phone or a tablet. We talk about more. But it's worth talking about the power of technology that strives to do less - much less. The thousand dollars I spent on a Pixel didn't buy my mom crazy extensibility, or the ability to run powerful apps like Photoshop or Excel. It didn't even buy her that much storage. But it did buy her a beautiful, well-designed product. And most importantly, it bought her focus, and the ability to spend her time using her computer instead of trying to learn how to use it.

That's a lesson I think Steve Jobs would have liked very much.

There's something happening with Chromebooks that seems to take place much outside of the sphere of the technology press - in schools now, but once kids have them, they'll find their way elsewhere. We may indeed be entering a post-PC world, but it's not based on tablets.

It's Chromebooks.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Feb 2016 20:23 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The Turing Phone, a fancy Android phone promising to be extra secure and which sports an unusual casing and design, has just announced that it's switching from Android... To Sailfish OS.

Many of you have asked numerous times through our Facebook fan page as well as emailed us about our OS development. We can now confirm that TRI has chosen to drop Android and use Jolla's Sailfish OS. Sailfish OS is now running perfectly on the Turing Phone and we have started the final OS software testing phase.

Sailfish OS runs exceptionally fast on the Turing. You will not have to worry about performance issues with Turing's Snapdragon 801 because Sailfish OS has been optimized to run fast on your Turing Phone. The Turing Phone will still be able to run Android Apps on the Sailfish OS without issue. An Android application store will be available for you to download your favorite apps.

This seems like an... Odd choice, to say the least. The device's preorders have been filled months ago, so users expecting a fancy Android phone will now be getting a Sailfish phone. And while I applaud the idea of more non-establishment phones and operating systems, it seems a bit dishonest (is that too strong a word?) to shift platforms on products already sold on the promise of a different platform.

On top of that, Sailfish is, by no means, in any way, shape, or form, or by any stretch of the imagination, a full-on replacement for Android. The operating system itself is unfinished, often unstable, lacks any form of applications more serious than crappy puzzle games, and the Android compatibility is slow and buggy, at best. I'm not so sure Turing buyers who're expecting Android will turn out to be thrilled with Sailfish.

That being said, it's a little bright spot for the very much troubled Jolla, and that's something we can all be happy about.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Feb 2016 20:14 UTC
Legal

After the EU's highest courts rejected the standing safe habour agreement between the EU and the US, the two superpowers had to come up with a new one. They just did:

The EU-US Privacy Shield reflects the requirements set out by the European Court of Justice in its ruling on 6 October 2015, which declared the old Safe Harbour framework invalid. The new arrangement will provide stronger obligations on companies in the U.S. to protect the personal data of Europeans and stronger monitoring and enforcement by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Federal Trade Commission (FTC), including through increased cooperation with European Data Protection Authorities. The new arrangement includes commitments by the U.S. that possibilities under U.S. law for public authorities to access personal data transferred under the new arrangement will be subject to clear conditions, limitations and oversight, preventing generalised access. Europeans will have the possibility to raise any enquiry or complaint in this context with a dedicated new Ombudsperson.

I'm assuming the new agreement is incredibly complex and full of intricate legalese, so we'll have to wait until the agreement is ever tested in courts or otherwise comes under scrutiny from independent experts before we can reach an conclusions about its effectiveness.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Feb 2016 20:10 UTC
Windows

Public service announcement: as announced October last year, Windows 10 is now a recommended upgrade in Windows Update, meaning the installation will automatically start.

As announced last October, the free Windows 10 update has been promoted from an "optional" update to being a "recommended" one. This means that with the default Windows Update settings, the new operating system will be downloaded automatically, and its installer will be started.

The operating system will not actually install itself unattended; Microsoft says that users will be able to reject the upgrade or reschedule it for a time that's more convenient. The company has also described a variety of registry settings that suppress the upgrade.

Windows 10 will be the most popular Windows version of all time! Just look at all those people upgrading!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st Feb 2016 22:09 UTC
Android

Speaking with The Economic Times of India, Damian Tay (Senior Director for Product Management, BlackBerry Asia Pacific) described the new Priv as "essentially our transition to [the] Android ecosystem. As we secure Android, over a period of time, we would not have two platforms, and may have only Android as a platform [for smartphones]. But for now, we have BB10 and Android platforms for our smartphones."

If those comments somehow left you in any doubts about the company's intentions, Tay continued: "The future is really Android. We went for Android essentially for its app ecosystem. In addition, all the enterprise solutions that we have been doing have been cross-platform for a long time now. So it's a natural progression towards Android."

Just in case you thought BB10 had a future.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 29th Jan 2016 22:52 UTC
Linux

NayuOS is an ongoing project at Nexedi: We are mainly using Chromebooks for our daily development work and wanted to have more customizable, secure and privacy-compliant devices - not running any proprietary software, because we love Free Software. A few experiments later NayuOS - our free alternative to Chrome OS - was born. NayuOS is currently on a good enough way to meeting most of our needs, so we decided to spread the word and share what we have done so far.

 

Linked by martini on Thu 28th Jan 2016 23:33 UTC
Debian and its clones

The Debian project is pleased to announce the third update of its stable distribution Debian 8 (codename jessie). This update mainly adds corrections for security problems to the stable release, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories were published separately and are referenced where applicable.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Jan 2016 23:30 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

In that spirit, we now have answers for those of you who have been waiting for the next Jolla Tablet update - thanks again for your patience. As already stated in our New Year's post, we plan to ship an additional small batch of Jolla Tablets to early Indiegogo backers. And, for the rest of our backers, we now have a refund process in place.

They're shipping 540 tablets - no, that's not a typo - to early backers, of which I am one, but whether or not I'll actually be one of the 'lucky' 540, I don't know yet. Otherwise, it'll be the refund program. I'm glad they're offering this program, because the whole ordeal has been quite the letdown.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 28th Jan 2016 23:10 UTC
Windows

Windows Phone started off life as a promising alternative to Android and iOS five years ago. Microsoft positioned its range of Windows Phone 7 handsets as the true third mobile ecosystem, but it's time to admit it has failed. If a lack of devices from phone makers and even Microsoft itself wasn't enough evidence, the final nail in the coffin hit today. Microsoft only sold 4.5 million Lumia devices in the recent quarter, compared to 10.5 million at the same time last year. That's a massive 57 percent drop. Even a 57 percent increase wouldn't be enough to save Windows Phone right now.

I remember being attacked in the comments for claiming Windows Phone was actually not doing as well as some claimed it was, and predicting its inevitable demise - years and years ago.

Vindication.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 27th Jan 2016 22:33 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Panic, one of the most respected OS X/iOS developer houses, published their yearly report, this time covering 2015, obviously. This paragraph is intriguing:

iOS Revenue. I brought this up last year and we still haven't licked it. We had a change of heart - well, an experimental change of heart - and reduced the price of our iOS apps in 2015 to normalize them at $9.99 or less, thinking that was the upper limit and/or sweet spot for iOS app pricing. But it didn't have a meaningful impact on sales.

More and more I'm beginning to think we simply made the wrong type of apps for iOS - we made professional tools that aren't really "in demand" on that platform - and that price isn't our problem, but interest is.

This obviously ties into the previous news item, and Panic hits the nail on the head. They are, of course, specifically talking about iOS, but the same applies to competing platforms like Android: nobody wants to do anything even remotely resembling serious work on a "post-PC" device, regardless of platform. Both Apple and Google are really trying to posit their platforms for work (iPad Pro, Pixel C), but just as Microsoft is having a hard time scaling Windows down for consumption, Apple and Google are having trouble scaling their operating systems up for work.

It is no surprise, then, that Panic's upcoming great project for 2016 isn't a big new application... But a videogame.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 27th Jan 2016 22:20 UTC
Apple

We're continuing our streak of Apple news, diving into the only review of the iPad Pro that really matters: the one from AnandTech.

Overall, the iPad Pro is an incredibly good tablet. I’ve always liked the idea of a tablet, but for the most part I've been deeply dissatisfied with the implementations of tablets. With the iPad Air 2 review I really emphasized how a proper keyboard and a good stylus would really make the user experience much more compelling, and with the iPad Pro we're finally starting to see movement towards the tablet that I've always wanted. The iPad Pro is arguably the first tablet that I personally want to even consider buying. It isn’t perfect by any means, and there is still a lot of work to be done - seemingly fitting for a first-generation Apple device - but for the first time in a long time it feels like the broader tablet market is advancing once again. If you want a proper tablet that can replace pencil and paper with a keyboard for extended typing sessions, I have no problem recommending the iPad Pro. If you're hoping for a laptop that can also double as a tablet, I suspect that the Surface Pro 4 will remain the right choice for you.

In the end, the success of the iPad pro is pretty much a given. It's a bigger iPad, and there are enough people in the world who'd love a bigger version of their Netflix machine. However, whether or not the iPad Pro lives up to its moniker - i.e., it becomes a tool tons of people rely on for their work - remains to be seen. After the first few days or maybe even a few weeks of excitement, I remain convinced artists will go back to their Cintiqs and Photoshops, journalists writing "can it replace a laptop?"-articles will go back to their MacBook Airs, and everybody else didn't even look up from their smartphone.