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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 14 min 55 sec ago

CyanogenMod CEO wants to "take Android away from Google"

Monday 26th of January 2015 02:54:19 PM
CyanogenMod CEO McMaster said some interesting things recently. To remove all doubts right from the get go, here's how McMaster introduced himself: "I'm the CEO of Cyanogen. We're attempting to take Android away from Google." Asked to detail his vision, McMaster explained that Cyanogen wants to provide a version of Android that is open down to its core, that partners can use to build highly integrated services, in a way that is not possible right now with Google’s Android. Well, either McMaster has no idea what he's talking about, or he's purposefully being disingenuous. It's most likely the latter, since he's got something to sell. Of course, all the things McMaster claims his company will make possible with Android are already possible today, have been possible for years, and are actually actively being done all over the world. There are dozens of millions - possibly hundreds of millions - of users using Google-less Android all over the world; in China, Russia, the US, and beyond. Android's openness makes it possible to replace all of Google's applications and services with those from another company, vendor, or provider. Even you can do it! Just download Yandex.Kit, for instance. The confusion seems to stem from people conflating Google Apps/Play Services with Android. This is an easy mistake to make for those not familiar with Android. Android itself (AOSP) is completely open source, and freely available to everyone to use as a base for a competing platform. Countless of Chinese companies, Russia's Yandex, Nokia, Amazon, and others have attracted millions and millions of users this way. In contrast, Google has a lot of control over Google Apps/Play Services and keeps them (mostly) proprietary. However, despite a lot of rattling of chains from Apple bloggers and Ars Technica, Google Apps and Play Services are by no means a crucial, unmissable part of Android, and they, by no means, make Android "unforkable". In fact, if you look at the APIs currently part os Play Services, they are all strictly related to Google Services (as the name implies), and not Android itself (e.g. they don't deal with things like hardware access). On top of that, despite Google Apps/Play Services being proprietary, they are "freely" available; Google basically employs a gedoogbeleid concerning their availability, and allows users of custom ROMs and non-Google Android to download them. My Jolla phone, which doesn't even run Android in the first place, has Google Apps/Play Services installed. I am not happy with the fact that the Google Apps are proprietary, mostly because I see no need for them to be as such. Google could win a lot of goodwill by opening them up again, but Google being a company, it's unlikely they will ever do so. Play Services are a bit of a different story; while I would certainly love for them to be open as well, I understand (though not necessarily agree) Google wants to maintain control over the access to their very servers. The article makes another common mistake: it claims that Android manufacturers are not allowed to release Android forks. This is based on leaked 2011 licensing terms covering the Google Apps/Play Services. However, despite these leaked terms, there are several manufacturers who release Android devices both with and without Google services; Huawei and Explay are good examples of that (they both sell regular Android phones with Google services, but also devices in Russia that use Yandex.Kit). This means that either the licensing terms from 2011 are outdated, or (more likely) they are custom, and do not apply to every manufacturer. In any case, the blanket statement that all manufacturers must choose between nothing but Android with Google services, or no Android services at all is clearly not true. In any case, I'm sure McMaster knows all this just fine - you can't be the CEO of CyanogenMod without said understanding - which makes these comments all the more paper-thin. Then again, after the scummy way CyanogenMod treated OnePlus, I'm not exactly surprised.

The untold story of the invention of the game cartridge

Sunday 25th of January 2015 08:44:03 PM
Consider the humble video game cartridge. It's a small, durable plastic box that imparts the most immediate, user-friendly software experience ever created. Just plug it in, and you're playing a game in seconds. If you’ve ever used one, you have two men to thank: Wallace Kirschner and Lawrence Haskel, who invented the game cartridge 40 years ago while working at an obscure company and rebounding from a business failure. Once the pair's programmable system had been streamlined and turned into a commercial product - the Channel F console - by a team at pioneering electronics company Fairchild, it changed the fundamental business model of home video games forever. By injecting flexibility into a new technology, it paved the way for massive industry growth and the birth of a new creative medium. Ah, gaming with effectively no loading times. Those were the days.

MPW, Carbon and building Classic Mac OS apps in OS X

Saturday 24th of January 2015 11:17:30 PM
Steven Troughton-Smith: Just to provide an example for this post, I put together a trivial drawing app called BitPaint. It isn't very interesting, but it should illustrate a few things: What's involved in bringing a trivial classic Mac app to Carbon How the Classic Mac OS build process works How much source compatibility exists between 1984's Toolbox and Carbon today The answer to the third question is surprising: a lot. In fact, Steven managed to build an application that runs on every version of Mac OS/OS X, all the way from System 1.0 to today's OS X 10.10 Yosemite. I've been following Steven's progress (and by following I mean 'looked at pretty screenshots' because I don't understand the developer stuff), and it's quite incredible to see a single codebase run on such a long string of Mac OS/OS X releases. A crucial aspect in this whole endeavour has been mpw, "an m68k binary translator/emulator whose sole purpose is to try and emulate enough of Classic Mac OS to run MPW's [note the caps!] own tools directly on OS X". I am incredibly psyched about mpw. Its developer, ksherlock, has been very responsive to everything I've come up against as I stress test it against various tools and projects. Right now it's a fully usable tool that makes Classic Mac OS compilation possible and easy to do on modern versions of OS X, without requiring emulators or ancient IDEs or the like. To my knowledge, this is the first time this has been possible (excluding legacy versions of CodeWarrior). This entire post is a must-read.

Microsoft is ready to be loved again

Friday 23rd of January 2015 11:06:55 PM
"We have bigger hopes, higher aspirations for Windows," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Wednesday, standing on a stage above a secret room filled with crazy holographic technology. "We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows, to loving Windows. That is our bold goal." He's right: love is a problem that Microsoft needs to solve. I use Windows because out of the options, it's the one that bugs me the least. Now, I have a tendency to dislike all software - it's crazy how many faults and problems we accept in software - so it's unlikely they'll ever get me to 'love' anything, but I still get the general idea: without dominance, mobile users need to choose Windows willingly. This is new ground for Microsoft.

Google publishes three 90-day OS X vulnerabilities

Friday 23rd of January 2015 11:00:44 PM
Don't look now, but Google's Project Zero vulnerability research program may have dropped more zero-day vulnerabilities - this time on Apple's OS X platform. In the past two days, Project Zero has disclosed OS X vulnerabilities here, here, and here. At first glance, none of them appear to be highly critical, since all three appear to require the attacker to already have some access to a targeted machine. What's more, the first vulnerability, the one involving the "networkd 'effective_audit_token' XPC," may already have been mitigated in OS X Yosemite, but if so the Google advisory doesn't make this explicit and Apple doesn't publicly discuss security matters with reporters. You'd think a writer at Ars Technica was aware of what a zero-day is. These are 90-days, meaning Google is giving - int his case - Apple two to three times as long as industry sort-of standard (which is 30-45 days). Of course, Google dropping zero-days on Apple will draw a lot more clicks, but that doesn't make it any less bullshit. Then again, it isn't like this is the first time this particular author sensationalises to the point of ridiculousness. The other points from before, of course, still stand. In addition, it'd be great if other companies started combing through Google's stuff too.

New Windows 10 build released

Friday 23rd of January 2015 07:08:08 PM
Some of the new features that Joe demoed on Wednesday will be available for our Windows Insiders starting today with our newest build - 9926. However, not everything you saw on Wednesday is included in this new build. Much is still in-progress and we’re getting it out to you as fast as we can - so you can try it out and give us feedback. Over the course of the next few builds, you will see us refine Windows 10 and continue to improve the experiences as well as quality and stability. This new build contains the first set of features unveiled earlier this week. Neowin has a bunch of screenshots.

Improving Linux networking performance

Thursday 22nd of January 2015 11:04:43 PM
100Gb network adapters are coming, said Jesper Brouer in his talk at the LCA 2015 kernel miniconference. Driving such adapters at their full wire speed is going to be a significant challenge for the Linux kernel; meeting that challenge is the subject of his current and future work. The good news is that Linux networking has gotten quite a bit faster as a result - even if there are still problems to be solved.

Plasma 5.2 - the quintessential breakdown

Thursday 22nd of January 2015 06:03:04 PM
That day has already come and passed; dubbed "KDE Frameworks 5" for the technology, and "Plasma 5" for the environment/applications, these technologies have been in circulation as technical demonstrations and alternatives for some months now. A combination of nervous anticipation and memories of being burned by the 4.0 releases lead all but the bravest to venture early and discover nothing nearly as painful as the transition between KDE 3 and Plasma. With KDE Plasma 5.2 being formally announced as the default environment of Kubuntu 15.04 due only months away, Frameworks 5 and Plasma have been recognised as maturing usable products - which means it's time to take a serious look at what to expect when you turn it on for the first time. I am extremely impressed with the progress the KDE team has been making with 5.0. I can't wait until the 5.2 release hits. In any case, this is a very in-depth look at what the current state of KDE 5.x offers - grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.

Windows RT users won't get Windows 10

Thursday 22nd of January 2015 05:27:06 PM
Microsoft unveiled its plans for a free copy of Windows 10 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users yesterday, but it looks like Windows RT is being left out in the cold. In a statement provided to The Verge, Microsoft confirms the Surface Pro 3 and "entire Surface Pro lineup" will get the update to Windows 10, but Windows RT won't get the full OS. "We are working on an update for Surface, which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10. More information to come," says a Microsoft spokesperson. This means tablets like the Surface RT and Surface 2 won't get Windows 10. Windows RT is dead.

BlackBerry wants to legally force competitors to support BB10

Thursday 22nd of January 2015 01:07:54 PM
BlackBerry CEO John Chen has published an open letter to US president Obama on net neutrality. Interestingly enough, he conflates net neutrality with what he calls "content/application neutrality". At the beginning of the letter it's a bit unclear what he means by this, but later one, all pieces of his puzzle fall into place. Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple’s iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level. Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system. I'm not entirely sure what to say about this. While I would personally welcome a world where companies are multi-platform by nature, it is completely preposterous to legally force them to do so. I could somewhat understand (but still oppose) a call for using open standards so third parties could e.g. create their own Hangouts, WhatsApp, iMessage, or Skype clients, but legally forcing companies to create applications for competing platforms? That's insane. Except for those with an agenda, we would all love to live in a world where companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft use nothing but open standards and protocols, creating a level playing field for newcomers and small players. However, unless the closed nature of a protocol harms consumers, companies should be free to be as closed as they very well please.

Google's next telecom move: becoming a wireless carrier

Wednesday 21st of January 2015 10:01:22 PM
Google is preparing to sell mobile phone plans directly to customers and manage their calls and mobile data over a cellular network, according to three people with knowledge of the plans. The new service is expected run on Sprint and T-Mobile's networks, two people familiar with the product say. Google is expected to reach deals to buy wholesale access to those carriers' mobile voice and data networks, making it a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, they say. This could be huge (The Verge verifies it). Of course, this is US-only.

Microsoft announces Windows Holographic and HoloLens

Wednesday 21st of January 2015 07:08:29 PM
Update: And here's the video. Microsoft has just revealed its next great innovation: Windows Holographic! It's an augmented reality experience that employs a headset, much like all the VR goggles that are currently rising in popularity, but Microsoft's solution adds holograms to the world around you. The HoloLens headset is described as "the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen." It's a self-contained computer, including a CPU, a GPU, and a dedicated holographic processor. The dark lenses up front contain a see-through display, there's spatial sound so you can "hear" holograms behind you, and it also integrates a set of sensors. HoloLens, says Microsoft, will be available in the Windows 10 timeframe. They showed Minecraft as a holographic world draped over your coffee table and the rest of the house. The user placed Minecraft TNT blocks on a real world, and detonated them to reveal a minecraft world behind the exploded wall. And so, much, more. And this is no tech demo: it's working right now, and the people in the audience will be able to use it once the presentation is over. Even regular universal Windows applications can run inside this environment. Heck, they showed a simple holographic MS Paint-like application which allows you to create all kinds of fun holographic objects that you can manipulate with your hands. Scientists at NASA are using HoloLens to walk on Mars. While this requires a clunky headset now, this can eventually power real holographic displays. This is so exciting. I'l add video once they're up, but for now, Wired and Engadget have more.

Microsoft finally rallies behind its own modern development tools

Wednesday 21st of January 2015 06:15:10 PM
The Microsoft Windows 10 announcement is still ongoing, but one thing is standing out - Microsoft is finally, finally taking its own tools seriously. They showed a whole slew of new applications, and like Windows 10 being one single platform from phone through Xbox to PC, all of them are 100% universal. And, for the first time, these modern/Metro applications look like real, working, full-featured applications, instead of simple viewers or broken crap. It goes very far: proper Metro Microsoft Office applications - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook - that run on phones, tablets, and PCs, sharing their data automatically, and running the exact same code. Even their new browser - codenamed Spartan - is a universal application. It's all looking really, really great, and based on the live stuff we've seen so far, it seems like Microsoft is actually pulling it off. For the very first time, it finally feels like Win32 can go the way of the dodo. All these new applications are proper, grown-up applications that look like they can actually replace traditional Win32 ones. Even though Win32 applications are now properly integrated into Metro (they use the same gestures and stuff now), it feels like Microsoft is finally hitting the point where it can leave Win32 behind, and focus entirely on modern/Metro.

Windows 10 free for Windows 7, 8 users

Wednesday 21st of January 2015 05:47:17 PM
Microsoft is currently presenting Windows 10, and they unveiled that it will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users (and for Windows Phone 8.1 users). Beyond this, Myerson shared Microsoft's vision for Windows as a service, not just an operating system. A big part of that is Microsoft's new commitment to keep devices consistently updated throughout the "supported lifetime for the device." It sounds like that means those upgrading from Microsoft's older versions of Windows will consistently receive updates to keep it as up-to-date as possible. Myerson noted that this will let developer "target every single Windows device" when they build apps - anything that makes it easier for developers to reach more users will certainly be appreciated by both the developer community as well as end users. Sounds good to me. The idea of big, monolithic releases is archaic.

LLDB is coming to Windows

Tuesday 20th of January 2015 09:28:51 PM
We've spoken in the past about teaching Clang to fully support Windows and be compatible with MSVC. Until now, a big missing piece in this story has been debugging the clang-generated executables. Over the past 6 months, we've started working on making LLDB work well on Windows and support debugging both regular Windows programs and those produced by Clang.

Microsoft Spartan: Chrome extensions targeted for native support

Tuesday 20th of January 2015 09:21:13 PM
Neowin has learned a bit more about these extensions and how Microsoft plans to make its browser attractive for developers. Spartan will be able to use Chrome extensions and, while we are not sure if they will work 100% natively, the way extensions have been implemented is nearly identical to that of Chrome which will make it a simple process for developers to make their extensions work on Spartan. Interesting. I'm not a heavy extensions users - FlashBlock and AdBlock - but I know many people are.

Snappy Ubuntu Core arrives for connected devices

Tuesday 20th of January 2015 07:31:14 PM
Canonical is today bringing Snappy Ubuntu Core out of the cloud and into physical devices with the reveal of Snappy Core for smart devices. First announced in December 2014, Snappy Core is a new lightweight Ubuntu distribution designed for the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) specifically. Before today, only the cloud image had been revealed, but now the company is showing off its work on real connected devices. I have no idea what any of this means in normal-people-speak.

Windows 10 to bring Microsoft's OneCore vision

Tuesday 20th of January 2015 02:40:32 PM
The biggest takeaway Microsoft is hoping to deliver this week, sources say, is that Windows 10 is built on a single, common "core" (known internally as "OneCore") that will work across a variety of devices, from phones, tablets, PCs, large-screen displays like the company's Perceptive Pixel multitouch-screen devices, and ultimately, Xbox. OneCore implies more than just the common kernel that Microsoft touted as part of its Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 stories. In addition to the OS kernel, OneCore also includes the dynamic link libraries (DLLs), application platform layer and other pieces of the operating system. Microsoft's pitch to developers with Windows 10 will be they can target the same core environment with their apps, and those "Universal" apps will work across a range of screen sizes. These apps will be available in a single store, rather than separate Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox stores. Microsoft has been hinting about all this for years now, but they've never managed to pull it off. If they do pull it off tomorrow, they'll be the first to have a completely unified platform on all consumer-oriented device types. Apple has both iOS and OS X, and Google has Android and Chrome OS - and both of them seem to be taking steps towards unification, albeit in different ways. Whether or not this is actually what will turn things around for Windows in mobile is a whole different girl scout cookie.

Videos: Tizen 2.3 on the Samsung T1

Tuesday 20th of January 2015 10:35:28 AM
Last week, Samsung officially announced its first Tizen-based smartphone, the Z1 in India. The device is priced at INR 5,700 (~ $92), a relatively higher price tag for its low-end hardware, especially when you compare it with Android value-for-money smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi 1S and the Asus Zenfone 4. It features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Spreadtrum, 768MB RAM, and 4GB internal storage, but Samsung is trying to defend its pricing. The Korean giant claims that Tizen can not only run Android apps, it is also lighter than other platforms. It means that Tizen requires relatively less powerful hardware to run as smooth as other platforms. A new video from Simrandeep Singh Garcha shows that Tizen runs quite fast and smooth on the Z1, a rarity for smartphones in a similar price range. The video shows Tizen running without any sort of lag on the Z1, as well as new features like customisable colour themes and icon sets. It appears that even things like web browsing are smooth and fast on Tizen, as seen in the second video, thanks to faster page load times as well as smooth scrolling, panning, and zooming. Credit where credit is due: it actually looks kind of nice, which is surprising, considering its developed by Samsung. This still doesn't take my doubt away about Tizen's viability in the smartphone space, but I still welcome any and all competition for Android and iOS.

Google reveals third unpatched 90-day Windows vulnerability

Monday 19th of January 2015 12:24:33 PM
Microsoft has heavily criticized Google and its 90-days security disclosure policy after the firm publicly revealed two zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system one after one just days before Microsoft planned to issue a patch to kill the bugs. But, seemingly Google don't give a damn thought. Once again, Google has publicly disclosed a new serious vulnerability in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before Microsoft has been able to produce a patch, leaving users of both the operating systems exposed to hackers until next month, when the company plans to deliver a fix. First, this article makes the usual mistake of calling these vulnerabilities "zero day". They are not zero day. They are 90 day. A huge difference that changes the entire context of the story. Microsoft gets 90 days - three months - to address these issues. I do not see why Google has to account for Microsoft's inflexible security policies which leave users in the lurch. Second, note that Google also disclosed two OS X vulnerabilities alongside the Windows one. Nobody seems to be talking about those. Third, Google, how about addressing your own security problems.

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Leftovers: Gaming

Pro tip: Find tons of open-source Android software with F-Droid

If you're looking for truly open-source software for the Android platform, you don't have to do a ton of searching or check through licenses from within the Google Play Store. All you have to do is download a simple tool called F-Droid. With this tool, you can download and install apps (from quite a large listing) as easily as you can from the Google Play Store. You won't, however, find F-Droid in the Google Play Store. Instead, you have to download the .apk file and install it manually. Once it's installed, the rest is just a matter of searching for an app and tapping to install. Read more

Librem 15 Linux Laptop Set To Close At Around $400k USD

The manufacturing goal was $250k USD and thanks to the extension they're now set to close the campaign at the end of today at around $400k. With the extra funds, they're planning to add hardware kill switches for the microphone/camera and for all RF/WiFI/Bluetooth adapters. Those behind the project are also looking at replacing the HDMI port with two mini Thunderbolt ports. Read more