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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 57 min 26 sec ago

Why Android Wear shipments aren't surprising (or disappointing)

Thursday 12th of February 2015 11:49:59 PM
Wow. There are quite a few people talking about yesterday's Canalys estimate of 720,000 Android Wear shipments in the last six months of 2014. And most of that talk is ridiculous, with little to no perspective on the market itself. All of the doom and gloom I’m reading about Android Wear may yet come to pass, but to base it on shipment data at this point in time is premature for several reasons. It's an interesting perspective, and the author certainly makes some good points, but disappointing or no, the real problem for me is still that Android Wear and current smartwatches in general are, simply, shit. I've never based my opinions on popularity, and I don't intend to start now.

Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones released

Thursday 12th of February 2015 06:29:49 PM
Microsoft has released Windows 10 Technical Preview for phones, but only for a very small number of low-end devices (Lumia 630, 638, 635, 730, 636, 830), so most of us are out of luck. The reason for this limited initial release is technical in nature. Some context on why we chose these and not higher end phones like the 930/Icon or 1520: We have a feature that will be coming soon called “partition stitching” which will allow us to adjust the OS partition dynamically to create room for the install process to be able to update the OS in-place. Until this comes in, we needed devices which were configured by mobile operators with sufficiently sized OS partitions to allow the in-place upgrade, and many of the bigger phones have very tight OS partitions. I only have an HTC 8X, which technically should get Windows 10 eventually, but since it's not a Microsoft device I doubt it's very high on the priority list.

"It's kind of cheesy being green"

Thursday 12th of February 2015 04:57:44 PM
This spontaneous anti-green-bubble brigade is an interesting example of how sometimes very subtle product decisions in technology influence the way culture works. Apple uses a soothing, on-brand blue for messages in its own texting platform, and a green akin to that of the Android robot logo for people tweeting from outside its ecosystem. Believe it or not, these are people going batshit crazy because they are texting with someone who doesn't have an iPhone. And people espousing a certain pride over this shallowness. These are probably the same shallow people who threatened to kill their parents or kill themselves when they didn't get an iPhone for Christmas. For once, I'm glad everyone in The Netherlands uses WhatsApp because we're an 85% Android country.

Android security - a Q&A with Google's Adrian Ludwig

Thursday 12th of February 2015 04:00:57 PM
Very interesting interview with Adrian Ludwig, lead engineer for Android security at Google. There are a lot of fascinating answers to quote here, and I'm going for this one - do you need antivirus crap on your Android phone? In 2014, according to Verify Apps data collected by Google and ignoring rooting apps that were intentionally installed by users, fewer than 0.15 percent of Applications installed from outside of Google Play to U.S. English devices were classified as Potentially Harmful Applications. Given the built-in protection provided by Verify Apps and the low frequency of occurrence of installation of PHAs, the potential security benefit of an additional security solution is very small. I - and many others - have been saying this for ages, but let me just repeat it: do not install third-party security solutions on your Android phone. They are useless resource hogs that provide no additional security, and are built by scammy, untrustworthy, and needlessly alarmist software peddlers. That being said, it'd be great if Google released more information about these background security tools in Android - more specifically, numbers, numbers, numbers.

JanOS: turn your phone into an IoT board

Thursday 12th of February 2015 09:59:41 AM
JanOS is an operating system designed to run on the chipset of mobile phones. It runs without a screen, and allows you to access all phone functionality, from calling to the camera, through JavaScript APIs. Why? Current development boards for Internet of Things solutions have one big problem: they are very expensive. Boards like the Raspberry Pi or Arduino have a limited feature set and simple extensions, like a GSM shield, can cost $80. That is a shockingly high price when a full smartphone can be available for just $30. Why not break out the mainboard from a mobile phone and use that to develop embedded projects? Cheaper and more powerful. It's built on top of Gecko, so you can use Firefox OS APIs. Interesting.

This is how App Store rankings are manipulated

Thursday 12th of February 2015 09:55:53 AM
In past years Apple has said it's cracking down on the manipulation of App Store rankings through bot programs, but a recent image from Chinese social media site Weibo suggests the trade is alive and well using actual iPhones. The photo is captioned "hardworking App Store ranking manipulation employee," and shows a young woman sat in front of a bank of around 50 iPhone 5cs, all hooked up with a nest of cables. There's an identical bank of iPhones on her right and what looks like two more smartphone-laden desks facing away from her on the other side of the room. On some sites, the photo is being paired with an alleged price list for the services (above), with Tech in Asia reporting that it will cost customers RMB 70,000 ($11,200) to get into the top ten free apps (that's the option at the top), while keeping it there will cost RMB 405,000 ($65,000) each week. The third column reportedly shows the monthly price for these services, while the fourth gives potential customers a contact number on QQ - a popular messaging app run by Chinese internet giant Tencent. Wait, you mean to tell me the popularity contest that is the application store rewards quantity, not quality? Say it isn't so.

I'm Brianna Wu, and I'm risking my life standing up to Gamergate

Wednesday 11th of February 2015 11:48:09 PM
Software increasingly defines the world around us. It's rewriting everything about human interaction - I spend a lot more time on my iPhone than I do at my local civic center. Facebook, Apple, Tinder, Snapchat, and Google create our social realities - how we make friends, how we get jobs, and how mankind interacts. And the truth is, women don't truly have a seat at the table. This has disastrous consequences for women that use these systems built by men for men. I must use Twitter, as it's a crucial networking tool for a software engineer, yet I must also suffer constant harassment. Women's needs are not heard, our truth is never spoken. These systems are the next frontier of human evolution, and they're increasingly dangerous for us. You can close your eyes for this. You can cover your ears, shouting "LA LA LA LA!" at the top of your voice. You are free to do so. Until it's your daughter, and you realise that your refusal to acknowledge this huge problem will have consequences.

Over 720000 Android Wear devices shipped in 2014

Wednesday 11th of February 2015 08:21:40 PM
Over 720,000 Android Wear devices shipped in 2014 out of a total of 4.6 million smart wearable bands. Though the Moto 360 remained supply constrained through Q4, Motorola was the clear leader among Android Wear vendors. LG’s round G Watch R performed significantly better than its original G Watch, while Asus and Sony entered the market with their own Android Wear devices. Pebble meanwhile shipped a total of 1 million units from its 2013 launch through to the end of 2014. That's not a whole lot, but that doesn't surprise me considering how terrible Android Wear and current smartwatches are.

Bypassing Windows 10's protections using a single bit

Wednesday 11th of February 2015 04:34:09 PM
Today, Microsoft released their latest Patch Tuesday. This Patch includes a fix for vulnerability CVE-2015-0057, an IMPORTANT-rated exploitable vulnerability which we responsibly disclosed to Microsoft a few months ago. As part of our research, we revealed this privilege escalation vulnerability which, if exploited, enables a threat actor to complete control of a Windows machine. In other words, a threat actor that gains access to a Windows machine (say, through a phishing campaign) can exploit this vulnerability to bypass all Windows security measures, defeating mitigation measures such as sandboxing, kernel segregation and memory randomization. Interestingly, the exploit requires modifying only a single bit of the Windows operating system. Fascinating.

Samsung TVs inserting unwanted ads into users' own movies

Wednesday 11th of February 2015 10:38:01 AM
Samsung's smart TVs have already come under fire this week for a poorly-worded privacy policy that apparently let the devices listen in on owners' conversations. Now, there are reports that the sets are inserting ads "every 20-30 minutes" into users' own, locally-stored content. There's been a string of complaints online by customers using third-party video apps such as Plex and Australian service Foxtel, with most referring to rogue Pepsi ads interrupting their viewing. "After about 15 minutes of watching live TV, the screen goes blank, and then a 16:9 sized Pepsi ads (taking up about half the screen) pops up," wrote a professed Samsung smart TV owner on Foxtel's support forums. "It's as if there is a popup ad on the TV." If you're into Android, don't buy Samsung. There are enough better alternatives.

BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 coming on 19 February

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 11:54:41 PM
After a number of delays, BlackBerry is ready to begin the rollout of BlackBerry OS 10.3.1 on 19 February. This release has already been available for Passport and Classic users, and starting 19 February, it will be available for other BlackBerry users too.

This is Tim: Cook at the Goldman Sachs conference

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 11:38:34 PM
Tim Cook spoke at length during today's Goldman Sachs conference on Apple's insane first quarter, China, the Apple Watch, and so much more. Here's a transcript of his remarks, with occasional interjection by the Goldman Sachs interviewer. A lot of ground is covered, so sit back and enjoy the ride.

The start of something beautiful

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 09:37:21 PM
The start of something beautiful. I have become completely dependent on my computer for all sorts of things. Obviously, I use my computer to develop software, but I also use my computer for banking, email, my personal phone book, my appointment schedule, playing games, and so on. I am not quite at the point where I leave my machine on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but soon I will be able to carry a computer in my pocket during those rare hours my desktop machine is not at easy reach (like when I'm flying back and forth between Seattle and San Francisco). This computer's official name has not been announced yet, but its codename is Pegasus. It's being created by Microsoft with six hardware partners. I'll start by showing you the Pegasus hardware from the user's perspective. In the second part of this article I'll dive into the details of the software platform and discuss the programming issues you need to understand to write cool Pegasus apps. Don't believe the haters and retrospective I-bought-my-first-smartphone-in-2009-and-now-I-know-everything naysayers - PocketPC was an amazing platform that put so much functionality and awesomeness in your pocket back when Google was still Altavista and Apple had just started peddling music players. Palm OS may have been my dressage show horse, but PocketPC was my trusty workhorse.

Linux 3.19 released

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 09:30:01 PM
Linux kernel 3.19 has been released. This release adds support for btrfs scrubbing and fast device replacement with RAID 5&6, support for the Intel Memory Protection Extensions that help to stop buffer overflows, support for the AMD HSA architecture, support for the debugging ARM Coresight subsystem, support for the Altera Nios II CPU architecture, networking infrastructure for routing and switching offloading, Device Tree Overlays that help to support expansion busses found on consumer development boards like the BeagleBone or Raspberry Pi, support for hole punching and preallocation in NFSv4.2, and the Android binder has been moved from the staging area to stable; it also adds new drivers; and many other small improvements. Here is the full list of changes.

Has modern Linux lost its way?

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 06:46:42 PM
This is, in my mind, orthogonal to the systemd question. I used to be able to say Linux was clean, logical, well put-together, and organized. I can't really say this anymore. Users and groups are not really determinitive for permissions, now that we have things like polkit running around. (Yes, by the way, I am a member of plugdev.) Error messages are unhelpful (WHY was I not authorized?) and logs are nowhere to be found. Traditionally, one could twiddle who could mount devices via /etc/fstab lines and perhaps some sudo rules. Granted, you had to know where to look, but when you did, it was simple; only two pieces to fit together. I've even spent time figuring out where to look and STILL have no idea what to do. systemd may help with some of this, and may hurt with some of it; but I see the problem more of an attitude of desktop environments to add features fast without really thinking of the implications. There is something to be said for slower progress if the result is higher quality.

"Silver" brings Swift language to the .NET and Java worlds

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 12:17:06 AM
While we're on the subject of Swift: Fans of Apple's Swift language can now use their newly developed skills to write software for systems supporting both .NET and Java, including Android. The Silver compiler, currently in beta, compiles Swift programs to run in the .NET and Java runtimes. It can also produce native binaries to run on OS X. With Silver, Swift developers can share their business logic and non-interface code across the different platforms. It's a bit of an Apple news day today, isn't it?

Improvements in Swift 1.2

Tuesday 10th of February 2015 12:14:43 AM
Today Swift 1.2 was released as part of Xcode 6.3 beta. This beta release includes a significantly enhanced Swift compiler, as well as new features in the Swift language itself. For the complete list of changes, read the release notes. This blog post will focus on the highlights. If you're into Apple development, you might as well get used to Swift.

Apple's iOS 9 to have 'huge' stability and optimization focus

Monday 9th of February 2015 05:58:19 PM
For 2015, iOS 9, which is codenamed Stowe (after the ski resort in Vermont), is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements. Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a "huge" focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions. Apple will also continue to make efforts to keep the size of the OS and updates manageable, especially for the many millions of iOS device owners with 16GB devices. Very reminiscent of what Palm did with the Palm V (something Apple also did with Mac OS 10.6): no new features, but a huge focus on stability. From what I can gather from my friends using iOS, it's sorely, sorely needed.

Apple's share of mobile phone profits rises to 93%

Monday 9th of February 2015 04:43:30 PM
The latest numbers from Canaccord Genuity reveal that Apple accounted for 93% of mobile profits during the fourth quarter, leading the financial services company to raise its price target on Apple shares from $135 to $145. The firm also predicted that iPhone adoption could grow to 650 million users through 2018 as more smartphone owners upgrade to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. That's just crazy impressive for a single company to achieve.

Most popular Lumias won't get every Windows 10 feature

Monday 9th of February 2015 04:35:44 PM
Microsoft has been heavily focused on low-end Windows Phone hardware over the past two years to grow market share, but its upcoming Windows 10 update won’t be finely tuned for these devices with low specifications. Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore revealed on Twitter yesterday that the software maker is working on Windows 10 for phones with 512MB of RAM, but that "features may vary." This is the other side of the coin of focusing on low-end devices.

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