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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Goodbye Windows Phone

Monday 14th of September 2015 09:20:42 PM
Despite being a devoted Microsoft and Windows fan since age five, my first four smartphones were the first four iPhones (1, 3G, 3GS, 4). I don't think I need to explain how amazing the first iPhone was compared with the competition at the time. However, after four generations of it I was bored. What was exciting me was what I was seeing coming out of Redmond in the form of Windows Phone 7. [...] Here I am almost four years and three handsets down the road and today I made the decision to leave the platform and return to iPhone. It's basically been death by 1,000 cuts... I went along with Windows Phone 7.x - heck, I imported an HTC HD7 from the US to The Netherlands on release day (it eventually took Microsoft like 18 months to launch in The Netherlands). I also went along with Windows Phone 8. And I, too, am done. Bitten too many times by Windows Phone's "just wait for the next version". No more.

Let's talk about iMessage (again)

Monday 14th of September 2015 09:17:25 PM
Yesterday's New York Times carried a story entitled "Apple and other tech companies tangle with U.S. over data access". It's a vague headline that manages to obscure the real thrust of the story, which is that according to reporters at the Times, Apple has not been forced to backdoor their popular encrypted iMessage system. This flies in the face of some rumors to the contrary. While there's not much new information in here, people on Twitter seem to have some renewed interest in how iMessage works; whether Apple could backdoor it if they wanted to; and whether the courts could force them to. The answers to those questions are respectively: "very well", "absolutely", and "do I look like a national security lawyer?" As the article states, it all comes down to trust.

Microsoft's Cortana to be deeply integrated into Cyanogen OS

Monday 14th of September 2015 07:21:17 PM
McMaster revealed that Cyanogen is working with Microsoft to deeply integrate Cortana into the next version of Cyanogen OS. This is key to catapulting Cyanogen into the mass market, he asserts: Cortana is currently available as an app on Android, but in order for it to make a real difference, it needs to be able to be integrated at the OS level so that its full potential can be leveraged. So, they're really pushing ahead with integrating Microsoft services into every part of Cyanogen OS. I wonder at what point peddling these Microsoft services is going to somehow make CyanogenMod (the other side of the Cyanogen coin) worse. In case you haven't figured it out by now: Cyanogen is aiming to get acquired. They're not in it to build a long-lasting company and deep ties with customers; they're in it to get acquired for a lot of money and bail. As a user, I wouldn't bet on this horse.

Here's why Apple made the stylus that Steve Jobs hated

Friday 11th of September 2015 09:26:59 PM
What's missing from the reactions is the obvious acknowledgment that Jobs was not only talking about using a stylus with an entirely different product - the 3.5-inch iPhone 1 - but he was referring to both styluses and screens that have been blown out of the water by newer technology. If you see someone bringing up Jobs' stylus remarks in relation to the iPad Pro, they blew it.

'Destroying Apple's legacy... Or saving it'

Friday 11th of September 2015 09:23:35 PM
No argument here: Jony Ive has produced some of the best industrial design in the history of consumer products. He's done it by cutting out all the extraneous parts. By eliminating edges, by smoothing and streamlining. But what works beautifully for hardware does not work for software. iOS feels like it's following a trend called "flat" without really understanding what that means. The examples given in this article are telling - especially since there are enough examples of "flat" design that work just fine and do not have these problems; see Material Design, for instance, which, while flat, makes a lot of use of planes and depth and still makes it very clear what is clickable and what isn't (mostly).

Is the Windows Phone community imploding?

Friday 11th of September 2015 08:03:11 PM
The problem for Microsoft is everything is down the road. The promise of Universal apps? Coming soon. The promise of ported apps through Bridges from Android, iOS, Win32 and web apps? On the way. New exciting Windows Phone hardware? Just around the corner! A stable and mature OS that can compete with Android and iOS and even surpass them? It's almost here! I talked about this before, and this pattern is really, really frustrating.

SailfishOS 2.0 released for early access users

Thursday 10th of September 2015 09:24:23 PM
It's been a long wait, but SailfishOS 2.0 has been released - only for early access users right now, but since everyone can be an early access user, that's a moot point. SailfishOS 2.0 overhaul the entire user interface to supposedly make it simpler. Another major change is under the hood - the operating system is now ready for different screen sizes, since the Jolla tablet can ship any moment now. You can simply swipe left or right between Home and Events, like in a carousel. The App Grid is quickly accessible from anywhere in the UI just by swiping over the bottom edge - you don't need to go to the Home screen if you want to open a new app. Events is now richer and smarter by comprising a weather widget with an option to display five-day weather forecast, a calendar widget, as well as grouped and enhanced notification handling. Now you are able to see and do more with your notifications directly in Events, whether they are from native apps or Android apps. We also added a lot of other enhancements like redesigned App covers for Gallery, Notes, and Camera apps, added many new animations, and made improvements for existing apps like Jolla Store, Calendar, Camera. Just to mention a few. The update is installing on my Jolla right now, so I don't have much to add for now. I'll most likely add the SailfishOS 2.0 phone experience to my Jolla tablet review.

A graphical OS for the Atari 8-bit

Wednesday 9th of September 2015 09:34:04 PM
Atari 8-bit fans have long hankered after a GUI similar to GEOS on the Commodore 64. Diamond GOS went some way to addressing this deficiency, and since then there have been several creditable attempts at implementing a GUI OS on the A8. Now there's another one in the pipeline: an as yet unnamed project which aims to bring a pre-emptive multi-tasking graphical operating system to the 8-bit Atari. Impressive.

Apple unveils iPad Pro, iPhone 6S, more

Wednesday 9th of September 2015 08:03:38 PM
Apple held its usual September event tonight, and it unveiled three major new products: a new Apple TV, the iPad Pro, and the iPhone 6S/6S Plus. The new Apple TV is effectively the old Apple TV, but with Siri, applications, and a funny-looking remote. It looks fun to use, but it's nothing revolutionary and most likely won't change the TV landscape as much as Apple wants it to. Apple also made a big fuss about gaming on the new Apple TV, but since applications cannot be larger than 200 MB, don't expect much from this. Then again, Apple showed off a 100% Wii Sports rip-off as the big new thing in gaming, so I'm betting on Apple still not really having a clue about gaming. The iPad Pro, on the other hand, is literally Surface. Like, there are no ifs and buts - it's literally an iPad Surface. It's got a 12.9" display, a crazy-fast processor and graphics chip, a foldable, Surface-like keyboard cover, and a stylus/pen for ink. It, of course, makes great use of the new Aero Snap and Windows 8.x multiwindow features introduced with iOS 9. The base model is fairly cheap, but much like the Surface, once you add the keyboard cover and pen, prices go up substantially. Speaking of the pen, Apple drapes it in all sorts of annoying Apple-isms, but it does actually look fairly advanced - closer to top-of-the-line Wacom stuff; this isn't the stylus that came with your Palm device. It'll be great for artists, but much like the Surface's pen, I just don't see a use for it any other application. Lastly, Apple unveiled the iPhone 6S and the 6S Plus, and it's got some really, really cool stuff. The Force Touch and Taptic engine stuff from Apple's latest trackpads and the Apple Watch is built right in, now dubbed 3D Touch (, and it's used to add a number of new interactions into iOS on the 6S. You can gently press on, say, an e-mail, and it'll show you a quick preview, or press a bit harder and open it fully. This also works for application icons, where it'll open a menu with often-used actions for that application. Think of it as Quick Look for applications. It will be open to developers, so you can expect all kinds of cross-application functionality, which is really welcome on a mobile platforms so heavily focussed on apps-as-islands. I really like this new feature, and I can't wait to start using it (I'm buying the iPhone 6S early October). And, unimportant to most but I just want to mention it: it comes in an awesome new colour that I'm totally going for. And, as always, it'll have a faster processor, a better camera, and so on - all the usual things you can expect from a new flagship.

Marc Dillon, Jolla's co-founder, departs

Tuesday 8th of September 2015 11:35:48 PM
Dillon's visibility and personal passion for Sailfish has, at times, made him feel like the de facto face of the entire Sailfish project - eclipsing the other co-founders with his call-to-arms conviction and punkish demands for a more human technology, for software to have a heart, for developers to champion difference and care about consumers whose tastes are unlike the mainstream. Sailfish's small pond certainly rippled with the energy of such a vivid personality. So on one level it's a huge surprise to hear he's left Jolla, the company he quit former employer Nokia to help co-found all the way back in 2011. So, not only did Jolla split into a separate software and a separate hardware company (never a good sign), now its co-founder and frontman has left the, uh, ship as well. You don't need a lot of brain cells to figure this one out.

A history of modern init systems

Tuesday 8th of September 2015 11:31:47 PM
The subject of process management, supervision and init(8) for Unix-like systems is one plagued by a large degree of ahistoricity and "pop culture" explanations. This leads to a lot of confusion and misunderstanding surrounding feature sets and how one formulates the problems surrounding reliable process management on Unix in general, making it a ripe topic for demagogues of all persuasions. [...] The purpose of this article is to set the record straight on the history of attempts to create "modern" init systems, where we define "modern" somewhat broadly as anything that tries to improve the classical BSD and System V styles of initialization and service management.

'Google will comply with censorship to get Play into China'

Monday 7th of September 2015 10:43:04 PM
Today The Information reports that Google is making plans to get a version of Google Play back into China and that it's willing to work within Chinese censorship law to do it. The company "will follow local laws and block apps that the government deems objectionable" in the interest of regaining control over its own operating system. Google also wants to help Chinese developers distribute their apps outside of China and help international developers sell their apps within China. Everything's for sale.

Operating systems: three easy pieces

Monday 7th of September 2015 10:39:53 PM
Welcome to Operating Systems: Three Easy Pieces, a free online operating systems book! The book is centered around three conceptual pieces that are fundamental to operating systems: virtualization, concurrency, and persistence. In understanding the conceptual, you will also learn the practical, including how an operating system does things like schedule the CPU, manage memory, and store files persistently. Lots of fun stuff!

Steve Jobs: the man in the machine

Saturday 5th of September 2015 09:56:24 PM
Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine hits theaters, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, and on demand systems today, and it's already provoking a wide range of reviews and discussion. In March, our own Bryan Bishop called it an "unflinching look at the emotional shrapnel people took when they were part of Jobs’ life," and that focus sets it apart from the growing body of work that celebrates Jobs' accomplishments in business and technology while glossing over the depth of his character. I spoke with Gibney earlier this week about the movie, what he'd learned while making it, and the future of Apple. I've seen it. "Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine" is amazing. What a beautiful testament to a brilliant, but flawed man. This documentary is anything but anti-Apple (as some claim). By painting this complete a picture of Jobs, it's as pro-Apple as it could possibly get - and it's glorious for it. When it hits upon Apple's best days - the original iMac, iBook, PowerMac G4, the Cube, the iMac G4 - I nearly lost it. That is the Apple I still love. I've never felt I understood him and Apple as much as I do now.

The object-oriented state machine operating system

Friday 4th of September 2015 10:46:54 PM
OOSMOS stands for Object-Oriented State Machine Operating System. It is a new type of operating system where the fundamental contextual unit is the object, not the thread as it is in traditional operating systems. Because there are no threads, there are no thread stacks, so OOSMOS is ideal for use in memory constrained environments where a traditional thread-based operating system is not a viable option.

The cheap phones quietly winning the U.S.

Friday 4th of September 2015 10:45:20 PM
ZTE is quietly becoming a force in the U.S. by selling good enough phones at low prices - smaller prepaid smartphones for $30, basic phones with QWERTY keyboards for about the same, and so on. The Chinese company's products are among the cheap phones of choice at three of the big four U.S. carriers. (Verizon doesn't carry them.) ZTE claimed about 8 percent of America's smartphone market in the second quarter of this year, says researcher IDC, up from 4.2 percent in the first quarter of 2014. That ranks the company fourth among smartphone makers overall, behind Apple, Samsung, and LG. "We came from nowhere, and now we are a solid force," says Lixin Cheng, head of ZTE's U.S. operations. For many people, their phone isn't a status symbol, or it's just something they don't care about at all - as long as it makes calls and pulls some light duty, they're happy. I really dislike how these phones and its users tend to be portrayed in the media - almost as if these people are stupid, silly, or dumb for not wanting the latest iPhone or Galaxy phone. Elitist nonsense.

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