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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 26 min 55 sec ago

Where KDE is going, part II

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 09:46:21 PM
And this is the second part of the future of KDE. We already covered part one. This is the second half of the 'where KDE is going' write-up. Last week, I discussed what is happening with KDE's technologies: Platform is turning modular in Frameworks, Plasma is moving to new technologies and the Applications change their release schedule. In this post, I will discuss the social and organizational aspects: our governance.

Developers can't update apps to Material Design just yet

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 12:20:49 PM
So yes, this story is pretty much an excuse to show off our fancy new Android story category (it's 2014. We thought it was time), but hey, it's still informative. In case you've been wondering why you don't see many applications with Google's new Material Design just yet, it's because applications created with the Android L Preview SDK may not yet be submitted to the Google Play Store. In fact, said applications won't even run on non-Preview devices to begin with. Alongside the release of the Android L Developer Preview images, Google also released the Android L Preview SDK. Using the L Preview SDK, developers are now able to make use of Theme.Material.* and give their applications this highly sought after theme. And in fact, this is only available when using the preview SDK. However, Google makes it very clear that applications created with the preview SDK should not be published to the Google Play Store. It's pretty clear Material Design simply isn't done yet, and as such, Google has wisely decided to not let developers use it in the real world just yet.

Windows 'Threshold': no more Metro for desktop users

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 12:17:19 PM
There's a lot of information coming out about the future versions of Windows - and it's looking like Microsoft is listening to its users. First and foremost, it seems like the Metro interface will be disabled completely when Windows runs on traditional laptops and desktops; however, Metro applications will still run in windows on the desktop. The Desktop/laptop SKU of Threshold will include, as previously rumored, the Mini-Start menu - a new version of the traditional Microsoft Start menu, an early concept of which Microsoft showed off at the company's Build developers conference in April. It also will include the ability to run Metro-Style/Windows Store apps in windows on the Desktop. Will it turn off completely the Metro-Style Start screen with its live-tile interface, as Neowin is reporting, and make the tiled Start Menu a toggleable option from the Mini Start menu? I'm not sure, but I wouldn't be surprised. Meanwhile, convertible devices will work pretty much like Windows 8.x does today, switching between the two modes. Microsoft will also do the inevitable: merge its phone and tablet operating system into one product. The combined Phone/Tablet SKU of Threshold won't have a Desktop environment at all, but still will support apps running side by side, my sources are reconfirming. This "Threshold Mobile" SKU will work on ARM-based Windows Phones (not just Lumias), ARM-based Windows tablets and, I believe, Intel-Atom-based tablets. These are all looking like some very decent changes, and something they should have done from the get-go. In fact - they should have never tried to shove Metro down desktop user's throats to begin with. They should have moved Windows Phone over to NT (which they did anyway), and scale that up to tablets. I am, though, quite interested in what the Metro-on-desktop apologists are going to say now. For entertainment value, of course!

Google I/O thoughts

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 08:37:29 AM
Russell Ivanovic comparing his experiences at WWDC and Google I/O. For instance, the differences between Apple and Google developer representatives. Perhaps it's just the ones I've met at Apple, but I've never had this experience before. Our developer rep is a nice guy, but he's not the least bit technical, and in general I could only talk to him when he contacts me. I say 'could' because ever since we've had success on the Android platform he's made it very clear that his services are no longer available to us. Perhaps that makes me bitter and jaded about the Developer Rep experience at Apple, but if you ask me it's justified. Seems to be in line with how Apple handles the press. A long, long time ago, Apple loaned me one of the first Intel MacBook Pros. Those models got notoriously hot to the touch under heavy use. I dared to mention in my review that the device would sometimes get uncomfortably warm. Let me just say that it did not exactly go down well with Apple. Moving on, it's not just the companies' employees that have differing attitudes. One of the first things that struck me was the contrast between the kind of people that attend I/O vs those at WWDC. Granted in both cases I didn't meet all 5000 attendees, so there's nothing scientific about what follows. That said everyone I met at I/O was open-minded and tended to work on more than one platform. As such it wasn't the least bit strange when someone pulled out their iPhone to check something on it. The majority of phones there seemed to be Androids, with the Nexus 5 making up the lions share of the devices I saw. What I'm getting at, and let me put it bluntly if I may, is that it highlighted just how insular and superior a lot of Apple developers act and feel. If you don't believe me, just join a group of them at WWDC and whip out your Android phone. Within moments, you'll wish you had whipped out something less offensive, like your genitalia instead. Apple's employees seem "overly obsessed with Google", he notes, which shouldn't be a surprise considering the amount of time Tim Cook spends bashing Android during a keynote - often with facts of questionable value. This kind of stuff trickles down to lower employees, too, of course. In any case, this doesn't exactly seem like a great way to treat developers. I wonder if this will ever come back to bite Apple in the butt.

CrackBerry's pre-release review of the BlackBerry Passport

Monday 30th of June 2014 11:38:47 PM
A few days ago, the crazy BlackBerry Passport reared its... Square head. Over the weekend, Crackberry.com posted a review of a pre-release version of the device. It fits in dress shirt pockets and you can hold it with one hand. You just need two hands to use it. The battery lasts forever and the screen is a breath of fresh air for the 'cramped' Q10 users. The keyboard is a delicious treat that is a different approach compared to anything BlackBerry has done before it and anything that the market has ever seen. The combination of physical and onscreen this time around is exciting and intuitive. It is what we have been waiting for all along. A breath of fresh air. This seems to be the device BlackBerry should have put out years ago. It's different, it's fresh, yet retains what makes a BlackBerry, well, a BlackBerry. This is exactly the kind of device us hardware keyboard lovers need. Bring it on, BlackBerry. Do it. Release it. Everywhere.

Ars reviews the Blackphone

Monday 30th of June 2014 07:56:19 PM
Ars Technica reviews the BlackPhone, a device which claims to be much more secure than other smartphones. After configuring the various pieces of Blackphone's privacy armor, it was time to check it for leaks. I connected my loaner phone to a Wi-Fi access point that was set up to perform a packet capture of my traffic, and we started to walk through the features. I also launched a few Wi-Fi attacks on the phone in an attempt to gather data from it. [...] For my last trick, I unleashed a malicious wireless access point on Blackphone, first passively listening and then actively trying to get it to connect. While I did capture the MAC address of the phone’s Wi-Fi interface passively, I was unable to get it to fall for a spoofed network or even give up the names of its trusted networks. So, we've verified it: Blackphone is pretty damn secure. A very disappointing test of the essential claim to fame of this smartphone. All Ars has done is confirm it does not leak data - something you can easily achieve on any phone. This review does not spend a single word on the baseband operating system of the device, which is a crucial part of any smartphone that we know little about. There's no indication whatsoever that the baseband operating system used by the NVIDIA chipset inside the Blackphone is in any way more secure than that of others. Unless we have a truly open baseband processor, the idea of a secure phone for heroes like Edward Snowden will always be a pipe dream. I certainly commend Blackphone's effort, but there's a hell of a lot more work to be done.

Exploring Swift using GPUImage

Monday 30th of June 2014 07:28:22 PM
Steven Troughton-Smith points to an article by Brad Larson: I always find it more effective to learn new programming concepts by building projects using them, so I decided to do the same for Apple's new Swift language. I also wanted to see how well it would interact with my open source GPUImage framework. As a result, I made GPUImage fully Swift-compatible and I've built and committed to the GitHub repository a couple of Swift sample applications. I wanted to write down some of the things that I learned when building these. It's interesting to see programmers get their hands dirty with what most likely will be the way forward for iOS developers.

Apple releases OS X 10.9.4, iOS 7.1.2, Apple TV 6.2

Monday 30th of June 2014 06:29:34 PM
Some operating system updates from Cupertino today. First up, OS X 10.9.4. This update: Fixes an issue that prevented some Macs from automatically connecting to known Wi-Fi networks Fixes issue causing the background or Apple logo to appear incorrectly on startup Improves the reliability of waking from sleep Includes Safari 7.0.5 iOS 7.1.2 has also been released. Apple has released iOS 7.1.2. This update contains bug fixes and security updates. These include an update to iBeacon connectivity and stability, data transfers for 3rd party accessories, and data protection class issues with Mail attachments. To round it all off, Apple also updated the Apple TV to version 6.2.

MorphOS 3.6 released

Sunday 29th of June 2014 09:30:45 AM
This new version can now utilize the built-in Wi-Fi hardware in all Apple systems that feature Broadcom's BCM43 chipset. In addition, MorphOS further extends its support of graphics chipsets to include AMD's R400 series by adding compatibility with Radeon X800 XT/Pro and FireGL X3 cards. Moreover, the latest version of MorphOS now enables laptop owners to define custom screen modes and provides default modes for increasingly common high resolution displays. Improving interoperability and overall convenience, MorphOS 3.6 adds a new SMBFS filesystem handler with 64-bit I/O support for easy file sharing via network storage devices, a new VNC server to control your MorphOS systems remotely or even without a display, and a Synergy client for sharing a nearby mouse and keyboard with any Linux, MacOS or Windows machine that is part of your local network and acts as a Synergy server. Seems like a pretty big update. I'm keeping my eyes open for a nice PowerBook G4 so that I can re-review MorphOS somewhere in the near future.

Metal in iOS 8: explained

Friday 27th of June 2014 05:42:21 PM
Metal. If the name sounds hardcore, it's because it's a hardcore improvement to the way games will be able to perform on iOS 8. Metal represents a much more no-nonsense approach to getting the most out of the Apple A7's gaming performance, assuring users of the iPhone 5S, iPad Air and iPad mini with Retina display that their devices will continue to be top-notch game systems come this fall. Right now in iOS 7 software called OpenGL ES sits in between the game and the core hardware that runs it, translating function calls into graphics commands that are sent to the hardware. It's a lot of overhead. And iOS 8 is getting rid of a lot of it. A nice overview of Apple's Metal.

Apple to cease development of Aperture

Friday 27th of June 2014 05:00:39 PM
"With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture," an Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch. "When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS X." Apple says that it will provide compatibility updates to Aperture that allow it to run on OS X Yosemite, but will not continue to develop it. In addition, it is working with Adobe to work on a transitionary workflow for users moving to Lightroom. If your workflow depends on Aperture, you might want to start planning for its demise.

Android without the mothership

Friday 27th of June 2014 03:36:13 PM
The success of Android has brought Linux to many millions of new users and that, in turn, has increased the development community for Linux itself. But those who value free software and privacy can be forgiven for seeing Android as a step backward in some ways; Android systems include significant amounts of proprietary software, and they report vast amounts of information back to the Google mothership. But Android is, at its heart, an open-source system, meaning that it should be possible to cast it into a more freedom- and privacy-respecting form. Your editor has spent some time working on that goal; the good news is that it is indeed possible to create a (mostly) free system on the Android platform. Meanwhile, some claim AOSP is a "featurephone" and a "barebones husk". It's always nice to see reality beat punditry.

Designer of key iOS features left Apple because of patent suits

Friday 27th of June 2014 02:51:30 PM
Chances are you've used something developed by Dutchman Bas Ording. Ording is responsible for the OS X dock (in fact, Steve Jobs hired him on the spot because Ording showed him dock magnification in 1998), the little pinheads for text selection and magnification in iOS, iOS' kinetic and bouncy scrolling, the pre-iOS 7 keyboard, and probably more. He's listed on a long list of Apple patents, including those Apple is asserting against its competitors. After about 15 years at the company as User Interface Designer, he left about a year ago for unknown reasons - until now. Speaking at a conference here in The Netherlands, and noted by Emerce (via Tweakers), Ording explains that he decided to leave Apple because he was fed up with having to appear in court. "Because my name is listed on patents, I increasingly had to appear in court cases versus HTC and Samsung," he said, "That started to annoy me. I spent more time in court than designing. Aside from that, I missed the interaction with Steve Jobs. We discussed matters every fourteen days." It's easy to forget - and I'm certainly guilty of that - that companies like Apple, in the end, consist of people like you and me, who dislike all this patent crap just as much as we do. Developers and designers working at Apple are not magically different from everyone else, and since developers almost unanimously dislike software patents, so do Apple's developers. It does make you wonder - how many more talented people have left companies like Apple and Microsoft for their patent aggression?

The microg Project

Friday 27th of June 2014 10:17:12 AM
The μg Project aims to provide a free, fully compatible replacement of the often used proprietary GAPPS package by Google. Very little information is available at this point, but I've always wondered why nobody ever tried to create open source replacements for the various Google Apps - most notably Google Play Services. This is clearly in its very early stages, but it'd be fantastic if we could one day have a drop-in replacement for Play Services, ensuring you could have a truly Google-free Android device while still being able to run applications that use the Play Services APIs.

Larry Page on privacy

Thursday 26th of June 2014 11:07:57 PM
Google CEO Larry Page on privacy issues: I'm not trying to minimize the issues. For me, I'm so excited about the possibilities to improve things for people, my worry would be the opposite. We get so worried about these things that we don't get the benefits. I think that's what's happened in health care. We've decided, through regulation largely, that data is so locked up that it can't be used to benefit people very well. Right now we don't data-mine health care data. If we did we'd probably save 100,000 lives next year. I'm very worried that the media and governments will try to stoke the people's fears and we'll end up in a state where we could benefit a lot of people but we re not able to do that. That's the likely outcome. The problem is not that people aren't open to the possible benefits from information gleamed from large piles of data. No, the problem is that both governments and companies alike have a history of abusing and/or leaking this data. In other words, the people's skepticism is entirely the industry's own fault. Introspection, Mr. Page.