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Will you drive an ‘Ammonia’ powered Hydrogen car?

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 12:49:44 PM

While experts keep talking about Hydrogen-powered cars, it is a known fact that besides being an interesting source of alternate energy, it is a combustible gas. This means that in order to store it efficiently, huge pressure and heavy tanks are required. And the slightest exposure can set off a fire. However, there seems to be a solution in store.

Journal of the American Chemical Society have published a paper that talks about “Hydrogen Production from Ammonia using Sodium Amide.” The researchers have not completely sidelined the dangers of using ammonia but they call it a more viable option. The composition of Ammonia is three hydrogen and one nitrogen atom. Breaking them up gives you clean gas, whose storage is more convenient. If that was not enough, it is capable to liquefy at low temperature and pressure, so there is no need for heavy tanks. Even the molecules are bigger and heavier, cutting down the risk of leaks. While all this sounds good, the process of splitting up hydrogen and nitrogen requires a rare and expensive metal, ruthenium. Plan busted!

Now hundreds of years ago, researchers had found out that ammonia can be cracked by using sodium amide (NaNH2). The process involves clinically decomposing to produce sodium metal, nitrogen, and hydrogen. The end result is stable hydrogen and nitrogen gases and highly reactive sodium metal is left to react with ammonia, reforming sodium amide. This is a stable, fast and an efficient method.

The reason that makes Sodium amide desirable is the fact that it is made up of cheap and abundant elements. But the reason that it is a little complex to work with has been discouraging researchers from using it. It has a low melting point and is reactive but it decomposes ammonia efficiently before exploding.

According to Arstechnica, Ammonia includes a significant amount of energy and could be burnt. However, this got researchers started on a temporary solution that would use the sodium amide reactor to deal with the issue of getting ammonia to ignite. “The reactor provides some percentage of hydrogen in an ammonia flow. The hydrogen is used to spark ignition, and the remaining ammonia provides the bulk of the energy. Over time, as we make more and more efficient catalytic structures, the fuel mix in later engines would shift toward hydrogen. Even later still, combustion engines might be replaced by fuel cells and electric motors,” the report stated.

This will be a gradual process, which does not need a perfect catalytic converter and fuel cell to begin. The material is readily available and is just the right direction that the researchers are heading.


The post Will you drive an ‘Ammonia’ powered Hydrogen car? appeared first on The Mukt.

How FCC can save the net neutrality by getting more power!

Wednesday 2nd of July 2014 02:42:54 AM

EFF has taken a U-turn from its stand on giving FCC too much power to regulate the internet services. Now EFF is recommending that FCC reclassify internet services as Title II services which will give the commission more power to regulate the industry.

Back in 1980 FCC established Compute II Final Order to create distinction between regulated telecommunications services (Title II) and unregulated information services (Title I). The Internet services were called information services so they were not regulated. Title II services were tightly regulated which prohibited companies from discriminating or refusing services to customers.

Later when FCC tried to take action against Comcast the matter went to court and FCC was told that it lacked the authority to enforce ‘telecommunications services’ rules to an ‘information services’ company Comcast. ISPs were free to throttle speed or discriminate traffic as they deem fit and that’s what started to happen. ISPs continued to abuse their growing power and today there are serious threats to the internet in the US.

That’s why EFF is changing its stand on FCC and believes giving it more regulatory power is a step towards ensuring net neutrality. If FCC reclassifies internet services as ‘Title II’ services, which EFF says it must if it wants to ensure ‘Open Internet’, then it will have the ‘authority’ that it currently lacks to regulate the industry.

But isn’t it too dangerous to give FCC too much power knowing that its being lead by a lobbyist of the very industry it was meant to regulate?

EFF doesn’t have a lot of options at the moment. Congress will take way too to do anything about it. And considering there is no cap on how much money mega corporations can invest in our government it’s only going to be harder than before to do anything that will harm the interests of the powerful corporations.

While EFF is fighting on other fronts and exploring other options it also realizes that FCC can be part of the solution. EFF is aware of the dangers and is relying on something called ‘forbearance’.

Corynne McSherry of EFF explains, “…forbearance is the process by which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) expressly commits NOT to apply certain rules. It can choose to do that where enforcement of a given rule is not necessary to ensure reasonable and nondiscriminatory practices, or to protect consumers, and forbearance is consistent with the public interest. Normally the FCC forbears in response to a specific petition from a service provider but it can also do so on its own.”

She adds, “Forbearance is how we help ensure the FCC does what is necessary – and no more. It isn’t an iron-clad limit; the FCC must choose to do it, and it can change course if need be. But having made the choice to forbear, the FCC can’t change its mind willy-nilly, or in secret. Instead, it has to invite public comment, and respond to public concerns. If Internet users stay vigilant, forbearance would give us some lasting confidence that the FCC couldn’t use “net neutrality” as an excuse to interfere with free expression and innovation.”

“So while we call on the FCC to do the right and sensible thing and reclassify, we must simultaneously demand that the FCC explicitly reject any telecommunications regulations beyond specific and narrow prohibitions and requirements designed to create a fair and level playing field for innovation and user choice. Without broad forbearance, reclassification can become a nightmare for users, innovators and service providers alike,” said Corynne.

We do need a body which can regulate the ‘internet services’ and FCC is that body. But its powers are limited due to the wrong classification. So the first step towards regulating the industry is by reclassification which will give FCC the authority it need. That’s why EFF has change its stand and will back FCC to get the authority it needs to regulate the industry.

Organizations like EFF are going to have their hands full to ensure that this nation remains the ‘land of free’ as long as it is possible.

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KDE’s Krita gets 100% funding through Kickstarter

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 09:45:23 PM

It’s an interesting day for the KDE community. At one hand they announced the death of two projects – Vivaldi tablet and Improv board, on the other hand Krita (a KDE software) has reached its goal of raising Euro 15,000 on Kickstrater. The project can now hire the developer, designer they need to further improve the sketching and painting software. The campaign is not over yet and there are eight more days left so the project will continue to get more money.

Boudewijn Rempt of Krita says, “And any extra funding will go straight into Krita development as well. If we reach the 30,000 euro level, we’ll be able to fund Sven Langkamp as well, and that will double the number of features we can work on for Krita 2.9.”

Though Krita is a free software software, it’s available on GNU/Linux based systems, Windows and there are experimental builds for Mac OSX.

Talking about Mac OSX Boudewijn said, “We already have a basic package for OSX, but it needs some really heavy development. It currently only runs on OSX 10.9 Mavericks, Krita only sees 1GB of memory, there are OpenGL issues, there GUI issues, there are missing dependencies, missing brush engines. Lots of work to be done. But we’ve proven now that this goal is attainable, so please help us get there!”

Unlike non-free software it’s quite easy to get support for your favorite operating system. Just fund it on Kickstarter!

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Sell your broken and used devices on Swappa’s new ‘Boneyard’ marketplace

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 08:31:53 PM

Swappa is an online marketplace which primarily focuses on buying and selling of ‘gently’ used mobile phones. The site very quickly became popular with the tech enthusiasts due to its association with xda and focus on tech gadgets.

After its launch Swappa quickly further gained in popularity as an alternative to Ebay by offering no seller or buyer fees but also offering the security of only accepting PayPal as a means of payment. Another reason why Swappa became popular was the site did not allow the selling or advertising of ‘Junk Devices’ which meant devices had to be ‘Activation Ready’, could not be listed as lost or stolen, no broken devices or no cracked screens. However it would seem that such a ‘junk’ market was in demand. As this week Swappa have now launched a ‘Boneyard’ marketplace.

The boneyard is the exact opposite of the main Swappa marketplace and allows users to buy and sell broken, greatly used and non-effective devices. The new marketplace launched this week and already has a high number of listings available and some at a real low prices. So if you are an avid phone fixer, need a spare part for your current phone or simply want to clear out your old and broken mobile phone drawer than then boneyard is the place for you. There does not seem to be any restrictions on the type or condition of the phone (or tablet) you wish to sell although you do need to make it clear it the description the full condition i.e. broken, does not light up, cracked screen etc and make sure the price you charge reflects this.

So find all your old and broken devices and get selling on Boneyard

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WebODF meets ownCloud to fix what’s wrong with Google Docs

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 08:03:33 PM

Google Docs is a great resource for collaborative editing and online document editing, however it has one of the greatest problems of all – it doesn’t support the ISO approved document standard ODF. Which leaves governments, businesses and individuals locked into Microsoft’s .docx format.

Since I have been tracking the development of OOXML, Microsoft’s competing document standard, I am aware of the corruption and bribery that took place to get OOXML to be approved as a standard.

So for obvious reasons I don’t have any admiration for Microsoft’s standard (wht do they even call it a standard when they have more than one?). The sole purpose of that ‘standard’ was to make it harder for governments to adopt ODF, as there is an alternative. ODF meant there could be dozens of 3rd party players who could offer applications and solutions based on ODF cutting Microsoft out, and that’s something Microsoft could not afford as the Office Suite was Microsoft’s #1 cash cow.

So we have a document mess. The bigger problem is that players like Google are not helping. You can talk to any user and he would complain that it’s a disaster to edit OOXML documents in Google docs or in LibreOffice. Google blames it on the victim and says there is no demand for ODF. The question is when a player like Google doesn’t support the standard where will the demand come from? Google could be one of the reasons there is no demand for ODF.

This is what I meant when I said in the title ‘what’s wrong with Google Docs’. Since Google doesn’t seem to have any interest what so ever in pushing ODF, organizations, governments and business who don’t want to use OOXML may look at alternatives. A lot of European governments are already migrating from proprietary solutions to open source and vendor independent solutions.

WebODF is the answer

ownCloud and WebODF offer that solution. WebODF team has announced the release of version 0.5.0 which they say is stable enough to be used for everyday work. OwnCloud offers a great integration with WebODF which allows an ownCloud user to get Google Docs like service running on the users own servers. Both are free and open source solution so anyone can download them for free of cost and install them on their own servers.

What’s WebODF?

The team explains, “WebODF is a JavaScript library that lets you display and edit ODF files in the browser. There is no conversion of ODF to HTML. Since ODF is an XML-based format, you can directly render it in a browser, styled with CSS. This way, no information is lost in translation. Unlike other text editors, WebODF leaves your file structure completely intact.”

While you can get a Google Docs like experience with ownCloud, developers can grab WebODF and integrate in their own applications to offer support for ODF on websites or mobile applications. WebODF team also offers a Firefox extension which allows a user to view ODF files in the browser.

You can get WebODF from here. If you want to see what it is capable of, just try our the demo.

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White House wants patent extremist to head USPTO

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 06:18:03 PM

The Obama Administration delivers a setback to the tech sector as it intends to nominate a top pharmaceutical industry lawyer to run the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

The selection of Philip Johnson, the head of intellectual property at Johnson & Johnson, is being resisted by tech industry groups as he is best known for spending years to halt against any effort to change the way patents are submitted and approved. The appointment of Johnson contradicts Obama’s stand against lobbyist in Washington as well as his promise to bring patent reforms. Appointment of Johnson would be the same kind of mistake that Obama made by appointing lobbyists for the cable industry Tom Wheeler as the head of FCC. Wheeler is all determined to kill the Internet and give the cable companies unprecedented control of the internet.

Large pharmaceutical companies, including Johnson & Johnson, have been the most vigorous opponents of patent reform efforts for years.

“American business owners remain vulnerable to patent troll lawsuits, and now one of the most prominent opponents of reform has been appointed to be the umpire, calling balls and strikes for USPTO,” Michael Meehan, manager for pro-reform Main Street Patent Coalition, said in a statement.

According to a report by Ars Technica, The nomination was made public over the weekend, when Hal Wegner, a patent lawyer who authors an e-mail newsletter, said Johnson was the “anticipated nomination,” citing “reliable sources.”

Wegner saw an “overwhelmingly positive reaction to this development among insiders,” but for the tech sector, the choice of Johnson is about as bad a choice as could be imagined.

What remains to be seen is how a man like him will work towards fixing the problems in the USPTO.

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John Oliver rips Supreme court, argues companies shouldn’t be treated as people

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 05:43:54 PM

After hitting FCC with ‘internet fuckery’, John Oliver targets the recent Supreme Court ruling which further pushes the agenda of treating corporations as people. This is one of the must watch shows.

Well if the Supreme Court is so determined to ‘treat’ corporations as people, then it may also be considered that ‘corporations’ should die or be dissolved after the average life span of a human being.

John made some good points there. Do watch it out.

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VAIO PCs coming back to life, finally!

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 04:13:27 PM

Sony’s VAIO PC series were once viewed as owner’s pride, neighbour’s envy, until Sony decided to sell off the PC brand to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners. Back then, Sony had said that the move follows its plan to concentrate on the smartphones and tablets business. Well, the lost brand is being brought back to life finally! Vaio stands for Visual Audio Intelligent Organizer.

The all new VAIO Corporation is now retailing the VAIO Fit and VAIO Pro computers in Japan. Though they come sans Sony branding, they are being sold at Sony’s online store. Vaio Fit is a hybrid laptop cum tablet device with an Intel Core i7 4500U processor with up to 8GB of DDR3L SDRAM. Vaio Pro 13 comes with a 4th generation Intel Haswell chip beneath an 11.6 or 13.3 inch HD 1080p touchscreen.

Consumers can see a message posted in Japanese on the official website that the brand will not be as elaborate as it was once under Sony. The new organisation, which has been officially founded today won’t have more than 240 employees. Sony has taken 5 per cent investment and it is yet not known if it will expand outside Japan.

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Samsung announces Galaxy S5 mini, retains S5 gimmicks

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 04:12:08 PM

Samsung enthusiasts who are eagerly waiting for the next Samsung device have some news in store. Samsung has announced the Galaxy S5 mini, the mini version of its 2014 flagship smartphone. While the pricing of the device has not been revealed yet, the specifications surely tell a story.

The new device will have a 4.5 inch, 720 X 1280 super AMOLED display in comparison to the 4.3 inch Samsung Galaxy S4 mini. It has similar looks as that of Galaxy S5 and will be available in Charcoal Black, Shimmery White, Electric Blue and Copper Gold colour variants.

The processor and RAM have been squeezed, offering a less powerful device. In contrast to the 16-megapixel camera of the Galaxy S5, this mini version will have an 8-megapixel snapper.

Similar to S5, it will have features like a heart rate monitor, fingerprint sensor, and water resistance as well as Android 4.4 KitKat. The company has revealed that it will be making it available in Russia early this month, which will be followed by other countries.

Talking about the newly announced device, JK Shin, CEO and Head of IT & Mobile Communication at Samsung Electronics said, “The Galaxy S5 mini enables consumers to enjoy the iconic design and essential and useful features of the Galaxy S5 via a maximized minimalism approach.”

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KDE’s Vivaldi tablet, Improv project are dead!

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 03:45:11 PM

It’s a sad day for free software as one of the most ambitious free software projects, Improv, is officially dead. Along with the board also dies the promising Vivaldi tablet.

The developers have sent out emails to the backers of the project that they are pulling plugs on these:

With much regret, we are wrapping up the Improv project.

We greatly appreciate everyone’s support, whether it was purchases, donations or words of wisdom and encouragement. There was simply not enough support to make the project work, despite having fully functional, production ready devices and a strong commitment to succeed.

The Free software community does not seem ready at this point to make a concerted stand on the pressing issue of hardware freedom (for more, see this Dot story [1]. In addition, we did not do a good enough job of communicating. We continue to believe that free and open hardware is one of the critical issues of today.

In order to produce Improvs at the expected level of production, we purchased long-lead-time components from a Chinese supplier at a total cost of $5545. There were also some fees incurred for on-line payment processing. Other than those, no other money has been spent and will be used for partial refunds over the next few days. Aaron is considering ways to cover the remaining balance, but there is not a firm date for completing this.

The end of the Improv project also means a disappointing end to the KDE Tablet project, as Aaron was funding both projects out of his own pocket (almost exactly $200,000 spent).

Carl Symons

It’s really not that easy to bring any hardware (let alone fully open) to the market. Just look at how Microsoft, despite its deep pockets, is struggling with their Surface tablets and Windows smartphones. They ended up buying Nokia to ensure at least there will be one hardware player with notable market share to push Microsoft mobile OS.

Amazon, the Earth’s largest online store, doesn’t have very decent numbers to show how many Kindle tablets they sold till date.

Heavyweights like Dell and HP have been struggling to do what Aaron was trying to achieve. Even Canonical’s most ambitious Edge campaign failed despite so much marketing and large user-base.

The moral of the story is – hardware is not easy.

Aaron and the team are not traditional hardware players. It took Google couple of failed hardware projects (Google TV and Nexus Q) to finally learn the art. So it’s commendable what the KDE team tried to achieve.

Hardware is a tricky business and the team took upon themselves a herculean task – to bring open hardware to the market running free software. This project may have ended, but its not the end of free and open source hardware.

There are, and there will be, many Open Source hardware+software projects that will learn from the mistakes of Improv and Vivaldi.

The post KDE’s Vivaldi tablet, Improv project are dead! appeared first on The Mukt.

No Man’s Sky game defies the conventional!

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 02:29:39 PM

No man’s land is that piece of land that has been left unoccupied due to fear or uncertainty. And what exactly is No Man’s Sky? That’s exactly the question that caught us when we heard of the new game that is based upon a universe with infinite possibility. If thrill is your forte and you are tired of fighting quests, rescue missions, this will surely grab your interest.

No Man’s Sky just doesn’t aim for the moon or the stars, but encompasses all kinds of celestial bodies. Spelling endless adventure possibilities, the game is being touted as the most ambitious gaming project that is being built by a 10-member team firm called Hello Games.

Sean Murray, the founder of Hello Games is super kicked about the game where they are building a unique universe with a small team as his. Murray told The Verge, “Games are incredibly bad at making the rare feel rare. Call of Duty is so worried about you not seeing an explosion every 15 seconds, that there’s never a quiet moment, there’s never a buildup. We’ve lost that ability to have even a feeling of ‘am I going the right way’ that we’re quite used to from real life.”

The player is dropped on a random planet in the galaxy with bare essentials to survive and then left to explore his way out. There is a basic life pod that can get you to the nearest space station. Thats is the place where you can get new devices, upgrade them and try to do something interesting. You are basically left to explore.

Talking about the in-game universe, Murray explained, “People underestimate how vast our (in-game) universe is. If we were lucky enough to have a million players and started them all on one planet, they would still be really far apart.”

Interestingly, 90 percent of all the planets in the game will not have any life and won’t be habitable. Players will barely find life form that is more evolved. This is how the developers have tried to balance, trying to keep the players engaged.

Source: The Verge

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Cloud management certification added for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 01:21:09 PM

Red Hat has announced a new cloud management certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform as part of the Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Infrastructure Partner Network. Red Hat will enable cloud management solutions from partners to interoperate with and manage Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform.

According to the company, the certification offers customers confidence that their OpenStack-based clouds and management solutions have been fully tested together and are supported jointly by Red Hat and the participating companies.

“As OpenStack is becoming a core element of the enterprise cloud strategy for many customers, Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform is architected and backed by the broadest partner ecosystem to be the preferred platform. The growth and maturity of the ecosystem reflects the evolution of the product moving from addressing infrastructure-centric alignment to help with early deployments to now be well-managed, to be part of enterprise hybrid cloud implementations,” said Radhesh Balakrishnan, general manager, virtualization and OpenStack, Red Hat.

The expansion of Red Hat’s certification program to include cloud management solutions enables customers who want to deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux OpenStack Platform at scale in a private cloud to also use their management solution of choice.

Red Hat is working closely with many management solution providers, including BMC and HP. As members of the Red Hat OpenStack Cloud Infrastructure Partner Network, these vendors have provided feedback and support for the management certification and are all in various stages of the certification process.

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How to get [unofficial] Android L keyboard for your Android device!

Tuesday 1st of July 2014 01:11:43 PM

Google’s yearly I/O event is less than a week old. In fact it commenced a week ago tomorrow and this was the first real indication we were given of what to expect in the next few months. There was lots of big news announced such as Android TV, Android Auto and Android Wear. If you missed any of the information than click here to read our brief rundown of what happened.

For us, one of the big announcements was the launch of Android L. Well, this was officially only the introduction of L as the software won’t hit the market until later in the year…or so we thought. Three days ago we announced the clever boys and girls at xda had released a number of Android L features for users to download and side load on to their devices.

Well, here we are again and this time it gets more interesting. Three days after the availability to side load the Android L keyboard it is now available to download as an app. Yes folks, as an app. This means there is no more need to side load. Instead you can simply download the app and install it and start enjoying the upcoming keyboard now. Just keep in mind that it’s not an official app and is being developed by an independent developer.

The keyboard has a beautiful layout which moves away from tradition keyboards.

The app is available on Google Play but it was not uploaded by Google but instead by ‘Shen Ye’ who has created a modified version of the apk to run as a standalone app. This results in a very easy installation. After downloading, the app adopts a three click system advising of what you need to do to configure the settings and within seconds (took me roughly 4 seconds) you are solely using L’s keyboard for text, email, WhatsApp and everything else.

So, if our news last week about side loading the keyboard was too much or complicated than you should definitely try this method. If you are interested than click the link to visit the Play Store listing. It is worth noting the app doesn’t cost anything and really is very simple to install.

The post How to get [unofficial] Android L keyboard for your Android device! appeared first on The Mukt.

UK Cinemas ban Google Glass

Monday 30th of June 2014 09:23:39 PM

Looks like Google didn’t see it coming even if they were wearing Google Glass. UK has become the second country to impose ban on Google Glass. The ban comes from the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, a body that claims to represent 90 percent of UK theater operators. Google Glass was launched in the UK just a week ago.

The Independent quotes Phil Clapp, chief executive of the Cinema Exhibitors’ Association, “Customers will be requested not to wear these into cinema auditoriums, whether the film is playing or not.”

The cinemas across the UK fear that Google Glass can become a perfect device to record movies in the cinema hall.

The critics argue that Google Glass creates privacy concern as user can snap a picture or record a video without the knowledge of a subject. Use of a traditional camera or a smartphone makes it a bit more obvious that you are taking a picture or recording a video so the subject can either move out of frame or asks the shooter to stop. That’s not the case with Google Glass as one can snap a picture or record a video just by looking in that direction.

The fact remains it’s equally easy to take a picture by looking else where and secretly holding your phone towards the subject. However smartphones didn’t receive the same level of protest from businesses as did Google Glass.

Returning to the point of recording a movie in a theater, supporters of Google Glass may argue as this The Verge writer argues, “Glass would make for a pretty awful way to record a movie, despite theater owners’ apparent concerns. Glass’ battery life is short when recording video, and it would be hard not to notice Glass’ lights in the middle of a dark theater.”

A Google Glass critic countered the argument that those who are engaged in ‘illegally’ obtaining the copy of such move may have more than one person during the show and the next person may start recording just before the first one ran out of it. Then they can join the clips on any film-editing software.

Another concern could be that Google Glass can be a distraction for other movie-goers due to the lights and the person sitting in front of your continuously talking to his Glass or touching it.

Both sides of the argument has justified reasons, and the ball is in Google’s court to deal with such issues publicly. Glass is already a super-expensive gadget and negative perception of the device won’t help its adoption.

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digiKam Software Collection 4.1.0 released

Monday 30th of June 2014 08:48:21 PM

digiKam is the closest thing you can get to LightRoom in GNU/Linux based systems (also on proprietary operating systems) which costs nothing. It’s one of the many extremely polished and feature rich open source applications developed by the KDE community. The digiKam community has announced the release of version 4.1.0 which include many bug fixes for the 4.0.0 release.

Some of the main improvements in this release include:

  • A huge hack about face management feature have been processed. Some conditions introducing are now closed. Implementations in shared library libkface dedicated to detect and recognize faces are now more robust and suitable for production.
  • A new overlay have been add to all icon-view to indicate if items has geo-location information. This will help end users to find quickly in album which items use GPS coordinates.
  • Thumbnails now support large resolution monitor. Thumbs size can be expended to 512 instead 256 previously.

The latest version is already available in the official repositories of major GNU/Linux based distributions.

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Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV to be free from OEM skins

Monday 30th of June 2014 08:17:40 PM

The showstopper for this year’s Google I/O was Android wear, with the unveiling of first Android Wear devices : Samsung Galaxy Live and LG G watch. All the lucky Google I/O attendees will be able to take one of them home too. We are expecting to see some detailed review of the smart watches soon from people who have already got their hands on them.

One thing that most people have noticed by now, is that the UI on both Samsung and LG smart watch feel the same. This is not usually the case with smartphones manufactured by different OEM, with customs skins painted on top of Android. Turns out Google is not allowing OEMs to make any changes to the UI of Android Wear, Android Auto and Android TV and will be strictly controlled by Google itself.

Google engineering director David Burke said, “The UI is more part of the product in this case, We want to just have a very consistent user experience, so if you have one TV in one room and another TV in another room and they both say Android TV, we want them to work the same and look the same… The device manufacturers can brand it, and they might have services that they want to include with it, but otherwise it should be the same.”

This is welcome news for Android purists like me. I have always felt that customs skins, with Samsung’s TouchWiz taking the top spot, negatively affect the performance of the device and make the software unnecessarily bloated delivering a poor user experience. This is one of the reason, why people who love the stock Android experience opt for Nexus devices or Google Play Edition devices. While there are better OEM skins like HTC Sense, due to highly customised nature of the skins, it becomes difficult for the manufacturer to release an update for new Android version. Motorola on the other hand has understood that OEM skins are more bane than boon and has decided to go with almost stock Android for their bestselling Moto G, Moto E and Moto X phones. They have been quick in releasing Android updates, in some cases even faster than Google’s Nexus.

Since OEM skins make it difficult to provide updates to the devices, lower end and midrange devices generally don’t get any Android updates and flagships receive them after a long wait. This has resulted in Android version fragmentation too, and Google has been trying to tackle this ever since.

When Android first came into existence, it was half baked and lacked many features, OEMs therefore tried to customise it and include additional features to compete with rival Apple’s iPhone. They tried to distinguish their devices from other manufacturers changing the look and feel of the software.

Android is a much mature and finished platform now. It has done away with the catch up game and is leading the ‘smart’ devices segment. Google has learnt its lesson and doesn’t want to let OEM tinkle with the UI of Android Wear,Auto, or TV and result in version fragmentation. They want to keep the user experience uniform across all devices irrespective of the manufacturer.

In my opinion this is a great move from Google which is going to be a relief for consumers and also help OEMs deploy OS updates faster. What do you think about this decision? Would you prefer a OEM skinned version or a stock experience?

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Iraq’s ISIS sends letter of praise to US Supreme Court

Monday 30th of June 2014 06:55:45 PM

In an extreme rare display of appreciation of any western country, ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has published an open letter praising the US Supreme Court for its Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. decision.

The Sunni Muslim militant organization wrote in their letter:

It gives us great pleasure to see that the highest judiciary body of the United States of America has made a decision which is in line with the believes of ISIS. It’s great honor that just one day after we announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, caliph — or supreme leader — of the caliphate the US supreme court has made a decision that is one of the core values of our Chaliphate.

The sole purpose of a woman is to give birth to our children and any attempt to stop that is sin. Allowing woman to control the birth of a child is against our values.

“This ruling is good news for the imam and caliph for the Muslims everywhere,” ISIS spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani said in the statement, calling the decision “the dream in all the Muslims’ hearts” and “the hope of all jihadists.”

He further added “It is incumbent upon all private businesses of the US to pledge allegiance.”

ISIS wants to recreate a Muslim state on the caliphates model that ruled from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf during the Middle Ages and they believe that US supreme court decision has given them the moral strength they needed to conquer the world.

ISIS spokesman also congratulated the US Supreme Court for giving mega companies of the US complete control over the government. “Elites ruled the world in middle ages which changed with the arrival sins like democracy, by giving back the power to elites, the US supreme court has given us the assurance that our dream will one day come true.”

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Google kills QuickOffice for iOS and Android, what does it document interoperability?

Monday 30th of June 2014 04:47:35 PM

When Google acquired QuickOffice we knew that Google Docs is going to become a serious editing tool on mobile devices. Google has been slowly and steadily integrating QuickOffice with its Docs. It left us with one question, what would happen to QuickOffice? We have that answer today.

Google is shutting down QuickOffice and is removing it from Google Play and App Store. Google Apps team says in a blog post, “With the integration of Quickoffice into the Google Docs, Sheets and Slides apps, the Quickoffice app will be unpublished from Google Play and the App Store in the coming weeks. Existing users with the app can continue to use it, but no features will be added and new users will not be able to install the app.”

What does it mean to QuickOffice users?

It brings good news to both QuickOffice and Google Docs users. If you are running Android L then you can already see the integration that Google has done. Now you can create new document even when you are offline. Though some reports claim that you can ‘open’ and edit existing docs while offline I have not seen that happening. If you have not made any document available offline then you won’t be able to open or edit it.

Another notable feature would be the ability to open and edit Microsoft’s docx files without having to through the hoops of ‘converting’ them into Google Docs for editing and then exporting back to .docx so that they can be opened from suites like LibreOffice or MS office.

No support for ODF

One gripe remains and that’s Google disdain towards ISO approved ODF format which many government organizations would want. But lack of support for ODF by Google is literally killing ODF as if you send a file saved in odt format, Google won’t open or edit it.

When talked to Google’s Open Source head Chris DiBona he was of opinion that demand may be one of the reasons why Google is not taking interest in ODF support. It’s a catch 22 situation, since Google doesn’t support the standard, users can’t use it and since users can’t use it, there is no demand!

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Privacy focused Blackphone starts shipping

Monday 30th of June 2014 01:08:47 PM

Blackphone, an Android-based smartphone developed by Silent Circle, SGP Technologies and Geeksphone, is now shipping. The phone became a sensation during Mobile World Congress as it offered extreme privacy of communication. After the NSA revelations made by Edward Snowden, there is a huge demand for services or devices which offer privacy from NSA and other surveillance agencies. However even the Blackphone doesn’t offer any protection from NSA. Phil Zimmermann, one of the creators of the phone, said that Blackphone doesn’t make you NSA proof.

Blackphone is being developed by the same company which chose to shut down its secure email service instead of complying with NSA demands. The company is using Android KitKat to create a custom OS called PrivOS which comes with a lot of security and privacy features.

That’s one of the beauties of open source Android over fully closed source iOS or Windows as not only users can see and study the source code, they can also create something like PrivOS to offer custom solutions to user.

The phone that will keep your conversation out of the reach of agencies like NSA.

There is an increasing demand for solutions which are extremely secure, and Blackphone is filling that niche nicely. Here is a quick look at some of the privacy features offered by Blackphone:

  • Private communications: Blackphone features private encrypted voice and video calls and text messaging with attachments via Silent Circle ‘s, Silent Phone and Silent Text apps created by Phil Zimmermann and Jon Callas , giving users the freedom to communicate securely anywhere they find cellular or Wi-Fi connections.
  • Wi-Fi security: The included Kismet Smarter Wi-Fi Manager prevents Wi-Fi hotspots from capturing Blackphone users’ wireless connection history and other information that could be used to track users’ locations or patterns of activity and information about sensitive office or home networks.
  • Security Center: Gives owners complete control over application permissions, allowing immediate changes without rebooting or reinstalling.
  • Remote wipe and protect: A powerful remote wipe tool gives Blackphone owners further peace of mind in having the ability to control their phone’s data from anywhere in the world.
  • Anonymous Web browsing and VPN: Disconnect Search is the default search provider for Blackphone, offering private browsing protection from invasive Web monitoring by hiding users’ IP address, browser cookies and personal information. Blackphone also features Disconnect’s Secure Wireless app, which is a smart VPN designed to prevent eavesdropping over Wi-Fi and cellular networks.
  • Private cloud storage: Blackphone owners can access files in SpiderOak’s private encrypted cloud service right from their mobile device, knowing only they have the means to decrypt and access their private files.

“Blackphone’s arrival puts mobile privacy directly in the hands of professionals and consumers everywhere. In a world where devices and apps increasingly offer features only in return for users’ personal or sensitive information, the pent-up demand for Blackphone shows there is strong, international demand for our brand’s devices and services that stand apart by placing privacy before all else,” said SGP Technologies CEO Toby Weir-Jones.

Blackphone is available for $629 from the company store and they are already out of stock.

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U.S. vows not to produce any more anti-personnel land mines

Monday 30th of June 2014 11:34:28 AM

The United States is on a course to eventually join a 1997 international treaty, championed by Princess Diana, which bans anti-personnel land mines or APLs. During a conference in Maputo, Mozambique, U.S. officials announced that the country’s military would stop producing and buying anti-personnel landmines.

Anti-personnel mines are a form of land mine designed for use against humans, as opposed to anti-tank mines, which are designed for use against vehicles. The mines are often designed to injure, not kill, victims in order to increase the logistical (mostly medical) support required by enemy forces that encounter them.

“Our delegation in Maputo made clear that we are diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention — the treaty banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of APL,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement.

The administration is giving a thought to how to reduce the risks of forgoing land mines, and “other aspects of our land-mine policy remain under consideration,” she said.

“The United States shares the humanitarian goals of the Ottawa Convention and is the world’s single largest financial supporter of humanitarian mine action, providing more than $2.3 billion in aid since 1993 in more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs,” Hayden said.

Disarmament advocates welcomed the declaration but said that the U.S. statement from Maputo falls short of destroying the existing stockpile of landmines.

“Without a commitment to destroy some or all of the United States existing stockpile of landmines and on a schedule, the pledge not to produce or acquire landmines will have little material effect on existing U.S. stockpiles (which number in the millions) for many, many years to come,” Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, said.

“And until and unless the Obama administration changes other aspects of current U.S. policy on landmines, the 2004 George W. Bush administration policy permitting the indefinite use of self-destructing, self-deactivating antipersonnel mines anywhere in the world remains in effect,” Kimball added.

The Mine Ban Treaty, also know as the Ottawa Convention, puts a ban on the use, development, production, acquisition, retention, stockpiling, or transfer of anti-personnel landmines (APLs), which are defined by the treaty as mines “designed to be exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person and that will incapacitate, injure or kill one or more persons.”

Activists have long pressured the United States to become one of the treaty’s 161 adherents. The small group of non-signatories includes China, Russia, Syria, Iran and Israel.

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