posted 20 days ago on OSNews
But Google over the past year or so has gotten serious about getting more apps in front of more users, particularly in search results - which remains Google's bread and butter. App indexing - wherein Google actually sorts through the content of an app so it can present it back to users in any number of ways - is the key to all this. You can open a traditional web search result directly into an app. And later Google would show a button that take you to the Play Store to install the app. And now Google has cut out the middleman - for some of us, at least - by skipping the step of opening the Google Play Store app before installing. Technically speaking, that's probably not a huge leap. And, frankly, it's not as big a deal as headlines are making it seem. Installing applications is just one of the many things where Android outshines iOS. For instance, it's 2016, and you still can't install applications from the App Store web listing to your iPhone or iPad. I spend most of my computing time on my desktop computer, and I've lost count of how many times I came across an interesting iOS application, only to realise that the only way to actually install on my iPhone was to actually get my iPhone, which could be anywhere in the house, open the App Store, search for the application, hopefully actually find it (search in the App Store is dreadfully bad), and then install it, all the while hoping the App Store app won't soil its undies halfway through. For Android applications, I just click install on the Play Store web listing, and I'm done. It's one of those niceties that companies that understand web services can do properly without much effort. And it seems like Google is taking all this a step further now, allowing you to install stuff straight from Google Search Meanwhile, the iOS App Store application is so unreliable and terrible, it needs a hidden "tap ten times to reload" shortcut. OK.

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posted 20 days ago on OSNews
Cobalt mined by child laborers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo may be entering the supply chains of major tech companies like Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft, as well as auto manufacturers like Volkswagen and Daimler AG, according to an investigation from Amnesty International and Afrewatch, a DRC-based non-government organization. The report, released today, lays out how cobalt mined by children as young as seven is sold to a DRC-based subsidiary of Huayou Cobalt, a Chinese company. The subsidiary, Congo Dongfang Mining International (CDM), processes cobalt ore and sells it to companies in China and South Korea, where it is used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries for use in smartphones and electric cars. Amnesty contacted 16 multinational companies listed as customers of the battery makers, based on investor documents and public records. Most said they were unaware of any links to the companies cited in the report, while others, like Apple and Microsoft, said they were evaluating their supply chains. Amnesty says that none of the companies provided enough information to independently verify the origin of their cobalt supply. This will remain a problem for a long time to come. Many of the rare resources we use every day are gathered in some of the most unstable and poorest places on earth.

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posted 20 days ago on OSNews
All of the new features introduced in iOS 9.x (plus the iPad Pro) point to Apple's intentions for the iPad, which still sells fairly well but has experienced a steady year-over-year sales slide for every quarter since early 2014. Like the iPhone, the iPad will continue to be a touch-first platform that assumes you're using the touchscreen as the primary method of input, but it will continue to pick up more "computer-y" features that make better use of its larger screen and more powerful internal hardware. With that in mind, here are a few iPad-specific feature requests for iOS 10, all of which balance the iPad's traditional strengths and the needs of people more used to "traditional" desktop OSes.

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posted 21 days ago on OSNews
Well, this is interesting. The Dutch Consumentenbond, the largest consumer protection advocacy agency in The Netherlands, today filed a lawsuit against Samsung demanding the company starts properly updating its Android phones. The Consumentenbond had been in talks with Samsung about this issue for a while now, but no positive outcome was reached, and as such, they saw no other option but to file suit. The Consumentenbond is demanding that Samsung provides two years of updates for all its Android devices, with the two-year period starting not at the date of market introduction of the device, but at the date of sale. This means that devices introduced one or even more years ago that are still being sold should still get two years' worth of updates starting today. There's actually an official English version of the press release (as a translator, I am genuinely surprised about that). Bart Combée, director of the Consumentenbond: "On buying a Samsung Android device, consumers are given inadequate information about how long they will continue to receive software updates. The Consumentenbond is demanding that Samsung provide its customers with clear and unambiguous information about this. Samsung moreover provides insufficient information about critical security vulnerabilities, such as Stagefright, in its Android phones. Finally, the Consumentenbond is demanding that Samsung actually provide its smartphones with updates." The Consumentenbond's own research has shown that 82% of the Samsung phones sold in The Netherlands did not get updates to the most recent version of Android in the two-year period, which leads to all kinds of security issues and other problems. While Samsung, which has a smartphone market share in The Netherlands of about 80% (yeah... Sorry about that), is the focus of this particular lawsuit, the Consumentenbond notes that other manufacturers are guilty of the same problems. It will not come as a surprise to any of you that I sincerely applaud this effort. The Android update clusterfrick is by far the biggest problem in the Android world, and OEMs should be, if possible, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for their negligent practices regarding updating their software. There is an extremely strong mandatory EU warranty policy on all products sold in the EU of at least two years, and Samsung and other Android OEMs are clearly failing to follow this law. That being said, the minutiae of any possible outcome of this lawsuit are extremely crucial. Not only should Samsung and other OEMs be legally forced to release updates for their smartphones for at least two years (I would personally prefer three or four years, actually, but let's start somewhere), the updates ought to be timely. Every Android smartphone should be updated to the latest version of Android for two years after sale of said smartphone, with each update being released no later than four weeks after code availability from Google. If this means they have to spend more resources on their development team - so be it. If this means they can no longer sell outdated, crappy hardware because newer Android versions would be too slow - so be it. If this means they have to work more closely with Google to prepare for new releases - so be it. None of that should be the concern of any consumer.

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posted 22 days ago on OSNews
The goal of this project is to preserve and present primary and secondary source materials (including specifications, source code, manuals, and papers discussing design and implementation) from Mesa, the system programming language designed at Xerox PARC in the 1970s and used to implement the Xerox Star office automation system and its follow-ons. The editor greatly appreciates comments, suggestions, and donations of additional materials. Wikipedia has a short overview of Mesa, and here's the 1979 Mesa Language Manual, which is obviously a lot more in-depth.

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posted 23 days ago on OSNews
Microsoft has detailed its support plans for new and upcoming processor generations. The general gist: all upcoming processor generations from Intel, AMD, and Qualcomm will require Windows 10. Windows 8.x and Windows 7 will not be supported on these new platforms. Going forward, as new silicon generations are introduced, they will require the latest Windows platform at that time for support. This enables us to focus on deep integration between Windows and the silicon, while maintaining maximum reliability and compatibility with previous generations of platform and silicon. For example, Windows 10 will be the only supported Windows platform on Intel's upcoming "Kaby Lake" silicon, Qualcomm's upcoming "8996" silicon, and AMD's upcoming "Bristol Ridge" silicon. Through July 17, 2017, Skylake devices on the supported list will also be supported with Windows 7 and 8.1. During the 18-month support period, these systems should be upgraded to Windows 10 to continue receiving support after the period ends. After July 2017, the most critical Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 security updates will be addressed for these configurations, and will be released if the update does not risk the reliability or compatibility of the Windows 7/8.1 platform on other devices. You better be prepared for this when shopping for new hardware in the coming years.

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posted 23 days ago on OSNews
In an email to some Windows Insider testers, obtained by The Verge, Microsoft is looking for iPhone users to trial the Word Flow keyboard. It's not clear when Word Flow will be released publicly on iOS, but Microsoft is already ready to test it more broadly so it will likely arrive in the coming months. Microsoft's Windows Phone version of Word Flow includes autocorrect, suggestions, gestures, and the ability to swipe letters (like Swype) to type out words. I'm actually excited about this. I can't stand the iOS keyboard, but I consider the Windows Phone keyboard to be the best one around.

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posted 25 days ago on OSNews
Apple Inc. may be facing a hefty tax bill in Europe. The world's largest company could owe more than $8 billion in back taxes as a result of a European Commission investigation into its tax policies, according to an analysis by Matt Larson of Bloomberg Intelligence. Apple, which has said it will appeal an adverse ruling, is being scrutinized by regulators who have accused the iPhone maker of using subsidiaries in Ireland to avoid paying taxes on revenue generated outside the U.S. The EC is investigating a whole slew of companies for tax avoidance, and that is, of course, nothing but a good thing. These shady constructions that only benefit the extremely wealthy have no place in any modern society.

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posted 25 days ago on OSNews
Some members use proxies or "unblockers" to access titles available outside their territory. To address this, we employ the same or similar measures other firms do. This technology continues to evolve and we are evolving with it. That means in coming weeks, those using proxies and unblockers will only be able to access the service in the country where they currently are. We are confident this change won't impact members not using proxies. Good luck with that.

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posted 25 days ago on OSNews
If you long for the days of 2011, when 5.3-inch smartphones were enormous outliers rather than the norm, Sony has some news that may interest you: its flagship Xperia Z5 smartphone and its smaller-but-still-high-end sibling the Xperia Z5 Compact are coming to the US on February 7, 2016. Sony smartphones are the only non-Nexus Android phones I'd even remotely consider buying. Even though they, too, suffer from the ridiculous update situation, they are at least trying to sell a nice, compact, high-end Android phone. In fact, I find it kind of remarkable that some version of the Z5 Compact isn't available in a Nexus configuration.

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posted 25 days ago on OSNews
So long as basebands are not audited, and smartphones do not possess IOMMUs and have their operating systems configure them in a way that effectively mitigates the threat, no smartphone can be trusted for the integrity or confidentiality of any data it processes. This being the case, the quest for "secure" phones and "secure" communications applications is rather bizarre. There are only two possible roads to a secure phone: auditing baseband or using an IOMMU. There can't even begin to be a discussion on secure communications applications until the security of the hardware is established. I've written about this a long time ago, and it remains true today. Your phone is not secure, by definition, regardless of platform. Governments should legally demand phone manufacturers to fully publish all source code to the baseband chips they use, or be barred from sales. Mobile phone networks have become a crucial pillar of our society, and as citizens, we have the right to know what's going on in baseband chips. Of course, that's not going to happen - governments benefit from the inherent lack of any form of security in our mobile phone network - but one can dream.

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posted 26 days ago on OSNews
Apple has released a public beta of iOS 9.3. Its major new features: iOS 9.3 is a major update to the iOS 9 operating system, introducing a long list of new features and improvements. iOS 9.3's biggest new feature is Night Shift mode, which is designed to automatically cut down on the amount of blue light an iOS user is exposed to at night by shifting to more yellow tones for the iPhone or iPad's display. With iOS 9.3, there's a number of changes for educational users, and the iPhone is now able to pair with multiple Apple Watches. Of course, "Night Shift", as Apple calls it, is a wholesale copy of f.lux. In any event, Apple also released a public beta of OS X 10.11.4.

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posted 26 days ago on OSNews
Enter the message bots. As 2016 dawns, there's a sense in Silicon Valley that the decades-old fantasy of a true digital assistant is due to roar back into the mainstream. If the trend in past years has been assistants powered by voice - Siri, Alexa, Cortana - in 2016 the focus is shifting to text. And if the bots come, as industry insiders are betting they will, there will be casualties: with artificial intelligence doing the searching for us, Google may see fewer queries. Our AI-powered assistants will manage more and more of our digital activities, eventually diminishing the importance of individual, siloed apps, and the app stores that sell them. Many websites could come to feel as outdated as GeoCities pages - and some companies might ditch them entirely. Nearly all of the information they provide can be fed into a bot and delivered via messaging apps. This seems a bit... Overblown. Bots are going to revolutionise a lot over the coming decades, but messaging bots replacing the point and click interface we've been using ever since Xerox invented it? Much like the death of the PC or Apple, the end of our current HUI metaphor has been predicted more times than I can remember - I don't see how this one is any different.

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posted 27 days ago on OSNews
The first alpha release of Remix OS 2.0 - which we talked about a few days ago - is now officially released. It's clearly an alpha, though, so don't try to use this on any important machines. I have been unable to get it to work - I just get "checking media fail" upon boot - but others are reporting it works, so I guess your mileage may vary. That being said - I'd be a little weary of the EULA. It seems like it contains some regular Chinese boilerplate stuff (other Chinese companies are using the same boilerplate stuff, such as Xiaomi), which sounds incredibly heavy-handed to us. Not sure what to make of this just yet - maybe the company will clarify this one.

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posted 28 days ago on OSNews
The solve for this has been smartwatches designed specifically for women, to varying degrees of offense. Resizing is the first step: a thinner strap, a smaller face, more delicate styling (though, of course, not all women have tiny wrists, the same way that not all men have big wrists). Colorways come next, trading "masculine" black, gray, or brown for "feminine" white, tan, and now-ubiquitous rose gold (seriously, ever since Apple added rose gold to their lineup in September, every damn tech company has followed suit). The final step in making wearable tech for ladies? Throw some jewels on it. Sigh. Technology companies and designing products for women don't go well together, and never have - smartwatches and fitness trackers just highlight this problem like never before.

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posted 29 days ago on OSNews
By now, simply taking over a game and replacing it with a brand new app was beginning to feel a little predictable. So this year, TASBot decided to show off a new skill. At the AGDQ marathon, the bot set out to edit new features onto a game that's still running in active memory. TASBot wanted to be magnanimous with its new capabilities, too, allowing human players (and livestream viewers) the opportunity to edit the game on the fly. But just how did TASBot - and the team of coders behind it - intend to turn an old game of Super Mario World, running on a standard SNES, into a heavily editable game of Super Mario Maker? Luckily, we had a behind-the-scenes invite to the event and the opportunity to find out. I spent most of last week watching AGDQ (and donating, of course), and this particular segment blew my mind.

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posted 29 days ago on OSNews
For the past few weeks, Forbes.com has been forcing visitors to disable ad blockers if they want to read its content. Visitors to the site with Adblock or uBlock enabled are told they must disable it if they wish to see any Forbes content. Thanks to Forbes' interstitial ad and quote of the day, Google caching doesn't capture data properly, either. What sets Forbes apart, in this case, is that it didn't just force visitors to disable ad blocking - it actively served them malware as soon as they did. Details were captured by security researcher Brian Baskin, who screenshotted the process. There are no words for this level of stupidity.

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posted 29 days ago on OSNews
Linux 4.4 has been released This release adds support for 3D support in virtual GPU driver, which allows 3D hardware-accelerated graphics in virtualization guests; loop device support for Direct I/O and Asynchronous I/O, which saves memory and increases performance; support for Open-channel SSDs, which are devices that share the responsibility of the Flash Translation Layer with the operating system; the TCP listener handling is completely lockless and allows for faster and more scalable TCP servers; journalled RAID5 in the MD layer which fixes the RAID write hole; eBPF programs can now be run by unprivileged users, and perf has added support for eBPF programs aswell; a new mlock2() syscall that allows users to request memory to be locked on page fault; and block polling support. There are also new drivers and many other small improvements. Here is the full list of changes.

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posted 29 days ago on OSNews
It's bittersweet news for die-hard BlackBerry fans, a shrinking, but fiercely loyal group. Yes, BlackBerry will continue to exist, but won't offer any phones running on its own BlackBerry 10 software. Still, future Android BlackBerry devices means more choice besides the usual mix of Samsung, LG or HTC Android phones. Something about a tree falling in a forest, but that might be a bit cruel.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
There are several acknowledged rules on the Internet. Rule Zero, translated into more appropriate language,of course, is don't commit violence against a cat. Rule One ought to be don't mess with the EFF. The EFF is one of those few organisations you can just always trust to have your best interests at heart. Their track record is impeccable, and their causes always just. Don't mess with the EFF.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Speaking of Cyanogen OS: Following the Cyanogen OS 12.11 update for the OnePlus One, you may have noticed something worse than the automatic inclusion of Cortana. Now upon selecting a file without a set default application, you will see adverts for Microsoft apps and services on the "open with" menu. I feel like a broken record player at this point, but don't trust these guys. Selling out to Microsoft has never done anyone any good.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
As promised, Cyanogen has released an update to Cyanogen OS (which is not CyanogenMod) that integrates Cortana into their Android offering. In the Cyanogen OS 12.1.1 update, we are excited to introduce Microsoft Cortana. What makes this such an exciting partnership is that by having Cortana's voice command capability deeply integrated into the Cyanogen ecosystem, we're opening the door to future capabilities that don't currently exist. So, they're going to "take Android away from Google", and then give it to Microsoft? This Microsoft? OK. Look - like Microsoft, Google collects data. A lot of it. We all know it, and at least all of us, OSNews readers, make a conscious choice to use Android anyway. While I don't trust Google in any way, there's at least the comfort that they are probably the most closely monitored company when it comes to privacy, and there's little to no risk of the company folding and being up for grabs - meaning, your data will remain within Google, and won't end up in somebody else's, less trustworthy hands just because they happened to buy Google. Cyanogen Inc., however, is a whole different ballgame. This is a start-up funded by venture capitalists who are clearly looking for a quick buck. They're making a lot of grandiose claims and a ton of ruckus, and as I've said before, I give them a few years before they're acquired by someone else - at which point your data could end up anywhere, completely beyond your control, with little to no oversight. Venture capitalists - and by extension, those who depend on them - have no interest in you. You are irrelevant. All they care about is cashing in on their investments as soon as possible, everything else be damned. Don't buy into Cyanogen. Just don't.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
Jide Technology has released Remix OS 2.0 as a free download available on January 12th designed to run on the majority of Intel and AMD devices such as PC and Mac. The company which was founded by three ex-Google employees has developed the OS thanks to a partnership with the Android-x86 project enabling it to run on almost any PC. This is pretty much what Android on desktop and laptops - what Google itself is currently working on - is going to look like. It's designed first and foremost for Jide's own devices, but starting 12 January it'll also be available for select generic x86 devices, including some Macs. There's no proper up-to-date compatibility list as far as I can tell, so we'll have to wait and see just how useful it can be. It looks quite interesting, and the fact that it's run by former Google employees gives some hope regarding its longevity and legitimacy. That being said, with Google itself working on bringing Android to desktops and laptops, you have to wonder how much longer Jide can maintain itself.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
So, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of my favourite games of all time, and it's also generally considered to be one of the best games ever made. And, as with all games, people 'speedrun' this game, which means trying to beat the game as fast as is humanly possible. There are several categories, each with certain rules and things that are and are not allowed. This particular speedrun of Symphony Of The Night by Cosmo takes this concept to a whole new level. The end time of 7 minutes and 52 seconds is mind-blowing enough, but how he actually gets there is just utterly insane. Basically, he procures a very specific set of items in his inventory, and then proceeds to manipulate the items in his inventory in a extremely specific way, within very specific fractions of seconds of game-time, to use the sorting mechanism of the inventory to manipulate the assembly code in memory to make the game finish itself. All this, on the actual console itself, without tools, without additional software, without emulators, without anything. The actual science or coding behind this technique was discovered and developed by a person named Sockfolder, and he put up a 40-minute stream to explain in detail what's going on, with the contents of memory on the side of the screen so you can see exactly what's happening. It's mesmerising (even though I don't fully understand what's going on). While the actual coding part of it can be discovered and explored in relative comfort of an emulator and other tools, actually pulling this off 'live', with just the tools at the disposal of any regular player, is absolutely amazing. This kind of stuff sits at the very fringes of programming, and I find it incredibly impressive.

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posted about 1 month ago on OSNews
The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is going on right now, but unless you're interested in Samsung or LG smart fridges, generic smartphones from generic vendors, or smartwatches nobody will remember or care about two weeks from now, it's kind of hard to find decent news among the cavalcade of irrelevance. Well, there's this - an official statement from Hyperion, the developer of AmigaOS 4, regarding the source code leak late last year. The days between last Christmas and New Year were actually clouded by the sad fact that the source code of AmigaOS 3.1 and additional content dating back to 1994 was published and widely spread without permission of the rights-holder. Note that no code of AmigaOS 4.x was released or distributed. [...] While this would be already more than enough of a reason to care about the unauthorised disclosure and distribution, it is also the very same settlement agreement which made all of this possible in the first place, which contractually requires Hyperion to enforce and protect any intellectual property rights associated with AmigaOS including the AmigaOS 3.1 source-code. So yeah, Hyperion is obligated to combat this source code leak, but as we all know - this is the internet. It's out there now, and it's not going anywhere any time soon.

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