posted 3 months ago on OSNews
It's time for Apple's WWDC, and its keynote. It's currently underway, and much like Google's I/O keynote and the introduction of Android M, we're looking at a lot of catch-up. Both the new OS X and iOS releases are getting new features taken directly from the competition. OS X 10.11 will be named El Capitan, and among its major new features are the ability to snap windows side-by-side, and in case you're wondering how it works, just look at Windows 7 and later. It's a direct copy of the Aero Snap functionality, and I'm really glad Apple finally got around to copying this excellent Windows feature. I use it so often on Windows, I really, really miss it on any platform that doesn't have it. Safari, too, fired up the photocopier, and this time around, Chrome's the obvious target. Safari in El Capitan is getting pinned sites, which is a useful Chrome feature that allows you to keep your favourite sites open all the time. Safari is also copying another great Chrome feature: the little indicator that tells you which tab is producing audio. As a Safari user on my retina MacBook Pro (Chrome is a battery hog on OS X), I am incredibly happy with these new features. Apple is also bringing its Metal graphics API to from iOS to OS X, and Apple really focused on gaming when it comes to this one. I'm still not entirely sure who uses or even cares about gaming on OS X, but for those of you that do - this is surely great news. As has become the norm for OS X, El Capitan will be free, and will ship this fall. A public beta will be released in July. Moving on, the major new features in OS 9 are also catch-up features, this time to Android, of course. The biggest one is Proactive, Apple's Google Now competitor. It offers similar functionality to Google Now, including reading your email to notify you of invitations and the like. Unlike Google, however, all the 'intelligent' stuff happens on the device itself - not on Apple's servers. We'll have to see how well it works - if Proactive works just as well as Google Now, without requiring the kind of information Google claims it needs, Apple's got a winner on its hands. If it sucks, it will be a validation of Google's approach. As a sidenote, I've never actualy really used Google Now. It does not work for me at all because my GMail account is a Google Apps account, which Google Now doesn't work with (yes, paying Google customers cannot use Google Now). It led to a fun situation when my friends and I were on vacation in the US, in October 2014. Google Now on their iPhones worked perfectly fine, bringing up boarding passes and relevant travel information, whereas my Nexus 5, a Google phone running Google software on a Google operating system, just showed me the weather back home. When I found out why, I turned off Google Now. The keyboard has also been improved - and now does what every other smartphone platform has done for years: when you press shift, the keycaps will reflect the state. If you put two fingers on the keyboard, you can user them to move the selection cursor - a great feature that appears to be iPad-only for now. Apple is also introducing a new news application to iOS, which is basically a Flipboard copy. The big new iOS feature is iPad-only: multitasking. If you've ever used Windows 8 on a tablet, you know how this works. Swiping in from the side, splitscreen view - we've all been here before. It literally works and looks exactly like Windows 8. Again - this is great. A lot was wrong with Windows 8's Metro UI for tablets, but its tablet multitasking is absolutely great and fantastic. I'm really glad Apple copied it, and it's high-time Android will do the same (in fact, there's early support for it in Android M). So, much like Google's I/O keynote and Android M specifically, OS X El Capitan and iOS 9 are all about catching up to a number of stand-out features from the competition, so I can repeat here what I said then: another example of how competition between the major platforms makes both of them better - consumers, win. Unlike Android, though, there's no update elephant in the room here. In fact, Apple has heard the complaints about the iOS 8 update being too big for iPhones with little storage, so iOS 9 is only 1.4GB in size. A great move, and it will ensure that every eligible device will be getting iOS 9. In addition, Apple isn't dropping any device with iOS 9 - if it runs iOS 8, it'll run iOS 9. All in all, a great keynote with lots of awesome new features, but nothing we haven't seen before. Every single day, iOS and Android become ever more interchangeable. As consumers, the more these companies copy each other's great ideas, the more awesome features our platforms of choice will get. I'll leave you with two final notes. First, Swift will be released as open source. Second, Apple had women up on stage to present new features for the very first time. It was about time.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
But it's also super depressing, because it's just another example of how the rise of streaming media has brought crazy digital rights management back into our lives. We've completely traded convenience for ecosystem lock-in, and it sucks. Right now, the Echo can play music from Amazon's Prime Music service, Pandora, and whatever random music I've uploaded to my Amazon cloud locker. This means that the music selection is pretty bad! I stopped buying music around the time I started using Spotify, so I don't have much new stuff to upload, and Prime Music has a fairly thin catalog compared to Spotify. Basically this thing can play my 2000s-era iTunes collection at me, which means I'm listening Wilco and The Clash way more than I have in the past few years. Is that good? It might be good. Patel has a point - the rise of all these streaming music services has completely undone the end of DRM in the music industry. It's most likely entirely unrelated, but Steve Jobs' scathing letter condemning the use of DRM is no longer available on Apple's website - just as Apple is rumoured to launch its own streaming music service. The same has happened in IM, chat, messaging, or whatever you want to call it. It's 2015, and I have five messaging applications on my smartphone - WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Messenger, Hangouts, Skype - and I also use iMessage occasionally (on OS X) because some of my friends are locked into it and don't want to use something else. These companies - Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook - are actively and consciously making the choice to make the lives of their customers as difficult as possible. If these companies really cared about their customers - as they always claim they do - they would've come together and used or developed a proper open standard for messaging. Instead, we get Facebook (through WhatsApp) banning users for using 3rd party WhatsApp clients on Sailfish, or we have Apple making grandiose promises about turning FaceTime into an open standard, but then backtracking once they realise they can frustrate and lock-in consumers by keeping it closed. Google, meanwhile, seems to have no idea what it's doing at all, flipflopping left and right (Hangouts? Messenger? What's it going to be, Google?). Skype is Skype. Now that iOS and Android (and to a lesser degree, Windows Phone) are entirely and wholly interchangeable, companies are looking for other ways to lock their consumers into their platforms - and much like in music, the companies are placing their own interests above that of their consumers.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The real issue that Apple is trying to address is not really privacy, but rather security. Though Google has all of my data, it is still private. Google does not sell access to my data; it sells access to my attention. Advertisers do not get my information from Google. So as long as I trust Google's employees, the only two potential breaches of my privacy are from the government or from a hacker. If we accept this as a fact, the fundamental privacy question changes from, "Do you respect my privacy?" to "Is the user experience improvement worth the security risk to my private information?" Dustin Curtis hits the nail on the head so hard the nail's on its way to Fiji.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Most normal, non-tech-obsessed people don't really need a smartwatch. You can read the entire article if you want, but this opening line is all you need to know. Smartwatches are, right now, useless crap.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
In June of last year, I finally decided to commit to an Android device. I had carried every flagship iPhone up through that point from the original iPhone to the 5S. To the world around me, I heaped the praise into a life transforming device, but in my tech circles, and on my blog, I frequently posted about my frustration, mostly with shackles and intentional limitations imposed. So last year, why I decided to make the jump to Android. I outlined 10 reasons why I was finally ready to make the jump to Android’s 4.4 release, KitKat. A year has passed. It's time to revisit my original assertions and complaints with some follow up and see where I stand one year later. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The first wave of Steam Machines, console-like computers designed to run Valve's Steam software and its thousands of PC games, will be in some pre-order customers' hands on Oct. 16 and in stores on Nov. 10, Valve announced today. The Steam Controller and Steam Link will also hit on Nov. 10. Not sure what to make of SteamOS at this point - it's just a Linux distribution that launches Steam, and you can even close Steam to go to a desktop... On your TV - but the Steam Link is definitely interesting, so I pre-ordered one straight away.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
You see the problem. When white gamers are forced to play people not of their race, it's "forced politics;" when I'm forced into the same scenario, it's business as usual. When you complain, you're making a fuss and being political. The argument is a bit scary when you break it down: The only way games can avoid politics in this situation is to pretend that people of color don't exist. We should raise concerns about race, but it needs to be consistent. Race shouldn't only be an issue for gamers when some white gamers express concerns. Outstanding article.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
The Pebble Time iPhone app, as we've all noticed, is not yet live on the iTunes AppStore. It remains "in review." This unexpected circumstance pains us as much it does backers with watches ready to set up. We're doing all we can to mitigate the delay and make Pebble Time Watch for iPhone available for download. A complete coincidence, I'm sure. Meanwhile, to ensure the future usability of your Pebble device, it's highly suggested to switch to Android.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
I don't really care much about the voice search and recognition stuff in Now, Siri, and Cortana - but this video demonstrating the capabilities of Hound - an alternative to those three for Android - is mind-blowing. The recognition speed, the talkback, the way it manages to get accurate results for even relatively vague and quite complex compound questions is amazing. I smell an acquisition incoming.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
A few weeks doesn't seem like enough time right now, especially given the current state of Windows 10. The latest build (10130) looks almost finished and polished, but then there are continued issues with the Start Menu not opening or crashing and driver problems that are slightly alarming at this stage of development. Perhaps the biggest issue I have encountered is the upgrade process between builds. Microsoft has been testing this vigorously, as it's a key part of getting Windows 7 and Windows 8 users to Windows 10 for free. If an upgrade fails then it's one less machine running the latest operating system. I've had a variety of upgrade failures, even with the recent builds that Microsoft has distributed. The consensus among testers seems to be that no, Windows 10 isn't ready. Unless they're going to pull a miracle, we've got a Vista-esque launch on our hand.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Who was behind all of this? When I stumbled on it last fall, I had an idea. I was already investigating a shadowy organization in St. Petersburg, Russia, that spreads false information on the Internet. It has gone by a few names, but I will refer to it by its best known: the Internet Research Agency. The agency had become known for employing hundreds of Russians to post pro-Kremlin propaganda online under fake identities, including on Twitter, in order to create the illusion of a massive army of supporters; it has often been called a "troll farm." The more I investigated this group, the more links I discovered between it and the hoaxes. In April, I went to St. Petersburg to learn more about the agency and its brand of information warfare, which it has aggressively deployed against political opponents at home, Russia's perceived enemies abroad and, more recently, me. If you ever wonder where those crazy Putin supporters all across the web came from - well, now you know.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Could Nintendo really switch to Android? Japan’s most respected business newspaper, the Nikkei Shimbun, today raised the possibility that Nintendo’s mysterious upcoming system - codenamed NX - may be based on Google's Android operating system. The report is curiously sourced to a single anonymous insider, and takes the form of a column, not a typical news story; moreover, the Nikkei has a spotty record with Nintendo in particular. But that doesn't make the proposition any less fascinating, and it's one I've been considering myself for some time. Although it would be an unusual move for the Japanese giant, which is famously hesitant to cede control over any aspect of its products, there are a lot of reasons why it might make sense - and why it wouldn't contradict Nintendo's own philosophy. Would you buy a handheld gaming device in this day and age? If it could also make phone calls and run proper Android applications, would you ditch your other Android device for it? I doubt it.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
PicoC is a very small C interpreter for scripting. It was originally written as a script language for a UAV's on-board flight system. It's also very suitable for other robotic, embedded and non-embedded applications. The core C source code is around 3500 lines of code. It's not intended to be a complete implementation of ISO C but it has all the essentials. When compiled it only takes a few k of code space and is also very sparing of data space. This means it can work well in small embedded devices. It's also a fun example of how to create a very small language implementation while still keeping the code readable.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Google's developer tools are an ever-evolving and changing set of utensils that allow the folks building our apps to tie into Google's services while making things we want to install and use every day. They're free, and while they are powerful, some of the finer points of great design have been tricky for devs to handle, and the IDE itself - that's the program that developers use to write the code and build their apps - can be clunky when you stray outside the "hello world" box and get into the nitty-gritty of coding. And testing apps has been a nightmare. Google has addressed these three issues in a big way. Nice overview of some of the things Google has done to make Android development - a pain point for many developers - a little easier. The new testing initiative is pretty rad.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Google has just released a new tool to manage your privacy and information. Here's some of the things the new My Account tool can do: Take the Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup, our simple, step-by-step guides through your most important privacy and security settings. Manage the information that can be used from Search, Maps, YouTube and other products to enhance your experience on Google. For example, you can turn on and off settings such as Web and App Activity, which gets you more relevant, faster search results, or Location History, which enables Google Maps and Now to give you tips for a faster commute back home. Use the Ads Settings tool to control ads based on your interests and the searches you've done. Control which apps and sites are connected to your account. Google has always been at the forefront of providing its user insight into and control over the information it has on you, and this tool fits right into that. It'd be great if the other tech giants - who collect the same information on you but act secretive and deceptive about it - were to follow in its footsteps. Good thing this stuff isn't tied to Android updates, though, or we wouldn't be able to use it until 2034. Anywho, in the same blogpost, the company also introduced a site where it answers questions regarding your information and privacy. In it, the company dispels a persistent myth - namely, that the company sells your information. No. We do not sell your personal information. We do use certain information, such as the searches you have done and your location, to make the ads we show more relevant and useful. Ads are what enable us to make our services like Search, Gmail, and Maps free for everyone. We do not share information with advertisers in a way that personally identifies you, unless you gave us permission. With our Ads Settings tool, you can control ads based on your interests and the searches you have done. When you think about it, it makes zero sense for Google to "sell" or otherwise reveal your personal information to third parties. The information Google has on you is the goose that lays the golden eggs. It's the very reason Google can earn so much money through advertising - it knows more about you than other advertisers do, and is better at inferring patterns and connecting the dots to show you more relevant ads. In the end, though, the question is one of trust. Do your trust Google with your data? Do you trust Apple with that same data? Microsoft? Facebook? Personally, I have zero trust in any of these companies, and thus, anything that I do not want other people to know will not find its way onto my computers or devices. I have a very simple test for this: if I wouldn't yell something loudly in a crowded restaurant or mall or something, it's not going to be input in a computer or device. As for 'regular' information that I have no issues with if companies know it, I personally definitely "trust" Google more than Apple or Microsoft, if only because Google is under a lot more scrutiny than others. Apple is incredibly secretive and deceptive about the information it collects on you, and provides far less insight into and control over it than Google does. Microsoft, meanwhile, has a proven history of questionable behaviour that's well-documented - new Microsoft or no. Let's not even talk about Facebook. In the end, all these companies have virtually the same privacy policies, and you give them the same rights to your stuff if you upload it to them. I choose to use the one under the closest and most scrutiny and which gives me the most insight into and control over my data. Your choice might be different, but don't delude yourself into thinking your data is safe at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook. When it comes to privacy on the web, just assume everybody can see every bit you send - just like how everyone can hear you when you talk loudly in a crowded place. Do not trust any company, no matter how nice the PR sites look or how vicious its blogger attack dogs are.

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posted 3 months ago on OSNews
Microsoft has just officially announced that it will release Windows 10 on 29 July. Familiar, yet better than ever, Windows 10 brings back the Start menu you know and love. Windows 10 is faster than ever before, with quick startup and resume. And Windows 10 provides the most secure platform ever, including Windows Defender for free anti-malware protection, and being the only platform with a commitment to deliver free ongoing security updates for the supported lifetime of the device. Marketing blabber aside, the update will be free for the first year for all Windows 7 and 8 users. You'll get a notification in your notification area which will allow you to reserve your Windows 10 upgrade.

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