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Only 7.5 percent of Android phones are running Marshmallow
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-04 09:39:47

Two weeks shy of Google detailing the next big revision of Android at its annual developer conference, the current Android version is still struggling to make its way out to devices. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is currently running on just 7.5 percent of active Android devices that have access to the Google Play Store. The rest of the field is dominated by 2014's Android Lollipop at 35.6 percent, 2013's KitKat at 32.5 percent, and 2012's Jelly Bean at 20.1 percent. 2011's Ice Cream Sandwich still clings on to a stubborn 2 percent and the immortal Android Gingerbread (version 2.3!) accounts for 2.2 percent of Android smartphones.

Using an iPhone 6S since it came out has made me appreciate more and more just how much better Android is than iOS - but it's all for naught if Google doesn't get off its bum and fixes this long-running problem. Now that Android at 6.x is definitively better than iOS, it's way, way, way, way beyond time for Google to drop everything they're doing and somehow find a way to forcefully and resolutely address this deficit.

If the latest version of Android is the best (i.e., the least crappy) mobile operating system out there, but nobody is running it, is it really the best mobile operating system?

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Tim Cook's failed Apple pitch
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-04 09:39:40

Apple CEO Tim Cook insisted last week that everything was great with his company despite its first quarterly revenue decline since 2003. He and Apple's chief financial officer used the word "optimistic" 10 times during a conference call with analysts. Then the company's share price pessimistically fell for eight consecutive market days -- something that hasn't happened to Apple in nearly 18 years.

Declaring victory didn't work the first time, so Cook made a trip to Jim Cramer's therapy couch on Monday to try to soothe investors. It's unfair to compare Apple's numbers to the 2014 debut of the iPhone 6, which was a tough act to follow, Cook said. He added: Everything is great. Look at how much money we're making. The smartphone market has plenty of room to run. Customers love us so much. Then Cook attended a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here's what Cook didn't say: 1) Apple has been misjudging its own business, and that makes it tough to believe what executives say; and 2) The company failed to prepare investors for an inevitable slowdown in growth -- even if that slowdown proves temporary. If one duty of public company executives is to underpromise and overdeliver, Apple has flopped in that job.

A lot of people will just mockingly file away articles like this under the "Apple is doomed!" moniker, but what these people don't understand is that most of the stock market isn't about whether or not Apple is doomed or not - it's all about meeting expectations. You can suffer a massive loss, but if the loss is less than what you and the market predicted, your shares would go up. You could be doing incredibly well like Apple, but if you underdeliver, your shares will go down.

And this article makes a strong case Cook failed at underpromising.

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PocketCHIP ships this month with PICO-8 preinstalled
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-03 22:23:46

But most exciting, to me at least, is PocketCHIP will ship with PICO-8 preinstalled. If you've never heard of PICO-8, you have a bunch of weird little video games to catch up on. Basically it's a "fantasy console" that runs in a browser or on a desktop, but has resource limitations akin to a Game Boy Color. What's even better is PICO-8 has built-in tools for building your own game - complete with code, sprite, and sound editors - and every game someone else makes can be opened up and tweaked. PocketCHIP will include a browser for the hundreds of published PICO-8 games, turning it into an out-of-the-box handheld console.

So this thing completely passed by my radar, and it's actually kind of amazing. The PocketCHIP is a CHIP in a Game Boy-like case, and comes with the aforementioned PICO-8 environment preinstalled. I immediately ordered one today, and I can't wait for it to arrive come June.

This is a ton of value for what you're getting, and the built-in coding ability, while not useful to me - since I can't program - should be a huge boon for many people here on OSNews. The device's QWERTY keyboard means you can code right on the device itself.

All in all, incredibly neat.

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Intel abandons smartphone processor market
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-02 22:12:40

After missing the early days of the smartphone revolution, Intel spent in excess of $10 billion over the last three years in an effort to get a foothold in mobile devices.

Now, having gained little ground in phones and with the tablet market shrinking, Intel is essentially throwing in the towel. The company quietly confirmed last week that it has axed several chips from its roadmap, including all of the smartphone processors in its current plans.

This isn't the first time Intel tried to go mobile. It actually had quite a successful line of mobile ARM processors: XScale. These were ARM5 processors that powered a ton of devices, and I think most of us know it from Windows PocketPC devices (and later Palm OS devices). Intel eventually sold XScale to Marvell, because the company wanted to focus on its desktop/laptop and server processors, in 2006 - right before the big mobile revolution happened.

I can't help but wonder if that turned out to be a really dumb move.

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Microsoft 'committed' to Windows 10 Mobile for 'many years'
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-02 21:59:35

A new email from Microsoft's Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, firmly states that the company is devoted to Windows 10 on mobile for 'many years' and that they are currently working on next generation products.

Whenever you have to repeatedly come out and say you're committed to something, you're probably not committed to it.

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Prince's special custom-font Symbol floppy disks
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-02 21:57:53

In 1993, Prince frustrated contract lawyers and computer users everywhere when he changed his name to glyph known as "The Love Symbol." Though he never said so explicitly, it's generally understood that the name change was attempt to stick it to his record label, Warner Bros., which now had to deal with a top-tier artist with a new, unpronounceable, untypeable name. But it wasn't just Warner Bros. that had a problem: The Love Symbol proved frustrating for people who wanted to both speak and write about Prince. Writers, editors, and layout designers at magazines and newspapers wouldn't be able to type the actual name of the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. So Prince did the only thing you could do in that situation: He had a custom-designed font distributed to news outlets on a floppy disk.

Lovely story.

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This ancient laptop services the McLaren F1
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-02 19:13:08

This is a Compaq LTE 5280 laptop from the early 1990s, running a bespoke CA card. In 2016, McLaren Automotive - one of the most high-tech car and technology companies on the planet - still uses it and its DOS-based software to service the remaining hundred McLaren F1s out there, each valued at $10 million or more.

They're finally going to replace them, because it's getting too hard to find replacements.

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What happened to Google maps?
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-02 19:11:16

Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I've often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google's cartography was revamped three years ago - but surely this didn't include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appear to be a recent development.

An interesting article, for sure, but the final conclusion at the end of the article is a case of false equivalency; just because a classic paper map and a modern digital map are both 'maps', doesn't mean they are equivalents. There's no zooming and (easy) panning on paper maps, no search functionality, no natural language processing, no automatic route planning, no dynamic display, nothing. You can't simply apply what works for paper maps onto a static, fixed-zoom portion of a digital map and call it a day.

That being said, Google Maps does have several really annoying lapses in interface judgement, such as that really annoying 'local photo's' bar that keeps popping back up no matter how often you tell it you're not interested, but that's a different matter altogether.

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Google gets new hardware division under former Motorola chief
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-04-29 22:03:23

Rick Osterloh is coming back to Google. The former president of Motorola, who left the Lenovo-led handset maker last month, has been hired by Google to run a new division to unify the company's disparate hardware projects, Re/code has learned.

A Google rep confirmed that Osterloh has joined the company as its newest Senior Vice President, running the new hardware product line and reporting to CEO Sundar Pichai.

I hope Google is finally getting serious about hardware. I can't wait for more Pixel laptops, tablets, desktops, and smartphones.

That being said, as much as the Pixel devices generally get great reviews, they aren't exactly massive sales hits, and Google also has a shaky history when it comes to its hardware efforts. We'll have to see how this pans out, but it'll be interesting to see what's going to roll out of this 65th attempt at Google getting serious about hardware.

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The secrets of medieval fonts
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-04-29 22:02:02

One of the fundamental things in a medieval book is letters - those symbols that fill up page after page and that make up meaning. Each one of us human beings writes differently and considering that medieval books were made before the invention of print, it follows that the scripts they carry show a great variety in execution styles. This is perhaps the most amazing experience of spending a day going through a pile of medieval books in the library: the immense variation in the manner in which the text is written on the parchment pages.

From monks and scribes copying books letter by letter, we have now arrived at the point where the best book ever written is just a few clicks away.

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