|Greed and the Wright Brothers|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-19 09:02:19|
The Wright brothers' critical insight was the importance of "lateral stability" - that is, wingtip-to-wingtip stability - to flight. And their great innovation was something they called "wing warping," in which they used a series of pulleys that caused the wingtips on one side of the airplane to go up when the wingtips on the other side were pulled down. That allowed the Wrights' airplane to make banked turns and to correct itself when it flew into a gust of wind.
But when the Wrights applied for a patent, they didn't seek one that just covered wing warping; their patent covered any means to achieve lateral stability. There is no question what the Wrights sought: nothing less than a monopoly on the airplane business - every airplane ever manufactured, they believed, owed them a royalty. As Wilbur Wright, who was both the more domineering and the more inventive of the two brothers, put it in a letter: "It is our view that morally the world owes its almost universal system of lateral control entirely to us. It is also our opinion that legally it owes it to us."
Even though Wrights' competitor Curtiss developed an entirely different system to achieve lateral stability (the ailerons airplanes use to this day), the Wright brothers still believed Curtiss owed them money for it. The legal standoff that ensued in the US airplane industry at the time halted all innovation, so much so that when the WWI broke out, the US government had to step in to force airplane manufacturers to cross-license their patents.
Sadly, by this time, US airplanes weren't good enough for combat.
It seems nobody learns from history.
|Judge confirms link between Apple and patent troll Rockstar|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-18 09:44:11|
Rockstar, the massive patent troll in which Apple is a majority shareholder, sued Google for patent infringement. Of course, Rockstar filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas, the usual venue for patent trolls. Because of Apple's involvement, Google motioned to have the suit take place in California instead, where it stands a much greater chance of winning. Judge Claudia Wilken sides with Google. She states in the ruling:
Google and Apple's rivalry in the smartphone industry is well-documented. Apple's founder stated that he viewed Android as a "rip off" of iPhone features and intended to "destroy" Android by launching a "thermonuclear war." Defendants' litigation strategy of suing Google customers is consistent with Apple's particular business interest... This 'scare the customer and run' tactic advances Apple's interest in interfering with Google's Android business.
Every now and then, someone just gets it. Judge Wilken looked beyond the constructed sham companies and legal cobwebs - such as Rockstar setting up a sham company in Delaware with zero California contacts and transferring all patents-in-suit to that company a day before it sued Google.
The world needs more judges like this. In addition - it seems like Jobs' remarks about Android are catching up to the company. Delightful.
|FreeBSD quarterly status report|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-17 22:48:07|
The first quarter of 2014 was, again, a hectic and productive time for FreeBSD. The Ports team released their landmark first quarterly stable branch. FreeBSD continues to grow on the ARM architecture, now running on an ARM-based ChromeBook. SMP is now possible on multi-core ARM systems. bhyve, the native FreeBSD hypervisor, continues to improve. An integral test suite is taking shape, and the Jenkins Continuous Integration system has been implemented. FreeBSD patches to GCC are being forward-ported, and LLDB, the Clang/LLVM debugger is being ported. Desktop use has also seen improvements, with work on Gnome, KDE, Xfce, KMS video drivers, X.org, and vt, the new console driver which supports KMS and Unicode. Linux and Wine binary compatibility layers have been improved. UEFI booting support has been merged to head.
I always love how to-the-point the various BSDs are. Please, never change.
|Ubuntu 14.04 LTS released|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-17 22:29:00|
Ubuntu 14.04 LTS is the first long-term support release with support for the new "arm64" architecture for 64-bit ARM systems, as well as the "ppc64el" architecture for little-endian 64-bit POWER systems. This release also includes several subtle but welcome improvements to Unity, AppArmor, and a host of other great software.
Is it just me, or do releases of major Linux distributions simply not create much excitement anymore? I remember a time when these releases were hotly anticipated and much debated. These days, they go by and nobody really seems to care. Is this a reflection of shifting focus in the industry - towards mobile - or because the interest in desktop Linux in general has waned considerably?
|Samsung promises Tizen handsets again|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-16 21:57:14|
Yoon said Samsung was working to introduce at least two smartphones running on its own Tizen operating system, a major step in the market leader's bid to break out of the Android universe.
|In 2001, Nokia developed its M510 internet tablet|
|By Thom Holwerda, submitted by arsipaani on 2014-04-16 09:06:46|
As it turns out, Nokia developed an internet tablet all the way back in 2001. It was called the Nokia M510, several thousand units were made, and it was functional. Sadly, market research showed that consumers were not yet ready for a device like this, and so the project was cancelled. It had a 800x600 display, ran EPOC (Symbian), and sported wifi. The stories are in Finnish, and since I don't speak Finnish, I had to rely on Google Translate (as a translator, this made me feel dirty).
Now that Nokia's devices division is essentially dead, it wouldn't surprise me to see more of these stories to come out. There must be some truly outrageous stuff locked away at Nokia.
|Windows Phone 8.1 released|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-14 16:59:40|
Microsoft released Windows Phone 8.1 to those who enrolled in the developer preview program (i.e., everyone).
Ars' Peter Bright in his review of 8.1:
I've been using it since earlier today, and the notification centre (finally) alone is more than enough to make this a fantastic update. Sadly, my HTC 8X does not seem to be supported by Cortana - other 8X owners are reporting the same, as do 8X owners on Twitter - which makes me worry a little about Cortana, perhaps, being an exclusive feature for Nokia phones, or it having some other restrictive limitations. That, honestly, would be a shame.
The result feels a whole lot more mature and a whole lot more capable than its predecessor. The 0.1 version bump, chosen to align the phone platform with its desktop sibling, belies the true nature of this upgrade. It is substantial, and makes Windows Phone tremendously better.
We might still wish that there were a few more apps, and that developers spoke of the platform in the same breath as iOS and Android, but even in spite of this, Windows Phone 8.1 is a polished, fun, clever, and personal smartphone platform that's just about everyone can enjoy. It's a magnificent smartphone platform.
Update: Here's an 8X with Cortana working just fine, so the original worries clearly aren't necessary.
|How the iPhone changed Android|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-14 16:40:07|
From a 2006 (pre-iPhone) Android specification document:
Touchscreens will not be supported: the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption.
However, there is nothing fundamental in the Product's architecture that prevents the support of touchscreens in the future.
The same document, but a few versions later, from 2007 (post-iPhone):
A touchscreen for finger-based navigation - including multi-touch capabilites - is required.
The impact of the iPhone on Android in two documents. Google knew the iPhone would change the market, while Microsoft, Nokia, and BlackBerry did not. That's why Android is now the most popular smartphone platform, while the mentioned three are essentially irrelevant.
|NSA said to exploit Heartbleed bug for intelligence for years|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-11 20:21:50|
The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
The NSA's decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts.
I'm so surprised.
Update: NSA denies.
|The state of in-car UX|
|By Thom Holwerda on 2014-04-11 20:09:55|
There's certainly some hope on the horizon with Apple and Google, though just how good these systems will be remains to be seen. One thing is clear, though: the current state of all in-car experiences is incredibly bad. For those manufacturers looking to go it alone, I don't expect much.
In-car software is absolutely horrifying and crazy complex. A good friend of mine regularly drives brand new and super-expensive cars (in the hundreds of thousands of euros category), and even in those cars, the user interfaces are just terrible. There's a lot of room for improvement and disruption here.
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