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Consistent with what?
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-27 09:33:23

Jason Snell, in an article about Google's iOS applications importing Material Design into iOS:

Users choose platforms for various reasons, but once they’ve chosen a platform, they deserve consistency.

Someone should tell this to Apple and virtually all iOS application developers, because iOS is an inconsistent mess of an operating system.

Here's a few examples taken from my never-to-be-published iPhone 6S/iOS 9 review that I wrote during the six months I used the thing (up until a few weeks ago, when I went running back to Android because iOS couldn't even get the basics like multitasking and inter-application communication right).

Take something like application settings. In Outlook, tap the settings icon in the bottom bar. In Alien Blue, tap the blue dot in the top right, then settings. In Tweetbot, tap your account picture (!?), then settings. In the Wikipedia application, tap the W logo, then "More..." (!?). For many cross-platform applications that are also available on Android, tap the hamburger, then find something that sounds like settings. For Apple's own applications, close the application (I wish I was joking), open iOS' Settings application, scroll down for days, figure out in which unnamed grouping it belongs, then tap its name.

[...]

So it goes for settings, so it goes for many other things. Navigating between main parts of the user interface of an application is sometimes done via a tab bar at the bottom, sometimes it's done via a full-screen root-level list menu, sometimes it's done with a slide-in drawer, sometimes there's a tab bar at the top. Sometimes you can swipe between tabs, sometimes you can't. Animations for identical actions often differ from application to application (e.g. closing an image in iMessage vs. closing it in TweetBot).

[...]

It goes deeper than that, though. The official Twitter application, as well as Apple's own compose tweet dialog, for instance, replace the enter key on the iOS keyboard with a pound sign, hiding the enter key in the numbers panel. Why is this even allowed in the first place? Or, even more infuriating: the "switch between keyboards button" (the globe) is actually in a different place on the Emoji keyboard compared to regular language keyboards. So when I'm cycling between my keyboards - which I do a million times a day - from English to Dutch, the process comes to a grinding halt because of the Emoji keyboard.

The problem is that while Google's efforts on first Holo and then Material Design have given Android developers a relatively clear set of rules and instructions on how Android applications should look, feel, and behave, there's no such set of clear rules for iOS. The iOS HIG is vague, open to interpretation, and Apple itself regularly casts it aside to do whatever it feels like (look up the section on where to put application settings. It's comically open to interpretation so as to be effectively useless).

That's how you end up with impenetrably convoluted applications like TweetBot - often held up as a shining light of iOS application design - where you can perform up to 15-20 different actions with various gestures, taps, taps-and-holds, hard-taps, etc., both operating system-level and application-level, on a single tweet in its timeline (good luck not mixing those up, either because you used the wrong gesture or tap or because the operating system's touch/tap algorithms buckle under the pressure). Or, the popular and praised Overcast podcasting application by iOS star developer Marco Arment, which ditches the standard iOS fonts for its own comical font because... Reasons? And on it goes.

I've been a strong proponent of militant consistency in user interface design and behaviour for as long as I can remember, and while neither iOS nor Android are shining examples of the concept, there's absolutely no doubt in my mind that Holo and Material Design have done a far better job of propelling at least a modicum of consistency in Android application design than anything Apple has ever done for iOS. From that same never-to-be-published iOS review:

Interactions with a smartphone tend to be quick, focused, and often involve cycling through a number of applications very quickly. Unlike desktops or laptops, we tend to not use the same application for long periods of time, but instead quickly jump in and out of a number of applications, and then put the phone back in our pocket. Given this usage pattern, the less you have to think about where stuff is and how to do a thing, the more fluid and pleasant your workflow will be.

And this is one of the many reasons why using iOS is such an incredibly frustrating experience for me. Every step of the way, I have to fight with iOS to get it to do what I want, whether it's every application doing things in its own specific way, applications not at all talking to each other, the inability to set default applications - it all adds up to an experience where I have to spend way too much time and energy thinking about how to get around iOS' limitations, iOS developers' auteur application design, and Apple's inability to write, apply, and consistently enforce its own HIG - even after six months of exclusive use and spending €800 (I really tried).

It's great to ask of Google to make its iOS applications consistent with iOS' design principles - but you might want to ask Apple what those are, exactly, first.

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Google wins trial against Oracle
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-26 22:13:08

At the end of their third day of deliberation, the jury found that Google's use of the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the Java APIs in the Android code was a fair use.

After the verdict was read aloud, Judge William Alsup thanked the jury for their service, noting that the jurors - who often came to court even earlier than the set start time of 7:45 AM, and lingered after hours to pore over their notes - had been "attentive" and "worked hard."

Great news for the industry.

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Jolla announces new limited edition Jolla C smartphone
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-26 11:57:57

Jolla C is the first ever Sailfish OS community device, with a limited 1,000 units available for our developer and fan community. It is expected to ship in July 2016. Jolla C is used by Jolla developers and community members, and its users will naturally get all the latest vanilla Sailfish OS releases. Selected Jolla C users will be also invited to test Beta OS releases. With a quad-core Snapdragon™ processor, 2 GB memory, beautiful 5” HD display and dual SIM, the Jolla C works beautifully with Sailfish OS. You will get to keep the device for yourself after the Program.

Jolla is releasing a new smartphone, but in a very limited number - only a 1000 pieces - for selected users. It's not exactly a massive step forward compared to the first Jolla device, but it's a nice spec bump nonetheless.

It's unlikely many of us will own this one.

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Whither Plan 9? History and motivation
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-26 10:34:29

Plan 9 is a research operating system from Bell Labs. For several years it was my primary environment and I still use it regularly. Despite its conceptual and implementation simplicity, I've found that folks often don't immediately understand the system's fundamentals: hence this series of articles.

Bookmark this website, folks.

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Google adds Raspberry Pi 3 to AOSP
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-26 10:33:08

The Raspberry Pi 3 is not hurting for operating system choices. The tiny ARM computer is supported by several Linux distributions and even has a version of Windows 10 IoT core available. Now, it looks like the Pi is about to get official support for one of the most popular operating systems out there: Android. In Google's Android Open Source Project (AOSP) repository, a new device tree recently popped up for the Raspberry Pi 3.

A great little device for Android on the desktop - where Android is going.

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Microsoft layoffs signal definitive end of Nokia adventure
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by arsipaani on 2016-05-25 22:11:06

Microsoft is signalling the end of its Nokia experiment today. After acquiring Nokia's phone business for $7.2 billion two years ago, Microsoft wrote off $7.6 billion last year and cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its phone efforts. Microsoft is now writing off an additional $950 million today as part of its failed Nokia acquisition, and the company plans to cut a further 1,850 jobs. Most of the layoffs will affect employees at Microsoft's Mobile division in Finland, with 1,350 job losses there and 500 globally. Around $200 million of the $950 million impairment charge is being used for severance payments.

Everything about this entire deal needs to be investigated for all kinds of shady practices. My gut is telling me there's a bunch of people that perhaps ought to be in jail on this one. Meanwhile, this is absolutely terrible for all the people involved. I've got the feeling thousands of people's jobs have been used as a ball in a very expensive executive game.

Luckily, the remnants of Nokia in Finland seem to be doing well, so that's at least something, and in case you've got a hunkering for the good old days: there's a video out of Nokia Meltemi on a device called the Clipr - a very rare look at a Linux-based mobile operating system Nokia was developing around 2012.

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Microsoft spams Android notification tray with Office ads
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-24 22:52:19

Update: it happened again today. Here's the ad, and here's the "proof" it's coming from Word (when you long-press the notification and tap 'i').


It's been a bit of a running theme lately: advertising in (mobile) operating systems. Today, I was surprised by what I consider a new low, involving incompetence on both Microsoft's and Google's end. This new low has been eating away at me all day.

Let's give a bit of background first. On my smartphone, a Nexus 6P, I have Word, Excel, and PowerPoint installed. I have these installed for my work - I run my translation company, and when new work comes in through e-mail when I'm out and about, I like being able to quickly look at a document before accepting it. Microsoft Office for Android fulfills this role for me. This means I don't actually use them very often - maybe a few times a week.

Imagine my surprise, then, when this happened. Yes, I'm linking to the full screenshot in its full, glorious, Nexus 6P 1440x2560 brilliance.

I have a few questions. First, why is Microsoft sending me an advertisement in my notification tray? Second, why is Word sending me an advertisement for Excel? Third, why is this allowed by Google, even though the Play Store rules prohibit it? Fourth A, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already have installed? Fourth B, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already use? Fourth C, why is Microsoft sending me advertisements for products I already pay for because I have an Office 365 subscription? Fifth, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought this was not a 100%, utterly, completely, deeply, ridiculously, unequivocally, endlessly, exquisitely invasive, stupid, aggravating, off-putting, infuriating, and pointless thing to do?

I know both Android and iOS suffer from scummy applications abusing the notification tray for advertising, and I know both Google and Apple have rules that prohibit this that they do not enforce, but I didn't think I'd run into it because... Well, I use only proper, honest applications, right? I don't use the scummy ones? I pay for my applications?

Right?

I think it's time to start enforcing these rules.

Oh, and Microsoft? I haven't forgotten about BeOS. It's not like you have a lot of goodwill to mess around with here.


Read more...
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Windows hardware specs going up for the first time since 2009
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-24 22:19:20

Ars Technica:

Windows Vista was a shock to many Windows users, as its hardware requirements represented a steep upgrade over those required to run Windows XP: most 32-bit versions required a 1GHz processor, 1GB RAM, DirectX 9 graphics, and 40 GB of mass storage with 15GB free. But those 2006-era requirements looked much less steep once Windows 7 rolled out in 2009: it required almost the same system specs, but now 16GB of available disk space instead of 15. Windows 8 again stuck with the same specs and, at its release, so did Windows 10.

But the Windows 10 Anniversary Update (referred to in documentation as version 1607, so it ought to ship in July) changes that, with the first meaningful change in the Windows system requirements in almost a decade. The RAM requirement is going up, with 2GB the new floor for 32-bit installations. This happens to bring the system in line with the 64-bit requirements, which has called for 2GB since Windows 7.

The changed requirements were first spotted by Nokia Power User and WinBeta.

After so many years, I'm okay with a small memory bump. Considering the state of software development today, it's amazing enough as it is that Microsoft had managed to keep the minimum requirements level for this long.

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Google's Project Ara is about more than just modular phones
By Thom Holwerda on 2016-05-24 19:16:40

Ara is going to be the first ever phone that Google is making itself (it has already made laptops and a tablet, among other things). And even though what I saw last week was just a prototype, it was working well enough that I believe Google can fulfill its promise to release a consumer product next year. Yes, we've seen Google kill off hardware before, but this is a high-profile launch from a newly independent division. It's the first truly big swing from Google's new hardware group under Rick Osterloh, and to back off now would be a colossal embarrassment.

Given all that, really the only questions that matter are simple: Is Google really making a phone? Will this plan to make it modular really work this time? Is this more than just an experiment?

Coming out of the meeting, had I shaken a Magic 8 ball, it would have said, "Signs point to yes."

I want this to succeed - finally something new, beyond the square slab - but this is so radical in the smartphone (or feature phone and PDA before that) market that I honestly just don't know if it'll work out.

In any case, people are taking sides, but a this point in time, I think either option - "this will be a massive success" or "this is nonsense" - is equally shortsighted, and especially the latter not at all unlike this infamous quote.

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Google Paris HQ raided in tax probe
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Adurbe on 2016-05-24 13:47:12

Reports say about 100 tax officials entered Google's offices in central Paris early in the morning. Police sources confirmed the raid, but Google itself has so far made no comment. Google is accused of owing the French state €1.6bn ($1.8bn; £1.3bn) in unpaid taxes.

Good.

We're coming for you.

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