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Netflix announces unlimited parental leave
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-04 23:24:44

At Netflix, we work hard to foster a "freedom and responsibility" culture that gives our employees context about our business and the freedom to make their own decisions along with the accompanying responsibility. With this in mind, today we're introducing an unlimited leave policy for new moms and dads that allows them to take off as much time as they want during the first year after a child's birth or adoption.

Great, great move by Netflix - especially considering it's an American company. Technology companies are raking in more cash than ever before, and it's great to see a small number of them investing that money back into their own employees, and not into foreign tax havens or CxO's pockets.

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Here's how to fix Windows 10's privacy
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-04 20:51:52

Windows 10, by default, has permission to report a huge amount of data back to Microsoft. By clicking through "Express Settings" during installation, you allow Windows 10 to gather up your contacts, calendar details, text and touch input, location data, and a whole lot more. The OS then sends it all back to Microsoft so that it can be used for personalisation and targeted ads.

[...]

That isn't to say you should be happy about this state of affairs, however. If you'd like to retain most of your privacy and keep your personal data on your PC, Windows 10 can be configured in that way. Just be warned that there are quite a few toggles that need to be turned off, and you'll lose some functionality as well (Cortana won't work, for example).

Or, you know, don't use Windows.

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HTC delivering ads straight to Sense homescreen
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-04 19:30:50

Today, HTC has taken the "native advertising" a step further and begun sending push notifications straight to user's devices. The push advertisement is for a custom theme available in HTC's theme store. Sponsored themes like these are nothing new (Samsung offers Marvel based themes on the S6), but pushing them to users' notification panels without their consent is more aggressive than we're used to and it's reminiscent of a practice which Google itself fought against.

Google has managed to keep Android completely separate from its advertising business; i.e., there are no Google ads in Android, even though the temptation to do so and the ease and efficiency with which this can be done is tremendous. Luckily for us users, unless you willingly and actively install ad-supported applications, you won't be bothered with ads.

Unless you're an HTC user. HTC has been trying to inject ads into several parts of its Android customisations, and now it's also started pushing ads to the notification drawer. This leaves an incredibly bad taste in my mouth, and it's made it very sure I'm not going to buy an HTC device any time soon.

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Can the OnePlus 2 equal mainstream success?
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-03 23:16:33

And right now, early adopters and smartphone aficionados are really the limit of OnePlus' customer base. Though the company has been able to build tremendous amounts of hype and attention through its fan forums, social media accounts, and on technology blogs, the reality is that OnePlus is far from a household name at this point. Selling 1.5 million phones, as OnePlus did for its first phone, is certainly impressive for an upstart company, but it pales in comparison to the number of units Apple and Samsung move each quarter.

I find these numbers jaw-dropping, to be honest. This completely unknown - at the time - company managed to sell 1.5 million of its first phone, and now its second phone has already seen more than one million pre-orders. I don't know about you, but I find that really, really impressive.

As for the headline question - I find that unlikely at this point, but does it really matter? Does every company need to be either Apple or Samsung to be considered even remotely interesting by American/western technology media?

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Lollipop now on 18.1 percent of Android devices
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-03 23:11:10

After skipping the month of July, Google is back in August with the latest distribution numbers for each version of Android. The numbers show that Android Lollipop is now on 18.1 percent of devices, making the jump from 12.4 percent when distribution numbers were last reported in June. Interestingly, KitKat is now on 39.3 percent, marking a tiny increase from 39.2 percent when numbers were last reported. Jelly Bean took a slight dive, making up 33.6 percent of installs, down from 37.4 percent in June.

I always find these distribution numbers depressing.

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Apple IIgs System 6.0.3 released
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Thexder on 2015-08-03 21:31:43

On the heels of the recent 6.0.2 [ed. note: and I posted it again because I'm dumb] build of the Apple IIgs System Disk set, comes the next revision. Many loose ends have been tied up and documentation has been updated with changes described in detail.

This release has been packaged as six 800K disk images in BXY format (Shrinkit Compatible Binary II Encoded), .PO format, and as a versatile 32MB ‘Live Installer in .PO format that boots to Finder for immediate access to all portions of the System Software and installing without the need of mounting multiple images or swapping floppies. This image can also be installed to a 32MB partition, CD ROM, etc.

An absolutely amazing initiative, and so far, it seems like it's sticking. Awesome.

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The post-Mac interface
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-03 21:28:28

In 1996 Don Gentner and Jakob Nielsen published a thought experiment, The Anti-Mac Interface. It's worth a read. By violating the design principles of the entrenched Mac desktop interface, G and N propose that more powerful interfaces could exceed the aging model and define the "Internet desktop."

It's been almost 20 years since the Anti-Mac design principles were proposed, and almost 30 since the original Apple Human Interface Guidelines were published. Did the Anti-Mac principles supersede those of the Mac?

Here I reflect on the Mac design principles of 1986, the Anti-Mac design principles of 1996, and what I observe as apparent (and cheekily named) Post-Mac design principles of 2016... Er, 2015.

Quite a read, but definitely worth it.

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A company copes with backlash against the raise that roared
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-01 11:12:17

Three months ago, Mr. Price, 31, announced he was setting a new minimum salary of $70,000 at his Seattle credit card processing firm, Gravity Payments, and slashing his own million-dollar pay package to do it. He wasn't thinking about the current political clamor over low wages or the growing gap between rich and poor, he said. He was just thinking of the 120 people who worked for him and, let's be honest, a bit of free publicity. The idea struck him when a friend shared her worries about paying both her rent and student loans on a $40,000 salary. He realized a lot of his own employees earned that or less.

Yet almost overnight, a decision by one small-business man in the northwestern corner of the country became a swashbuckling blow against income inequality.

Whether you support his actions or not, ask yourself this question: what does it say about our society that a young man slashing his own salary to increase that of his employees draws more ire than a CEO raising his own salary to 70 times that of an average employee?

Most mystifying of all, though, are the employees leaving because their coworkers got a pay raise to $70000, while they themselves already earned $70000. I don't understand this mindset. You still have your salary. You still get your $70000, except now your fellow men and women on the work floor also get it. Is your self-worth really derived from earning more than the people around you? Is your sense of self really dictated by how much more you earn than Jim from accounting or Alice from engineering?

Maybe I'm just too Dutch and too little American to understand this mindset, but I firmly believe this world would be a massively better place if more CEOs cut their own salaries to raise that of their employees.

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How does Voxel Quest work now?
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-01 10:49:49

If you're interested in the intricacies of game engine development, you should definitely keep track of Gavan Woolery's Voxel Quest. The latest blog post deals with a whole bunch of new stuff implemented in the voxel-based engine.

The fact that VQ has undergone three tech revisions over two years probably seems a bit ridiculous, and maybe it is. Something like this would normally kill a game. That said, the point here is not just to make a game (plenty of people are doing that already), but to make a unique engine, and that could not happen in a vacuum. All I know is that I am finally happy with where the engine is at in terms of performance and flexibility, and I couldn't have gotten here without knowing everything I've learned since the start.

So the most common question I get, of course, is how does this stuff work? It is actually simpler than it might seem.

Voxel Quest is more about developing a unique game engine than it is about developing a unique game, but its developer wants to release the engine as open source so that others can do cool stuff with it too.

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Why Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 for free
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-08-01 10:43:38

When Microsoft released Windows 95 almost 20 years ago, people packed into stores to be among the first lucky buyers to get their hands on this cutting edge new technology. Microsoft had an iron grip on productivity software in the enterprise, but even ordinary consumers were accustomed to paying hundreds of dollars for software. Two decades later, Microsoft is releasing Windows 10. But most people won’t have to rush out and purchase a copy. Anyone with a copy of Windows dating back to Windows 7 can upgrade for free, a first for Microsoft.

Whether we're talking tiny smartphone applications, or entire operating systems, people now expect software to be free. It's a reality that, obviously, hurts software makers the most. If you'd told me only a few years ago Microsoft would adapt to this new reality this (relatively) quickly, I wouldn't have believed it.

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