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Hacking Team hacked, attackers claim 400GB in dumped data
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-06 22:34:10

On Sunday, while most of Twitter was watching the Women's World Cup - an amazing game from start to finish - one of the world's most notorious security firms was being hacked.

Specializing in surveillance technology, Hacking Team is now learning how it feels to have their internal matters exposed to the world, and privacy advocates are enjoying a bit of schadenfreude at their expense.

Hacking Team is an Italian company that sells intrusion and surveillance tools to governments and law enforcement agencies.

Feels poetic.

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Revisiting how we build Firefox
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-06 22:30:28

Big changes afoot for Firefox.

We intend to move Firefox away from XUL and XBL, but the discussion of how to do that is in the early stages. There are a ton of unanswered questions: what technologies/best practices for web development should we adopt in its place? How does this affect add-on developers? Is there space for a native-code main-window on desktop like we have on Android? How much time should we spend on this vs. other quality issues? What unanswered questions have we not asked yet?

This clearly isn't a small endeavour, but the rationale given seems sound to me.

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Netherlands: a look at the world's high-tech startup capital
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-06 22:26:26

It’s a fascinating time to take stock of startup innovation in the Netherlands, a rare turning point where you can watch the hard work of the past give way to the immense promise of the future.

Behind London and Berlin, the Dutch startup scene is already considered to be one of the most prominent in Europe. (If it feels unfair to weigh an entire country against individual cities, consider that the Netherlands has 17 million people crammed into an area half the size of South Carolina.)

The world of startups is intricately linked to technology, software, and Silicon Valley, but at the same time, it's a world that's very far away from me. The working hours, the insecurity, the minute chances at success - I would never opt for such a life.

Which is why people like me don't found the next Apple or Google.

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Microsoft to finalize Windows 10 this week
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-06 18:04:02

Microsoft is planning to finalize Windows 10 this week, ahead of its official launch later this month. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company is currently working on final copies of Windows 10, with a release to manufacturing (RTM) build expected later this week. RTM candidate builds have already been spotted online. Once the RTM build is ready, Microsoft will send the final copy of Windows 10 to its PC partners ahead of a release to the public on July 29th.

The actual release will be staggered; not everyone will get the update on 29 July. Probably a wise thing - hopefully this will allow Microsoft to catch problematic hardware components and drivers before it's pushed to all users.

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Yotaphone says bye-bye to Android, switches to Sailfish
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-04 13:04:46

Update: there's a denial, which in turn is also being questioned. Conclusion: nope, not happening.

Russian manufacturer Yota, well known for its Yotaphone dual screen phones, has announced that its next devices will no longer operate using Android but Sailfish, an alternative developed by former Nokia engineers at Jolla.

Interesting, if not a bit of an odd decision. One has to wonder what prompted this decision, because even though I like Sailfish for what it represents, it's far from a true alternative to Android or iOS. Maybe Yota knows something about Sailfish 2.0 we don't?

I'm intrigued.

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Fabled CD SNES-compatible "Play Station" prototype found
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-03 18:59:05

At the 1989 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nintendo of America's then-chairman Howard Lincoln took the stage to reveal some unexpected news: the company was partnering with European electronics firm Philips to make a CD-ROM-based games console. While the announcement took everyone in the audience by surprise, Sony engineer Ken Kutaragi was the most shocked of all. Just the night before, he and several Sony executives had been demonstrating a product developed in partnership with Nintendo. It was to be the world's first hybrid console, featuring an SNES cartridge slot and a CD drive, with both formats available to game developers. That product, called "Play Station" (with a space), would never see the light of day.

Industry lore suggests that only 200 of the Play Station consoles were ever produced, and hardly anyone has actually seen one of the fabled consoles in the flesh. However, pictures of the legendary original Play Station surfaced on reddit yesterday, showing the hybrid console in all its grey and yellowed-plastic glory.

Absolutely glorious. I could look at the pictures for hours.

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Safari isn't the problem; the lack of browser choice in iOS is
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-03 18:56:47

Recently there has a been a lot of debate wether Safari is the new IE, or Apple simply is building a user-centric web, but I think that removes focus from the real problem.

The problem isn't Safari. It's a somewhat modern browser that in the eyes of some might lack some important features, but overall is still pretty good and modern.

The real problem is Apple's lack of browser-choice in iOS, and that's a problem for several reasons.

When Apple allows other browsers (not just wrappers!), email clients, mapping services, etc. to be set as default by iOS users, we're going to see a whole bunch of Google iPhones. I'm pretty sure Apple is not looking forward to that as of yet.

Maybe later, when Apple Maps stops being a joke, Mail.app doesn't choke when it's displaying more than 3 emails, and Safari stops sucking.

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Is this BlackBerry's upcoming Android phone?
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-03 15:49:06

From The Verge:

We've expected for a month or so that BlackBerry is working on an Android phone with a "dual curved display" that slides up to reveal a physical keyboard underneath. It is supposedly based on a device that was originally announced at Mobile World Congress back in March, and back then the best image we had to go off of was a low-resolution snapshot of the device being held up on stage. Now, Evan Blass (aka @evleaks) has posted a high-resolution render of the device, codenamed Venice, to Twitter.

If this is for real, and BlackBerry doesn't mess it up by tying it to carriers and making it very hard for normal people to buy it, this is my next phone. Finally a modern phone with a keyboard.

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Getting a "free" phone now a lot harder in The Netherlands
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-02 16:46:21

Buying a phone in combination with a contract - the mislabeled "free phone" - just became a whole lot more complicated in my home country of The Netherlands. Today, our minister of finance, Jeroen Dijsselbloem (if you follow international news - yes, that one) today announced that he is not going to create an exemption in Dutch finance laws specifically for mobile carriers offering "free" phones on contract.

Last year, The Hoge Raad der Nederlanden (our supreme court) ruled that if carriers offer a loan of €250 or higher, they need to abide by the same rules as any other company, institution, or entity providing such loans - meaning, they will have to perform an income check, check if people have prior debts, and in general, if their financial situation is sound enough for them to be able to take on a loan for a smartphone. They will also need to be a lot more transparent and upfront about the fact they are offering a loan, including warnings, the terms, and so on.

This, of course, affects carriers a great deal; a lot of expensive, high-end phones, like iPhones or the latest Galaxy phones, are sold in combination with contracts, their true price hidden in monthly payments. Making it harder for consumers to take on these loans hurts their business model. As such, carriers had asked our minister of finance to create an exemption specifically for them - but he refused.

Carriers are, of course, not happy. T-Mobile, Vodafone, and KPN - our three major carriers - have already voiced their displeasure. They're complaining they will have to do considerable investments to change their sales model, and that it will become a lot harder for customers to buy high-end phones. To be fair to the carriers, all this does mean consumers will have to reveal a considerable amount of private information to carriers if they want to take out a loan to buy a phone.

That being said, there are alternatives: carriers could simply charge the price of the phone upfront. This, of course, is not something they want - they'd much rather be a little bit shady and fuzzy about the true price of smartphones. Samsung, Apple, and other smartphone makers surely won't be happy with this either, as they rely on these somewhat shady deals to peddle their wares. Half of Dutch consumers are already on SIM-only contracts, and this will only push more consumers to cheaper phones.

As a Dutchman, I find this great news. My financial means are such that I don't have to worry about this sort of thing, but there are enough people out there for whom this is not the case, and there are certainly quite a few people lured into these seemingly "cheap" phones, only to suffer for it down the line. While I'm sure people living in Libertarian la-la-land will scream bloody murder, the fact of the matter is that if left to their own devices, these companies will abuse people left and right.

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Why are people still playing Ultima Online?
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-07-01 21:47:51

Later this year, Ultima Online will turn 18 years old. In the genre of MMOs, that makes the game positively ancient - and it's even more remarkable when you consider that it's still funded via a subscription model.

I've never played an Ultima game, much less one that's nearly my age. I wanted to find out what the game is like to play today as a newcomer, and to ask people why they’ve continued visiting Britannia for nearly two decades.

I have little to no interest in MMOs, but seeing one of them run for this long is fascinating.

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