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What's going on with Microsoft's Surface Andromeda device?
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-19 22:04:36

Zac Bowden has published an article making sense of all the news and rumors regarding Microsoft's Andromeda device, its dual-screen foldable tablet thing. According to his sources, the device is not cancelled, but delayed until next year because the custom UI Microsoft is building for it needs more time.

The Andromeda device runs an experience tailored for its unique form-factor, which is built on top of Windows Core OS. This tailored experience is known as Andromeda OS and includes no legacy UIs and bloat. Microsoft is doing the exact same thing with Surface Hub 2, which also runs a custom tailored version of Windows Core OS known as Aruba and built specifically for that large collaborative device form factor.

Therefore, it's important to stress that Andromeda OS is unlike any version of Windows 10 available on the market today; it's an entirely new Windows OS experience powered by CShell that's built from the ground up for mobile dual-screened multitasking. Because of this, Microsoft needs more time to ensure the OS is well-baked.

Bowden's article is probably the closest to the current state of Andromeda.

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Google's Loon brings internet-by-balloon to Kenya
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-19 21:56:36

Google's sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver connectivity to the region.

The firm's antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country.

Sometimes, crazy ideas do seem to work.

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Bloomberg: Fuchsia intended to replace Android in five years
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-19 18:36:36

Well, here it is. I've been saying for 18 months now that Fuchsia clearly felt like a whole lot more than "just" a research operating system, and that I believed its developers' ultimate goal is to replace Android, which is a dead end. This Bloomberg article by the usually well-informed Mark Gurman is the clearest indication yet that such is, indeed, the end goal.

But members of the Fuchsia team have discussed a grander plan that is being reported here for the first time: Creating a single operating system capable of running all the company's in-house gadgets, like Pixel phones and smart speakers, as well as third-party devices that now rely on Android and another system called Chrome OS, according to people familiar with the conversations.

According to one of the people, engineers have said they want to embed Fuchsia on connected home devices, such as voice-controlled speakers, within three years, then move on to larger machines such as laptops. Ultimately the team aspires to swap in their system for Android, the software that powers more than three quarters of the world's smartphones, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal matters. The aim is for this to happen in the next half decade, one person said.

CEO Sundar Pichai hasn't signed off on all of this just yet, so it's by no means 100% guaranteed - and a lot can change in five years. That being said, it's getting easier and easier to see which way the wind's blowing.

There's also reports of Fuchsia's security and privacy oriented design getting in conflict with Google's ad-driven business model.

The company must also settle some internal feuds. Some of the principles that Fuchsia creators are pursuing have already run up against Google's business model. Google's ads business relies on an ability to target users based on their location and activity, and Fuchsia's nascent privacy features would, if implemented, hamstring this important business. There's already been at least one clash between advertising and engineering over security and privacy features of the fledgling operating system, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ad team prevailed, this person said.

It's sad to hear that, but in the end, not exactly surprising.

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Chrome OS isn't ready for tablets yet
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-19 17:23:36

So this is supposed to be a review of the Acer Chromebook Tab 10, a tablet that was designed explicitly and exclusively for the education market. Acer and Google say teachers really wanted a tablet form factor for the classroom, and they really don't want to have to figure out how to manage an entirely new operating system when they're already all in on Chrome OS. And so here it is, finally: an honest-to-goodness Chrome OS tablet.

Keep this article in mind when you read the next item I'm about to post.

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Chinese iCloud user data is now handled by a state-owned telco
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-18 22:28:38

If you're an Apple customer living in China who didn't already opt out of having your iCloud data stored locally, here's a good reason to do so now. That information, the data belonging to China-based iCloud users which includes emails and text messages, is now being stored by a division of China Telecom, the state-owned telco.

The operator’s Tianyi cloud storage business unit has taken the reins for iCloud China, according to a WeChat post from China Telecom. Apple separately confirmed the change to TechCrunch.

Privacy is very important to us at Apple. Unless you're Chinese - then you're shit out of luck.

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Windows 10 getting support for leap seconds
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-18 22:25:56

Microsoft is bringing support for leap seconds - yes, that one extra second - to Windows, starting with Windows 10 Redstone 5 and Windows Server 2019. With the upcoming updates for Windows 10, Microsoft's operating system now deals with leap seconds in a way that is incredibly accurate, UTC-compliant, and traceable.

Leap seconds typically occur every 18 months, resulting in one extra second. The extra leap second occurs to adjust with the earth’s slowed down rotation, and an extra second is added to UTC in order to keep it in-sync with mean solar time. To deal with the extra second more appropriately, Windows 10 will now display that extra second, instead of directly jumping to the next one, making it the world's first OS to have full support for leap seconds.

I didn't know operating systems didn't fully support leap seconds. That is a big surprise to me.

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Google CEO responds to EU Android fine
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-18 22:22:51

Google's CEO Sundar Pichai has responded to the EU's antitrust fine regarding Android. The blog post is exactly what you'd expect - a lot of fluffy language about how amazing Android is and how it helps little kids pet bunnies and all that stuff, with remarkably little substance. There's really no actual reply to the three core claims in the EU ruling, which makes the response rather weak.

One part stood out to me though.

The phones made by these companies are all different, but have one thing in common - the ability to run the same applications. This is possible thanks to simple rules that ensure technical compatibility, no matter what the size or shape of the device. No phone maker is even obliged to sign up to these rules - they can use or modify Android in any way they want, just as Amazon has done with its Fire tablets and TV sticks.

This hits at the core of the ruling, because according to the EU, established through years of research and verifiable through leaked copies of the agreements Google signs with Android device makers, the very problem is that Android bans Android device makers from making or shipping Android devices that do not use Google's version of Android. Pichai seems to claim here that that's not true, but this is something that ought to be easily verifiable, and I doubt the EU would hand down this fine if the agreements between Android device makers and Google didn't clearly specify this.

We'll have to wait and see if Google can substantiate all of this, because if not, Pichai just flat-out lied in an official statement from the company.

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Microsoft announces preview of Windows 10 IoT Core Services
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-18 22:14:22

The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming how businesses gather and use data to develop competitive insights and create new financial opportunities. As IoT technology matures and our partners gain more experience, they are evolving their business models to increase the overall return on investment of their IoT solutions. This includes adding recurring revenue, enhancing security, and reducing support costs.

At Computex a few weeks back, we announced Windows 10 IoT Core Services, which enables our IoT partners to commercialize their solutions running on Windows 10 IoT Core. We are now excited to announce the public preview of this service along with details on purchasing and pricing. As described in our previous blog, IoT Core Services provides 10 years of operating system support along with services to manage device updates and assess device health.

I have no idea what any of this means, but I'm just the copier and paster.

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EU fines Android for $5 billion for Android antitrust violations
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-18 11:18:50

Update: here's the full press release. Here's the three main violations:

In particular, Google:

  • has required manufacturers to pre-install the Google Search app and browser app (Chrome), as a condition for licensing Google's app store (the Play Store);
  • made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-installed the Google Search app on their devices; and
  • has prevented manufacturers wishing to pre-install Google apps from selling even a single smart mobile device running on alternative versions of Android that were not approved by Google (so-called "Android forks").

Original article continues below.


Google has been hit with a record-breaking €4.3 billion ($5 billion) fine by EU regulators for breaking antitrust laws. The European Commission says Google has abused its Android market dominance by bundling its search engine and Chrome apps into the operating system. Google has also allegedly blocked phone makers from creating devices that run forked versions of Android, and "made payments to certain large manufacturers and mobile network operators" to exclusively bundle the Google Search app on handsets.

I'm okay with bundling applications, but I'm 100% opposed to large corporations like Google blocking competing companies from running forked versions of Android - allowed through Android's licensing - and wealthy corporations basically buying dominance by sending large sums of money to in this case carriers and manufacturers that smaller companies could never afford.

That being said, I do feel like the way we determine what is and is not corporate behaviour damaging to consumers and the market needs some serious overhaul. I've asked this question on OSNews before, but even though Apple doesn't have the market share to qualify as a monopoly, does anyone really want to argue that Apple - which sucks up virtually all of the profits in the handset market, despite its small marketshare - does not have power and influence over the mobile market akin to Google's? Which player has more influence over a market - the player with 10% market share sucking up 90% of the profits, or the player with 90% marketshare sucking up only 10% of the profits?

I'm no economist so I'm not going to claim I know the answer, but it sure does seem like relying solely on market share to evaluate market dominance seems shortsighted, at best.

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Do you really need to properly eject a USB drive?
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-07-17 22:45:14

Pull a USB flash drive out of your Mac without first clicking to eject it, and you'll get a stern, shameful warning: "Disk Not Ejected Properly."

But do you really need to eject a thumb drive the right way?

Probably not. Just wait for it to finish copying your data, give it a few seconds, then yank. To be on the cautious side, be more conservative with external hard drives, especially the old ones that actually spin.

That's not the official procedure, nor the most conservative approach. And in a worst-case scenario, you risk corrupting a file or - even more unlikely - the entire storage device.

This is terrible advice for regular users, but I have to admit that I, too, don't really use the safe eject features of operating systems, unless I want to eject right after completing a write operation.

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