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'How we're addressing misleading apps in Windows Store'
By special contributor jockm on 2014-08-28 22:18:51

Microsoft has explained that they have removed more than 1500 apps from the store.

Every app store finds its own balance between app quality and choice, which in turn opens the door to people trying to game the system with misleading titles or descriptions. Our approach has long been to create and enforce strong but transparent policies to govern our certification and store experience. Earlier this year we heard loud and clear that people were finding it more difficult to find the apps they were searching for; often having to sort through lists of apps with confusing or misleading titles.

[...]

This process is continuing as we work to be as thorough and transparent as possible in our review. Most of the developers behind apps that are found to violate our policies have good intentions and agree to make the necessary changes when notified. Others have been less receptive, causing us to remove more than 1,500 apps as part of this review so far (as always we will gladly refund the cost of an app that is downloaded as a result of an erroneous title or description).

The upside is that the store becomes a better, less cluttered and misleading place; the downside is that the walled garden is stronger. Is a top down approach really what we want, or is there a a better, community driven, approach that could be taken?

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Genode 14.08 introduces new GUI architecture
By special contributor nfeske on 2014-08-28 19:00:14

The new Genode version 14.08 extends the graphical abilities of the framework to the level of flexibility expected from a general-purpose OS. In contrast to contemporary GUI stacks, Genode approaches the problem from the angle of maximizing security. This premise led to a fairly unique design. Further highlights of the new version are a new port of OpenVPN, an upgraded DDE Linux, vast performance improvements of the base-hw kernel, and networking for VirtualBox on top of the NOVA microhypervisor.

It goes without saying that a flexible and dynamic GUI stack is needed for a general-purpose operating system. Since Genode strives to become such a system, this problem had to be covered at some point. The starting point was the existing nitpicker GUI server, which is a secure multiplexer for the physical display and input devices. Regarding widget sets, the framework already featured a few custom graphical applications talking directly to nitpicker, and came with support for Qt and libSDL. However, there was a missing link between the low-level nitpicker GUI server and the applications, namely a window manager and desktop environment. The open question was how to maintain the rigid security provided by nitpicker while also supporting sophisticated window management, visually appealing window decorations, and customizability.

The solution took the Genode team more than a year to fall into place. At its core, it is a clever combination of small components that use existing Genode interfaces and facilitate two features unique to Genode: the virtualization of arbitrary OS services and the sandboxing of each individual process. The solution that comes with the new release adds merely 3000 lines of code to the trusted computing base of graphical applications while enabling advanced dynamic GUIs. The complex parts of the GUI such as the rendering and behavior of window decorations and window-layout management are stuffed away in sandboxes so that those complex (and potentially bug-prone) parts cannot compromise the privacy of the user. In fact, the security of the GUI stack does not even depend on a correctly working C runtime. So its attack surface is orders of magnitude smaller compared with commodity OSes. Of course, the current version is just a step on the road towards an integrated desktop environment but now, in contrast to one year ago, the path to walk on is clear.

Besides addressing the GUI stack, the new release comes with an updated execution environment for device drivers of the Linux 3.14.5 kernel. Thanks to DDE Linux, Linux subsystems such as the TCP/IP stack and the USB stack can be executed directly on the microkernels supported by Genode. The primary motivation behind the update was ongoing work on bringing the Intel wireless stack to Genode.

Functionality-wise, the highlights of the new release are a new port of the OpenVPN client that can now be used as Genode component, added networking support for guest OSes running in VirtualBox on top of NOVA, the use of multiple processors by the Seoul virtual-machine monitor, and the addition of pluggable file systems. Those and many more topics are covered in the detailed release documentation.

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An awful week to care about video games
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-28 18:59:38

What an awful week for the culture that surrounds and influences video games.

That's putting it very mildly. The people responsible for all of this - like the people who threatened a critic of the portrayal of women in games with physical/sexual violence - should be sent to jail. Especially the 'Kevin Dobson' character should probably be locked up in a mental institution for life.

Especially the treatment of women in the gaming industry - whether on-screen or off-screen - is absolutely horrible. As an n=1 social experiment, I often pretend to be female in my League of Legends matches, and the kind of shit you get thrown at you when you do so is disgusting.

I can shake it off because I'm actually not female - but I shudder at the thought of not being able to do so.

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Pre-release BlackBerry Passport review video
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-28 09:24:24

Via CrackBerry:

It would seem as though the floodgates have REALLY opened up on the BlackBerry Passport and the device is popping up all over the place. This time around, to go along with the typical photos of the device, mobilenet.cz has given the BlackBerry Passport a look in a 28 minute long video, along with putting its camera and video camera to the test.

Almost 28 minutes of Passport goodness - in Czech, which you may not understand. However, even without knowledge of the Czech language, that's still 28 minutes of Passport goodness. I really, really want this device.

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What happened to Motorola
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-27 22:56:53

Getting outflanked by tech upstarts, hacked in two by a fearsome corporate raider, and finally taken over in part by a Chinese company that exists largely because of the world Motorola made for it: Such a fate would have been unthinkable 20 years ago. Motorola was then one of America's greatest companies, having racked up a stunning record of innovation that continually spawned new businesses, which in turn created enormous wealth. Motorola had the vision to invest in China long before most multinational companies. It even developed Six Sigma, a rigorous process for improving quality that would be embraced by management gurus and change the way companies nearly everywhere operate.

However, as the history of many giant corporations (Lehman Brothers, General Motors) shows, great success can lead to great trouble. Interviews with key players in and around Motorola and its spinoffs indicate that the problems began when management jettisoned a powerful corporate culture that had been inculcated over decades. When healthy internal competition degenerated into damaging infighting. "I loved most of my time there," says Mike DiNanno, a former controller of several Motorola divisions, who worked at the company from 1984 to 2003. "But I hated the last few years."

Very detailed in-depth look at the rise and fall of Motorola.

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Apple reportedly working on 12.9-inch iPad
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-27 13:18:15

Apple is developing a larger iPad with a 12.9-inch display that it plans to begin manufacturing early next year, according to Bloomberg. It's not stated when the larger iPad will actually be released, but reports have swirled around the development of an iPad at this size for about a year now, so it's quite possible that it's finally headed toward a launch. Apple's existing iPads, the Air and the mini, have 9.7- and 7.9-inch displays. At 12.9 inches, this purported iPad would be closer in size to a laptop, like the MacBook Air.

A little birdie has provided us with an exclusive photo of the device.

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The world's best mobile OS?
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Decius on 2014-08-26 22:32:19

How do you determine what makes a good OS? What makes iOS vs. Android or Windows Phone vs. BB10, or any other such comparison not just about the fanboyism? Is it even possible to arrive at a scientific conclusion to this question? If we look at entire ecosystems, Android and iOS are obvious choices for buyers because of the sheer amount of apps they have available. However, what's that got to do with an answer to the question, "What's the best designed OS out of the box?"

Not going to spoil it for you.

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MenuetOS 0.99.71 released
By Thom Holwerda, submitted by Sean Melendy on 2014-08-26 22:25:24

A new version of MenuetOS has been released.

Updates and improvements (httpc, ehci, picview, memcheck, menu, wallpaper, ohci, uhci, maps/streetview, icons, dhcp, freeform window, smp threads, smp init, onscreen keyboard, utf8 support, tcp/ip, keyboard layouts: western, cyrillic, hebrew, greek)

MenuetOS is open source (MIT) and written entirely in 32/64 bit assembly. It's important to note that development is focused entirely on the 64bit version.

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Two countries, two vastly different phone bills
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-26 09:47:39

If your monthly cellphone bill seems high, that may be because American cellphone service is among the most costly in the world. A comparison of two similar plans, one in the United States and one in Britain, reveals a marked difference.

Both plans include a new iPhone 5S with 16 gigabytes of memory. Both require a two-year commitment and allow unlimited voice minutes and unlimited texting. The plan offered by the British provider, Three UK, offers unlimited data and requires no upfront payment. With Britain's 20 percent tax included, the plan costs 41 pounds a month, or $67.97 at current exchange rates.

The plan provided by the American carrier, Verizon Wireless, has an upfront cost of $99.99 and then $90 a month, not including taxes. Spreading the upfront cost over 24 months and adding 17 percent tax - typical for the United States - comes to $109.47 a month. But while the British plan includes unlimited data, the American plan does not. It includes two gigabytes a month, with an additional gigabyte free during an introductory period.

This should not surprise anyone. Companies like Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, et al., are state-owned monopolies in all but name. They are not state-owned, but the way the US government - both local and federal - protects them essentially makes them the equivalent of being state-owned. They have no competition, and they know it. There is no incentive for them to lower prices, improve service, or expand coverage to less important areas.

Meanwhile, here in The Netherlands (I can't speak for other countries), our government mandated that the owners of the physical cables provide access to other players, ensuring competition across the board, which has benefited all of us. Don't quote me on this, but I'm pretty sure something like 95%-99% of Dutch households can get broadband internet via several different media and through several different ISPs. All because our government was smart enough to realise that it would take government intervention to ensure competition.

Of course, it's unfair to compare one of the smallest and most densely populated western countries to the United States, which is crazy large and has large stretches of impoverished areas that probably do not have access to the financial means to create a proper network infrastructure. Still, the US is supposed to be the richest country on earth, and if it really wanted to, it could definitely provide good broadband access to every American citizen at low prices.

It's just that the monopoly companies don't want to.

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Amazon acquires Twitch.tv
By Thom Holwerda on 2014-08-25 21:13:48

Everybody thought it would be Google, but it's actually Amazon.

Today, I'm pleased to announce we've been acquired by Amazon. We chose Amazon because they believe in our community, they share our values and long-term vision, and they want to help us get there faster. We're keeping most everything the same: our office, our employees, our brand, and most importantly our independence. But with Amazon's support we'll have the resources to bring you an even better Twitch.

Most of the times some hot startup gets acquired it's some vague nonsense I don't care about, but Twitch - Twitch I care about. I use it almost every day, and seeing it in the hands of a company with zero presence in my home country and no history with video, streaming (like I said, Amazon has no presence here), or gaming makes me uneasy.

Twitch is one of the very rare cases where I would have actually preferred Google - or better put, YouTube - buy it. Google+ is by no universally accepted as a mistake, Google is backtracking from it, so that most likely would not have been an issue. The combination Twitch+YouTube looked great on paper - much better than Amazon+Twitch.

This acquisition has me worried for the future of Twitch.

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