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LG Urbane Android Wear watch lands in the US for $349
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-27 23:29:01

The first Android Wear device that will come out of the box with Google's big new software update is now on sale in the US. Google began selling the LG Urbane on its online store today for $349. The watch comes in either a silver or a gold, and Google says new orders will leave its warehouse by Friday, May 8th.

The Urbane is not exactly my cup of coffee, but a lot of people seem to like it, so get it while it's hot. I hope this means said Wear update will be pushed out to other devices soon, too.

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Valve removes paid mods feature
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-27 23:16:46

We're going to remove the payment feature from the Skyrim workshop. For anyone who spent money on a mod, we'll be refunding you the complete amount. We talked to the team at Bethesda and they agree.

We've done this because it's clear we didn't understand exactly what we were doing. We've been shipping many features over the years aimed at allowing community creators to receive a share of the rewards, and in the past, they've been received well. It's obvious now that this case is different.

It's refreshing to see a company openly admit this strongly that they made a mistake. Kudos to Valve.

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Apple reports yet another record quarter
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-27 22:48:49

Apple sold 61.2 million iPhones during the quarter, up from 43.7 million a year earlier and a new March quarter record, while Mac sales were also strong with 4.56 million units sold, up from 4.1 million units in the year-ago quarter. iPad sales were down, however, falling to 12.6 million from 16.35 million.

Another insanely great quarter. Interesting tidbit: it seems like the post-PC world has hit a bit of a bump, because Apple is earning more profit from its PCs than from its iPads.

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Google announces Patent Purchase Promotion
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-27 20:31:35

So today we're announcing the Patent Purchase Promotion as an experiment to remove friction from the patent market. From May 8, 2015 through May 22, 2015, we'll open a streamlined portal for patent holders to tell Google about patents they're willing to sell at a price they set. As soon as the portal closes, we'll review all the submissions, and let the submitters know whether we're interested in buying their patents by June 26, 2015. If we contact you about purchasing your patent, we'll work through some additional diligence with you and look to close a transaction in short order. We anticipate everyone we transact with getting paid by late August.

Wait.

So instead of selling your patent to a troll, you sell it to Google (while retaining a license to the patent yourself), who can then license it out as it pleases, and, of course, also sue people with it. Are we supposed to believe Google would never abuse its patents? So far, it's got a pretty good track record when it comes to patent abuse - unlike its major competitors such as Microsoft and Apple - but I would place no faith in this always staying this way.

At least former Electronic Frontier Foundation senior staff attorney Julie Samuels is cautiously optimistic, which is something. She told Ars:

"Google's patent purchase program is promising to the extent it puts patents that could end up in the hands of trolls into Google's own patent portfolio," she said by e-mail. "While it's frankly troubling that a single entity would own as many patents as Google already does (and presumably will), this is an unfortunate byproduct of a broken patent system and a technology culture that often prioritizes the grant of patents above all else. Google has time and again shown its commitment to clean up the patent system, which is cause for some cautious optimism with regard to its new purchase program."

Well, something's better than nothing, I guess.

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We put the Apple Watch in the hands of a mechanical watchmaker
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-27 17:03:55

This is a new challenge for Apple; can it turn a piece of technology into a massively desired fashion accessory? And can the Apple Watch stand up against its competition, from low-end quartz watches to high-end Rolexes? To answer these and many other questions, we put the Apple Watch in the hands of a mechanical watchmaker, the exact type of person Apple is trying to make obsolete.

John Tarantino is the founder and CEO of Martenero, one of the few mechanical watch companies based in the US. Martenero sells customizable mechanical watches built in New York City for around $500, a price point that undersells the quality of its timepieces. The Verge sat down with Tarantino (and a 42mm Apple Watch with a leather loop) to discuss his initial thoughts on the Apple Watch as a watchmaker and its potential impact on the mechanical watch market, and to find out if he will purchase one.

A very insightful response to the Apple Watch - and let's face it, all current smartwatches.

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Debian 8 Jessie released
By special contributor chrishaney on 2015-04-26 10:26:11

After almost 24 months of constant development the Debian project is proud to present its new stable version 8 (code name Jessie), which will be supported for the next 5 years thanks to the combined work of the Debian Security team and of the Debian Long Term Support team.

Jessie ships with a new default init system, systemd. The systemd suite provides many exciting features such as faster boot times, cgroups for services, and the possibility of isolating part of the services. The sysvinit init system is still available in Jessie.

Screenshots and a screencast are available.

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Steam charging for mods: for and against
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-25 14:49:47

It used to be that the only way to make money from a mod was a) make a standalone sequel or remake b) use it as a portfolio to get hired by a studio or c) back in the pre-broadband days, shovel it onto a dodgy CD-ROM (and even then, it almost certainly wasn't the devs who profited). As of last night, that changed. Mod-makers can now charge for their work, via Steam.

It's far too soon to know the long-term outcome of Valve offering the option for mod creators to charge for their work, which went live yesterday using Skyrim as a test case. Everyone has an opinion, and I'll try to cover the main angles below, but first I simply want to express simple sadness. Not fatalistic sadness - I'm genuinely curious as to how this will play out, and there's high potential for excitement - but End Of An Era sadness.

The backlash Valve is facing over this whole thing is immense. Every gaming website, and sites like Reddit, are swamped with people lashing out against this new Valve policy. This kind of universal backlash is incredibly rare, and it's kind of interesting to see it unfold. Whatever goodwill Valve had with PC gamer - they managed to throw it all away in a day. Absolutely amazing.

As for my personal opinion on this matter - I'm used to mods being free, but considering some of the insane amounts of work people have put into incredibly complex, vast, and terrific mods for games like Skyrim, it does seem more than reasonable to give mod makers the possibility to charge for their work. And let's be absolutely clear here: Valve is forcing nobody to charge for their mods - mod makers choose to make their mods for-pay themselves.

That being said, introducing money into an previously pretty much money-less scene is bound to have a lot of negative results - for instance, free mods from Nexus are being offered for sale on Steam; not by their authors, but by pirates. As a result, mod makers are removing their content from Nexus to prevent others from profiting off their work.

It's a huge mess right now, and it'll be hard for Valve to regain all the goodwill they threw away in just a day.

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Ubuntu Desktop to eventually switch to Snappy by default
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-25 11:49:54

Ubuntu Desktop will eventually switch to Snappy packages by default, while continuing to provide deb-based images as an alternative, at least for a while. I'm sure this doesn't come as a surprise for some of you, but further details regarding this have been revealed today.

They're slowly moving away more and more from Debian packages.

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EU antitrust case against Google based on 19 complainants
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-25 11:45:55

The European Union's decision to take on Google last week stems from official complaints by 19 companies in Europe and the United States, including Microsoft and a number of small firms, people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

Microsoft is actually twice on the list; first as Microsoft-proper, but also as part of a lobby group also on the list. There's also a complaint from a party who remains anonymous.

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Pebble is working with Apple to prevent Pebble app rejections
By Thom Holwerda on 2015-04-24 23:45:00

Good news for Pebble and iOS users: Pebble has just posted on Reddit that it is working with Apple to make sure that rejections like this will no longer happen.

Still a work-in-progress, but we're working with Apple to clear up any misunderstandings to make sure rejections like the handful of recent ones don't happen again - they're being super responsive the concerns that bubbled up (much appreciated!). Apps are still getting approved with mentions of Pebble support in the description or metadata (e.g. RunKeeper). For now, developers should continue with their iOS app update plans and approval submissions to the iTunes store as normal (i.e. include Pebble support in your app info if that was your original intent).

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