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Android Go review
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-21 03:56:49

Ars Technica takes a good look at Android Go, and concludes:

The best thing about Android Go is that it doesn't force anything on users. If you're like me and find Google Maps Go to be nearly useless, you are totally free to download the full version of Google Maps. Because of this, Android Go is never an "inferior" version of Android. In the current builds, at least, it's purely a lighter, less resource-intensive version of Android. If you can't stand the functionality reduction, you can easily fix it by downloading the full versions of apps.

However scattershot the overall package seems, Android Go does succeed in lowering the bar for what it takes to run Android. It's certainly more useful than something like Firefox OS or Tizen. Hardware this is cheap still doesn't result in a user experience I can call "good" though. If you can afford something better, spend the extra money.

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Animations in Windows 10 breathe life into a cold experience
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-20 22:52:55

How much does adding somewhat frivolous animations to an OS matter? I'm not sure, but I do know that users of Windows will be very vocal as Microsoft experiments with adding them to Windows 10.

In Windows 10 Redstone 5 (due fall 2018) I expect Microsoft to continue to refine, improve, and make more consistent UI elements in Windows 10. That includes adding more animations to simple behaviors like the Action Center, but I can already see push back.

I know that especially among the kind of people who read OSNews, "animations" in UI design tends to be a very dirty word. I very much do not belong to that group of people, since I adore proper, well-thought out use of animations in UI design, such as the fun little touches in Material Design, the pivots and slides in Windows Phone's Metro, and yes, the brand new flourishes in Microsoft's Fluent Design, which is currently making its way to Windows 10 users all around the world.

I'm fine with being in the minority here on this one - to each their own.

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FFmpeg 4.0 released
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-20 22:46:21
FFmpeg 4.0 has been released, and it's a major one. Since this particular subject matter - and its changelog - are way beyond the scope of my capabilities, I'll just leave you with the generic description of the project (in case you live under a rock).

FFmpeg is the leading multimedia framework, able to decode, encode, transcode, mux, demux, stream, filter and play pretty much anything that humans and machines have created. It supports the most obscure ancient formats up to the cutting edge. No matter if they were designed by some standards committee, the community or a corporation. It is also highly portable: FFmpeg compiles, runs, and passes our testing infrastructure FATE across Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, the BSDs, Solaris, etc. under a wide variety of build environments, machine architectures, and configurations.

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Chat is Google's next big fix for Android's messaging mess
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-20 21:21:55

The Verge has a big exclusive - Google has managed to corral carriers into supporting something called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services", or Chat, which basically replaces SMS in every Android phone.

top-tier Android phone can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, and for that money, you'll get some amazing features. It will have a stellar screen, top-flight camera, gobs of storage, and an absolutely atrocious texting experience.

Most people in the world, whether they buy an iPhone or an Android phone, dump all the preinstalled chat applications into a junk folder, install WhatsApp or WeChat (or Telegram in repressive dictatorships like Russia and Iran), and forget this American obsession with iMessage vs. Google's 238437 chat apps even exists.

That being said.

Now, the company is doing something different. Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it's trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It's going to be called "Chat", and it's based on a standard called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services". SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google's goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

Sounds like something they should've done ten years ago, but as you dive further into the details, a whole bunch of huge red flags pop up:

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It's just "Chat", not "Google Chat". In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier's Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won't be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won't be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

In the current political and societal climate, the lack of end-to-end encryption is absolutely bonkers. Obviously, there's no encryption because carriers (and our governments) want to snoop on our communications, but with end-to-end encrypted options readily available, why even bother going 2-3 years back in time?

If you're still trying to wrap your head around the idea that Google won't have a standalone consumer chat app, well, so am I. "The fundamental thesis behind the RCS protocol is it's a carrier service," Sabharwal says. That means that the carriers will be the final arbiters of what Chat can and can't do - and whether it will be successful. The good news is that Google appears to have herded all the carrier cats into a box where their Chat services will actually be interoperable.

Isn't the point to get away from under carrier control, not slide back under it?

I just don't see how such an archaic service like this will ever gain any traction, when most of the world has already settled on its chat service, mostly dictated by what your friends and family uses. Without end-to-end encryption and while under carrier control, this service seems like a massive step backward - not forward.

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Video overview of MorphOS 3.10
By special contributor MikeB on 2018-04-20 16:10:43

Morph.Zone reports:

Dan Wood of kookytech.net has published a new MorphOS video that shows some of the new features of MorphOS 3.10 and demonstrates how to change the look of MorphOS in two easy to follow steps.

Also the lastest issue of Amiga print magazine Amiga Future has a review of MorphOS 3.10 (reading excerpt).

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The AMD 2nd generation Ryzen deep dive
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-20 16:08:14

The headline results for the new processors are that they offer more performance than AMD’s first generation of Ryzen, use the same socket, are offered at similar prices, are competitive with the competition, and come bundled with some nice coolers. While the new Ryzen 2000-series processors are not enough to cause anyone that has already invested in Ryzen 1000-series to upgrade, AMD is offering a very attractive proposition to anyone two-to-three generations (or more) behind to upgrade into a high performance system.

AMD's strong run in processors continues.

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The menu bar
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-19 19:29:07

Look at this screenshot of MacPaint from the mid-1980s. Now look at this screenshot of a current version of Microsoft Excel for Mac. Finally, consider just how different the two applications actually are. The former is a 30-year-old black and white first party application for painting while the latter is a current and unabashedly third party application for creating spreadsheets. Yet despite having been created in very different decades for very different purposes by very different companies, these two very different applications still seem a part of the same thread. Anyone with experience in one could easily find some familiarity in the other, and while the creators of the Macintosh set out to build a truly consistent experience, there is only one significant piece of UX that these two mostly disparate applications share - the menu bar.

The lack of a menu bar in (most) touch applications is really what sets them apart from regular, mouse-based applications. It makes it virtually impossible to add more complex functionality without resorting to first-run onboarding experiences (terrible) or undiscoverable gestures (terrible). While menus would work just fine on devices with larger screens such as tablets and touch laptops - I use touch menus on my Surface Pro 4 all the time and they work flawlessly - the real estate they take up is too precious on smartphones.

If touch really wants to become a first-class citizen among the mouse and keyboard, developers need to let go of their fear of menus. Especially for more complex, productivity-oriented touch applications on tablets and touch laptops, menus are a perfectly fine UI element. Without them, touch applications will never catch up to their mouse counterparts.

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Microsoft's bid to secure the IoT: custom Linux, chips, Azure
By special contributor Drumhellar on 2018-04-19 19:28:00

Microsoft has released details on Azure Sphere, their bid to make IoT devices secure by default:

First is a new class of microcontrollers (MCUs) that supports seven critical hardware features that Microsoft says are a necessary foundation to build secure systems. These include support for unforgeable encryption keys protected by hardware, the ability to update system software, and hardware-enforced compartmentalization between software components. Microsoft has some track record in building such systems, in particular with the Xbox, which is designed to have tamper-proof hardware that's securely updatable.

[...]

Second is a new operating system: Azure Sphere OS. The company says this OS combines a custom Linux kernel with Windows-inspired security features, providing a secure platform that scales down to smaller systems than Windows can reach. Application code is run within containers to provide isolation, and Microsoft will have a custom security monitor running beneath the Linux kernel to protect system integrity and arbitrate access to critical resources.

The third part is Azure Sphere Security Service, a cloud service that will detect security issues (by recognizing failures and errors on devices), act as a source of software updates, and mediate secure communications between devices and to the cloud.

The Microsoft-made microcontroller designs will be available to manufacturers under royalty-free licenses.

Additionally, the big news is Microsoft's own Linux distribution, a first for the company. They do have a custom Linux build they us in-house for Azure's networking stack, but that isn't available outside of the company.

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Widescreen laptops are dumb
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-19 19:18:23

But a laptop is more than just a video playback machine. For myself and millions of others, it's the primary tool for earning a living. We use these machines to read, write, remember, create, connect, and communicate. And in most of these other applications, a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size just feels like a poor fit.

As long as I can easily open more than one document side by side, any aspect ratio gets my blessing. I don't mind black bars on video, especially since today's screens have pretty good black levels, so they're hardly distracting. Still, I'm glad more and more laptop makers are starting to see the benefit in 3:2-like displays.

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A constructive look at the Atari 2600 BASIC cartridge
By Thom Holwerda on 2018-04-18 22:03:17

Honestly, I don't think the Atari 2600 BASIC has ever had a fair review. It's pretty much reviled as a horrible program, a horrible programming environment and practically useless. But I think that's selling it short. Yes, it's bad (and I'll get to that in a bit), but in using it for the past few days, there are some impressive features on a system where the RAM can't hold a full Tweet and half the CPU time is spent Racing The Beam. I'll get the bad out of the way first.

Input comes from the Atari Keypads, dual 12-button keypads. If that weren't bad enough, I'm using my keyboard as an emulated pair of Atari Keypads, where I have to keep this image open at all times.

Okay, here's how this works.

An older story - it's from 2015 - but fascinating nonetheless.

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