Tag Archives: embedded

Jelly Bean Now Powering One-Third of Android Devices: Google

With a 33 percent usage share, Jelly Bean finally has Gingerbread in its sights, and is poised to overtake the aging Android release to take the top spot.

With a 33 percent usage share, Jelly Bean finally has Gingerbread in its sights, and is poised to overtake the aging Android release to take the top spot.

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Foxconn Taking Firefox OS to Tablets, Not Just Phones

The Chinese electronics manufacturer plans multiple devices, including tablets and phones, as part of a strategy to supply software and services along with hardware. [Read more]    …

The Chinese electronics manufacturer plans multiple devices, including tablets and phones, as part of a strategy to supply software and services along with hardware. [Read more]

Read more at CNET News

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Cortex-A9 SoC Targets Linux NAS Devices and 802.11ac Routers

Broadcom announced a system-on-chip aimed at network attached storage (NAS) devices and 802.11ac routers, supported by a Linux SDK. The StrataGX BCM5862x Series combines a single- or dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a Cortex-R5 based “FlexSPARX” ARM core designed to accelerate storage performance, and features a cryptographic accelerator and…

Broadcom announced a system-on-chip aimed at network attached storage (NAS) devices and 802.11ac routers, supported by a Linux SDK. The StrataGX BCM5862x Series combines a single- or dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor with a Cortex-R5 based “FlexSPARX” ARM core designed to accelerate storage performance, and features a cryptographic accelerator and dual 6Gbps SATA interfaces. The [...]

Read more at LinuxGizmos

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Attack of the Intel-powered Androids!

Several Android tablets running on Intel Clover Trail+ Atom processors broke cover at Computex Taiwan. Intel’s dual-core, 1.6GHz Atom Z5260 is fueling a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet, as well as Asus’s 6-inch Fonepad Note and 10-inch MemoPad FHD10 tablets, while Asus also unveiled a hybrid 11.6-inch Transformer Book…

Several Android tablets running on Intel Clover Trail+ Atom processors broke cover at Computex Taiwan. Intel’s dual-core, 1.6GHz Atom Z5260 is fueling a Samsung Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 tablet, as well as Asus’s 6-inch Fonepad Note and 10-inch MemoPad FHD10 tablets, while Asus also unveiled a hybrid 11.6-inch Transformer Book Trio, combining an Android slate [...]

Read more at LinuxGizmos

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ARM Aims Speedy, Power-Stingy Cortex-A12 at Mid-Range Mobiles

ARM announced a 28nm-fabricated Cortex-A12 processor design claimed to offer 40 percent higher performance than the Cortex-A9, while drawing the same power. The Cortex-A12 is paired with a power-efficient Mali-T622 GPU and Mali-V500 video coprocessor, and supports hybrid Big.Little SoC configurations in partnership with the Cortex-A7. Billed as a successor…

ARM announced a 28nm-fabricated Cortex-A12 processor design claimed to offer 40 percent higher performance than the Cortex-A9, while drawing the same power. The Cortex-A12 is paired with a power-efficient Mali-T622 GPU and Mali-V500 video coprocessor, and supports hybrid Big.Little SoC configurations in partnership with the Cortex-A7. Billed as a successor to the popular Cortex-A9 processor, [...]

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Freedreno Gallium3D Now Banging The Adreno A3XX

One month after Rob Clark began developing his Freedreno Gallium3D stack for Qualcomm’s Adreno A3xx hardware, he’s beginning to achieve visual success. While the code hasn’t yet been merged into mainline Mesa, on an A320 as found on the Google Nexus 4 he has es2gears (the OpenGL ES version of…

One month after Rob Clark began developing his Freedreno Gallium3D stack for Qualcomm’s Adreno A3xx hardware, he’s beginning to achieve visual success. While the code hasn’t yet been merged into mainline Mesa, on an A320 as found on the Google Nexus 4 he has es2gears (the OpenGL ES version of glxgears) successfully running on this open-source code…

Read more at Phoronix

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Jolla Prices First Sailfish OS Smartphone at €399 for a 2013 Launch

Jolla has just unveiled its first smartphone, which will go on sale this year for €399 (roughly $510). Running the company’s MeeGo-derived Sailfish OS, It features a 4.5-inch display, a dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, removable back covers, 16GB of onboard storage, and a microSD slot. According to Jolla, the…

Jollaphone_large

Jolla has just unveiled its first smartphone, which will go on sale this year for €399 (roughly $510). Running the company’s MeeGo-derived Sailfish OS, It features a 4.5-inch display, a dual-core processor, an 8-megapixel camera, removable back covers, 16GB of onboard storage, and a microSD slot. According to Jolla, the handset will be “compliant” with Android apps, although it’s not sure how many apps will be supported, nor is it clear where users will download the apps from.

 

Continue reading…

Read more at The Verge

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Android-on-Intel Accelerates as Clover Trail+ Devices Debut

Lenovo’s Android-based K900, the first phone to use Intel’s dual-core 2GHz “Clover Trail+” Atom Z2580 system-on-chip, began shipping in China, and ZTE announced a Z2580-based, 4.5-inch “Grand X2 In” aimed at Europe. Yet, Atom-based Android phones won’t truly shine until Intel’s “Merrifield” SOC arrives in early 2014 using Intel’s 28nm,…

Lenovo’s Android-based K900, the first phone to use Intel’s dual-core 2GHz “Clover Trail+” Atom Z2580 system-on-chip, began shipping in China, and ZTE announced a Z2580-based, 4.5-inch “Grand X2 In” aimed at Europe. Yet, Atom-based Android phones won’t truly shine until Intel’s “Merrifield” SOC arrives in early 2014 using Intel’s 28nm, Tri-Gate “Silvermont” architecture. The first [...]

Read more at LinuxGizmos

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First impressions of Leap Motion by Wong Liang Zan

blog.liangzan.net

Wong got hold of the Leap Motion hardware and SDK by participating in Leap Motion’s developer program. He was one the lucky few that was selected. A few weeks later, the Leap motion device was mailed to him, free of charge. It came in a dull black cardboard box. Within the box lies the device, a cable, and a card bearing a message from the founders.

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Wong’s Conclusion…

As I presented my demo to the local javascript meetup group, everybody was visibly excited by Leap Motion. Leap Motion is an amazing product. Invariably, we wondered what potential applications could be built on Leap Motion. Games are an obvious application. Minority report styled navigation is another. For a long time we have been stuck with the keyboard and mouse. Then touch devices exploded onto the scene. After playing with Leap Motion, I firmly believe it is the dawn of another era of gestures styled devices. I’m living in exciting times.

Development experience

Like a kid with a new toy, I was eager to build applications with it. I chose to try the Javascript API first. The Leap SDK runs a web socket server which allows the Javascript bindings to access the data. Usage of the API is boringly simple. It is an infinite loop which gives you a frame every iteration. The frame is a JSON object which contains the data on the pointers.

The first leap experiment I did was to replicate Mike Bostock’s D3.js particles. I got a trail of particles to follow each pointer.

Gestures naturally come to my mind. The SDK has no provision for gestues yet. I have to recognize it. And that is an Articifial Intelligence problem. I looked for gestures related libraries to build on. And I found the $1 unistroke recognizer. They had a Javascript implementation. I used it to recognize gestures in my next leap experiment. It worked. But it has caveats.

A gesture has a start and an end. Leap runs in an infinite loop. I had to define a start and end. In my gesture experiment, I defined 2 states: fist and point. The fist state literally means clenching into a fist. It acts as a blank state which I use to define the end points of the gesture movement. The point state means an extended finger. In that state, movement is captured. While my experiment is able to recognize gestures, it did not do so cleanly. When I change between a clenched fist to a pointing finger, there are some jitters unavoidably. That polluted my gesture shape. It is very hard to form a clean shape. There should be a better way to define the end point of a gesture.

Ubuntu Phone SDK Experiments

When we announced Ubuntu for phones on the 2nd January we also announced the developer preview of the SDK. The SDK includes QML and the Ubuntu Phone Components that provides a set of controls for building applications. It includes a comprehensive development environment. If you want to play with the developer preview, go and get it, then follow the tutorial, and be sure to ask questions if you get stuck. We have already been seeing some interesting experiments going on on the…

When we announced Ubuntu for phones on the 2nd January we also announced the developer preview of the SDK. The SDK includes QML and the Ubuntu Phone Components that provides a set of controls for building applications. It includes a comprehensive development environment.

If you want to play with the developer preview, go and get it, then follow the tutorial, and be sure to ask questions if you get stuck.

We have already been seeing some interesting experiments going on on the Ubuntu App Development Google+ Community with people writing applications and playing with the SDK developer preview. I just wanted to share some of this work here….Read more at jonobacon@home

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Linux for the Masses at CES 2013

Linux for the masses is here, and it made a big splash at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show.

The Consumer Electronics Show may have faded from its former glory, but it still offers a remarkable snapshot in time of embedded CE technology. The big smartphone vendors largely took a pass on CES, but plenty of second-tier vendors and Kickstarter projects were on hand with compelling offerings. Although many products floated here will never even reach market — often, what happens in Vegas does indeed stay in Vegas — a few may change your life.

Here we look at six major CES stories involving Linux or Android that you are not likely to forget by the time CES 2014 rolls around. (3D TV, anyone?) The list omits a host of other intriguing Linux-based products shown at CES, including the long-awaited, Android-ready OLPC XO-4 touch-enabled netbook, Corsair’s Linux-based Voyager Air NAS and wireless hub, and as we examined last week, the hackable, Linux-ready Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kit.

lego-ev3Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot kit

1. Android Game Consoles Get a Grip

Dedicated gaming devices continue to lose market share, but for the most part that’s because gamers are moving to multifunction TV devices like the Xbox, PC/online gaming, or increasingly, general purpose tablets and smartphones. Android is a major new target, and at CES, there were a number of Bluetooth-enabled game controller peripherals and gamepads designed to work with standard Android smartphones and tablets. These included PowerA’s Bluetooth-enabled Moga Pro and even a modified Game Boy device. For those looking for a more responsive and integrated gaming experience on Android, however, the star of the show was Nvidia’s Project Shield. Due in the second quarter, this integrated 5-inch clamshell console runs Android 4.2 on Nvidia’s newly announced, quad-core Cortex-A15 Tegra 4 chip. In addition to portable use, the device can be used as a standalone game controller, and can project Tegrazone and PC games, including Steam titles, on an HDTV.

More modestly appointed Android gaming devices were available in the form of tablets with controller/grip extensions including the dual-core, 7-inch Archos GamePad and the 10.1-inch, Tegra 3-based Wikipad. Out of Germany comes Snakebyte’s Unu, a tablet uses a separate controller and features “smart TV” chops.

Following in the Kickstarter steps of the much anticipated Ouya, the open source Android game console due this spring, comes PlayJam’s GameStick. gamestickGamestickOn Jan. 3, PlayJam announced it had reached its funding goal after only two days. Touted as being the ultimate in gamer portability, the device combines a controller with an Android HDMI stick.

2. Valve’s Steam Box to be Fitted for a Tux

While Android increasingly draws the attention of gamers, one of the most anticipated gaming systems — Valve’s upcoming Steam Box — is going to run Linux. In an interview with The Verge, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said that customers and partners may choose to use other operating systems, but Linux will be loaded on Valve’s own PC-like Steam Box. According to the ex-Microsofty and Windows 8 hater Newell, the Steam Box will likely include biometric interfaces and gaze tracking. It will also be able to act as a server to mirror games from Valve’s Steam distribution service to multiple screens in the house simultaneously, including TVs. Meanwhile, what appears to be the first Steam Box development system also broke cover. Xi3, which has been making Linux-ready, modular mini-PCs for years, joined with Valve to announce a new model based on its X7A system that will run Steam games on a quad-core AMD processor. The computer uses Valve’s Big Picture mode to enable Steam gameplay on TVs.

3. Roku Puts a little Linux in Every TV

Many of the high-end HDTVs and higher-end Ultra HD (4K) TVs shown at CES integrate Linux-based “smart TV” brains for Internet access. But that still leaves a large untapped market in the mid-range. In 2012, Roku started signing up TV vendors to offer the tiny, HDMI plug-in Streaming Stick version of Roku’s Linux-based media streamer as a smart TV option. This approach costs less compared to a smart TV, and offers the advantage of portability. In addition, as technology changes, users can upgrade to a new under-$100 stick instead of buying a new TV. At CES, Roku revealed six new “Roku Ready” partners in Coby, Harman Kardon, HiSense, TCL, Voxx, and Westinghouse. These partners join existing partners 3M, Element Electronics, Haier, Hitachi, Insignia, OPPO, Sumar, and TMAX Digital (Apex). Some of the vendors, including Westinghouse, are even fielding Ultra HD models. Roku also announced an expansion to 700 channels, including new casual gaming channels, and unveiled an agreement with Time Warner Cable to offer 300 channels of live TV. Now if only Roku would open up its platform to more developers, it might have something really special on its hands.

4. Google TV Goes Up for a Rebound

Google TV’s poor showing at CES 2012 suggested the Android-based ITV platform might be on shaky ground. Yet, Google TV showed signs of life in June with the announcement of LG’s first ARM-based Google TV offering. Google followed up with more partner announcements over the year, and at CES 2013 announced an expansion to nine partners overall. The new devices will offer an improved YouTube UI announced in November, which can pair to Android devices to run YouTube videos on TV.qubeASUS Qube At CES, new Google TV devices were launched from vendors including Bang & Olufsen, Panasonic, LG, and longtime supporter Sony. LG alone unveiled seven new Google TV televisions. In addition, Google announced devices will be arriving later this year from vendors including Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba, Vizio, and Western Digital. New Google TVs included a HiSense XT780 3D Smart TV and TCL’s 110-inch, Ultra HD MoVo. Stand-alone set-tops included a Google TV-based “Prime” version of Netgear’s Linux-based NeoTV media streamer, and a boxy-looking Asus Qube with voice control and motion sensing support.

5. Chinese Vendors Shine with Quad-Core Android 4.1 Smartphones

Samsung and other major smartphone and tablet vendors bypassed CES in favor of Barcelona’s Mobile World Congress or their own upcoming launches, leaving the limelight to emerging Chinese tech heavyweights. (The main non-Chinese exception in smartphones was Sony’s impressive looking 5-inch, HD-ready quad-core Xperia Z.)

While not too long ago Chinese vendors like ZTE and Huawei were largely relegated to the low- and mid-range of the market, and aimed primarily for local markets, they are now very much competitive at the top, and have launched high-end products in the U.S. and around the world. This dynamic duo is now being joined by other Chinese vendors like TCL (Alcatel) and HiSense. At CES, ZTE and Huawei both introduced phones that run Android 4.1 on quad-core processors, complete with 2GB of RAM and 1920 x 1080 HD displays. Like the Sony Xperia Z, they also feature the new must-have smartphone feature for 2013: a 13-megapixel camera.

The ZTE Grand S runs the 1.7GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro, and features a 6.9mm profile — a record for a five-inch phone, according to ZTE. Huawei instead uses its own 1.5GHz quad-core chip for its 5-inch Ascend D2. Huawei also showed off what appears to be the world’s largest Android smartphone, a monster 6.1-inch Ascend Mate phablet that has similar specs, but settles for an 8-megapixel camera. HiSense, which boldly inhabited Microsoft’s old booth at CES, showed off a relatively puny 4.5-inch U958 phone running Android 4.1 on a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Play. Other specs are more modest however, especially the 854 x 480 display. Finally, TCL launched the self-proclaimed “world’s thinnest smartphone,” the 6.45mm Alcatel One Touch Idol Ultra. The 4.7-inch phone runs Android 4.1 on a dual-core processor, but otherwise features better specs than the HiSense model.

6. Mobile Linux OSes Start Pushing their Pawns

We weren’t expecting many new developments from the new crop of mobile Linux distributions at CES, but as it turned out, several projects had news to share. The big news came from Canonical. Previously, the Ubuntu project sponsor had suggested a phone-ready version of Ubuntu wouldn’t appear until 2014, but at CES, the company showed off an early version of the interface, following a Jan. 2 announcement in London that the first Ubuntu Phones could appear by the end of the year.

ubuntuphoneUbuntu Phone

Both low-end dual-core and high-end quad-core Ubuntu Phone versions are envisioned, with both initially using ARM processors. An early SDK is already available, promising the ability to write a single app with both a phone and Ubuntu desktop interface. None of the other projects could match Ubuntu Phone’s launch, but prior to the start of CES, Samsung released a statement to CNET saying the company plans “to unveil competitive Tizen devices within this year,” with additional devices ready to go “based on market situations.” No additional information was available on its plans for the Linux Foundation hosted project, which also counts Intel as a major backer.

Not to be outdone, Mozilla demonstrated a Firefox OS developer phone at CES. Separately, ZTE told Bloomberg that in addition to the Telefonica phone heading to Brazil early this year, it is collaborating with an unnamed European carrier to field a Firefox OS phone in Europe. ZTE may even try a U.S. launch later this year, says Bloomberg. Separately, TCL also confirmed to the publication it would ship a Firefox OS phone this year. Jolla had no equivalent new announcements regarding its Meego-based Sailfish OS. However, on Dec. 29, the Finnish company released an eight-minute video demo of Sailfish with Engadget using a Nokia N950.

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Nokia: Yes, we decrypt HTTPS – but we don’t spy

Nokia’s Xpress browser redirects any data traffic through the company’s servers – even encrypted traffic. Nokia has confirmed that the data is decrypted in the process, but emphasised that it is secure regardless…

Nokia logoNokia has admitted that the Nokia Xpress browser redirects even encrypted HTTPS traffic through Nokia servers – and that the data is temporarily decrypted in the process. Indian security researcher Gaurang Pandya noticed the network traffic on his Nokia Asha phone – which is equipped with the Symbian Series 40 user interface – and proceeded to examine the Xpress browser, Opera’s “Mini” browser and the browser traffic on an older Nokia device. In a response to Pandya’s research, Nokia pointed out that the server decryption is secure…Read more at The H

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Android, Samsung Beat Apple

Android is taking over the world and according to comScore’s MobiLens survey, Samsung and Google are outstripping Apple.

Apple is slowly but steadily reciding to where it rightly belongs — a tiny niche corner in the tech world. Thanks to its arrogance and nonsense attitute towards competition. Google’s open source Android is taking over the world and according to comScore’s MobiLens survey, Samsung and Google are outstripping Apple.

The report says, “Google leads the pack in the EU5-markets, specifically in the U.K. and Germany. In Germany the number of smartphones using Google’s Android operating system rose by 138 over the year to nearly 52 percent…Read more at Muktware

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Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos hands-on (video)

When it comes to Samsung’s collection of large-screened phones, the Galaxy Note II (as well as the Galaxy S III) takes the bulk of the mindshare. And while that particular handset is the flagship, the company is still interested in branching out to a market segment that wants a large…

Samsung Galaxy Grand Duos handson When it comes to Samsung’s collection of large-screened phones, the Galaxy Note II (as well as the Galaxy S III) takes the bulk of the mindshare. And while that particular handset is the flagship, the company is still interested in branching out to a market segment that wants a large screen but needs to keep within a limited budget. Welcome the Galaxy Grand Duos (and Grand, a single-SIM version), a 5-inch WVGA device that will likely see most of its time in emerging markets. We had an opportunity to sit down with the Grand Duos for a few minutes, so keep your eyes peeled below for our impressions, as well as a photo gallery and video…Read more at Engadget Mobile

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Canonical Shakes Up Mobile with Ubuntu for Phones

Is the Ubuntu Phone a third wheel or a market-changer?

Prior to the start of 2013, it seems fair to say that there hadn’t been too many major shakeups in the world of mobile operating systems.

Multiple players had come and gone, to be sure, but the marketplace as a whole had really undergone more of a continuous evolution in the 15 or so years it had been around. The entrance of Google’s Android, in fact, was surely the biggest disruptive splash in its recent history, resulting in what’s effectively been a two-horse race ever since.

Ubuntu phone running the gallery app

Then 2013 arrived, and along with it Canonical’s Ubuntu for phones –not to mention the promise of Tizen phones from Samsung soon afterwards. Then, too, of course, there’s the prospect of devices running Firefox OS and Open webOS on the horizon as well.

“This is a very chaotic time in this industry,” wireless and telecom analyst Jeff Kagan told Linux.com.

Two Market Segments

Canonical’s proposition is essentially a single operating system for PC, phone and TV. Making use of all four edges of the screen, the new Ubuntu for phones is aimed at two distinct market segments, Canonical said: the high-end “superphone,” and the basic, entry-level smartphone.

Like the parallel Ubuntu for Android project–which will turn a standard Android phone into an Ubuntu PC when docked–Ubuntu phones will also be dockable, allowing them to deliver full PC capabilities.

Canonical has been on hand at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week to demonstrate the new technology, and a downloadable image of the upcoming system will reportedly be available in late February for the Galaxy Nexus device. True Ubuntu phones are not expected before the end of the year, however, and there’s no word yet as to which hardware makers or carriers will be involved.

“A Glimpse of the Future”

Much the way Android was greeted with considerable skepticism upon its arrival, so, too, have been Canonical’s Ubuntu plans.

“The Ubuntu phone doesn’t stand a chance,” proclaimed TechCrunch, for example.

“No, we don’t really need another smartphone OS,” asserted CNET.

“The Ubuntu phone has a speed problem, and I’m not talking about lag,” wrote The Verge.

“The Ubuntu smartphone (which no one will use) is a glimpse of the future,” opined CNN.

“We’ve known for some time that Canonical was working on a mobile version of its Ubuntu software; now that it is here, it marks some potential change and disruption in the mobile OS space,” Jay Lyman, a senior analyst with 451 Research, told Linux.com.

“Significant Competition”

In its favor, “Ubuntu is open source and flexible with other software, and it benefits from Ubuntu’s solid developer community and strength in cloud computing, which will help support mobile Ubuntu users in connectivity, storage and other capabilities,” Lyman explained.

In terms of challenges, however, “mobile Ubuntu’s success will hinge largely on hardware and carrier support,” he noted.

“The fact that Android was Linux-based may help any other Linux-based challenger in the mobile OS space, including Canonical with Ubuntu,” Lyman added. “Other challenges include monetization of the software and significant competition from the current heavyweights of the market–primarily Apple and Samsung, which is also ushering in some market disruption by working on Tizen-based smartphones.”

“We Are Just Starting the Journey”

Indeed, “as big an opportunity as Ubuntu is for Canonical, they will still be the salmon trying to swim upstream against the larger competitors,” Kagan warned. “They are in a very busy space with giants like Apple, Microsoft and Google up against them.”

Ubuntu phones side by side show the consistancy between different screens

At the same time, Canonical’s approach may well reflect a larger shift.

“Think about the way we use operating systems on separate devices like laptops, tablets and smartphones–they are all different,” Kagan explained. “As an industry we are just starting the journey to unite these different operating systems into one.”

The result will be a computing landscape in which “everything will work the same and store your information on the cloud,” he noted. “So even though these things may come from different segments, the operating system ties them all together. That’s the world that Canonical’s new Ubuntu plays in.”

Bottom line? “The computer and mobile world of tomorrow looks very different from the world we know today,” Kagan predicted. “What it will look like depends on who wins this new war.”

 

 

 

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The FOSS Effect on the Mobile OS Landscape in 2013

The year is starting out with what may turn out to be significant changes in the mobile operating system market, with open source software playing a significant role just as it has in enterprise software, virtualization and cloud computing. With fading heavyweights and interesting new challengers, there are changes afoot…

The year is starting out with what may turn out to be significant changes in the mobile operating system market, with open source software playing a significant role just as it has in enterprise software, virtualization and cloud computing. With fading heavyweights and interesting new challengers, there are changes afoot in the mobile OS market, but we must first acknowledge the market today is still mainly a duopoly of Apple with iOS and Samsung with Android…Read more at LinuxInsider

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Is Ubuntu Phone Doomed To Fail, As CNN Money Story Claims?

So, I don’t really think that Covert was right. There will be people who will use Ubuntu Phone, trust me. Only if Canonical can pull it all together well. I think they will. Sooner or later.

Mark Shuttelworth

So, I don’t really think that Covert was right. There will be people who will use Ubuntu Phone, trust me. Only if Canonical can pull it all together well. I think they will. Sooner or later…Read more at Muktware

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When Android Ate My Best Friends

It’s really OK to turn your phone off while we’re talking.

 Everyone has a cell phone these days. Out here in my little corner of the world, in a county that competes with the neighboring county for the poorest in the state, everyone can somehow afford smartphones with generous data plans. I have no idea what people’s eye colors are anymore, or if they even have eyes, because all I see are the tops of their headshorse-carriage-phone as they are bent over their tiny screens. This stuff is not cheap– I don’t know anyone whose monthly bite is under a hundred dollars. Which is why I have a cheapo TracFone, because I refuse to pay that much. Plus I like hoarding minutes, so I turn it off. I don’t have to be in constant contact with my eleventeen bestest friends at all times.

Michelle, Ma Bell

American telecoms are special beasts. Back in the olden days we had a single giant regulated monopoly, AT&T. Technological progress was non-existent, and stuck at a level barely above Alexander Graham Bell’s original prototype. We could not own our telephones, but had to lease them from the phone company, which made those old phones some of the most valuable hardware in existence because we kept paying for them year after year after year. We could not add extensions, or attach any other equipment. The one upside was rock-solid service, which set American telephone service apart from most other countries, where unreliability was the norm.

File:Candlestick phone.JPGWestern Electric candlestick phone.

Then Ma Bell was broken up and we got competition, sort of. We never got a choice of carriers for local service, but long distance became competitive. Though again only sort-of, because in-state calls cost more than cross-country calls, and other oddities. Now with mobile phones everywhere a lot of people don’t even bother with land lines, and they’e all happy at getting free long distance, even though it’s not really free and they’re paying a lot more. But even though mobile service costs more, it includes more, like worse call quality and no-service areas. I estimate that 40% of all cell traffic is “What? Are you there? Hello? What?”

When We Dialed Telephones

Where was I going with all this? Oh yeah, ubiquity. My grandmother had a single black dial telephone, and it sat on a special table next to a chair in her entry hall. A phone call was a bit of an event– she couldn’t Web surf while half-listening, or watch TV, or go shopping, or put people on hold and juggle multiple calls. She had conversations, one at a time. She couldn’t just pick up and call someone when she felt like it because she was on a party line. That is a shared phone line, which meant everyone who shared the line could eavesdrop on your calls. When I grew up the other giant time- and attention-pit-of-suck, television, was not yet everywhere, and a lot of our friends did not have TVs. So when we got together we talked to each other. With eye contact and everything.

Now we’re all proud that Android dominates mobile phones, rah rah Linux. Little kids have their own phones, and again I marvel at how much people are willing to pay for their mobile fix. Sure, for some it’s a necessity, but in my somewhat humble opinion most of the time it’s more akin to an addiction. It’s like the rats that push the button that stimulates the pleasure centers of their brains, and then starve to death because they won’t push the food button. Humans just plain love to push buttons, and are willing to pay top dollar for the privilege– vending machines, video poker, serial channel-surfing on the TV, mobile phones; give them buttons to push and they’re happy for hours.

Woa, you might be thinking, get off the grumpy train, because mobile phones are useful tools! And you are right. But I’m still going to be grumpy at people who won’t turn them off when we’re visiting or doing an activity together. You File:Androids.svgknow those people who have to answer the phone no matter what they’re doing? Showering, sleeping, birthing babies? They’re a thousand times worse with mobile phones. In the olden days it was considered rude to leave the TV on when people came to visit. Unless they came to watch a program, of course. Remember when call waiting was all new and special? And an insult, like whoever you were talking to was hoping someone better than you would interrupt your call. Now the phone is the TV, along with a million other interruptions, distractions, delights, and portability. We can’t escape the things.

Thinking. No Really.

One of the things I love about computer nerds is most of them understand the need for long stretches of uninterrupted time to think, and to concentrate deeply on a task. It is impossible to master a new skill or solve a problem when you’re skittering randomly from one activity to the next, never engaging more than the bare surface of your consciousness. It’s unsatisfying, because you never accomplish anything. Multi-tasking is a myth. It is the very rare human who can perform two or more tasks at once. A “multi-tasker” is someone who juggles http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/c/c6/PET-image.jpg/212px-PET-image.jpgPET image of a live brainmultiple chores and does a poor job at all of them. I prefer total immersion: full attention and no distractions.

Magic happens in your brain when you achieve that state of total focus. It’s almost a meditative state. Obstacles fall away and your path become wide and clear. It’s as though you’re forging new neural pathways and amping up your brainpower. Single-tasking has superpowers.

When Television Ate My Best Friend

The more things change, the more they stay the same, so please enjoy Linda Ellerbee’s classic When Television Ate My Best Friend:   

“At last I knew what had happened to Lucy. The television ate her.  It must have been a terrible thing to see. Now my parents were thinking of getting one. I was scared. They didn’t understand what television could do.”

Beginning Android Programming

Pushing buttons is fun, and building the buttons is a million times more fun. Try Juliet Kemp’s excellent introduction to Android programming:

Android Programming for Beginners: Part 1

Android Programming for Beginners: Part 2

Image Credits

All images courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Horse, Carriage, Cell Phone, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

Candlestick Phone, public domain

Drunken Androids, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

PET-image, public domain

 

 

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BBC’s first companion app brings Antiques Roadshow quizzes to Android, iOS

Over in the UK TV interaction has a wider history thanks to Red Button services, and the BBC is finally coming through on its promise to join that experience with the internet as it launches its first companion app on iOS and Android. Previously tested in beta with Frozen Planet and Secret Fortune airings, these apps let Antiques Roadshow viewers compete against others — whether in the same room or across the country — as they try to guess the…

BBC's first companion app arrives tied to Antiques Roadshow, brings quizzes to iOS and AndroidOver in the UK TV interaction has a wider history thanks to Red Button services, and the BBC is finally coming through on its promise to join that experience with the internet as it launches its first companion app on iOS and Android. Previously tested in beta with Frozen Planet and Secret Fortune airings, these apps let Antiques Roadshow viewers compete against others — whether in the same room or across the country — as they try to guess the value of items displayed on the show. Will that be exciting enough to pull viewers away from whatever the UK equivalent of Sons of Anarchy or The Walking Dead is? Maybe not, but a Red Button version launched last fall netted 1.5 million users right off the bat, and the Beeb expects to build on that more by moving to mobile devices…Read more at Engadget Mobile

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