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Showing posts from April 2, 2017

Spotify Effectively Kills Windows Phone App

Spotify has put its Windows phone app into maintenance mode, a post on the company's support website has revealed. The news, discovered by MSPoweruser effectively kills the Spotify service for Windows phone users. In itself it's neither surprising nor an unreasonable thing for Spotify to do. Of the streaming service's one hundred million users how many do you think are on Windows phones? Not as many as a year ago I'll wager. Some of that will be down to a preference for Groove Music, but mostly it's down to the rate at which users are leaving the platform that Microsoft abandoned.The only thing to wonder about now is how long before the remaining big name applications abandon the platform.

JD Power Says Surface Owners Are The Happiest Tablet Buyers

Owners of Microsoft's Surface devices are more likely to be happy with their tablets than owners of either Apple or Samsung tablets, a survey by respected consumer satisfaction organisation JD Power has found.
That's an important victory for the Surface, given Apple's current hefty iPad advertsising campaign and introduction of new, cheaper iPads.
Microsoft's claims that the Surface is able to deliver a full PC experience in a tablet device have been validated by both customer demand and the speed with which the competition has replicated the solution. 
For Apple this is more confirmation that its resistance to a hybrid device based around Mac OS, or a convergence of Mac OS and iOS, is the wrong stance.

Surface Pro Loans To Address Airline Laptop Ban - But Be Careful

A number of airlines affected by the laptop bans put into place by the US, UK and Australia are turning to loan machines to prevent business and first class customers from losing out on valuable working (or entertainment) time whilst in the air.
Emirates will be loaning passengers Surface Pro 4 devices, whilst Qatar has only stated it will loan laptops and tablets.
Passengers who take up the offer need to be aware of the risks they're taking using a shared machine. The only thing it will be safe to assume is that security on these machines is compromised.
That means anything you do on the machine is an open book to the person responsible for compromising the device. Key loggers, man in the middle session interception, unauthorised certificate authorities, all of these are easily implemented and leave you and your information wide open for exploitation.

Emirates is even encouraging passengers to bring USB drives with their data in order to carry on working on their loan machines. …

Smartphone Pricing - Does Price Growth Reflect Capability?

Back in 2008, when the iPhone 3G launched, Apple and O2 would sell you one for £299. Now the iPhone was severely limited in its capabilities and didn't even have much of a software catalogue to start with but, compared to its modern equivalent, did it offer value for money?
The entry-level iPhone 7 costs £599, more than twice the price. For that you get four times the storage, more RAM and a bigger, more dense screen. The camera has been upgraded  and a front camera added. There's a fingerprint sensor for logging in and a pressure sensitive screen for no real reason at all. The new phone is waterproof - although Apple won't warrant it against water damage - and it has lost its headphone jack.
In terms of hardware it doesn't feel like a significant jump in value - in fact the reverse is probably true.
When you look at the software though, it's a very different matter. Apple has added significant capability to the iPhone and third-party developers have added even mo…

Citroën H Panel Van Comes Back To Life For 70th Anniversary

The Citroën H Van is as iconic a vehicle at the Traction Avant, 2CV and DS. It is part of a history that makes Citroën such and endearing marque.
Now thanks to a collaboration between David Obendorfer and Italian customiser FC Automobili the H Van comes back to life as a extensive reworking of the modern Citroen Jumper van.
Unfortunately the run will be limited to seventy vans, assembled in Italy. However I can't help but feel that Citroën should jump on this and make it an official option. It would certainly crash every other light van manufacturer out of the food truck market if nothing else.

Is Microsoft About To Kill Windows 10 Mobile For Even More Lumias

Microsoft has been going out of its way to kill its mobile business ever since Windows 10 arrived. First it limited the number of devices which would receive the update, then it killed its hardware business and orphaned its users.
Now, according to Mary-Jo Foley on ZDNet, it will limit the Windows 10 Mobile Creators Update to just eleven handsets. Of those seven are oddball, niche or Japan-specific devices. Of the Lumia devices that make up the vast majority of Windows phones there will be just four receiving the latest platform upgrade: 640/XL, 550, 650 and 950/XL.
There seems to be no logical reason why handsets like the 735, 930 and 1520 won't get the upgrade. In fact the only differentiating factor between the two groups of devices seems to be the presence of a Microsoft logo on one and a Nokia one on the other.
The suggestion being that this is Microsoft indulging in some planned obsolescence. At the expense of loyal customers.
Pretty sure they won't be loyal after this.…

Error 53 Leads Apple To Australian Watchdog Action

Australia's Competion and Consumer Commission has instigated action against Apple for failing to honour warranties on products having received third-party repairs, in contravention of the country's consumer law.
The action was sparked after Apple blocked iPhones with non-authorised Touch ID sensors from running iOS, presenting users with the infamous Error 53. Apple backed down and restored access, but not before the ACCC had instigated an investigation into the company's practices.
The ACCC has allegedly determined that at least 275 consumers had their rights breached by Apple, an action which could prove expensive for Apple, with the damages up to a quarter of a billion Australian dollars possible.
What the outcome will be remains in doubt. This is the same commission that sided with Apple in its battle with the banks last week. Apple also escaped action four years ago, when the ACCC accused it of failing to comply with the law for the replacement or refund of faulty pr…

Promise Of Convergence Not Enough To Save Ubuntu Touch, Canonical Pulls Plug

In terms of column inches to delivered devices, Ubuntu Touch has all other smartphone platforms on the ropes. We seem to have been talking about the Ubuntu Unity8 desktop / mobile convergence for years, indeed it was announced way back in 2013. Two years before Microsoft launched Continuum.

Canonical has now announced the cessation of development of the mobile version of its platform.

I'd be inclined to say that a desktop convergence mode is the kiss of death and doesn't bode well for the Samsung Galaxy S8, but Ubuntu Touch had problems all of its own. The promise of external connectivity through Unity8 was the best that Ubuntu Touch had to offer, very little else materialised to give the platform a hope.

Convergance never actually made it to a shipping phone - of which there were few enough. The sum total of phones to have made it to market with Ubuntu is four - two from BQ and two from Meizu. There's a single tablet, also from BQ. Whilst some Android phones could have U…

Displaymate Tests Galaxy S8, Ranks It Number One

There's a fairly standard thing that happens twice a year, when Samsung launches a new flagship device. DisplayMate, that most scientific of display reviewers, puts the new device's screen under the microscope and declares it the best ever.
There's a good reason for this of course. Each time Samsung lets a new Galaxy S or Note out into the world it manages to improve on what has gone before.
This year the Galaxy S8 manages to not only keep that record intact, but also to deliver a sizeable leap ahead of the Note 7 screen, the previous display king.
Which makes Samsung's decision to supply Apple with its latest and greatest screen technology even more perplexing. We are not talking about Sony here, which seems to build handsets only to showcase its advances in camera performance and quality to other OEMs. This is Samsung, Apple's number one rival and direct competitor for the smart phone market top slot.
Selling the crown jewels in order to feed on the s craps f…

If A Psion Series 5 Existed Today Would You Own One?

This is the Psion Series 5, a handheld computer which was the ultimate expression of Psion's vision for a PDA. Launched in 1997, long before smartphones were a thing and a whole decade before the iPhone, Psion built a machine which focused on some very specific use cases, and then delivered on them brilliantly.
It turned out that Psion was fighting a losing battle though, customers wanted vertical screens and pocketable devices like those from Palm. When Palm launched the impossibly small Palm V the battle between keyboards and pen was over. Touchscreens would ultimately triumph and today it's possible to trace a design heritage between just about every smartphone and the Palm V.
The keyboard / landscape design didn't die easily. Nokia built a line of Communicator devices around Symbian (which was the updated version of the Psion's EPOC operating system) whilst HTC built a number of devices similar in concept for its carrier partners, most famously the HTC Universal.

Samsung Hammered For Tizen Security Flaws

Samsung's smart device OS, Tizen, which powers a range of IoT, TV, phone and smartwear products has been handed an absolute spanking by security researcher Amihai Neiderman. 
Reported in Motherboard magazine Neiderman calls Tizen the worst code he has ever seen, demonstrating a lack of basic understanding of security concepts and riddled with the sort of schoolboy errors that mark out a lack of experience in the coding team.
The errors are in newer parts of the Tizen code and do not stem from the Intel legacy code or Badawi, Tizen's direct ancestors. Neiderman was able to identify 40 zero day vulnerabilities in his testing.
A better case for Samsung sticking with Android across its range of electronics I cannot make. The failure of Samsung (and others) to understand the complexities of software aren't new nor are they easily fixed. Handing off platform development to a third party with specialist knowledge is just basic common sense. 
Samsung just got over the Note 7 deba…

Is Apple Music Really So Terrible?

Apple Music has been rather less of a success than I, and probably many at Apple thought. Given the huge installed iOS user base, strong customer loyalty and a heritage in the iPod that suggests strong links to music listening, it wasn't a difficult call to say that Spotify was toast. Yet here we are, nearly a couple of years down the line and Apple Music appears to be fading away from Spotify, which continues to pick up users at a faster rate, consolidating its place as number one in the market. So a report from Verto last week (who?) which suggested that Apple had a massive lead in mobile streaming just doesn't seem to add up. Based on a survey of 20,000 users Verto reported the Apple had more than 40 million users on mobile devices, both iPhones and iPads. That rather jibes with the most recent subscriber numbers Apple reported - 20 million, or a 100% discrepancy. Either Apple Music had a lot of non paying users or Verto's counting methods are suspect. Given Verto's…

Apple Will Fix The Mac Pro - Next Year

Apple picked a handful of its most friendly bloggers to meet the big guns yesterday, having them with the news of a speed bump for Mac Pro's, an all new Mac Pro lineup next year, and updated iMacs and Apple monitor ranges.Why did the ever so famously 'tight lipped on new products' company feel the need to do this? Probably because a regular announcement would have had them drowned in derision. It's clear evidence that Apple really did forget about its desktop using Pro's for the two years. Phil Schiller, Craig Ferderighi and John Ternus spoke about the reasons behind the updates to the Mac Pro and its replacement.That amounted to an admission that sounded like 'we thought we could rely on our Pro community to buy any old crap, based on their strong loyalty. Turns out they won't and we've had to hustle together a backup plan that we're trying to frame as a good thing by using our favorite cheerleading team'.Apple backed themselves into a corner b…

F1: Wehrlein Misses Out In China, Giovinazzi To Pilot Sauber Once More

Mercedes protogé Pascal Wehrlein isn't having the greatest of years. Having suffered this clumsy accident in the Race of Champions, he was prevented from training thanks to an injury to his back. Consequently he also missed the first round of pre-season testing with his Sauber team.
Although he did take part in the second round of testing - completing close to two hundred laps in the process, Wehrlein's training regime had been disrupted and, after taking part in the two free practice sessions on the Friday of the Australian Grand Prix, he reportedly told Sauber that he wasn't fit enough to cope with the demands of a full race.

Ferrari reserve driver Antonio Giovinazzi deputised and acquitted himself admirably, eventually running to a comfortable twelfth place, having qualified just behind the team's lead driver Marcus Ericsson.

Aside from the big hitters, it was Giovinazzi who impressed most with his efforts in Melbourne. Jumping into the car in Free Practice 3 he qu…

APFS: Is This The Canary For A New iPad Direction

New versions of Mac OS, iOS and Watch OS arrived from Apple this week and aside from some minor tweaks it centred around one key area: upgrading and standardising the file system used across all Apple devices.
The new solution, APFS, is a key part of a future Apple strategy which prioritises iOS over Mac OS, and in particular the iPad over MacBooks.

Apple probably felt it needed to upgrade HFS+ on the Mac, it is almost twenty years old after all. The version used in iOS is a significant variation of the desktop product.

Bringing the various platforms together on one file system seems like the first step on the road which ends in convergence. A Mac OS / iOS hybrid for example, along the lines of Windows 8, would be able to utilise the common file system to access the same files, storage and structures whichever platform was in control.

Previously the difference in the way that iOS and Mac OS managed disk encryption would have made that impossible.

It seems a very small indication of c…

Did Synaptics Delays Force A Late Galaxy S8 Redesign

Two stories have leaked over the last two days which seem significant and clearly linked. Firstly we are seeing prototypes of the Galaxy S8 featuring a dual camera setup and no rear mounted fingerprint sensor. Secondly we're hearing that Samsung made significant investment in Synaptics behind the screen fingerprint reader over the last twelve months.
Logic would suggest that the failure to get the fingerprint reader working reliably and in volume meant Samsung had to rearrange the back of its new phone to accommodate a fingerprint sensor instead of a second camera setup.
That would certainly explain the awkward positioning of the sensor.
Given the Iris sensor on the S8, which we know works quickly and reliably from our (all too brief) experience of it on the Galaxy Note 7, I wonder why Samsung didn't take the opportunity to ditch the fingerprint sensor completely?
In all likelihood we'll see the new Synaptics behind the screen fingerprint sensor on the Note 8 when it arri…

PowerVR Just Got Sherlocked

One of the key factors in the performance of Apple iOS devices is the snappy graphics chips it uses. The PowerVR GPU is a product of British company Imagination. Now it appears that Apple is going its own way on GPU design and manufacture and Imagination is out in the cold.
The news was announced by Imagination Technologies as part of its duty to shareholders and the Stock Market in general. Apple consumes a disproportionate percentage of Imagination's output and the news has significant bearing on the company's long term financial prospects.
Imagination's stock is crashing. To the point where Apple could conceivably purchase the company for a song.
Whether it does or doesn't it has quite effectively gutted the company and left it open for a takeover from somebody.
In the meantime Imagination is making threats about patent abuse and the adoption of its technologies, without licensing fees, in the iPhone 9.
Seems likely this could go one of three ways. Imagination'…

Australian Banks Lose Ability To Collectively Lobby For iPhone NFC Access

A group of Australian banks have been lobbying the country's Competition and Consumer Commission for the right to negotiate collectively with Apple for access to the NFC chip which enables contactless payments.
Aside from ANZ, none of the big Australian banks have adopted Apple Pay, claiming that prevent access to the NFC chip in the iPhone puts them at a competitive disadvantage in developing their own payment apps.
The attempt to bargain collectively was rejected on the basis that Apple competes with Android by offering customers a closed system and forcing the company to give the banks access would damage its competitiveness in the smartphone market.
The argument has imapcted on the roll out of Apple Pay for Australian and New Zealand customers. Even ANZ, which broke the cartel and started offering Apple Pay to its customers late last year, hasn't been quick to market with its offering. ANZ's GoMoney wallet offered contactless payments on Android phones a year earlier.

Samsung's S8 Two Piece Cover Is Bizarre, But In A Good Way

Samsung's new S8 is impressively well designed, looks and feels premium and manages to put itself into pole position at the head of the smartphone pack.
Samsung's Two Piece cover for the S8 is a rather more eccentric piece of design.
Now there has been some pretty strong invective directed at Samsung for this case design, which to my eyes looks all kinds of wrong. That rather misses the point of the case though. Samsung has a whole range of cases for the S8, including some really quite brilliant playthrough cases, as well as more traditional covers.
The Two Piece cover is aimed at a very different market - probably young and certainly concerned with everything to do with their looks. With that target market in mind this case actually looks pretty good.
So good on Samsung for doing something different and aimed at a different group of users. It would be a sad, sad world if everyone liked the same things. The two-piece case may have a small market, but it's a market that de…

HP's Elite x3 All But Worthless Compared To Samsung S8, DeX

When Microsoft and HP unveiled the Elite x3 it was a product witha razor-like focus on enterprise. Here was Microsoft's admission of defeat in the consumer space, but also a defiant offering for enterprise customers: the best enterprise experience was still to be found on a Windows phone.
That offering was very much based on the utility of Windows 10 Mobile's Continuum capability. Your phone could be your desktop or your laptop.
Which sounds great for enterprise customers until you discover just how limited Continumm is. HP acknowledged this with its very expensive app virtualisation offering, which promised to address application shortcomings. 
The arrival of the Galaxy S8 and DeX dock destroys the Elite x3's credibility in the enterprise space. Not only does Android make it a more usable phone, but Samsung's DeX environment is significantly more flexible than Continuum, runs Office apps full screen and supports true enterprise virtualisation solutions like Citrix wi…

Dumb Kodak Pitch Has Serious Message Underlying Scaremongering Tactics

This 'hilarious' stunt pulled by Kodak to promote its Moments app, pretends to wipe user phones and cloud storage on the pretext of showing how important it is to print your photos.
It's a piece of nonsense. The likelihood of an app or bug being able to wipe your local and cloud storage is so slim as to be immeasurable.
However it does highlight that some smartphone users may not be taking sensible steps to back up photos and documents on their devices.
If you don't already have them install Google Photos and Microsoft Onedrive on your smartphone and set them to backup all your files to the cloud. Do not rely on iCloud. If you're risk averse you might want to consider backing them up to a PC regularly too. This is especially important for your photos, which often contain moments that can't be recreated. Cloud backups are seamless. A local backup to your PC takes a couple of minutes. Do it. Now.
Printing photos en masse however, is senseless, environmentally un…

Samsung Teams Up With Bear Grylls For Gear S3 Frontier Ad

Samsung's Gear S3 is probably the best smartwatch you can buy right now. The Frontier edition adds a touch of ruggedness to that offering. So who better to get to hawk it in an advert than Bear Grylls?
Of course based on past experience of celebrities Samsung has paid to endorse their products, Grylls is almost certainly going to photographed wearing an Apple Watch any day now.
Still, who knew about getting fire from ice?

Microsoft Edition Galaxy S8 Is The Brick Wall Windows Mobile Is Heading Into

Microsoft will sell a special edition of the new Samsung Galaxy S8 through its online stores. An extension of the previous agreement between the two companies, which saw Microsoft's apps pre-installed on the S6, S7 and also the regular S8; the Microsoft Edition S8 will receive Microsoft customisations at first boot.
This is almost certainly going to involve replacing much of Google's software with Microsoft's as the default choice. Outlook for email, Onedrive for the cloud and most interestingly Cortana for voice search.
Cortana has grown in capability in its Android version and could, in theory, replace Google Assistant as the default voice tool on your Android phone.
The S8 is a bit different though. It packs Samsung's own Bixby intelligent agent, which promises to move the game on in very specific areas. Is Microsoft going to tie the Bixby button to Cortana by default? Seems unlikely Samsung would allow that, or customers would appreciate it. However bringing the t…

Formula E Shaping Up For Another Buemi - Di Grassi Championship Battle

Round four of the 2016-17 Formula E Championship saw last season's runner-up Lucas Di Grassi break reigning champion Sebastian Buemi's three race winning streak and narrow the points gap to just five. The Mexico race was the first time the Renault e.dams team has looked anything less than unbeatable all season.
There's a long way to go until the season finale double header in Canada, but the prospect of a Buemi - Di Grassi showdown in Montreal is mouth-watering. Last season's London finale ended in a first lap collision between the two protagonists, resulting in an all out battle for fastest lap for the precious to seal the title.
Buemi prevailed and was then publicly and highly critical of Di Grassi. The latter protested his innocence and had a right to feel hard done by anyway, given his victory in this same race last season was ultimately taken away after his car was found to be underweight. Those lost 25 points more than enough to ensure the championship win.