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HP (Re-)Announces a 14" Android Laptop

Zigurd Product definition, they're doing it wrong (121 comments)

> Android is "a lot cheaper for HP to implement in a laptop; ChromeOS, in contrast, comes with more stringent system requirements that would cost HP a bit more."

It looks like sweet hardware. They may have good intentions re costs. But that's not how to define a product. The laptop form factor works against the touch interface by putting the screen just a little too far away. It also completely destroys the ability to hold a device like a sheaf of paper or clipboard.

The other side of the coin is that a browser-based UI is well-suited to using a pointing device instead of (or in addition to) touch.

Could have been a great Chromebook.

about 7 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Is Making Government More Open and Connected a Good Idea?

Zigurd Loopy logic leaps (73 comments)

Going from "open government" to "outsourcing" is a non sequitur meant to set up a straw man. It is outsourcing that results in private firms treating government data as proprietary, and it is this kind of outsourcing that open government initiatives seek to avoid.

It's a long piece. Tl;dr: Think tank wonk mistakes Tim O'Reilly for a technolibertarian and turgidly tilts at windmills of his own invention.

about a year and a half ago

Ubuntu For Tablets Announced

Zigurd Re:Android app compatability? (148 comments)

Android app compatibility is available for Linux in several forms: You can install an Android distro in a virtualization container, Canonical's "Ubuntu for Android," Open Mobile's ACL (disclosure, I used to be CTO there), and others.

My view of the best way to do this (and not surprising that this is how Open Mobile does it) is that Android can be integrated into "foreign" desktop environments as if it were a Java SE-like runtime environment.

As for how I would want to use Ubuntu on a tablet, I would put it on a powerful tablet such as those Windows 8 will be shipping on. Then I can have my Android development tools in a tablet form factor, and I can run an x86 Android build in a VM or QEMU for testing/debugging.

about 2 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Advice For Getting Tech Career Back On Track

Zigurd One word for you... (232 comments)

Learn Android programming. While this advice is well-founded in personal experience, it may also be slightly self serving.

about 2 years ago

Another Call For Abolishing Patents, This One From the St. Louis Fed

Zigurd The right to a patent monopoly is not fundamental (315 comments)

The right to a patent monopoly is not a fundamental human right.

The US Constitution is written with a specific sense regarding rights. It grants no rights because it takes the point of view that you have human rights, with, or without any government's say so. Instead, the Constitution grants powers to the government.

The right to a patent monopoly is not one of the rights the Constitution assumes you have. That's because, in the eyes of the authors of that document, it's not really a basic human right. Instead, the government is explicitly empowered to grant patent and copyright monopolies. And that power is conditional: "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

If it isn't functioning as intended, is it still legitimate?

more than 2 years ago

Curiosity Rover Fires First Laser Beam At Martian Rock

Zigurd I, for one... (167 comments)

We've put on Mars a large machine that blasts the landscape with a heat ray. A heat ray. And we have set the example that such a machine can be robotic, and impervious to microbes. That's sure to end well.

more than 2 years ago

MIT Creates Car Co-Pilot That Only Interferes If You're About To Crash

Zigurd A servant, or a lifeguard? (238 comments)

Is this some kind of weird expression of the New England work ethic? Make the driver work just as hard as ever, but should he ever falter, a superior system kicks in and saves his ass?

If I have a computer that can handle emergencies more reliably than I can, surely it can handle the mundane more reliably, too.

more than 2 years ago

An Android Tablet Victory May Be Problematic For Free Software

Zigurd Trending in the right direction, room to improve (208 comments)

The trend in Android has been, up to now, in the right direction.

For example, the Android Open Source Project originally did not have a development platform build target or reference hardware. Now it does. That means you can take the entire Android Open Source Project and built it and run it, instead of having to "root" a commercial device and port Android to that device before you can start playing with Android on real hardware.

It is in Google's interest to make Android progressively easier to port because Google wants faster and more-consistent updates to Android across all the OEMs using Android. A vibrant and useful AOSP is important to that goal.

Moreover, when faced with a competitor using the Android Open Source Project to build a competing platform and support a competing ecosystem, Google did nothing to thwart AOSP, or to make it harder for Amazon to use AOSP.

Android is partly-open because Google uses a suite of applications and services that are not open source to create commercial Android products with the Google Logo, and OEMs and carriers add their own software to products. There may be room in the market for a more-open mobile OS that isn't tied to big e-commerce ecosystems. Tizen might be one such system, and Jolla might bring Meego back. If those systems prove to be more open, and under less pressure to provide exclusivity to their sponsors, they could turn out to provide truly open, hackable communications devices.

Open communications devices, with open hardware and software, are important because they would enable communications privacy, among other qualities.

more than 2 years ago

Dark Days Ahead For Facebook and Google?

Zigurd Mistaking Android versus Google's Android apps (215 comments)

The article mistake's Google's lack of direct revenue from Android with revenue of all the different products Google delivers over Android and other mobile OSs. The money-making parts of Google deliver apps to Android, iOS, and other mobile platforms, and make money from those apps.

Facebook has a greater challenge, and is off to a later start, but you have to ask if that's really a worry, compared with getting the mobile launch right. Facebook faces very little competition. Other than Google+, there are no social networks that have an in-house phone OS. The mobile Google+ app is among the least well-executed mobile apps among all of Google's products.

Amazon has shown it's possible to have a successful product entry with a mobile device, even with Android and iOS as competitors. Facebook has a large ecosystem, like Amazon. There is no reason to think Facebook's mobile market window is closing. On the other hand, if Facebook were to ship a "Kin"-like flop, that would set them back substantially.

If a Facebook mobile device is coming, Facebook has every incentive to wait until it is done right.

more than 2 years ago

Why Linux Can't 'Sell' On the Desktop

Zigurd I am a truck driver (1091 comments)

I am one of the people Steve Jobs said would continue to need a fully general-purpose computer, which he compared to people who need to drive a truck. I make software for a living, and Linux is a great platform for software development. The point Jobs was making is that it isn't appropriate to try to make personal computers as simple to use as mobile devices. And while ease of use has many virtues for both the mainstream consumer and the "truck driver," ultimately, the way products are designed will diverge.

Android is the consumer's Linux. Android took the step of discarding much of the Linux userland and starting afresh, with a software platform that is both powerful, and designed for finger-friendly mobile devices. That turned out to be a very successful approach. Trying to evolve a desktop OS to do what Android and iOS do is very difficult, and there are no successful examples. Microsoft has repeatedly tried to make Windows work on tablets, and failed repeatedly. It's an open question if Windows 8, even though it contains a finger-friendly UI system, can straddle the two worlds without creating situations where the user is dumped into finger-hostile territory at inopportune times.

While making desktop Linux more user-friendly remains a worthy goal, it may turn out that Windows 8 is a cautionary example: When the world is dividing into PCs for people who really need them, and mobile devices that are a radical step forward in ease of use, trying to be both at once could result in being neither fish nor fowl.

more than 2 years ago

History Repeats Itself: KDP Select Is Amazon.com's 'Payback For Playback'

Zigurd Looks a bit like Safari (70 comments)

Subscription services for books like Safari Books Online http://my.safaribooksonline.com/9781449309473 already "loans" books with a model like this. They pay out from a pool based on the number of times a book is selected from their library. Of course a single use isn't going to pay out as much as a purchase, but the alternative is for a Safari-like subscription library to buy a single copy, or as many copies as would be used simultaneously, and do license management. And that opens the whole DRM can of worms.

An open-ended revenue model can be advantageous to authors of frequently-read books.

more than 2 years ago

Why Can't We Put a BASIC On the Phone?

Zigurd Android programming is expressive and elegant (783 comments)

Java is much complained about, on the one hand by people who think it is too hard, and on the other hand by people who think it is not sufficiently expressive. But the evidence is you can build a world-beating OS with a Java userland. And evidently it isn't urgent to augment or replace Java, either with more expressive JVM languages like Scala, or supposedly simpler languages available for the JVM like the BASIC-like Jabaco, even though this could be done for Android since the translation to Dalvik bytecode is downstream of compiling into Java bytecode.

Java has great static code analysis tooling and great refactoring. There are books like Thinking in Java and Effective Java that will make you fluent in the idioms that make Java understandable, debuggable, and maintainable. For a programming beginner I'd suggest Learning Android and Head First Java. Android's documentation, tutorials, and examples are enormously improved since Android first came out.

Every language has screws, but a good case can be made that Java has fewer of them than many other languages.

more than 2 years ago

Have Walled Gardens Killed the Personal Computer?

Zigurd Too many personal computers (848 comments)

Think about the phrase "personal computer."

How many people do you know who really need a completely general-purpose computer that they own and control personally?

How many "PCs" are actually nodes in a centrally controlled system, and not "personal" at all?

Because of the economics of making "PCs," we have the illusion that hundreds of millions of people buy and use "personal computers" each year. In reality, a minority, possibly a small minority, of those people actually take advantage of anything those "PCs" do that would require personal control over a general-purpose computer.

This is the reason mobile devices that are not quite "personal computers" are rightly popular. They serve the actual need. Hopefully, it will be possible to use mobile devices as if they were personal computers, so that the potential of personal computers can be applied to a networked, mobile world.

about 3 years ago

Ask Slashdot: Could We Deal With the End of Time Zones?

Zigurd The time is now for decimal time (990 comments)

This is a great proposal. I would no longer make mistakes about a meeting in another time zone changing to local time for an in-person versus a phone meeting. However, it can be improved. Decimal time would make calculating percentages of time spent on various activities much easier. Combine the two for Flawless Victory.

more than 3 years ago

Sluggish Android Tablet Growth May Give Microsoft an Opening

Zigurd No successful mouse to touch transitions (269 comments)

Nobody has ever moved an operating system from mouse to touch. There is a first time for everything, but the two winning tablet OSs were designed for touch. I believe there is a reason: Turning a non-touch OS into a touch OS is harder than anyone doing it thinks it is.

Secondarily, I think this is what is holding back Web operating systems on touch devices. The Web wasn't designed for touch and Web operating systems "leak" bad user experience in from the non-touch Web. On Android and iOS touch devices, the Web browser is an ancillary UI and application environment, not the central part of the user experience.

more than 3 years ago

Does Wiretapping Require Cell Company Cooperation?

Zigurd Re:Wasn't this the whole point of CALEA? (174 comments)

That is correct. And most specifications for LI ("lawful intercept") specify that it should be undetectable, or, at least, inconspicuous to the people operating the network. That is, it has to operate outside network management and network statistics gathering. LI implementations can do that successfully because they are usually specified to capture a small fraction of network data - 1% in some cases. LI is distinct from the kinds of technologies used as a data dragnet by spy agencies, and it also distinct from deep packet inspection.

As the post above points out, if you have access to law enforcement tools for monitoring telephone networks, and no effective checks on that access, the underlying technology enables one to do the kind of snooping alleged here without leaving a trace in the network's operations.

more than 3 years ago

An Illustrated Version Control Timeline

Zigurd Wait, this isn't a git tool? (244 comments)

I was hoping for a visual timeline of distributed git repos, or something that would make using git easier. Git is likely a better way to do version control, but it is better because it is fundamentally different. Those differences have not worked their way into Eclipse's abstraction of version control far enough, yet.

more than 4 years ago

China's Official Newspaper Pans iPad — Too Locked Down

Zigurd Link? (319 comments)

I can't find a link to the original story, and the source cited for this post is a TechDirt post that cites a Christian Science Monitor article that doesn't, as far as I can tell, refer to the original article any more precisely than as "a rather snide commentary the other day about Apple products." A link to the original would be appreciated.

more than 4 years ago



Write Less Android Software

Zigurd Zigurd writes  |  about a month ago

Zigurd (3528) writes "You have a substantial budget. You have an army, perhaps a foreign mercenary army, of developers. You've got experience delivering big Web projects this way. But your Android project might as well be Afghanistan. Unexpected limitations, difficult bugs, poor performance, and bloat plague you for weeks and months. Facebook's approach to unbundling functionality makes Facebook's products more visible on mobile devices. Keeping your apps simple, relatively small, and having multiple cooperating apps isn't just smart engineering, it's better for the user and better for you commercially."
Link to Original Source

Google's Social Menagerie and its Android and Web Habitats

Zigurd Zigurd writes  |  about 5 months ago

Zigurd (3528) writes "In addition to search, email, and office productivity, Google runs at least nine "applications" that deal in user-provided content. We can't call them "Web sites" since most of them are presented through both Android applications and a Web user interface. But the extent and quality of this presentation is unequal and uneven. The content varies by media type and long form/short form characteristics. The intended persistence of the content also varies, though persistence often really means "ease of discovery" which can diminish quickly if a chronological update stream is the principal means of discovery."
Link to Original Source

Missed It By Thaaaat Much: Why Chrome OS Athena isn't Chro

Zigurd Zigurd writes  |  about 6 months ago

Zigurd (3528) writes "Now that Windows 8.1 has landed with a thud, and OEMs are kvetching about being misled by predictions about the success of touch, there are some signs that Google has decided to take another shot at touch in Chrome OS. Or, perhaps, the Chrome OS developers are just tidying up loose ends in the Chrome OS touch interface, of which there are a considerable number at the time of this writing, based on a search of open issues mentioning "touch.""
Link to Original Source

Intel and Rockchip: Why Intel Isn't Inside Your Phone

Zigurd Zigurd writes  |  about 6 months ago

Zigurd (3528) writes "If new entrants can get in the game, and SoCs are difficult to differentiate, it is unlikely that you can find one factor, or one problem to solve, that will unlock the mobile market for Intel."
Link to Original Source

Diagnosing and Fixing Google's Social Problems

Zigurd Zigurd writes  |  about 8 months ago

Zigurd (3528) writes "While Google+ has been accused of being a "ghost town," at least it looks pretty, even now after what feels like a long period of stagnation and un-addressed bugs. But Google+ isn't the most neglected neighborhood in Googleland."
Link to Original Source


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