Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Ubuntu Linux Heads for Smartphones and Tablets

Posted by Andrew at 5:01 PM on October 30, 2011

ZDNet is reporting that Canonical is intending to make the next release of Ubuntu, 12.04, a LTS (Long Term Support) release with intention of then expanding Ubuntu beyond desktops and laptops into smartphones, tablets and smart TVs, with a target of 2014 for an all-platform release.

Mark Shuttleworth, founder of Canonical, in an interview said, “This is a natural expansion of our idea as Ubuntu as Linux for human beings. As people have moved from desktop to new form factors for computing, it’s important for us to reach out to out community on these platforms. So, we’ll embrace the challenge of how to use Ubuntu on smartphones, tablets and smart-screens.” The full announcement is expected at the Ubuntu Developer Summit, which starts tomorrow and runs for a week in Orlando, Florida.

Having already been in discussions with partners for around 18 months, it seems that this is more than wishful thinking, but one can’t help feel that the whole Palm-HP-WebOS debacle bodes badly for any company wanting to get in on the smartphone and tablet space. If HP can’t make it happen with a solid OS and Zen of Palm, what hope has Canonical? When quizzed about this, Shuttleworth said that he saw “Android as its primary competitor…..We’ve also already heard from people who are already shipping tablets that they want Ubuntu on the tablet.” And of course, “Ubuntu already has a developer and customer base.”

While there’s no doubt that the mobile space is still maturing and there’s plenty of change still to come,  I have a hard time seeing Ubuntu on anything but a small niche of tablets and an even smaller niche of smartphones. iOS and Android have their foothold and Microsoft will be a solid third if Windows Phone 7 continues to deliver and Windows 8 delivers as expected. A fourth player is going to have difficulty making inroads, especially one as relatively unknown as Canonical and Ubuntu.

Smart TVs are a more plausible destination as the internal software is of less concern to the consumer. Most people buying a TV are looking at the exterior brand such as Sony, Samsung or LG, and not what’s inside, although this may change if a “Powered by Roku” or “Google TV inside” campaign runs. Plenty of change to come in this space too.

I wish Ubuntu every success.

Microsoft Poaching webOS Developers

Posted by Alan at 9:00 AM on August 20, 2011

A few days ago we received the sad news that HP was discontinuing webOS devices.  The only good news out of that was for gadget lovers – HP has slashed prices on the recently released TouchPad (it’s already out-of-stock at Walmart online).  The bad news for HP, beyond the bad press and bad stock prices, was that Microsoft leaped on the news and immediately began recruiting webOS developers for their Windows Phone platform.

Microsoft’s Brandon Walsh reached out to webOS developers on Twitter, and began the process of bringing them over to Windows Phone.  He even went so far as to offer free phones and other tools.  At last check, he had received more than 200 replies.

While HP has killed off the hardware-making side of their webOS business, they are hoping to keep the software alive by licensing it to third-party hardware makers, as Google does with Android.  That means HP needs to keep these developers on board.  That will be difficult with no agreements in place yet to ensure the OS’s future.  Still, they are trying their best to maintain ties – see their blog post The Next Chapter for webOS.

Given the current state, it will be hard for HP to hold onto these developers, and given what they have already done, it’s hard to imagine that they wouldn’t pull the plug on the software side of webOS at any moment.  This has been a short ride for HP and webOS, and I can’t help but think that they didn’t give it it’s deserved time and effort.  Consider it a premature death.

Windows Phone 7 Data Usage Rising

Posted by Alan at 5:49 PM on June 20, 2011

Mobile data usage has been rising for quite some time now.  But, with the release of the latest Nielsen report on cell phones, there’s some interesting data.  The fastest rise is Windows Phone 7, which has shot up 89% since it’s launch.  As of the November launch (4th Quarter 2010) data usage was at 149 MB, but now, as of the first quarter 2011 (March 2011), data usage has climbed from to 317 MB.

While it is the fastest riser of this time period, WP7 still lags far behind iPhone and the industry-leading Android.  iPhone has risen steadily to 492 MB, while Android has risen to 582 MB.  By contrast, RIM’s Blackberry OS has flat-lined and Windows Mobile, which is now on life support, has slowly trailed off.  Web OS unfortunately did not garner a mention in the report.

This seems to indicate that the field is narrowing to a 3 platform race between iOS, Android, and WP7.  While Blackberry remains popular with corporate customers they are falling behind overall, despite their recent efforts.

So what are all of you using, and why?  What do you like and dislike about your mobile OS?  Which mobile OS do you think will come out on top in the future?  Give us your thoughts in the comments.

Microsoft Rep Takes a Dig at Apple Fanboy

Posted by Alan at 4:41 PM on June 6, 2011

Microsoft made some big announcements today at the E3 gaming show, most surrounding the Xbox, but a few involved Xbox Live in Windows Phone. However the bigger, or at least more interesting, Windows Phone news came from Microsoft Vice President of Windows Phone Joe Belfiore, via his Twitter account.

Today an Apple fan got excited about the fact the volume up button can be used to take a picture.  Mr. Belfiore responded, good-naturedly, that Windows Phone can do a good bit more.  It was a rare bit of humor from Redmond, which tends to stick to the policy of ignoring Apple completely (while sometimes borrowing an idea).

Perhaps the Windows Phone team has some reasons to be happy.  After all, they are definitely on the rise, while Apple may be running a bit low on new ideas as they have slipped behind Android and are looking over their shoulder at Windows Phone.  Today’s announcements didn’t break any new ground, but seemed more like playing catch-up.

Make no mistake though, Apple can never be counted out and may have something huge brewing that hasn’t yet made it into the rumor mill.  But, at least for one day, it seems Microsoft may have a leg up.

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It was a bit of a surprise when Microsoft didn’t have a problem with developer Chris Walsh’s ChevronWP7 to “fix” NoDo installs that weren’t working, even inviting him to visit their headquarters.  It now comes as less of a surprise that Microsoft is endorsing Walsh’s latest tool, especially since it helps to get those “hacked” phones back on the official update path.

The new tool, called “Walshed Phone Support Tool” solves the issue behind the “80180048″ error code in the Zune app, and an equivalent one in the Windows Phone 7 Connector for Mac app, that has prevented the upgrade from even starting.

The ChevronWP7 tool was used by Windows Phone 7 users who wanted to receive the NoDo update before it became available.  The patch was delayed several times due to a variety of issues.  Unfortunately, ChevronWP7, while working flawlessly, rendered devices as “unofficial” and not eligible for future updates.  The new “Walshed” tool will fix that and put those devices back on the right track.  So, Microsoft’s endorsement of both has become a win-win for them.

Perhaps the next platform update, known currently as “Mango” will go much smoother.  Given that this was their first update I can grant some slack, but if they want to make a real dent in the mobile market they will need to get it together.

Microsoft Kinected Technologies Evening for Techsumers

Posted by Andrew at 11:50 AM on April 7, 2011

Back with Microsoft for a more consumer oriented evening. This time it’s going to be Windows Media Centre, Home Server, Xbox, Kinect and more on the phones.

First up is Microsoft Home Server 2011 – every house should have one. As standard it’s a media server, dishing out photos, music and videos. Usual DLNA stuff.

Microsoft provides a remote site which in turn can connect to the home server across the Internet. Great if you travel and you need to get at your stuff.

But when you are at home, any PC can connect to the Home Server to configure. Normally the Windows Server works headlessly i.e. without a monitor, so this is how the Server is manager.

Great news – the Drive Extender feature is going to return in 2011 courtesy of a community plug-in which appears to be endorsed by Microsoft.

Not sure if this new news, but they’re saying here that a Nokia running Windows Phone 7 will be out before Christmas, perhaps in October.

A quick demo now using Sonos to play music.

Now it’s the turn of the Xbox and Kinect. He’s playing Kinect Sports. Everything’s been done waving his hand. Ok so it’s a game but the possibilities are there in say, sterile environments. No touch, no cross-infection.

They’re now showing off a Kinect controlling the cursor on a PC instead of a mouse. Flicking through a Powerpoint presentation with your hands rather than a controller.

A video of win&i is being shown – it’s a product from a German company which shows the Kinect interacting with various apps including Media Center and Google Earth.

Microsoft sees Kinect being built directly in TVs and monitors. Several OEMs already have plans (allegedly).

Windows Phone 7 integrates with Xbox Live, pulling in avatars, badges and messages.
The next generation of games will bring the phone together with the Xbox and Kinect. Imagine a game where one player is on the phone flicking footballs at a goal and the other player is on the Xbox and is the goalkeeper. He’s saving the footballs as seen by the Kinect. Tres cool.

That’s it for now! Goodnight.

TechNet Live Tour: Cloud for IT Pros

Posted by Andrew at 9:31 AM on April 7, 2011

Microsoft’s TechNet Live Tour is giving a half day seminar on the cloud and what it means for the IT professional. I’ve been invited along so, for a change, I’m going to try a bit of a “live blog” approach, just typing as I go. It’s going to cover Windows Intune, Small Business Server 2011, Office 365, Dynamics CRM 2011, Azure, Windows Phone 7 and IE9.  Could be a long afternoon.

The event opens with a keynote on the Cloud for IT Pros given by Dave Northey. The cloud and the consumerisation of IT are the big impacts of now and Dave will cover them both. Dave suggests that business led technology a decade ago. But today consumers lead. The average home PC is more powerful than work PCs. Most consumers use Windows 7, yet XP is still used extensively in business.

The three big cloud providers are Microsoft, Amazon and Google, with room for a fourth. Cloud computing is Internet-based computing whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand like the electricity grid – Wikipedia.

Cloud Data Centre
Shared resources – stability, security, reliability, QoS, SLAs

On-Demand – pay as you go, no upfront investment, instant access, scale, no money wasted when projects fail

Public Cloud v Private Cloud
Private cloud uses own data centre. Control over data but less scale.

Regardless aim is for capacity to follow demand. What workload patterns are suitable for cloud?
- On and off, e.g. Batch jobs, video transcoding
- Growing fast, e.g. Unexpectedly successful services
- Unpredictable bursting, e.g. Spikes caused by natural disasters
- Predictable bursting, e.g. End of month for finance.

Type of cloud services
- Software as a Service (SaaS) for users
- Platform as a Service (PaaS) for developers
- Infrastruce as a Service (IaaS) for IT

Datacentre evolution
- Traditional datacentre
- Virtualised datacentre
- On premises private cloud
- Off premises cloud
Virtualisation was a pre-requisite for the cloud.

The private cloud is virtualisation plus self-service, scalability and automation.

Azure is Ms’ platform as a service. It’s a developer offering linked into Visual Studio, .net, PHP and so on. Three components – Azure AppFabric for access control and comms, SQL Azure for database, Windows Azure for compute and storage.

Dave then gives a demo of some of the features of Azure including simply connecting to a folder stored in the cloud but the most impressive part was the management of all the virtual machines. In the (short) demo, a cloud-based server was provisioned with web services.

Cloud services are coming, with private clouds first followed by the move to the public cloud.

Ooh, they’ve announced a Surface device is here.

Surface1

Surface2

Surface3

Surface4

Dave also gave an inpromptu demo of Windows Phone 7 which was as much a selection of soundbites as it was a demo.
- Microsoft expects to be #2 behind Android and ahead of iPhone.
- Multiple forms factors from HTC and Nokia who make over 100 million phones per year.
- It’s a consumer device first
- Marketplace will have quality, tested apps.
- Try before you buy option available to all developers but only one version required – that’s clever.
- Average app lifetime, i.e. Find, download, try, delete is 5 mins.
- Expected that a developer wil earn 10 times as much from Windows Phone app as from iPhone.

Next up was Office 365 by Patrick Herlihy.

Office 365 is the new Software as a Service offering which includes Office, Exchange Online, Sharepoint Online and Lync Online.

Office licensed on a pay as you go per user. Full and latest version of Office. Lync will offer IM, presence and web conference from the start. Voice will arrive later.

Different licensing options for different types of users, e.g. Kiosk worker for basic options, Information worker for more. There are lots of different licensing options depending on your organisations need.

The process to moving to the cloud and using Office 365 goes through standardisation, deployment, service change and includes privacy & security considerations. In particular, most ActiveDirectories will need a good tidy.

Regarding sign on, there are two options – Ms Online IDs or new Federated IDs which allow single sign-on from existing credentials. The latter will need an internal deployment of ADFS.

DirSync synchronises the organisation’s internal ActiveDirectory with the version hosted in the cloud for Office 365. This is needed to keep online permissions etc in step with the organisation.

Exchange Online can co-exist with in-house Exchange and there are tools to move mailboxes between the two systems.

Patrick gave a quick on-line demo of the product. The on-line versions were all very similar to their Windows-based equivalent. Firefix, Safari and IE are all supported. The management tools were comprehensive as well.

The public beta of Office 365 is available now.

Patrick continued to Microsoft’s Intune, a cloud-based PC management service. It offers malware protection, alert monitoring, patch management, software and hardware inventories and remote assistance / desktop sharing. He then gave a demo of the system and it was competent enough. I could certainly see it replacing a number of separate tools. However you got the feeling that it was version 1 and version 2 would be much better. Probably best suited to SMEs with hundreds of PCs rather than thousands.

As proceeds were running late, I had to leave, missing some of the subsequent sessions. But I’ll be back…

Overall, a useful introduction to Microsoft’s vision of a cloud-based future.

 

Mobeo iMovee Brings Mobile TV to Smart Phones & Tablets

Posted by tomwiles at 1:41 AM on January 28, 2011

iMovee Mobeo (www.i-movee.com/mobeo1.html) brings mobile TV to smart phones and tablets. iMovee Corporation launches the entire range of Mobile TV products including SKY TV (USB Dongle), Mobidik (WiFi Dongle for Iphone, Ipod, Blackberry, PC, MAC etc), Telly MOBO (7″/9″ Portable DVD & TV), Touch Telly Series (Media Player & Portable TV 4.3″ ,4.7″, 7″), Telly NAV (portable Navigation Device with ATSC MH) and CAR Telly (Automotive Set top box). iMovee is also launching various ATSC MH & T DMB modules for manufacturers to readily integrate to their consumer devices and thus reducing the time to market.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of Slash Dot Review News and RV News Network — RVNN.TV

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WellDoc Medical Coaching Software For Better Patient Outcomes

Posted by tomwiles at 8:28 AM on January 24, 2011

Anand Iyer and Chris Bergstrom of Welldoc, Inc. (www.welldocinc.com) present Welldoc Coaching Software for phones that helps patients with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes report their ongoing self-monitoring statistics and other relevant data to their physicians, thus helping the patient remain in compliance to their medical treatment program with an eye towards better patient outcomes.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of The Geekazine Podcast and Tom Newman of The Fogview Podcast.

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Windows Phone 7 Debuts Tomorrow

Posted by Alan at 6:52 PM on November 7, 2010

Tomorrow the first Windows Phone 7 devices will hit the US market on AT&T and T-Mobile.  And I am very curious to see the reception.  Will there be lines?  Will there be shortages of one or more of the devices?  What will the general public think of it?

Windows Phone 7 ads blanketed today’s football coverage.  They were running a couple of times per hour per game.  That was when I got my first clue as to what may happen tomorrow.  My 14 year old daughter looked at the ad and said “I want one of those.”  And honestly the ad is catchy and amusing and the shots of the phone interface are compelling.

Will enough people feel the way my daughter did?  I think they will.  I think we may see lines tomorrow for a Windows product!  When did that last happen?  Windows 95?  Okay, Xbox if you count all Microsoft products.

Will this help Zune?  The platform will get a huge boost, but I don’t think it will help the Zune device itself much.  At least not initially, but there may be a long term boost.

Which phone will be the early hit?  From everything I am seeing and hearing that seems to be an easy question to answer.  The Samsung Focus will be the big hit.  The least popular?  At the moment that seems to belong to the HTC Surround, which is a rather strange device with pop-out “surround sound” speakers that don’t entirely work as advertised.

From everything I see now I think this will be a hit, but with a few complaints along the way about some lacking capabilities.  I also think the market is big enough, and still growing enough, to accommodate another OS. The bad news isn’t for Microsoft because they are late to the show, but for RIM and Nokia.  This could put both of them into serious trouble.  Nokia still has a commanding lead worldwide, but they have been slipping for awhile and show no signs of getting things together.  Blackberry also seems lost in this new era of smartphones and Windows Phone 7 could really eat into RIM’s business market.

I tried to get a review unit, but Microsoft’s PR firm only took my name, phone number, and email address and never contacted me again so I am as anxious for tomorrow as everyone else.  And, my contract is almost up so I am in the market…