Category Archives: Operating Systems

The Rise of the Smartphone



Today I was relaxing in a cafe, taking it easy on Sunday. As I looked around the other tables, everyone else was either looking at a smartphone or else had one resting on the table. They weren’t students or young professionals either; these were mums and dads, grandmas and grandpas.

Brewing coffeeHere’s the tally of what I saw:

Getting away from “my phone is better than your phone”, what might this highly unscientific observation say about the mobile communications market, at least in the UK?

First, it’s diverse. While Nokia and Windows Phone is nowhere to be seen, the three other operating systems seem to be pretty much holding their own.

Second, Apple has iPhones and RIM has Blackberries. Is the Samsung Galaxy now the de facto Android brand? The popularity of HTC seems to have fallen dramatically with the rise of Samsung.

Third, no-one was actually using their phones to make phone calls. In all the time I watched, there wasn’t a single call made or received but there was plenty of reading, swiping, tapping and pecking. It always seems that the PDA was lost in the convergence with the mobile phone, but the reality is that the PDA won the battle and “voice calling” is one feature among many.

Fourth and finally, smartphones are now ubiquitous and cross-generational. There wasn’t single ordinary phone to be seen and the range of the users suggests that age is no longer a discriminating factor.

As I said, entirely unscientific but still an interesting snapshot in the evolution of the smartphone.

Coffee brewing photograph courtesy of BigStockPhoto.


OpenSUSE 12.2 Out Now



OpenSuSE logoFor Linux fans, there’s a new version of OpenSUSE out today, bringing the version number to 12.2. Albeit a little late, this new version sees some significant upgrades and changes which improve performance and reliability. OpenSUSE is one of the big 5 Linux distributions so it’ll be a solid release.

In additional to the 3.4 kernel, KDE is bumped to 4.8.4 and Gnome to 3.4. SuSE has always been a strong proponent of the KDE desktop (my personal favourite) so I’ll be checking that out later. LibreOffice 3.5 brings word processing and spreadsheets to the party and Gimp 2.8 is on hand for image editing.

“We are proud of this release, maintaining the usual high openSUSE quality standards.” said Andrew Wafaa from the openSUSE Board. “The delay in the schedule caused by our growth in the last two years means we have to work on scaling our processes. Now this release is out and with the upcoming openSUSE conference in October in Prague, the community has time and opportunity to work on that.”

I run OpenSUSE on my main PC so I’ll be upgrading soon – the distro is downloading via BitTorrent as we speak – but live upgrades are also now supported so I might investigate that for the first time.

The full press release is here.


J5Create’s Wormhole Station



j5create logoJ5Create may be familiar to Apple Macintosh users as they’re designers of aesthetic Mac accessories, but their latest gadget will be of interest to those of us with a foot in the PC camp. Here Todd talks to John about their new Wormhole Station.

The Wormhole Station combined with the Wormhole cable creates a keyboard and mouse switch which not only controls both a PC and a Mac from one mouse and keyboard but also moves files seamlessly from one computer to the other. Even cooler, you can set the configuration up so that moving the mouse cursor off one side of Mac screen transfers the cursor to the PC screen. It’s a bit like having a dual monitor setup, only with two OSes!

If you like the sound of this, it’s available in both laptop and desktop configurations. Available now, the Wormhole Station will set you back $109.99 and the cable is $39.99. The CES folk like it so much, they gave the Wormhole Station an Innovation Honoree Award.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Android Causing WiFi Router Lockups



I’ve had an Android phone for about a year and a half (the HTC Evo from Sprint) but primarily because of battery use issues I’ve never used it on my home WiFi network.

In the interim, a few months ago I purchased a Barnes & Noble Nook Color, which runs a custom version of Android. I’ve also experimented with dual-booting the Nook with CyanogenMod 7, an open-source version of Android. When I dual-boot into CyanogenMod 7 and connect to my Apple Airport Extreme router, the router will loose Internet connectivity after only a few minutes, requiring me to cycle the router’s power off and back on to restore connectivity.

Now that I’ve been able to install the authorized version of Netflix onto the Nook after Barnes and Noble’s latest Nook OS update, I tried running Netflix on the Nook on my home network. After watching video for 15 or more minutes, my Apple router loses Internet connectivity.

My youngest brother has a newer HTC Android phone, and after he connected to my local WiFi network almost immediately the Apple router lost connectivity. It happened so frequently at one point that I was beginning to think the router was dying.

However, after futher experimentation I’ve determined that if I don’t connect any Android devices to my WiFi, the router seems to work as flawlessly as ever.

Time to check Mr. Google. Using the Google-suggested search term “android crashes router” (the term pops up immediately after I start typing “android cras   “ so I know plenty of other people are looking for a solution) 4,730,000 results come up. After reading through a number of posts by people experiencing the same issue, I have yet to come up with a definitive answer. What is it about a variety of versions of Android connecting to WiFi that is causing many different brands of routers to lose Internet connectivity? The problem is by no means an Apple Router/Android WiFi incompatibility – it therefore seems more likely an issue with Android itself, or at least certain Android builds.

The suggested fixes range from people suggesting that they try to update their router’s firmware to trying to confine the router to Wireless “G” only.

Ironically my HTC Evo phone can also be used as a WiFi hotspot. I can connect any Android device to the Evo’s WiFi hotspot feature and transfer all the data I want without issue. In other words, Android cannot cause my Android phone’s hotspot feature to lose Internet connectivity.

It would be logical to assume that this problem is an Android software issue. The problem seems inconsistent, most probably because of the patchwork-quilt variety of Android hardware and custom OS builds.

So far, the problem hasn’t even seemed to be officially acknowledged as an issue. I suspect that bad Android battery life has prevented a lot of people from trying to connect their Android phones to their home networks via WiFi, so mass numbers of people likely haven’t experienced the potential WiFi router crashing problem.

Of the people that do connect their phones to home WiFi routers, some people never have a problem, while others are constantly plagued by it.

Android crashing WiFi routers is enough to cause me to veer away from future Android devices, unless and until the problem is solved. Phase one of the chaos of the Windows desktop has spread to smartphones.

Welcome to the new Windows fractal – it’s name is Android.


I Feel Stupid



Windows Phone 7Over the break, there’s been a bit of discussion by some of the big names regarding the reasons why Windows Phone 7 handsets haven’t been flying off the shelves this holiday season. Charlie Kindel started the debate with “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t It Taken Off?” and largely faults the relationship between the OEMs, Microsoft and the carriers.

MG Siegler responded with a fairly weak response largely citing the mantra of “too late and not enough apps” but as can be seen from today’s news of 50,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, the latter argument really isn’t that valid.

As usual, Robert Scoble hits the nail on the head. People buy Android or iOS because it’s a safe bet and they don’t want to look stupid or uncool by buying something else. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s Blackberries simply don’t have the gold-plated appeal of a sure-thing.

And he’s right. I was a big Palm fan and look how that turned out. I do feel stupid. After spending years waiting for Palm to move from PalmOS to WebOS and then HP promising to do big things. I bought in with a succession of Pre phones and pre-ordered a TouchPad. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shallow and have a less of an ego, because WebOS is a great operating system and even with the smaller app selection, it does 99% of what I need a phone to do. But when everyone else is, “Have you got this app and that app” on their Galaxy S IIs and iPhone 4Ss, you do feel a bit of a chump.

So thanks, HP. I feel stupid.


HP Gives WebOS To Open Source



HP WebOS LogoIn a surprise move, HP has announced that it will give WebOS to the open source community while continuing to support and develop the platform. HP believes that the combination of the superb WebOS platform combined with open source innovation and corporate support from HP, will foster innovation, creating a compelling user experience.

WebOS is the only platform designed from the ground up to be mobile, cloud-connected and scalable,” said Meg Whitman, HP president and chief executive officer. “By contributing this innovation, HP unleashes the creativity of the open source community to advance a new generation of applications and devices.

HP has said that it will work with the open source community to define the charter of the open source project based on four principles.

  • The goal of the project is to accelerate the open development of the webOS platform
  • HP will be an active participant and investor in the project
  • Good, transparent and inclusive governance to avoid fragmentation
  • Software will be provided as a pure open source project

No news was provided regarding other partners, new hardware or the specific handover timescale.

Undoubtedly more news will filter out over the coming days but it’s interesting move that may work out for HP and WebOS. HP gets to retain the patents it acquired from Palm to protect itself (and presumably WebOS) from attack, while hoping that the open source community and the homebrew scene will move the platform forwards. Future devices could appear from any OEM manufacturer, not just HP, but it will be interesting to see what the next WebOS product will be. Personally, I think it will be a printer.


Android Leads UK Smartphone Race



Android LogoIn the UK, Android is beginning to dominate the smartphone space, with 50% of handsets sold in the last quarter running Android. RIM (Blackberry) and Apple are almost level pegging on 22% and 18% and with half of UK adults now owning a smartphone, Android has an impressive lead.

Breaking the Android figures down, HTC is the top dog, with nearly 45% of Android handsets sold. Samsung is picking up the pace at 38% but Sony Ericsson is the big loser, falling to 8.5% of the Android market.

Surprisingly, this means that HTC, Samsung, RIM and Apple are each taking about a quarter of the market. Compared with mindshare that Apple generally has and the dominance in the tablet market, it’s clear that the iPhone is under performing.

Personally, I would agree with the figures. Looking round the office, Android phones are definitely in the majority followed by iPhones and Blackberries. I think Blackberries are popular with younger people as both my nephews have that brand of phone. The breakdown of the Android shares also rings true. This time last year, it would have been exclusively HTC smartphones but now there are quite a few people sporting Samsung devices.

The research was carried out by Kantar Worldpanel ComTech over the past 12 weeks. To be fair, this probably means that iPhone sales were down as people waited for new model but there’s no doubt that Android is the no.1 smartphone OS in the UK.