Μάνγκο αντί για μήλο

wp71Σήμερα ανακοινώθηκαν (μετά από αμέτρητες διαρροές) οι νέες λειτουργίες και οι αλλαγές στο Windows Phone 7. Το περίφημο “Mango” που επίσημα πλέον ονομάζεται Windows Phone 7.1 (και όχι WP 7.5 όπως περίμεναν οι περισσότεροι) θα έχει περισσότερα από 500 νέα χαρακτηριστικά στις επικοινωνίες, τις εφαρμογές και το Internet καθώς και αυτό που περιμέναμε όλοι στην Ελλάδα: πλήρη υποστήριξη της Ελληνικής γλώσσας και Ελληνικό Marketplace. Θα είναι φυσικά διαθέσιμο δωρεάν σε όλους τους κατόχους των πρώτων συσκευών με WP7 (ελπίζω να μην έχουμε κανένα παρατράγουδο από τους κατασκευαστές ή τους mobile operators και ειδικά αν έχουν αποσυρθεί από την χρήση Windows Phone σε νέες συσκευές – θα δείξει).

Οι πρώτες συσκευές με Windows Phone 7.1 θα είναι διαθέσιμες το φθινόπωρο (δεν λέμε Χριστούγεννα να είμαστε σίγουροι;) με νέους κατασκευαστές τους Acer, Fujitsu, ZTE και προφανώς τη μεγάλη έκπληξη της χρονιάς (και ίσως των τελευταίων δεκαετιών), τη Nokia. Προς το παρόν θα υπάρξει διαθέσιμο σε λίγες ώρες το SDK για τους developers από το Windows Phone Developer Blog ελεύθερο και δωρεάν για όλους όπως και πριν.

Υπάρχουν ήδη διαθέσιμες 17,000 εφαρμογές στο Windows Phone Marketplace με ένα αρκετά καλό ρυθμό αύξησης τους τελευταίους μήνες και σχεδόν όλες τις σημαντικές εφαρμογές διαθέσιμες. Προσωπικά μου λείπουν Evernote και Skype και είμαι κομπλέ. Και για τις δύο έχει γίνει ανακοίνωση για διαθεσιμότητα στο άμεσο μέλλον και ειδικά για το Skype είμαι φυσικά ιδιαίτερα αισιόδοξος. Τις επόμενες εβδομάδες θα έχουμε περισσότερα στοιχεία και λεπτομέρειες για όλα τα νέα χαρακτηριστικά και τις συσκευές που περιμένουμε.

Ενδεικτικές αλλαγές/προσθήκες:

Threads: επιλογή μέσα στην ίδια συζήτηση του τρόπου επικοινωνίας – SMS, Facebook chat και Windows Live Messenger).

Groups: οργανώστε τις επαφές σας σε ομάδες και εμφανίστε πληροφορίες σε Live Tiles, αποστολή SMS, email ή IM σε όλο το γκρουπ.

Twitter και LinkedIn feeds ενσωματωμένα όπως το Facebook – Νέο face detection software για το tagging φωτογραφιών.

Linked inbox: ενώστε πολλά email accounts σε ένα linked inbox – Νέο view με Conversations όπως και στο desktop Outlook. Hands-free messaging: Built-in voice-to-text και text-to-voice (φαντάζομαι δεν θα υποστηρίζει τα ελληνικά).

App Connect για καλύτερη συνεργασία των διαφόρων εφαρμογών (στην πράξη θα δούμε τι σημαίνει αυτό).

Τα Live Tiles θα είναι πιο δυναμικά με περισσότερη πληροφορία.

Multitasking: γρήγορη αλλαγή ανάμεσα σε ενεργές εφαρμογές και εκτέλεση στο background (δείτε στο video της παρουσίασης πως θα μετακινούμαστε ανάμεσα στις εφαρμογές με παρατεταμένο πάτημα του πλήκτρου back).

Internet Explorer 9 (!) βασισμένος στον κανονικό IE9 με υποστήριξη του HTML5 και πλήρες hardware acceleration.

Νέο Bing με Bing Vision, Music Search και το Local Scout, ένα μαγικό κουμπάκι στο Bing Search που παρέχει τοπικές πληροφορίες με τη μορφή οδηγού (για την Ελλάδα δεν ξέρω τι πληροφορίες έχει για εστιατόρια, αξιοθέατα κλπ.).

Quick Cards: με την αναζήτηση ενός προϊόντος, ταινίας ή γεγονότος δείτε παράλληλα αρκετές χρήσιμες πληροφορίες.

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Video on a Kellogg’s box?

I remember Autonomy from the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. They were trying to sell us a system to filter and index the country’s internet stream for security reasons. Their latest technology, Aurasma, is targeting the consumers with mobile apps that can turn a static object, an ad or a picture, to video through our smartphone screen. It’s simply amazing. Have a look at the video and read more in the article at Infoworld: The coolest technology you’ve never seen | Mobile apps – InfoWorld.

We are living in a pre-PC era

It seems that the post-PC era is closer to the pre-PC era where the ruling company could dictate its own hardware specifications.

For the main 3.5″ SATA hard drive bay in the new 2011 machines, Apple has altered the SATA power connector itself from a standard 4-pin power configuration to a 7-pin configuration. Hard drive temperature control is regulated by a combination of this cable and Apple proprietary firmware on the hard drive itself. From our testing, we’ve found that removing this drive from the system, or even from that bay itself, causes the machine’s hard drive fans to spin at maximum speed and replacing the drive with any non-Apple original drive will result in the iMac failing the Apple Hardware Test (AHT).

Read the whole article here: Apple Further Restricts Upgrade Options on New iMacs Other World Computing Blog.

Infinite Loop is the address. Right? I’m back in the 80s… What was that? A Delorean?

Mono project: Take #2

It’s just a few days after I wrote about the Mono project and seems that my timing was not very good. The whole team was “disassembled” in the beginning of May due to the takeover of Novell by Attachmate. Mono is the implementation of  the .NET platform for Linux.

Fortunately Miguel de Izaca, the developer in charge of the project, took everything under a new startup called Xamarin and they have already started coding again. They promise us a commercial .NET solution for iOS and Android (probably MonoTouch under a new brand name), full support of the open source Mono and Moonlight (the Silverlight implementation) projects and a possible implementation of Moonlight for mobile devices and the Mac appstore. All Novell’s proprietary code will be rewritten. Waiting eagerly…

More here: Mono lives … in new startup Xamarin | ZDNet and at Miguel’s blog: http://tirania.org/blog/archive/2011/May-16.html.

A supercomputer in your hand

Older guys like me who have spent some decades in this “industry” still remember Cray and his creations. When someone plays with Angry Birds or “composes” music on GarageBand, we forget how far we have moved with processing power, size and power consumption in the last 25 years.

A research group has run a test on Apple iPad 2, and it turns out that the tablet would be a rival for a four-processor version of the Cray 2 supercomputer, which, with eight processors, was the world’s fastest computer in 1985. They have run the test on only one of the iPad microprocessor’s two processing cores. When they finish their project, they estimate that the iPad 2 will have a Linpack benchmark of between 1.5 and 1.65 gigaflops which would have insured that the iPad 2 could have stayed on the list of the world’s fastest supercomputers through 1994. More here: The iPad in Your Hand: As Fast as a Supercomputer of Yore – NYTimes.com.

IEEE’s Spectrum magazine had recently an article, The Tops of the Flops, on the recent performance increases and it was comparing 1.8 teraflops produced by Sony Playstation 3 (2006, 150 sq.m, 800 KWatts) with Sandia Lab’s ASCI Red (1997, 0.08 sq.m, <200 Watts). To get an idea of where we are now, Tianhe-1A in China’s (!) National Supercomputing Center has 186000 cores and a processing power of 4700 teraflops. For those who have access to IEEE’s content: http://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/freeabs_all.jsp?isnumber=5693048&arnumber=5693074

High-tech companies sued for fixing salaries

Apple, Google, Intel, Pixar, Adobe and Lucas Film were investigated by the US DoJ for fixing salaries and violating antitrust laws. According to the complaint:

[Defendants] entered into at least three agreements to eliminate competition between them for skilled labor. First, each agreed no to cold call each others’ employees. Second, each agreed to notify the other company when making an offer to an employee of the other company, if that employee applied for a job notwithstanding the absence of cold calling. Third, each agreed that if either made an offer to such an employee of the other company neither company would counter offer above the initial offer. This third agreement was created with the intent and effect of eliminating “bidding wars.”

Skilled labor – I like the term. Personally, I don’t really know if this kind of practice is good or bad. And I also don’t like the idea of making a developer or manager a superstar costing millions. It’s part of promoting the American Dream, but in the end we are paying for these salaries…

Apple, Google, Adobe sued for allegedly fixing salaries TechRepublic.

Will a “cloud” acquisition bring sunshine?

What can you do, if you have $8.5 billion to invest? You can make the next office suite or you can just buy Skype and its 170 million “customers”.

If you were thinking that the Nokia-Microsoft alliance was a bit strange and the cooperation between RIM and Microsoft (you know, regarding Bing Search and Maps on Blackberry devices including PlayBook) was also unexpected, you may say that the Skype deal is something inexplicable. Microsoft already has its own platforms for public and private communications (Live Messenger and Lync Server). But it seems that they have in mind something bigger that we don’t know yet. $8.5 billion is a lot of money, especially when it’s “all cash”. I wonder, if Skype wasn’t in a bad financial situation, what would be the price for it? It’s 2010 EBITDA was just $264 million…

Microsofts acquisition of Skype for 8.5 billion becomes official — Engadget.

Full press release:

Microsoft to Acquire Skype

Combined companies will benefit consumers, businesses and increase market opportunity.

REDMOND, Wash., and LUXEMBOURG – May 10, 2011 – Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: “MSFT”) and Skype Global S.à r.l today announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire Skype, the leading Internet communications company, for $8.5 billion in cash from the investor group led by Silver Lake. The agreement has been approved by the boards of directors of both Microsoft and Skype.

The acquisition will increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities. The combination will extend Skype’s world-class brand and the reach of its networked platform, while enhancing Microsoft’s existing portfolio of real-time communications products and services.

With 170 million connected users and over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010, Skype has been a pioneer in creating rich, meaningful connections among friends, families and business colleagues globally. Microsoft has a long-standing focus and investment in real-time communications across its various platforms, including Lync (which saw 30 percent revenue growth in Q3), Outlook, Messenger, Hotmail and Xbox LIVE.

Skype will support Microsoft devices like Xbox and Kinect, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices, and Microsoft will connect Skype users with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and other communities. Microsoft will continue to invest in and support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.

“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” said Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer. “Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”

Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft, and Skype CEO Tony Bates will assume the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.

“Microsoft and Skype share the vision of bringing software innovation and products to our customers,” said Tony Bates. “Together, we will be able to accelerate Skype’s plans to extend our global community and introduce new ways for everyone to communicate and collaborate,” Bates said.

“Tony Bates has a great track record as a leader and will strengthen the Microsoft management team. I’m looking forward to Skype’s talented global workforce bringing its insights, ideas and experience to Microsoft,” Ballmer said.

Speaking on behalf of the investor group that sold Skype to Microsoft, Egon Durban, managing director of Silver Lake, said: “We are thrilled with Skype’s transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees. We are excited about Skype’s long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world’s most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms.”

Founded in 2003, Skype was acquired by eBay in September 2005, and then acquired by an investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009. Skype has made impressive progress over the past 18 months under Silver Lake’s leadership, increasing monthly calling minutes by 150 percent, developing new revenue streams and strategic partnerships, acquiring the intellectual property powering its peer-to-peer network, and recruiting an outstanding senior management team.

Other members of the selling investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay International AG, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited in partnership with Europlay Capital Advisors; and Andreessen Horowitz.

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals and other customary closing conditions. The parties hope to obtain all required regulatory clearances during the course of this calendar year.

About Skype
Skype is communications software whose purpose is to break down barriers to communication. With an Internet-connected device, families, friends and colleagues can get together for free with messaging, voice and video. At low cost, they can also call landlines or mobiles virtually anywhere in the world. Skype has recently introduced group video, allowing groups of more than two people to do things together whenever they’re apart.

Founded in 2003 and based in Luxembourg. Skype can be downloaded onto computers, mobile phones and other connected devices for free.

Oops! I thought my Mac was safe…

A lot of people have switched to a Mac just to get rid of all the malware found on a Windows PC. Actually all the malware they may attract to their PC but the perception is that you can be infected even if you are on “best practices”.

But everybody who understands how malware is created and spread, knew that it was a matter of time for serious infections on MacOSX now that the platform is getting a worthy percentage in the market. If we also take into account that most of the new users in the platform are mainly consumers with no real understanding of how things really work, things are getting worse.

Even though Apple was always downplaying the possibility of malware on a Mac (and laughing on Windows’ users in big adventures), they “introduced” phrases for their OS like “Another benefit of the 64-bit applications in Snow Leopard is that they’re even more secure from hackers and malware than the 32-bit version.” and “With virtually no effort on your part, Mac OS X offers a multilayered system of defenses against viruses and other malicious applications, or malware.” which convinces users that everything is OK. even though the words “even more secure” means we are not at 100% yet…

What is the latest threat? As ZDNet reports:

According to a report from a Danish IT security company, an underground group has completed work on a fully operational kit specifically designed to build malware aimed at the Mac OS platform: The first advanced DIY (Do-It-Yourself) crimeware kit aimed at the Mac OS X platform has just been announced on a few closed underground forums. … The kit is being sold under the name Weyland-Yutani BOT and it is the first of its kind to hit the Mac OS platform. Apparently, a dedicated iPad and Linux release are under preparation as well.

If a group decides to deploy an attack like this on a wide scale, the impact on Mac users could be devastating. Only a tiny percentage of Macs run antivirus software, and Mac users have been conditioned to believe they’re immune from Internet threats. That’s a deadly combination.

All of us on the Windows platform have suffered for years, but we have learned the hard way how we can be protected. MacOSX is not the only problem. The whole market is changing and millions are now using devices with iOS or Android. Some millions will be using other tablet OSes soon. All these people need to be educated but the companies that sell these machines are not willing to undertake this “mission”. I believe, mainly because any mention on security concerns will hurt their sales. But a serious infection will definitely hurt their reputation and their market share (the only thing that they care about). Let’s see…

Read the whole story at ZDNet: Coming soon to a Mac near you: serious malware | ZDNet.

Which suite is more secure? Microsoft Office vs. Oracle Openoffice

It’s funny to read about security flaws especially when an article shows that popular preconceptions are usually wrong. Microsoft has managed to bring its Office 2010 suite to a very good state regarding security while Oracle inherited OpenOffice unwilling to further evolve it. LibreOffice is the new open source “branch”.

Read the whole analysis here: CERT/CC Blog: A Security Comparison: Microsoft Office vs. Oracle Openoffice. For a teaser look at the following chart:

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