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September 29 2011

Developer Week in Review: Android proves fruitful for Microsoft

The ball has finally dropped at Apple, and we know that October 4 is the big day that iOS 5 and some undisclosed subset of iPhone devices will be unveiled. Oddly, developers still haven't received the Gold Master of iOS 5, which means that Apple is cutting things close if it wants to give people time to update apps in the store, not to mention those of us who have to revise books once the NDA lifts on iOS 5.

So, while we wait for Godot Tim Cook, let's see what other mischief is afoot.

Royalties for Redmond

As we've reported previously, one of the big winners in the growth of Android has been Microsoft, as phone manufactures have been lining up to pay royalties to Redmond to avoid patent lawsuits. Samsung joined the fray this week, agreeing to pony up a reported $5 per phone to stay out of court.

In light of this, Google's purchase of Motorola Mobility is looking less and less wise. The widely held view was that the sale was intended to shield Android-based phones behind Motorola's rich patent portfolio, but every major player is caving into Microsoft anyway.

Between the squeeze play on Android and the long-standing siphoning of Linux revenues from companies such as Novell, Microsoft seems to be following a business plan reminiscent of a certain Monty Python sketch.

Android Open, being held October 9-11 in San Francisco, is a big-tent meeting ground for app and game developers, carriers, chip manufacturers, content creators, OEMs, researchers, entrepreneurs, VCs, and business leaders.

Save 20% on registration with the code AN11RAD

SPARC? Oh yeah, I remember that ...

SPARC T4Back when dinosaurs ruled the earth, the absolutely hottest thing you could have on your desk was a Sun-4. The SPARC-based systems were leaps and bounds ahead of anything else in their price range, except perhaps for some esoteric hardware from Silicon Graphics (remember them?)

Time has not been kind to the SPARC, alas. Sun's hardware market share shrank as people discovered that Linux on cheap hardware could give a better bang for the buck, and the entire venture was eventually swallowed by Oracle. The conventional wisdom was that Oracle bought Sun largely for its hardware line, and there was some confirmation of that this week. While much of the rest of Sun's holdings have been left to languish or spun off entirely, Larry's gang has evidently been busy with hardware. The SPARC T4 is the result.

The problem is, while the T4 brings some modern features like out-of-order execution to the SPARC line, these are things that other processor families have had for a decade or more. While it may staunch the flow of former SPARC customers defecting to x86 systems, it's unlikely to gain many new converts. And as any Harvard MBA can tell you, a business model based on not losing existing customers is not a formula for success in the long term.

Might want to rethink those voting machines (and the people who use them)

We've been hearing for years that direct recording electronic voting machines are potentially hackable. With a powder-keg election forthcoming, it was therefore not reassuring news this week that researchers at Argonne National Laboratory were able to totally subvert the voting counts on Diebold voting machines, simply by installing a $10 circuit between a ribbon cable and the connector. Since Diebold machines are not tamper resistant, this means that pretty much anyone with the technical savvy to create the device could hijack the polls.

I see this as part of a larger problem in the computer industry — an almost blind belief that technology can solve social problems in isolation. People seem to think that making government data transparent or turning to social networking can solve society's ills. In reality, the things that need to be re-engineered are the people. The best software in the world won't make people give up irrational belief systems, or stop hating others (be they red state or blue) because they're different. And as long as hate, intolerance and ignorance run wild, technology will be as likely to be used as a weapon as a solution.

Got news?

Please send tips and leads here.

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October 13 2010

Developer Week in Review

Here's what recently caught my attention on the developer front:

The continuing adventures of Java

Sometimes you can see the train-wreck coming a mile away, can't you? When Oracle bought Sun, a lot of insiders thought that it couldn't be good news for Java, since Oracle wasn't all that big into the whole open source community development lovefest. Well, shock of shocks, this week Big Blue joined forces with the House of Ellison, dumping the Apache Harmony project, which is intending to create a soup-to-nuts open source implementation of Java, in favor of Oracle's OpenJDK.

On a pragmatic level, more resources (especially from a powerhouse like IBM) will help improve the quality and breadth of OpenJDK. On the other hand, IBM jumped ship because Oracle refused to certify Harmony or open source the technology compatibility kit (TCK), which would have allowed Apache to become certified. And yes, the Google vs. Oracle lawsuit is tangled up in this ...

Meanwhile, OpenOffice has filed for divorce from Oracle, citing irreconcilable differences and lack of affection.

Speaking of lawsuits ...

For those keeping score, this week Motorola sued Apple. But rather than claiming that Apple violated Motorola patents, Motorola is asking the court to invalidate 12 Apple patents. It's a defensive move, evidently anticipating that Apple will use the patents against the big M. In a refreshing change of pace, the suit was filed in Delaware. A lonely law clerk can be heard crying somewhere in east Texas.

iOS, uOS, we all OS for iOS

The iOS 4.2 release approaches quickly (currently scheduled for the fairly vague target of "November"), and as usual, the betas are flying hot and heavy. The 4.2beta3 release hit the streets -- albeit the highly secured gated community of developer.apple.com -- on Tuesday. The main feature of 4.2 will be iOS 4 support for the iPad. Printer support will also be included in the mix, if only to printers hooked up to Snow Leopard boxes and a series of new printers that haven't even hit the streets yet. I guess CUPS support was more than we could have hoped for.

Pentest habitat: Do not taunt or tap on the glass

Is there anything with as much hubris involved as daring the worldwide security community to hack your system? First, we had the president of LifeLock spreading his social security number across the Interwebs, and daring folks to steal his identity. They did. Then, last week, the District of Columbia (or as the folks at News of the Weird like to call it, the District of Calamity) invited the good citizenry of the Net to subvert their shiny new electronic voting system. They did. And nastiest of all, they used shell injection to do it, one of the oldest tricks in the books. I wonder if Little Bobby Tables is getting ready to vote?

That's it for this week. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or newshere.

April 28 2010

March 02 2010

Four short links: 2 March 2010

  1. Visualising Time Series Data in Tweets -- builds sparklines from Twitter Data tweets.
  2. GPL Inadequate for Open Source Voting Software -- the GPL prohibits "additional restrictions", but the US Government has requirements for its voting software that fall into that category. An interesting read. The solution will be a new open source license (sigh) but one that meets their specific and real needs. (via Glyn Moody)
  3. SatScan -- free software that analyzes spatial, temporal and space-time data using the spatial, temporal, or space-time scan statistics. It is designed for any of the following interrelated purposes: Perform geographical surveillance of disease, to detect spatial or space-time disease clusters, and to see if they are statistically significant; Test whether a disease is randomly distributed over space, over time or over space and time; Evaluate the statistical significance of disease cluster alarms; Perform repeated time-periodic disease surveillance for early detection of disease outbreaks. (via ancodezambia on Delicious)
  4. iProcessing -- a Processing.js port to iPhone plus application framework library that lets you write iPhone apps in Processing. (via cityofsound on Delicious)

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