Last week you had the chance to ask ESR about books, guns, and open source software. Below you'll find his answers to those questions.
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theodp writes "Android is free and open," reiterated Google Android Chief Andy Rubin in 2010 as Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7. Rubin added, 'Competition is good for the consumer and if somebody has an idea for a feature or a piece of functionality in their platform and Android doesn't do it, great. I think it's good to have the benefit of choice, but in the end I don't think the world needs another platform.' But now, CNET and Digitimes report that Google is holding up the Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 (specs), a laptop-tablet hybrid that can instantly switch between Android and Windows 8.1. A source familiar with the Asus Duet told CNET that Google is the one that has not favored the idea, while Microsoft has not, to date, been actively opposed to the idea. 'If true,' reports Apple Insider, 'it may not be the first time Google has helped to quash such a product.' South Korean electronics giant Samsung quietly canceled plans for its hybrid Ativ Q tablet last year, and Digitimes notes that Asus may not be the only company to bow to Google's wishes."
mattydread23 writes with an opinion piece naming a few reasons Firefox OS is likely to succeed "It's geared toward low-powered hardware in a way that Google doesn't care as much about with Android, it's cheap enough for the pre-paid phones that are much more common than post-paid in developing countries, and most important, there are still 3.5 billion people in the world who have feature phones and for whom this will be an amazing upgrade." I'd push greater commitment to keeping the essential components of the system under FOSS licenses onto the head of that list.
itwbennett writes "A new commercial tool designed to allow cybercriminals to easily transform legitimate Android applications into malicious software has hit the underground market, paving the way for cheap and easy development of sophisticated Android malware. Security researchers from Symantec said Wednesday in a blog post that the tool, called Dendroid, is marketed by its creators as an Android remote administration tool (RAT) and is being sold for $300."
An anonymous reader writes "Last week Valve made an interesting but seemingly innocuous announcement: they're giving game developers control of their own pricing on Steam. Nicholas Lovell now claims that this has effectively kicked off a race to zero for PC game pricing. He says what's starting to happen now will mirror what's happened to mobile gaming over the past several years. Quoting: 'Free is the dominant price point on mobile platforms. Why? Because the two main players don't care much about making money from the sale of software, or even In-App Purchases. The AppStore is less than 1% of Apple's revenue. Apple has become one of the most valuable companies in the world on the strength of making high-margin, well-designed, highly-desirable hardware. ... Google didn't create Android to sell software. It built Android to create an economic moat. ... In the case of both iOS and Android, keeping prices high for software would have been in direct opposition to the core businesses of Apple (hardware) and Google (search-related advertising). The only reason that ebooks are not yet free is that Amazon's core business is retail, not hardware. ... Which brings me to Steam. The Steambox is a competitor to consoles, created by Valve. It is supposed to provide an out-of-the-box PC gaming experience, although it struggles to compete on either price or on marketing with the consoles. It doesn't seem as if Steam is keen to subsidize the costs of the box, not to the level that Microsoft and Sony are. But what if Steam's [unique selling point] was thousands or tens of thousands of games for free?'"
An anonymous reader writes "Back in 2012, Android accounted for 79 percent of all mobile malware. Last year, that number ballooned even further to 97 percent. Both those data points come from security firm F-Secure, which today released its 40-page Threat Report for the second half of 2013. More specifically, Android malware rose from 238 threats in 2012 to 804 new families and variants in 2013. Apart from Symbian, F-Secure found no new threats for other mobile platforms last year."
sfcrazy writes "Linux is on a roll. After conquering the smartphone space, Android is now dominating the tablet space. According to a new study by Gartner, 'the tablet growth in 2013 was fueled by the low-end smaller screen tablet market, and first time buyers; this led Android to become the No. 1 tablet operating system (OS), with 62 percent of the market.'" Also, everyone is buying tablets.(~200 million sold in 2013 vs ~115 million in 2012). Microsoft still only has 2% of the tablet market.
Nerval's Lobster writes "As founder and CEO of the Ouya (pronounced "OOO-yah") game company, Julie Uhrman's mission has been to lure gamers back to their living room televisions. Touch-screen gaming on a smartphone or tablet is nice, she suggests, but a big screen, coupled with the precision of a controller with buttons and analog sticks, offers the best platform for immersive, emotionally engaging experiences. Soon enough, though, you shouldn't need an Ouya console to play Ouya games. Later this week, Uhrman plans to announce 'Ouya Everywhere,' an initiative to bring Ouya games to television sets that aren't connected to Ouya hardware. As a company, Ouya remains vague about just how Ouya Everywhere will work; but in an interview with Slashdot, Uhrman provided a rough idea of what to expect: 'It could be another set-top [box],' she said. 'It could be the TV itself. There's a number of different ways that games can be played on the television, and we're actively exploring all of them.' To be clear, Ouya isn't getting out of the hardware business. The company has promised relatively frequent hardware refreshes, and already upgraded the original Ouya's controller to address early complaints. The next version of the Ouya hardware 'at a minimum will have a higher performing chipset,' she said. 'We have done a lot of work on our controller and we feel like there is even more work to do. Those are the two big things we're focused on.' But while her company builds hardware, Uhrman insists that Ouya is 'really a software company. The largest team inside Ouya is software engineers.' (Ouya has 49 employees, 19 of them engineers.) Ouya arrived with great fanfare in 2012, after a $950,000 Kickstarter campaign met its goal in just eight hours. The fundraiser ended up raising $8.6 million, and Kickstarter backers received their consoles in March 2013."
One of the few but lingering complaints about the Raspberry Pi is that it relies on a proprietary GPU blob for communication between the graphics drivers and the hardware. Today, Broadcom released the full source for the OpenGL ES 1.1 and 2.0 driver stack for the Broadcom VideoCore IV 3D graphics subsystem running on one of its popular cellphone systems-on-a-chip. It's available under a BSD license, and Broadcom provided documentation for the graphics core as well. The SoC in question is similar to the one used on the Raspberry Pi, and Eben Upton says making a port should be 'relatively straightforward.' The Raspberry Pi Foundation has offered a $10,000 bounty for the first person who can demonstrate a functional port. (The test for functionality is, of course, being able to run Quake III Arena.) Upton says, 'This isn't the end of the road for us: there are still significant parts of the multimedia hardware on BCM2835 which are only accessible via the blob. But we're incredibly proud that VideoCore IV is the first publicly documented mobile graphics core, and hope this is the first step towards a blob-free future for Raspberry Pi.' Side note: the RPi is now two years old, and has sold 2.5 million units.
mpicpp writes "It looks thicker than most of the phones you see at Best Buy, but Boeing's first smartphone isn't meant to be used by the average person. The company that's known for its airplanes is joining the smartphone game with the Boeing Black, targeted at people that work in the security and defense industry. One of its security features is self-destructing if it gets into the wrong hands, although not quite in the Mission Impossible sense. According to the company's letter to the FCC, the phone will have screws with a tamper-proof coating, revealing if a person has tried to disassemble it. 'Any attempt to disassemble the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,' writes Bruce Olcott, an attorney for Boeing."
An anonymous reader writes "Facebook today began prompting Facebook Messenger for Windows users as well as Facebook Messenger for Firefox users with a message saying the apps are shutting down next week. Without much of an explanation, the company plans to kill off both on March 3. It appears that Facebook is no longer interested in developing desktop apps. The Android and iOS versions are still alive and well." You can always connect to their IM service using a generic XMPP client like Pidgin (too bad Facebook doesn't federate).
An anonymous reader writes "Earlier this week, Google Android chief Sundar Pichai spoke at the Mobile World Congress where he explained, rather bluntly, that Android is designed to be open more so than it's designed to be safe. He also added that if he were a hacker today, he too would focus most of his efforts on Android on account of its marketshare position." Related: wiredmikey writes "Boeing is launching 'Boeing Black phone,' a self-destructing Android-based smartphone that the company says has no serviceable parts, and any attempted servicing or replacing of parts would destroy the product. 'Any attempt to break open the casing of the device would trigger functions that would delete the data and software contained within the device and make the device inoperable,' the company explained. ... The device should not be confused with the new encrypted Blackphone, developed by the U.S. secure communications firm Silent Circle with Spanish manufacturer Geeksphone."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Flappy Bird might be kaput, but its hilariously awkward hero is serving another useful purpose in its afterlife: teaching people how to code. Flappy Bird, a free mobile game for Android and iOS that asks the player to guide the titular avian through an obstacle course of vertical pipes, became a sensation earlier this year, seizing the top spots on the Apple and Google Play app stores. Its creator, Dong Nguyen, said the game earned him an average of $50,000 a day through in-app advertising — but that didn't stop him from yanking the game offline in early February. Now Code.org has resurrected Flappy Bird, Phoenix-style, from the smoking wreckage, with a free tutorial that allows anyone with a bit of time to code his or her very own version of the game. There's no actual code to learn, thanks to a visual interface that allows budding developers to drag 'blocks' of commands into place. 'Flappy Bird recently met its untimely death. We might've been tempted to cry all day and give up on spreading computer science (not really, but R.I.P Flappy Bird),' read a note on Code.org's blog. 'Instead, we built a new drag-and-drop tutorial that lets you build your own Flappy game — whether it's Flappy Bird, or Flappy Easter Bunny, Flappy Santa, Flappy Shark with Lasers, Flappy Fairy or Flappy Underwater Unicorn.' Childish? Maybe. But it could help draw people into coding for fun or profit."
alphadogg writes "U.S. cellphone carriers were offered a technology last year that supporters say would dramatically cut incidents of smartphone theft, but the carriers turned it down, according to sources with knowledge of the proposal. The so-called 'kill-switch' software allows consumers to remotely wipe and render their phones useless if stolen. Law enforcement and politicians believe the incentive for stealing a smartphone or tablet would be greatly reduced if the technology became standard, because the devices could quickly be rendered useless. A proposal by Samsung to the five largest U.S. carriers would have made the LoJack software, developed by Canada's Absolute Software, a standard component on many of its Android phones in the U.S. The proposal followed pressure from the offices of the San Francisco District Attorney and the New York Attorney General for the industry to do more to prevent phone theft."
squiggleslash writes "Despite some industry skepticism, Nokia has indeed been working on an Android smartphone and finally unveiled the Nokia X today. As rumored, it's not a Google Play compatible device, running instead a Google-less AOSP build with a Nokia app store, and Windows Phone style shell. The budget phone will also not be marketed in North America. The Media seems convinced Microsoft — who are in the process of acquiring Nokia — will kill the project, but it's hard to see why Nokia would be working on such a project at this time if Microsoft had plans to do this."
sfcrazy writes "Amazon is all set to get Apple and Roku some serious competition with its own 'web-TV' or set-top box. According to reports, Amazon will be using Google's Android to build the box. Amazon already has a huge library of content (from Amazon Prime) which it can push to the living room through the box. Amazon, like Netflix, is also investing heavily in producing content to their own set-box. Amazon has also been hiring game developers and it won't be surprising if the company also dabbles into gaming." And while it may be only a rumor, the idea's got some reasonable legs: besides the content on Prime, Amazon has been making media-centric Android devices for a few years with its Kindle Fire line.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google's Advanced Technology and Projects Group is working on a new initiative, Project Tango, which could allow developers to quickly map objects and interiors in 3D. At the heart of Project Tango is a prototype smartphone with a 5-inch screen, packed with hardware and software optimized to take 3D measurements of the surrounding environment. The associated development APIs can feed tons of positioning and orientation data to Android applications written in Java, C/C++, and the Unity Game Engine. In addition to a 'standard' 4-megapixel camera, the device features a motion-tracking camera and an aperture for integrated depth sensing; integrated into the circuitry are two computer-vision processors. Google claims it only has 200 developer units in stock, and it's willing to give them to independent developers who can submit a detailed idea for a project involving 3D mapping of some sort. The deadline for unit distribution is March 14, 2014. In theory, developers could use ultra-portable 3D mapping to create better maps, visualizations, and games. ('What if you could search for a product and see where the exact shelf is located in a super-store?' Google's Website asks at one point.) The bigger question is what Google intends to do with the technology if it proves effective. Google Maps with super-detailed interiors, anyone?"
An anonymous reader writes "Sailfish, the Linux-based mobile operating system developed by Finnish devicemaker Jolla, has reached version 1.0. Sailfish arose from the ashes of several failed and interrupted projects to bring a new, major Linux-based platform to mobile devices. It's already running on phones sold in India and Russia, but more importantly, Sailfish was designed to be easily ported to existing Android devices. It's also built to support many Android apps. Jolla will begin providing complete firmware downloads during the first half of the year."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Tesla CEO Elon Musk admitted in a Bloomberg interview that he had engaged in 'conversations' with Apple, but refused to disclose the content of those talks. Rumors have circulated for several days that Apple executives met with Musk last spring about a possible acquisition. An anonymous source with knowledge of those discussions told SFGate.com that discussions included Adrian Perica, who heads up Apple's M&A division, and possibly Apple CEO Tim Cook. 'Both [Tesla and Apple] have built brands based on advanced engineering and stylish user-friendly design,' the newspaper noted. 'And each company has become a symbol of Silicon Valley innovation—even among people who don't own their products.' But in the interview, Musk framed an acquisition as 'very unlikely,' mostly because it would distract Tesla from its goal of building an affordable electric car. 'I don't see any scenario,' he added, in which Tesla could juggle the issues associated with a takeover while producing vehicles that met his perfectionist standards. He did suggest, however, that Apple's iOS and Google Android could find their respective ways into Tesla's in-vehicle software. Tesla executives once considered integrating an early version of Android into the company's first electric cars, but the software ultimately wasn't ready to serve as an automotive application. Nonetheless, Musk could see iOS or Android within the context of a 'projected mode or emulator' that would allow someone to use applications while driving, although 'that's peripheral to the goal of Tesla.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Attackers have crafted the E-Z-2-Use malware code that exploits a 14-month-old vulnerability in Android devices. The vulnerability exists in the WebView interface a malicious website can utilize it to gain a remote shell into the system with the permissions of the hijacked application. Vulnerable devices are any device that is running a version earlier than 4.2 (in which the vulnerability was patched) which is a staggeringly large amount of the market. The vulnerability is in Android itself rather than the proprietary GMS application platform that sits atop the base operating system so it is not easily patched by Google."