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* Posts by ThomH

1919 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009

iPhone 5 to include Japanese earthquake warning system

ThomH
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It is a fair comment, but...

... apps can't listen for SMSs because apps have no access to your SMS stream, Apple's decision being that customers don't want that and Apple's app store being such that they can block any applications that go through unofficial channels.

However, apps can listen for a message from an external server without being active and in the foreground, that being how things like Skype work. There are some restrictions on that which I won't bore you with in detail, but generally speaking you give app-by-app permission to alert you to notifications pushed by an external server and Apple will allow your app to respond if it fits into a permitted use case. Otherwise you just get the notification on screen, possibly with a sound effect, and the app doesn't get any CPU time whatsoever unless the user allows it.

I guess because your question leads to a discussion of the walled garden it was unfairly mistaken for a troll.

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Apple, HTC trim phone forecasts as markets tank

ThomH
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@Steve: a good rant with some valid points, but ignores the facts

HTC and Apple have several years of experience of selling handsets that are much like the handsets of a year ago. They put in their initial component orders based on that experience. In the wake of financial market turmoil they've both suddenly reduced their component orders.

Since we're talking about the two companies having changed their orders suddenly, the economy is likely to be the sole factor.

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Googlola's closed source Android temptation

ThomH
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I hate to say it...

... but per the linked article, they defined 'platform' quite widely and seem to have opened the net to software strongly related to mobile platforms, hence compared Android to Eclipse, the Linux kernel, MeeGo, Firefox, Qt, Symbian (when it was open), and WebKit.

Why do I hate to say it? Because that imports a Google v Apple angle. Maybe if we keep that bit quiet we can still have a sensible discussion?

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David May, parallel processing pioneer

ThomH
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Any recommended reading?

The article shows 'A Tutorial Introduction to Occam Programming' — as someone who's naturally curious and likes books they can hold, is that a good book to learn about Transputer's approach to parallelism and the Occam language? If I'm going to buy just a single book, is there anything else better? I guess I'm asking for the Occam equivalent of the Smalltalk blue book.

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HP chief bows to Jobsian cult

ThomH
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Apotheker didn't purchase Palm

He's been CEO at GP since September last year, having moved over from SAP. Palm were acquired by HP in July last year.

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id Software Wolfenstein 3D

ThomH
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Insert obligatory Midi Maze reference here?

And Faceball 2000 was doing first person shooting on the Gameboy before Wolfenstein 3d came along — you can't get much more mainstream than that.

I think it's Wolfenstein that inspired most of the subsequent games though.

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Piles of unshiftable HP fondle-slabs choke Best Buy

ThomH
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Hopefully this isn't the end

Though I may be investing a little more hope than is realistic. It'd be interesting to read a postmortem if HP do either kill it or restrict it to being the fast boot option on laptops, a use I think they've hinted at before. I'm aware of negative stories about build quality, the iTunes syncing spat (which made both parties look bad in my opinion) and performance, but there's got to be more to the ongoing failure to find traction than those factors alone.

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Android app logs keystrokes using phone movements

ThomH
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@famousringo: iOS should be secure though

Since it allows multitasking only by a WebOS-inspired event-based model, with a program declaring itself to be within one of a few well-defined categories. Other programs put into the background are completely suspended.

In fact, I'd assume WebOS is safe too. But I'm not as up on that as iOS and Android.

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iPHONE 5 SHOCK! US Apple store 4G kit-fit snapped

ThomH
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Fibre to the cabinet is happening though

It's listed as "available in some areas" in the small town I grew up in, my London Zone 2 flat's exchange will be upgraded in March (which will be nice, as I currently get 3 Mbps, being more than 1.5km from the exchange), and I know they've done a similar thing in Manchester and Liverpool upgrading from the outside inward and are expecting to get to the centre of both during 2012.

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Angry S Koreans mass-sue Apple over iPhone tracking

ThomH
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@Kristian Walsh (and the story generally)

Re: the story's "Apple had stored their iPhones' location data" and your "Apple ... collected this information about the customer without permission; and ... did not take adequate precautions to prevent it being abused."

I think the sort of wording people are using is prone to give a false impression: Apple never had the data in their possession. Their OS collected it and it remained on your handset and in your iTunes backups, potentially exposing it to malicious third parties. Nobody alleges that Apple did this on purpose so far as I can make out, but by the same token if your new-build home fell down then you'd be able to sue the builders even if they didn't do it on purpose.

I'm all for devices being built with sufficient competence not to leak information about me to others so if that's the basis on which the court awarded damages then I'm in favour of it.

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Samsung's lovely illegal tablet: Why no one wants to know

ThomH
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@jarjarbinks: made up statistics prove nothing

The most recent survey from IDC of mobile developers - published less than two weeks ago - showed 91% "very interested" in writing iPhone apps versus 87% "very interested" in writing Android phone apps. In both cases, tablets were explicitly counted separately.

From that you conclude that Android is "way ahead" on developers? That strongly suggests a bias that it's impossible to ignore when reading the rest of your comments.

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ThomH
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@Robert Long: no it shouldn't

That'd just be one more setting to further complicate the relevant screen and for your less technical friends to change and then claim the device is broken because everything suddenly looks different and that they have no recollection of changing anything.

Being as honest about the device as possible and expecting web site vendors not to drive away their customers sounds like a better idea to me.

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Google's Moto move spells iPhone doom

ThomH
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I don't buy it

Despite the two competing and contradictory opinion pieces on El Reg today — claiming variously that Apple is finished or that Google wasted their money on irrelevant IP from a loss-making phone manufacturer — I think this is largely a sideshow.

The iPod showed that Apple can hold a direct-to-consumer market against a thousand competitors even when they organise under a common banner. They managed to create an aura of quality while being sufficiently competitive on price.

I think they're having a much harder time in mobile because selling to the consumer through networks is a lot more difficult when they don't want to give the networks any control. In that environment it's not surprising that manufacturers who are more willing to balance consumer experience against network demands have been able to sell in a lot more volume. Those volumes also become a benefit for all Android users, creating more interest in the top tier, unencumbered handsets.

That said, while the article is right that it's disingenuous to say that Apple are really winning the war with Android because they suck up so much of the profit in the handset arena, the fact that Google and others are also reaping significant funds doesn't seem to put Apple in a precarious position from where I'm sitting. Two segmented areas of profit are even less of a zero-sum game than most of the markets that the tech press likes to report as such.

I have to admit to still being uncertain exactly why Google have bought Motorola, given their unwillingness to get engaged in legal proceedings against their licensees to date, but I seriously doubt this spells doom for the iPhone. My expectation remains the same: that Apple will end up in more of a Mac situation than an iPod situation, profitably reaping a high-value niche.

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'Major' C++ revision receives standards blessing

ThomH
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Competing demands, that's all

C++'s complexity is a result of the desire to create a language that can automate everything that more extreme languages supply while making it all optional and without taking one step away from the language having as close as possible to no runtime.

It's a grand unification, even while the world shows a preference for niche languages.

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People don't want tablets, they want iPads

ThomH
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@DryBones

Apple's approach to applications — sandboxed and with very low permissions — should make it easy for suitable tools to spot any malware that comes along and basically prevent any propagation of trojans, which are the predominant threat everywhere nowadays. Apple have also started pushing OS updates on the desktop to eliminate malware where it crops up, suggesting they're at least taking the problem more seriously than they were.

I therefore don't expect serious malware problems on iOS.

I would imagine there may be more problems on Android because Google publish the code, meaning that you can determine what has been fixed from version to version and hence what vulnerabilities did exist previously, but a whole bunch of handset vendors then fail to pass the updates on to users. But if a real problem arises the market should be able to provide a solution because there's no walled garden, so I don't expect it'll have a major impact on Android's continuing fantastic adoption rate.

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ThomH
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Look to Amazon would be more appropriate

They are the only potential competitors with the content and the vertical integration to match Apple — they also have an incredible platform from which to launch. If they launch then I expect them to coast into second place almost immediately and then to put up a pretty decent fight.

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ThomH
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Not very sound reasoning

Your argument is: if you assume there's nothing wrong with the product then there's something wrong with the consumers.

I'm as surprised that Apple is staying ahead as anybody, but couldn't it just be that the glut of new tablets and the besmirching of Android's name by some very awful no-brand tablets are preventing decent tablets that make 'Android' a big part of the pitch from picking up momentum quickly?

I'll be more surprised than anyone if Apple's share still isn't significantly reduced a year from now.

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iPhone 5 less than a month away

ThomH
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I heard the Galaxy S2 was a Motorola DynaTAC copy

You know, making the phone bigger and all.

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ThomH
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When's the last time anyone launched an interesting phone?

Nobody in the industry has done anything particularly interesting for such a long time that I'm having difficulty building up any enthusiasm whatsoever. My predictions: things that can be quantified will see an increase, probably with the exception of battery life. That's how everybody does it.

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The IBM PC is 30

ThomH
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Unicomp do!

Unicomp being the inheritors of the buckling spring. They still seem to be producing them, with USB variants, versions with modern Windows and Mac layouts and other arrangements.

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Amazon paints the Kindle cloudy

ThomH
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This is pretty good though...

... because it uses the new 'HTML5' database feature, so that all your interaction is entirely within the page itself and handled invisibly by the browser. There's no manual work involved and no need to have access to and an understanding of a traditional file system. You just pin the books you want to be able to read offline and everything is done for you.

I don't actually like reading on the iPad or on any similar light-in-your-face-with-visible-pixels device, but I appreciate what Amazon have done here.

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iPhone 4 prototype journo off the hook

ThomH
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Not so much of an ego trip

Property stolen from Apple (the theft having occurred at the moment the defendant decided not to return the thing) was sold at a profit. That's a crime. Asking the police to investigate a crime isn't an ego trip. The attitude of the defendant also seems sufficient to push the crime from a legal wrong to a moral wrong.

Busting gung-ho through an editor's door once it's become obvious that you're part of a high profile story potentially sounds like a bit of an ego excursion but there's not a shred of evidence to suggest Apple directed the police investigation. Chen was mistreated in my opinion, but you're far too quick to point the finger of blame.

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Google kills off app maker

ThomH
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To be fair...

... all of those except The Last One (if you give Smalltalk a pass as the basis of Objective-C) have been used for a bunch of useful, productive applications and are still being used today. The hype is always a bit ridiculous, but useful ideas have emerged.

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Apple blocks sale of Samsung's Android fondleslab across EU

ThomH
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I think you might be paranoid

There doesn't seem to be any cult connection in this article at all. It's Apple the company pursuing Samsung the company. I don't even see anybody coming out here to defend Apple, which is unsurprising given the circumstances.

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Xpress yourself: Quark sold to M&A outfit

ThomH
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Disregarding the "fan boys" did it for them

In 2002 Quark CEO Fred Ebrahimi declared that "publishing is dying" and suggested that those who were unhappy with Quark's then failure to update Xpress to run on OS X "switch to something else".

Meanwhile, Adobe had updated InDesign to OS X and declared that publishing was just breaking out of its print niche, shortly announcing the Creative Suite to tie print and digital tools together into a convincing package (well, compared to the competition).

I can't find a graph of market share for InDesign vs XPress since the launch of OS X, but I'm pretty confident I can guess what it looks like. My assessment would be that Ebrahimi did a Ratner.

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Linus Torvalds dubs GNOME 3 'unholy mess'

ThomH
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Depends on your definition of "taken"

Microsoft "took" from Apple in the sense that they had a contract with Apple that a court found to have given them access to the relevant intellectual property. Apple "took" from Xerox in the sense that they paid millions of dollars worth of shares in order to have access to the research centre.

In both cases, ideas migrated due to business transactions.

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ThomH
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@JEDDIDAH: what are you talking about?

OS X doesn't jail apps onto one desktop, and hasn't at any time since it gained virtual desktops. It's trivial to move them from desktop to desktop and there's no requirement for all the windows for a single app to be on the same desktop.

Moving from one desktop to another is achieved through drag and drop.

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Google claims 'bogus patent' conspiracy against Android

ThomH
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@Paul: it was more about Office

Microsoft invested a small amount of money but also reinvigorated Office development and promised to continue to support the platform for five years, whatever happens. Prior to the 1997 agreement, Office development for Mac was moribund, which was one of the things making the platform look stagnant at best. In return IE displaced Netscape as the default browser on the Mac, which it continued to be until OS X 10.3 debuted.

So Apple got to look a little more alive and Microsoft got to kick Netscape.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

ThomH
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To be fair to them...

... you could ask why did they buy On2 if they think patents are bogus? The answer was: to put those patents under a perpetually free licence.

That said, they'll get no sympathy from me either if they're trying to conjure up images of some sort of industry-wide conspiracy against them. It's nice to see someone from a big, trusted company going on the record about the lunacy of the US patent system though.

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Microsoft skewers Google's anti-Android conspiracy claim

ThomH
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Actually a pretty good defence

Google argue they needed the patents independently to allow them to be used as a shield, and the pattern of their bidding in the auction already suggested they didn't seriously think they were going to lose.

That said, if Microsoft are extracting money from companies like HTC then presumably Google are saying that if they'd been able to acquire the tools, they would start wading into those disputes? Just open licensing the patents they acquired wouldn't achieve protection for third parties.

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The curse of Google?: Android licensees fail to cash in

ThomH
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@ChrisC: my experience is the opposite

The number of people "actively, willingly, knowingly choosing to go the way of the 'droid rather than take a bit of the apple" is exactly the same as it always was, and comprised almost entirely of a whole bunch of angry Internet types.

The number of people buying an Android phone has surged because Android phones tend to be the best value proposition by a huge margin for a big majority of the market. You can get a big touch screen, a usable browser and access to apps for free on a cheap contract, often with unlimited data (per the industry's definition of unlimited). Nobody cares that it's an Android.

Sadly I think that's also why this report ends the way it does: the race to the bottom in price terms has squeezed profit, and manufacturers don't seem to have found effective ways to add value. What we've arguably got is a lot of people trying to pretend that phones aren't just commodities.

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ThomH
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@James Micallef: I'm not persuaded

I don't think most Nokia cheerleaders actually believe the hardware quality tag, it's just something they can cling to when an argument requires it. Nokia phones tend to contain older processors and GPUs, and the companies with the lowest reported malfunction rates for phones tend to be Motorola and Apple.

Nokia fans probably would have gone Nokia Android though — you're right about that. Unlike Motorola, HTC et al, Nokia did actually have a decent body of brand loyalists at one point.

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Apple iCloud pricing revealed

ThomH
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Other way round, isn't it?

Surely if they overcharge in the UK, it's to allow for the pound becoming worth less compared to the dollar?

That said, it's probably more about cost of doing business, taxation regimes, what they think the market will accept, etc.

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Skype arrives on fondleslab

ThomH
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Won't happen, sadly

The speaker is round the back, near the bottom, and there's no microphone. Trust Apple to take all the fun out of everything.

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Samsung-Apple Wars: Galaxy blocked Down Under

ThomH
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@AC

I downvoted for (i) the use of 'Crapple' and 'iFad'; (ii) the apparent assertion that if someone manufactures something, obviously they must have the intellectual rights to it; and (iii) the statement that Apple are somehow more culpable than everybody else for the current lawsuit frenzy.

All of the big tech beasts have worked in concert to put us in the stupid intellectual property position we're in now. To pull a single instance out of the many idiotic lawsuits going on and say "oh, well obviously that claimant is to blame" doesn't ring true. The first example of phone manufacturers suing each other on slightly flimsy patent grounds regarding current-or-near-enough phones that I can find is Nokia suing Apple, but I neither think that pins the blame for the whole thing on Nokia nor do I think it justifies Apple's lawyerlust.

Summary: downvote was because the post was wrong on the facts and written in a childish tongue. That I think the case being pursued by Apple shouldn't be actionable is neither here nor there.

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Nokia's cheapies strategy bombs

ThomH
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@James Hughes 1

It depends what you use your phone for - go on the tube, for example, and you'll spot that quite a few people use them for games. In that case, Nokia's obsession with cheap Broadcom GPUs and its failure to ship anything with an ARM7, even more than two years after the relevant Android and Apple handsets, is a problem.

The standard Symbian touch screen resolution of 640x360 has less than 38% the number of pixels of the iPhone 4, so even static images look significantly less sharp. 256mb of RAM as on the N8 is 50% of that in the iPhone 4 and several Android handsets, limiting third party app producers.

The N9 would address some of these issues but has yet to launch and isn't exactly intended for volume distribution.

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Kit steals Mac login passwords through FireWire port

ThomH
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This is quite a gaping hole though

Summary of the article: lock down your machine all you want and in as many ways as you can, someone can still stroll along, plug in a dongle and take an image of your RAM. Furthermore, in OS X in particular they can use that image to find your password and thereby have unfettered access to everything else — though just the RAM bit is a major concern.

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ThomH
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Story appears to contradict itself

In Lion, turning FileVault disk encryption on has the effect of disabling automatic login. So if the latter defeats the vulnerability then, contrary to the article, the former isn't vulnerable.

That aside, Firewire was designed when people were still very naive about security and manages to be faster than USB mainly by keeping the CPU out of the loop, so I'm not sure Apple can fix this in software. Hopefully Apple and Intel have been smarter with Thunderbolt, but we'll see.

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One-third of US consumers will buy an iPhone 5

ThomH
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Future product transitions are more likely

As in "oh dear, phones risk eating away at our iPod money, better make a phone" and "the phone now seems to have some decent competition, better ship a tablet or something". I think the share price is more based on the perception that Apple are very good at churning out new consumer hits, even with the occasional misfire, rather than that they're tied to any market in particular.

Of course, if any shareholders based their purchase on the idea that a third of US consumers are going to buy an iPhone then they're in for a disappointment as this survey is clearly way off the mark. I guess some sort of iPhone Nano could alter the balance but I don't see any reason the Android-for-the-mass-market juggernaut should stop.

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RIM workforce decimated: 2,000 jobs slashed

ThomH
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Not correct (or incorrect), just historical

Per OED, in modern usage decimate may just mean "remove a large proportion of". The meaning has shifted since antiquity, as it has for many other words.

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Apple Mac OS X 10.7 Lion Part Two

ThomH
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@Gulfie

Obvious comments, mostly:

Re: removing Java, I assume the intention is to remove it just as any other bit of code included in 10.6 but not in 10.7 is removed. I hope there's some logic that tries to preserve it if you've been using it (e.g., if you have Java-utilising apps installed) and that it just didn't work here, but can't claim to be particularly confident. However, there are lots of reasons not to include software in an OS distribution other than politics. Apple's defence that if they make it an OS feature then they become responsible for maintaining it and that nobody else ships it as an OS feature is reasonably convincing, though you're probably right that politics was involved.

Re: Versions, as already pointed out, this not only ensures that what is on disk is kept up-to-date with whatever edits you've made, but also retains all older version for browsing. So there's no "too late!" in your example — just scroll back through the revisions and find the one you like. Though I'm unclear as to what the behaviour is when exporting a file to an OS that can't do revisions, such as when you email a file, copy it to a flash drive, use an external server, etc.

While I agree that it'd be nice to be able to turn off restore permanently and wouldn't be surprised if Apple added it (after all, they gave us the opaque menu bar back eventually), I'd be surprised if Versions becomes an optional feature. If anything I'd expect it to be baked into the filing system proper at a later date, rather than handled via a SQL database that is itself a file.

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ThomH
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No

If you equate real searching with regular expressions then no. However the same (nested) Boolean, wildcard, case and date stuff carries over. So the search is glob-like, which I guess also doesn't do a real search by your criteria.

For documentation, see http://developer.apple.com/library/mac/#documentation/Carbon/Conceptual/SpotlightQuery/Concepts/QueryFormat.html

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MacBook batteries susceptible to hack attacks

ThomH
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@Dan 55

I stand corrected, but in my defence I was thinking of a careless security mistake in a piece of software that was actually exploited. As the article you link to says "Having the passwords will not do anybody any good for the moment [...] nobody even seems certain that the accounts access the machine at all". However it was my mistake to conflate the two things and to claim that you were wrong.

As to the rest of my original post, I'm still uncertain as to how one would put damaging software onto an Apple battery. I don't deny that there's a potential security problem here (though if the battery firmware could be altered only by a piece of software already running as root on the machine then I might, since then logically the number of attack vectors isn't increased, just the number of attacks) but I'm curious what a prudent person should do in response.

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ThomH
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@Dan 55

Minor correction: Apple have never hard coded the root password for iOS devices; certain jail break tools used to do that, creating a security flaw for users of those tools only.

I otherwise agree with you mostly, Apple's attitude seemingly being that security updates aren't very urgent.

One thing I'm unsure of from the article: how do you perform the attack? Do you need physical access and/or root permissions? Anything of that nature that comes through Software Update requires an administrator password - does this flaw get around that somehow?

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Acer to deliver ARM notebook within nine days

ThomH
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They've a vested interest in upsell, though

As will anybody else that enters the market. And once Windows for ARM is out, somebody else will have exactly the same motivations that they did during the period in which Intel netbooks mysteriously doubled in price.

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Adobe releases lengthy list of Apple Lion woes

ThomH
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@ Someone has used "a handle is required"

If your only complaint against Objective-C is the manual memory management (which is reference counted so as to keep all management decisions local, but that's about the only positive thing you can think of to say about it), then you're behind the times. A garbage collector was added in 10.6, albeit that it was a hassle to write suitable code, and automatic reference counting is added in the new compiler and 10.7, which does it all for you at runtime via [a limited form of] static analysis. It's so easy to use and so trusted that it's enabled by default for new projects. You can even enable or disable it file-by-file so as to migrate existing projects and to continue to interface with standard C and C++ code without problems.

Of course, most people's complaints against Objective-C go a lot deeper so you probably have other concerns, but that's the only complaint I've ever agreed with and now seems to be solved.

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ThomH
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Adobe are so infuriating

They've gone the same route as Opera and a hundred other under-staffed open source projects previously; their version of supporting OS X is not to use the normal system APIs to achieve normal system integration, but to attempt to mimic it by other means. Adobe's mimicry is a lot better than most, but suffers the same problems: it's built on a series of empirical observations and assumptions, and is prone to sticking out like a sore thumb as soon as extra or changed built-in functionality is provided by the OS.

In the case of Opera/etc you usually end up at the conclusion that the software producer doesn't really care but with Adobe I tend to get the impression that they spend most of their days layering hack upon hack upon hack to try to keep a twenty-year-old code base from falling apart. That may well be the most profitable thing to do, but it's not exactly surprising that they seem to stumble from technical issue to technical issue.

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ThomH
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InDesign being the exception to the rule?

The reason InDesign took so much market share from Quark Express, even before the Creative Suite, was that it worked on OS X a lot earlier. It's a shame Adobe didn't seem to learn very much from that early embrace of a new technology.

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Major overhaul makes OS X Lion king of security

ThomH
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I think it's the sandboxing that makes the story

The story is quite clear, as you point out, that ASLR and full disk encryption are areas in which OS X has now caught up with Windows and Linux (or Ubuntu as it seems to call it). It then suggests that sand boxing processes and designing the applications (and daemons) that come with the system to isolate different logical parts into different processes within different sandboxes constituted a step in advance of any of the competing operating systems. So that's the leapfrog jump — the fact that the supplied browser, email app, PDF viewer, etc are all now aggressively using sand boxing, for which there is now high level API support.

Whether or not that's a valid assessment is one thing; just repeating what the article already says about areas where Apple have played catch up is quite another.

Re: pre-emptive multitasking, citing Apple's failure to transition to a modern OS until around 2000 feels a bit disingenuous as a comment on the OS they transitioned to.

Re: 64bit, that's been a feature since 2005. The difference in approaches has been that Apple have uncharacteristically gone for a gradual transition, though I think that's because the hardware has made a gradual transition.

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