jeudi 26 avril 2018

Opera Touch is a new mobile browser optimized for one handed use

Google Chrome remains the most popular web browser on Android. That doesn’t mean that third-party browsers aren’t popular, though. In fact, Samsung Internet, Microsoft Edge, and Mozilla Firefox all have a substantial user base. These third-party browsers have features such as tracking protection, add-ons, and more.

Opera is a popular third-party browser in Android as well. In the old days of Android, Opera Mobile used to be the firm’s flagship mobile web browser, while Opera Mini was released as a compressed “lite” web browser for low-end phones and areas which did not have optimal connectivity. Opera Mobile was later retired in favor of the new Opera, which is a Chromium-based web browser.

Now, Opera has released a new web browser, called Opera Touch. The first feature of Opera Touch is that it’s “instantly ready” to find things on the web, as users can start typing or use voice search to initiate a search. They can  use the app to scan QR codes and go to the website they link to. Also, they can use Opera Touch to scan a barcode on a product in order to search for it online.

Opera Touch Opera Touch

The main differentiating feature of Opera Touch is that it’s a one-hand friendly browser. Opera states that the browser lets users explore the web using only one hand, with the Fast Action button being always visible on the browser screen. The button gives users access to Instant Search, and they can also hold and swipe it to switch to their most recent tabs, reload the tab, close it, or send the current tab to their computer.

Opera Touch features Flow, which lets users use the app together with their Opera desktop browser for “seamless web browsing” across devices. Users need to start the Opera desktop browser and scan the QR code displayed there with Opera Touch, and they don’t need a login, password, or account unlike other solutions. They can then send links, videos and notes to themselves with a single click, and the links, videos and notes will be displayed across their devices.

Opera notes that the data users send in Flow is fully end-to-end encrypted. Opera Touch also features Opera’s cryptojacking protection, that is said to reduce the risk of users’ phone getting overheated or running out of battery when they browser the web.

Finally, the browser features an opt-in ad blocker which is disabled by default. When users turn it on, it will block “intrusive ads,” thus making web pages load faster.

Users can download Opera Touch from the Play Store.

Opera Touch: the fast, new browser with Flow (Free, Google Play) →



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What are your thoughts on Google’s “Chat?” Will you miss Allo?

Anyone that has ever used an Android device knows that Google has a messaging problem. From Google Talk to Hangouts to Allo, they’ve tried a bunch of different approaches. Last week, news broke about yet another messaging solution from Google. But this time, instead of creating an entirely new app, Google is focusing on a carrier-service based on the Universal Profile for RCS. The bad news (for some people) is that work on Google Allo has been “paused,” hinting that the service may be on its way out.

To summarize, RCS will be rebranded as “Chat” and Google will be beefing up Android Messages with a bunch of new features. RCS is essentially the successor of SMS. Most Android manufacturers and carriers are on board with the new standard. This means Chat will hopefully be relatively ubiquitous among smartphone users, which should make it more of an iMessage competitor. Google is pausing work on Allo to focus on Chat.

Messaging has been a mess for a long time on Android. There are tons of great apps to choose from, but no real “default” messaging service. Everyone has SMS, but it lacks many of the features you can find in apps like Allo, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger. Messaging power users don’t use SMS, so will they switch to Chat if it has enough features?

What are your thoughts on Google’s latest attempt to fix messaging? Do you think Chat will take off and rival iMessage? Or will this be yet another messy situation? And what about Allo? Are you an Allo user? How do you feel about Google putting development on hold? Sound off in the comments below!



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Hangouts Meet is replacing classic Hangouts video in May for G Suite users

About a year ago, Google split Hangouts into two separate apps for G Suite users. Hangouts Chat is a Slack-like communication platform for teams. Hangouts Meet is a video chat platform that has existed independently from the old Hangouts video chat that everyone knows. That’s about to change as Meet will officially replace the old Hangouts video chat in May for G Suite users.

This news will come to no surprise to anyone that has been using the old Hangouts video chat. Google has been slowly stripping away features for a while. What was once a platform with tons of tools and fun effects has become a bare-bones utility. Google says Meet offers “significantly better performance” and a “cleaner, more focused user experience.” Starting May 21st, all meetings created in Calendar for G Suite will default to Meet.

It’s worth noting that all of this only concerns G Suite users. Classic Hangouts will still be available for everyone else. We should also mention that Hangouts Meet currently only works in Google Chrome. Firefox, Safari, and Microsoft Edge users are out of luck for the time being, but Google says support should arrive before the cut-off date.

Google already has enough messaging problems to deal with. The “Hangouts” platform is one of the more confusing parts. Consumers will not be affected by this change. The classic Hangouts video chat platform will still be available for live podcasts and video calls. G Suite users can check out this page to see the comparison between Hangouts Meet and classic Hangouts. Be ready for the changeover next month.


Source: Google Support Via: Android Police



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Dublin Tech Summit 2018 Round-Up: Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, and More

Thousands from across the world descended upon Dublin’s Convention Centre on April 18th and 19th for the Dublin Tech Summit. Attendees hope to learn something new about technology and the world around us. There was something for everybody, with topics ranging from Artificial Intelligence to the Internet of Things to even the science behind music and the science of appealing to consumers. While none of the talks were directly related to Android or smartphones, many of these advanced technologies will be hitting the markets in the coming years and will have a direct influence on smartphone advancements as a whole. Artificial intelligence advancements that can be applied to how we use our smartphones are coming, and all of them aim to make life easier for everyone.

The Dublin Tech Summit had 4 types genres of talk, INNOVATExTECH, FUTURExTECH, FACTORYxTECH, and MUSICxTECH. All of these had their own schedules and own talk rooms, so at any given time there were about 4 on-going talks to keep people busy. There’s something for everyone, and if there really was nothing that appealed to you at any given time you could go downstairs to check out the expedition where lots of startups and bigger companies had set up booths and ran competitions and giveaways. A STARTUPxPITCH area was set up as well, where startups could pitch their ideas in the hopes of attracting investors and also winning 5000 euro for the most unique and promising idea, straight from the Dublin Tech Summit themselves.

dublin tech summit artificial intelligence internet of things dublin tech summit artificial intelligence internet of things

Artificial Intelligence at the Dublin Tech Summit 2018

Have you ever thought about who the largest taxi, accommodation, or retailing companies are in the world? It may not come as a surprise that the answer to those questions are Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon respectively. These companies do things differently than the rest of the competition. Uber does not own a taxi fleet, Airbnb does not own any hotels, and Amazon (until recently) owns no physical retailers. These companies grew from the ground up with the help of innovation and artificial intelligence, often with artificial intelligence being the driving factor behind this innovation. Complex calculations and algorithms allow these companies to make changes that their data suggests will retain users for longer in the expectation that they will spend more time using their services and thus, more money. It appears to work. According to Jordan Bitterman of IBM, AI can change how consumers interact with the world around them.

There are 12 risks to human civilization, according to the Global Challenges Foundation. Artificial intelligence is one of them and it is the only one on that list that can be used to combat the other 11.

dublin tech summit artificial intelligence internet of things

The 12 risks to human civilization

Artificial intelligence is a vast topic, which Bitterman later goes into, referring to the “three stages of computing” to demonstrate his point. Tabulating, programming, and finally AI. Tabulating refers to the arrangement of data, the first computer of its kind was invented in 1890 by Herman Hollerith in order to help with managing data collected in the US census. This was the very first type of computer we saw and predates basically anything we ever see today.

The programming stage is a lot easier to understand, and we entered that stage when it came to being able to create our own programs on our computers. Artificial intelligence is the third and final stage that we’ve seen so far and has gone a step further than simply programming computers.

When we program a computer, we are effectively programming it a “skill”. Programming a computer to be a calculator is giving it mathematical skills, but the things it can do are finite. If it can multiply, add, subtract an divide, it later won’t learn to calculate the square root of numbers by itself. It’s not going to develop any further skills and its current skill set will never evolve past what we as humans have given it. This is where the artificial intelligence stage of computing differs – computers are now learning.

AI uses skills, but it develops its own as well. It can analyze and adapt accordingly. Researchers have discovered skills programs developed all on their own without any help from the scientists behind the projects. A robot which was designed to traverse its surroundings by being told to move and being given basic motor skills eventually learned to adapt and walk correctly – but it also learned how to identify human faces, not something anybody involved in the program developed for it.

So how does this affect our mobile phones? While it sounds scary, it can also be helpful if you are willing to let it be. Analysing your movements and interests, artificial intelligence based on your phone may soon be able to do more than just talk to you. Machine learning algorithms could soon start to try and learn more about you, what you like and don’t like and even learn more about the environment around you. AIs are already doing this, but what if they could do it better, smarter, and faster? One of the biggest questions you have to ask yourself is if you trust the AI and the people behind it with your data, and if you don’t there is absolutely nobody blaming you. There’s a reason why AI is one of the 12 threats to human civilization – it all starts somewhere.

Internet of Things at Dublin Tech Summit 2018

The Internet of Things (IoT) is slowly invading all of our homes. With Smart TVs, smart dishwashers and even autonomous cars becoming more and more commonplace it’s becoming increasingly likely that at least one device in your home can be considered part of the IoT initiative. With these devices entering our homes, security has become paramount in IoT, and according to a panel held by Dr. James Crawford of SEP and Conall Laverty of Wia, companies aren’t doing enough to protect our privacy when these internet enabled devices enter our homes. They can often film and record simply because that’s how they work. That’s a huge problem when hackers can take control of them to spy on users or even organize large-scale DDoS attacks.

Security is paramount when it comes to the Internet of Things, and with companies taking security for granted on their devices both Crawford and Laverty believe that these companies should be held accountable for their poor security and poor support of their devices. The data belongs to the consumers and should belong to the consumers, not the companies making the devices and certainly not the hackers who use these devices to steal personal data. This can be problematic for consumers who have already bought into a set of IoT devices that have weak security, ecosystems are very real and can make switching from one brand of device to another extremely difficult. This is why Wia is working in tandem with Airbnb to launch the “Universal Language of Things” – a way for different IoT devices to connect to each other in the same household and share data despite being from different ecosystems. Airbnb will be rolling these out as part of special smart homes that people can rent and try out. If the testing is successful you can expect to see this technology reach the worldwide market in the near future.

An important message was also given to all those who want to get into IoT development: context matters. If you develop something that will tell you the current temperature inside of a shipping container, that’s useless by itself. What is being transported in the shipping container? If the shipping container is at 7 degrees Celsius, that doesn’t matter. If the shipping container is at 7 degrees Celsius and you’re transporting milk, then that becomes a very different problem. Context is everything when it comes to the Internet of Things, and it’s something that a lot of developers miss out on when developing these technologies.

Start-ups at Dublin Tech Summit 2018

There were a number of great start-ups at the Dublin Tech Summit 2018, but two that stood out to me were Wolf3D and Kuzzle. Wolf3D is used to make realistic 3D avatars of yourself for use in games and augmented reality, while Kuzzle is a cloud-based open-source server back-end that you can use to manage your Internet of Things devices.

Wolf3D

Wolf3D is used for making 3D avatars of the user and is unique in that its recreations are lifelike and can be used in a number of scenarios that aren’t just recreational. With a recent investment from the clothing retail company H&M, in certain stores, a Wolf3D powered H&M app will allow you to try on clothes on your virtual-self simply by walking around the shop and scanning barcodes. Wolf3D is also working with Bluehole in testing to bring features to PlayerUnknown’s BattleGrounds. You can check out some of the promotion material below which was designed to showcase just how well it works.

Kuzzle

In keeping with the Internet of Things theme throughout this article, Kuzzle is a cloud-based server-backend designed for managing your other Internet of Things devices. It was a fairly simplistic idea demonstrated by the connecting of three different devices via one back-end server hosted off-site. Light, noise and other information that was taken in from one device could be displayed on a mobile phone or laptop so long as they were connected to the same back-end server.

dublin tech summit artificial intelligence internet of things

It’s a fairly simple idea that was demonstrated well and could later be used in smart home initiatives, along with having other uses too in the future.

Dublin Tech Summit 2018

This year’s Dublin Tech Summit was a great event which had a larger focus on artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things than other years, demonstrating the importance of these topics holding such a large weight at a general technology conference. If you ever have the chance to attend one, I highly recommend it.



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TWRP with data decryption now available for the Honor View 10 & Huawei P20/P20 Pro

The start of all custom ROM development on Android usually begins with a custom recovery like TWRP. Without a custom recovery, it’s usually impossible to flash a ROM. Stock recovery checks to see if the software you’re installing is official, by way of signature verification. A custom recovery usually disables this, allowing you to just install whatever zip file you throw at it. Oftentimes there are issues at first, and on the Honor View 10 and Huawei P20/P20 Pro custom recoveries like TWRP couldn’t decrypt the data partition on the device. This meant if you wanted to make any modifications to /data you had to format your entire phone to remove the encryption and flash a modified Magisk. Thanks to XDA Senior Member Pretoriano80, users of both devices will be able to keep their phones encrypted if they want to modify /data with a custom recovery. You can check out the download links below for your device!


TWRP for the Honor View 10
TWRP for the Huawei P20/P20 Pro



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Huawei is under investigation for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran

The US government recently placed a ban on the Chinese OEM ZTE from selling devices with American-made hardware and software. This followed violations of US sanctions on Iran and failing to reprimand their employees as part of the terms of the agreement. According to The Wallstreet Journal, it appears Huawei will be the next company to be investigated for such violations. Should Huawei be found guilty of violating US sanctions on Iran, they may also be barred from using American-made products in their devices.

Huawei is the world’s number one maker of cellular-tower electronics and other telecommunications equipment and is the number three smartphone maker in the world. Their attempt to enter the US market proved less than successful, though the company is willing to try and work through its issues. In the worst case scenario, the company may find itself in the same position as ZTE – unable to use Qualcomm processors and a possibility of losing their license to sell devices with Android pre-installed. ZTE’s foothold in the market was effectively shattered simply because of the ban imposed by the American Department of Commerce. To a company of Huawei’s scale, the damages could be even more catastrophic. It would effectively remove one of the biggest players in the market. The only hope for the company would be not to lose their Android license, as they can still use their own Kirin line of processors.

That’s not to say it will happen, or even that Huawei has made any wrongdoings. It is much more likely that should they be found guilty, they’ll be treated similarly to ZTE in that they will have the chance to make amends before any bans are imposed. If Huawei is innocent, then nothing will really change and the company will still continue to enter the US market. With the US government also imposing bans on Huawei and ZTE devices, it definitely seems that they don’t like either company – be the reasons well-founded or not.


Source: The Wallstreet Journal



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mercredi 25 avril 2018

Linux apps on Chrome OS – an overview of its biggest feature since Android apps

Here’s all you need to know about Google’s year-long secretive development of Linux app functionality in Chrome OS, also known as Project Crostini.

In a nutshell, it’s a way to run regular Linux applications on Chrome OS without compromising security or enabling developer mode. The (not yet available) official setting states that it’s to “Run Linux tools, editors, and IDEs on your Chromebook.”

Crostini is a culmination of several years of development that enabled the functionality to run securely enough to meet Chrome OS’s high-security standards. To understand why it’s only just appearing, it’s best to look at what came before.

Putting Crostini in context – the dark ages of Chrome OS

Before Android apps arrived on the scene, there wasn’t much in the way of offline functionality let alone useful productivity apps in Chrome OS. Why would any sane person buy a Chromebook? “It’s just a web browser,” was the closing remark of every Chromebook review. The Chrome Web Store was as much as you’d get, but the selection of apps was pretty poor and rarely updated. The adventurous could try to run Android applications using a tool called ARC Welder, but that was hit-or-miss and performance was poor.

To get around offline limitations, frustrated users either wiped Chrome OS and installed Linux or used the open source tool Crouton to set up a simultaneous desktop environment [e.g Ubuntu Unity] working on top of the Chrome OS kernel.

Screenshot of Crouton installation

Installing Crouton, an open-source toolkit, previously the de-facto way to access Linux apps on Chrome OS, soon to be deprecated

Running a replacement GNU/Linux distribution or Crouton required a fair bit of know-how and was often riddled with bugs—and neither option was particularly user-friendly or secure. Press the wrong key and you’ll wipe your device or brick it, and if you left your Crouton environment unencrypted, any guest user could access it.

Android app integration, setting a precedent

Android apps landed on Chrome OS in 2016 and was a huge leap in offline-functionality, but enabling this functionality wasn’t just plug-and-play. The only way it could work on an OS that values security was if it was effectively sandboxed.

The novel solution the Chrome OS developers chose was containerization, a way to bundle applications into standalone executable packages. Using a container and more than a few tweaks, they managed to get the full Android environment and all its dependencies to run in a container, separated from the rest of Chrome OS yet running on the same kernel.

But Android apps aren’t usually developed with a desktop/laptop form-factor in mind. Add a poor touch experience on Chrome OS into the mix and you’ve got yourself a frustrating productivity session if apps worked at all.

Android apps on Chrome OS can be a headache sometimes

Headaches with compatibility—Android apps on Chrome OS

While Android apps helped bridge the productivity gap so far, there was still that yearning for the massive library of full desktop apps. As with the initial Android problem, simply opening up the ability to run Linux applications would increase Chrome OS’s attack surface because malicious applications could have access to everything on the host OS. So this time the developers designed Linux app functionality as siloed as possible, on top of what they already learned with Android.

Defense in depth

As the name implies, Crostini is like Crouton, but instead of having an insecure user space sitting alongside Chrome OS, it’s got two walls between them. The first wall is Termina VM, a Chrome OS KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) implementation. Once that VM starts, it puts up the second wall—a container—which then has the app you actually want to run. So when you want to run your full-fledged Klondike desktop app, it runs in a container-inside-a-VM.

The developers haven’t made the public-facing documentation particularly digestible from a non-technical point of view, but from my unofficial layman’s reading, the software architecture for Chrome OS now probably looks like this [note: all work my own, definitely not an official document of the Chrome OS team, probably completely untrue, please don’t hurt me]:

Diagram of what we think Crostini architecture looks like

What we think Crostini architecture looks like. Not an official document.

In short, the VM component has a separate user space and virtual devices (vCPU, IP, MAC, etc.), and the container is a packaged app that utilizes those resources. At this point, I should add a caveat that the VM component doesn’t actually emulate any hardware.

Rich people only… for now

Some, like the community at Reddit’s /r/Crostini, have already started tinkering with Crostini on their Google Pixelbooks. Unfortunately, the Pixelbook is the only device that has Crostini functionality so far, but signs point to other devices, even ones with ARM system-on-chips, receiving support in the future. But perhaps not quite yet for 32-bit machines. There are also hints that some parts of VM functionality required to run Crostini won’t be available for devices with older kernel versions.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably wondering: What can I run? Success has been limited. Chrome developers have hinted that they have Visual Studio running. Reddit users have gotten WINE and Android Studio working, and ChromeUnboxed did a handy video demo. But we probably won’t know the full capabilities—and limitations—before Google actually showcases something. What we do know is that apps are persistent, meaning that you can continue where you left off and that the developers are working on making them available in your recent apps list.

What next? A few points to consider

If you are in the developer channel on a Chromebook other than a Pixelbook, the Terminal app may have arrived on your Chromebook. You might see a “failed to start concierge” error. That’s because VM functionality hasn’t been enabled on devices other than the Pixelbook… yet.

We don’t yet know how resources are allocated and what kind of overhead these nested apps produce. The idea of gaming on Linux-compatible Steam games is enticing, but if GPU-acceleration isn’t available then, for now, it’s a no-go.

We don’t know what limitations the host/container air gap will produce (if any). The communication between the container and Chrome OS is controlled, so will that introduce latency or even disable some peripherals?

We have many unanswered questions, and it’s only a matter of time until all is revealed. Many are convinced Google I/O 2018 in a few weeks will be the big reveal—it makes sense as it’s a developer conference. In the meantime, stay tuned as we keep track of Crostini.


Sources:

Maksim Lin – Chrome OS Containers

Chromium Git – ARC container bundle, vm_tools, project-termina, crosvm



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