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Friday, May 17, 2013

Google Glass rooted and hacked to run Ubuntu live at Google I/O

Google Glass rooted and hacked to run Ubuntu live at Google IO

Today at Google I/O the company held a session entitled "Voiding your Warranty" where employees demonstrated how to root Google Glass and install Ubuntu on it. What you're seeing above is a screenshot from a laptop running a terminal window on top and showing the screencast output from Glass on the bottom -- here running the standard Android launcher instead of the familiar cards interface. The steps involve pushing some APKs (Launcher, Settings and Notepad) to the device using adb, then pairing Glass with a Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad. After this, it's possible to unlock the bootloader with fastboot and flash a new boot image to gain root access. From there you have full access to Glass -- just like that! Running Ubuntu requires a couple more apps to be installed, namely Android Terminal Emulator and Complete Linux Installer. The latter lets you download and boot your favorite linux distro (Ubuntu, in this case). You're then able to use SSH or VNC to access Ubuntu running right on Glass. We captured a few screenshots of the process in our gallery. Follow the links below for more info -- just be careful not to brick your Glass okay?

Source - Engadget

How Google updated Android without releasing version 4.3

Google I/O didn't give us the Android update we were expecting—or did it??
Andrew Cunningham
Google covered a lot of ground in its three-and-a-half-hour opening keynote at Google I/O yesterday, but one thing it didn't announce was the oft-rumored next version of Android. However, persistent rumors insist that the elusive Android 4.3 is still coming next month—if that's true, why not announce it at I/O in front of all of your most enthusiastic developers?

The answer is that Google did announce what amounts to a fairly substantial Android update yesterday. They simply did it without adding to the update fragmentation problems that continue to plague the platform. By focusing on these changes and not the apparently-waiting-in-the-wings update to the core software, Google is showing us one of the ways in which it's trying to fix the update problem.

Consider the full breadth of yesterday's Android-related improvements: you've got an update to the Android version of Google Maps, due this summer, that incorporates some of the features of the iOS version and the new desktop version. There's a WebGL-capable version of Chrome for Android and an entirely new gaming API. A shotgun blast of improvements are coming to the Google Play Services APIs. And that's to say nothing of the products that affect Google's services across all supported platforms: Google Play Music All Access (say that five times fast), Hangouts, and Search improvements.

In iOS, most of these changes would be worthy of a point update, if not a major version update. With few exceptions, making major changes to any of the core first-party iOS apps requires an iOS update. This method works for iOS since all supported iOS devices get their updates directly from Apple on the same day (device-specific updates like iOS 6.1.4 notwithstanding).

This is not true of Android. Here, we've seen apps like Gmail and services like those provided by Google Play gradually decouple from the rest of the OS. This makes it possible for Google to provide major front-facing updates without actually relying on its notoriously unreliable partners to incrementally up the Android version number on their devices. Many of the new things announced yesterday are coming to your Android device whether you're running a Nexus 4 or a Galaxy S 4 or a Sony Xperia ZL or an HTC Thunderbolt.

And therein lies a partial solution to the platform's fragmentation problem. The abject failure of the Android Update Alliance announced at I/O 2011 made it clear that getting Android hardware partners to fall in line with respect to device updates would be a Herculean (or, perhaps, Sisyphean) task. So Google has in essence done what newcomers like Firefox OS are proposing to do: apply more device updates at higher layers of the operating system, layers that don't need to be customized by OEMs and verified by carriers.

Enlarge / The state of Android updates. The picture isn't pretty.
If this week's announcements are any indication, there are three kinds of things that Google is going to be able to update without actually updating the core of Android: their back-end services (things like Knowledge Graph improvements), first-party apps like Gmail and Google Maps, and the API layer (the single sign-in improvements, Google game services). This doesn't cover every part of the OS, but it does cover the vast majority of the user-facing features. The Google Play Services changes reach all the way back to Android 2.2, a necessity if Google wants all of its users to benefit (as of this writing, the Android developer dashboard reports that only 1.8 percent of the installed base is using an older version).

This is probably the right way for Google to move. Baking any of these features into a hypothetical Android 4.3 would have limited their rollout to the Nexus devices for at least a few months. A small subset of devices would've waited months or even years after that. Consider that Android 4.1, which was introduced at Google I/O last year, is only installed on 26.1 percent of all Google devices a year later. Last November's Android 4.2 update is only installed on 2.3 percent of devices. Obviously, if Google wants most of its users to have access to new features, the core of Android is not the best place to introduce them.

This is not a complete solution, obviously. Lower-level, wider-reaching changes—things like Android 4.2's multi-user support on tablets, Android 4.1's Project Butter, or Android 4.0's far-reaching UI overhaul—will still require brand-new versions of Android. The same goes for many security updates and bug fixes. New Android updates won't cease to be released if the most recent round of Android 4.3 rumors are any indication.

But by tying fewer Android feature updates to the OS itself, Google gains some flexibility. The company can combat the fragmentation problem without getting into a knock-down-drag-out fight with carriers and OEMs. The ability to introduce updates through other avenues gives Google the opportunity to let its partners catch up to the latest version at their own pace without completely arresting the operating system's development. It's not a perfect solution, but it's already doing more for the platform than the Android Update Alliance ever did.


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Google Launches Version 1.1 Of Its Go Programming Language, Promises Noticeable Performance Boost

10-93149Google today launched version 1.1 of its open source Go programming language. It’s been more than a year since Google launched version 1.0 of Go. The language, which puts an emphasis on concurrency and speed, has seen three maintenance releases since then, but the team has been conservative with bumping up its version numbers. This new version, however, the Go team writes, introduces a number of significant performance-related improvements that warrant the new version number and existing Go code should run noticeably faster when built with Go 1.1.

Version 1 was meant to show that Go had arrived at a level where users could expect a certain level of maturity and stability, as well as compatibility with future releases. Today’s release, the team says, lives up to this promise. It introduces a number of significant languages and library changes, but all of these remain backwards-compatible. “Very little if any code will need modifications to run with Go 1.1,” the team writes.

Among the changes in this new version are, “optimizations in the compiler and linker, garbage collector, goroutine scheduler, map implementation, and parts of the standard library.”

The new version also introduces method values, makes some changes to return requirements (which should lead to more succinct and correct programs, Google says), as well as a new race detector, which can find memory synchronization errors.

flying_gopherOver the last few months, Go has definitely seen an impressive increase in developer interest and quite a few companies have now adopted it as their go-to language for problems that can benefit from Go’s support for concurrent programming. CloudFlare, for example, uses it in production to run important aspects of its Railgun software, Bitly uses it to power some parts of its infrastructure, as do Heroku and an increasing number of startups and established companies.

While Dart, Google’s browser-based replacement for JavaScript seems to have trouble catching on, the company is clearly on to something with Go and the language, which was first conceived in 2007, looks to have a bright future ahead of itself as developers look for a modern language with built-in garbage collection and concurrency.


Microsoft drops the Blue codename, confirms Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade available later this year

Microsoft drops the Blue codename, confirms Windows 8.1 will be a free upgrade available later this year

One of the worst kept secrets rattling around Microsoft's campus is Windows Blue, the forthcoming update to Windows 8 that addresses users' bugbears about the OS. Now, Microsoft is officially rechristening the platform, and with a more staid name: Windows 8.1.

Tami Reller, the CMO and CFO of Microsoft's Windows Division made the big reveal during JP Morgan's Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. The upgrade will be free and available from the home screen when it launches, while a preview version will be opened up to the public on June 26th at the beginning of Build 2013. Unfortunately, Reller wouldn't get any more specific about a formal release date, saying simply that it will be delivered "later in the calendar year." The only clarification she would offer is, "we know when the holidays are."

As anticipated, the Windows 8.1 update will come to both the full version of the OS as well as the ARM-friendly RT. While we haven't officially seen any sub-10-inch slates announced yet, it's been rumored that 8.1 would enable smaller devices. Reller's comments only backed up those expectations, when she suggested that Windows 8 is great for everything from "the smallest tablets" to desktops.


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Government Lab Reveals It Has Operated Quantum Internet for Over Two Years

One of the dreams for security experts is the creation of a quantum internet that allows perfectly secure communication based on the powerful laws of quantum mechanics.

The basic idea here is that the act of measuring a quantum object, such as a photon, always changes it. So any attempt to eavesdrop on a quantum message cannot fail to leave telltale signs of snooping that the receiver can detect. That allows anybody to send a “one-time pad” over a quantum network which can then be used for secure communication using conventional classical communication.

That sets things up nicely for perfectly secure messaging known as quantum cryptography and this is actually a fairly straightforward technique for any half decent quantum optics lab. Indeed, a company called ID Quantique sells an off-the-shelf system that has begun to attract banks and other organisations interested in perfect security.

These systems have an important limitation, however. The current generation of quantum cryptography systems are point-to-point connections over a single length of fibre, So they can send secure messages from A to B but cannot route this information onwards to C, D, E or F. That’s because the act of routing a message means reading the part of it that indicates where it has to be routed. And this inevitably changes it, at least with conventional routers. This makes a quantum internet impossible with today’s technology

Various teams are racing to develop quantum routers that will fix this problem by steering quantum messages without destroying them. We looked at one of the first last year. But the truth is that these devices are still some way from commercial reality.

Today, Richard Hughes and pals at Los Alamos National Labs in New Mexico reveal an alternative quantum internet, which they say they’ve been running for two and half years. Their approach is to create a quantum network based around a hub and spoke-type network. All messages get routed from any point in the network to another via this central hub.

This is not the first time this kind of approach has been tried. The idea is that messages to the hub rely on the usual level of quantum security. However, once at the hub, they are converted to conventional classical bits and then reconverted into quantum bits to be sent on the second leg of their journey.

So as long as the hub is secure, then the network should also be secure.

The problem with this approach is scalability. As the number of links to the hub increases, it becomes increasingly difficult to handle all the possible connections that can be made between one point in the network and another.

Hughes and co say they’ve solved this with their unique approach which equips each node in the network with quantum transmitters–i.e., lasers–but not with photon detectors which are expensive and bulky. Only the hub is capable of receiving a quantum message (although all nodes can send and receiving conventional messages in the normal way).

That may sound limiting but it still allows each node to send a one-time pad to the hub which it then uses to communicate securely over a classical link. The hub can then route this message to another node using another one time pad that it has set up with this second node. So the entire network is secure, provided that the central hub is also secure.

The big advantage of this system is that it makes the technology required at each node extremely simple–essentially little more than a laser. In fact, Los Alamos has already designed and built plug-and-play type modules that are about the size of a box of matches. “Our next-generation [module] will be an order of magnitude smaller in each linear dimension,” they say.

Their ultimate goal is to have one of these modules built in to almost any device connected to a fibre optic network, such as set top TV boxes, home computers and so on, to allow perfectly secure messaging.

Having run this system now for over two years, Los Alamos are now highly confident in its efficacy.
Of course, the network can never be more secure than the hub at the middle of it and this is an important limitation of this approach. By contrast, a pure quantum internet should allow perfectly secure communication from any point in the network to any other.

Another is that this approach will become obsolete as soon as quantum routers become commercially viable. So the question for any investors is whether they can get their money back in the time before then. The odds are that they won’t have to wait long to find out.


Microsoft Confirms Windows Blue Update Coming; Says Windows 8 Passes 100 Million Licenses Sold

Tami-Reller-Windows-8-380x285After months of rumors, Microsoft on Monday confirmed that it is readying an update to Windows 8 for later this year.

Code-named Windows Blue, the update will enable Windows to run on a wider range of devices (read: smaller-screen tablets). In a blog post, Microsoft said the update will also respond to some criticisms of Windows 8 and Windows RT, but the company didn’t go into specifics.

“Windows Blue is a codename for an update that will be available later this year, building on the bold vision set forward with Windows 8 to deliver the next generation of tablets and PCs,” Microsoft’s Tami Reller said in a blog post. “It will deliver the latest new innovations across an increasingly broad array of form factors of all sizes, display, battery life and performance, while creating new opportunities for our ecosystem.”

In the blog post, Microsoft also said that it has now sold more than 100 million licenses for Windows 8. And, despite the criticism, Reller said that Microsoft remains pleased with the operating system.
“Windows 8 is a big, ambitious change,” Reller said. “While we realize that change takes time, we feel good about the progress since launch, including what we’ve been able to accomplish with the ecosystem and customer reaction to the new PCs and tablets that are available now or will soon come to market.”

Microsoft billed Windows 8 as a “no compromise” operating system that would pave the way for devices that could offer all the benefits of both a PC and a mobile device. Hybrid designs allow for devices that act as both tablet and laptop, either through a flip of a swivel, a twist of the screen or the addition of a keyboard.

However, critics have said that the reality of Windows 8 has fallen short of its goal amid a lack of top-tier apps and devices that often force a choice of either limited battery life or limited compatibility with older Windows software.
PC sales have also not seen a hoped-for bump from Windows 8, as electronics buyers continue to spend money in other categories.

For her part, Reller noted that the number of apps in the Windows 8 storefront is now six times what it was at launch, and rejected the idea that the PC is past its prime.

“The PC is very much alive and increasingly mobile,” Reller said. “The PC is also part of a much broader device market of tablets and PCs. Windows 8 was built to fully participate in this broader and increasingly mobile device market.”