Friday, December 14, 2018
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Ubuntu drops Unity desktop environment for good

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In his latest blog post Mark Shuttleworth has said Ubuntu is stopping its investment in Unity desktop environment.

It was rather an unpopular decision among Linux enthusiasts that Ubuntu choose to develop Unity instead of GNOME 3. This alienated many Linux users and was the driving force of creation of many Ubuntu based spin offs like Linux Mint.

With Unity it’s also the dream of convergence is also axed. Convergence is the usage of same OS and interface for all form factors like desktop, mobile and tablets. Some test devices were made with Ubuntu Mobile, but there were too many bugs and too little selection of apps.

The Unity experiment has many parallels with Microsoft’s disastrous Windows 8 tile UI experiment. It alienated the users, tried to cram primarily a mobile first UI on a desktop. The fact is iOS and Android has become so mature with great ecosystems, it’s too difficult for a new OS gain attention from developers, manufacturers or general public.

Hopefully this introduction of GNOME 3 desktop will bring back many of those users who left Ubuntu frustrated with Unity, making the community even stronger. And Canonical can focus their resources developing and refining new features than just reinventing the wheel.

From Ubuntu 18.04 Unity will be replaced with GNOME 3. Ubuntu already has an official spin with GNOME 3 desktop if you’re interested.

 

BSNL Broadband Increases Minimum Speed To 1Mbps For Everyone

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Feeling the pinch from the imminent launch of Reliance Jio 4G services, BSNL has finally said goodbye to its 512kbps minimum speed. From August 2016, the base speed for all BSNL Broadband subscribers is 1MBPS.

Reliance Jio has started testing out its JioFi WiFi hotspot devices. These devices offer speeds that BSNL can’t even compete; Jio 4G speed is like 10-60Mbps depending on location.

This speed increase seems like a precautionary measure to prevent frustrated broadband users flocking to other high speed low cost services. It’s pretty sure once a user buys a device like JioFi(~Rs.3000) and experience high-speed Internet they won’t be coming back to 512kbps Broadband.

BB Home unlimited

Indian Telecom industry is about to witness a major change post commercial launch of Jio. Major cellular providers like AirTel and Idea has already slashed prices for their expensive mobile Internet packs by up to 70%.

Entry of Reliance Jio would do what the entry of Aircel did to 2G tarriff back in 2009. With their revolutionary “truly” unlimited plan for only rupees 97, they drove data prices of all major provider down to sub 100 rupees level.

BSNL bumped up speed without any fanfare or press releases. BSNL is probably the biggest broadband provider in India with a pan India presence. This speed increase would certainly set a new benchmark for Internet speed in India.

The cheapest Broadband plan from BSNL is for rupees 675. According to the revised plan, the subscriber would get 2GB data at 2Mbps per month before reducing speed to 1Mbps.

BSNL is also changing to keep up with times. As landline connections lost their appeal long ago they have shifted focus on data services.

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Feel free to share your thoughts below.

3 Best Indoor Plants to put near your Computer Desk for Fresh Air

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Did you know that the indoor air quality is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air quality? Choose from these following three house plants to make the air around you cleaner while you are working on your computer. These plants are chosen based on its durability, low-maintenance and taking consideration of low-sunlight conditions.

Snake Plant
Sansevieria

1. Sansevieria

One of the plants which was included in NASA’s Clean Air Study experiment. It was found to absorb indoor air pollutants: formaldehyde, benzene, Trichloroethylene, Xylene and Toluene.

Sansevieria is popularly known by names Mother-in-law’s Tongue and Snake Plant for its sharp edges and shape. This is an indoor hardy plant. Hardy plant means hard to kill.

Snake plant can tolerate irregular watering. You can water it only once a week. Sansevieria is native to arid and subtropical climates.

Sansevieria is special among other house plants in its ability to produce Oxygen at night because of C4-Photosynthesis. Sansevieria can tolerate low-light to medium-light conditions.

Sanserviera is kind of unique among house plants that its leaves produce negative ions similar to air-conditioners. Negative ions attach themselves and neutralize dust particles, mold spores, bacteria and allergens.

There are so much variegation among Sansevieria. If you are going to pick up one, make sure it doesn’t grow 3-4 feet. Sanseveria Laurentii is a good choice for office environments both for its aesthetic appeal and size.

ZZ_Plant_(Zamioculcas_zamiifolia)
ZZ Plant

2. ZZ-Plant (Zamioculcas Zamifolia)

ZZ-Plant is the ultimate hardy house plant. Also known as eternity plant and evergreen plant. You will have to try very hard to kill it. The only easy way to kill a ZZ-Plant is to over-water it. It literally thrives on neglect.

The oddly named ZZ-plant can go months without watering. It should be potted with fast-drying soil. Ideally this plant should be watered once or twice a week, and even less if it’s winter or the plant is in deep shade. The leaves of ZZ-plant are glossy and the viewers may even get it mistaken it for a plastic plant.

ZZ is relatively new to households. This plants was not included in NASA’s Clean Air Study experiement because ZZ was not yet introduced at the time of experiment.

ZZ plants can go even months without watering, especially when it’s placed indoors.

3. The Golden Pothos

Also known as Devil’s Ivy or more commonly money plant. This is a great indoor plant, loves shade. Pothos is a climber.

Golden Pothos/Poison Ivy (Money Plant)
Golden Pothos/Poison Ivy (Money Plant)

Money plant is also an air purifier. It can clean benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from air.

Pothos can grow both in soil and water. The plant is very tolerant to indoor climate conditions.

Golden Pothos is very popular as a house plant in many parts of the world, thanks to its place in Feng Shui. Of the three plants, the Golden Pothos is probably the easiest indoor to find in your locality.

Caution: All three plants above are considered toxic if ingested. Take special care if you have pets or children.

 

Micromax to replicate Xiaomi’s business model; launches new Yureka phone

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Micromax will be launching a new array of Android devices running on popular Cyanogenmod custom ROM. The first one has already been launched in India. The new phones are introduced under a new brand ‘Yu’. The is one the first wave of Yu phones. The model is named Micromax Yureka, a wordplay by adding Yu and Eureka.

Key specs of Micromax Yureka

Screen: 5.5″ LCD IPS display with HD resolution and Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection
Camera: 13 MP (Sony sensor), 5 MP rear cam.
Network: 2G, 3G, 4G LTE
Software: Android (Cyanogenmod OS 11)
Speed: 1.5GHz octa-core CPU with Adreno 405 GPU
Memory: 2GB RAM, 32 GB ROM with SD Card Slot

Yu phones will only be available through online store of Amazon.in at this point in time. Amazon was also was an exclusive distributor of Micromax’s Android One phone. This will in turn reduce cost of distribution, middleman charges and seller margin of physical stores. Xiaomi has been a roaring success in selling Flipkart exclusive Redmi 1S for one third or less of what other manufacturer’s ask for, for its specifications.

Micromax has some strategic benefits in the Indian market that Xiaomi lacks. An extensive network of service centers is one of them. Although Micromax service centers have a bad name for its bad quality of service, the existence of these service centers will nudge customers in the direction of Micromax. Micromax batteries are other spare parts are also easily available.

Micromax Logo

‘Yu’ devices can be seen as an extension of the success of Canvas A1, Micromax’s first Android One phone. Only this time the software is supplied by world’s most popular custom ROM, Cyanogenmod. Micromax also announced users of Yu phones can root their devices without losing warranty. Xiaomi is only the other manufacturer which allows this currently.

Amazon has better service coverage in India especially in remote areas than Flipkart. So people living in areas where Flipkart doesn’t provide service will be looking at Amazon as their only option.

Image credit: Micromax

Free SSL certificate from CloudFlare for blogs. Is it worth it?

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It has been a little over a month since CloudFlare started offering free SSL, or Universal SSL as they call it, to over 2 million websites using their free service. This essentially doubled the number of websites using SSL overnight, literally!

Let us be clear about what we mean by free. As of now this service is free indefinitely like CloudFlare’s other services included in CloudFlare’s free plan. This is NOT a free trial for 90 days, which is like the industry standard of SSL providers.

SSL is traditionally only used by eCommerce, social networks and email providers. And even eCommerce websites sometimes limit SSL usage to only those pages where payment is made.

Problems of using SSL from a webmaster’s perspective
1. More server load because of encryption.
2. Additional cost of issuing SSL certificate every year.
3. Technical expertise needed to install SSL certificate
4. Only supported by modern browsers.

CloudFlare take care of problems 1,2 and 3. The only problem remaining is browser support. If your visitors have updated their browser in last four or five years, you are good to go. If your primary traffic is from countries which has low adoption of modern browsers, you might want to reconsider before encrypting your blog.

If your users usually don’t have to log in to use your website, there is actually nothing to steal, hence there really is no need for SSL for security. The reason for encrypting a blog is something else.

Since the NSA snooping allegations there has been a cry for using encryption everywhere and to create more secure web. Google, the king of the internet, also a big supporter of https everywhere campaign. Recently they have disclosed, they will be using https as one of the deciding factors when ranking your site on Google. The impact of having SSL is negligible though, not affecting more than 99% of queries on Google. This still is not a sufficient reason to make the switch.

The immediate improvement your website can get from using https is its ability to use SPDY protocol, which now more and more browsers are supporting. Https is a requirement for communication in SPDY protocol. This is a new protocol introduced by Google and has some major speed and performance improvement over traditional http.

The world is moving towards a secure web. A new certificate authority(CA) is proposed to be launched in 2015 to encrypt the whole web. This will accelerate the adoption of https rapidly.

We believe it’s wise to get on the https boat as early as possible, but only after considering how many of your users will be affected.

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After #BentGate, It’s Now #HairGate aka #BeardGate

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Social media hasn’t been a good friend to Apple after the release of new iPhones; iPhone 6 and iPhone 6+. And now, a new problem is being trending on Twitter about how the new iPhones can possibly cause even balding. However we think that’s a big stretch.

The problem is some users get their hair or beard struck in the seam between the glass screen and the aluminum back. When the call ends the hair gets ripped from the head. This only applies if the user has long hair or a beard.

The #hairgate is trending on Twitter and there is a 9to5mac community thread dedicated to the issue.

Apple hasn’t responded to the issue yet. Apple’s response to #BentGate was inviting a group of journalists to Apple’s state of the art testing centers. They also made it clear that bending of iPhone is extremely rare in normal usage conditions and only a handful of people reported the bending problem.

iPhone bending videos made it to the home page of YouTube last week. Lou from UnboxTherapy YouTube channel has already bend two iPhone 5S+, apparently for “scientific” purposes. #HairGate videos are just popping up, but expect a lot of them shortly. Afterall #HairGate demonstration doesn’t require destroying an expensive device such as an iPhone.

Source: 9to5mac

Google’s Grand Plan with Project Ara Modular Smartphone

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Project Ara
Detachable Screen of Project Ara Modular Phone

Google made a lot of buzz in the tech-world in the beginning of 2014 by announcing its plan to launch a modular smartphone platform with interchangeable units. It almost feels like a science fiction project and rightfully so. After-all, the project is headed by former DARPA director, Regina E. Dugan. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is an agency of the United States Department of Defense responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military.

But what is really behind Google’s initiative? Is it just another way to monetize already booming smartphone market? Or, is it Google’s attempt of securing the company’s role as the authority in Android maker, now that companies like Xiaomi, Amazon and Alibaba are no longer installing Google Play on their devices? If no Google Play is installed on Android devices, there is no return on huge investment made by Google.

The reality is, Project Ara is one of Google’s moonshot projects. These projects are so futuristic that it almost feels impossible to achieve in today’s world. Google’s Free Internet via Balloons project, Project Loon, was also part of the same division which develops Project Ara, ATAP.

A sharable phone among the friends, family or even a village is Google’s first aim. Mobile phone has become a like a important part of our body. People can chose what part of mobile phone one should share with a group, or specifically what hardware feature of the phone. When you insert a high resolution camera module into a tablet, tada, you have a great camera with a very big display.

The one thing that makes Android ecosystem and iOS appstore much better than others is the fierce competition between developers for market share. Google aims to recreate the same competition also in hardware, by giving tools to developers to create their own Project Ara modules. As with any market, with more competition, prices will eventually decrease.

Paul Eremenko, the head of Project Ara at Google, says they want to create a phone which is delightful, expressive, affordable, and aspirational. Last two adjectives sound very appealing to a budget shopper. One could buy a base model when the device goes for sale and upgrade when he or she feels like to. From a consumer point of view this negates the need to upgrade the whole phone every couple of years.

Project Ara is also one of the piece of Google’s big plan to give internet to world’s next 5 billion people who currently doesn’t own a smartphone and not connected to the Internet. Democratizing hardware development like software development, opening a new hardware platform to everyone, will surely make a big impact in the industry. Unlike the software space where half a dozen platforms compete for market share, Google has no competition when coming to creation of a modular smartphone ecosystem.

3 Best E-book Readers for Java Mobiles

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Ebook Reader

If you own a Java supported feature phone like Nokia’s Asha Series phone, and you want read e-books on your device, here are a few useful apps.

Although feature phones don’t have app support nowhere near Android or iOS, it sure has a well matured app eco-system from pre-iPhone era. Most of these projects are no longer maintained properly but you can still use these applications to achieve a comfortable reading experience. All for these are free to use and will work on Symbian smartphones like Nokia 5800/5233.

1. Albite Reader
This is the best Ebook reader available for Java phones in our opinion. It has all the features you need from an eBook reader. Typography is as good as it can get. Beautiful Droid Serif font will be a delight to the reader’s eyes. The most notable feature in Albite reader which almost no other J2ME e-book readers don’t have is its offline dictionary support(Merriam-Webster). Albite Reader also supports ePub format which has become an open standard in e-book publishing industry.

Other features: Night mode, e-book collection available for download, touch screen support, open-source project, great documentation about installation and offline dictionary setup.

Website: albite.org

2. Tequilacat BookReader
Ok, this one is a little tricky. You will need a Windows/Linux machine to make the ebook reader first. This reader has the most customization options. You could customize each area of the screen to perform a chosen task (buttons instead of touch area in mobile phones with keypad.) The Java Shell file which you need to download into your computer generates jar version of ebooks you add during set up. However, you can open ebooks from the file system of mobile phones even if you didn’t add them in shell while creating jar file. HTML and .txt files are supported. You might need to use Calibre reader to convert ebooks to required format.

Website: tequilacat.org

3. Wattpad
Wattpad is like an online ebook reader with much user generated content. In some sense it could be compared with YouTube. It has excellent typography and much content readily available. An Internet connection is required to get content.

Website: www.wattpad.com

Extra: ZX Reader
This only applies if your phone runs Symbian OS (Native Symbian App.) Unfortunately s40 Java phones are not supported by this E-reader. ZX Reader very lightweight and snappy and works best with touch-enabled Symbian phones of Nokia (s60v5 and s60v3.)

ZX Reader runs very smoothly and takes very less RAM. You can use volume buttons to turn pages, which unfortunately is not supported by J2ME apps. Even customization of the menu button is possible in ZX Reader. Their website is in Russian language, so you may need to use Google Translate if you do not speak Russian.

You cannot experience 3D-movies like Avatar on Amazon Fire Phone. Here is why.

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sardenacarlo / Pixabay

There is a lot of buzz about Amazon’s new 3D smartphone. The best thing is, it is possible to look the screen from any angle and see the amazing 3D effects on this phone. But, at least for now, the 3D effects are limited to UI and some simple games Amazon introduced at its launch. The 3D effects of existing 3D-films cannot be experienced when watched on Amazon Fire. The reason is how 3D is implemented in the Fire phone.

This phone equips four ultra low-powered IR sensors to constantly track the position of eyes and mouth of the user. Then the phone quickly redraws the UI exactly how it would have been seen from the user’s current position. So the phone can reveal hidden content when looked at different angles. Amazon has made a special UI for the Fire phone which takes full advantage of this unique 3D perspective technology.

Fire phone uses normal cell-phone display and the 3D effect is achieved by adjusting images on screen with respect to the position of user’s face. This is very different than how 3DTV and other 3D enabled mobile phones work. The 3D effect of Fire phone will not be even noticeable when the phone and the user do not move.

Traditionally 3D movies were viewed using Anaglyphic 3D glasses (remember red-blue glasses), which was later replaced by polarized glasses and active 3D glasses coupled with modern 3D screens.

For us to really see an object in 3D, we need to see two different sets of images from different angles, one for each eye. This is how we see an object in real world, two images of same stuff viewed from different positions (the eyes). We combine these two images in our brain to generate a stereoscopic vision. Thus we can estimate depth in a 3D world. 3D filming just recreates the same effect artificially. Records two sets of video using two cameras (in place of two eyes).

The two sets of videos are combined by superimposing it on same video. Then we use different type of filter in front of each eye to filter out the image that is meant to be presented for that eye. Usually we wear 3D glasses as filters. In Anaglyphic method when we watch the screen through red filter, only the image meant to be seen by right eyes passes through the filter. When passed through the blue filter, it is a different image. This is an old method of 3D filming and reproduction, and its main disadvantage is all colors of the original video cannot be reproduced.

But, it is impractical to wear 3D glasses to view 3D on a phone at all times. In mobile phones the filter is usually placed just in front of the screen. These are directional filters – one column of the image is directed towards left eye and the next column directed towards the right eye. Odd columns of the screen display the image for left eye and even columns of the screen display image for right eye. The problem here is the viewer should be positioned exactly at the center in front of the screen or it won’t work.

The reason why 3D movies don’t work with Amazon Fire phone is that the same image is served to both eyes. All 3D movies are made in a way different set of images recorded for each eyes to achieve the stereoscopic effect.

Amazon is projecting the phone as a contender of iPhone 6 and Galaxy S5. Amazon already has the brand name, supply channel and growing ecosystem for mobile apps. These factors will surely help the Fire phone to get a respectable market share. But the 3D-perspective UI is not exactly what I would call revolutionary.

Why can’t I find my blog on Technorati?

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Creative Commons, Hugh Macleod

If you have visited Technorati recently, you might have noticed it looks more like a tech blog, like The Verge or TechRadar, instead of looking like a Blog directory.
From May 29, millions of users of Technorati couldn’t find their blogs on Technorati, world’s biggest tech blog directory. However, it is likely that this is a temporary thing and information about the blogs may come back once they relaunch Technorati as an advertising platform as they explain in this blog post. But the blog post does not say anything specifically what will happen to all those user data.
Technorati was the premier blog directory for tech blogs. It had an efficient blog ranking system which utilizes a 1000 point scale. Being as successful as Technorati also had its problems. It is difficult to manually guarantee the quality of the ranking system that indexes millions of blogs, and adding thousands of new blogs everyday.
On new Technorati they showcases their newly launching Ad network, although some links like learn more about publishers doesn’t work right now. This change in their business strategy is expected to generate more revenue than only keeping a blog directory.
Technorati was one of Internet’s important landmarks, we will surely miss it.

Creative Commons,  Hugh Macleod
Creative Commons, Hugh Macleod