Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Boot up: Cyanogenmod speaks, Nest on privacy, 3D printing trends, and more

A thermostat The thermostat: a source of many domestic disputes. Google has bought Nest, maker of a connected thermostat. Photograph: Jeffrey Blackler / Alamy/Alamy

A burst of 9 links for you to chew over, as picked by the Technology team

"I think that for every one person that does install CyanogenMod, there's maybe five or six that try but don't finish. I had one of our board members try to install it, and he actually gave up," laughs Koushik Dutta, one of CyanogenMod's lead developers (known to the community as Koush).

The problem of getting people to actually use its software isn't something the CyanogenMod team has taken lightly. In fact, it's one of the spurs that has pushed the team into turning its community-based, open-source Android spin-off into a full-on business venture: Cyanogen Inc.
With $7m in funding behind it, the core CM team, including Koush and CyanogenMod's founder Steve Kondik (known as Cyanogen), is now working on turning the enthusiast-friendly ROM into a mainstream hit. And the first challenge is making it easy to install.

(Backstory: Google is buying thermostat/smoke alarm maker Nest for $3.2bn).

Q: Will Nest customer data be shared with Google?

A: Our privacy policy clearly limits the use of customer information to providing and improving Nest's products and services. We've always taken privacy seriously and this will not change.

That is not actually an answer to the question. For instance, it doesn't exclude "Hey, if we share this data with Google, then it will improve our products and services!"

These are the predictions made near the end of 2012 collected from around 200 mobile executives and others in the business. Among other points to note is that not a single one of the "likely to happen" things (slide 18) actually happened. (They're responding to an offered set of possibilities, but still.) Prediction is an uncertain business, especially about the future.

The Court has granted certiorari [agreed to carry out a review and pass judgement] in six patent cases this term, including Octane Fitness v Icon Health (fee-shifting) and Alice Corp. v CLS Bank (abstract software patents). Taken together, its decisions in these cases could help slow the flood of low-quality software patents that has fuelled the rise of patent trolls. We'll work hard to convince the Court to reach this result.

The cases cited - ABC v Aereo, Limelight v Akamai, Nautilus v Biosig - are going to be good ones too.

Yes, yes, it's Apple's promo page for its new advert. But the thing to look at here is the applications that it's showing for its tablet: filmmaking, mountaineering, diving, choreography, ice hockey training. In each of them, it's the mobility that's the key - and that's the real change we're seeing in how people do computing. Ten years ago, all these applications would have required desk-bound systems, or hugely expensive kit. Now? A tablet.

There really are a lot of 3D printers out there. How long before there's a wave of consolidation? Three, four years?

John Nelson:

Here, data from and the USGS and UC Berkeley have been sliced out into veneers based on magnitude, then glued onto and image that began its life at NASA's Visual Earth and wrung into the Times projection (centered at the interesting bits).  The result looks an awful lot like a fleet of Nickelodeon tankers spilled the world's supply of floam.

In case you wanted to know how tectonic boundaries show themselves. The blog overall is a fascinating source of map data.

With the BlackBerry 10.2.1 release a new security feature called Picture Password was added. It works by lining up a chosen number with a specific (also chosen) point on a picture. This is a vague description because it isn't as easy to explain in words as it is to show.

Very nifty - you drag a grid of numbers so that your pre-chosen number is on a pre-chosen point on the screen. So you don't make the same smeary pattern on the screen - or leave your fingerprint on the unlock key.

Hal Berenson:

The Dell Venue 8 Pro (DV8P) was one of the most in-demand tablets of this holiday season, but Dell has struggled with the availability and quality of its accessories.  The active stylus that was announced with the tablet became available, received poor reviews, and has now disappeared from the Dell website.  Hopefully this is a temporary measure while they address the stylus' quality issues, because I know a lot of DV8P purchasers were looking forward to this accessory.

When the DV8P was launched there was also the promise of a keyboard accessory.  The limited description suggested that the keyboard would fold over on to the display and act as a cover.  After months of waiting the Dell Tablet Wireless Keyboard finally started shipping in the last week or so.  Mine arrived yesterday.  It arrives as a case (that is different from the Dell Folio) and a Bluetooth keyboard.  The case includes a cover flap that folds behind the tablet and under the holder for the (unavailable) active stylus.  The keyboard can hold on to the outer case cover using magnets, but those magnets are so weak you might be tempted to think Dell actually left the feature out.

Note too that accessories tend to offer far better profit margins than the devices themselves. So missing on those is a double miss.

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