Saturday, October 4, 2014

Boot up: it's Windows 10!, better optimisation, Anandtech on iPhone 6

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

The early technical preview of Windows 10 demonstrates new levels of flexibility, navigation and familiarity through the Windows experience. Features include these:

• Expanded Start menu. The familiar Start menu is back, providing quick one-click access to the functions and files that people use most, and it includes a new space to personalize with favorite apps, programs, people and websites.

• Apps that run in a window. Apps from the Windows Store now open in the same format that desktop programs do. They can be resized and moved around, and have title bars at the top allowing users to maximize, minimize and close with a click.

• Snap enhancements. Working in multiple apps at once is easier and more intuitive with snap improvements. A new quadrant layout allows up to four apps to be snapped on the same screen. Windows will also show other apps and programs running for additional snapping, and it will even make smart suggestions on filling available screen space with other open apps.

• New Task view button. The new Task view button on the task bar enables one view for all open apps and files, allowing for quick switching and one-touch access to any desktop created.

• Multiple desktops. Instead of too many apps and files overlapping on a single desktop, it's easy to create and switch between distinct desktops for different purposes and projects — whether for work or personal use.

The Start menu won the cage match with Windows RT. (Also, proofreading: saying "Features include these:" is prolix. "Features include:" would be perfect.)

Microsoft on Tuesday gave its first detailed look at the next major update to Windows, which it has decided to call Windows 10.

The software, expected to be released in final form next year, is designed to run across the broadest array of devices, with screens ranging from four inches to 80 inches, with some devices having no screens at all.

"Windows 10 will be our most comprehensive platform ever," Windows chief Terry Myerson said at a briefing with reporters in San Francisco. "It wouldn't be right to call it Windows 9."

Because, as the Twitter joke went, 7 8 9.

Today we're proud to announce two new ways for everyone to solve linear optimization problems. First, you can now solve linear optimization problems in Google Sheets with the Linear Optimization add-on written by Google Software Engineer Mihai Amarandei-Stavila. The add-on uses Google Apps Script to send optimization problems to Google servers. The solutions are displayed inside the spreadsheet. For developers who want to create their own applications on top of Google Apps, we also provide an API to let you call our linear solver directly.

If you know what the Simplex algorithm is, you'll be delighted. (They only seem to have used four colours for the entire page.)

Matt Buchanan:

This post on Uber's blog almost feels like a parody. Surely, no modern, wealthy society—say, one in which an app-powered "your own private driver" service might thrive—would force professional, full-time teachers to also drive cars in order to make a living, nor would anyone celebrate that it was happening. Certainly you wouldn't expect corporations to rush to attach themselves to the phenomenon. And yet. Something, something, teachers, free markets, living wages, man.

The problem with Uber self-seriously announcing that it "provides teachers with the flexibility and opportunity they need to continue creating a foundation of excellence for students across the country" is ultimately a matter of tone, not the literal fact that teachers are using Uber to supplement their incomes. (Lots of teachers work summer jobs!) Had Uber tweaked the language the slightly, with a pinch of outrage—"Every day teachers are asked to do more with less, constantly faced with new challenges and limited resources, and it astounding that they have to use Uber to generate those resources"—it would seem almost righteous, rather than crassly exploitative of the ills of the American education system.

If you are trying to recreate a world as recorded in a historical map, then modern topography isn't what you want. Instead, you need to create a blank, flat world in Worldpainter, and then import your historical map as an overlay.

Then you can, for example, replay important battles from the American Civil War with zombies. (Seriously, though, this might have Google slightly worried if Minecraft becomes popular for such activity.)

South Korean tech giant Samsung Electronics Co. said Tuesday it will switch to using Microsoft Corp.'s document and word-processing software from its own system starting Jan. 1.

Samsung affiliates have been using JungUm Global, an office document software program developed independently, since 1994. The phaseout of JungUm Global will start with Samsung Electronics and eventually expand to the rest of the company, although a detailed plan has not yet been set, the company said.

Samsung said the move came as Microsoft's flagship program, Word, dominates 90 percent of the market, and its usage will make communications with Samsung's other business partners easier. The program's compatibility with other document software, such as Microsoft Excel and PowerPoint, will also add to the convenience, it said.

"Since MS Word supports almost all operating systems, such as Windows, Android and Linux, our staff can also work in a smart manner through PC, smartphones, and tablets," it said in its release.

Follows a visit by Satya Nadella. And let's not forget that patent lawsuit that's still not settled between the two over mobile royalties.

Software withdrawal and discontinuance of support: Lotus SmartSuite , Lotus Organizer and Lotus 123

Lotus 1-2-3 was released in January 1983. What other PC applications software is still going after all these years?

Joshua Ho, Brandon Chester, Chris Heinonen & Ryan Smith contributed, but it's written in the first person. Here's a comment from the "Battery life" page:

Normally, I would expect a 4.7" class smartphone to need a battery around the size of the HTC One (M7) or Motorola Moto X (2013) to keep pace with phones like the One (M8) and Galaxy S5, but Apple has pulled it off with a battery that is much smaller. There are two key factors that we can point to in this case. The first is the display, which can avoid pushing the LED backlight towards the higher current region that is much less efficient. This is because the amount of light-blocking circuitry is reduced and the active area of the display can be higher. The second aspect is the SoC, which is on a lower power 20nm process node. While TSMC's 20nm process doesn't have FinFET, improved silicon straining and high K metal gate make it possible to drive down active power and leakage when compared to 28nm processes. It's also likely that the A8's architecture is more efficient than other SoCs we've seen this year. However, it's important to note that without a capacitance and voltage table or something similarly concrete we can't really prove this statement.

A good pointer to the detail that engineers of smartphones must have to think about. Also: more benchmarks than you can shake a stick at.

Project Ara will use a modified version of Android L, developed in collaboration with Linaro. Thanks to this version, the modules, except the CPU and the display, will be hot swappable. This means you can change them without turning the phone off. The modules will be available on a new online store, like Play store.

The next few months will be crucial for Google and its partners, we expect a lot of news about Project Ara, new modules and new partnerships.

Seems unlikely that the RAM would be hot-swappable, but let's wait and see.

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