RIM Keeps Going Downhill, Loses Another Top Official, More Layoffs Coming

RIM’s downfall started in Q1 2011, when it announced a drop in revenue, coupled with a huge layoff of 2000 employees. Its stocks fell to the lowest since 2006, and on further inspection, it was found that it had been on a downhill journey since 2008. RIM market caps dropped to a record low, and left it in no shape to compete with Android and iPhone. Things became so grave that it set a record for the biggest world-market share loser in 2011.

RIM started this year with approximately 16,000 employees, but now that it wishes to streamline its operations, another layoff is on its way and this one is going to be massive. RIM is about to hand out pink slips to nearly 6000 employees. This will be the largest layoff in the history of RIM, thereby reducing its workforce by 40% (approximately).

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RIM announced a strategic review of its business in March. The objective of the strategic review was to refocus the plummeting business of RIM and place it back where it used to be years ago. RIM Chief Executive, Thorsten Heins said,

We believe that BlackBerry cannot succeed if we tried to be everybody’s darling and all things to all people. Therefore, we plan to build on our strength.

Following the trend of top officials like Jim Balsillie, CTO David Yach and COO Jim Rowan leaving for greener pastures, RIM’s global sales head Patrick Spence has resigned recently.

RIM also withdrew its plans for providing its flagship BBM across multiple mobile platforms. This is a clear indication of the fact that RIM lacks focus. If this indeed is true, RIM will need more than layoffs to save itself.

HP’s WebOS Enyo Team is Joining Google

Earlier this year, HP released the Enyo framework source code as open source software under the Apache 2.0 license. This was done as part of HP’s bigger plan of open sourcing the entire WebOS platform. The WebOS open sourcing effort will reach a closure in August. WebOS was an excellent mobile platform and its UX has been appreciated widely. Popular mobile platforms like Android and Blackberry borrow heavily from it and this open sourcing would have helped HP create a competitive mobile platform. However, HPs plans have been disrupted with some latest development.

hp-webosThe Verge writes in an exclusive report saying that the entire WebOS Enyo team will leave HP to start working at Google shortly. This strikes a serious blow to the future of WebOS. It is not known what the awesome people in the Enyo team will do at Google. One of the best comments on the post was perhaps:

Google buys Palm for zero billion dollars.

Android took a major UX leap with design ideas from Matias Duarte and it showed in Honeycomb. Now, with the entire Enyo team and Matias Duarte under its belt, Android might just rock the mobile segment.

Google can either borrow their mobile expertise for improving the Android user experience, or leverage their HTML5 expertise to create a better ecosystem for Google Chrome and Chrome OS. Looking at the technology stack that the Enyo team worked on, the latter seems more probable. Either way, Google has gotten hold of a golden goose, which will lay golden eggs. What remains to be seen, is which way the eggs roll.

Linux Mint 13 Maya Arrives a Week After RC Release

The Linux Mint blog has announced the release of Linux Mint 13 codenamed Maya. Maya saw an RC release just a week ago, and this final release came sooner than expected. There have only been a few minor bug fixes from the RC release.

Linux Mint 13 Maya sports some interesting features. The boot splash screen on Mint 13 has been replaced with a black screen that shows nothing. The Mint ISO image is no longer 700 MB in size, and so it cannot be burned to a CD. However, there is a guide on remastering Linux Mint by removing extra packages and shrinking the ISO size. Mint4Win, the Windows installer for Linux Mint is functional only on the 64-bit ISOs, although it is present on both the 64-bit and the 32-bit version.

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Although based on Ubuntu, Linux Mint is competing head on with it and surpasses Ubuntu by a huge margin in Distrowatch page hit ranking. Now, that is not an accurate indicator of who is using which of Linux Mint and Ubuntu but it might be an indicator of the popularity of these Linux distros. Linux Mint is indeed popular.

Linux Mint Maya is available for download from both torrents and HTTP mirrors. All the download links are provided at this page. Existing users can upgrade from a previous version of Linux Mint using this guide.

Twitter Enables Do Not Track Support

When on one hand Facebook is finding ways to track its users and is gathering their personal information aggressively, Twitter is going the opposite direction with a Do Not Track feature that will let users opt out of cookies that gather personal information. The personal data collected from users is used to display relevant advertisements.

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Twitter was in news a few days ago, over a privacy related case, where a court wanted it to hand over the user’s private tweets and Twitter stood up for the First Amendment right of the charged victim. With these two privacy protection incidents, Twitter is setting a new code of conduct for companies that hold massive amounts of user data, and it is a good sign.

Twitter has had a hard time monetizing the vast microblogging empire it has set up, and it has only been two years that Twitter is getting some juice out of its machinery. With ethical acts like this, Twitter has proven time and again that it has its priorities set right, and that users and their privacy comes first.

With privacy becoming a concern, more and more people are getting aware of tracking and user-data-collection policies. All modern browsers have extensions to prevent gathering of personal information and most of them also support the Do Not Track header now. If you are wary of user tracking and want to protect your personal information, you can block tracking scripts using the NoScript Firefox add-on or the Disconnect Google Chrome extension.

(Via: Ars Technica)

Linux Kernel 3.4 Final Version Released

Linus Torvalds has done a great job maintaining the Linux Kernel and pushing out one version after another. This Sunday, the Linux Kernel saw another version upgrade, and stands at version 3.4 currently. Linus Torvalds calls the 3.4 release a “calm” one, as there were lesser roadblocks in this transition. After the delay in the release of Linux Kernel 3.3, this timely release makes Linus happy as he says,linux-kernel

I just pushed out the 3.4 release.

Nothing really exciting happened since -rc7, although the workaround for a linker bug on x86 is larger than I’d have liked at this stage, and sticks out like a sore thumb in the diffstat. That said, it’s not like even that patch was really all that scary.

In fact, I think the 3.4 release cycle as a whole has been fairly calm. Sure, I always wish for the -rc’s to calm down more quickly than they ever seem to do, but I think on the whole we didn’t have any big disruptive events, which is just how I like it. Let’s hope the 3.5 merge window is a calm one too.

This latest release of the Linux kernel focuses mainly on the Btrfs file system and includes data recovery tools, better error handling and vast performance improvements. On the GPU side of the story, support for many new Intel, NVidia GeForce and ATI Radeon HD graphics cards were added to the latest kernel. Other than these, the latest Linux kernel also improves memory management and virtualization performance.

The next version of Linux Kernel, version 3.5 will focus primarily on the growing hardware world, and thus improve graphics performance. Additionally, it will also include support for the 22nm Haswell architecture, slated for release in early 2013.

(Via: Softpedia)

Google Confirms Android Will Be Free and Open for at Least Another Five Years

China has cleared Google’s acquisition of Motorola on the condition that Android will be free and open for at least another five years. With the acquisition of Motorola, Google would have both, a specialized Android related hardware segment and the Android software under its control. Seeing this, China raised its eyebrows and refused to clear the deal until Google agreed not to create a lock-in situation in the Android market.

china-approves-android-motorolaChina has a number of low-cost Android device manufacturers who rely on the Android ecosystem created by the Open Handset Alliance. A few years from now, if Google starts giving Motorola priority over other handset manufacturers, it might create an antitrust situation. China took good care to make sure that this does not happen, though it is interesting to note that Google never suggested that it would do so in the first place. Truth be told, Google does not even have the power to do so, because Android is managed by the Open Handset Alliance and Google is only the largest contributor. Then why did China go through all this trouble?

Perhaps China was skeptical that Google might try to address the Android hardware fragmentation problem by monopolizing the market, now that it controls both the software and a big chunk of the hardware. Whatever may be the case, the good news is that Android has always been free and will be free for the next five years.

Given the price of this deal, which stands at 12.5 billion USD and is larger than all other Google acquisitions combined, Google is placing a huge bet on Motorola Mobility and it will be interesting to see what synergy this acquisition creates.

In other news, Microsoft clears a case win (just in time) against Motorola over ActiveSync.

(Via: The Verge)

Microsoft Wins against Motorola in the Android Patent Infringement Case

Motorola is walking into this week with both good and bad news. When on one hand the Google Motorola deal is expected to close sometime next week, Microsoft, which has patent deals with all major Android handset manufacturers for its ActiveSync technology, has finally registered a win against Motorola.

Microsoft was able to persuade most mobile handset manufacturers like HTC, Samsung, Acer, ViewSonic, LG and alike to sign a patent deal over one of its technologies. This has left Microsoft with an array of cash cows. Motorola was the only handset manufacturer that went to court over this case instead of accepting the deal. The case has been running for the last four months and yesterday, it was finally ruled in favor of Microsoft.

Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, David Howard reacts to this win saying,
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We hope that now Motorola will be willing to join the vast majority of Android device makers selling phones in the U.S. by taking a license to our patents.

This case gained the utmost importance to Microsoft ever since Motorola became Google’s eye candy. The case, which started with Microsoft claiming six patent infringements, has been settled for one proven infringement.

From this infringement case, and Oracle’s, we see a common trend. Companies claim bloated infringements and finally manage to walk away with at least a minimal set of infringements being proved. On one hand where these cases are a hindrance for innovation, they also threaten smaller businesses that cannot help but infringe on patents unknowingly. However, patents also form an important asset for any company and it is only natural for them to defend those.

Linux Mint 13 Maya RC Released in Cinnamon and Mate Flavors

The Linux Mint blog has announced the release of Linux Mint 13 RC. This brings us closer to the final release of Linux Mint 13, which should be sometime during the last week of this month. The RC is polished, and looks crisp as seen in these screenshots from the Linux Mint blog.

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This latest release of Linux Mint is based on Ubuntu 12.04. As Ubuntu 12.04 is an LTS release, so is Linux Mint 13, and it will be supported until April 2017. Linux Mint 13 RC sports the latest version of Cinnamon 1.4 and the Mate 1.2. While the Mate desktop is focused on productivity and is more mature, the Cinnamon desktop is a new product Linux Mint is trying to develop alongside its Mint distro. With such a large user base, Linux Mint has good testing grounds for its Cinnamon desktop.

Cinnamon was released in the last week of this January. It boasts of a better user experience than Gnome 3. It is based on the Gnome shell 3.2.1 released in October last year and borrows heavily from MSGE. Cinnamon is on a roadmap to creating a complete desktop environment ecosystem, thus making it a self-sufficient product unlike MSGE, which had no individual identity. Cinnamon has ambitious plans, and it will be interesting to see if it attracts more users for Linux Mint.

Intermediary releases of Cinnamon are available on GitHub in a “stable” branch. Get download links and more details for this RC release at the official Linux Mint blog.

The Latest Firefox Beta for Android is Beyond Impressive!

Mozilla had been attempting to create a perfect mobile browser for Android for too long now. Its Firefox for Android has always been sloppy with a laggy user interface and bugs all over it. For this reason, I have always preferred Opera Mobile on my Android phone, though, the latest Firefox beta for Android is set to change this. It is snappier, extremely responsive and it will blow your mind. It is a vast improvement over the default featureless Android browser and finally, it looks like Firefox is geared up to compete with leading Android browsers like Opera Mini, Chrome and Dolphin HD.

This latest beta version of Firefox is reported to support more devices than earlier, and it also boasts of performance improvements like faster scrolling, optimized memory usage and of course faster browsing! All in all, the once loathed Firefox for Android has managed to impressed everyone and frankly speaking, I too am sold!

Most of these performance improvements in the latest Firefox beta can be attributed to a new responsive UI, which is using the Android native UI instead of the earlier XUL based UI developed by Mozilla. The addition of a default Flash plugin in the latest beta received mixed reactions. Nonetheless, it is an item in the feature inventory. Text rendering, and panning and zooming have also been improved a lot. Here are some screenshots for your viewing pleasure.

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There are still some unimplemented features in this beta version, like text reflow, selecting text etc. I call them unimplemented features because they should appear in any latest mobile browser, and this one is a beta, so it gets the benefit of doubt.

Grab the latest Firefox for Android beta at this page on the Google Play store. Read more about the latest Firefox beta on the Mozilla blog.

Adobe Hits Undo on TIFF Vulnerability Issue, Will Release Security Fix for CS5 After All

Until a few days ago, Adobe had decided not to fix one of its security vulnerabilities. Instead, it tried pushing the next release of its Creative Studio, CS6 as a solution to a critical security issue. This was wrong on multiple levels and was downright unacceptable. The intellectuals and Adobe received thumbs down for this decision. Finally seeing the wrong it has done, now Adobe has decided to retract its decision, and has announced that it is releasing a security fix for the CS5 after all.

Adobe is notorious for having security vulnerability in its products. For a company that is known for having poor security and releasing numerous fixes every few days, Adobe should take extra care when handling matters like these. Now that Adobe has come out in support of a security fix, it is being given the benefit of doubt by The Verge.

The confusion seemingly came from the original wording of the Adobe product security bulletin, which stated, “Adobe Photoshop CS6 addresses these vulnerabilities” without mentioning that a security patch for older versions was being worked on.

However, the security fix is not a complete one. Adobe is supposed to support all versions of its Creative Suite. However, the fix is appearing only on the CS5 for now. This means, CS4, which is also a supported version still remains vulnerable. This lax attitude from Adobe in time when hacks are the order of the day is appalling.