XBMC Drops XBox Support, Still Available Unofficially

XBMC is the best media center application for Linux. It is open source software and works great on modified Xbox consoles. XBMC has been highly successful on the Xbox console though now, its support will be removed by XBMC developer officially.

XBMC developers are presenting the argument that they are too involved in the development of XBMC on PC and an Xbox is posing as a whole new platform to them. To resolve this, they are leaving the support for Xbox to a dedicated developer who goes by the name of  Arnova.

Times have changed. The XBOX has hard limits for what it can handle. Some users are satisfied with these limits, and we encourage them to use XBMC there if they are happy. But it is a popular misconception that official XBOX development is still taking place by the team, so we have decided to set it free. We have enough on our plates already, and worrying about a deprecated platform just increases our workload. A few days ago the XBOX branch was finally removed from our subversion repository.

But loyal XBMC for XBOX users fear not! In addition to his role as an XBMC developer, Arnova plans to continue development on the XBOX — just not here.  You can find the new project’s home  at sourceforge. We’re leaving it in his hands to decide how to handle the project’s administration. How he manages the forum, bug tracker, scm, developers, etc. is up to him. In other words, don’t complain to us ;-)

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Firefox 64-bit Builds, Now Available For Windows, Linux and Mac

Up until now, Firefox lovers using a 64 bit operating system were restricted to using only the builds provided by their operating systems or, the ones they could get off the Mozilla-x86-64 project at http://wiki.mozilla-x86-64.com/X64_Build. This is going to change soon.

Mozilla has started rolling out nightly builds for Firefox on Mac and Linux and will soon start doing the same for Firefox on Windows as well. The 64 bit version is already available for Mac and Linux. The Windows version will arrive soon and the final version of the next release, Firefox 4 will see releases for both x86 and x64.

This can significantly improve the global browser-share of Firefox as people on x64 still keep struggling to get a feature rich and pluggable browser. Though, just a 64-bit build of Firefox would not do the trick as most plugins like the ones for Java and flash are available only for the 32 bit system.

The build is an experimental one and has many unresolved bugs. It can cause loss of data and of you still want to try it out, download it from the Mozilla Public FTP server.

IE6 Has Keep-Alive Measures From Corporate Love

We all love to hate IE6. It is an absolute mess for today’s AJAX powered websites. Though, this might not hold true in the corporate world where IE6 is still held in high esteem.

The corporate world uses a balanced combination of the flaws and popularity of IE6 to block popular social networking websites and keep its employees’ head in the game. Most companies deploy technologies like DNS poisoning and blacklisting to check access to websites but they are easily bypassed. However, using IE6 is the crudest and the most effective method by far. It can also cut down the costs on implementing a firewall.

Given the fact that most users are not allowed installing their own software on office computers, this has proven to be a full proof method, but only up until now. Now that IE6 has seen nine summers, the kill IE6 campaign is at its strongest. Very soon, this widespread usage of IE6 in companies might backfire with most official applications like email services (Gmail) moving to advanced unsupported features.

Google made the latest blow against IE6 by removing support for IE6 in its Google Reader service. Although, will not change much of the corporate scenario, it can bring about some changes for home PC users.

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Intel to Provide Hardware Support for WebM

Intel has plans for supporting the hardware acceleration of WebM videos. This news was confirmed by an Intel executive who said that the technology will be available on an Atom CE Systems-on-Chips(SOC) if VP8 gains popularity.

This Atom SOC chip can be used on TV’s and set top boxes to provide Internet connectivity and streaming videos to these devices. Logitech poses as one prospective buyer of this new chip as it is gearing up for the launch of its Google TV set top boxes this fall. The Google TV platform will perform even better with this technology and Google can significantly cut down costs by offloading a greater part of the rendering job to the client end.

The SOC available as an Atom CE4100 chip already packs a GPU, a CPU, an audio processor, a cryptography acceleration and USB connectivity.

The decoding of VP8 is still possible without this chip by using alternate software solutions. Though, this hardware support makes the CPU more responsive and allows a generic video decoding which support many popular formats.

The CE4100 already supports DivX and Xvid and H.264 which are popular and are in wide usage. Support for VP8 gives consumers more options in choosing their products and gives a better user experience.

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Facebook Announces Android SDK for Enhancing Mobile Support

Facebook has released the beta version of its latest Facebook SDK for Android, today. This SDK, which was demoed at the Google I/O last week, is being released at a ripe time; when the news of Android overtaking iPhone sales is spreading like fire.

facebook-android

The release of an API gives app developers power to incorporate more features into their applications. The release is in a beta stage and Facebook will soon release example source codes to help developers begin using their SDK.

Some of the features included in this SDK are,

  • Strong authentication using OAuth 2.0
  • Making requests to the new Graph API
  • Publishing stories back to Facebook via Feed forms

Facebook is slowly shifting its focus from Apple to Google as it clearly sees that Android OS is the next big thing. What is surprising here is that the API released for Android, although in beta has more features than the one to be released for Apple.

The release date of the iPhone SDK has not been announced yet but it is expected soon. With these two releases, Facebook ensures a better reach from mobile devices.
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Mozilla Backing VP8 For Inclusion Into HTML5 Video

Mozilla is trying to incorporate the VP8 codec of WebM video into the HTML5 web video specification.

webm

Mozilla Chief Executive John Lilly, replied on being asked about this saying,

We’d love for VP8 to be specified in the HTML5 standard. Once it’s in the spec, it can really get better traction from other players.

This is a bold move by Mozilla as most other browsers are in support of H.264 currently. If this change is made, adding videos into web pages will be as easy as adding jpeg images. The current implementation of HTML5 video has no standard for video encoding and requires the web page developer to incorporate all popular web formats for the video in the page to be available across all browsers.

Before Google released VP8, there was tough competition between H.264, preferred by Apple and Microsoft, and Ogg Theora, backed by Mozilla and Opera. Now, with its better quality and open source nature, VP8 has better winning prospects in this race.

The next move Mozilla needs to make is to get some allies to support VP8 alongside itself. VP8 already sees some favor from W3C which says,

WebM/VP8 has the potential of providing a solution for the baseline video format of HTML5.

Apart from Mozilla and a part of W3C, Microsoft also supports VP8 and we too expect to see VP8 as the default HTML5 video.
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iPhone Hardware Data Encryption is #fail

Apple has more than once, boasted about the hardware data encryption used on its flagship iPhone. The hardware encryption uses a 256-bit AES and is an in your face feature as it cannot be disabled by users even if they want to.

An iPhone can be connected to a PC just like any other device though the connection requires the standard methods of authentication by a passcode and an initial pairing. Further, connecting a locked iPhone to a computer is also not possible.

However, all this falls under common and conventional realms. Bernd Marienfeldt, a security officer at UK internet node LINX, has discovered something interesting treading beyond these boundaries.He saw that if he connected his iPhone to his Ubuntu based system and rebooted it, he could gain a full read/write access to all internal files and folders since Ubuntu auto-mounts the file system. This process does not even require the iPhone to be paired to that computer.

Although Apple has been informed of the matter, it is not sure if they will release a fix to this.  Apple has started investigating into the matter and is under the assumption that this is caused by a race condition between the iPhone turning on and it’s file system being identified on USB.

It is funny to see how Apple has always shunned Linux and now, the simplest of the Linux makes its state of the art defense mechanisms look completely stupid.

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Firefox Home: Coming Soon on iPhone

Firefox home is a browsing session syncing application for the iPhone OS. This app is based on Firefox Sync and allows access to the last browsing history, bookmarks and the set of tabs. This serves as an excellent session manager for web browsing and the fact that it is available anywhere makes you feel at home, so the name.

The Firefox Home app provides encrypted protection and gives us an on the fly browsing experience where we can simply catch up from the last time and place we left browsing. Even better, this app is completely free of charge and provides many awesome features of Firefox add-ons on the iPhone, where we cannot actually have Firefox, thanks for Apple.

Ragavan writes at Mozilla blog saying,

Firefox Home for iPhone is part of a broader Mozilla effort to provide a more personal Web experience with more user control. For devices or platforms where we’re unable to provide the fullFirefox browser (either technically or due to policy), we aim to provide users with on the goinstant access to their personal Firefox history, bookmarks and open tabs on their iPhones, giving them another reason to keep loving Firefox on their desktops.

The project is still under development and will soon be  submitted to the iPhone app store.

Follow the project at its official Mozilla page here.

Adobe Reader Now On Android, Simply Scares Users Towards Other Alternatives

The Adobe Reader has been released for Android and is available at Android market officially. Although, the release of this app went un-noticed and has not gained popularity due to Google IO conference, it has already been downloaded for over 250,000 times now and that number is on a rise.

adobe-reader-android

The Adobe Reader app is in version 0.9.0.0 and has serious lack of features.  To start with, it has no search to look up a word or text. It has no bookmark feature to quick access and bookmark pages for later reading. It has no usable feature of a document reader. The only thing it has, is great looks and a good User Interface (UI).

The app fetches the next four pages in advance and this can help in scrolling. Though, some argue that if we want to jump to a page (far away), re-loading the next four pages from this new page takes some time and this makes the app a resource hog. However, it works nicely if you are a slow reader.

The app also supports multi-touch actions like pinch-zoom. Again, here the rendering is extremely slow and once you start moving out of zoom, the rendering takes some time giving ugly blocks on the screen in that process.

adobe-reader-android

Other options include an open file dialog and switching to text mode which shows the document as text.

Verdict

This is the first version of this product and it is too hard to judge the product from this. The guys at Adobe are clearly confused and they need more time to figure out what basic features a PDF app must contain. I would install this software for its UI and on the hope that a better next version is coming soon. Though, using it something I would not do or recommend at all.

Rating: 2/5

Speedtest.net Results: Now Available to the Public

Launched in 2007, Speedtest.net emerged as the most reliable service to check one’s connection speed. The service provides an unmatched speed analysis application on an interactive flash page.

Ookla, the company behind Speedtest has recently made all speed test results available to the public. Ookla claims that it has been compiling those query results which amount to 1.5 Billion now. Up until now, the data was available through individual agreements. This is about to change and the data will now be available for free usage.

Ookla has made this release hoping that it will help ISPs, governments and website administrators take decisive steps. For example, network pockets with better speed and throughput can be identified and they can be used to reduce loads elsewhere.

It is said that any internet user is always within 300 miles of an Ookla server. That makes them an authority in usage tracking.

Now that the service has a stronghold, Ookla is planning to collect user feedback on broadband. It will ask users about broadband charges and usage limits and identify the cost per MB of data worldwide. It will also collect postal code for even more accurate benchmarking of worldwide broadband usage.

This is an excellent move by Ookla and will benefit the Internet at large.

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