All posts by Simon LR

Microsoft Announces ‘Visual Studio Achievements’ for Developers

Need bragging rights as a developer? Don’t have enough points and badges from Xbox Live? Well, Microsoft has the answer for you, Visual Studio Achievements!

In what seems to be an effort to rile developers up through ‘gamification’, Microsoft has announced a beta campaign called “Visual Studio Achievements”. By installing the Visual Studio Achievements Extension, you can unlock badges and earn points by simply writing code that you were already going to write! Analysis is done in the background each time you compile your project to test it. When you hit a certain objective, you unlock an achievement.

Next comes the leaderboard. All the points and badges you earn are tallied into a score and you’re stuck up onto an online leaderboard with all other registered developers who are taking part in the campaign. You can view challenging developer points, avatars and maybe eventually see what they are working on. It would be a great way to get developers to collaborate on ideas and projects.

If sharing your achievements with alike developers wasn’t enough, you can share badges through Twitter and Facebook. This can help you raise awareness for your application, and get recognition from your peers.

There are over 32 different badges you can unlock, from as easy as loading more extensions into Visual Studio, to as hard as having 50 different projects tied to a single solution.

There are fun badges, like the “Potty Mouth” achievements which rewards you for using 5 different curse words in a project, or the “Time for an Upgrade” badge that is unlocked if your project takes over 10 minutes to compile. It’s a simple way to add a level of fun to programming and give developers a way to show off their skills.

Nokia Still Showing Love to the N9 – PR1.2 Right Around the Corner

Even though Nokia has gone full tilt to Windows Phone 7, and in the process, taken the design of the recently announced Lumia 800/900 from the N9, they are adamant in providing updates to the dead-on-arrival handset.

Just shy of 2 months from the PR1.1 update, Nokia Developer has announced that PR1.2 will become available for registered developers and participants in the N950 Developer Program. It will be in a beta stage for testing and provided to ensure application compatibility before full public launch on the N9.

Among the 3,500 expected changes, the ability to create folders on the homescreen, copy and paste in the browser, and face recognition within the camera, are the top additions. Although no official changelog has been released, likely due to the fact that the OneClickFlashers for the N950 have not been released, screenshots from an N9 already running PR1.2 have been shared online.

While Nokia does have a fairly strong track record of providing updates and fixing serious bugs on released devices, some have indicated that PR1.2 will be the last update for the N9, as the company moves forward headstrong with Windows Phone 7. Hopefully the update also brings with it, the much requested (and promised) ‘open-mode’, giving developers more low level system access — which will also allow the community to continue updating their devices when Nokia stamps it as EOL.

If you’re a lucky (or unlucky) user of an N9, you’ll likely be waiting anywhere from a few week or a few months until PR1.2 is officially released for your N9. Hang in there, this might be the last hurrah for you and your coveted MeeGo device.

iPhone 4S iOS 5.0.1 Untethered Jailbreak Shown Off

If you’ve been waiting for your precious iPhone 4S to receive a jailbreak, you’ll need to keep waiting just a bit longer.

Affiliate and member of the Chronic Dev Team, pod2g and DHowitt, have posted a video showing the successful jailbreak of iOS 5.0.1 on the newest iPhone 4S hardware. While owners of previous generation devices such as the iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone 4 and 3GS have had a jailbreak for 5.0.1 for a few weeks now, the newer A5 chip proved to be a bit more difficult.

The video shows off an iPhone 4S running iOS 5.0.1, complete with Siri, powered on and off after having been jailbroken. With full access to Cydia and an untethered restart, it’s a fully functional and end-user ready jailbreak. Hopefully the exploit can be packaged into the currently available tools and released once it’s been fully tested.

Be sure to watch the official page for a release by the Chronic Dev Team. It’s also highly likely that the iPhone-dev team will also have their tools updated with the new exploit for eager jailbreakers soon.

Google Chrome Vulnerable to Secure Address Bar Spoofing

If you thought the site you were browsing was secure simply due to the little s  at the end of HTTP, you may want to re-evaluate.

Security researchers at ACROS  have posted details concerning a vulnerability in versions 14 and 15 of Google’s Chrome browser. The issue comes from an inconsistency that Chrome has when following and rendering redirections to other web pages. This means that an attacker can redirect a visitor to a page that looks identical to a legitimate page, with a real looking HTTPS URL, when infact they are not on the expected page. This can lead to theft of credentials, credit cards and other personal information.

The crux of the issue comes down to Chrome being very quick to update the address bar, even before any of the page content has actually loaded. This allows the researchers to change the destination without it being reflected to the address bar. Most users will “confirm” they are on the correct page simply by reading the address page and matching it with what they are looking at, especially when the majority only visit a handful of specific websites.

While the newest releases of Chrome (16, beta and above) have had this issue resolved, Google’s browser holds a relatively large marketshare of approximately 20% world wide. That’s more than 70 million. If over 75% of those users have updated version, one can speculate that roughly 1.7 million users are susceptible to this attack. With Google’s auto-update mechanism, it’s highly unlikely that there are so many old installations.

At Techie-Buzz alone, more than 1 million of the 3.5+ million visitors use Chrome. Google Chrome has been growing at a very rapid rate, pushing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Mozilla’s Firefox lower and lower. Chances are, you’re using Chrome because it’s fast, so if you want to stay as safe as possible, keep Chrome updated and take a look at some of the popular security/privacy extensions.

Nokia’s Qt on RIM’s PlayBook

Nokia’s defunct Qt software stack is headed to RIM’s dead PlayBook tablet. Will 2 wrongs make a right?

In an email to the Qt Project mailing list, Nokia’s Strategic Account Manager, Adam Weinrich has voiced his plans to coordinate a Qt keynote at RIM’s BlackBerry DevCon in Amsterdam, as well as developer outreach at Mobile World Congress in February 2012.

There is a Qt port for QNX/BBX/RIM devices.

Lets get this ecosystem involved in the Qt-Project!

Yes, I know, the code is not yet in the Qt-Project repository but it should be forthcoming. The QNX/BBX/RIM ecosystem are very open to engaging with the Qt community and the Qt Project.

I am coordinating a Qt keynote and training at the Blackberry DevCon in Amsterdam in February http://www.blackberrydevcon.com/ as well as doing outreach to their developers at Mobile World Congress. They are offering discounts to these events to Qt-Project community.

The Qt Developer Experience team will also be showing off Qt on the current playbook at the Qt booth at CES and MWC. Those who already owns a playbook, develops for Blackberry devices or are interested in becoming involved are encouraged to get involved with this new Qt port.

Let me know if you have any insight or interests in making this a win-win for Qt and this new community.

Cheers, Adam

Qt is a cross-platform application and UI framework. It’s available for Nokia’s past platforms – Symbian and MeeGo, with unofficial ports for iOS, webOS and Android, as well as solid support for Linux, Mac and Windows on the desktop. While this is a good way to increase the footprint of Qt on embedded and mobile devices, the PlayBook has seen less than enthusiastic sales.

With RIM rumoured to be releasing new  BBX BlackBerry 10  devices in late 2012, there is a very good chance that Qt on QNX will be polished and highly functional; with apps and games in tow, hopefully. Although the PlayBook has hit an all-time low of $199, the BlackBerry development team are said to be providing hardware at a discounted rate for developers who are interested in the platform.

Is this a move from Nokia to make Qt relevant? Is this a push from RIM to make the PlayBook relevant, while selling devices to bolster sales numbers? Either way, it’s an effort from both companies and it’s sure to make Qt enthusiasts rejoice.

Android Mainlining Project Takes Android Back to the Source

Just in case you didn’t know, Android is built atop the Linux kernel. A few patches here, a few branches there, pepper in some code, and Android was created. Unfortunately a lot of the patches were never sent upstream, this means some of the hard work done by the engineers at Google never made it out of the phones and into desktop or server hardware. The Android Mainlining Project aims to solve this.

Greg Kroah-Hartman, head of the Linux Driver Project, has created a new project with 3 major goals in mind.

  1.  To allow a developer to use the latest released version of the Linux kernel to run an Android system, without requiring patches to their kernel.
  2. To make it possible to develop drivers and board support features against either an Android kernel release or a kernel.org kernel release, with little or no modifications or conditional code.
  3. To reduce or eliminate the burden of maintaining independent patches from release to release for Android kernel developers.

This means all the Android-specific code that was purposely left out of kernel releases, will now be easier to implement and merge with the development branch of the 3.3 kernel. Systems like Android’s  logging, low memory kills  and wakelock power management will be branched-in, allowing for more hardware access to third party boards and systems with memory or power restraints.

In an e-mail to the Embedded Linux Kernel mailing-list, Tim Bird,  Architecture Group Chair, CE Workgroup of the Linux Foundation, states that the project was born after discussion and re-evaluation code from Android. With a current stable kernel of 3.19, mainline at 3.2-rc7, there are only a few dot-releases before the project aims to be completed.

Numerous volunteers have signed up for the project, and many have started to contribute patches and code for smooth integration. Without support from Google and AOSP, it’s highly unlikely that both kernels will ever reach parity, but this is quite an excellent start in order to bridge the gap and create a unified kernel that will benefit all users.

RIM Under Fire From BBM Canada

It would seem that RIM hasn’t had it bad enough this year. From poor tablet sales, to service outages, and now a swarm of lawsuits, RIM is taking a beating.

BBM Canada, a company also based out of Canada, is claiming trademark infringement for the use of “BBM” in RIM’s BlackBerry Messenger campaigns. Back in October,  RIM revealed BBX as the name for their new QNX-based platform, shortly thereafter, a US court decision forced them to rename to “BlackBerry 10″ due to trademark infringement filed by a company that develops software, aptly named “BBX”. Fast forward a few months, and RIM is in an extremely similar situation. The BlackBerry team has been heavily marketing and branding themselves with the “BBM” moniker for the past few years, it’s quite obvious that the recent swarm of lawsuits over IP and trademarks has awoken many companies to the money that can be made.

The issue has become quite a public one, numerous statements have been made by both RIM and BBM Canada with regards to their concerns. The President and CEO of BBM Canada, Jim MacLeod, said We want our name back… I find it kind of amazing that this wouldn’t have been thought about before they decided to use the name. The same thing goes for BBX..

The two companies will be in court early January 2012 to plead their cases, RIM has provided a press release which indicates they very much plan to fight for their right to use the acronym.

RIM Media Statement BBM Trademark Litigation: December 23, 2011

Since its launch in July 2005, BlackBerry Messenger has become a tremendously popular social networking service. In 2010, RIM started to formally adopt the BBM acronym, which had, at that point, already been organically coined and widely used by BlackBerry Messenger customers as a natural abbreviation of the BlackBerry Messenger name. The services associated with RIM’s BBM offering clearly do not overlap with BBM Canada’s services and the two marks are therefore eligible to co-exist under Canadian trademark law. The two companies are in different industries and have never been competitors in any area.

We believe that BBM Canada is attempting to obtain trademark protection for the BBM acronym that is well beyond the narrow range of the services it provides and well beyond the scope of rights afforded by Canadian trademark law. RIM has therefore asked the Court to dismiss the application and award costs to RIM. Further, for clarity, RIM’s application to register BBM as a trademark with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) is pending and we are confident that a registration will eventually issue. The inference by BBM Canada that CIPO has refused RIM’s BBM trademark application is quite frankly very misleading.

With low profits in Q2 2011, RIM is going to have rely on throwing weight around, instead of money, to resolve the trademark infringement case. With all the lawsuits happening in the mobile sphere, it’s really not surprising that innovation has taken a back seat. They’ve found a way to make money, without actually shipping any products. Maybe RIM should hire a few interns whose sole job is to Google new product names, to ensure there won’t be any conflicts.

Ubuntu Unveils Web Music Streaming Service

It’s official, Ubuntu has rolled out a Web Music addition to their Ubuntu One service.

An addition to the Ubuntu One “cloud service” now allows all users with a paid subscription to save, store and stream music directly from a web browser. After logging into your  UbuntuOne  control panel, there is a new tab showing off the features, which include offline listening, access to the vast Ubuntu One Music Store and 20GB of storage, with a monthly subscription. Of course there is also a 30 day free trial for the service should you want to try before you buy.

Previous to today, the service was only available from a mobile device running iOS or Android. A free app, available in both the Apple App Store and the Android Market, provided mobile users with a way to stream and access all the content stored in their cloud. Although users have access to the iTunes Cloud and Google Music on their respective handsets, many use alternatives that provide “personalized  radio” based on recommendations, tag matching and “crowdsourced” content such as Spotify and Pandora. Unfortunately UbuntuOne Web Music does not include this, but playlist creation, queue management and shuffle might be enough for you.


It really does seem as if Ubuntu is laying the framework and infrastructure for eventually providing a mobile operating system or partnering with an OEM for shipping U1 services directly on devices. They have a niche market with Ubuntu installations on many personal computers, they have cross-platform sync through a proven cloud service that allows file storage, contact and note sync, and now completely cross-platform music streaming.

Ubuntu says they will continue building out their One service and 2012 will be a big year. The mobile space has been heating up for a long time, and although there might not be any room for a new platform, providing tightly integrated services could be a real differentiating factor for many OEMs. Hopefully Canonical sees this opportunity and can seize it, truly bringing Ubuntu to the masses.

Kindle Touch XSS JailBreak

The recently release Kindle Touch has been freed. Yifan Lu, freelance developer, has dug down and posted details on an exploit used to jailbreak Kindle OS 5.

Although it might look completely innocuous due to the e-ink display, the Kindle Touch is a relatively complex device. At the core of the device is an operating system built around HTML5 and Javascript. Unfortunately, the engineers at Amazon left some gaping holes in the system, allowing for a straight-forward XSS (cross site scripting) attack vector to be used.

By embedding HTML and JS calls into an MP3, Yifan Lu was able to hook into undocumented debug functions in order to execute code at root level. Not only did Amazon leave a function that allowed any process to be spawned as root, they also didn’t bother to sanitize inputs when reading the ID3 tag for display. With root access, a simple SSH package was created and pushed, providing unfettered access to the device.

Yifan Fu is encouraging other developers to start writing plugins for the device. Open formats such as ePub or Mobi can be supported as well. While apps and games are a possibility, the e-ink display will really limit the possibilities due to the slower refresh rate, lack of color as well as lack of multitouch.
It’s very possible that the Kindle Fire isn’t the only device that Amazon is selling at a loss, with attempts to make up revenues by users purchasing content. Amazon should be concerned as it may open the door for users to permanently store content past the expiration date.

 

HP Still Pushing Pre 2 Updates

Despite being relegated to certain death, HP is actually still providing software updates to webOS.

Although HP has squandered millions (actually, billions)  with their acquisition of Palm for webOS, developed and then torched their TouchPad in an attempt to hit billboard status, beyond all expectations, they are still working on webOS behind the scenes. The webOS-Internals team is reporting that the Pre 2, now almost a year old, is set to receive an update to OS 2.2.4 which almost brings it to parity with features of the rare Pre 3.

If you’re unfortunate enough to have both a Pre 2 and a TouchPad, this update will allow the devices to talk over bluetooth in order to share text messages, as well as phone calls. While using bluetooth is a good way to keep the data local, iPhone and iPad users have iMessage which syncs over iCloud in order to keep your messages up-to-date on all devices, which means you don’t need to be in close proximity of your phone. A much better implementation.

Amongst all the hullabaloo concerning mobile security, webOS 2.2.4 also implements encryption for the local filesystem. This likely means system databases and essential files are either stored within a real cryptfs or are encrypted separately. Not quite as handy as having the ability to remote wipe without running your own Exchange server, but it’s a step in the right direction for data integrity.

Hopefully some bugs were squashed and there’s more to the changelog than 5 features, but judging by the package size (46MB), it’s not likely. It’s still unfortunate that webOS is floating in limbo with HP, but it’s great to see that the webOS team is still looking at the future for current users.

HP’s TouchPad Go Comes Back For More Pictures

The HP TouchPad, the tablet that never made it far out of the front gate before getting axed, has spawned life to a little brother.

The rarely seen TouchPad Go, was given a solid time in front of the camera recently. Of course, it looks exactly like a TouchPad at first glance. It’s a 7″ webOS tablet, sporting the same 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and Beats Audio as the original TouchPad. Absolutely everything is known about this tablet, thanks to marketing slides that were leaked a few months ago.  What was never covered, is how the Go actually looks compared to the rest of the HP/Palm device line-up. For nostalgia sake, here’s a shot that will make any webOS fan cry.

A smaller form factor and some flash accessories won’t put HP back on the mobile map, unfortunately. It’s a shame that the TouchPad Go will likely have the same fate as the unreleased Pre 3 – stockpiled in a warehouse or selling like hotcakes on eBay and CraigsList. While many users are perfectly happy with their $99 TouchPad tablets, especially ones who have them running Android, the TouchPad Go will probably never be blessed with such satisfaction.

It’s truly unfortunate that HP may not even sell these devices to employees, developers or even let them go with the clear understanding of no support, no warranty and no care comes with a purchase. Looks like the 7″ tablet wars have dwindled to just a few competitors battling it out amongst themselves.

Source: Palmjoy

BlackBerry PlayBook OS Update Pushed to 2012

If you were waiting for the PlayBook to get an update to OS2.0 before actually being useful, unfortunately you’ll have to continue waiting.

While RIM is going against all odds and continuing to provide support for the PlayBook, the shiny brick won’t be getting the expected update to OS 2.0 until February of 2012. It’s not the recently announced BBX, but it is supposed to be a fairly large upgrade for existing users. It wouldn’t be a product from Research in Motion if it didn’t ship missing crucial features, would it? Of course not, so it’s very fitting that RIM has decided to leave BBM (BlackBerry Messenger) support out of the update. That’s right, it’s going to take an additional 4 months of work before the system is polished up, but it still won’t have their proprietary instant messaging functionality. Feel free to purchase a new $500 (likely) BlackBerry to accompany your $700 PlayBook so you can use BBM with it. That’s a pretty good option, right?Maybe news of RIM doling out a couple of hundred PlayBooks loaded with OS 2.0 beta might make you feel better. Developers and any other DevCon attendees were given a new PlayBook. So, technical journalists, hobbyists and other random kids got them, but not paying customers. Members of the BlackBerry Early Access Program will also be getting closed betas of 2.0 shortly, this is mainly for tackling Enterprise support and integration.

In a post to the Inside BlackBerry Blog, Senior VP of BlackBerry PlayBook at RIM, David Smith gives a few reasons for the delay and lack of features upon launch.

First off, we have decided to defer the inclusion of the BBMâ„¢ application to a subsequent BlackBerry PlayBook OS release. We are committed to developing a seamless BBM solution that fully delivers on the powerful, push based messaging capabilities recognized today by BlackBerry ® users around the world and we’re still working on it. In the meantime, BlackBerry smartphone users will be able to continue to use BlackBerry ® Bridgeâ„¢ to securely access BlackBerry ® Messengerâ„¢ on the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet’s high resolution display.

These betas will be rolled out over the course of this year and are an important next step to bringing our unmatched enterprise app deployment, device manageability, security and email integration capabilities to the tablet category.

There is a bit of good news in the tidbit. When OS 2.0 does pop around for download, it will bring integrated email, calendar and contacts. Your “business ready” tablet, isn’t exactly business ready at all, but it soon will be.

The software update will add advanced integrated email, calendar and contact apps, a new video store, as well as new functionality that will allow your BlackBerry smartphone and BlackBerry PlayBook to work together even better.

Hopefully this means a few software managers at RIM got slapped with a trout and are now starting to put actual work into the PlayBook. Their half-assed Android Player isn’t going to bring any new customers, so hopefully the brand spanking new OS, BBX, will make it to smartphones by February with the new PlayBook OS in tow.

Nokia 800 Renders Revealed

If you were under the impression that the MeeGo-powered N9 was staying out of North America to reduce confusion as to Nokia’s future with Windows Phone 7, this might be a bit confusing.

Rumors, pictures and even videos of the Nokia ‘SeaRay’ were circulated less than 24 hours after the N9 was announced. Nokia was adamant and strong in their stance of sticking with Windows Phone 7. It seems many media outlets are too simple to understand that Nokia is a global company. Nevertheless, the N9 will not ship to North America through carriers. Nokia wants to provide a clear and concise offering to customers. Windows Phone 7 is new, it’s fresh and it’s different…except that last bit.

PocketNow has published press shots of a Nokia WP7 phone. The Nokia 800, likely to be unveiled at Nokia World in a few weeks, looks exactly like the aforementioned N9. See the trio of devices above? That is a render of the N9 in Cyan, Black and Blue. What is immediately below? Why that’s the 800…in Cyan and Black. Confused yet?

You’ll notice almost no difference unless you look at the render of the Blue 800. Keep staring, it will come to you eventually.

The inclusion of a camera shutter button is the only immediate thing that separates the N9 from the 800, unless you count the software that actually makes this thing useful. The 800 runs Windows Phone 7 Mango, while the N9 runs MeeGo-Harmattan. Very different software, polar opposites. Very similar hardware, almost the exact same thing. To think, the only reason Nokia has decided to let the N9 fall by the wayside was to not confuse customers? The numbers clearly make sense. N9 – MeeGo = N800 + Mango.

The only thing worse that could happen, is finding out there is some truth to an N9 clone running Android Gingerbread. Actually, scrap that, iOS5 on an N9 would really seal the deal.

RIM Reveals BBX Disappointment at DevCon

Today, Research in Motion officially announced BBX. BBX is the culmination of their legacy OS merged with what QNX has been building for the past year or so.

The developer conference that RIM hosts, DevCon, takes place over the next few days in San Francisco and then moves to Asia and Europe in the following months. New devices, new endeavors and anything new to RIM is normally announced at the event. So far, BBX has been the most ‘exciting’ thing. No new smartphones, no new tablets, and most certainly no devices running BBX have been discussed thus far.

So, what makes BBX so special? For starters, it’s a completely new platform — except it’s already on the PlayBook, which was an abysmal failure in comparison to other tablets. Okay, well they now have new development environments! HTML5 with WebWorks, Adobe Air, Native C/C++ and an Android Runtime. Even if developers don’t flock to using “web technologies” for their apps, you can surely rely on the vast Android Market, right? Before you do that, be sure to check out what will and won’t work with their Android Player  — almost nothing useful will work as it should.

What did RIM do properly? They announced they were abolishing some of the barriers to start developing for the platform. You no longer need to register to download the SDK. You no longer need to show ‘notarized papers’ to start developing. Leave the credit card in your wallet, it’s now free become a BlackBerry third party developer. That’s right, previous to today, you had to create an account, identify yourself and fork over cash before you could write a single line of code with their tools. If anybody was wondering why RIM was having a hard time attracting real talent, wonder no more!

RIM plans to use BBX to provide unification to their smartphones, tablets and other embedded devices they have in the works. BBM is there, push notifications are there, and their now-defunct proprietary communications backhaul  is there too! Everything you love (and hate) about BlackBerry is basically going to stay the same for the foreseeable future.

If RIM plans on gaining back the confidence they lost earlier this month, they will have to pull out all the stops over the next 2 days. We can only hope that the Waterloo-based company has an ace in the sleeve before they end the game.

HP Updates TouchPad To webOS 3.0.4.77

Even though you didn’t get your hands on a webOS TouchPad, there’s nothing stopping HP from providing marginal updates to their defunct platform, right?

HP has just started pushing out the latest update to the their tablet, the TouchPad. It’s still webOS, although there are ways to get Android running on yours. It’s a small update, it brings the usual speed improvement, performance and stability updates, and fixes some rather huge gaps in the system (that you probably never cared about). You may have noticed that puny 1.3 MP camera on the front, but that there was no way of actually using it to take pictures; well fear no more. There is now a built-in Camera app to take care of your video and picture-taking requirements. Likely, the camera attached to your phone is more suited than the TouchPad, but it’s nice that HP has addressed this.

You also may have been having issues pairing your phone with the TouchPad — that’s because in their infinite wisdom, HP decided to disallow non-webOS devices from connecting. Well, they’ve also fixed that. You can now pair any device, smart or dumb phone to your TouchPad and use it as a phone. Thanks HP, holding and talking into a 10″ screen is exactly what I want to do. Instead, HP should have added the Bluetooth DUN profile for tethering or maybe OBEX-FTP for sharing files between devices. There’s no reason a modern mobile platform should be missing either of these. Shame on you, HP.

Of course some other minor additions such as OGG Vorbis support, and being able to actually toggle between offline and online while logged in to an IM service have been added.

These certainly are nice additions that most definitely make up for HP stabbing Palm in the back, abandoning webOS and shattering the dreams of many customers. Thanks for the bone, HP! Next time, do all your customers a favor and instead of shipping 2 or 3 devices with Android pre-installed, set it up for everybody and save yourself the PR nightmare.