All posts by Simon LR

GNOME Continues Growing Up; 3.2 Released and Ready

If you’re a casual Linux user, you’re likely to be sporting either KDE or Gnome when it comes to the desktop environment. Gnome has become the popular DE to wrap into a distribution, especially since Ubuntu has decided to forge ahead with Unity (based on Gnome Shell) in future releases.

The GNOME project has packaged and prepared their latest version, 3.2 — which is based on a 6 month release cycle. Good or bad, every 6 months there will be a version freeze and a new release of code will be shipped. Today is that day. GNOME 3.2 brings along a plethora of bug-fixes, feature additions and overall user experience enhancements.

The release highlights include;

  • It is now easier to resize a window as the area for this has been increased.
  • System Settings now includes links to related settings found in other locations. For instance, the Keyboard section now has a link to the keyboard layout.
  • Titlebars, buttons, and other controls are less tall, making it easier to use GNOME on small screens.
  • Notifications in the lower-right corner now include a counter. This makes it easier to see how many emails are waiting for you without having to open your email program, or to determine how many messages you have missed in a particular chat.
  • The highlight effect that indicates that an application is already running has been made more obvious.
  • In the user menu, notifications can be configured independently from the chat status.
  • The workspace switcher in the overview remains expanded by keeping its full width displayed when you are using more than one workspace.
  • Instead of assuming Evolution, the application for the calendar drop-down can now be customized.
  • The battery power status is now shown using a bar.
  • Focus-follows-mouse handling has improved, though more work is needed.

New applications are also bundled in the packages. The Accounts application includes support for the cloud and can sync your Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Chat and Documents.

Speaking of Documents, there is also a completely new application that provides quick and easy access to all locally and remote documents. Finding, editing and saving remote documents will be a cinch with Google Docs support built right in.

As usual, the GNOME team is looking at the future of computing, they’ve enhanced and reduced user interactions to complete tasks, they’ve integrated social features and have even added a brand new on-screen keyboard in the event that this whole Post-PC drivel comes to fruition.

As usual, the Release Notes are in the GNOME Library and provide a comprehensive look at the subtle changes that have been incorporated. Look for your favourite distribution to polish, package and push GNOME 3.2 once the repository maintainers vet the source and make their branding modifications.

HP TouchPad Go Marketing Material Materializes, You Still Can’t Have One

HP pulled the plug on webOS, completely liquidated the TouchPad in a fire sale and has been flopping around like a fish out of water when it comes to their CEO, but that’s not a big deal – the previously leaked TouchPad Go was ready to go to market. At least that’s what the product marketing slides and renders indicate.

PreCentral has been given official internal-use only documentation from the TouchPad Go. The images show off the hardware and design surrounding the 7″ little brother to the original TouchPad. Instead of cheap shiny plastic, the Go has a soft-touch rubbery coating, metal buttons replace the plastic chrome ones, and of course it’s in an entirely smaller package.

The regular bundle of ports, connectivity and buttons aside, there are very few changes to the aesthetics. The TouchPad Go adds a 5 megapixel camera to the rear of the tablet, manages to enable GPS for location-awareness, and also packs the newer induction coil that allows for both wireless charging and touch-to-share with the HP Veer or Pre 3. The rear camera is capable of shooting HD video (likely 720) and the measly 1.3 megapixel front-facer is best left for video chatting via Skype or Google Talk.

Chances that consumers will ever get their hands on the TouchPad Go are extremely slim. Many folks are already chomping at the bit to get Android on their TouchPads and with the recent push to smaller tablets, it’s a real shame that the TouchPad Go is unlikely to ever see shelves, even for another fire sale.

Samsung’s Galaxy S 2 Sales Surpass 10 Million In 5 Months

It was just 2 months ago that the Galaxy S 2 hit 5 million units, but fast forward and now it’s official – the Samsung Galaxy S 2 is an absolute success.

Samsung recently announced that the Galaxy S 2 has shipped over 10 million units in just 5 months of sales. What’s even more surprising, is that these numbers exclude the United States, where the SGS2 has only recently become available on carriers.

In a press release provided by Samsung, JK Shin, President and Head of Samsung’s Mobile Communication Business stated ‘Since its launch in late April 2011, the GALAXY S II has seen continued sales success, demonstrating Samsung’s industry-leading capabilities in and commitment to the smartphone market‘. Not surprising considering the devices are the fastest selling smartphones in Korea. Ever.

The Galaxy S 2 is also one of the fastest smartphones currently available on the market and receives a lot of updates and support – both official and unofficial. The latest official update brings the device to Android 2.3.4 while unofficial updates allow users to bump to 2.3.5 to bring a host of fixes and new additions.

See below for the official Samsung press release.

Samsung GALAXY S II continues success reaching 10 Million in global sales

Global popularity with customers drives momentum for Samsung’s flagship smartphone

SEOUL, Korea September 25th, 2011 Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd, a global leader in digital media and digital convergence technologies, today announced that the Samsung GALAXY S II (Model: GT-I9100) has achieved 10 million global channel sales, doubling from five million in just eight weeks.

The GALAXY S II is Samsung’s flagship smartphone device a beautifully thin (8.49mm) and lightweight dual-core smartphone that combines an unmatched Super AMOLED Plus viewing experience with powerful performance, all on Android, the world’s fastest-growing mobile operating system. The next generation smartphone also includes Samsung’s four content and entertainment hubs, seamlessly integrated to provide instant access to music, games, e-reading and social networking services.

Since its launch in late April 2011, the GALAXY S II has seen continued sales success, demonstrating Samsung’s industry-leading capabilities in and commitment to the smartphone marketsaid JK Shin, President and Head of Samsung’s Mobile Communications Business.

In just five months the GALAXY S II has seen tremendous growth, reflecting its tremendous popularity with customers around the world, who in selecting the GALAXY S II as their device of choice have driven the device’s strong market position globally.

iPhone Users Vulnerable To Address Book Snarfing Via Skype XSS

Skype users on iOS devices should be on the look out for malicious users who intend on stealing their address book.

A vulnerability affecting Skype 3.01 on iOS devices, including the iPod Touch and iPhone, gives an attacker the ability to secretly upload the entire contents of your address book. The hole is due to a non-validated input field in the client, instead of the contents being displayed to the user, they are executed. Coupling XSS with sandbox permissions that do not allow for fine-tuned access control within apps, provides a way for an attacker to steal the contents of an unsuspecting user’s address book.

Skype has been criticised numerous times over identical vulnerabilities in their desktop software, that allowed for remote code to be executed on a victim’s computer. The flaw is one that Skype has had reported numerous times, fixed numerous times, yet they have not completely audited the applications before release.

Phil has detailed the attack performed against an iPhone 4 running iOS 4.3.5 and has indicated that the vulnerability was reported to Skype over a month ago. Hopefully a fix is in the works, but more importantly, hopefully Skype will perform a full check instead of simply throwing input sanitising on the vulnerable text field.

HTC Runnymede 2 Outed; Boasting ‘Beats’

Well it looks as if the Runnymede 2 will be one of the many devices that HTC will be pushing featuring ‘Beats by Dre’. The partnership, which was announced in the beginning of August, is shaping up to be much more than HTC simply slapping a pair of earphones and ‘Beats’ stickers into a box.While the Runnymede 2 is purported to ship with a set of over-the-ear headphones, it will also be powered by “SRS surround sound with acoustic performance tuned by Beats”. In addition to local storage of 16GB or 32GB, the Runnymede 2 will have access to HTC Listen, which is an on-device digital download store with access to movies and music. According to the leaked documentation, the Runnymede 2 continues the Android tradition of equipping a Qualcomm Snapdragon – clocked at 1.5GHz. A large 4.7″ 800×480 and 1.3 megapixel camera sit on the front of the single-slab aluminum phone.

Pricing for the Runnymede 2 hovers around the regular £499/599 mark for the 16/32GB models, both of which include the iconic Beats Solo headset. Although the Runnymede 2 seems to be a regular phone in HTC’s timeline, the Taiwanese company is taking the initiative and branding the new device with Beats. HTC’s ‘Beats by Dre’ product marketing will hopefully serve as clear differentiator when it comes to selecting an Android-powered phone, which some see to be a serious issue.

Via AndroidGuys

Motorola Droid 3 Reaches Root Status

The Motorola Milestone 3, known stateside as the Droid 3, has been rooted!   The well-known kernel hacker and security researcher Dan Rosenberg, has posted the details of a simple vulnerability that provides superuser access to the device by using a configuration value that prevents the Android Debugging Bridge from de-escalating its root privileges.

The Droid 3 is the successor to the very popular Droid 2. It launched on Verizon back in July, with a locked bootloader preventing customized kernels and ROM cooking. The original Motorola Droid implemented security measures that required signed images for flashing. It took almost a year before it was rooted and Motorola stuck with their choice to alienate power users by enforcing signature checks on their Droid series of devices.

Featuring a spacious 5-row hardware QWERTY keyboard, qHD screen and all the methods of connectivity you can handle, the Droid 3 is a powerhouse of a device. Although none of the Droids are included in the guide to the Best Android Phones in India, the original Droid pushed Android launch sales over the iPhone and beat the Nexus One.

Now that Google and Motorola have joined forces, the Android community can expect more top-tier hardware built by Motorola and powered by unskinned, unmolested and bloatware-free Android, receiving timely updates directly from Google.

Did Samsung Miss The Memo? Forging Forward with Bada, 2.0 SDK Released

Samsung isn’t scared of the Google and Motorola Mobility buyout, right? Maybe they simply knew it was inevitable. Back at Mobile World Congress 2010, Samsung announced the Wave, their first Bada powered smartphone. They wanted to bring their own apps, their own little ecosystem and their own proprietary experience to users, in the form of TouchWiz on Bada.

After more than a year of working on the platform, Samsung has finally released their second iteration of the software development kit. The SDK brings along support for NFC, multitasking, HTML5 and push notifications. For developers, there is a new API for advertising, a framework built around web technologies and increased platform security.

I’m not sure if Samsung realizes this, but mobile platforms have been dropping likes flies. The Symbian Foundation closed up back in November, Nokia pulled out of MeeGo, went to Windows Phone and left Intel blowing in the wind, RIM decided to use QNX going forward from the PlayBook and HP has killed webOS. What’s even worse is that these companies have been in the business of software development for decades. Nokia’s been making phones since 1970 and RIM has been forwarding emails since the mid 90s. Samsung? They made my fridge and washing machine. They did a damn fine job too.

So they now have some platform features that iOS and Android have supported for years. They have some budget phones. They have an interface that is a complete gypsy of iOS and quite frankly, nobody likes TouchWiz. They have a defunct “app store” filled with themes and ringtones. Sounds like what they have is Symbian circa 2005 which is, surprisingly, poised to make a comeback with Nokia breathing life into it while working on Windows Phone.

Samsung has been licensing both Windows Phone and Android for their devices. Now that Microsoft is in the fold with Nokia to produce hardware, and Google has Motorola Mobility under their thumb to churn out top-tier devices, what can Samsung turn to? Looks like they’ll be bringing Bada to bat.

In a world where Nokia, RIM and Palm can’t get their software right, what chance does Samsung stand? Good luck to them. Hopefully they can jump off the Android platform and bask in the bada (it’s korean, for ocean).

 

Lenovo Throws Their ThinkPad Tablet Into The Mix

With tablets being the talk of the town recently, thanks to HP liquidating their TouchPad for $99 after killing off webOS, Lenovo has decided to finally announce and release their ThinkPad Tablet. Although Lenovo has had the IdeaPad series of tablets available for quite some time, the new instalment brings along the well-known “ThinkPad” brand and markets it directly to the the business crowd.

 

Built atop Android 3.1, it brings along corporate-centric software such as Documents To Go, Citrix Receiver and PrinterShare. The ThinkPad Tablet even goes to the extent of bundling McAfee’s Mobile Security package for Android in an obvious attempt to appeal to upper management. Full device and SD card encryption is supported, along with anti-theft software and remote device disabling.

With Android pushing the ARMs race, it should come as no surprise that the ThinkPad Tablet continues along with the trend.

  • NVIDIA Tegra 2 Dual-Core 1GHz Processor
  • 1GB LPDDR2 RAM
  • 10.1 WXGA (1280×800) 16:10 IPS screen with Corning Gorilla Glass
  • 5 megapixel rear-facing camera
  • 2 megapixel front-facing camera
  • Up to 64GB of storage
  • Bluetooth, WiFi and 3G connectivity
  • Native USB 2.0 and micro-USB ports, full-size SD card slot and mini-HDMI output

The tablet also brings along 3 accessories for maximising productivity. The Tablet Dock is as it sounds, a dock that stands the device up to provide easy viewing angles and port extension. The Keyboard Folio packs a case and physical keyboard all into one. The Tablet Pen allows for fine-tuned pressure-sensitive precision on the capacitive multi-touch display.

The Wi-Fi-only version of the ThinkPad Tablet is priced unusually high. $499, $569 and $669 for the 16GB, 32GB and 64GB devices, respectively. Lenovo plans to integrate mobile broadband into the next version of the tablets to allow for 3G connectivity.

It’s nice to see that ThinkPad continues its styling and design in the tablet instead of straying to provide an iPad look-a-like. Targeted mainly towards the business professional, a market where the only competitor is the BlackBerry PlayBook, the ThinkPad Tablet certainly has clear advantages over consumer devices. Both RIM and Lenovo have strong ties to the corporate world through existing products, and with HP no longer pushing their TouchPad, it’s become an even smaller space to compete.

Nokia Developer Database Compromised by SQL Injection

Nokia’s Developer site is home to an app submission launchpad, documentation on developing for S40, Windows Phone and MeeGo, as well as the official place to be for conversation on the platforms with their development teams.

Unfortunately, the developer page has been the target and victim of a simple SQL injection attack. Part of the internal administration database has been compromised. A portion of the database containing user names and password hashes (along with their respective salts) has been circulated and posted online.

Thankfully, Nokia employs the use of hashing algorithms in their security policy and no plain-text passwords are stored. According to the above image, the vulnerable page is their search form which allows for unsanitized/unfiltered input. An attacker enters a query that is processed by the back-end as an SQL statement, any information stored within the tables the attacker requests, is provided as output. This can be information containing simple notes or links, but an attacker will often craft a query to return stored credentials, credit card or other personal information.

Exactly how much information was taken from the database is unknown, but at least 11 accounts have had their password hashes posted online.

The folks who head the Nokia Developer page have been notified of the breach and hopefully they are scrambling to close the current known hole and then tasking a team to search through all of their public facing pages and lock them down.

Microsoft Releases “We’re In” Bing App

Microsoft has unwrapped a new Bing app that goes by the clever and self-explanatory name of “We’re In“. The app allows  a user to send out invitations to selected friends for an event. An expiration date for each invitation can be toggled in order to turn off location sharing at a predefined time. Once launched, the app allows you to select a list of people to invite to your event along with details, such as location, time or other personal notes.

Once a user accepts the invitation and sends a reply, their location is visible to you and vice-versa. This works similar to how Google Latitude does, displaying all your friends on a map relative to your location.  Each user can control their invitation expiration and can view other friends in the group. This makes for a much easier way to manage who can see where you are and when they can see where you are.

The unofficial motto behind Windows Phone is “get in, get out, get back to life’. This app is a perfect example of the route that Microsoft has taken with designing Windows Phone and the services they provide to users. They reduce the amount of required  interactions in order to make getting information extremely fast and extremely simple. The newest update to Windows Phone, dubbed Mango, brings along some refreshing changes  that enhance the user experience and ultimately aligns Windows Phone with it’s competitors.

Unfortunately the We’re In app is only available to users in the United States (due to “location data regulations”, as per the Bing Team) and it is not available for all current devices.  In the mean time, users who are looking for a cross-platform and completely free service that has very similar functionality should check out Glympse.