All posts by Varghese Chacko

About Varghese Chacko

An IT guy, I have been working as a QA professional for around 6.5 years. I keenly follow technology with a special focus on open source. After much distro-hopping, I settled down on using openSUSE as my distribution of choice. A fan of Arsenal ever since I started following football, I keenly follow sports and am good for a game always.

Chrome for Android will now reduce your data usage

We should see three new features coming out for Chrome for Mobile browser soon. Posted on the Chrome blog, the feature listed are data compression for Android and iOS, translation service for iOS and Web short cuts for Android devices. They will be available as updates in the coming few days.

Data compression
More and more people are using their mobile devices to browse the Web. With mobile Internet plans being not exactly cheap, any savings on data usage can lower the cost of this service. Google will be introducing a feature in Chrome through which Web data usage may be reduced by up to 50%. Chrome users can enable this service by going to Settings > Bandwidth management > Reduce data usage when this feature is introduced. Users will also be able to track how much bandwidth is saved each month.

There are two ways that the reduction in bandwidth use will happen. First, by compressing the Web content at the Google proxy servers before providing it to the Chrome browser. Second, by reducing image sizes.

Compressing data at the servers is nothing new. Opera Mini has this same feature for quite a while. The browser is served content from the proxy server which compresses data before sending it over to the Web browser. To keep data secure, Google will use SSL to transfer data between the proxy and Chrome browser. Connections already using HTTPS will not use this type of service; they will directly connect to the Websites. In addition to this, DNS look ups will also be done by the proxy instead of the mobile device. It does not stop there. Further savings are achieved by compressing HTML, JavaScript and CSS content and removal of unnecessary whitespaces, comments and other metadata.

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One huge part of data usage is images on Websites. Google says that on an average 60% of the content transferred to the browsers are images. Such images will be converted to WebP format which reduces the size of the images further when compared to popular formats such as PNG and JPEG.

Application short cuts for Android devices
Chrome on desktop allowed users to save Web pages as apps on the desktop. Google is bringing this feature over to Android devices. A new “Add to homescreen” option will be available. When selected, it will add the Web page to the home screen for faster access. Some special Websites will have the capability to be displayed in a full-screen stand-alone manner with no navigation buttons in place.

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Source: Chrome Blog

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Google turns Windows 8 into Chrome OS machines

Chrome 32 is out. Among the feature list is an interesting one. The browser can transform itself to look like Chrome OS, Google’s very own operating system. This feature is available only for Windows 8 users who use the browser in “Metro” mode.

The arrangement comes with a application launcher on the bottom-left corner. For ease of access, apps for Chrome browser, GMail and YouTube are also present in the bottom shelf. Like in the OS, multiple browser windows can be opened.

Yuri Wiitala, Software Engineer at Google writes on an official Google blog:

Chrome on Windows 8 “Metro” mode gets a new look: Manage multiple Chrome windows and quickly get to your favorite Chrome Apps with an integrated app launcher.  On the desktop, we’ve updated the default styling of UI elements like form controls and scrollbars to match the sleek design of the new Chrome Metro interface.

This is a direct invasion of Microsoft Windows 8. What it means is that withing Windows users will be getting a Chromebook experience – cutting out all Microsoft tools and services. The more they will use this ‘Chrome OS’ experience the more they will get used to it and will realize that they actually don’t use Windows at all; that they can very well live withing ‘Chrome OS’. Next time when they would visit a store selling Chromebooks – they will be more comfortable buying it.

Microsoft is already scared of Chromebooks and instead of working on improving it’s image or products started funneling money in anti-Google ad campaigns that ruined their image even further.

This news would have certainly raised eyebrows at Microsoft. What remains to be seen is the response the company would give and whether it will put in some roadblocks to prevent this feature from being used? The company is no longer the giant of computing it once was. Chromebooks are a worthy rival to Windows 8 and its mobile OS is just a blip in the smart devices world. With the company looking at device manufacturers to dual boot its OS with Android, any attempts to sabotage Google’s offering may bring with it a hostile response.

Source: Google

 

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Edward Snowden to join Freedom of the Press Foundation

Whistle-blower and former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, will be joining the Freedom of the Press Foundation (FFP). Although the exact date is not known, the FFP in its statement mentions that Snowden will be joining in February this year. The statement says that Mr. Snowden is joining the board to be part of solution, to help protect today’s journalists and inspire tomorrow’s watchdogs. The foundation hopes that Snowden can use his experience and assist them in setting up a secure communication platform for journalists and sources.

In joining the FFP, Snowden will be joining a co-founder and a man who has an experience of a similar nature – Daniel Ellsberg. Ellsberg was responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War in 1971. In welcoming Snowden to the foundation, Ellsberg says “Accountability journalism can’t be done without the courageous acts exemplified by Snowden, and we need more like him.” Another set of people whom he will be joining are Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, journalists to whom Snowden gave the leaked NSA documents.

Welcoming the opportunity, Snowden says, “It is tremendously humbling to be called to serve the cause of our free press, and it is the honor of a lifetime to do so alongside extraordinary Americans like Daniel Ellsberg on FPF’s Board of Directors.  The unconstitutional gathering of the communications records of everyone in America threatens our most basic rights, and the public should have a say in whether or not that continues.  Thanks to the work of our free press, today we do, and if the NSA won’t answer to Congress, they’ll have to answer to the newspapers, and ultimately, the people.” Given that he is currently in Russia, he would most probably be looking at modes such as teleconferencing to work with the foundation.

FFP is a non-profit organization set up in 2012 to support and defend public-interest journalism. It hopes to use crowd-funding to support projects involved in developing encryption tools such as Tails OS and Tor. You too can donate by clicking this link.

Source: FPF

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Future Fedora releases to be nameless, next release in August

Fedora, like other Linux distributions, has had some colourful names. The current release is named Heisenbug while the previous two releases were named Schrödinger’s Cat and Spherical Cow. And that may be it. The Fedora board has decided that it no longer will be coming up with names for future releases, starting from Fedora 21.

Fedora releases were named based on nomination and voting. It is now up to the community to name a release if they are willing to.  Says Jaroslav Reznik of Red Hat in his blog post, “What will be the code name for Fedora 21. And again short answer: null. Not null as null string but null. Fedora Board decided to end release names process. It does not mean “no more release names” but it’s up to community or working groups, if anyone wants to step into the role of Name Wrangler and helps running this process. Or reform it in any way.”

In a related news, Fedora 21 is targeted to be released not before August this year. The gap in time between Fedora 20 and 21 is considerable given that releases happen approximately six months apart. The time between the two releases will be used to work on tooling for quality control and release automation. “But this time we are in a bit different situation – there are several working groups trying to redefine, how Fedora should look like in the future and it does not make sense to create schedule. We need resolution from this effort. It’s planned for January.”, states Jarolsav. Apart from that, we may also be looking at releases happening at different times for different products.

Source: Softpedia

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Get the Chromecast free with MotoX – limited time

Motorola presented a New Year’s gift by reducing the prices of MotoX and retailing it for $399 off-contract. To sweeten the deal further, it is throwing in the Google Chromecast for free. The offer is only valid for 16GB and 32GB models which retail for $399 and $499 respectively and will end on January 14. If you were looking to buy the MotoX and are impressed with the offer, head over to their Website. Remember to add Chromecast from the accessory list to your order and use promo code STREAM to avail this offer.

For those new to Chromecast, here is a bit of info. Chromecast is a Google device which when plugged in to your HDTV (High Definition Television) allows you to watch videos over the Wi-Fi network from your phone or tablet. Chromecast supports Netflix, YouTube, Google Play Movies and Chrome among others. Retailing for $35 it is indeed a useful throw-in with the MotoX.

MotoX was initially launched in August last year for $579. It did have positive reviews and some consider to be one of the best Android phones out there. However, sales have not been exactly on fire. With the recent price reduction and a Chromecast given for free, Motorola may be looking to increase sales and get the MotoX a much needed publicity.

In another announcement, there are reports that Motorola may be looking to launch the MotoX in Europe on January 14 – the same day this offer ends. Given that the MotoX is currently limited to the US, this may the one thing that Motorola needs to sell more phones.

Source: The Verge

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HP launches Android powered All-in-One desktop for business users

Targeting the business community HP has unveiled the Slate 21 Pro AiO (All-in-One) desktop running on Android 4.3 at CES 2014. The desktop is aimed to find use in office, education and kiosk environments. Given that most businesses run Windows applications, the system will be capable of running these too.

The Slate 21 Pro AiO comes with Full HD 21.5″ screen with touch screen. With 178 degree viewing angle and 70 degree of adjustable recline, the Slate is aimed at comfort of viewing and working. The heart of the desktop is an NVIDIA Tegra 4 quad-core processor with 2GB RAM, enough to give it a punch. Memory is limited to 16GB, but, given that the desktop features USB ports, it should be readily expandable. On the connectivity front, the Slate provides an Ethernet port and an 8.11 a/b/g/n dual band wireless with Bluetooth 4.0. An integrated 720p Webcam with microphone is provided for video conferencing.

Office suites are a pre-requisite for business. The Slate comes with Kingsoft Office Suite and Googe Docs – both free and good productivity suites. Given that the Slate runs on Android, Google Drive is supported. Additionally, HP is giving 50GB of Box cloud storage at no additional cost. For those businesses who run Windows, the Slate comes installed with Citrix receiver for remote connections. The Slate can also function as a Windows-enabled touch display by connecting it to a Windows PC.

With Android being the most used mobile OS, it is easy to see that a desktop powered by the same OS can help in seamless integration in a business environment. The Slate 21 Pro AiO will retail in the US for $399. If you are interested in buying one when it is available, head over to the HP Website to place an order.

Source: HP

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MakerBot presents its next generation 3D printers at the CES

3D printer manufacturer, MakerBot has launched three new 3D printers at the CES 2014. Named Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer and Replicator Z18 3D Printer, the new models will be new additions to its existing line up of 3D printers. All three models are app and cloud enabled making it easier to control the printers remotely. Completing the ecosystem will be the MakerBot Desktop, MakerBot Mobile, MakerBot PrintShop and MakerBot Digital Store with which MakerBot hopes to provide consumers with a complete set up for printing.

The top end of the 3D printer line up is the Z18 3D Printer. The printer will cost $6,499 and will be available from next spring. It is aimed at printing extra-large industrial products and has the ability of printing multiple models at one go. Measuring 30.5 cm x 30.5 cm x 45.7 cm, the Z18 has USB, Ethernet and Wi-Fi options for connectivity. The model is capable of printing products with 100 micro layer resolution ensuring a smooth finish. The company reckons that finished products will not need sanding or finishing or other post production activities.

Priced at $1,375, the Replicator Mini Compact 3D Printer is aimed at the average user. It is also the smallest of the three at 10 cm x 10 cm x 12.5 cm, dimensions which no doubt will take very little space. Plug and play with Wi-Fi connectivity is offered. The end product will have a 200 micron layer resolution.

The final model, the Replicator Desktop 3D Printer, is the mid level version. Plug and play with Ethernet is offered with a Wi-Fi model in the works. Priced at $2,899, it is the only model among the three which is available for ordering. Featuring a 3.5 inch LCD display and a camera, the model has dimensions of 25.2 cm x 19.9 cm x 15 cm.

To help control the printers remotely, MakerBot will develop two apps – MakerBot Desktop and MakerBot Mobile. The desktop app is expected to be available in February 2014. The mobile version will initially be available for iPhone users in spring 2014 following which the Android version will be launched.

makerbot_desktop_app       makebot_mobile

 

makerbot_printshop      makerbot_digitalstore

Completing the ecosystem will be the MakerBot PrintShop App and the MakerBot Digital Store. The former will be a tablet app to help customers an easy way to create and print designs without needing a learning curve. The Digital Store is aimed at the e-commerce space from where visitors can buy 3D designs and print them. These designs will be available as .x3g or .makerbot files. Prices are expected to range from $0.99 for a file to $9.99 for a collection.v

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Mozilla looking to move Firefox OS on to TVs, tablets and desktop computers

After launching its OS for mobiles in 2013, Mozilla is looking to use its Firefox OS to power smart TVs, tablets and desktop computers. In doing so, Mozilla is looking to diversify itself in the consumer electronics market. The plans were given out by Mozilla at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) which is being held in Las Vegas.

Post LG’s announcement of its webOS powered smart TVs, Panasonic announced that it will be collaborate with Mozilla to develop Firefox OS for its TVs. Big platforms such as Android and iOS are highly regulated and it makes sense for Panasonic to use an open technology like Firefox OS to run its TVs. Panasonic reckons that by using the OS it will be able to have its own maketplace. Developers will also be able to offer their apps and content by bypassing the marketplace. “We are very excited to partner with Panasonic to bring Firefox OS to more people on more platforms,” Dr. Li Gong, Senior Vice President of Mobile Devices and President of Asia Operations at Mozilla, said in a statement. “This new platform enables developers and service providers to create a wide range of applications and services to deliver a new user experience. We see a strong alignment between the visions of Mozilla and Panasonic, and by combing our collective expertise and know-how, we will create amazing products together.” Since, Firefox OS uses HTML5, applications can be developed to allow consumers to control their TVs using  phones or tablets. It is not just TVs, Panasonic is looking to use Firefox OS across its ecosystem.

Mozilla is looking to make the jump from its humble smaller sized phones to the tablet arena. Mozilla is partnering with Foxconn to manufacture the initial tablets. The tablets will for now not be made available to the general public. This initial hardware is targeted at developers who are willing to develop applications for Firefox OS. Mozilla reckons that giving out the hardware before the software is ready will ensure that developers will be able to find and fix bugs, and make Firefox OS on tablets user-ready.

On the desktop PC space, VIA have brought out their Rock and Paper devices running Firefox OS. The Rock is a motherboard while the Paper is a stand-alone computer.

Challenges for Mozilla are high with the immense and capable opposition it has. Google and Apple are very well entrenched.  Samsung is backing Tizen. Any success that Mozilla would hope to have will depend on how well the end-users will accept Firefox OS as a capable alternative.

Source: eWeek

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ZTE to showcase its smartwatch among other devices in CES

With the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) around the corner, Chinese manufacturer ZTE is showcasing a number of its smart devices. The list includes a smartwatch, smartphones and a phablet. Zeng Xuezhong, ZTE executive vice-president and head of the mobile devices division, said in a statement, “ZTE has been developing a portfolio of fantastic consumer electronics on top of the smartphones for which we’ve become well known. This year, we will be focusing on pairing unique designs with unparalleled technology in order to offer customers the best possible experience at an affordable price.”

After announcing in November last year, ZTE will put its smartwatch, christened Bluewatch, on display. The design of the Bluewatch is still not out in the open. What is known though is that Bluewatch will have a pedometer to give out fitness details and will also remotely handle smartphones. Bluewatch will be able to handle calls, phone camera and provide access to Facebook and Twitter. It is expected that Bluewatch will initially only work with ZTE phones and support other smartphones in the future.

The company will also showcase the Grand S II, the successor to its flagship model – the Grand S. The Grand S II will be the company’s first “high-precision voice phone” which will be capable of responding to voice commands. Voice commands may be used to unlock the phone and take pictures. The phone will also feature built-in noise reduction for clearer voice.

Apart from the Grand S II, the company will also put up its Nubia 5S and Nubia 5S mini for display. Both the models will feature quad-core Snapdragon processors and are aimed at photo enthusiasts with “professional-grade” camera hardware. The 5S will sport a 5 inch display while the mini will feature a smaller 4.7 inch display. Rounding of the phones will be the Sonata 4G, a 4G-capable phone with 1.4GHz Snapdragon 400 CPU, 4″ display and 5MP rear camera.

Among the other technologies on display will be the Projector Hotspot which is a mini projector with 4G Wi-Fi hotspot. ZTE will also display the AT&T Wireless Home Base which will allow users to connect their home phones to the AT&T wireless network instead of the phone jack.

Source: Slashgear

India’s KDE conference conf.kde to be held in Feb 2014

The second edition of India’s KDE conference – conf.kde will be held in February in Gandhinagar. The event will start at 2pm on Feb 21 and end at 5pm on Feb 23. The organizers have opted to hold the conference at the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology (DA-IICT) which also hosted the KDE Meetup last year. Registrations are open with early bird discounts on offer till Jan 15.

conf.kde aims to bring together KDE/Qt developers and enthusiasts with a view to promoting the KDE desktop environment. The conference will showcase Qt-based applications across the desktop, mobile and embedded areas. Devaja Shah in his post states, “conf.kde in 2014 aims to bring together like-minded, inspired people to facilitate interaction, development and implementation of ideas and plans related to free and open source software.” The organizers want to introduce participants to the world of free and open source software. It also aims to inculcate participants with necessary technical skills in order to participate in open source technologies. Not all things are technical though. Workshops will also be conducted for localization, artwork, design documentation, community among others.

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The first such conference was held in 2011 in Bangalore which was attended by over 300 participants. Last year, in February, a KDE Meetup was organized at DA-IICT. conf.kde 2014 wants to build up on the successes of these past two conferences.

If you are interested in attending the conference, register you details on the Website.The registration fee is Rs. 800 which is discounted by Rs. 200 for students. Details on the conference and the venue can be had by visiting the Website.

Source: kde.org