Google’s Chrome OS will be getting support for traditional Linux apps

Google’s Chrome OS will be getting support for traditional Linux apps

This year we’re making it possible for you to code on Chromebooks. Whether it’s building an app or writing a quick script, Chromebooks will be ready for your next coding project.

Last year we announced a new generation of Chromebooks that were designed to work with your favorite apps from the Google Play store, helping to bring accessible computing to millions of people around the world. But it’s not just about access to technology, it’s also about access to the tools that create it. And that’s why we’re equipping developers with more tools on Chromebooks.

Support for Linux will enable you to create, test and run Android and web app for phones, tablets and laptops all on one Chromebook. Run popular editors, code in your favorite language and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command-line. Everything works directly on a Chromebook.

Linux runs inside a virtual machine that was designed from scratch for Chromebooks. That means it starts in seconds and integrates completely with Chromebook features. Linux apps can start with a click of an icon, windows can be moved around, and files can be opened directly from apps.

A preview of the new tool will be released on Google Pixelbook soon.

My Pixelbook has been my main dev machine (there’s an article coming about that shortly I promise) for a couple months now, so this is an interesting announcement, the method for how Linux will run inside a virtual machine seems pretty close to how Android apps run on Chromebooks now.



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Microsoft Kinect Refuses to Die

Kinect was never for you. Yeah, you with the Xbox One that was bundled with a Kinect. That big honking spatial camera was an impressive piece of tech, but it never did you much good as a console add-on did it?

Microsoft announced the return of the Kinect on Monday at Build, its annual developer conference in Seattle. And its new iteration as a tool for developers powered by a more sophisticated camera module and Microsoft’s cloud-based AI technology might actually push Kinect over the hump to make it useful to a whole new generation of hackers and tinkerers.



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Watch Google Assistant make a phone call to schedule an appointment

Google AI blog:

Today we announce Google Duplex, a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out “real world” tasks over the phone. The technology is directed towards completing specific tasks, such as scheduling certain types of appointments. For such tasks, the system makes the conversational experience as natural as possible, allowing people to speak normally, like they would to another person, without having to adapt to a machine.


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The 10 biggest announcements from Google I/O 2018

Chris Welch:

Google just wrapped up its 2018 I/O keynote, and today’s event was jam-packed with news. CEO Sundar Pichai kicked things off by recognition that the tech industry must always be responsible about the tools and services it creates. From there, the big announcements started and just kept coming. We’ve got a new, ambitious Android update on the way. John Legend is lending his voice to Google Assistant. Gmail can almost write emails entirely by itself. AI was a big theme throughout.

A few interesting announcements today, such as Android P.


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Hosting Live Webinars with JavaScript, Node.js, AdonisJs and Twilio Programmable Video

Hosting Live Webinars with JavaScript, Node.js, AdonisJs and Twilio Programmable Video

Twilio just published a post I wrote recently about using AdonisJS and Twilio Programmable Video to create a handy webinar system.


It was fun to write this post since a webinar system meant you could have two types of users.

  1. Host(s): the person or persons presenting the webinar who viewers could watch live.
  2. Viewers: the people watching the webinar but not sending video.

I’m working on part 2 now which will integrate Twilio’s Programmable Chat into the webinars as well.


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iOS Design Inconsistencies Across Apple’s Apps

Benjamin Mayo on the state of iconography in Apple’s built-in iOS apps

This has been bugging me for a while — definitely since iOS 11 was unveiled last June and probably before then. I have no clue what Apple’s strategy is with their iOS app icon sets, other than to resign myself to the truth that there isn’t one. For simplicity, I’m focusing on just the share icon in this post (what Apple formally calls the ‘action’ button) but these criticisms apply much more widely.

iOS 7 infamously introduced 1px line icons for toolbars with geometric, boxy, shapes. Like all of iOS 7, this was a controversial shift from what came before it, but Apple did apply it consistently. Every bar icon in every app was transmogrified into this house style. The share button was simplified to a square with an arrow pointing out of it; this remains the system default today. Regardless of what you thought about the sterilisation, the pixel strokes complemented the restrained shadows and super-thin font choices of the original iOS 7 design.

Community response to this radical redesign was very split; I recall hating most of it. It didn’t seem like Apple was dead set on it either. Over time, Apple retracted some of these things. The font became less whisper-thin, popovers and other logical layers incorporated real drop shadows. The synergies with the icon set began to disappear.

There was divergence from the beginning with the Notes and Reminders apps, which inexplicably retained paper background textures. To further the realism, a letterpress effect was applied to the bar icons. You can see the normal share icon above third from the left, and the Notes version with inner shadows at the end-but-one position in the row.

Then, in iOS 9, Apple began to re-introduce pill buttons to iOS — buttons with background platters to indicate you can press them down — as well as bolder fonts in some new apps like Maps and News. They also emboldened some of the icons to match; you can see the Maps share button glyph on the far right of the collage. Apple made a whole new typeface, San Francisco, and it became the global system font. Weirdly, most icons and glyph were not changed at all despite a premise of iOS 7 being that the icons were supposedly symbiotically decided to match the typography.

iOS 10 added the Home app. It adopted what appeared to be the modern app appearance; bolder fonts aplenty and bubbly accessory tiles replete with filled, rounded, icons. In the toolbar, the ‘add’ and list symbols use thicker line weights. Still, most of the default suite of apps didn’t change.

iOS 11 pushed this further with several apps getting new tab-bar icons in the rounded style. Yet, other icons were not emboldened even with the same app. The Photos app has bubbly tab bar glyphs now, but if you tap into an image all those action icons are the same as what was present in iOS 7.

So, maybe the pattern is tab bar icons are rounded, but toolbar icons should stay as geometric line representations? The dramatic overhaul of the Podcasts and App Store in iOS 11 disagree. They have modern tab bar icons and modern glyphs. In fact, they have share icons that are not just curved shapes, but also two-tone. The arrow is opaque blue whilst the box is a lighter, desaturated, colour. See this in position 2 and 5. These are the only apps to have this variation of icon style currently.

Incredibly, that’s not the end of the story. iBooks in iOS 11 upgraded all of its toolbar icons to be bolded androunded. This results in the first share icon in the row, which is my personal favourite. It’s bringing the essence of iOS 7 into a more sane balance of simplicity and elegance. It creates an icon that is more inviting, friendlier and visually more pleasing.


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OLPC’s $100 laptop was going to change the world — then it all went wrong

OLPC’s $100 laptop was going to change the world — then it all went wrong

Adi Robertson, writing for The Verge:

It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.

In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte’s new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, dubbed “the green machine” or simply “the $100 laptop.” And it was like nothing that Negroponte’s audience — at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe — had ever seen.

After UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan offered a glowing introduction, Negroponte explained exactly why. The $100 laptop would have all the features of an ordinary computer but require so little electricity that a child could power it with a hand crank. It would be rugged enough for children to use anywhere, instead of being limited to schools. Mesh networking would let one laptop extend a single internet connection to many others. A Linux-based operating system would give kids total access to the computer — OLPC had reportedly turned down an offer of free Mac OS X licenses from Steve Jobs. And as its name suggested, the laptop would cost only $100, at a time when its competitors cost $1,000 or more.

“We really believe we can make literally hundreds of millions of these machines available to children around the world,” Negroponte promised. “And it’s not just $100. It’s going to go lower.” He hinted that big manufacturing and purchasing partners were on the horizon, and demonstrated the laptop’s versatile hardware, which could be folded into a chunky e-reader, a simple gaming console, or a tiny television.

Then, Negroponte and Annan rose for a photo-op with two OLPC laptops, and reporters urged them to demonstrate the machines’ distinctive cranks. Annan’s crank handle fell off almost immediately. As he quietly reattached it, Negroponte managed half a turn before hitting the flat surface of the table. He awkwardly raised the laptop a few inches, trying to make space for a full rotation. “Maybe afterwards…” he trailed off, before sitting back down to field questions from the crowd.

The moment was brief, but it perfectly foreshadowed how critics would see One Laptop Per Child a few years later: as a flashy, clever, and idealistic project that shattered at its first brush with reality.

If you remember the OLPC at all, you probably remember the hand crank. It was OLPC’s most striking technological innovation — and it was pure vaporware. Designers dropped the feature almost immediately after Negroponte’s announcement, because the winding process put stress on the laptop’s body and demanded energy that kids in very poor areas couldn’t spare. Every OLPC computer shipped with a standard power adapter.

By the time OLPC officially launched in 2007, the “green machine” — once a breakout star of the 21st-century educational technology scene — was a symbol of tech industry hubris, a one-size-fits-all American solution to complex global problems. But more than a decade later, the project’s legacy is more complicated than a simple cautionary tale. Its laptops are still rolling off production lines, and a new model is expected later this year.

And people are still talking about the crank


OLPC wasn’t just a laptop, it was a philosophy. Negroponte insisted that kids needed to personally own the computers, so they’d be invested in maintaining them. And they should be able to use them anywhere, not just under teachers’ supervision. For inspiration, he pointed to educational researcher Sugata Mitra’s famous Hole-In-The-Wall experiment, where children taught themselves to use a computer in a Delhi slum. Mitra’s vision was more minimalist than OLPC’s, but both projects were almost totally focused on distributing computers. Kids’ natural curiosity was supposed to do the rest.

This was a provocative idea, and Negroponte’s OLPC pitch toed the line between ambition and hubris. The organization wouldn’t just sell hundreds of millions of units, he declared; it wouldn’t even take orders of less than a million. The laptop wasn’t just tough, it was so tough you could throw it across a room — a feature he’d happily demonstrate in interviews.

These pronouncements made headlines. “We wouldn’t be having this conversation — and OLPC wouldn’t be recognized still, ten years later, by many people — if they hadn’t gone in big from the start,” says Christoph Derndorfer, former editor of entrepreneur Wayan Vota’s now-defunct blog OLPC News.

But OLPC’s overwhelming focus on high-tech hardware worried some skeptics, including participants in the Tunis summit. One attendee said she’d rather have “clean water and real schools” than laptops, and another saw OLPC as an American marketing ploy. “Under the guise of non-profitability, hundreds of millions of these laptops will be flogged off to our governments,” he complained. In the tech world, people were skeptical of the laptop’s design, too. Intel chairman Craig Barrett scathingly dubbed OLPC’s toy-like prototype “the $100 gadget,” and Bill Gates hated the screen in particular. “Geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text,” he told reporters.

Even fans of OLPC were somewhat dubious. “We were excited about the prospects, but kind of scared by the over-simplistic plan, or lack of plan,” recalls Derndorfer. OLPC Newscould have been an enthusiastic booster of OLPC, but it was also a relentless gadfly — its first archived post, quoting a ZDNet report, is titled “OLPC not a good beginning.”

And the laptop Negroponte was pitching in 2005 simply didn’t exist. OLPC’s prototype was little more than a mockup. It hadn’t signed a manufacturer, let alone priced out a sub-$100 product. Groundbreaking technologies like the crank and mesh networking system were still mostly theoretical.

I remember the hype around the OLPC when it first was announced, in many ways it helped trigger the netbook craze that followed it with low cost, under powered computers that eventually got replaced by tablets.


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The iMac turns 20

The iMac turns 20

Jason Snell:

20 years ago today, Steve Jobs (the interim CEO of Apple) stood on the same stage from which he introduced the original Macintosh, and spent the first half-hour of his presentation trying to convince the world that Apple was no longer failing.


It’s hard to believe today that a Steve Jobs product presentation would be met with indifference, but there was a huge amount of skepticism about Apple’s product announcements back in early 1998. Though there were definitely signs that the company was turning it around, I also recall being summoned to Apple product events where nothing much at all was announced. Regardless, only the editor in chief of Macworld, Andy Gore, even bothered to go to the announcement at the Flint Center that day.

As soon as the event ended, I got a phone call — I was working at home that day — and was told to immediately get in to the office, for an all-hands-on-deck meeting, because Apple had announced a new computer that was going to change everything. I have to give Andy credit — the moment he saw the iMac he knew it was going to be huge. We tore up our magazine issue in the matter of about a day in order to get first word about the iMac out to people in the days before instant Apple news was a thing.


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In a move that comes as no surprise… Apple shutting down Texture’s Windows magazine app after acquisition

Texture, the magazine subscription service that Apple purchased back in March, plans to shut down its Windows app at the end of June. Users were informed of the discontinuation this week through emails and a note inside the app, which said that after June 30th, “this app will stop working and will no longer be available in the Microsoft Store.” Texture’s Android, Amazon Fire, and iOS apps will still be supported.

While this might sound like a case of Apple immediately cutting off users outside of its ecosystem, the discontinuation of Texture’s Windows app may have been a long time coming. The app seemingly hasn’t been updated in some time, and on the Windows Store, it’s inundated with bad reviews dating back years about how poorly the app works. Multiple reviews mention being unable to download magazines, which is kind of the entire point of the app.

In a note on its website, Texture wrote that it needed to shut down the Windows app to “keep things working smoothly.” Apple declined further comment.

Is anyone surprised by this move? Anyone?


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Pocket Casts Acquired By a Consortium of Public Radio Stations and podcast companies

Shifty Jelly’s Russel Ivanovic, writing on the company’s blog:

Today we’re excited to announce a partnership with some of the biggest producers of podcasts in the world to take Pocket Casts to the next level. We’ve had a lot of companies in the past contact us about acquiring us and or Pocket Casts and we’ve always had one simple answer for them: thanks, but no thanks. In talking to each of them it was obvious that they didn’t have the best interests of our customers or us at heart and as much as cashing out and walking off into the sunset is a nice ideal, it’s a crummy outcome for all of you and in turn for us. You see we care so damn deeply about what we’ve built and our relationship with each and every one of you that we know deep down inside that would just eat away at us.

That’s why when a combined group comprised of WNYC, NPR, WBEZ and This American Life approached us with the goal of partnering for the good of the entire podcast industry, we knew that this opportunity was something else entirely. Everything from their not for profit mission focus, to their unwavering belief that open and collaborative wins over closed walled gardens resonated deeply with us. Together we have the passion, scale and laser focus needed to achieve some truly great things. We’re not ready to talk about what those are just yet but we do want to quickly cover some questions you might have.

According to Ivanovic, Pocket Casts will continue to be a standalone podcast client in the short term.

It will be interesting to see how Pocket Casts will change over the next several months though


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