Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


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Submission + - Miguel de Icaza's Quest to Help C# Developers Go iOS (

waderoush writes: "Miguel de Icaza started the GNOME project in the 1990s to bring a Windows-like desktop environment to Linux, then co-founded Ximian, which eventually became part of Novell. Now he thinks it’s time to give programmers stuck building ‘soul-sucking’ Windows desktop software a way to join the mobile era. His new startup Xamarin, co-founded with his Ximian co-founder Nat Friedman, helps developers who are versed in C# and the .NET framework build apps for the iOS and Android mobile operating systems. De Icaza admits that he long lived in an ‘anti-Apple bubble’ and says he ‘dismissed’ the iPhone when it first came out in 2007. But now he calls Microsoft ‘the third horse in a two-horse race.’ The upside for Windows developers, says de Icaza: C# and .NET offer a responsive, error-resistant architecture for mobile apps, and using Xamarin they can write and debug iOS and Android apps in Visual Studio."

Submission + - Where Have All the Gadgets Gone? (

waderoush writes: "How many electronic gadgets did you own in 2005? How many do you own today? The answer is almost certainly a lot fewer. Counter to the dominant trend in consumer technology since the 1920s — and despite predictions of a coming ‘Internet of things’ — there may actually be *less* electronic stuff in our homes and offices today than ever before. That’s thanks largely to the rise of multipurpose wireless devices like smartphones and tablets, which are now powerful enough to replace many older, dedicated devices like point-and-shoot cameras, music players, digital voice recorders — even whole home entertainment systems. To prove the point, here are before-and-after photos from one San Francisco household (mine) where the herd of digital devices has been thinned from about three dozen, eight years ago, to just 15 today."

Submission + - iCracked Fixes Shattered iPhones, Wants to Be the AAA of Mobile (

waderoush writes: "The iPhone's screen may be made of Gorilla Glass, but that doesn't stop people from finding ways to destroy it. In fact, warranty provider SquareTrade says 30 percent of iPhone owners break their phones in the first 12 months after purchase; for people under 35, the rate is closer to 50 percent. Now there's a startup in Silicon Valley called iCracked that specializes in fixing fractured iOS devices, at costs below what owners will likely pay Apple if they go to the Genius Bar. From iCracked's Web or mobile site you can enter your location and device type, then wait a few minutes for a local 'iTech' to call you to schedule a repair visit. The company, which is backed by the Y Combinator startup accelerator, can also send you a DIY repair kit or buy your broken phone for cash, and it plans to offer insurance plans to ease replacement headaches for chronic iPhone-crushers. CEO AJ Forsythe says he wants the company to grow into 'the AAA of smartphones.'"

Submission + - "Getting Things Done" Gets A Boost from Charles Simonyi (

waderoush writes: "He's famous now for dating Martha Stewart and going into space (twice), but Charles Simonyi is known to software engineers mainly as the father of Microsoft Word and the creator of 'intentional programming,' a method that generates code automatically based on high-level commands from domain experts. Now Simonyi and his Bellevue, WA, company Intentional Software are teaming up with 'Getting Things Done' author David Allen to translate the personal-productivity guru's time-management technique into mobile apps. Surprisingly, there's never been an official GTD app — and Allen dismisses most to-do-list software as 'dispersive rather than integrative.' But in an extended Q&A with Xconomy, Allen says 'These guys [at Intentional Software] came to me tabula rasa and said ‘we don’t know what’s needed, but we think we have a technology that could be utilized to help knit together a lot of this stuff.’' No product development timeline has been announced.

Submission + - How Madefire is changing the visual grammar of comics (

waderoush writes: "When you read a comic book or graphic novel on your tablet device, you're usually looking at a static reproduction of a print page, not a 'born digital' creation with serious interactivity. Madefire, a new startup in Emeryville, CA, is working to change that with the release today of its new iPad reader and comic-book authoring tool. Featuring seven original titles at launch — including one from Watchmen creator Dave Gibbons — the Madefire platform largely abandons traditional panel layouts in favor of 'sequences' in which the action progresses through the addition of image layers, as well as sound effects and music. 'We want to make people look at the fabric of storytelling—left to right, top to bottom—and break that fabric,' says Madefire founder Ben Wolstenholme. The company is also avoiding well-known superhero titles in favor of new characters and storylines. 'This century needs its new creations and its new myths and legacies,' says chief creative officer Liam Sharp, a veteran of X-Men, Spider-Man, Spawn, and other well-known traditional series."

Submission + - Time-Shifting on the Web (

waderoush writes: "Tech enthusiasts been offloading desktop Web content to their mobile devices at least since 2007-2008, when 'save for later' apps like Read It Later and Instapaper first appeared. But the apps haven't taken off the way DVRs did soon after TiVo's launch in 1999; as of this spring Instapaper had only 2 million registered users, while Read It Later had 4.5 million. But with the relaunch of Read It Later under a new name, Pocket, time-shifting on the Web may be on the cusp of going mainstream. Nate Weiner, the founder and CEO of Pocket, tells Xconomy in an in-depth interview that the goal of the redesign was to simplify the concept and make it clearer to users that they can use the app to save and retrieve articles, videos, photos, recipes, product pages, and other content. And so far, it's working. 'People understood the 'read later' part, which was in the name, but they didn’t get the other benefits, which is that no matter where you are you can save and view things,' Weiner says. 'It’s only been a month [since the rebranding], but the difference in the way people talk about the product is radical. I don’t think my mom really understood what we did until we launched Pocket.'"

Submission + - How Publishers Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Zite's Aggregator (

waderoush writes: "In March 2011, personalized-magazine startup Zite got a cease-and-desist letter from a group of 11 media giants outraged by the way Zite's popular iPad app 'misappropriated' their news articles. By August 2011, Zite had become part of CNN, which is owned by Time Warner, one of the organizations behind the C&D letter. Zite's brief clash with the media establishment, followed by its swift assimilation into the same establishment, is emblematic of a larger story unfolding in the media business: the grudging acknowledgement by publishers that readers want to access their content in new ways. In this article Zite CEO Mark Johnson explains how the startup mollified publishers (by presenting articles in 'Web view' mode rather than a stripped-down 'reader mode'), why CNN bought the company, and how it strives to make reading more enjoyable while still respecting publishers' business models."

Submission + - Yahoo's Project to Disrupt Mobile Publishing (

waderoush writes: "Right now, content publishers who want to reach readers through dedicated mobile apps have to hire a separate engineering team to build each app — one for iOS (based on Objective-C), another for Android (Java), a third for Windows Phone (C#), etc. Yahoo's Platform Technology Group is working on an alternative: a set of JavaScript and HTML-based tools that would handle core UI and data-management tasks inside mobile apps for any operating system, moving developers closer to the nirvana of 'write once, run everywhere.' The tools are gradually being open-sourced — starting with Mojito, a framework for running hybrid server/browser module-widgets ('mojits') — and Yahoo is showing off what they can do in the form of Livestand, the news reader app it released for the iPad in November. In his first extensive public interview about Mojito and the larger 'Cocktails' project, Bruno Fernandez-Ruiz, chief architect at Yahoo's Platform Technology Group, explains how the tools work and why the company is sharing them."

Submission + - Mobile Video Sharing Wars Heat Up (

waderoush writes: "Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom hinted this week that the startup may soon let its 12+ million users share video clips in addition to photos. But Alain Rossmann, the founder and CEO of video sharing startup Klip, says he isn’t worried that Instagram will crush Klip or other video sharing apps like Socialcam and Vlix. Rossmann argues in an Xconomy profile that photos and videos are ‘different worlds’ and that photo-sharing apps aren’t tailored to support the communication and self-expression intrinsic to video. A member of the original Macintosh team at Apple, Rossmann says his team gave Klip a refined, minimalist interface that’s designed to support casual ‘micro-vlogging’ — skateboarders and snowboarders, for example, use the app to document trick moves. Rossmann also says Klip focused on ease of use, employing techniques like variable bit rate encoding to eliminate buffering waits."

Submission + - Mobile App Search: So Broken AltaVista Could Do It (

waderoush writes: "First-generation search engines such as AltaVista — built when the Web had only a few hundred thousand sites — produced notoriously goofy and spam-prone results. Well, when you search the Android Market for 'restaurant guide' and the top result is the U.S. Army Survival Guide, it begins to seem like we haven't come very far. San Francisco-based Chomp is one of the companies trying to fix mobile app search and discovery by leapfrogging Apple, Google, and the other app store providers. Founder and CEO Ben Keighran, creator of the once-hugely-popular Bluepulse text messaging system for Java phones, says the company plumbs the app stores, the Web, Twitter, and other sources to distill accurate keywords ('appwords') for each app. The top apps at Chomp for the search terms 'restaurant guide': Yelp, Urbanspoon, and Zagat, just as you'd expect."

Submission + - Skyhook: Google Is Undermining Android's Openness (

waderoush writes: In simultaneous state and federal lawsuits filed yesterday, Boston-based Skyhook Wireless — the original pioneer in Wi-Fi-based positioning technology — says Google copied its location finding system and is now using its power to certify or de-certify Android phones to force makers of Android handsets to use Google's location technology rather than Skyhook's. At stake are billions of dollars in targeted-advertising revenues from the data these systems provide on phone users' locations and activities. It's all a seeming violation of the open-source Android project's founding goals, which were in part to 'make sure that there was no central point of failure, where one industry player could restrict or control the innovations of any other.' Skyhook CEO Ted Morgan tells Xconomy: 'Eric Schmidt himself says that Android is open and anyone can do whatever they want with it. My standpoint is, the actions and the words are not aligned.'

Submission + - An iPhone App Store that Apple Doesn't Control (

waderoush writes: Princeton's Ed Felten has criticized the iPhone and iPad as Disneyland-like 'walled gardens' and says there's no way the iTunes App Store can 'offer the scope and variety of apps that a less controlled environment can provide.' Now there's a central marketplace where developers can sell iPhone-optimized apps without going through Apple's gatekeepers. Launched today, it's called OpenAppMkt and it's a showcase for mobile Web apps---not just the type seen back in 2007-2008, before the advent of the App Store, but also for new games and other apps developed using HTML5/CSS/JavaScript (in some cases, the same apps compiled and sold as native iPhone apps). Xconomy has a behind-the-scenes interview with OpenAppMkt's creators, who say they're not out to compete with the native App Store, but that developers deserve new ways to reach users.

Submission + - The Story of Siri - from SRI to Apple (

waderoush writes: The Siri virtual personal assistant app for the iPhone is free at the iTunes App Store, but in another sense it may be the most expensive mobile app ever developed. The defense research project at SRI International that gave rise to the app has cost taxpayers more than $150 million so far; venture investors put $24 million into the spinoff that turned SRI's artificial intelligence work into a working application; and Apple paid a reported $150 million to $250 million for the company when it acquired it this April. What's all the fuss about? Xconomy talked with executives at SRI and has the first in-depth story about Siri's creation, the learning algorithms embedded in the app, the new personal-assistant technologies that may be following close behind, and how it's all part of SRI's campaign to make mobile data services easier to use.

Submission + - Apple Makes Life Easier for iPhone App Developers (

waderoush writes: While the iPhone ecosystem, with its 100,000+ apps, has been a huge boon for mobile application developers, third-party app builders have complained from the beginning about Apple's seemingly arbitrary rejection policies and long waits for app approval (weeks and in some cases months), making iteration difficult or impossible. Now that may be changing. After a post-holiday reboot, iTunes App Store reviewers are approving some apps in as little as 1 to 2 days, according to developers. Whether Apple is reacting to potential competition from Google's Android platform, rationalizing its process in advance of the expected debut of an Apple tablet device, or just trying to repair relations with developers, the change is generating great relief among many programmers.
The Internet

Submission + - Web Foundation Pushes Voice Access (

waderoush writes: When only 25 percent of the world's people have computers but 75 percent have access to a mobile phone, maybe efforts to make the Web more accessible should focus on mobile platforms. Seems like a no-brainer — but Steve Bratt, CEO of the new World Wide Web Foundation, says in his first detailed press interview that it's a neglected area of R&D. Bratt says the first two big projects for the Web Foundation — which was unveiled November 15 in a speech by Web inventor and W3C director Tim Berners-Lee — will focus on helping farmers in Africa and schoolchildren in Brazil build voice-enabled Web applications.

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