Tag Archives: Android

Microsoft’s Edge Goes With the Chromium Flow | Developers


By Jack M. Germain

Apr 10, 2019 5:00 AM PT

Microsoft on Monday released the first Dev and Canary channel builds of the next version of Microsoft Edge, which is based on the Chromium open source project.

The company last year revealed that it was reworking its Edge browser to be based on Chromium. Now the latest developments are ready for early testers and adopters on several versions of Windows and macOS. So far, however, no support is available for Linux.

The new Microsoft Edge builds are available through preview channels called “Microsoft Edge Insider Channels.” The first two Microsoft Edge Insider Channels,
Canary and
Dev, are available for all supported versions of Windows 10, with more platforms coming soon.

Microsoft will update the Canary channel daily and the Dev channel weekly. You can install the new Edge builds from multiple channels side-by-side for testing. Each has its own separate icon and name.

Microsoft uses the Canary channel to validate bug fixes and test brand new features. The Canary channel offers the bleeding-edge, newest builds. The Dev channel build has undergone slightly more testing but is still relatively fresh.

The Dev channel offers the best build of the week from the Canary channel based on user feedback, automated test results, performance metrics and telemetry. It provides the latest development version of Microsoft Edge as a daily driver.

The company later will introduce Beta and Stable channels to provide significantly more stable releases. Those more developed releases will give Enterprises and IT Pros lead time to start piloting the next version of Microsoft Edge.

Microsoft will not change the existing installed version of Microsoft Edge yet. It will continue to work side by side with the builds from any of the Microsoft Edge Insider Channels.

The browser upgrade is not likely to draw more users to the retooled Edge browser than dedicated Microsoft customers, suggested Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT.

“That is especially true since Microsoft is disabling many of the functions integrated with Google apps and tools,” he told LinuxInsider.

Logical Next Step

Microsoft’s decision to adopt the Chromium open source project in the development of its new Edge browser on the desktop is a logical step in the company’s efforts to become more embedded with open source technology. The Edge browser has been struggling.

The new development road map is based on a microservices/componentized approach, according to the company. Microsoft’s goal is to create better Web compatibility for its customers. It also aims to reduce fragmentation of the Web for all Web developers.

Rebuilding the Edge browser around Chromium reinforces Microsoft’s commitment to open source. Its software engineers have started making contributions back to Chromium in areas involving accessibility, touch and ARM64.

The company plans to continue working within the existing Chromium project rather than creating a parallel project. The Microsoft team is working directly with the teams at Google.

It’s not likely that Microsoft’s increased involvement with open source will give the company any competitive edge, King observed.

“I expect them to function much as any contributor. It’s less of an issue today than it would be if Steve Ballmer were still Microsoft’s CEO,” he said.

Other Good Options Lacking

Microsoft was faced with one of those “if you can’t beat them, join them” situations, according to King. That might have figured into the Chromium decision.

“As a technology comes to dominate online functions and interactions, developers focus on optimizing sites and apps for it. To ensure that customers have optimum online experiences, vendors adopt those dominant technologies,” he pointed out.

That is the current situation with Chromium. Ironically enough, Microsoft once was in a similar situation with its Internet Explorer technology, King recalled.

Rebuilding the Edge browser on Chromium is a great move on Microsoft’s part, said Cody Swann, CEO of
Gunner Technology.

“This is going to be a huge cost saver for Microsoft,” he told LinuxInsider. The company “can basically reassign or release a ton of engineers who were given to a losing effort to begin with.”

Revised Technology

The Edge browser will differ in several key areas from the existing open source Chromium project that Google initially developed. Most of the heavy-duty differences will be hidden under the hood.

On the technical underbelly, Microsoft is working on replacing its EdgeHTML rendering engine with Chromium’s Blink. Microsoft also is replacing its Chakra JavaScript engine with Chromium’s V8.

Microsoft is replacing or turning off more than 50 Chromium services in Edge. Some of these include Google-specific services like Google Now, Google Pay, Google Cloud Messaging, Chrome OS device management and Chrome Cleanup. Others involve existing Chromium functions such as ad blocking, spellcheck, speech input and Android app password sync.

In shifting from Google-based services to its own ecosystem, Microsoft is building into its new Edge browser support for MSA (Microsoft Accounts) and Azure Active Directory identities for authentication/single sign-in.

Microsoft also is integrating other Microsoft-based services, such as Bing Search; Windows Defender SmartScreen for phishing and malware protection; Microsoft Activity Feed Service for synchronizing data across Edge preview builds and across Edge on iOS and Android; and Microsoft News.

Bringing More to the Edge

Microsoft plans to build support for PlayReady DRM into its new Edge browser platform. Edge supports both PlayReady and Widevine.

Also in the works are additional services integration and single sign-on capabilities that presumably will support a widening deployment of Microsoft-based offerings.

Microsoft is planning to build in more than just cosmetic design changes to the Chromium browser, however. The intent is to avoid giving the new Edge a distinctively Chromium look and feel.

However, company officials have said the user interface will not be a priority until further along in the process.

Pros and Cons

On the plus side, users typically have better experiences with optimized tools and applications. On the negative, the situation entrusts a lot of power to individual companies, noted King.

“Sites that are not optimized for dominant tech also tend to perform relatively poorly compared to those that are. That results in a two-tier Web of sorts, which is one of the reasons Mozilla developed Firefox,” he said.

There is no downside to Microsoft switching to the Chromium platform in Swann’s view.

“Microsoft has been dying a slow death in the browser wars since Firefox was released,” he said, “and they’re basically just throwing in the towel.”


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





Source link

MythTV 30.0 Released With Front-End Support For Select Android TV Devices


MULTIMEDIA --

It’s been a while since last having anything major to report on MythTV, the once very common HTPC software for open-source DVR/PVR needs albeit less so these days given all the Internet streaming and on-demand video platforms. This month the project released MythTV 30.0 as their newest feature release.

The headlining feature for MythTV 30.0 is support for running the Myth front-end on select Android TV devices. The initially supported devices include the likes of the NVIDIA Shield and Amazon Fire TV, but the package isn’t to be found in any app stores thus MythTV 30 needs to be side-loaded onto supported Android devices.

The MythTV 30.0 release also has a number of front-end and GUI fixes, the front-end setup now has settings for HDMI CEC, a variety of video playback fixes (including work to address a number of Raspberry Pi bugs), VA-API video acceleration optimizations/improvements, and many other changes.

MythTV 30.0 saw more than 500 commits over the past year and a half of development. More details on the changes to find with this big update via the MythTV.org Wiki.


How to Use a VPN for Safer Online Shopping | E-Commerce


With the holidays fast approaching, are you looking to buy presents online?

The holiday season has become synonymous with online shopping. This isn’t really surprising as physical stores usually attract crowds of deal hunters. This often conjures up images of throngs of people waiting in line outside the store, some even camping out. This activity is tolerable for some and even fun for others. However, for many others, it’s not worth the hassle.

Why would it be, when there are perfectly legitimate and convenient alternatives online?

Well, for one thing, many people shop online without first thinking about their security. Most people are led to believe — or want to believe — that all e-commerce sites are secure. This isn’t completely true. With so much personal and financial information being exchanged, online shoppers aren’t the only ones enjoying the holiday rush — cybercriminals are too!

Still, it’s possible to add security to your e-commerce transactions by using a virtual private network. A VPN can help you enjoy your online shopping experience without worrying about falling prey to cybercriminals.

The Cybercrime Problem

First, here are some of the pressing reasons for securing e-commerce transactions in the first place.

As you know, e-commerce stores usually require you to register with their site in order to enjoy their services. This involves trusting them with your personal information, usernames, passwords, and credit card details — information that you’d rather did not fall into the wrong hands.

The thing is, cybercriminals know this fact. They will descend to any depth just to get their hands on such information. How exactly do they do this?

KRACK Attacks

A
KRACK (key reinstallation attack) is a severe replay attack on the WiFi Protected Access protocol that secures WiFi connections.

An attacker gradually matches encrypted packets seen before and learns the full keychain used to encrypt the traffic by repeatedly resetting the nonce transmitted in the third step of the WPA2 handshake. This attack works against all modern WiFi networks.

Simply put, KRACK attacks can intercept sent data by infiltrating your WiFi connection, no matter which major platform you’re on (Microsoft Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Linux, OpenBSD and others). These attacks require the attacker to be within the range of the WiFi connection they’re trying to infiltrate, which means they might lurk somewhere near or inside your home, office or school.

MitM Attacks

In a
MitM (Man-in-the-Middle) attack, the attacker secretly relays and possibly alters the communication between two parties who believe they are directly communicating with each other.

This attack can succeed only when the attacker can impersonate each endpoint to the other’s satisfaction, delivering results as expected from the legitimate ends.

In the context of e-commerce transactions, these attacks are done on unprotected WiFi networks like the ones you find in airports, hotels and coffee shops. This is actually one of the reasons I often suggest that people stay away from public WiFi unless they’re packing some security software.

With this type of attack, you never know if the person sipping coffee at the next table is simply checking up on social media accounts or is actually sifting through the data being sent by other patrons.

Rogue Networks

Imagine yourself going to a downtown hotel to visit a friend. You wait in the lobby and decide to connect to the hotel WiFi while you wait. You find that there seem to be two networks with the same name, so you connect to the one with the stronger signal.

STOP! You may be connecting to a rogue network.

Rogue networks are ones that impersonate legitimate networks to lure unsuspecting users into logging in. This usually is done by setting up near a public WiFi network and then copying that network’s name, or making it appear that it’s an extension of the legitimate network.

The main problem with this is that you never know who set up the rogue network or what data is vulnerable to monitoring and recording.

The Green Padlock’s Trustworthiness

Now, you may have heard that HTTPS sites can give you the security you need while you visiting them. Most, if not all, e-commerce sites are certified and will have a green padlock and an “HTTPS” prefixing their URL to reassure visitors that their transactions are safe and encrypted.

Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, HTTPS, is a variant of the standard HTTP Web transfer protocol, which adds a layer of security on the data in transit through a secure socket layer (SSL) or transport layer security (TLS) protocol connection, according to
Malwarebytes.

The thing is, just because your connection to a site is encrypted doesn’t automatically make the site safe. Bad actors actually
can forge SSL certificates and make it appear that their site is safe. Even worse,
anyone can get an SSL certificate — even cybercriminals. The certificate authority simply needs to verify the site owner’s identity and that’s it — the owner gets an SSL certificate.

Now, bringing it all back, I’m not saying that all sites with green padlocks are unsafe. What I am saying is that you shouldn’t rely solely on the presence of these green padlocks to keep your transactions safe.

A VPN Can Provide Security

I’m now getting to the meat of the matter: using a VPN to secure your e-commerce transactions.

A virtual private network, or VPN, is software that routes your connection through a server or servers and hides your online activity by encrypting your data and masking your true IP address with a different one.

Once you activate the client, the VPN will encrypt your data, even before it reaches the network provider. This is better understood if you have basic knowledge of how online searches work.

Let’s say that you’re looking to buy some scented candles to give as emergency gifts. You open your browser and type in “scented holiday candles” and press “search.”

Once you do, your browser will send a query containing your search words. This query first goes through a network provider (your ISP or the owner of the WiFi network you’ve connected to), which can monitor and record the contents of these queries.

After going through the network provider, your query is sent to a DNS (domain name system) server that searches its databanks for the proper IP address corresponding to your query. If the DNS server can’t find the proper IP address, it forwards your query until the proper IP address is found.

The problem with this is that the contents of your query consist of easily readable plain text. This means that hackers or your ISP are able to view and record the information contained therein. If that information is your name, username, password, credit card information, or banking credentials, they’re in danger of being viewed or stolen.

These queries also can be traced (by hackers or your ISP) back to your IP address which usually is traceable to your personal identity. This is how bad actors infiltrating your connection can discover what you’re doing online.

So, with a VPN active, your online transactions and private information will get an extra layer of protection through encryption and IP address masking.

When discussing VPNs, it’s always important to consider the protocols they use. These protocols determine the security level and connection speed. As of this moment, there are five major VPN protocols:

  1. PPTP (Point-To-Point Tunneling Protocol)

    PPTP is one of the oldest protocols still in use today. It originally was designed by Microsoft. The good thing about this protocol is that it still works on old computers. It’s a part of the Windows operating system, and it’s easy to set up. The problem is, by today’s standards, it’s not the most secure. You wouldn’t want a VPN provider that offers this protocol alone.

  2. L2TP/IPsec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol)

    L2TP/IPsec is a combination of PPTP and Cisco’s L2F protocol. On paper, this protocol’s concept actually is quite sound: It uses keys to establish a secure connection on each end of your data tunnel. The problem is in the execution, which isn’t very safe.

    While the addition of the IPsec protocol does improve security a bit, there are still reports of
    NSA’s alleged ability to crack this protocol and see what’s being transmitted. Whether the rumors are true or not, the fact that there’s a debate at all should be enough of a warning to anyone relying on this protocol.

  3. SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol)

    SSTP is another protocol that traces its roots to Microsoft. It establishes its connection by utilizing SSL/TLS encryption which is the de facto standard for modern day Web encryption. SSL and TLS utilize setups built on symmetric-key cryptography in which only the two parties involved in the transfer can decode the data within. Overall, SSTP is a very secure protocol.

  4. IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange, Version 2)

    IKEv2 is yet another Microsoft-built protocol. It’s simply a tunneling protocol with a secure key exchange session. Although it is an iteration of Microsoft’s previous protocols, it actually provides you with some of the best security. It requires pairing with IPSec to gain encryption and authentication, which is what most mobile VPNs use because it works well while your VPN reconnects during those brief times of connection loss or network switching.

    Unfortunately, there is also
    strong evidence that the NSA is spying on mobile users using this protocol.

  5. OpenVPN

    This takes what’s best in the above protocols and does away with most of the flaws. It’s an open source protocol based on SSL/TLS, and it is one of the fastest and most secure protocols today. It protects your data by using, among other things, the nigh-unbreakable AES-256 bit key encryption with 2048-bit RSA authentication, and a 160-bit SHA1 hash algorithm.

    One notable flaw it does have is its susceptibility to
    VORACLE attacks, but most VPNs already have solved this problem. Overall, it’s still the most versatile and secure protocol out there.

About Free VPNs and Jurisdictions

Now you’ve learned about the risks you may face with your e-commerce transactions and how you can avoid those risks by using a VPN with the right protocol. However, you may have heard rumors about VPNs not being as safe as they seem to be.

These rumors are partly true.

Not all VPNs can be trusted. There are VPNs that purport to be “free forever” while
you’re actually paying with your personal information. Needless to say, you should avoid these types of VPNs and instead look for trustworthy
VPN services.

Another rumor you may have heard is that trusting VPN companies with your personal data is just as bad as trusting your data to your ISP. This is only true for VPNs that log your data and are situated in a jurisdiction under any of the 14-eyes countries. This is why you should look into your VPN’s logging and privacy policy, as well as the country it is situated in.

In Conclusion

Buying online for the holidays can be an enjoyable and fulfilling experience if your transactions are secure. Protect your private information from KRACK, MitM, and rogue networks by using a VPN to encrypt your data and hide your IP address.

When using a VPN, remember to choose the most secure protocol available, and beware of free VPNs or those that log your data while inside 14-eyes jurisdictions.

Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way to more secure e-commerce transactions.


John Mason, an avid privacy advocate, is founder of
TheBestVPN and serves as its chief researcher.





Source link

Deepin Builds a Better Linux Desktop | Reviews


By Jack M. Germain

Dec 5, 2018 1:01 PM PT

Deepin Builds a Better Linux Desktop

Deepin 15.8, released last month, is loaded with more efficient layout tweaks that give the distribution greater functionality and maturity.

Deepin, based in China, shed its Ubuntu base when with the 2015 release of version 15, which favored Debian Linux. That brought numerous subtle changes in the code base and software roots. Ubuntu Linux itself is based on Debian.

The chief distinguishing factor that accounts for Deepin’s growing popularity is its homegrown Deepin Desktop Environment (DDE). One of the more modern desktop environments, it is one of the first Linux distros to take advantage of HTML 5 technology.

Coinciding with the base affiliation change, the developers, Deepin Technology, slightly changed the distro’s name. What was “Deepin Linux” is now “deepin.” That subtle rebranding is an attempt to differentiate previous releases named “Deepin,” “Linux Deepin” and “Hiweed GNU/Linux.”

Regardless of whether the name is rendered as “deepin” or “Deepin Linux,” this distro offers users an eloquent, modern-themed Linux OS. It is easy to use and comes with high-quality software developed in-house.

Desktop Differences

The Deepin Desktop is offered in a widening assortment of popular Linux desktops, but the best user experience is found in this distro.

Other distros running the Deepin Desktop miss much of the unique integration you get in Deepin Linux. DDE elsewhere usually lacks much of the optimization and special optimized software available through the Deepin software store.

Often, you get the software versions provided by the distro you are running. The Linux distros offering the Deepin Desktop are Archlinux, Manjaro, Ubuntu, Gentoo, Fedora, Puppy Linux, SparkyLinux, Antergos, Pardus and openSuse.

Growing Pains Over

I have reviewed earlier versions of Deepin Linux along with other distros running the Deepin Desktop Environment. This latest version is awesome.

Any new desktop environment is a work in progress. DDE started out with lofty goals but mediocre execution. The Deepin desktop is now well designed and very functional.

Desktop shells largely are valued for how simple they are to use and how functional they are for a user’s productivity. For me, the Cinnamon and the Xfce desktops get high marks for both.

DDE offers a third favorite option. I like its modern design. Using it is intuitive. A user guide presentation runs when you first load the desktop. It is very helpful in getting started.

DDE does not yet have every power user feature I would like to see included, but it is packed with enough personalization tweaks and design improvements to make it a very workable alternative.

Digging Into Deepin’s Design

The Deepin Desktop design is snazzy yet simple to use. Add its homegrown applications, and you get an operating system that is tailored to the average user.

The new desktop screen is prettier and less cluttered. Annoying desklets, like a weather module and volume sliders, are gone — either removed or relocated.

I really like the new docking tray and boot theme. In-house developed applications have been a key ingredient in Deepin’s growing popularity. This latest release has some 30 improved native applications that should bring a more beautiful and efficient experience.

Another strong point in Deepin’s design is the new collapsible dock tray. Deepin uses a dock bar instead of the traditional bottom bar. When the dock is set in the macOS-style mode, a button appears that toggles a new dock tray element — embed tray icons in the dock.

The Dock offers a choice of fashion or efficient modes. Fashion mode adds a hide/show button in the dock tray. Click it to hide the icons in tray area and save the dock space. The power button is separated from the tray area to reduce the clicks and avoid function confusion.

In the Efficient mode, the right corner is set to show desktop. The previous ‘Show Desktop’ icon disappears.

Beyond Gnome

At first glance, you might think that DDE is a remake of the refashioned GNOME 3 desktop design. Looks can be deceiving. Click the first icon at the left end of the dock bar to open the applications menu.

That is what starts to look like GNOME — or Android. You see a full-screen spread of rows of applications. Click the second icon to see the multitasking view, aka “virtual workspaces.” In DDE that panel drops down from the top center of the screen, unlike GNOME’s right screen panel.


Deepin multitasking feature thumbnails of virtual workspaces

Deepin’s multitasking feature shows thumbnails of virtual workspaces via a display panel that hides along the top edge of the screen. The main view displays mini images of open windows on the current workspace.


Deepin lets you set a different background image for each virtual workspace These display in the panel view as well. You can drag a running application’s mini image from the multitasking view to another workspace. You also can right-click on the top window border of a displayed app to move it to another virtual workspace.

Clicking the gear icon on the Dock bar slides out the settings panel from the right edge of the screen. The left vertical border of this panel holds a column of icons, one for each settings category.


Deepin Desktop slide-out control panel

The Deepin Desktop has a slide-out control panel that makes finding settings effortless. It uses a dock bar instead of a traditional panel at the bottom of the screen.


Click a vertical icon to open a settings display for the selected category. Or you can click in the panel and scroll down or up for a continuous scrolling through all settings.

Stuffed With Software

Deepin-specific applications separate this distro from most others. The developer has an impressive inventory of in-house generated applications. This release expands that inventory with more new titles and revamps of many others.

Here is a brief selection of what Deepin provides:

  • Deepin File Manager has a new Recent bookmark in its sidebar. The latest release also offers an optional dark theme.
  • Deepin Boot Maker has a simple interface to make a deepin boot disk easily.
  • Deepin Editor is a lightweight text editor with some customized functions for composing text and writing code.
  • Deepin File Manager is an optimized revision with added features.
  • Deepin Font Installer is a new tool for adding/removing font files with simplified operations. It shows font information, such as style, type, version, copyright and description.
  • Deepin Repair is another new tool to fix some issues in Deepin quickly, including hard disk detecting, disk cleaning, DPKG repairing, boot repairing, privilege repairing and password reset.
  • Deepin’s Graphics and Driver Manager app is introduced in this release. It includes graphics card hardware detection, graphics driver installation, graphics driver solution switching, graphics driver automatic recovery, and other functions.
  • Deepin Clone is yet another new tool that makes it safe and easy to backup and restore the system. It supports to clone, backup and restore disk or partition. It works with Deepin Recovery to fix the boot, partition and other problems.

The community-sponsored software store offers about a thousand applications. Also available is a new Deepin Store.

Deepin Store is a high-quality application store to display, download, install, review and rate applications. It includes the selections of popular apps, new updates and hot topics. It supports one-click installing, updating and uninstalling.

Getting It May Be Troublesome

One of the great advantages of many Linux distros is the ability to test the distro in a live session. This lets you try out the distro without making any changes to your hard drive.

Unless you have a spare computer to perform a full installation for testing, not being able to run a live session is very risky. Glitches happen when installing something untried.

That is an issue with Deepin Linux. The ISO does not boot into a live session. It is strictly for installations only.

However, you can download a special boot tool to allow you to install a live-session-capable version of this release to a USB drive. Look for the live session download option on the download page.

However, you also will have to download the installation ISO. That poses yet another inconvenience.

Time Factor Fail

The download time directly from the Deepin website is horrendously slow. Download times posted take as long as 18 hours. I checked back numerous times with no faster delivery times.

A better option is to use one of the streaming mirror sites. The download times are literally minutes instead of hours.

You will find these alternative download sites at the bottom center of the download screen. Hover your mouse pointer over the half-dozen symbols and look at the URL displayed.

Tip: You’ll only find the installation ISO on these secondary download sites. The boot tool is available only from the Deepin website.

Installing It

The installation routine is modern and classy. The process is GUI-based (graphical user interface) rather than text-based or command line-based.

The installer moves right into the desktop environment with a blurred version of its desktop wallpaper overlayed with centered, translucent menus. This creates a pleasant visual effect.


Deepin installer screen

The Deepin installer is a class act. It has a smooth progression of setup steps displayed against a blurred background image of the Deepin Desktop Environment. It provides an easy guide that new Linux users can follow with confidence.


The next screen presents a mandatory End-User Agreement. Its wordiness seems to exceed the usual open source licensing requirements.

It is lengthy to read and has numerous references to intellectual property. Ho-hum! Just scroll to the bottom of the display window to activate the ACCEPT tab to continue the installation process.

Unlike other Linux installation routines, Deepin Linux does not test for an Internet connection. You can install it without an online connection.

Bottom Line

Deepin Linux 15.8 is a solid performer. The developers have not yet provided language support for many languages. This limits who can use this distro.

In Deepin’s earlier years, the only available languages were Chinese and a few related dialects plus English. This latest release has expanded that list to a dozen or so.

In the English language version, it is annoying to see Chinese words and phrases in some of the system displays and software store catalogs. I assume that issue may exist in other language releases of Deepin as well.

Unless you are used to distro hopping, save yourself from the pain of trial-and-error usage discovery. Deepin is easy to operate. However, if you are not familiar with most things Linux, do yourself a big favor and first familiarize yourself with the Deepin Manual that comes with the preinstalled applications.

If security concerns you, especially when using an operating system from a foreign developer, use the full disk encryption feature now available with this release.

Want to Suggest a Review?

Is there a Linux software application or distro you’d like to suggest for review? Something you love or would like to get to know?

Please
email your ideas to me, and I’ll consider them for a future Linux Picks and Pans column.

And use the Reader Comments feature below to provide your input!


Jack M. Germain has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His main areas of focus are enterprise IT, Linux and open source technologies. He has written numerous reviews of Linux distros and other open source software.
Email Jack.





Source link

Android Pie Is Filled with AI | Operating Systems


Artificial Intelligence plays a big role in Android 9, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system, released Monday.

Called “Android Pie,” the OS is designed to learn from its users’ behavior, and apply those lessons to simplify and customize their phone experiences.

“From predicting your next task so you can jump right into the action you want to take, to prioritizing battery power for the apps you use most, to helping you disconnect from your phone at the end of the day, Android 9 adapts to your life and the ways you like to use your phone,” noted Sameer Samat, Google’s vice president of product management for Android and Google Play.

google's android 9 pie

Adaptive Brightness and Adaptive Battery are two ways Android Pie uses AI to customize and improve a phone’s performance.

Adaptive Brightness learns what brightness levels a user likes in certain conditions and automatically adjusts the display to those settings when those conditions arise.

Adaptive Battery plugs into Google’s DeepMind systems and can learn a person’s phone usage patterns and make adjustments to optimize power usage.

“Users of the Android P beta program on Google Pixel phones found a 20 percent increase in battery life,” said David McQueen, research director for consumer devices in the London offices of ABI Research, a technology advisory firm.

“Battery life has always been a major pain point for the smartphone user, so this implementation of AI will be welcome relief,” he told TechNewsWorld.

Seeing Will Be Believing

The power management feature works without adding additional hardware, McQueen pointed out.

Huawei introduced performance-enhancing AI in its Mate 10 Pro product, he said, but to do it, the company had to add a chip to the device, which it called a “neural processing unit.”

“There’s not much going on in terms of new battery technology that can lengthen battery life, so Adaptive Battery could be a good thing,” suggested William Stofega, program director for mobile phones and drones at
IDC, a market analysis company based in Framingham, Massachusetts.

The Adaptive Battery feature appears to be compelling, acknowledged Tuong Nguyen,
a senior principal analyst at Gartner, a research and advisory company
based in Stamford, Connecticut. However, he is withholding judgment on the feature until the verdict from users comes in.

“We see a lot of power optimization announcements, and I’m sure they work well enough,” Nguyen told TechNewsWorld, “but my perception as a consumer is that I can never stay sufficiently charged and am always using too much battery.”

Screen Slices

Another new addition to Android is App Actions. It makes connections between when and how you use apps and makes suggestions based on those connections. For example, it’s 5:15 p.m. on a Monday. App Action may ask if you want to open the e-book you’ve been reading on your commute to and from work for the past week.

Google also announced a feature for Android Pie called “Slices,” which won’t appear in the OS until later this fall.

Slices shows relevant information from apps depending on a user’s screen activity. So if a user started typing Lyft into Google Search, Slice would display a slice of the Lyft app with information such as prices to a destination and the ETA for a driver.

“Slices is great because it brings us a step closer to the post-app world,” Nguyen said.

“Instead of searching through a dozen of apps and individually opening them,” he continued, “the UI allows me to use them with fewer steps.”

Better Security

Android Pie also sports a new single home button for simpler navigation.

In addition, Android’s Overview feature has been redesigned to display full screen previews of recently used apps. It also now supports Smart Text Selection, providing action suggestions based on selected text.

Security has been beefed up in Android 9. It has an improved security model for biometrics. It uses a secure, dedicated chip to enable hardware security capabilities that protect sensitive data, such as credit card information.

Android 9 chooses the TLS protocol by default, as well as DNS over TLS, to help protect all Web communications and keep them private.

Multi-Camera and HEIF Support

Android’s photographic capabilities are expanded in Pie. It supports multiple cameras, which enables developers to access streams from a number of physical cameras simultaneously.

“Multi-camera support is a potentially cool feature because it impacts the trajectory of immersive augmented reality, mixed reality and virtual reality experiences,” Nguyen said.

“Anything that advances immersive is exciting for me, but it’s a long road, so don’t expect to see something with a super impact immediately,” he added. “It’s more of a building block for bigger things to come.”

Android Pie also supports a new image format, HEIF. The format provides better compression than the widely used JPEG format without a loss in quality. Apple has been using the format for awhile.

A common complaint among consumers is a lack of storage on phones, Nguyen noted.

“I’m not familiar with the technical details on HEIF, but I think all consumers can appreciate having more room because of better compression,” he said.

Fighting Phone Addiction

With concerns rising about how much time people spend with their phones, Google decided to add some time management features to Android Pie.

“While much of the time we spend on our phones is useful, many of us wish we could disconnect more easily and free up time for other things,” observed Google’s Samat.

“In fact, over 70 percent of people we talked to in our research said they want more help with this,” he added. “So we’ve been working to add key capabilities right into Android to help people achieve the balance with technology they’re looking for. “

The new “digital well-being” features that will be added to Android Pie this fall include the following:

  • A Dashboard that helps users understand how they’re spending time on their devices;
  • An App Timer that lets an operator set time limits on apps and grays out the icon on their home screen when the time is up;
  • A Do Not Disturb mode, which silences all the visual interruptions that pop up on a screen; and
  • Wind Down, which switches on Night Light and Do Not Disturb and fades the screen to grayscale before bedtime.

While the new digital health features may be embraced by some users, they could be annoying to others.

“I can see things like Wind Down and app timers getting in the way,” IDC’s Stofega told TechNewsWorld. “I thiink people want to use their devices whenever and however they want.”

Possible Pain Points

For many Android users, all the goodies in the latest version of the OS are likely to remain out of their hands for some time, since Pie works only on Pixel models, and a few other phones that participated in the beta program for the software.

“It will be telling how quickly Android P is able to migrate to Samsung and Huawei smartphones, and then on to those that run Android One,” McQueen said.

Even for those who are able to get their hands on the new OS, there could be challenges.

“The issue always is how quickly will people be able to recognize some of these new features,” and whether these devices are “getting too complex for their own good,” Stofega said.

“These devices are becoming Swiss Army knife-like,” he remarked. “Device makers have to figure out and adjust to what people really need versus what’s technically possible.”


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter
since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the
Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government
Security News
. Email John.





Source link