Portables

Can Cheap Android Tablets Bridge the Digital Divide? (teleread.org) 111

It's now possible to buy a 7-inch Android tablet for under $50 -- for example, the Nook Tablet 7 or Amazon's cheapest Fire tablet. "Since the Fire can now easily install regular Android apps, it has become useful out of all proportion to its price," writes long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master, noting that for many applications tablets can replace a desktop or laptop computer. TeleRead.org is even arguing this could be what bridges the digital divide: [N]ot just for reading ebooks and assisting in education, but for more basic tasks. People with low or no incomes could search and apply for better jobs. Students could do homework and term papers on their tablet if their siblings or parents are using the desktop.
Besides the obvious applications like email and web browsing, $50 Android tablets also offer cheap phone calls via Google Hangouts. (You can even get your own phone number through Google Voice.) Calling the tablets "a full-fledged internet terminal... easily within reach of even the lowest-income families," the article concludes "I can hardly wait to see where these tablets go from here."
Debian

Survey Finds Most Popular Linux Laptop Distros: Ubuntu and Arch (phoronix.com) 141

After collating 30,171 responses, Phoronixhas released some results from their first Linux Laptop Survey. An anonymous reader quotes their report: To little surprise, Ubuntu was the most popular Linux distribution running on the respondents' laptops. 38.9% of the respondents were said to be using Ubuntu while interesting in second place was Arch Linux at 27.1% followed by Debian at 15.3%. Rounding out the top ten were then Fedora at 14.8%, Linux Mint in 5th at 10.8%, openSUSE/SUSE in sixth at 4.2%, Gentoo in seventh at 3.9%, CentOS/RHEL in eighth at 3.1%, Solus in ninth at 2%, and Manjaro in tenth at 1.6%. The other Linux distributions had each commanded less than 1% of the overall response.
Only 10.3% of respondents said their most recent laptop purchase came pre-loaded with Linux. But 29.3% are now dual-booting their Linux laptop with Windows, while another 4.4% were dual-booting with yet another Linux distribution.
Cellphones

Nest Founder 'Wakes Up In Cold Sweats' Fearing The Impact Of Mobile Technology (fastcodesign.com) 106

theodp writes: Fast Company's Co.Design reports that Tony Fadell, who founded Nest and was instrumental in the creation of the iPod and iPhone, spoke with a mix of pride and regret about his role in mobile technology's rise to omnipresence. "I wake up in cold sweats every so often thinking, what did we bring to the world?" Fadell said. "Did we really bring a nuclear bomb with information that can -- like we see with fake news -- blow up people's brains and reprogram them? Or did we bring light to people who never had information, who can now be empowered?"

Faddell added that addiction has been designed into our devices, and it's harming the newest generation. "And I know when I take [technology] away from my kids what happens," Fadell explained. "They literally feel like you're tearing a piece of their person away from them-they get emotional about it, very emotional. They go through withdrawal for two to three days." Products like the iPhone, Fadell believes, are more attuned to the needs of the individual rather than what's best for the family and the larger community. And pointing to YouTube owner Google, Fadell said, "It was like, [let] any kind of content happen on YouTube. Then a lot of the executives started having kids, [and saying], maybe this isn't such a good idea. They have YouTube Kids now."

The article suggests Fadell is describing a world where omnipresent (and distracting) screens are creating "a culture of self-aggrandizement," and he believes this is partly rooted in the origins of the devices. "A lot of the designers and coders who were in their 20s when we were creating these things didn't have kids."
GNU is Not Unix

15 Devices (Including 6 Laptops) Awarded FSF's 'Respects Your Freedom' Certification (fsf.org) 85

This week the Free Software Foundation awarded its coveted 'Respects Your Freedom' certification to 15 products -- more than doubling the number of certified products (from 12 to 27) since the program began in 2012. An anonymous reader writes: The non-profit FSF certified six different laptops, two docking stations, three WiFi USB adapters and two internal WiFi devices, a mainboard, and their first-ever certified Bluetooth device, the TET-BT4 USB adapter. The products are all from Technoethical (formerly Tehnoetic), a Romania-based company who previously had just one mini wireless USB adapter on their list of FSF-certified products. "In 2014 we started selling hardware compatible with fully free systems in order to fund the free software activism work that we've been doing with our foundation," said Technoethical founder, Tiberiu C. Turbureanu. "Since then, we worked hard to build a hardware catalog that allows free software users to choose what best fits their computing needs, while also helping with the funding of different free software projects."
"We are excited that Technoethical has brought out such an impressive collection of hardware whose associated software respects user freedom," said the FSF's executive director, John Sullivan. "RYF certification continues to gain speed and momentum, thanks to companies like them."
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Touch Mobile OS Now Maintained By UBports (phoronix.com) 22

An anonymous reader quotes Phoronix: UBports continues to be the leading community project for trying to let Ubuntu Touch live on and evolve under their direction... Among their recent achievements were acquiring more sponsors, all devices that were sold with Ubuntu Touch can now run with UBports' builds, they are working on their own version of Mozilla's AGPS Location Service to replace Canonical's GPS system, the Halium OS platform continues evolving, the Dekko email client is back under development, installation improvements are being worked on, they are still striving for Wayland support, and more.
The UBports Patreon page has even raised enough to allow UBports founder Marius Gripsgard to work full-time on what they're calling "a beautiful, free and open-source mobile OS." Their recent community update announced that "we are seeing more activity on Ubuntu Touch than for a very long time, and that is really encouraging."
Opera

Opera Says Their iOS Updates Are Still Coming - Just Slowly (twitter.com) 36

Slashdot reader BrianFagioli has posted an update about his communication with Opera over their plans for iOS. They'd originally tweeted Thursday that "at this moment we don't have a team working on IOS which is why we haven't released any updates." But Friday they clarified that "It does not mean we give up development on iOS. It's just that now our resources are on Android." They reiterated that point in an email. We would like to clarify that Opera does not abandon iOS... We plan to keep developing it as Opera Min[i] provides unique features that other browsers do not have, such as data saving for both webpages and video, ad-blocking, built-in newsfeed etc. And people love using it. As most of the engineering resources are now on Android, our update on iOS is slow at this moment. Please bear with us and do stay tune for our next updates.
The tweet Friday also emphasized that "We will update iOS for sure."
Education

Microsoft And Apple Target Schools In War With Chromebook (techcrunch.com) 143

An anonymous reader writes: "Google [is] commanding 58% of U.S. K-12 schools. Windows is in second with around 22% and the combined impact of MacOS and iOS are close behind at 19%," reports TechCrunch, citing figures from consulting firm Futuresource. But now Chromebooks are under fire from cheaper iPads and Microsoft's upcoming Windows 10 Cloud laptop with its cloud-based software. "For many schools, the dream of a one-device-per-child experience has finally been realized through a consumer technology battle waged by the biggest names in the industry... Fostering an entire generation of first-time computer users with your software and device ecosystem could mean developing lifelong loyalties, which is precisely why all this knock-down, drag-out fight won't be drawing to a close any time soon." That raises an interesting question. Do Slashdot readers remember the computers that were used in their own high schools -- and did that instill any lifelong brand loyalty?
Stats

As Print Surges, Ebook Sales Plunge Nearly 20% (cnn.com) 206

An anonymous reader quotes CNN: Sales of consumer ebooks plunged 17% in the U.K. in 2016, according to the Publishers Association. Sales of physical books and journals went up by 7% over the same period, while children's books surged 16%. The same trend is on display in the U.S., where ebook sales declined 18.7% over the first nine months of 2016, according to the Association of American Publishers. Paperback sales were up 7.5% over the same period, and hardback sales increased 4.1%...

Sales of e-readers declined by more than 40% between 2011 and 2016, according to consumer research group Euromonitor International. "E-readers, which was once a promising category, saw its sales peak in 2011. Its success was short-lived, as it spiraled downwards within a year with the entry of tablets," Euromonitor said in a research note.

The article includes an even more interesting statistic: that one-third of adults tried a "digital detox" in 2016, limiting their personal use of electronics. Are any Slashdot readers trying to limit their own screen time -- or reading fewer ebooks?
Microsoft

Microsoft's Surface Revenue Drops By $285M (26%) (computerworld.com) 147

An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Revenue generated by Microsoft's Surface hardware during the March quarter was down 26% from the same period the year before, the company said yesterday as it briefed Wall Street. For the quarter, Surface produced $831 million, some $285 million less than the March quarter of 2016, for the largest year-over-year dollar decline ever... The revenue decline "indicates that the aging product needs a refresh badly," Jack Gold, principal analyst at J. Gold Associates, wrote in a note to clients today. "Price cutting and competing vendors' products will continue to create declines until new product is released, rumored for later this year." Microsoft threw cold water on any significant changes to the Surface line before June, forecasting that the current quarter will also post a revenue decline.
Canada

'Breakthrough' LI-RAM Material Can Store Data With Light (ctvnews.ca) 104

A Vancouver researcher has patented a new material that uses light instead of electricity to store data. An anonymous reader writes: LI-RAM -- that's light induced magnetoresistive random-access memory -- promises supercomputer speeds for your cellphones and laptops, according to Natia Frank, the materials scientist at the University of Victoria who developed the new material as part of an international effort to reduce the heat and power consumption of modern processors. She envisions a world of LI-RAM mobile devices which are faster, thinner, and able to hold much more data -- all while consuming less power and producing less heat.

And best of all, they'd last twice as long on a single charge (while producing almost no heat), according to a report on CTV News, which describes this as "a breakthrough material" that will not only make smartphones faster and more durable, but also more energy-efficient. The University of Victoria calculates that's 10% of the world's electricity is consumed by "information communications technology," so LI-RAM phones could conceivably cut that figure in half.

They also report that the researcher is "working with international electronics manufacturers to optimize and commercialize the technology, and says it could be available on the market in the next 10 years."
Portables

Can Crowdfunding Bring Back The Netbook? (salon.com) 243

"The mini-laptop's market niche got swamped by the iPad and the phablet," writes Salon, since the stripped-down hardware of tablets made them cheaper to produce. But now netbooks could be making a grassroots-fueled comeback, "thanks to the lower costs in electronics manufacturing and the fact that individual investors can come together to crowdfund projects." An anonymous reader quotes Salon: Michael Mrozek, the Germany-based creator of creator of the DragonBox Pyra, says "I never understood why they were gone in the first place. I have no idea why you would use a tablet. I tried one, and it's awkward to use it for anything else than browsing the Web"... He has already managed to raise several hundred thousand dollars through a private pre-order system set up on his geek's paradise online store. Once those initial orders have been filled, Mrozek said he will probably start up a mainstream crowdfunding campaign for his Linux handheld... "The niche was always there, but thanks to the Internet and crowdfunding, it's easy to reach everyone who's interested in such a device so even a niche product still gets you enough users to sell it. That wasn't possible 10 years ago."
Meanwhile, in just under two weeks Planet Computer raised $446,000 on Indiegogo, more than double the original $200,000 goal for their netbook-like Gemini computer (with a keyboard designed by the creator of the original Psion netbook). Planet's CEO Janko Mrsic-Flogel says "It's a bit like Volkswagen bringing back the Beetle," and predicts that the worldwide demand for netbooks could reach 10 million a year.
Hardware Hacking

How I Freed My Android Tablet: A Journey in Reverse Engineering (www.thanassis.space) 79

Slashdot reader ttsiod is an embedded software engineer at the European Space Agency, and shares this story about his quest to "dominate" his new tablet: Just like it's predecessor, I wanted to run a Debian chroot inside it -- that would allow me to apt-get install and run things like Privoxy, SSH SOCKS/VPN tunnels, Flask mini-servers, etc; and in general allow me to stay in control. But there was no open-source way to do this... and I could never trust "one-click roots" that communicate with servers in China... It took me weeks to reverse engineer my tablet -- and finally succeed in becoming root. The journey was quite interesting, and included both hardware and software tinkering. I learned a lot while doing it -- and wanted to share the experience with my fellow Slashdotters...
He writes that "I trust Debian. Far more than I trust the Android ecosystem," and describes everything from how he probed the boot process and created his own boot image to hunting for a way "to tell SELinux to get off my lawn".
Education

How Linux Saved A School's Failing Windows Laptop Program (opensource.com) 255

OpenSource.com reports on a Minnesota school's 1:1 program -- one device per child -- where "Lots of the Windows laptops were in very poor condition and needed to be replaced." An anonymous reader writes: An Indiegogo campaign triggered extra money and donations of laptops, allowing the school's Linux club to equip much of the school with Linux laptops. "When you're using open source software you're free to use operating systems and application software without the hassle of license keys or license tracking inherent with proprietary software," says Stu Keroff, the school's technology coordinator. "This allows a school to experiment [and] gives them the freedom to make mistakes...

But there's also another benefit. "By empowering the students to be part of that process we were able to get more done, and to generate more excitement about the learning that the students were taking part in." There's now a waiting list for the school's Linux club, where they'd planned to cap membership at 35...until 62 students applied. Instead, they found themselves creating two Linux clubs, one for the sixth graders, and one for the 7th and 8th graders.

And to answer the obvious question -- they're using Ubuntu, with the Unity desktop.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: What's The Best Cheap Linux-Friendly Netbook? 187

Seems like a good time to revisit this question -- assuming anyone's still using a netbook. Long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino writes: I'm looking for a cheap lightweight netbook that is Linux-friendly, i.e. lets me install Linux without any shoddy modern BIOS getting in my way... The Lenovo 100S-11 looks really neat, but I just read about installation problems... Are there any alternatives?

And if there aren't, what experience do you guys have running Linux on a Chromebook using Crouton -- the Linux-parallel-to-Chrome-OS hack? Is it a feasible alternative to dumping ChromeOS and installing a 100% lightweight Linux?

His budget is around $200, and he ends his submission with "Many thanks from a fellow Slashdotter." So leave your suggestions in the comments. What's the best cheap Linux-friendly netbook?
Data Storage

RIP John Ellenby, Godfather of the Modern Laptop (nytimes.com) 33

John Ellenby managed the development of the Alto II before starting the company that built the world's first successful "clamshell" laptop. Slashdot reader fragMasterFlash quotes the New York Times: Ellenby, a British-born computer engineer who played a critical role in paving the way for the laptop computer, died on August 17 in San Francisco. He was 75... Mr. Ellenby's pioneering work came to fruition in the early 1980s, after he founded Grid Systems, a company in Mountain View, California. As chief executive, he assembled an engineering and design team that included the noted British-born industrial designer William Moggridge.

The team produced a clamshell computer with an orange electroluminescent flat-panel display that was introduced as the Compass. It went to market in 1982. The Compass is now widely acknowledged to have been far ahead of its time.

Back in the 1980s, NASA used them as backup navigational devices on the space shuttle -- one was recovered from the wreckage of the Space Shuttle Challenger -- and John Poindexter, America's national security advisor during the Reagan administration, described them as "built like an armored tank". Data storage cost $8,150 -- equivalent to $20,325 today.
Android

Android Stagefright Bug Required 115 Patches, Millions Still At Risk (eweek.com) 50

eWeek reports that "hundreds of millions of users remain at risk" one year after Joshua Drake discovered the Stagefright Android flaw. Slashdot reader darthcamaro writes: A year ago, on July 27, 2015 news about the Android Stagefright flaw was first revealed with the initial reports claiming widespread impact with a billion users at risk. As it turns out, the impact of Stagefright has been more pervasive...over the last 12 months, Google has patched no less than 115 flaws in Stagefright and related Android media libraries. Joshua Drake, the researcher who first discovered the Stagefright flaw never expected it to go this far. "I expected shoring up the larger problem to take an extended and large effort, but I didn't expect it to be ongoing a year later."
Drake believes targeted attacks use Stagefright vulnerabilities on unpatched systems, but adds that Android's bug bounty program appears to be working, paying out $550,000 in its first year.
Handhelds

Ask Slashdot: Why Do Most Tablet Specs Suck? 231

Slashdot reader Qbertino describes himself as a "happy tablet user," moving from an old HTC Flyer to his Yoga 2. But he notes that most other tablets "have laughable battery times," and "I've yet to find a tablet that does not give me storage or memory problems in some way or other, lasts for a day or two in power and doesn't feel chintzy and like it won't stand a month of regular everyday use and carrying around..." He asks why none of the manufacturers seem willing to offer more than one gigabyte of RAM -- and why they're so stingy with storage. "Where is the rugged 16GB RAM / 1TB Storage / 20-hour battery tablet?"

So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What are your thoughts on the current tablet market? And are they the ultimate all-purpose "convergence" device that Apple and Ubuntu seem to think they are?
Portables

Dell Bringing Thunderbolt 3 USB-C Support To Linux 37

Freshly Exhumed writes: A series of posts on the Project Sputnik developers' forum at Dell indicate that hardware on a soon to be released XPS 13 Developer Edition laptop will support Thunderbolt 3 USB Type C, which has been tested on the device with video and USB 3.1 on non-dock devices, although Dell's Type C docks are not yet supported. Intel has already implemented Thunderbolt 3 drivers in the Linux kernel, so this Dell initiative represents a first for a physical implementation on a consumer platform.
Intel

Dell Packs Xeon and Quadro GPU In 4lb Laptop (hothardware.com) 75

MojoKid writes: To look at the Dell Precision 15 5510, you wouldn't know that it sits in the middle of Dell's workstation lineup. The laptop is thinner and sleeker than you might expect a workstation-class laptop to be and the premium carbon fiber palm rest gives the system a decidedly high-end vibe. Not to mention, like the XPS 15, Dell equipped this machine with its 4K IGZO Infinity Edge display that has almost no bezel on three of its sides. However, the Precision 15 5510 is actually Dell's mid-range mobile workstation that also supports Intel Xeon E3 processors and NVIDIA's Quadro M1000 series GPUs. It's essentially a mobile workstation version of Dell's XPS 15 line but along with an NVMe PCIe Solid State Drive, delivers professional grade performance and the pro app certifications that go with it. Compared to Lenovo's ThinkPad W550 line, the Precision 15 is a more sleek, stylish machine and in testing it packs more punch as well. Lenovo may already have their Skylake Xeon refresh in the works for the ThinkPad W series, however.
Portables

Asus ZenBook UX305CA Shows What Skylake Core M Is Capable Of (hothardware.com) 160

MojoKid writes: ASUS recently revamped their ZenBook UX305 family of ultralight notebooks with Intel's 6th generation Skylake Core m series, which brings with it not only improved graphics performance but also native support for PCI Express NVMe M.2 Solid State Drives. The platform is turning out to be fairly strong for this category of notebooks and the low cost ZenBook ($699 as tested) is a good example of what a Skylake Core M is capable of in a balanced configuration. Tested here, the machine is configured with a 256GB M.2 SSD, 8GB of RAM and a 2.2GHz Core m3-6Y30 dual-core CPU. Along with a 13.3-inch 1080p FHD display and 802.11ac wireless connectivity, the ZenBook UX305 is setup nicely and it puts up solid performance numbers in both standard compute tasks and graphics. It also offers some of the best battery life numbers in an ultralight yet, lasting over 10 hours on a charge in real world connected web testing.

Slashdot Top Deals