Well, it’s not nearly as exciting as a new iPhone, but Apple recently announced a bit of news that will set people in certain circles abuzz. The company’s lossless audio codec, ALAC, is going open source. Similar to FLAC, the Apple Lossless Audio Codec offers some file compression while still delivering a bit-for-bit recreation of the original source material. The primary difference being that Apple devices and software do not support FLAC (at least without some tinkering) but canhandle the Cupertino developed ALAC. The decision to release the code under the Apache license won’t have much of an immediate impact on your digital audio routine, but expect support for ALAC to start popping up in more media players (both hardware and software) soon.
Google was pretty adamant at I/O that Chrome OS would not be coming tablets, but that hasn’t stopped its open-source cousin from adding some touch friendly features. Chromium (the browser, not the OS) got its first tablet tweaks back in June, but this is the first time we’re seeing them on video. While the larger icons, widgets, and virtual keyboard, may eventually make their way onto the rumored Seaboard, there’s no guarantee these (obviously still early) experiments will ever debut as part of Chrome OS or even the browser. Check out the video after the break for a brief glimpse of this work in progress and, if you’re feeling adventurous, hit up the more coverage link to download the latest source code — just make sure to compile with ‘export GYP_DEFINES=”touchui=1″‘ to unlock the finger-friendly face of Chromium.
The war between Google and Oracle is far from over, but the big G keeps racking up tiny victories in what are admittedly modest battles. Now the Redwood Shores-based company has been told to go back to the drawing board with its damages report. Originally Oracle sought $2.6 billion, but its theories were largely dismissed and Judge William Alsup suggested an alternative starting point of roughly $100 million. The company still has an opportunity to present a new report, one that will likely seek much more than the proposed $100 million, but things are looking increasingly tough for the claimant. It wasn’t all good news for Goog, though. While the judge told Oracle to narrow its focus from Android as a whole to just specific infringing features, he did agree that related advertising revenue should be included in the theoretical royalty base. He also offered harsh criticism for what he viewed as its “brazen” disregard for intellectual property rights. The trial is still scheduled for October, so we should have a better idea of how this whole thing will play out by Halloween.
Qi-Hardware has a bit of an obsession with free, open source, and underpowered. The latest project from this descendent of OpenMoko is a set of license free wireless boards called atben (for the company’s Ben NanoNote) and atusb for other laptops. The adapters rely on the IEEE 802.15.4 standard which powers 6LoWPAN and ZigBee. Don’t get confused though, this is not a replacement for WiFi — it’s more like long range Bluetooth (and it’s not compatible with either). Ben WPAN, as it’s being called, has a range of about ten meters in “standard” mode while pushing 250Kbps. Turning on the “non-standard” mode boosts throughput to (a still patience-testing) 2Mbps, but cuts the range in half. You can pick up pre-built adapters starting at €29.50 (about $42) for the atben, €41.30 ($59) for the atusb, or €59.00 ($84) for both at Tuxbrain. Don’t expect to just jam one into your Mac however — for now at least, Ben WPAN is a Linux only affair. (How often do you hear that?)
Google I/O is still ongoing and at the session for teaching developers how to build Android apps for Google TV the team has just shown off a quick peek of the new Honeycomb-based UI that will be released later this year. Shown above you can quickly compare it to the original UI to see how different, and hopefully improved it is. The new icon layout should make getting back to live TV a simpler process, while there’s also that large space above for widgets and support for notifications. Developers will be able to run their ADBs on devices later this summer, but prior to that it will have a “Fishtank” program for some devs to take home their internal test units to run apps on now — no hardware modification necessary.
The team also just announced that the source code to the existing Google TV remote app for Android is being open sourced, so anyone who thinks they can do better (it wouldn’t be difficult) can have a crack at building their own. Also available is code for the Anymote Protocol it runs on so developers can make tablet or phone apps that integrate with and control the Google TV — both are linked below. Other features mentioned included support for 3D, and game controllers using Android 3.1′s expanded USB compatibility. There were no product announcements before the session ended, and no word on the rumored and expected ARM base for new products, but the project manager confirmed new product announcements “later this year.” Google TV will need new product announcements if it’s going to receive a boost over other smart TV technology, but the potential of the market and availability of open source code is still providing a tantalizing vision of the promise it’s failed to capitalize on so far.
“One OS that runs everywhere.” There you have it, folks! Google intends to meld its Honeycomb tablet wares and Gingerbread smartphone software into one delicious Ice Cream Sandwich. Maybe that’s why the “sandwich” bit is in the name, eh? Either way, it’ll be a universal OS that runs on everything from teeny tiny Android phones to 10-inch tablets and will intelligently adapt to each form factor with things like a resizable status bar. Some other fancy new additions were demonstrated during Google’s I/O 2011 keynote, including face-tracking and camera focus shifting based on voice recognition, but most of the salient details remain under lock and key for now. We’ll be sure to dig around Mountain View campus fridges in search for more clues about the next major iteration of Android.
Google’s resolve to bring WebM video streaming to the masses doesn’t seem to have been weakened by a general lack of interest from the rest of the tech world, and the company’s announced that each and every new YouTube upload will now be automatically transcoded into a WebM version. Nearly a third of YouTube’s archives have already made the transition to the open source format, though if you think that’s a small proportion, you should probably know that those 30 percent account for 99 percent of all views on the site. Apparently, we all have a narrower set of interests than we like to believe. So, with all popular vids encoded and every incoming one getting the transcoding treatment, all you really need now is a compatible browser — Chrome (naturally), Firefox 4, Opera, or IE9 with a plug-in — and to enroll in YouTube’s HTML5 trial linked below to get rolling with WebM playback. Appending “&webm=1″ to a search string or a video’s URL will also help you ensure you’re getting the good stuff.
Google got a lot of flak for withholding the Android 3.0 source code, and plenty more when Businessweek sources claimed the company had set aside its open stance to dictate from a throne, but today the man who would allegedly sit atop the royal seat says it isn’t so. Andy Rubin, the man in charge of Android, says that “there are no lock-downs or restrictions against customizing UIs” nor “any efforts to standardize the platform on any single chipset architecture” as have often been rumored before, and that when Honeycomb is finally ready for phones, Google will indeed release its source code. Overall, he claims that Android’s position when it comes to open source hasn’t changed since day one — which is nice for those who would like to believe that Google’s still sticking to its motto — but that’s not likely to appease companies cut out of the loop simply because they weren’t part of the early adopter club. If Google’s methods will reduce fragmentation, though, who are we to judge?
Itching to put some sweet, crunchy AOSP Honeycomb on your hardware of choice? You might have quite a wait, as BusinessWeek reports that Google will not release the Android 3.0 source code in the near future, and we just received confirmation of the same. Google forwarded us the following statement, which pretty much says it all:
Android 3.0, Honeycomb, was designed from the ground up for devices with larger screen sizes and improves on Android favorites such as widgets, multi-tasking, browsing, notifications and customization. While we’re excited to offer these new features to Android tablets, we have more work to do before we can deliver them to other device types including phones. Until then, we’ve decided not to release Honeycomb to open source. We’re committed to providing Android as an open platform across many device types and will publish the source as soon as it’s ready.
It’s fairly clear that the company’s motivation here is the same as it’s been all along — Google wants to restrict Android to the devices it was designed for. Though the company long insisted that earlier versions of Android were not for tablets, manufacturers quickly adapted the source code to slates anyhow, and we can imagine the company wasn’t thrilled some of the middling results. At that time, Google’s only weapon was to deny access to Gmail, Maps and Android Market, which it did liberally (with a few exceptions to the rule) but this time it sounds like it’s simply withholding the “entirely for tablet” source code instead of sending cease-and-desist letters out. Another explanation, however, could just be that Honeycomb’s not ready for primetime without some OEM help — last we checked, smartphone support was a far cry from final, and even the finished Motorola Xoom still has a few software kinks to work out. Here’s hoping a nice cold bowl of Ice Cream will smooth things over with the open source community before long.