Linux: Is Sarah Sharp a Social Justice Warrior?

In today's open source roundup: Sarah Sharp's resignation from Linux kernel development sparks charges that she is a Social Justice Warrior. Plus: A review of Android 6.0 Marshmellow. And will Google let Android apps run on Windows 10 Mobile?

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Android 6.0 Marshmallow review

Android 6.0 Marshmallow has been released by Google, but is it worth updating to on your Android device? Ars Technica has a deep and detailed review that laments the lack of a solution to Android software updates in Android 6.0.

Ron Amadeo reports for Ars Technica:

If we were to ask for any new feature from a new Android version, it would be some kind of scalable update solution. Right now a custom update still needs to be built for every single individual device model, and that's really not a workable solution when you have more than 24,000 models out there. The Stagefright vulnerability seemed to be a wakeup call for the Android ecosystem, but it came too late to affect anything in Marshmallow. Google instituted monthly updates for Nexus devices, and OEMs are pledging to bring the monthly update program to flagship devices. The majority of Android devices, though—the low-end devices—are being ignored. Monthly updates for Google, Samsung, and LG flagships only works out to a very small percentage of the Android install base.

Android is far, far behind the competition when it comes to device security. The only real solution we can see is a Windows Update-style system that can send centralized updates to every device. This would require architecting the way OEMs and carriers handle software, but something needs to change so that there's a real update and security solution for every Android device and every Android user. If you've got a Nexus device, the Android security update speed is still slow thanks to the rollout system, but at least it exists. For everyone else, maybe there will be something for you in the next version.

The Good

The new home screen adds tons of genuinely useful features. App Search, predictive apps, vertical scrolling, and the uninstall shortcut are all great time savers.

The new permissions system lets users give informed consent to access their data while keeping them in the loop about breaking things from permission denial. Developers get to have a dialog with the user about why they need a permission, and old apps are fed fake data so they can be denied access without crashing.

"Adoptable Storage" finally makes SD cards as good as internal storage. Now if only there were Marshmallow devices with SD cards.

The fingerprint API isn't groundbreaking even among the Android devices, but it's the kind of ecosystem building that only Google can do.

The Bad

There still isn't auto rotate support for the home screen. Google teased us in the developer preview but the feature was cut.

The new permissions page is a great first step, but it doesn't list all of the access to the system an app actually has. Special settings like "Notification Access," access to the accessibilities framework, and more are scattered all over the settings.

Apps can opt out of power saving features like Doze and App Standby just by changing their priority settings. We don't trust developers to play by the rules.

The Ugly

There is still no solution for getting Marshmallow out to the billion+ devices out there.

More at Ars Technica

Ars Technica readers shared their thoughts about Android 6.0 Marshmellow in a long thread after the review:

Adipose: ”The solution for updating doesn't belong in Marshmallow, although it would be a start. The solution must support 5+ at a minimum, and probably 4+ to solve the issue. This next year, Google must crack down on all carriers and force them to update everything to 6.x, or barring that, fully patched editions of 4.x and 5.x with the ability to accept future critical updates. Anything less is a complete failure on their part. ”

Neodorian: ”...limiting hardware options for faster updates would remove one of the strengths of the ecosystem which is OEMs (theoretically) competing to outdo each other on hardware, features, and options. Updates make this Android's weakness but at the same time, it's also the main strength. You can theoretically port Android to just about anything so if a hardware company perceives a big enough market for a specific form factor or new chipset, they can build it and have a base OS ready to port. ”

Ulf: ”I hope my android tablet gets 6.0 for the use storage option alone, while you can theoretically manage apps and space, in practically nearly all apps prefer internal storage and refuse to acknowledge the SD card at all.

This is worse for non-google store apps... Amazon Prime lets you download videos now but they have no way to access the SD card. You can't even "move" the app to the SD card to get around this. ”

A. Frizzle: ”Since these phones have all pretty much matured to a point where they all function about the same, these aesthetic and usability upgrades do not mean as much to me. Though, with security becoming more and more important due to mobile transactions and banking, it has made me more aware of the security flaws of the OS's. I am a huge Android fan, but if they do not get security under control they are going to start loosing a lot of customers. Especially non-Nexus device sales. ”

Feistypenguin: ”After reading up on the permissions system, I can see why Google was hesitant to expose it to users. I can see apps getting a lot of negative user feedback because someone likes to hit the "deny permissions" button for everything.

On the other hand, users may get conditioned to hitting the "accept" button when every new app they use is spamming permission prompts at them. If I buy a new phone with Android 6, I would be curious to see if I would have to accept every permission for every app in piecemeal fashion, all over again.

I do like the idea of even OEM apps falling under this permission restraint though. It helps head off security concerns because Samsung/Sony/whoever decided to include a non-removable file manager or keyboard with full access to everything on the phone. ”

Retrospooty: ”No-one updates low/mid range phones for long if at all. Google does alot of updates through Google services too, but OS updates are just not ever going to happen the way you seem to want it. If having the "latest OS" regardless of what your device does, is important you, you should probably go with IOS. If you are set on android and want immediate updates, get a Nexus. Here is the reality you have to deal with and make a choice. ”

PhilGil: ”Until Google/OEMs/Carriers get their shit together and figure out how to address security updates I'll probably be sticking to cheap phones that can be replaced more frequently. Being able to unify SD and internal storage greatly increases the usability of low-end hardware. ”

OrangeCrush: ”A billion Android devices are floating around with major security flaws that will never be updated. With mobile banking becoming a bigger deal, it's not acceptable for the ecosystem solution to be either "assume the ignorant masses will never be impacted because their device still works for them" or "buy new hardware in order to get a software fix."”

Academic Sam: ”What I would really like is to be able to create a fake profile and let apps that wants to grab my data use that profile. Wonder if I can use "Android for work" for that. Granted, the new permissions goes a long way towards fixing that. However, I fear that some apps would refuse to work at all if it cant get its grubby hands on my contact list.”

Trandyr: ”Contrary to what the article says, in the new version of Android the Widgets *do* get a vertical scrolling list (with letters, etc.), just like the App Drawer. It's actually done really well. If a given app has multiple widgets, they show up horizontally in the list, and each app has a row vertically. If there are more than 2-3 widgets for an app, the widget list scrolls sideways for that particular line, letting you pick any of them.”

More at Ars Technica

Rumor: Google may let Android apps run on Windows 10 Mobile

Windows 10 has lagged far behind Android and iOS when it comes to app development. But rumors are circulating that Google might announce Android app support for Windows 10 Mobile soon.

Max Nottingham reports for BetaNews:

Chatter on Twitter suggests that Google will be present at Microsoft's grand "Windows 10 Devices" event tomorrow, and it would announce Android apps support for Windows 10 Mobile devices. Bolstering the theory is the two company's seemingly improving relationship, the biggest testament of which was up on display when the two recently agreed to drop 20 patent lawsuits they had filed against each other. If it indeed true, what does it mean for Microsoft's mobile operating system? Revival.

It's not a new idea, per se. The possibility of running Android apps on Windows Phone handsets has been talked about for years. We also saw developers forcibly run port of Android apps on Windows Phone handsets and manage to do it on several occasions. But Microsoft never hinted its interest to announce support for Android apps on its handsets, and Google's terse relationship with Microsoft -- just one Google app on Windows Phone Store (also remember the Google-Microsoft-YouTube fiasco?), made it pretty clear that Google wasn't going to help Microsoft in saving Windows Phone.

But things are changing. "Google and Microsoft have agreed to collaborate on certain patent matters and anticipate working together in other areas in the future to benefit our customers", Google had said after the two companies recently decided to resolve several of their patents issues.

But that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from offering yet another claim of such a possibility. If Google does step on the stage at Microsoft's event tomorrow, the company will be able to tap on more devices, whereas Windows Phone handset users will be able to use many of the apps they need to stick to the platform. We will know for sure tomorrow.

More at BetaNews

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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