Rage3D Kombuting // March 15th edition

Author: Pete Vagiakos
Editor: Charles Oliver
Date: March 15th, 2013

Galaxy S4, nVIDIA stuff, Wayland vs. Mir on Linux and the demise of Google Reader

Is it a blog? Is it my rumblings with a spice of memes? Is it Stuff That Are Entirely My Opinion And Do Not Reflect That of Rage3D? Guilty as charged on all accounts. Enjoy and comment away :)

S to the four: the new Samsung Galaxy

Back to your normal weekly Kombuting this week, after doing the special Linux Mint edition. I am planning to do more of those special editions in the future, tackling various subjects ranging from software/OS usage, How-Tos and do-it-yourself and the reaction seems positive so far. Anyway, after weeks of speculation and rumours, then more speculation, then more rumours, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was revealed yesterday in a presentation full of fanfare, kids, a group of women discussing features, a naked gardener and... well there was a phone there too. First, the specs:

So, 5 inches (this 4.99 thing remind me of sales, here, get this for only 4.99!), Super AMOLED 441ppi screen, 13mpixel camera, more sensors, and... almost the same looks.

Samsung is trying very hard to differentiate its product with software these days, and the S4 has some pretty cool features, like SmartPause (if you look away, the video stops playback, and resumes once you look at the phone again) and you can flip pages without touching the monitor. A huge feature especially to peeps living at northern countries is the ability to use your phone while wearing gloves (yes, they actually present a feature like that in the spring. Go figure) and other stuff that feels more gimmicky than actually useful - I mean, how many ways do you need to take a photo?

The thing is, this time Samsung feels like it's copying Apple. And no, not in a good way. This is a Galaxy S3s more than it's a S4. The company went for an evolutionary step rather than redesigning the already existing formula. But the plastics (or, according to Samsung the "special polycarbonate body") are still there, and as many people who actually got hold of the phone and had some hands-on time will testify, the phone feels much cheaper than it really is. I think HTC nailed it with the One X there, where the phone actually feels premium.

So this report is actually much shorter than I expected. This is an evolutionary step folks, I am sure it will sell like hotcakes but I can't say I was impressed - it's starting to feel like Samsung is pulling a Call of Duty on us, with yearly releases that look exactly the same. Is it resting on it laurels? Time will tell.

P.S Oh, and there was this:

Gamepad peripheral for the new S4. Any resemblance to a semi popular controller by a small company that makes operating systems and consoles is surely coincidental

Rumours claim that Tegra 4 will be faster than SnapDragon 800

...according to NVIDIA of course. So according to Microprocessors Report, it seems that Tegra 4 will come on top as far as 25% compared to the (also upcoming) SnapDragon 800. They based their assumptions on NVIDIA numbers, so they can't be independently confirmed for now, but they also mention that the new SnapDragon should be more power efficient and have faster memory. The lack of LTE on the Tegra 4 should make it ideal for tablets, whereas the new SnapDragon should be a better fit for phones. Of course you should take all that with a large grain of salt, but just in case you want to take a look, here it is.

Sony talked to NVIDIA first, said thanks, but no thanks

Speaking of the guys in Santa Clara, it seems before talking with AMD, Sony talked to NVIDIA too about making the Playstation chips - which is quite logical since they were the choice for the Playstation 3. So according to a Gamespot report, Tony Tamasi, Senior VP of content and technology at NVIDIA, said more or less that pricing was the reason talks fell apart between them; his words being, and I quote: "and we came to the conclusion that we didn't want to do the business at the price those guys were willing to pay."

It's a very interesting take on the whole console saga, and I am not quite sure whether NVIDIA will benefit from not being in any console. Signs of what's about to happen are already there with the Tomb Raider problems, where games will be mostly developed on Radeons from now on, with NVIDIA an afterthought, just like Radeons were an afterthought and had launch problems whenever a new game was out when NVIDIA had its chips inside the consoles. If you are interested, you can read his mini interview here.

Gnome goes to Wayland, Ubuntu to away land

In the "nobody was one bit surprised" category of news, Gnome will move ahead with Wayland support. If you are wondering what Wayland is, it's a next-generation display server protocol that aims to replace the aging X display server on Linux. To quote Wikipedia, "Wayland provides a method for compositing window managers to communicate directly with applications and video hardware and expects them to communicate with input hardware using other libraries. Applications render graphics to their own buffers, and the window manager becomes the display server, compositing those buffers to form the on-screen display of application windows."

Gnome already had plans to move to Wayland support, with unofficial support for Gnome Shell and Mutter, but nothing had officially merged yet. But this is about to change. It's a big task mind you, and they expect to have preliminary support on Gnome 3.10, with Gnome 3.12 which will be out next spring being the version that is fully ported to the new display server. Of course applications will be ported in their own time.

So what's the rush? Canonical is. In a move which is totally in line with their strategy the past few years, they decided that Wayland was not good for them, and will make a new display server all by themselves, calling it Mir. Almost all of the open source movement has blasted this decision, which brings even more fragmentation to the scene, with KDE and Xfce developers expressing their concerns (to put it mildly) with Canonical's differentiation, among others. And it doesn't stop there: Canonical also announced that it plans to build new core applications by using the Ubuntu SDK, like calendar, calculator, a bunch of games and other things which you can find in more detail here.

Canonical seems to be heading its own way concerning Linux, totally disregarding the rest of the community. First it was Unity, then all this. They also have plans to move to Qt/QML in the future, leaving Gnome's GTK3+ behind. I am not so sure their plan will work, since they have managed to alienate almost everybody - bear in mind that, according to Distrowatch, where they were once No.1 for many years, they have now fallen to the third position behind Linux Mint and Mageia (a fork of Mandiva Linux), so it's an indication that people are not satisfied with Ubuntu anymore and are actively looking for something different. Their Mir plans are also quite ambitious, since they plan to introduce Mir and the next Unity by this October, in Ubuntu 13.10. Yes, build projects like these from scratch in 6 months' time. My take when these are launched later this year?

Google Reader retiring on July 1st

Oh man, where do I begin... So I just got to work, opened my PC and the first thing I always do is check out my trusty feed over at Google Reader for the latest news - I always do that before getting to actual work. So I see a beautiful message, telling me that Google Reader will cease to exist coming July 1st, 2013.

I will admit, my heart stopped a little. I am not very fond of melodramatic, but I kid you not; Google Reader is probably the site (and source, when I use it via news readers like Flipboard in Android) I spend more than 80% of my time on the Internet. So I visit their blog, and see this:

We have just announced on the Official Google Blog that we will soon retire Google Reader (the actual date is July 1, 2013). We know Reader has a devoted following who will be very sad to see it go. We're sad too. There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we're pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.

What kind of a better user experience will I get if you retire Google Reader? I don't get that logic. I really don't know how they measure their usage data. By visits to the website? I hope not because that would simply be IDIOTIC. Yes, I am writing in caps. I am pissed off here. There are many services using Google Reader as their source, and they just give you a nice UI on top. I've already mentioned Flipboard, which is one of the most well known applications, but there are also Feedly, Reader Pro on Android, Windows 8 applications like Nextgen Reader (which I use whenever I am on my Windows 8 touchscreen laptop) and many others. And let's be truthful here: what kind of effort did Google Reader need in order to be "maintained"? The interface was essentially the same old interface Google had before the Google+ redesign, and it hasn't changed one bit in ages, it's not like the website was a work in progress or anything.

I get it, some of you may never have used Google Reader, and you simply don't get my rant. So allow me to explain: Almost all major websites have something they call an RSS feed. Essentially, it's a list with the news headlines and either short descriptions, or the full text. What RSS aggregators like Google Reader do, is to allow you to collect all the RSS feeds from the sites you love, categorize them and have them displayed to you in a nice package.

This has the advantage that you don't have to visit 10,20,30 sites to get your news anymore. You are in Google Reader, you read the headlines and some text, and you think the news item warrants a full read, you simply open it in a new tab. It's convenience first and foremost; allowing you to get informed by many sites at once, from one central location. As you can see, I even have the comics I follow every day there, plus other categories, like sports, gaming, open source, various websites I like that don't fit in the above categories and so on. I am sure you can do that with Twitter too if you follow websites; the problem is that I have almost 100 feeds, and only a small percentage of those use Twitter to broadcast news - so RSS readers still have a lot of usefulness. I am not aware whether you guys knew the usefulness of Google Reader, but I reckon that you do now. It's a valuable website to my daily browsing, and it allows me to be on top of my game, and informed, about every major development as it happens. Plus, with the "Recommended Sources" section I've found out more websites I like and bookmarked the past few years based on what RSS feeds I follow. As for alternatives? Feedly seems a good contender (I was actually messing with userscripts yesterday to try to fix their website design, too much wasted space on widescreens, plus I see the feedly tab reaching 1GB of RAM on my Mint work PC, making everything slow to a crawl), Old Reader too when they decide to upgrade their infrastructure because they seem to be hit very hard yesterday with the influx of new users.

I don't know what kind of manager input was that gave death to my favourite RSS platform, but I'd better stop now because if I keep talking I can easily fill many more pages with angry comments. Google, you are idiots. Just let Google Reader be, since you can't appreciate its value and even spread it even more - we sure do.

Tune in next week; same Komb-time, same Komb-site.