In 2014 large amount of Tech news was reported, from new devices to hacking and security fails. Lets take a look at what got you reading.
The development of any OS is hard, but why have the team working on Twili Linux Project gone for the private approach?
Windows 8.1, Mavericks, iOS, Android and Linux are the most talked about operating systems in world. Why? For being good at what they do or for negative criticism? But now a group of Brony programmers are looking for help to make a Ponified Linux OS to add to the growing list of Linux distros.
Well, it wasn’t the complete console we were expecting. But do not worry. Valve, the game service operator and development studio, announced SteamOS on Monday – this finally gave us confirmation of a PC gaming hardware, we’ve known as “SteamBox”.
Valve unveiled the launch of their Linux OS on Monday via the Steam website. A page had been set up with a countdown timer, indicating an imminent release. Strapped with the title:
“The Steam Universe is Expanding in 2014”
We all knew Valve had something big to share. We have head whispers, here and there about a rumoured Valve hardware; many are surprised that we’ve yet to come across any leaks regarding a possible console. Valve launched its ‘Big Picture’ software back in 2011 – paving the way for a possible console launch. Effectively an enlarged copy of the desktop client, users could experience the power of Steam games directly on their TV; along with the world’s first, first person web browser – Valve obviously had long term plans.
Gabe Newell has recently bashed Microsoft after the launch of Windows 8 and its Windows Store, saying it would have restricted freedom of developers – hence the timely move towards Linux, isn’t so strange after all.
SteamOS is a step further than making the Steam desktop client available on Linux, it is Valve’s chance at modelling a complete user experience and defining their brand from the rest of the market. It will allow them to “connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room” – a logical progression some might say. A system ‘built around Steam’ that will be tailored for PCs in the living room. SteamOS will be easier for consumers, content creators and bog standard gamers.
The new OS will be able to stream games, Mac or PC, from your current Steam account and will also debut the Steam Family Sharing plans. Valve has also worked closely with media services to be able to bring media service content directly to your big screen. Valve has said it has: “achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing, and we’re now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level,” – in short your Steam is experience is just going to keep getting better.
We are still not clear on how you’ll control SteamOS – it is a PC – but will you be able to buy a dedicated controller or use a keyboard and mouse. It seems like it maybe the former as Valve has designed various unique inputs to enable an analogue controller to intuitively input data.
But we didn’t get any hardware…
Valve didn’t give us the SteamBox, their announcement on their website has led us to believe that Valve might have more up its sleeve. The teaser website clearly shows three circular icons – the first of which has been filled on with the launch of SteamOS. With a countdown timer indicating less than 6 hours until something else…
Valve has said it will make three new announcements this week regarding their future for gaming. This relates directly to the three circles and the new message posted on the Valve website. So don’t feel like you’ve been let down, there is more to come. Valve will be making several announcements – hopefully it will involve hardware, but what else awaits?
Valve is a secretive company, there are only a few items that might pass under their radar and escape into the big wide world, their outlook on competitiveness and determination to offer the best for their consumers now looks like it will drag the company in another direction. But, as all eyes are on New York this morning, geeks, gamers and industry enthusiasts have their eyes firmly peeled on the living room, not tablet PCs; as Valve Software prepare for one of their biggest launches yet and prepare for their first foray into the living room.
Valve has now launched a ‘teaser’ website to countdown to a certain ‘expansion’ of the steam universe. The clock counting down to what we can only predict, is a SteamBox launch – their first video games console.
We currently expect Valve to announce a new games console, the Steam Box, to be launched next year in 2014. Currently, the timer counts down from 2 hours and we predict, that once it reaches zero – the Steam Box will arrive. Valve’s move into the console industry comes as the big names launch their next generation hardware. Intended in rising the profile of the undervalued firm, a Steam Box would allow Valve to bring their gaming expertise from the PC into the living room.
But before we get too excited and fall into the trap of believing the Steam Box will be a complete success, just remember that the XBOX took over a decade to take any grounds in the entertainment industry. During this time Microsoft have spent billions of dollars in developing their ecosystem and pushing the console forward. Valve currently has a massive foothold in the PC market and Steam, its downloadable content service, is not a weak contender where PC is concerned. PC Gaming has taken a toll over the last few years, Valve has found itself lucky so far – but the company needs to cement its position and security, Steam Box might just be the answer. Gradually the PC is changing, the number of search terms for ‘computer’ have declined, whilst the opposite has occurred for its keyboard-less rival, the tablet.
The PC has slowly become a less needed and appropriate device in a world were we are always moving. The tablet and smartphones have even dominated sales of consoles and as we move into the next generation of ‘video gaming’, the need for such devices is questionable? The need to plug devices into our TV to play games, watch TV or play films/media is becoming less important – the devices that are currently growing is in fact those that offer multiple services and streaming services; such as Apple TV or Roku. Even Intel is working on their own box, OnCue. The extension of multiple services, networks that are unified through these boxes are becoming a major gold mine. Consumers want the ease and manufacturers are trying to quench their thirst – nobody has been completely successful yet.
If Valve want to ensure they can be successful in securing a position in the living room and confirming a place in the future of gaming – they might just need the Steam Box. Valve aren’t dying. They aren’t even failing. But in a market that is ever growing, they might get lost in all this next generation ‘wow’. Valve is still locked to the desktop and many won’t want to move these towering machines into the living room to get their latest fix of Dota 2.
Valve has a historical reputation for producing high quality games and offering an easy method for gamers t enjoy content. Valve, formed of Ex Microsoft employees, was founded in 1996 and has since jumped to the top of the PC gaming charts. The release of titles such as ‘Left 4 Dead’ and ‘Portal’ are all down to Valve. They’ve modelled a form of game purchasing that wouldn’t have otherwise be possible. The introduction of free to play titles with the ability to purchase addons is now a popular category within Steam.
Gaming has changed, its less than a linear, one way service – more of a dual partnership with users able to make and produce their own titles. Its services are so popular that when an update for a game is released, the users downloading the content, equate to 2/3 of world internet usage. I has had an increasing interest in Linux, an open source platform not currently known for world class gaming. Valve has worked with Nvidia and AMD to improve game performance on Linux, ensuring equal performance to Windows.
Steam now has 200 games available on Linux, a service which was only launched in February.
Gabe Newell commented on the use of Linux as a game platform only a couple of weeks ago at the Linux Conference in New Orleans:
“Linux really is the future of gaming,”
Newell has been an influential figure in the gaming market and since his start up of Valve, has taken the gaming market as a serious investment. Valve have continuously stated that they have a ‘Big Picture’ for the living room and Newell knows this is key for their progress. Their move into the hardware spectrum has been well documented and the Steam Box won’t be unexpected. So far the likelihood points towards a release either today, or later in the week. Linux looks to also be a big contender for the Steam Box OS – it would allow Valve to lead the way in the industry, set themselves apart and strengthen ties with communities. In any sense a Steam Box would allow the company to grow exponentially, opening them to more than just PC gamers. With such a diverse catalogue of games, any Steam Hardware will be a win for gamers world wide.
Open source, an emotive and complex argument for either side to battle against. Open source is a key factor in computing today and can be the joyous wonders of some tech fans but also a headache for more casual users. Open source can save money, but drive work hours through the roof – open source is now becoming extremely popular. The number of distributions of open source based operating systems rises by the week and users downloads are increasing exponentially. Yet is the surge in open source going to mean the end of the road for proprietary, closed software?
Open source is more than just software but a philosophy, it is a way of living and a nature of being. Yet open source software is either the scourge of the Earth or a angelic delight, dependant on your outlook. Open source software is no more complex in basic principal than the any other piece of software. The basic ability for free licensed use of a piece of software, free redistribution and access to designs and blueprints for any modification is what stands open source apart from the closed systems of Microsoft and Apple. We can track the basic principles of open source back through time, the need and ability to share is a consecrated human condition – yet since the introduction of patents and lawsuits we have seen a decline in sharing – until today. In the early development of the motor vehicle the industry was monopolised by single handed capitalists who had secured patents on blueprints such as the 2-cycle gasoline engine part, originally filed by George B. Selden. Through control of this patent the market became stagnant and start up manufacturers were heckled and sued for breaches of patents but many adhered to their demands and coughed up the cash. Yet in 1911 Henry Ford challenged the patent successfully and overnight it became worthless; a new association was established by all manufacturers (Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Association) in efforts to share a collaborate to advance technology. A cross licensing agreement between companies that could share and lend ideas between each other without payment or lawsuits. By the time World War 2 came their were over 515 patents being shared between companies.
This is one example of open source principles, these small advances in social and corporate models are what make open source viable. With the advent of the internet and computer age companies such as IBM allowed free access to the source code of their operating system and established the SHARE community. Prior to the mass adoption of the internet code was shared via BBS systems that required users to connect and log in to networks via a terminal. The name “open source” was cobbled together at a strategy session for free software in Pal Alto California, after Netscape announced it would make the code for Navigator (their proprietary web browser) open source. Many budding engineers and software developers attended including Linus Torvalds who would later invent the Linux Kernel.
Open source now has had a smaller uptake than many predicted 20 years ago, many forms of open source software exist yet many are not created ‘home grown’ as intended by the early adopters. There lacks an incentive to create open source software or sell it for free when the creator can not recoup any costs in the first place. Open source can prove a headache for copyright crazy business who see the community as a threat to their gross profits. Open source software can be seen as a bit of a taboo in firms and this results in many not adopting such technology. Open source operating systems exist in a variety of flavours and forms. Within the Linux community their are many different projects, GNU, Unix, BSD and others. Ubuntu remains the most popular OS, a form of the Debian OS, but Linux had also brought to the world the likes of Arch Linux, Fedora and openSUSE. Linux distributions remain a popular choice for those looking for a cheaper alternative to IT systems. As mentioned the GNU/Linux OS has performed on tops compared with other distros, but the general view of open source remains negative. Google’s highly popular Android OS is also another form of open source software although it has now been commercialised by the tampering of Google. As well as this, the companies that open source mainly rivals – the likes of Apple – also use open source code as a UNIX base for their Mac OS X operating system.
Open source runs a direct challenge to the likes of Windows and Mac OS X – although the latter is built on open standard it is a ‘closed garden’ for developing and a by-product of Apple’s early home grown, hippy grass roots. Nevertheless Microsofts Windows has had the major domination over the market for nearly two decades. Windows has dominated since the launch of Windows 2.0 – IBM and early makers shipped Windows by default and Microsoft has built a steady following by forced choice over the years. It has retained popularity by means of incremental, but necessary updates. Apple began the game with a closed OS – it has a smaller share of the pie than Microsoft, but does not license its software to third party manufacturers. Apple has a loyal fan base and this is is majority of users. It is predominantly use in professional markets and seen as a ‘cooler’ alternative to Windows.
But open source threatens these ideas that Microsoft and Apple employ. A closed system were the users are tied to a corporate body for updates and new advances. Users are very much treated as a dumb and simple operator and have limited control. Yet in the open source camp the user is prized as a trophy of success, unlike Microsoft who have to lock users into their OS, open source enforces no barriers and therefore users stay on trust. Open source users are commonly seen as co – developers of software – the ability to ‘mod’ and customise software means it may be downloaded in one form yet leave in another.
Open source is growing in size and I feel that the days of the monopoly for closed systems are likely numbered. The interaction of the web provides open source a stage for the world to see. Windows had its run in the 90’s and is stuck in the previous millennium. It is now only catching up with touch screen computing where the likes of Android and user modded Linux Disros have been able to offer touch UI for years. Open source can offer a better functionality in control and also a more open and wider community assistance. That said Microsoft and Apple retain their position through fear. Consumers will not willingly download a Linux distro onto their machine, worried of the consequences. Many are scared of the unfamiliar UI of Linux distros and the lack of consistency, where they have been brainwashed by Microsoft. Not all users are geeks either, little support is available for many Linux distros and it is unlikely to change. As well as this there are fears of compatibility issues and also the quality of the experience. I must admit from a user who owns a Mac and PC, I would rather stick to what I know. Yet when I venture into the outer world I am bombarded with establishments forcing me to use open source – which ironically is a bit against the basic principles of open source. Suites such as Libre Office – a free Microsoft Office alternative – can have their uses, especially in cost cutting. Yet they are limited and the amount of times I have lost a piece of work to Libre Office is now uncountable. But it is a step – a work in progress.
I wouldn’t be worrying too much in the next coming years about a mass take over of giant Linux penguins. But it is a threat the likes of Microsoft and Apple mustn’t ignore. At a time were wallets are tight and the cash flow isn’t so regular – I’ll be the first to jump upon the band wagon and get myself a freebie. Microsoft and Apple rely on what I like to call “comfort users” – those who only feel comfortable in their ecosystem and who don’t feel capable in using any other form of computing software. But soon it will change, we all have mobile phones that run, some of these run open source – open source will be everywhere and it will become harder to ignore. It might take time to evolve and trust me it is no where near perfect. For the time being I will be sticking to my Mac, just because the effort and flaws of open source, as a non developer user, are just too much of a distraction for me to get productive work done on the OS. But like any platform their are flaws and cut backs. Users will just have to make the decision and choice, the power will be in their clicks and decide if open is the future?
Microsoft is again in deep water with the European Commission and open source Linux users world wide. The company has come under attack for its implementation of mechanisms that prevent other operating systems running on hardware pre shipped with Windows 8. Microsoft has had the monopoly in PC software for over 2 decades, is it not time that they have up their crown?
Microsoft has been the dominant force in the PC market for nearly 20 years, the chances are if you’ve bought any computer that isn’t a Mac – it has windows on it. Since the launch of the first computers a race had existed between the likes of Apple and Microsoft to produce the most intuitive and easy to use user interface for their platforms. At the time computers were seen as hard to use machines that required hours of programming. The race was on to identify and market the best operating system to provide easy and efficient interfaces the mass market could utilise. Apple restricted their sales and eventual market share by licensing their operating system for use only on Macintosh computers. Microsoft saw otherwise and Bill Gates and Co. adopted the method of selling their OS to various manufacturers. This would ensure that Microsoft, in years to come, continued to hold market dominance.
As the years passed both ecosystems developed and Microsoft release several new iterations of their OS ‘Windows’ each time building upon new technologies and making use of the introduction of networks and the Internet. By the late 90’s Microsoft had a market share that had the industry in a strangle hold. Versions of Windows such as, Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows ME took the PC market by storm and allowed for Microsoft to assume the position it currently enjoys. The most notable launch of a Microsoft operating system was Windows XP in 2001 – which has now gone on to be the most popular operating system ever. A new interface, security features, network capabilities and ease of use pushed Microsoft even further ahead of the pack.
Windows XP was the first ‘truly’ consumer-orientated PC operating system. Previous versions of Windows had been commonly used in business scenarios – but Windows XP would allow Microsoft to control an industry for a decade. Which brings us roughly to today. Yes since the 2001 launch Microsoft has turned out Vista – which later led to a rise in Windows XP sales – as well as Windows 7, a much sought after upgrade from the headaches of Vista. But now we see Microsoft in a new light – Windows 8 is their first attempts at entering the tablet market with dedicated software. And so far it has been a bumpy ride.
Microsoft launched Windows 8 in 2012 to a rather stagnated PC market – Windows 8 is there attempt at regaining market share that has actually been lost to the likes of Apple’s iPad and Open Source software such as Linux. Microsoft has therefore implemented a UEFI, or Unified Extensible Firmware Interface into all Windows 8 tablets and PC’s that ship with a certified Windows 8 logo. A UEFI is a replacement for the older BIOS that had shipped with all Windows PC’s until recently. Mainly designed to protect data – the UEFI prevents rootkits (programs),malware and other drivers that have not received an authenticated signature from running during the boot up process. Microsoft has named this system ‘ Secure Boot’ and has touted it has another reason that Windows 8 is one of the best OS’ out there.
However in doing so, Microsoft has alienated and singled out users who would have otherwise installed open source operating systems such as Linux on their machines. In short Linux is a distribution label of several operating systems that are classed as ‘open source’ by means that they are free to download, free from corporate prohibitions and free from tied down costs. Derived from the UNIX operating kernel that the Mac runs on, Linux was born out of academic research and defiance against buying corporate ‘knock-offs’ such as Windows. Linux has several popular distributions of operating systems that include: Fedora, Ubuntu, Debian and even Android. But now users who had thought of installing such software on their shiny new windows tablet will have to think twice.
Microsoft has offered a $50 payout for developers to have their OS certified with a signed key to run on Windows machines but this has unsurprisingly not seen a great take up. A group of 8,000 Spanish Linux developers have subsequently filed a complaint to the European Commission about the mechanism that locks out popular Linux operating systems. Previously Microsoft has been in the firing line with the EU over unfair competition claims – the failure to provide users with a choice of web browser by default had caused claims that Microsoft were abusing their market position.
Microsoft have for years been at the top of the market in shares. They account for the largest proportion of users on the planet. Their market grip has so far – I believe – been beneficial to the consumer. In a way that has encouraged innovation and development of such operating systems like Linux to offer an alternative to the mainstream OS’. Nevertheless these smaller start ups do not posses the financial brute to protect their individuality. It is one thing for a company to be domineering in an industry but another to abuse their position, wealth and power to eliminate smaller challengers in efforts to regain a fading stance. Microsoft has been accused of this before – and can be seen to be do it again. This is not how they will win back consumers from the likes of the tablets and mobile devices. Bill Gates, co founder of multibillion dollar company – now Chairman, has himself questioned the innovation and thought processes at Microsoft after his departure to concentrate on more philanthropic ventures:
“He [Ballmer] and I are not satisfied that in terms of breakthrough things that we’re doing everything possible,”
Microsoft need a serious rethink – their current plan of mitigating their competition through technological barriers will get them in some sticky trouble. Microsoft can be praised for the wide adoption of PC’s and their now everyday place in most homes. Microsoft needs to get back on the right path – and in some ways Windows 8 is still rather a test. I feel that they do not know where they are heading at the moment – undecided in fully embracing mobile computing or to stick with the mouse and keyboard for the foreseeable future. Either way they had better make their minds ups soon – because the competition is catching up.