Enter… The Firefox OS

Do you know what’s interesting about the current free-for-all for mobile operating system dominance? You guessed right! New entries! We are sure you have heard of The Firefox OS by Mozilla? Sure you have!

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Launching a new mobile OS is a difficult project since the market leaders, Android and iOS, have such a big lead. Even Microsoft, with its near-infinite financial resources and vast ecosystem of complementary products, has struggled over time to gain traction. With the rising standards technology giants have set for themselves as they duke it out for market dominion, new entrants will have to face what I call a chicken-and-egg problem: developers don’t want to write apps for a platform without many users, while users don’t want to buy a phone without many apps.

First off, to sustain any early momentum, Mozilla will need to convince developers to build Firefox OS apps. Firefox OS apps will be built entirely using HTML5. According to Mozilla, the thousands of developers who already know how to build Web apps will be able to build Firefox OS apps with minimal additional training. And because they’re built on open standards, Mozilla hopes that Firefox OS apps will work reasonably well on other platforms that support HTML5—which is to say, all of them.

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Thanks to ArsTechnica, we know the Firefox OS architecture has three layers, dubbed “Gonk”, “Gecko”, and “Gaia”. Gecko is the rendering engine at the core of the Firefox browser. Below Gecko sits Gonk, a bare-bones Linux distribution derived from Android. Above Gecko sits Gaia, a touchscreen user interface not too different from those found on other mobile operating systems. It makes sense that Mozilla would choose to make Gonk a derivative of Android because many device makers already know how to make devices that run Android. According to Mozilla “If you’re an OEM, you already have basically all the capabilities to run our system.” It is also worthy to note that since Firefox OS apps are essentially just Web apps, app developers are not required to use Mozilla’s app store at all. A developer can distribute a Firefox OS app as a “hosted app,” delivered from any Web server.

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Firefox OS looks familiar to anyone who’s used Android and iOS: when you turn it on, you’re faced with the familiar grid of apps. Swiping left and right slides in other pages of apps. And across the bottom of each page is a fixed set of four apps: the phone dialer, a text-messaging app, the Firefox browser, and the camera app. As with iOS, swiping to the leftmost screen launches a search app. But unlike iOS, this search app is wired not just to your own apps but also to the Firefox Marketplace and to the Web at large — remember, this is a browser-based OS. If you find an app you like in the search results, you can pin it to one of your screens for easy future access. Firefox OS comes with a range of built-in apps such as Facebook and Wikipedia, and even mapping services. A long-press on the home button invokes a task switcher so you can juggle among open apps.

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A contacts app lets you open up a screen full of information about people you know. It serves as a hub to phone them, send e-mail or text messages, or check their Facebook walls. Facebook integration also lets people import their contacts; Mozilla plans to add import mechanisms for services like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail — something it knows how to do by virtue of its Thunderbird e-mail software for PCs.

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A camera app, which also is accessible from the lock screen, has tabs for taking photos or videos, and it’s got a link to the built-in gallery app. That app lets you crop photos, apply some basic color filters, adjust contrast, and take actions like sharing photos on Facebook or by Bluetooth wireless networking.

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It feels so much like an earlier version of Android. It’s definitely good, though, that Firefox OS can get a running start in the app ecosystem by mobilizing the vast army of Web programmers — programmers who might well be happy they can reach Firefox OS customers without having to jump through nearly as many hoops as the Apple App Store or Google Play present. It is already available of several phones such as the ZTE Firefox Phone, Keon and Peek by Geeksphone. Firefox OS should be fully open to all by 2014 and if successful, it should change the way we use the Web. We are used to visit websites but Firefox OS will bring an era where we will be using Web apps more than Websites. Ubuntu for Phones will also support Firefox OS to help bring in this change.

Chromebooks, Chromebox, Chrome OS, “Chromium” and the cloud simplified!

We are sure you must have heard of the word “Chromebook” before.

A Chromebook is not a brand of laptops. So saying you have a laptop called “Chromebook” is not actually correct. It is a special type of personal computer concept (of a somewhat notebook form factor) which runs a Linux ported Operating System called Chrome OS by Google. So, does it run Windows… or maybe Macintosh? Nope! Its a whole new Operating System of its own; and it’s “linux-like.”

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Now here comes the most important thing you need to know about Chromebooks running the Chrome OS: The Chrome OS, is specifically designed to support applications that reside on the web and this means that it is designed to be used WHILE CONNECTED TO THE INTERNET! So, if you are the kind of computer user who loves to do things offline, you might want to really consider this. Almost everything operates within the web browser which looks and feels like using Google Chrome on your Windows or Mac. You might as well say it is a cheaper, savvier option for those PC users that are most interested in web activity such as email, social media, online video streaming and cloud based document editing via Google Drive.

As at now, only a handful of IT companies have taken on making Chromebooks: Google was of course the first in 2010 and then others: Samsung, Acer, HP and Lennovo joined in. Hence the specifications of each Chromebook varies in hardware, build and features. Chromebooks, are netbooks (smaller laptops designed for web use) with 11.6″ to 14″ screen size and they are thin, lightweight and easy to carry around. “Chromebox” is the desktop computer equivalent of “Chromebook.”

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The Good…

The first good thing to consider about Chromebooks is that they are rather inexpensive to buy. They are also extremely mobile – beautiful looking ultra-thin computers and a much less cumbersome tool to carry around. Chrome OS is running a Linux kernel; so you would not have to worry about viruses and certain levels of security threats. They come with Solid State Drives (SSD) which make boot times super fast and application management flawless and intuitive. All Chromebooks boast of about 4 hours of battery life; which is a plus (but could be better). Don’t worry about connectivity: most Chromebooks also come with SD memory card slots for your devices, and a DisplayPort ++ which is compatible with HDMI, DVI and VGA cables. For internet, they also have WiFi a/b/g/n connectivity, Ethernet and most come with 3G. All these features make the Chromebooks your cheapest option for relative day-to-day activities such as email and web, as well as for office and business use.

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The “Not so” Good…

However, it is worthy to note a couple of things you might also want to consider about Chromebooks. First off is that though they come with fast Solid State hard drive technology, they usually come in with about 16GB worth of space! The Chromebooks are expected to be used over the cloud so it is expected you would be doing much more of your saving online than anywhere else. Only the Acer C7 as at now, has a 320GB hard drive; but guess what? it is NOT Solid state. Next to also note is that they host pretty much only Google apps on it and the Chrome browser, is pretty much everything there is to it. Gmail doesn’t open a dedicated Gmail app, but rather in a new tab in the browser. It’s the same with any Chrome app, including games, with the exception of the downloads and Google Drive file browsers, which have their own windows.

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ChromeOS is optimized for users who already use Google’s numerous applications. The three quick launch apps on the launchbar are the Chrome Web browser, Gmail and Google+. Within the apps drawer, the Google love continues, with YouTube, Google Calendar, Maps, Drive and more all present. Every installed application ends up in this app drawer, but the default apps are all from Google. Unlike Windows or OS X, these app icons function more like bookmarks rather than independent applications. Instead of opening new windows, each icon opens a new tab in the Chrome browser to the desired Web app. ChromeOS has an app marketplace, where users can download and install a maybe large selection of apps; but nothing really new is there that we have not seen. So, the conclusion on this is rather clear: they are rather useless offline. Did you also know that Chrome OS has NO printer drivers. Yes! None!

There is not much to say about the hardware configurations of Chromebooks. Most of them are Intel Celeron CPUs and at most, the Samsung Exynos 5 Dual. With the exception of a few, most of them run on 2GB DDR3 RAM so, we are hoping you were not even dreaming of running the likes of Call Of Duty or major PC game releases on it.

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By now, you probably can picture yourself and a Chromebook by now. It’s pretty much all about the web. One could say that it is a very strong direction suggesting a possible future of computing but whether you are suited for that future depends on your needs. “Though Chrome OS has been dinged in the past for not being a “full-time OS,” Google’s “pace of improvement”…is ambitious,” says CNET reviews and you may not believe it, but currently, the demand for Chromebooks could match up with Windows 8.

Chrome and Chromium?

To set the record straight about a well known confusion, Chromium is an open source development version of Chrome and just like there is a Chrome browser and a Chrome OS, there’s the Chromium browser and Chromium OS! So here is an easy way out of this for you: “Chromium” is the cutting edge, giant testing environment designed for developers with code that is available for anyone to checkout, modify, and build. So Chromium would of course have a few more professional, developer or administrative options to it than Chrome. We would love to go into the specifics about the two but the bottom line is that apart from the consequences of developer options in Chromium, the user experience in both is practically the same! This is why Chrome OS is what you would find installed on your Chromebook – not Chromium (and that includes both the browser and the OS).

iOS 7: A brand new look

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We don’t know if there is anyone like us out there but whenever we update iOS to a new firmware, We have always secretly wished for and ultimately been pissed at the lack an important feature that usually makes things seem new and exciting with software such as operating systems: A COMPLETE VISUAL MAKEOVER!!

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Microsoft Windows at one time used Windows 95 and then at the release of Windows XP, the new looking interface was a winner. Windows Aero was released with Windows Vista and has been a continued standard even with the newest Metro interface for Windows 8. It is true that functionality and stability are essential, uncompromisable qualities of good operating systems but nobody would complain if a good looking graphical user interface came along with it. Sure! Thanks to jailbreaking, Cydia allows us to make some color (and even complete) theme changes but something new had to come out some time from Apple at least some day-y-y-y! That being said, it’s not like Apple’s iOS actually looks ugly; but maintaining the same general outlook over more than 10 updates and over 5 versions would have to become more or less a tiring rhetoric, a trite expression or well… in plain English… rather boring.

Apple, finally releasing its beta version of iOS7 earlier this month for developers has finally showed us that their new update is none of that. Apple has finally worked at changing just about everything, but like the Windows 8 OS to which iOS 7 is now drawing comparisons, thanks to the bold colors and straight lines, it feels a little too much, too soon. But nevertheless, iOS 7 just for that, is welcome and iOS 7 would be released this fall. From previous experiences, beta versions of Apple software are bound to change a great deal before they get approved for consumer devices. So far so good though; iOS7 has been said to deliver pretty much what we already know about iOS and even more.

There’s a lot of new stuff to love about iOS7. There is now a Control Center which gives you quick access to the controls and apps you have been using. With just a single upward swipe on the screen, the Control Center can also turn toggle Wi-Fi, adjust screen brightness and start a flashlight.

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The Multitasking app-switcher has also been completely revamped with new features. There is a new lock screen, a revisited notification Center, a super-charged Siri, a new, easily-accessed quick settings bar, and pretty much every app you can think of has been revamped and stripped down to its essence. There is the new AirDrop which allows near field communication between iOS devices around. Can somebody shout hallelujah to that? You can finally share photos, videos and contacts using Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – but with iOS devices.

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At every level, iOS 7 is a slick revitalization, rejuvenation and resurrection of the core iOS experience. Even Safari gets a brand new look with a refreshed tab view and a unified search field. Safari can also suggest passwords for you but we sincerely wonder how much use that would be. The music and photo apps have also been revisited to make things more exciting and savvy. iOS 7 will not be compatible with iPhone 3gs as expected but will for the newer models inclusive of iPhone 4.

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For those who may have seen a link to download the beta version and cannot wait to have a go at Apple’s latest makeup session would have to be careful. This version of iOS 7 is intended only for installation on development devices registered with Apple’s Developer Program and attempting to install this version of iOS in an unauthorized manner could put your device in an unusable state, which could necessitate an out of warranty repair. And even though there are posts out there that mention a possibility of downgrading to iOS 6, on our opinion, we would recommend you DO NOT do the upgrade till the final version is released; unless you are a part of the Apple Developer Program.