NEVERBALL 1.5.4

NEVERBALL 1.5.4

Tilt the floor to roll a ball through an obstacle course before time runs out. Neverball is part puzzle game, part action game, and entirely a test of skill.

Licence type – GNU

Download Size – 56.4mb

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FLUBO PUYO 0.20

an addictive little tetris clone featuring coloured balls that you have to bunch together into groups of 4 or more to score points

FLUBO PUYO 0.20

An addictive little tetris clone featuring smooth graphics and a cool soundtrack.
Connect 4 of a kind to score points.

Licence type – GNU

Download Size – 5.94mb

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Windows for the next billion devices: Meet Windows for the Internet of Things

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Windows tablet shipments to grow, but won’t challenge Android, iOS

Windows tablets will gain market share in the coming years, but not fast enough to challenge the dominance of Google’s Android and Apple’s iOS, IDC said on Tuesday.

IDC is projecting Windows tablets to occupy 10.2 percent of the market by 2017, growing from a projected market share of 3 percent this year. By comparison, tablets based on Android and iOS will register slight dips in market share.

In 2017 Android will have a tablet market share of 58.8 percent, compared to the projected market share of 60.8 this year. Apple’s iOS will have a tablet market share of 30.6 percent in 2017, compared to 35 percent this year.

Over time, Microsoft’s market share in the tablet market will increase, thanks to more devices and aggressive pricing. But underlying Windows OS, device design and application problems will continue to prevent faster growth, said Tom Mainelli, research director of tablet research at IDC.

Acceptance of Windows 8 wasn’t as strong as Microsoft hoped, and the company confused customers by creating one OS designed for both desktops and tablets, Mainelli said.

“Microsoft still believes people want a tablet with the power of a PC,” Mainelli said, adding that people don’t want the complexity of a PC in tablets.

Consumers are also still not sure what to make of the two OS flavors—Windows 8 for x86 processors and Windows RT for ARM processors—Mainelli said. Microsoft in October shipped Windows 8.1 to succeed Windows 8.

“They are forced to sell hardware with one of three Windows OSes, that’s at least one too many,” he said. “Microsoft internally has a better handle on it, now they have to market it better.”

In addition, the application ecosystem for Windows 8 is still weak, Mainelli said. Microsoft is pushing unified application development for tablets and laptops, but that approach is complicated by the different screen sizes on various devices, he said.

“I don’t think that’s the best way to write apps for any of those platforms” since users interact with different devices in different ways, Mainelli said.

Only one hit tablet is needed for Windows OS to succeed, but there’s been little innovation in device designs, Mainelli said. There are many device vendors launching similar Windows tablets. Microsoft, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Toshiba, Acer and others are offering Windows tablets.

“How those vendors differentiate continues to be a challenge,” Mainelli said.

Microsoft is trying to parlay its past success in PCs into hybrid devices that have tablet and laptop functionality. The hybrid devices come with a range of features that include detachable screens, and hybrids are also are being referred to as “2-in-1” devices.

“The idea of 2-in-1 sounds good, but we haven’t seen success in products,” Mainelli said.

However, Mainelli expects a big marketing push for Windows tablets that could boost shipments. Microsoft will not give up on the tablet market, Mainelli said.

“Microsoft and its partners would like to see that growth happening more quickly.”

Agam Shah is a reporter for the IDG News Service in New York. He covers hardware including PCs, servers, tablets, chips, semiconductors, consumer electronics and peripherals.
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Xiaomi becomes China’s third-largest smartphone vendor

China’s Xiaomi became the country’s third-largest smartphone vendor in the first quarter, beating Apple in the rankings despite that company’s recent partnership with China Mobile.

Once a niche player in the market, the four-year-old Chinese company saw record growth in the period as a result of surging demand for its low-price phones, research firm Canalys said Monday.

In the first quarter, Xiaomi had a 10 percent share of China’s smartphone market. Apple, meanwhile, went up a spot from last quarter to fourth place, with a 9 percent share. Samsung Electronics took first place with an 18 percent share, and Lenovo is in second place.

Both companies are expanding fast in China. But unlike Apple, which prices its flagship phones at US$800 or more, Xiaomi is focusing less on profit margins, and selling its products at just above cost.

Among those products is the company’s Hongmi phones which can start at 699 yuan ($113). The device has been fueling Xiaomi’s smartphone growth, helping the vendor to ship 11 million units in the first quarter, up from 7 million in the previous quarter, said Nicole Peng, an analyst with Canalys.

“The way Xiaomi has progressed so fast, most people in the industry didn’t expect it,” she said. The Hongmi phones are so popular that they’re projected to make up between 50 to 70 percent of the company’s total smartphone shipments this year, Peng added.

Xiaomi is still largely focused on China, but this year it plans to enter in ten foreign markets, including several countries in Southeast Asia, along with Brazil, Mexico and Russia. The company hopes to eventually sell software and other virtual goods over its phones, as a way to generate additional revenue.

As for Apple, the company also grew its market share in the quarter. After year of negotiations, Apple in January began finally selling iPhones for the first time through China Mobile, the country’s largest carrier with over 781 million customers.

The deal boosted shipments for the iPhone 5s to China, but demand also remains high for the company’s older and less pricier iPhone 4S model, Peng said.

Both Xiaomi and Apple made gains in the market, as other rival vendors are transitioning to offer phones made for China’s new 4G networks. Samsung still leads the market, but demand for its handsets slowed in the quarter, partly due to low-price products from Xiaomi and Lenovo, Peng said.

To keep up with its rivals, Samsung will have to move faster in the Chinese market, and release more lower-end products, she added.

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Wireless charging alliances teaming up to work toward a cable-free world

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Wireless and broadband fuel sales growth for AT&T

Gains from its broadband and wireless businesses have fueled AT&T’s best revenue growth in more than two years.

Total wireless revenue, which includes equipment sales, was up 7.0 percent from the first quarter a year earlier, to $17.9 billion, AT&T said Tuesday. Total wireless subscribers increased by just over a million.

Wireline revenue for the quarter, which ended March 31, was $14.6 billion, down 0.4 percent. The good news for AT&T, though, was that revenue from its U-verse broadband business increased 29.0 percent year over year.

The gains helped drive AT&T’s overall revenue to $32.5 billion, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier. That was the company’s biggest year-over-year sales increase in two years, AT&T noted.

Net income was $3.7 billion, roughly equal to its profit a year ago. Excluding one-time items, earnings per share were $0.71, compared to $0.64 in the year-ago quarter.

Tepid economic growth and competition in both its mobile and traditional wireline markets are bound to put pressure on AT&T’s growth, analysts said.

“We continue to believe the wireline business remains challenged while wireless competition—and the company’s response to it—will limit wireless service revenue growth,” said Canaccord Genuity analyst Greg Miller in a research note before AT&T issued its earnings.

But AT&T is striving to branch out in other areas, which is why its U-verse unit is being closely watched.

On Monday, AT&T said it might roll out 1Gbps fiber-optic service in up to 21 new metropolitan areas including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, California.

The plans could cause AT&T to butt heads with Google, which is targeting some of the same cities with its fiber broadband service.

The possible deployments by AT&T depend on discussions with local leaders and groups on ways to roll out the ultra-fast broadband service, the company said.

The rollout of its U-verse broadband with GigaPower service, meanwhile, will also include television service. Before Monday’s announcement, AT&T had unveiled plans to build ultra-fast broadband in Austin and Dallas in Texas, and in Raleigh-Durham and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

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Windows XP isn’t the only software getting the knife in 8 weeks

Microsoft will call it quits not only on Windows XP in less than two months, but will also pull the plug on Office 2003 the same day.

After April 8, Office 2003, which debuted on Oct. 21, 2003, will no longer receive security updates, no matter which flavor of Windows it’s running on.

Although Microsoft has made noise about ditching Windows XP, it has spoken infrequently about Office 2003’s deadline. One of the few places on its website where it has talked about the latter’s end-of-life, or EOL, is here.

“We’re seeing the same kind of pockets as with XP,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, of Office 2003 users in business. “A lot of people were on holding patterns with XP and didn’t upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2007.”

Michael Silver of Gartner agreed. “There’s a correlation between the success of Windows and the success of the Office that came out around it,” he said. “Because of Vista, because of the timing, because of the costs, a lot of organizations skipped Office 2007.”

When companies began migrating from XP to Windows 7—a process that continues even as the former’s retirement deadline looms—they also migrated from Office 2003 to Office 2010, even though a newer version of the latter has been available for more than a year.

“You might say the same [about a correlation] about Windows 8 and Office 2013,” Silver said, adding that uptake for Office 2013 has been slow in enterprises. “It’s because so many organizations are still in the midst of their Windows 7 migration [that they’ve ignored Office 2103]. They didn’t want to change that Windows 7-Office 2010 plan, and decided to continue that.”

But Silver pegged the prevalence of Office 2003 as more than the pockets Miller portrayed. “It’s probably in the 30% to 40% range,” Silver said.

Office 2003’s successor, Office 2007, was bypassed for another reason: Some customers detested its new “Ribbon”-style interface, which was championed by Julie Larson-Green, then with the Office engineering group but subsequently an important executive in the Windows 7 and Windows 8 teams. She is now head of the company’s Devices and Studios, responsible for the Surface line of hardware.

The Ribbon-ized Office 2007, and its follow-ups, Office 2010 and Office 2013, have continued to earn scorn from some long-time users. But the initial criticism about the user interface (UI) change died down much more quickly than that aimed at Windows Vista, which launched around the same time as Office 2007, or the UI complaints aimed now at Windows 8.

With the end of public support, Microsoft will no longer provide security patches for Office 2003. And Microsoft has been aggressively patching Office 2003: In 2013, it released 10 security bulletins for the edition. It has shipped one so far this year.

“But folks don’t worry as much about support for Office as they do for an operating system,” said Silver. “There’s definitely a risk in running Office 2003 [after patches stop] but you can do a lot of things to reduce the risk significantly, such as turning macros off by default.”

The lack of security updates will present special problems to consumers and small business customers running Windows XP and Vista, as the newest editions of the suite, Office 2013 and Office 365, run only on Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1.

(Large organizations with enterprise and Software Assurance agreements can upgrade from Office 2003—if they are still running the 11-year-old suite—to any newer Office edition.)

Microsoft no longer sells Office 2007 or 2010, the latest versions that run on XP and Vista, either direct or to distributors, but online retailers still have the latter in stock. Newegg, for example, sells Office 2010 for between $100 and $480, depending on the SKU (stock keeping unit) and whether installation media is included.

Other alternatives include the free Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice, both of which run on XP and Vista.

Miller pointed out that Office 2003 and Windows XP were not the only pieces of Microsoft’s portfolio to roll into retirement on April 8.

“It’s not just Office 2003, it’s not just the front end but it’s also the back end. Exchange [Server] 2003 also leaves support that day,” Miller said.

As happened to Windows XP and Office 2003, users hung on to Exchange Server 2003, skipping the next edition, Exchange Server 2007. Most enterprises migrated to Windows 7, Office 2010 and Exchange Server 2010 around the same time.

“We’re seeing more Exchange holdouts because [the software] was often installed on Windows Server 2003,” said Miller, referring to the server-side software that leaves support mid-July 2015. “This could end up being a big thing this year and next, because it’s a bigger transition. Some customers are still running Windows Server 2003 on 32-bit hardware, but since that version, it’s been all 64-bit. So they may not have the hardware.”

For Miller, the migration-from-Server 2003 story will be one to watch carefully.

Coincidentally, Microsoft will also stop serving patches to Office for Mac 2011 Service Pack 2 (SP2) on April 8, and require all users of the OS X edition to run Service Pack 3 to receive and install security updates.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg’s RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

Read more about desktop apps in Computerworld’s Desktop Apps Topic Center.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news.
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You won’t want Microsoft’s wearable just for 11 sensors or cross-platform support

Microsoft is working on a fitness-focused smartband that’s packed with bio-sensors, as well as support for all three major mobile ecosystems. That’s the recent news from three independent sources, and it sounds intriguing—until you unpack the details, and map what’s been reported against the wearables status quo.

Here’s the general consensus from Forbes in late May, Tom’s Hardware last week, and SuperSite For Windows on Wednesday: Microsoft is planning not a smartwatch, but an activity-tracking wristband. The display will be positioned on the inside of the wearer’s wrist. It will have a heart-rate monitor among other fitness-oriented sensors (Tom’s Hardware says 11 sensors total). And the device will support Android, iOS and Windows Phone. This device support is being celebrated as a rare trifecta because so many smartwatches only favor Android.

Does this news excite you? It probably shouldn’t, unless you’re a Windows Phone user who’s been shut out of the wearables party. Follow along as I explain why so much of what’s been reported about Microsoft’s rumored wearable isn’t a big deal.

It’s easy to conflate activity-tracking wristbands with full-on smartwatches. Both types of wearables attach to your wrist, and the devices usually share common features like step-tracking and simple smartphone notifications. But while smartwatches have generally only supported Android devices—and that’s a serious problem indeed—activity trackers like Fitbit wristbands, Jawbone’s UP24, and a host of others have been more egalitarian in their support, offering equal access to both Android and iOS users. 

Image: Mike Homnick

The Jawbone UP24 already supports Android and iOS, accounting for 97 percent of all smartphones.

It’s great news for Windows Phone users that Microsoft might release a high-profile activity tracker they can finally use, but it’s not like an activity-tracking wristband with respect for Microsoft’s smartphone OS will realign the planets. The most recent data shows that Windows Phone worldwide market share is a lowly 3 percent. Now add in the fact that activity trackers are a dubious product category to begin with: Data shows that most people stop using their trackers within six months of purchase.

Put it all together, and you see Microsoft would be granting a very small subset of consumers access to a product category that’s already searching to find user engagement. I don’t want to diminish the payoffs for Windows Phone users, but let’s be realistic: The first big-name activity tracker to offer native support for Windows Phone won’t propel Microsoft to wearables greatness.

All that said, now would be a good time to reiterate that full-on smartwatches have a terrible track record for cross-platform support. Samsung watches only work with Samsung devices. The watches from Sony and Qualcomm only support Android hardware. Watches loaded with Android Wear—the OS that’s poised to fix smartwatches—will only work with phones running Android 4.3 or later, and that equates to less than 25 percent of the Android universe. And should Apple release an iWatch, it’s almost guaranteed to only work with iOS.

Were Microsoft to release a full-fledged smartwatch with three-way OS support, that would be more interesting. But a simple activity-tracker? No, not so much.

Referencing unnamed sources, the rumor reports sing a common tune: This upcoming wristband will be squarely focused on activity tracking. All three stories say Microsoft will include a heart-rate monitor, and Tom’s Hardware specifies there will be 11 sensors total.

Oooh. Eleven sensors. That sure sounds like a lot—like some kind of fancy, hospital-grade medical machine strapped to your wrist. But once you begin counting up likely sensors, you quickly see that 11 different ones isn’t a big deal.

toddham iwatch run 100313906 large Image: Todd Hamilton

All iWatch rumors suggest Apple’s wristband would focus on fitness-tracking. And the latest scuttlebut says it will have 10 or more sensors.

Recent reports say the oft-rumored iWatch will have 10 or more sensors, so when the last iWatch rumor story broke, I engaged the CEO of a sensor manufacturing company to tell me what type of components Apple would likely include. His feedback was rather snoozy. You can read my full report here, but here’s the short version: Once you get past table-stakes-caliber sensors like accelerometers, gyroscopes and compasses, the march to 10 gets pretty boring. You’re left with a spectroscopic heart-rate monitor, an oxymetry sensor that provides more information for accurate heart-rate reports, and skin conductance and temperature sensors to measure exertion.

Of course, there’s absolutely zero guarantee that either Apple or Microsoft would deploy the sensors I mention here. I just want to emphasize the idea that 10 or 11 sensors wouldn’t necessarily break new ground in bio-data collection. Basis has been selling wristbands with heart-rate, skin conductance and skin temperature sensors for a number of years now.

Do you own a Basis band? Do your friends and family? Probably not. My point exactly.

According to reports, the rumored Microsoft wristband will be released anytime between October and sometime in Q4, and despite all my cautionary words above, I’m still very interested to see what Redmond is cooking up. Imagine an industrial design that borrows design cues from the always-interesting Surface family. That alone would be sure to capture headlines for at least a few days.

Jon is the Editor-in-Chief of PCWorld and Greenbot, as well as the lead wearables reporter for TechHive. He’s been covering all manner of consumer hardware since 1995.
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Windows XP still going strong despite looming end of support deadline

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