Courtesy Keith Ward, VisualStudioMagazine.com
Mary Jo Foley’s reporting that Microsoft may be either buying tool-maker Xamarin outright, or making a big investment in the company. It’s all speculative at this point, but this is an idea that just makes too much sense.
Xamarin makes it possible for .NET/C#-focused developers to create apps for the two most popular mobile platforms — iOS and Android — without leaving the comfort of their favorite language and IDE (that would be Visual Studio, of course). Xamarin has been making these products for a number of years now; they used to be called MonoTouch and Mono for Android, and have morphed into Xamarin.iOS and Xamarin.Android. Xamarin has been churning out frequent updates, and furtherintegrating the products with Visual Studio. I’ve felt for some time that Xamarin would be absorbed into Visual Studio, eventually becoming a transparent part of the IDE.
Note that these reports are only substantial rumors at this point. But the rumors have credibility, at least in part, based on the natural fit of these parts. It’s not the type of head-scratcher that some other deals were. Xamarin and its founders, Miguel de Icaza and Nat Friedman, are serious software developers, and make a serious product that many developers think is the best way to write cross-platform code for the mobile platform (you may have noticed that we think it’s serious enough to have a column dedicated to the topic).
It would also be a forward-looking move for Microsoft. It needs to get iOS and Android developers to use both Visual Studio and Windows Azure, and integrating Xamarin into its core IDE would do that. It would also encourage more development in C# among the non-C# crowd, who may like what the language offers, but are wary of any Microsoft-branded stuff.
It’s hard to think of any downsides for developers of such a deal. One fear could be that the pace of innovation that Xamarin now shows could be slowed, once it’s absorbed in the Redmond behemoth. But, at least in the dev area, Microsoft has truly adopted a speedy release cycle of upgrades and fixes. After all, Visual Studio 2013 came just a year after the previous major version, and is now approaching Update 2. It’s hard to imagine that Xamarin wouldn’t be similarly upgraded, especially since it’ll be baked in.
Worth noting, too, is that new CEO Satya Nadella is a techie, so the potential acquisition might appeal to his geeky nature. He understands development in a way ex-CEO Steve Ballmer couldn’t hope to, and may be quicker to understand the benefits involved.
This is all speculation, of course, but it’s something I think should happen. What do you think?
Courtesy Juli Clover, Macrumors.com
When tethering an iPhone or an iPad, iOS users have the option of using an automatically generated password for their personal hotspots, which Apple implemented to provide all users with a secure password option.
According to researchers at Germany’s University of Erlangen (via ZDNeT), the way that the keys are generated – with a combination of a short English word along with random numbers – is predictable to the point where the researchers are able to crack the hotspot password in less than a minute.
In their paper, the three researchers detail the process that they used to figure out the weak spots in the hotspot’s protection. Apple’s word list uses approximately 52,500 entries, so initially, cracking the hotspot took almost 50 minutes. After finding a WiFi connection, the researchers used an AMD Radeon HD 6990 GPU to run through word and number combinations.
"This list consists of around 52,500 entries, and was originated from an open-source Scrabble crossword game. Using this unofﬁcial Scrabble word list within ofﬂine dictionary attacks, we already had a 100 percent success rate of cracking any arbitrary iOS hotspot default password," the researchers wrote.
The team discovered that only a small set of Apple’s larger word list was being used, so with GPU cluster of four AMD Radeon HD 7970s, they narrowed their iOS-generated hotspot password cracking time down to just 50 seconds. In the paper, the team goes on to criticize Apple’s password generation standards, suggesting that system generated passwords be composed of random letters and numbers.
"In the context of mobile hotspots, there is no need to create easily memorizable passwords. After a device has been paired once by typing out the displayed hotspot password, the entered credentials are usually cached within the associating device, and are reused within subsequent connections," the paper states.
"System-generated passwords should be reasonably long, and should use a reasonably large character set. Consequently, hotspot passwords should be composed of completely random sequences of letters, numbers, and special characters."
As noted by ZDNet though Apple’s password generation system is flawed, it is a more robust solution than what is used by other companies like Microsoft. For example, the Windows 8 phone utilizes default passwords that consist of eight digit numbers.
To avoid a weak iPhone hotspot password, users can still choose to use passwords of their own creation, which should contain a sequence of random numbers and letters for enhanced security.
Courtesy Wallace McClure, Visual Studio Magazine
Developers working with Xamarin MonoTouch have been stuck with developing on a Macintosh and working with MonoDevelop. This hasn’t been a bad thing. The Apple iOS SDK only runs on the Mac, so this requirement hasn’t been a major limiting factor in iOS development.
Unfortunately, .NET and C# developers are used to using Visual Studio. Microsoft has spent a lot of time, effort and money to make Visual Studio the premier software development tool in existence. Xamarin Inc. has heard from those developers who want to integrate Visual Studio with iOS development. On Feb. 20, Xamarin introduced Xamarin.iOS for Visual Studio. This plug-in allows developers using Visual Studio to write iPhone and iPad applications for the iPhone using the Microsoft .NET Framework and C#.
Courtesy Joseph Czikk, TechVibes
It’s a mobile-first world and businesses must ensure that they’re along for the ride. That was the resounding message from Gary Yentin, CEO and founder of App Promo. Yentin spoke during last week’s Dx3 2013 conference in Toronto.
Currently there’s an over-saturation effect on smartphone users, with over two million iOS and Android apps combined. Unfortunately about 80 per cent of people who make apps do not make enough money to cover their cost of development.
“A lot of people have very good applications but discovery is really the challenge,” said Yentin. “They do it for their creativity and they want to get noticed, but at the end of the day they have to make money.”
Yentin offered five key points that brands and startups need to know about mobile.
1. Changing Brand Dynamics: Companies need to follow where their customers are, and customers are on their phone. Yentin told the crowd about a recent trip to Barcelona, Spain where the majority of people access the Internet solely through mobile. Agencies and brands need to understand that a mobile strategy is as important as a digital strategy and consumers largely depend on their information through their phone.
“Mobile becomes a 24/7 part of your environment and if brands today want to reach that audience they’re going to find them on the phone,” he said.
2. Shift in Demand for Emerging Apps: Apps have an interesting life cycle, peaking for a short period of time and later forgotten. While tablet users like apps they’re actually more browser-oriented, likely because they have more time. But if the brand or the individual wants a rich experience it’s going to be through an application (which are both expensive to maintain and require consistent support).
“The demand for that content is rising and I think we’re going to see even more people use their phones for different retail and commerce purposes,” said Yentin. “It’s really going to affect us in day-today life from the morning to the evening.”
3. Mobile is Our Everything: If companies are preparing to go in the app space they must develop a strategy, have a plan and do some marketing. Content that was traditionally accessed over print, radio and television is available on mobile and companies need to be aware of that. Apps intersect every part of our lives, so there’s not much one can’t access via mobile. “The one thing that I saw in Barcelona is the single way people communicate is through their phone,” said Yentin. “That changes the whole pattern of how they value and use the phone.”
4. Mobile is Influencing Shopping in Canada: Those in retail must have a mobile strategy, as consumers demand the ability to do the research before they make the purchases. A real shift is occurring in consumers making purchases via mobile rather than the web. Several top retailers are reporting that they’re receiving 65% more mobile sales than online.
5. Wide Adoption is Impacting Use: Carriers are going to realize that they’ll be marginalized in this space. Yentin cited the change in SMS demand after wifi accessibility combined with game-changers like iMessenger, BBM and What’s App bypassed its business. Furthermore, the demand for consumption of content on mobile devices is increasing enormously and this will put pressure on bandwidth in the future.
BMW hasn’t been quite as aggressive in pushing smartphone app integration as American counterparts like Ford or GM, but it certainly knows how to make up for lost time: the Munich automaker just greenlit tie-ins with the iOS apps from Audible, Glympse, Rhapsody and TuneIn. Plug in a device and it will be possible to wield the apps’ respective audiobook, location sharing, subscription music and live streaming radio services from a BMW Apps-capable BMW or Mini, with an interface optimized for the center stack. Each of the developers will need to update their app to make everything click, which we’re told may take weeks. There still shouldn’t be much wait before fans of Teutonic (and British) rides can get lost while streaming favorite songs — and tell everyone just how far they went off-course.