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05/12/2017

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The most visible face of Linux in mobile and, let's face it, the most likely to succeed beyond the small circle of the Linux faithful, is undoubtedly Canonical.The company has been hard at work on Ubuntu for phones for some time. In fact, there has been, for the latter half of 2014 anyway, little to Ubuntu other than mobile.As Canonical's vice president of professional and engineering services Jon Melamut tells The Register: Ubuntu for phones has been a major focus for Canonical, and we’re now in a position to bring devices to market.Indeed it looks like we'll see the first official Ubuntu phones in the very near future.Exciting as that is for those who've been waiting for the power of Linux to make its way to your hand, it's really only a halfway step to Canonical's vision of true device convergence.It's still a ways off, but Melamut reckons Ubuntu for phones and Ubuntu desktop will ultimately… converge into a single, full operating system that will work across different form factors from mobile to tablet and PC.Interestingly, while many of the other big players initially scoffed at the idea of one OS to rule all your devices, that now seems to be exactly what Microsoft and Apple are now moving toward as well, albeit in very different ways.

Ubuntu may be pushing hard to get a slice of the mobile pie, but that doesn't mean every distro is likewise inclined. In fact, chasing mobile might be missing perhaps the biggest opportunity desktop Linux has ever had for widespread adoption. The masses may be swapping their ageing Windows XP desktops for tablets, but the so-called power users are unlikely to do that now and won't be likely to do it in the future either.If you have tip-top eyesight this may not be an issue, but speaking personally I found the 1366 x 768 machine easier to live with – even if I couldn't watch my 1080p movies in 1080p. If you do decide to go for the 1920 x 1080 machine, you’ll get a few more extras into the bargain. Namely a 32GB rather than 16GB SSD and 4GB rather than 2GB of DDR3 RAM.To be honest, I’m not sure either is actually a deal maker unless you plan on replacing Chrome OS with a fully fledged Linux distro. Then the extra storage space and memory may pay dividends. May? Well, I installed Ubuntu and while it fired up A-OK, accessing the file system and getting the Wi-Fi radio to work were just two of the many bridges I didn’t manage to cross. And performance was very stodgy.When running Chrome, the extra 2GB of RAM didn’t make the Acer feel any faster than recent Intel-powered Chromebooks from the likes of Lenovo or Hewlett-Packard. Or, for that matter, the 2GB RAM low res version of Acer's Chromebook 13. That said, the Acer 13 did feel faster than any other ARM Chromebook I’ve used. That is no doubt thanks to the Nvidia Tegra K1 CD570M-A1 quad-core 2.10GHz processor.

Elements of the user interface are looking more Windows-like these days – click for a larger image The various browser benchmarks I ran on the Acer Chromebook 13 returned scores in line with the best Intel-powered Chromebooks I’ve tested. But being ARM-based the K1 chipset uses less power, so you get a longer run time from a charge.On the deck sticker, Acer boasts of an 11-hour battery life. Looping a 1080p MP4 video drained the 3,220mAh battery in a rather impressive nine hours 30 minutes. In more general use I found I was only recharging the Acer after every 18-odd hours of use. I’ve not had the opportunity to run power consumption tests on the lower-res version of the Acer 13 but I suspect the results would be better yet.Speakers are quite good, easily opened up and then what? Note the SD card slot on the right Anything else worth saying? Well, the Acer 13’s stereo speakers may be mounted underneath the keyboard deck and fire downwards but they still sound very good and are plenty loud enough. The 1280 x 720 webcam is nothing to get too excited about but it’s OK for a Hangouts video call. The Wi-Fi radio is a dual-band 802.11ac affair.If you want to take the thing apart, the back panel comes away easily enough once you remove the 13 standard Philips screws that hold it in place. Just be careful of the ribbon cable that connects it to the chassis.

ARM chips have found a new home in Chromebooks of late and there are no obvious compromises either Sadly all the internal components are very well covered and secured. I couldn't even locate the SSD let alone remove it. I suspect hardware upgrades may be beyond the casual DIY-er.Is the Acer Chromebook 13 the best Chromebook on the market? That's a tough one. I can't claim to have tried them all, but I'll admit I was impressed. So is the 1920 x 1080 version the model to get? For my eyes, the extra pixels make the menu and tab text too small on a 13-inch display. Still, the extra 16GB of storage might come in handy but having a full-depth SD card slot will plug the gap for most people. Also, I didn’t notice any extra benefit from the additional 2GB of RAM, but I suppose it adds a level of future-proofing if you're likely to hang on to it or pass it on.Personally, I’d be happy saving a few quid and going for the 1366 x 768 version at £199, but each to their own. Acer tells me that once the retail channel is fully sorted you will be able to buy a 1366 x 768 machine with 32GB of storage and 4GB of RAM and that there’s apparently a touchscreen version coming too. Something for everyone, especially if you're likely to succumb to the rise of the Googletops in 2015. A lot of exciting things are happening online right now. Eye-boggling blocks of code are presently being distilled into art, pornography and weapons of war, and making that distillation look exciting on film would be a challenge for film-makers who thoroughly understood the world of IT.

And, if we’ve learned anything from the recent Sony Studios debacle, and a dozen other Hollywood data haemorrhages, it’s that movie people are as blithely, blissfully uninformed about computers as government ministers, captains of industry, and your nan.This is probably why most films that feature “hackers” involve an awful lot of very loud, very fast, typing.And that, regrettably, is about the most realistic aspect of hackers in the movies. As brand new “super hacker” movie Blackhat hits our cinemas on 15 January, let’s browse the history of cyber-punks in cinema.The movies started fearing TV almost as soon as it was invented. For example, 1935’s Murder by Television was a particularly subtle example of that. In 2015, the movies fear the internet, and Blackhat is the latest version of that.It’s based on the premise that data intrusion can blow up nuclear power stations and such, and to be fair that isn’t entirely impossible. An as yet unnamed German steel mill was sabotaged via a phishing attack which compromised essential systems last year. And there’s the worm Stuxnet of course.

But it would be a lucky cyberpunk indeed who happened upon a nuclear facility where the IT manager had been careless enough to provide a connection between the public internet and mission-critical systems. Or maybe not. Everybody makes mistakes.Luckily for all concerned the hero of Blackhat is Chris “Thor” Hemsworth, who is as familiar with the gym as the server room. Whatever doesn’t get solved with typing gets solved with gunplay and good old-fashioned punches to the head.Scarlett Johansson’s loopy sci-fi actioner isn’t about hacking in the conventional sense. It’s more about “hacking” the human body by dint of an overdose of smart drugs accessing the mythical unused 90 per cent of the brain.But Lucy is noteworthy for one of the best “hacker typing” scenes of recent history, where ScarJo is touch-typing at speeds in excess of 170 wpm on two laptops at once like a mad hybrid of Mavis Beacon and Rick Wakeman. On an aeroplane. Just marvellous.Few moviegoers have first-hand experience of data intrusion, so it’s not such a big deal if certain dramatic liberties are taken with the presentation of such things, as per Sex Tape. But Apple’s iCloud boasts in excess of 320m users. To base an entire script on a wilful misunderstanding of the way it works is little short of outrageous.

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