Enable Adobe Flash and BBC iPlayer on the Google Nexus 7

Annoyed that BBC iPlayer does not work on Google’s Nexus 7? There is a fix; though note that Adobe Flash is not supported on Android 4.1 “Jelly Bean” and the official advice is to put up with the lack of Flash, and wait for the BBC to provide a non-Flash option for Nexus 7 and other recent Android devices. The steps below may stop working as the Nexus 7 update itself, who knows?

If you are impatient though, here is what you have to do.

1. Download the Flash APK, for example from XDA Developers here.

2. Rename it from .zip to .apk if necessary, and tap it on your Nexus 7 device. It will tell you that it cannot be installed, but prompt to access settings where you can tick to allow installation from unknown sources:


3. Now retry installation and it will work.

4. Install Firefox Beta from the Play Store. Flash does not work with Chrome on the Nexus.

5. Tap the 3 dots in Firefox, go to Plugins, and tap Enabled.

6. Power off your Nexus 7 and restart (it did not work for me until I did that).

7. Go to watch an iPlayer video. You get a message informing you that your phone is not supported. Tap the three dots again and then Request Desktop Site.


8. Enjoy iPlayer. Full screen works; though I have to admit, Firefox crashed when I switched to another app and I had to Force Stop. Nevertheless, the video played sweetly enough while I was watching.


Intranet and Mail hassles with Windows 8

Microsoft has made changes to networking in Windows 8, mainly I presume for security reasons, but there are odd side-effects, at least in the Release Preview version.

One is that if you browse to a site on your intranet in the Metro-style browser, you are likely to get a connection failure. This is what I get when trying to get to my Logitech Media Server (the Squeezebox server):


A bunch of useless, misleading suggestions and that is it.

The solution is to go to desktop IE, Tools, Internet options, Security, Trusted Sites, Sites and add the target URL to the list of Trusted sites. Now it works fine in Metro-style IE:


I got exactly the same behaviour with Outlook Web Access on the intranet. It did not work from Metro IE until I added the URL to Trusted Sites.

I am not sure if this is “expected behaviour”; I hope it is not, because it is a significant annoyance. The answer may lie in Microsoft’s Enhanced Protected Mode, described here, but although this states that Metro-style apps cannot connect by default to a server running on the same machine, it does not suggest that the entire intranet is blocked. The security benefits are also compromised if you can easily bypass them by running desktop IE.

While I am on the subject, I am still puzzled by the problems the Metro-style Mail app has with connecting to Exchange when this is configured with a self-signed certificate. I obtained a free SSL Cert from StartCom and confirmed that using a cert from a recognised issuer does fix the problem, though it is not a perfect solution for me because of the detail of my setup.

I would still like to know exactly what is stopping the self-signed approach from working. There are numerous discussions on the subject (this is one of the best) but I have not seen any definitive explanation from Microsoft. Following a suggestion from that thread, I have tried publishing the CRL (Revocation List) on the internet but that has not fixed it for me.

Security is great but we do want to get stuff done with our computers and some of this stuff just seems obstructive. Even if Microsoft is doing the right thing here, that is no excuse for false error messages. Mail, for example, reports “Unable to connect. Ensure that the information you’ve entered is correct.” How hard would it be to report a problem with the server certificate?

WHATWG to accelerate work on HTML5 “Living Standard”, diverge further from W3C HTML5

Google’s Ian Hickson, who is the editor of HTML5 at the WHATWG group, has announced an “Update on the relationship between the WHATWG HTML living standard and the W3C HTML5 specification” in a message that seems to express frustration at the slow pace of the W3C standards body.

There have long been two versions of HTML5, one managed by WHATWG, and the other by the W3C. When the W3C embraced HTML5 in 2007 it used the WHATWG work as its starting point. However, rather than folding its work into the W3C, the WHATWG continued to develop a separate specification of its own.

Hickson now says:

More recently, the goals of the W3C and the WHATWG on the HTML front have diverged a bit as well. The WHATWG effort is focused on developing the canonical description of HTML and related technologies, meaning fixing bugs as we find them [1], adding new features as they become necessary and viable, and generally tracking implementations. The W3C effort, meanwhile, is now focused on creating a snapshot developed according to the venerable W3C process. This led to the chairs of the W3C HTML working group and myself deciding to split the work into two, with a different person responsible for editing the W3C HTML5, canvas, and microdata specifications than is editing the WHATWG specification (me).

A practical consequence of the split is that there will no longer be a single bugtracking system for bugs that apply to both the WHATWG and W3C specifications. These will now be managed independently.

Hickson adds:

The changes described above are unrelated to the change announced in April regarding the WHATWG’s adoption of the W3C Community Group mechanism, but together they mean we are now independent of the W3C HTML Working Group again, while still maintaining a working relationship with the W3C. [4] My hope is that the net effect of all this will be that work on the HTML Living Standard will accelerate again, resuming the pace it had before we started working with the W3C working group.

The outcome appears to be greater divergence between the two standards, with new specifications drawn up by WHATWG that may not be adopted for a long time, or may never be adopted, by the W3C. There is increasing risk of incompatibility as well, though Hickson says there will still be a “working relationship”.

One of the browser vendors most affected is Microsoft, which supports the W3C but is not a member of WHATWG.

Canon PowerShot S100 vs Ixus 80 IS

I am not a photographer but take lots of snaps. I’ve been conscious for a while that my four-year old Canon Ixus 80 IS is not getting quite the results I would like so I have upgraded to a PowerShot S100, still relatively compact though larger and more expensive than the Ixus.

I expected an improvement but I am surprised how much better the S100 is. Here are a couple of comparisons. They are not all that scientific; they are what I got taking a snap at the default settings. This is the Ixus:


and this is the PowerShot:


Even more striking is this snap of a bee. This is a detail from a much larger shot as I did not get all that close to the bee, but the distance was similar. Here is the Ixus:


and the S100:


I hope that one of the outcomes will be better illustrations for this blog so keep reading!


PhoneGap 2.0 released with WebView, Windows Phone support

Adobe has released PhoneGap 2.0, its framework for creating cross-platform mobile apps using HTML and JavaScript. Using PhoneGap, you can wrap a web application as a native app, taking advantage of the browser control available in all the major mobile platforms.

New features in PhoneGap 2.0 include Windows Phone support, WebView which lets you embed a PhoneGap fragment into a larger native application, improved tooling and a unified JavaScript API across all platforms called Cordova-JS.

The Mac tooling has been improved and no longer depends on Xcode templates. Instead, you create a new project at the command line. However, you do need Lion or Mountain Lion to use PhoneGap.

The associated Apache Cordova project is “nearing graduation from incubation”, according to Adobe’s release.


Microsoft financials: still growing in the cloud era, but watch out for tablets

I am in the habit of putting Microsoft’s results into a simple table. Here are the latest:

Quarter ending June 30th 2012 vs quarter ending June 30th 2011, $millions

Segment Revenue Change Profit Change
Client (Windows + Live) 4145 -598 2397 -511
Server and Tools 5092 +568 2095 +409
Online 735 +55 -6672 -5927
Business (Office) 6291 +339 4100 +399
Entertainment and devices 1779 +292 -263 -276

It is easy to spot the stars: Server and Office.

It is also easy to spot the weaklings, especially Online, which reported a breathtaking loss thanks to what the accounts call a “goodwill impairment charge”. This translates to an admission that the 2007 acquisition of aQuantive was a complete waste of money.

Mixed signals from Entertainment and devices, where revenue is up but a loss is reported. Since this segment munges together Xbox and Windows Phone, it seems plausible that the phone is the main culprit here. Microsoft identifies payments made to Nokia and the addition of Skype as factors.

Windows is down, in part because Microsoft’s upgrade offer for Windows 8 means some revenue is deferred, though one would imagine that worldwide reports of stagnant PC sales are a contributory factor as well.

If you add up the figures, and allow for overheads, it comes to a wafer-thin operating income of $192 million and a $0.06 loss per share.

What do the figures tell us? Two things: Microsoft still makes a ton of money, and that it is exceedingly bad at acquisitions. I am not sure how a company can mislay $6.2bn without heads rolling somewhere, but that is not my area of expertise.

Microsoft’s Server 2012 family has impressed me so my instinct is that we will see good figures continue there.

On the Office side, it is not all Word and Excel. “Exchange, SharePoint and Lync together grew double-digits,” Microsoft said in its earnings call, adding that Lync revenue is up 45%.

That said, how many server licences can you sell in the cloud era? How can Microsoft grow Azure without cannibalising its server sales?

It is tempting to state, like James Governor at Redmonk, that this is The End of Software: Microsoft Posts a Loss for the First Time ever. Microsoft’s figures have stubbornly refused to prove this though; and a quarter where revenue has risen though poisoned by an acquisition disaster is not the moment to call it.

Microsoft has survived the cloud. The bigger question now is whether it can also survive tablets eating into its Windows sales, not helped by Google pushing out Nexus 7 at casual purchase price – see my first take here.

All eyes then on the new Windows 8 and Office 2013.

Google Nexus 7: a little bit of everything you do

Google’s Nexus 7 is more than just a tablet. It is Google through and through: a trade where you get a cool device, and Google gets your data and the opportunity to sell you stuff, both advertising and content.


That is why it is such good value; and it is good value. You get a 7″ 1280×800 display with toughened Corning glass; a Quad-core NVidia Tegra processor; WiFi; Bluetooth; NFC (Near Field Communications) with Android Beam; Accelerometer; GPS; Magnetometer, Gyroscope, 8 hours or so battery life, 1GB RAM, and 8 or 16GB (non-expandable) storage. It runs Android 4.1, “Jelly Bean”.

Not only is the spec decent, but the device is nicely done, though it has been put together quickly. The manufacturer, Asus, says that the Nexus was conceived at a meeting with Google in January, at CES 2012. A few points of interest from Asus:

  • The textured back cover is meant to “feel like a pair of premium driving gloves that will not slip out of your hands”.
  • There are two microphones, one on the top and one on the side, to avoid the chance of blocking audio input with your hand.
  • The display uses a single glass panel with a touch film layer, which Asus says makes it 42% thinner than a “standard touch display module”.

The display is excellent, bright to view and responsive to touch. I compared it to an HTC Flyer, another decent 7” Android tablet though now 18 months old, and the Nexus is sharper, more detailed and more vibrant.

The Nexus is also lighter and thinner than the Flyer, and performs better with its quad-core Tegra 3 vs the Flyer’s 1.%GHzz Snapdragon.

It is not all one way. The Flyer has a rear-facing camera, a microSD slot, and a stylus, all lacking on the Nexus. Still, the 16GB Flyer cost over £400 when it was released, and checking Amazon.co.uk today it is still over £200. The Nexus is £199.00 for 16GB, or £159.00 for 8GB, and comes with £15.00 credit towards content on the Google Play store.

In other words, the Nexus is fantastic value, and makes much of the competition look over-priced.

Nexus and you

First impressions of the Nexus are good. The device is easy to set up, though it insists that you sign in to a Google account. I had no problem setting up Exchange email alongside Gmail though.

There is an emphasis on content and one of the first things I noticed was the covers of a couple of CDs I recently purchased and ripped to my PC. The reason is that I have Google Music Manager installed on the PC, which had automatically uploaded them to Google Music, and now the Nexus was showing me recently uploaded music. It is what you can expect from a Google-connected life; stuff just shows up.

The home page is dominated by widgets recommending purchases. You can remove these but they set the tone: Google is trying to drive content sales.


There is also a Google strip along the top of the home page which allows text or voice search. The first time you tap this, you get an invitation to sign up for Google Now, a service which mines your personal information, such as location, calendars and other data from Google and from third parties, in order to deliver alerts and reminders.


Google Now is exactly in line with what former CEO Eric Schmidt said at Mobile World Congress back in 2010:

Google will know more about the customer because it benefits the customer if we know more about them.

Is it worth it? Does it matter if Google knows where you are, who your friends are, and where you are going? Can you trust Google not to misuse that information?

Those are big questions; and while I doubt that anything worse than occasional annoying advertising will happen if you switch on Google Now, it is also spooky and disturbing if you care about privacy.

Leaving aside the big issues, it is a great advertising opportunity for Google which can do targeting based not only on what it knows about you, but also on the context of where you are and what you are doing.

Nexus in use

What is the use of a 7” tablet? Quite a lot. It is a good size for personal media consumption, though it could do with a case that doubles as a stand for watching video. Web browsing works well using the Chrome browser. There is Maps, Skype, Twitter, Dropbox, Evernote, Kindle, music and games, calendar and email. The main limitation is that you need to be on WiFi, but most of the time that is not a problem.

The Nexus has three soft buttons: Home, Back and Recent apps.


Recent apps shows thumbnails of what you have opened recently and feels like multitasking even though it does not guarantee that those apps are actually running.


There are a few niggles. The Nexus has speech to text built-in. It kind-of works but so slowly that most will not bother with it. Typing is much quicker and more accurate, even on the soft keyboard.

No Adobe Flash, which is a disappointment, especially in the UK where BBC iPlayer is popular. Adobe is not making a version of Flash for Jelly Bean, though apparently older versions can be installed with a bit of manual effort. Flash cannot be installed directly from the Play store.



I think Nexus will fly off the shelves. No it is not as good as an Apple iPad, but it is smaller, lighter and cheaper, all of which count for a lot.

With deals like this, Google is making life tough for its third-party partners, Asus aside, and giving Amazon (perhaps the immediate target) a challenge too. Nor will it be easy for the likes of Microsoft, RIM and Nokia coming into the market with new tablets, given everything that the Nexus does perfectly well and at a keen price.

Microsoft Office 2013 SkyDrive Pro in action, with offline documents

Microsoft Office 2013, combined with Office 365 or the new SharePoint, introduces SkyDrive Pro. This is an area where users can store documents online, similar to the public SkyDrive, but as part of an organization’s SharePoint site or Office 365 team site.

One features which I was glad to see is the ability to store documents offline in a special Explorer folder. These are kept synchronized with the online storage.

Here is how this works with my preview Office 365 account. I log in to the online portal, and click the SkyDrive option in the menu.


I see my SkyDrive files.


At top right is a SYNC hyperlink. Click that, and this sets up synchronization to a special Explorer folder, which in my case is called SkyDrive @ Office Next. This is not just a shortcut to a network location. The documents remain there if you are working offline.


This excellent feature seems to depend on a new client called SkyDrive Pro Preview which has an icon in the notification area and also shows up in Task Manager.


If the SkyDrive Pro client is not installed and you attempt to sync your online files, the bad old SharePoint Workspace shows up instead. The consumer SkyDrive client will not do. SharePoint Workspace also supports offline files, but does not integrate with Explorer and is prone to go wrong.

Now here is the puzzle. Microsoft loaned me a Samsung Slate with Office 2013 pre-installed, and this has SkyDrive Pro. However it also has SharePoint Workspace, and the associated Office Upload Center, which duly went into a sulk when trying to sync my SkyDrive Pro files.


Clicking Resolve and entering my login details did nothing. However, when I clicked on the SkyDrive Pro icon instead, I got the new-style Office sign-in, following which everything worked.


A few puzzles then. Is the SkyDrive Pro client really new, or it is just a new wrapper for the bad old SharePoint Workspace?

Further, it seems that Microsoft has not yet cracked the problem whereby users sign in, tick the “Keep me signed in” option, but still get asked to sign in repeatedly.

Exascale computing: you could do it today if you could supply the power says Nvidia

Nvidia’s Bill Dally has posted about the company’s progress towards exascale computing, boosted by a $12.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. He mentions that it would be possible to build an exascale supercomputer today, if you could supply enough power:

Exascale systems will perform a quintillion floating point calculations per second (that’s a billion billion), making them 1,000 times faster than a one petaflop supercomputer. The world’s fastest computer today is about 16 petaflops.

One of the great challenges in developing such systems is in making them energy efficient. Theoretically, an exascale system could be built with x86 processors today, but it would require as much as 2 gigawatts of power — the entire output of the Hoover Dam. The GPUs in an exascale system built with NVIDIA Kepler K20 processors would consume about 150 megawatts. The DOE’s goal is to facilitate the development of exascale systems that consume less than 20 megawatts by the end of the decade.

If the industry succeeds in driving down supercomputer power consumption to one fortieth of what it is today, I guess it also follows that tablets like the one on which I am typing now will benefit from much greater power efficiency. This stuff matters, and not just in the HPC (High Performance Computing) market.