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Android 4.4 gives apps vastly better Web technology

Chrome for Android has been available for more than a year, but the improvements it offered over the operating system's more basic browser weren't available to developers who wanted to draw upon the browser's abilities for their own native apps.

Until now.

With the KitKat release of Android, Google updated a programming interface called WebView so it now employs Chrome instead of the earlier WebKit-based browser. That enables apps with many modern browser features such as WebRTC for real time audio and video chat, WebGL for accelerated 2D and 3D graphics, and a full-screen option.

The new … Read more

Startup Cover bets on Android's market clout, flexibility

Why do iOS users get all the new apps first?

Many companies get their start on Apple's mobile market, but a start-up called Cover that's launching Thursday hopes to find profits from the increasingly powerful and widely used Android instead. The company's software, free and beginning closed beta testing Thursday, is designed to make it easier and faster to use the app you want when using Google's operating system.

Cover shows a six-item list of a person's most-used apps down the left edge of a phone's lock screen. Tapping one of the icons launches … Read more

Carl Icahn to Apple: Now's time for $150B stock buyback

Billionaire investor Carl Icahn has been beating the Apple stock buyback drum for a while. Now he's putting his call to action in writing.

The activist investor and majority shareholder of Icahn Enterprises has been a vocal advocate of Apple increasing its buyback program for shareholders, which Icahn believes is too small. To further his cause, he has written a detailed letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook and, on Thursday, posted it on his newly launched Web site, Shareholders' Square Table.

In the letter, which was first revealed on the Street Insider site, Icahn reiterated his call for Apple … Read more

With Snap.svg, Adobe gets animated SVG religion -- again

Eight years after Adobe Systems acquired Macromedia for $3.4 billion, in part for its Flash technology that vanquished the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format, the company has released an open-source project called Snap.svg designed to bring some Flash-like characteristics to the Web.

Flash is slowly being squeezed off the Web -- at least newer parts of it -- by the fact that it doesn't run on mobile devices and that browser developers are starting to banish plug-ins. Adobe has redirected a lot of its staffing accordingly to Web standards that work in browsers without plug-ins, and SVG … Read more

Google paves over hole left by Chrome plug-in ban

Google has added a new feature to Chrome to help programmers who relied on soon-to-be-banished browser plug-ins to call upon the services of a third-party program.

The Native Messaging interface will let programmers do things like trigger a password management program, said Google programmer Sergey Ulanov in a blog post Tuesday.

The interface arrived with Chrome 29, Ulanov said, for Windows, Linux, and OS X.

Starting in January, Google is phasing out support for the Netscape Plugin Application Programming Interface (NPAPI), which lets third-party software augment a browser's built-in abilities.

Google will permit several top plug-ins that use NPAPI … Read more

Apple's iPhone trade-in program reportedly headed to Europe

iPhone users in the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe may soon have an easier way to trade up models. According to 9to5Mac, a program at Apple retail stores that allows customers to make the swap is expanding abroad.

The "Reuse and Recycle" program, originally rolled out in August, let's users coveting that new model go into an Apple store and have their current phones appraised. Employees take water damage, hardware damage and screen condition into consideration when naming a buyback price. That credit is put on a gift card and applied to the price of … Read more

Engineers write programming language to help build synthetic DNA

Chemical reaction networks make up an old language of equations that detail how chemicals behave together. Now engineers at the University of Washington are taking this language into the 21st century with a computer program for chemistry that can help direct the movement of synthetic molecules.

This standardized set of instructions on how to "program" how DNA molecules interact in a test tube or cell could pave the way for smart drug delivery systems and disease detectors at the cellular level, the researchers report this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.… Read more

At long last, browser makers adapt to Retina-quality images

The days when a Web developer could count on a big screen with 72 to 96 pixels per inch are long over. Retina displays on laptops and tiny mobile phone screens for years have been complicated the job of delivering images best suited for different browsers.

But after years of sometimes contentious wrangling, it seems browser makers have settled on a solution: a tweak to the Web page programming that goes by the ungainly name of "srcset."

If it works out as planned, people using the Web should see high-resolution photos on Retina displays but not have to … Read more

Firefox to deactivate most plug-ins by default

Mozilla has dealt another blow to those who want to use plug-ins to extend the browser's capabilities. It's keeping all but Flash Player deactivated by default in a version of Firefox now under development.

With the click-to-run plug-in feature, announced in January, plug-ins such as Silverlight and QuickTime won't run unless the user authorizes it when a Web page using them loads. That feature now is built into the Aurora version of Firefox that will grow into the final release in coming weeks. The plug-in hurdle doesn't apply to Adobe Systems' Flash Player, by far the … Read more

Google's dilemma: A faster but fragmented Web?

Google wants a Web that looks very different from today's. Instead of more or less static sites, perhaps spiced up with a new comment popping up on your Facebook page, Google wants Web apps that are indistinguishable in performance and sophistication from native programs like high-end games or Photoshop.

But Google faces a tough choice: What's the best way to get to that future?

The promise of the route it's trying to take, a technology called Native Client, shines in the sophisticated online photo-editing tools for Google+ that launched this month. The problem is that Native Client … Read more