Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2018 20:46 UTC
Apple

Rather than attempting to wow the world with "innovative" new designs like the failed Mac Pro, Apple could and should simply provide updates and speed bumps to the entire lineup on a much more frequent basis. The much smaller Apple of the mid-2000s managed this with ease. Their current failure to keep the Mac lineup fresh, even as they approach a trillion dollar market cap, is both baffling and frightening to anyone who depends on the platform for their livelihood.

Given the incredibly sad state of the Mac lineup, it's difficult to understand how WWDC could have come and gone with no hardware releases. Apple's transparency in 2017 regarding their miscalculation with the Mac Pro seemed encouraging, but over a year later, the company has utterly failed to produce anything tangible. Instead, customers are still forced to choose between purchasing new computers that are actually years old or holding out in the faint hope that hardware updates are still to come. Every day, the situation becomes more dire.

The Rogue Amoeba tea is not wrong. Apple's Mac line-up is pretty much a joke at this point, and despite Tim Cook's endless "we have great stuff in the pipeline" remarks, Apple is simply failing to deliver. The Mac is still not in a good spot.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2018 20:42 UTC
General Unix

RetroBSD is a port of 2.11BSD Unix intended for embedded systems with fixed memory mapping. The current target is Microchip PIC32 microcontroller with 128 kbytes of RAM and 512 kbytes of Flash. PIC32 processor has MIPS M4K architecture, executable data memory and flexible RAM partitioning between user and kernel modes.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2018 20:38 UTC, submitted by judgen
Google

Google's Pixelbook is some beautiful, well-built hardware, but its use of Chrome OS means that for many people, it will be too limited to be useful. Although Chrome OS is no longer entirely dependent on Web applications - it can also be used to run Android applications, and Linux application support is also in development - the lack of Windows support means that most traditional desktop applications are unusable.

But that may be changing due to indications that Google is adding Windows support to its hardware. Earlier this year, changes made to the Pixelbook's firmware indicated that Google is working on a mode called AltOS that would allow switching between Chrome OS and an "alternative OS," in some kind of dual-boot configuration. A couple candidates for that alternative OS are Google's own Fuchsia and, of course, Windows.

The Pixelbook is a nice piece of kit, but Chrome OS simply isn't good enough for me personally. The ability to run Windows would make it more desirable, but since it's not even available in The Netherlands - or in most other places, for that matter - I doubt this will attract any new buyers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Jun 2018 20:38 UTC
Internet & Networking

It's been a long time coming, but there's finally a finished 5G standard. Earlier this week, the 3GPP - the international group that governs cellular standards - officially signed off on the standalone 5G New Radio (NR) spec. It's another major step toward next-generation cellular networks finally becoming a reality.

Now, if you've been paying attention to the cellular industry, this may sound familiar and for good reason: the 3GPP also announced a finished 5G standard in December 2017. The difference is that the December specification was for the non-standalone version of 5G NR, which would still be built on top of existing legacy LTE networks. The agreed-upon specification from this week is the standalone version of 5G, which allows for new deployments of 5G in places that didn’t necessarily have that existing infrastructure.

 

Linked by nfeske on Thu 14th Jun 2018 00:14 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Sculpt for The Curious (TC) is the second incarnation of the general-purpose operating system pursued by the developers of the Genode OS Framework. It comes in the form of a ready-to-use system image that can be booted directly from a USB thumb drive. In contrast to earlier versions, Sculpt TC features a graphical user interface for the interactive management of storage devices and networking. The main administrative interface remains text-based. It allows the user to "sculpt" the system live into shape, and introspect the system's state at any time.

The technological foundation of Sculpt is a combination of Genode's microkernel architecture with capability-based security and virtualization. It does not resemble a POSIX system, rather it supports hosting POSIX and Unix software as an option. This way, security-critical components are not exposed to the complexities of POSIX while the system retains compatibility to existing applications. Sculpt TC features several examples of such applications, ranging from Qt-based software over a custom Unix runtime to VirtualBox.

The downloadable system image with the accompanied documentation is available at the Sculpt download page of the Genode project.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 14th Jun 2018 00:10 UTC
Microsoft

Office today has a whole bunch of versions - the traditional, fully featured Win32 desktop applications and their near counterparts on the Mac, along with various simpler versions for the Web, mobile, and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Presently, these various incarnations all have similarities in their interfaces, but they're far from consistent.

That's set to change. Microsoft is overhauling the interfaces of all the Office versions to bring a much more consistent look and feel across the various platforms that the applications support. This new interface will have three central elements.

I use Office every day, and I just want one thing from Microsoft: the ability to open multiple instances of the UWP Office applications. The UWP version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are faster, smoother, and easier to use than their slow, cumbersome Win32 counterparts. I'm convinced the only reason Microsoft artificially limits the UWP versions to one instance per app is so they won't tread on the hallowed, sacred Win32 ground.

It's high time Microsoft removes this purely artificial limitation.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th Jun 2018 23:54 UTC
Windows

Is anybody interested in a long list of obscure NTFS tricks? Yes? Good, because this long list provides just that. As an example, ever wanted to create folders with just periods, but you realized you couldn't because every NTFS folder has the special "." and ".." folders to refer to itself and its parent folder, respectively? Well, here's your chance to learn how.

Probably not the most useful tricks, but fun nonetheless.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 23:28 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft's device roadmap has been leaked, and it contains a lot of information about upcoming devices. The most interesting one is the mythical pocketable dual-screen Andromeda.

They do, however, say that Andromeda, Microsoft's mythical pocketable, two-screen, hand-held device that's supposed to carve out a whole new market for itself, is due for release in 2018. The documents also say that, after Andromeda, Microsoft OEMs will produce their own comparable products, just as they've done with Surface Pro.

The big question for Andromeda is the same as it has always been: why? To define a new hardware form factor, as appears to be the intent, its design needs to be particularly suitable for something. Surface Pro, for example, has appealed particularly to groups such as students (taking notes with OneNote) and artists, thanks to its form factor and multimodal input support. To succeed, Andromeda needs to offer similar appeal - it needs to enable something that's widely useful and ill-suited to existing hardware. But presently, there are few ideas of just what that role might be.

From what I understand, it will look something like this, and its entire UI is Modern/Fluent Design/Metro - there's no Win32 here, no traditional Start menu, and so on. With the device being pocketable, my biggest open question is whether or not it will have phone functionality, effectively making it a Surface phone, and a new attempt at breaking into the smartphone market.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 23:21 UTC
Google

We strive to ensure choice and transparency for all Chrome users as they browse the web. Part of this choice is the ability to use the hundreds of thousands of extensions available in the Chrome Web Store to customize the browsing experience in useful and productivity-boosting ways. However, we continue to receive large volumes of complaints from users about unwanted extensions causing their Chrome experience to change unexpectedly - and the majority of these complaints are attributed to confusing or deceptive uses of inline installation on websites. As we've attempted to address this problem over the past few years, we've learned that the information displayed alongside extensions in the Chrome Web Store plays a critical role in ensuring that users can make informed decisions about whether to install an extension. When installed through the Chrome Web Store, extensions are significantly less likely to be uninstalled or cause user complaints, compared to extensions installed through inline installation.

Later this summer, inline installation will be retired on all platforms. Going forward, users will only be able to install extensions from within the Chrome Web Store, where they can view all information about an extension's functionality prior to installing.

Am I the only one who's assuming this will eventually allow Google to remove all adblockers from Chrome?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 23:10 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Last week, the US Department of Energy and IBM unveiled Summit, America's latest supercomputer, which is expected to bring the title of the world's most powerful computer back to America from China, which currently holds the mantle with its Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer.

With a peak performance of 200 petaflops, or 200,000 trillion calculations per second, Summit more than doubles the top speeds of TaihuLight, which can reach 93 petaflops. Summit is also capable of over 3 billion billion mixed precision calculations per second, or 3.3 exaops, and more than 10 petabytes of memory, which has allowed researchers to run the world's first exascale scientific calculation.

The $200 million supercomputer is an IBM AC922 system utilizing 4,608 compute servers containing two 22-core IBM Power9 processors and six Nvidia Tesla V100 graphics processing unit accelerators each. Summit is also (relatively) energy-efficient, drawing just 13 megawatts of power, compared to the 15 megawatts TaihuLight pulls in.

There's something mesmerizing about supercomputers like these. I would love to just walk through this collection of machines.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 23:06 UTC
Apple

Apple changed its App Store rules last week to limit how developers use information about iPhone owners' friends and other contacts, quietly closing a loophole that let app makers store and share data without many people's consent.

The move cracks down on a practice that's been employed for years. Developers ask users for access to their phone contacts, then use it for marketing and sometimes share or sell the information - without permission from the other people listed on those digital address books. On both Apple's iOS and Google's Android, the world's largest smartphone operating systems, the tactic is sometimes used to juice growth and make money.

I've always found it quite easy to spot applications that would try to abuse permissions like this - weather applications don't need access to telephony, a notes application doesn't need access to my contact list, and so on. It's good to see Apple cracking down on this practice for those among us who aren't as observant.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 23:02 UTC
In the News

AT&T Inc. was cleared by a judge to take over Time Warner Inc. in an $85 billion deal that will fuel the mobile-phone giant’s evolution into a media powerhouse and could spark a wave of new mergers.

U.S. District Judge Richard Leon on Tuesday rejected the Justice Department’s request for an order blocking the Time Warner acquisition, saying the government failed to make its case that the combination would lead to higher prices for pay-TV subscribers. The judge put no conditions on the deal.

More consolidation in the US tech and media landscape. This doesn't bode well for American internet users and TV/movie fans.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 22:53 UTC, submitted by JRepin
KDE

Members of the Plasma team have been working hard to continue making Plasma a lightweight and responsive desktop which loads and runs quickly, but remains full-featured with a polished look and feel. We have spent the last four months optimising startup and minimising memory usage, yielding faster time-to-desktop, better runtime performance and less memory consumption. Basic features like panel popups were optimised to make sure they run smoothly even on the lowest-end hardware. Our design teams have not rested either, producing beautiful new integrated lock and login screen graphics.

Read the entire release announcement for more details.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jun 2018 00:34 UTC
Internet & Networking

For days now, I've been pondering whether or not to post a link to this story, but after a talk with my closest friends about how much we despise anti-vaxxers - they just had their first baby - I feel like the story in question highlights a very uncomfortable truth we have to face.

If we can agree on anything anymore, it's that we live in a post-truth era. Facts are no longer correct or incorrect; everything is potentially true unless it's disagreeable, in which case it's fake. Recently, Lesley Stahl, of "60 Minutes", revealed that, in an interview after the 2016 election, Donald Trump told her that the reason he maligns the press is "to discredit you all and demean you all so that when you write negative stories about me no one will believe you". Or, as George Costanza put it, coming from the opposite direction, "It's not a lie if you believe it".

This is an article by Alan Burdick, who decided to investigate the "flat earth movement" by going to a flat earth conference and speaking with the attendees and speakers. It's a revealing piece that makes it clear flat earth crackpots are deeply intertwined with virtually every other crazy conspiracy theory, with the "flat earth theory" serving as an umbrella to all other conspiracy theories. Add in large doses of antisemitism, creationism, and Christian extremism, and you've got the general feel of the flat earth movement.

The uncomfortable truth we have to face is not that the earth is flat - don't worry - but that insanity like this used to remain confined, isolated, and harmless. Thanks to the internet, however, this insanity is free to spread and infect others, causing real harm to real people. Whether it's believing that the government is spreading dangerous chemicals through the air in form of "chem trails" or abusing, harming, and even murdering your and other people's children by not vaccinating them - it's the internet that allows this dangerous insanity to spread and cause real harm.

The internet is one of the greatest inventions of mankind, but it's also having dark, unsettling effects on our society that we need to address. I don't have any solutions, but we better start doing a better job of arming ourselves against the constant barrage of attacks on science, or we risk our society descending into chaos.

 

Linked by Mike Bouma on Mon 11th Jun 2018 23:14 UTC
Amiga & AROS

If you want to write Assembly programs for the Amiga you can either work directly on a real system or use a cross-compiler. I prefer to work on my Linux system because, as much as I like retro architectures, I also like the power of a good Unix system and a modern editor.

Cross-compiling is a very simple concept: instead of compiling source code and creating binaries for the architecture you are running the compiler on, you create binaries for a different architecture. In this case the host architecture is Linux/amd64 and the target architecture is Amiga.

As this is not the only project I am following at the moment, I created a directory to host everything I need for the Amiga development: compiler, documentation, scripts.

Exploring assembly on the Amiga, part 1, part 2, and part 3.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Jun 2018 23:04 UTC
Internet & Networking

It’s official. The Federal Communications Commission's repeal of net neutrality rules, which had required internet service providers to offer equal access to all web content, took effect on Monday.

The rules, enacted by the administration of President Barack Obama in 2015, prohibited internet providers from charging more for certain content or from giving preferential treatment to certain websites.

Great news. This will enable honest, trustworthy, transparant, and customer-focused companies like Comcast to take control of the internet. This can only mean good things for American consumers, and will ensure that they remain free of the confusing and heavy burden of ISP choice. In turn, the "market" will remain carved up by at best two large monopolies, which is clearly the best type of market in the universe.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Jun 2018 23:03 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

USB Type-C was billed as the solution for all our future cable needs, unifying power and data delivery with display and audio connectivity, and ushering in an age of the one-size-fits-all cable. Unfortunately for those already invested in the USB Type-C ecosystem, which is anyone who has bought a flagship phone in the past couple of years, the standard has probably failed to live up to the promises.

Other than my Nintendo Switch, my back-up phone (a Galaxy S8), and my old Nexus 6P in storage somewhere, I don't use USB-C at all, so I've been able to avoid all of its problems so far. It seems like a real mess.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Jun 2018 23:37 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

At the beginning of the '90s, the PC platform was often mocked by its rivals. Of course, PCs were much more powerful than, say, an Amiga 500. But the Amiga offered a flat memory address, while a DOS program could only access memory using cumbersome 64 KiB segments. And to add insult to injury, there was this strange 640 KiB memory limitation. No matter how much physical memory you had in your box, the utter most important Conventional Memory was limited to 640 KiB!

The Legend teaches us that Bill Gates once declared that "640 KB ought to be enough for anybody", then designed MS-DOS to enforce this limitation.

The truth is of course a little more complicated than that.

This article brings back so many confusing childhood memories of MS-DOS and memory management - memories I wouldn't wish on my biggest enemies. All kidding aside, this is a great insight into how memory is organised in MS-DOS.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Jun 2018 23:35 UTC
Android

With the launch of Android 8.0 last year, Google released Project Treble into the world. Treble was one of Android's biggest engineering projects ever, modularizing the Android operating system away from the hardware and greatly reducing the amount of work needed to update a device. The goal here is nothing short of fixing Android's continual fragmentation problem, and now, six months later, it seems like the plan is actually working.

There are indeed some small signs of hope, but the reality is that as long as Samsung isn't on board, it's effectively all for naught. I find this article far too positive when you look at the reality of Android updates, but at least there's some progress.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Jun 2018 23:31 UTC
General Development

The IRS has a lot of mainframes. And as millions of Americans recently found out, many of them are quite old. So as I wandered about meeting different types of engineers and chatting about their day-to-day blockers I started to learn much more about how these machines worked. It was a fascinating rabbit hole that exposed me to things like "decimal machines" and "2 out of 5 code". It revealed something to me that I had not ever considered:

Computers did not always use binary code.

Computers did not always use base 2. Computers did not always operate on just an on/off value. There were other things, different things that were tried and eventually abandoned. Some of them predating the advent of electronics itself.

Here's a little taste of some of those systems.

I've often wondered why computers are binary to begin with, but it was one of those stray questions that sometimes pops up in your head while you're waiting for your coffee or while driving, only to then rapidly disappear.

I have an answer now, but I don't really understand any of this.