Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 22:54 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft is extending the GDPR's rights to all of its customers across the world.

That's why today we are announcing that we will extend the rights that are at the heart of GDPR to all of our consumer customers worldwide. Known as Data Subject Rights, they include the right to know what data we collect about you, to correct that data, to delete it and even to take it somewhere else. Our privacy dashboard gives users the tools they need to take control of their data.

Good move, but these controls and options should've been there from the start. Goes to show that corporations are terrible at self-regulation - something everybody should know by now. In any event, I'll be spending some time this weekend digging through all the data Google, Apple, and Microsoft have on me.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 22:49 UTC
Mac OS X

Here's a bit of numerology for you. Today marks 17 years, one month, and 29 days since Mac OS X 10.0 was released on March 24, 2001. That's a strangely odd number - 6269 days - but it also happens to be the exactly length of time between January 24, 1984 (the launch of the original Macintosh) and March 24, 2001.

In other words, today the Mac's second operating system era, powered by Mac OS X (now macOS) has been in existence as long as the first era was.

Time is a weird thing, and it truly doesn't feel like OS X is that old.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:54 UTC
Games

Behold the Philips CD-i! It’s got Mario! Zelda! Movies on CD! Uh… interactive encyclopedias! What could go wrong? Apparently, everything.

Born out of the same aborted efforts to create a CD-based console for Nintendo that would eventually produce the Sony Playstation, the CD-i was an ambitious attempt to create a multi-purpose home entertainment console. However, instead of kickstarting the trend of CD-based gaming, the CD-i turned into one of the great failures of the video game industry, reportedly costing Philips near a billion dollars by the time it was discontinued.

Nonetheless, it did end up fostering some amazingly idiosyncratic (and widely reviled) pieces of video game history.

Since I'm Dutch and have lived in The Netherlands my whole life, I feel like the CD-i is a much greater part of my memory than of people in other countries. Philips is a Dutch company, after all, and I vaguely recall the CD-i being hyped into the stratosphere over here. I wanted one when the hype started, but I never did even see one in real life.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:50 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

There's something about the macOS operating system that kind of drives people wild. (Heck, even the original Mac OS has its strong partisans.) In the 17 years since Apple first launched the first iteration of the operating system based on its Darwin Unix variant, something fairly curious started to happen: People without Macs suddenly wanted the operating system, if not the hardware it ran on. This phenomenon is somewhat common today - I personally just set up a Hackintosh of my own recently - but I'd like to highlight a different kind of "Hackintosh", the kind that played dress-up with Windows. Today's Tedium talks about the phenomenon of Mac skinning, specifically on Windows. Hide your computer's true colors under the hood.

I used to do this back in the early 2000s (goodness, I've been here way too long!). It was a fun thing to do, since you could never make it quite good enough - there was always something to improve. Good times.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:39 UTC
Apple

Apple has today launched its new Data and Privacy website, allowing Apple users to download everything that Apple personally associates with your account, from Apple ID info, App Store activity, AppleCare history to data stored in iCloud like photos and documents. This is currently only available for European Union accounts, to comply with GDPR, and will roll out worldwide in the coming months.

There are also simple shortcuts to updating your info, temporarily deactivating your account and options to permanently delete it.

It's almost like all the people whining about suddenly having to care about their users' personal data were wrong, and the GDPR is actually doing what it's supposed to do: force accountability onto data holders.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:36 UTC
Windows

Twitter user WalkingCat, famous for finding and sharing this kind of information, has discovered files in the SDK mentioning an "Andromeda device" and "Andromeda OS". As previously reported, Andromeda OS is just one variant of the upcoming Windows Core OS the company has been working on. WalkingCat has found mention of Polaris as well - the version of Windows Core OS targeted at more traditional PCs.

Windows Core OS is a new, "modern" version of Microsoft's flagship OS, which strips out most of the legacy compatibility and software, making the operating system lighter and more flexible. Core OS is said to adapt its interface to all different kinds of devices thanks to the new CShell UI.

Eventually, the hammer's gonna drop: all new laptops and PCs will ship with a Win32-less version of Windows. The signs are clear for anyone to see, and as a Windows developer, you'd do good by preparing yourself.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 23rd May 2018 19:31 UTC
Legal

A federal district court judge on Wednesday ruled that President Trump can't block people from viewing his Twitter feed over their political views.

Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, said President Trump's Twitter account is a public forum and blocking people who reply to his tweets with differing opinions constitutes viewpoint discrimination, which violates the First Amendment.

I'm sure an autocrat like Trump will respect the wishes of a court. I mean, it's not like he has a history of attacking courts and judges, right?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 23:30 UTC
Internet & Networking

Computer History Museum (CHM), the world's leading institution exploring the history of computing and its impact on the human experience, today announced the public release and long-term preservation of the Eudora source code, one of the early successful email clients, as part of its Center for Software History’s Historical Source Code. The release comes after a five-year negotiation with Qualcomm.

The source code for both the Mac and Windows versions are released, and there's a post on Medium with more details about this latest work by the Computer History Museum.

I've never used Eudora in any serious manner, so I don't have the kind of connection with it that some others have. Still, I am always happy when 'dead' software's source code is released as open source, so that it effectively never dies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 23:16 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Photographer James Ball (aka Docubyte) knows what a computer is. He's spent part of career lovingly photographing the machines of yesteryear, from the giant mainframes of the '50s and '60s to the first wave of personal computers in the late '70s and '80s. When he saw Apple's iPad pro advertisement that ended with a young girl asking "What's a computer?" as she typed away on her tablet, it provoked him.

"I'm not some old technophobe, and I get the whole post-computing cloud/device blah blah thing," Ball told Motherboard via email. "But I wanted to pick up an old Mac and say 'Hey! Remember this? This is a computer. The era of crazy shaped beige boxes and clunky clicking keyboards, for me and a lot of other people, that is a computer."

To honor those machines, Ball has created a series of high resolution animated gifs honoring 16 machines from the era of the birth of the personal computer. He calls the project 'I Am a Computer: Icons of Beige.'

These are gorgeous.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 23:09 UTC
Games

PlayStation 4 is entering the final phase of its life cycle, Sony Interactive Entertainment president and CEO John (Tsuyoshi) Kodera said at Sony Investor Relations Day 2018 in Tokyo today.

The platform first launched in North America and Europe in November 2013, followed by Japan in February 2014. It has shipped 79 million units as of March 31, 2018.

Didn't I just buy a PS4 Pro? Am I the only one to whom this seems... A little premature?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 12:07 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

Up until recently, Haiku builds for ARM have targetted individual ARM boards. The compile process for ARM images required two things: an architecture, and a target board (such as the Raspberry Pi 2). This board setting adjusted a large number of defines throughout Haiku at compile time to set the operating system up for the target ARM device. The board selection also handled placing all the propriety bits (a lot of which have sketchy licensing) into the Haiku image during compile. Haiku would then have to distribute these files. (sketchy licensing and all)

Over the past few years, François Revol, Ithamar R. Adema, and others have worked to add Flat Device Tree (FDT) support to Haiku. FDT’s enable operating systems to obtain core knowledge of the devices they run on by simply swapping one or more compiled binary files. These files describe critical things the operating system needs to know about the hardware they run on. Really important things such as what devices exist at what memory locations. (Think video frame buffers, serial ports, etc)

In a series of cryptic commits in July 2017, I removed these board-centric build steps with grand plans of making testing (and running) Haiku on ARM devices easier.

No, this does not mean Haiku now runs on ARM, as it has been able to do that for a while now. The goal of these changes and improvements is to speed up development of Haiku's ARM build, and to simplify the distribution of ARM builds into a single, generic ARMv7 image.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 22nd May 2018 12:04 UTC
Mac OS X

Because a typeface is not just its pixels, but also its spacing, I wanted to look at the authentic source material for Chicago. That required some technical archaeology: the original Macintosh, released in 1984, was the first widely available computer that used proportional typography on screen and it had an entirely unique way of storing and managing fonts. (Standards like TrueType didn’t appear until later.)

I have some software background in typography, so I managed to extract the genuine 1984 font data using my 2018 computer. (The details of that part are a bit beside the point but are in the footnote at the bottom if you're interested). Having got the font, bitmap and spacing data for Chicago, I used the same little program to extract all the other Macintosh bitmap fonts.

Fun little bit of typography archeology on the old Macintosh.

 

Linked by pmac on Tue 22nd May 2018 09:47 UTC
General Development

In the wake of the recent Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities, it's worth spending some time looking at root causes. Both of these vulnerabilities involved processors speculatively executing instructions past some kind of access check and allowing the attacker to observe the results via a side channel. The features that led to these vulnerabilities, along with several others, were added to let C programmers continue to believe they were programming in a low-level language, when this hasn't been the case for decades.

Processor vendors are not alone in this. Those of us working on C/C++ compilers have also participated.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 22:56 UTC
Apple

The tower form factor may be a thing of the past, at least until the new Mac Pro shows up next year, but for years, if you needed the most powerful and flexible machine money could buy, the Power Mac was the only way to go.

For almost five years, the heart of the Power Mac was the PowerPC G4 chip. Starting in 1999 it clocked at just 350 MHz, but by the time the Power Mac G4 line was retired, a tower with dual 1.42 GHz CPUs could be ordered. In that time frame, things like Gigabit Ethernet, SuperDrives, and Wi-Fi became mainstream.

I have a soft spot for all Macs from the PowerPC G4 era - back when Apple wasn't boring - and the various models of Power Mac G4 aren't exceptions. I can't really explain why I find PowerPC G4 Macs so appealing, even to this day - all I know is that I am dead-set on collecting a number of them, especially those I couldn't ever afford when they were new.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 22:52 UTC
Bugs & Viruses

Microsoft and Google are jointly disclosing a new CPU security vulnerability that's similar to the Meltdown and Spectre flaws that were revealed earlier this year. Labelled Speculative Store Bypass (variant 4), the latest vulnerability is a similar exploit to Spectre and exploits speculative execution "that modern CPUs use. Browsers like Safari, Edge, and Chrome were all patched for Meltdown earlier this year, and Intel says these mitigations are also applicable to variant 4 and available for consumers to use today."

However, unlike Meltdown (and more similar to Spectre) this new vulnerability will also include firmware updates for CPUs that could affect performance. Intel has already delivered microcode updates for Speculative Store Bypass in beta form to OEMs, and the company expects them to be more broadly available in the coming weeks. The firmware updates will set the Speculative Store Bypass protection to off-by-default, ensuring that most people won’t see negative performance impacts.

This cat ain't going back in no bag anytime soon.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 21:26 UTC
Windows

And the second The Old New Thing story, about adding a Windows 3.1 virtual machine to Windows 95.

As the Windows 95 project started to come together, I was approached to undertake a special project: Run Windows 3.1 in an MS-DOS virtual machine inside Windows 95.

This was the ultimate in backward compatibility, along multiple axes.

First of all, it was a demonstration of Windows 95's backward compatibility by showing that it could even use an emulated MS-DOS virtual machine to run the operating system it was designed to replace.

Second, it was the ultimate backward compatibility ripcord. If you had a program that simply wouldn't work with Windows 95 for whatever reason, you could fire up a copy of Windows 3.1 in a virtual machine and run the program there.

To use it, you installed Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 into separate directories, and then made a few edits to the Windows 3.1 SYSTEM.INI file to replace the mouse and serial drivers with special versions. There were some other preparatory steps that had to be done, but eventually you got to the point where you could double-click the Windows 3.1 icon, and up came Windows 3.1 in an MS-DOS virtual machine.

This is quite similar to how Windows 3.x worked in OS/2 at the time.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 20:50 UTC
Windows

I've got two fun The Old New Thing stories for you today, starting with a story about Windows' ZIP file support.

Every so often, a customer will ask whether Windows Compressed Folders (Zip folders) supports something fancy like AES encryption, and we have to shake our head and apologize. "Sorry, no."

Why this sad state of affairs?

The compression and decompression code for Zip folders was licensed from a third party. This happened during the development of Windows XP. This means that the feature set of Zip folders was locked to whatever features were hip and cool as of around the year 2000.

You'd think Windows would eventually start supporting other archive formats as well, but no.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 00:16 UTC
Mac OS X

What do Photoshop, Matlab, Panic Transmit, and Eclipse have in common? They are among the 299 apps for which macOS applies compatibility fixes.

Here's the full list of bundle IDs, along with the functions that checks for them, and the first caller to those functions. It's also available in CSV format.

Note that this is just a list of apps Apple has developed compatibility tweaks to make them run on newer macOS versions. As the list demonstrates, even the best apps often needs some tweaks on newer macOS. In addition, most of these patches are only applied to older versions of apps.

Here's how I extracted the list, and some interesting things I found in it.

This is absolutely fascinating, and provides some amazing insight into which applications Apple considers crucial to the macOS user experience and platform. We all know Windows performs various tricks to maintain backwards compatibility, but I had no idea Apple went to decent lengths too for the same reasons.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 00:09 UTC
Android

We go through this every time a new version comes to Google's own phones while we wait for it to come to the rest. And the outcome is always the same - Pixel phones (and previous Nexus phones) look the way Google wants them to look and the rest of the phones look however the company that made them want them to look. That's because you can't see Android - it's simply software that supports the things you're looking at.

It's confusing. And tech bloggers (myself included) don't help ease the confusion very well when we write about the things we see on a software update for the Pixel. It's too difficult to try and break everything down every time we write something, and while we are good at a lot of things, we tend to shy away from "difficult". To compound it all, when we do try to break "Android" down, we usually make it worse. I'm going to try here because I'm feeling courageous and want to face "difficult" head on today. If I don't come back, tell my wife I love her.

Android is quite a complicated term, entity, and operating system.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 21st May 2018 00:04 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

When contemplating who’d be a major player in the Android smartphone business, the gaming hardware giant Razer probably doesn’t come to mind. While they have yet to establish themselves as a reliable smartphone provider, Razer’s first attempt did not at all seem like it was their first time dabbling into Android, likely because much of their engineering team came from Nextbit. Razer leveraged their status in gaming hardware to appeal to those who game, and those who game hold high refresh rate monitors in high regard. So Razer put one on a smartphone.

This article takes a close look at the Razor phone's display, which is rather unique among Android phones for its 120Hz refresh rate (iPhones have 120Hz displays as well).