Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:12 UTC

There's a new phone with the word "Palm" on it that's tiny, intriguing, and has very little to do with Palm beyond that word printed on the back. It comes from a startup in San Francisco, which purchased the rights for the name from TCL last year. It costs $349.99 and will be available in November, but you can't go out and buy it on its own. It's only available as an add-on to a current line. Also, Steph Curry is somehow involved.

This is a rather interesting little device, as it seems one of the very phones focusing on being a small device that gets out of your way instead of trying to draw you in. I honestly don't understand the business model, though - who's going to buy a second $350 phone you can only get when you buy your primary phone? This seems doomed to fail, even though I'm sure there are quite a few people who'd love to buy a relatively cheap, well-designed full Android phone that isn't a surfboard.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:08 UTC
Linux

Elementary OS, a rather interesting Linux distribution with a very heavy focus on usability, has released its latest release.

elementary OS is made up of two main parts: the "desktop" which includes the core user experience, look and feel, and system pieces; and the apps that come with the OS out of the box. elementary OS 5 Juno includes major updates across several of these core apps.

Elementary OS is sometimes regarded as the macOS of the Linux world, as it aims to pretty much streamline and hide all the less user friendly aspects of using Linux to higher degree than even systems like Ubuntu or Linux Mint. They also consider design a central aspect, which does seem to bear fruit - Elementary looks incredibly attractive.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:03 UTC
Android

Google has detailed its response to the EU Android antitrust ruling, and going forward, Google's going to change quite a few things about how it distributes Android in the European Union.

First, we're updating the compatibility agreements with mobile device makers that set out how Android is used to develop smartphones and tablets. Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA).

Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source.

Third, we will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.

While I doubt we'll see a sudden increase in competing platforms, these changes do make it possible for device makers to offer devices that are less tied to Google alongside their regular Google Android devices. I can imagine OEMs offering devices that run Microsoft's growing suite of Android applications, which would be a good thing for competition.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Oct 2018 20:13 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

At its annual Adobe Max conference, Adobe announced plans to bring a complete version of Photoshop to the iPad in 2019.

Photoshop CC for iPad will feature a revamped interface designed specifically for a touch experience, but it will bring the power and functionality people are accustomed to on the desktop.

This is the real, full photoshop - the same codebase as the regular Photoshop, but running on the iPad with a touch UI. The Verge's Dami Lee and artist colleagues at The Verge got to test this new version of Photoshop, and they are very clear to stress that the biggest news here isn't even having the "real" Photoshop on the iPad, but the plans Adobe has for the PSD file format.

But the biggest change of all is a total rethinking of the classic .psd file for the cloud, which will turn using Photoshop into something much more like Google Docs. Photoshop for the iPad is a big deal, but Cloud PSD is the change that will let Adobe bring Photoshop everywhere.

This does seem to be much more than a simple cash grab, and I'm very intrigued to see if Adobe finally taking the iPad serious as a computing platform will convince others to do so, too - most notably Apple.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 22:44 UTC
Microsoft

Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, philanthropist and owner of two professional sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, died on Monday in Seattle. He was 65.

With Bill Gates being such a prominent figure, you'd almost always forget about Paul Allen. Our condolences to his friends and family.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 12:11 UTC
Linux

In recent years, three different distribution independent package formats have gained a lot of popularity. There are already a few Linux distributions like Endless OS and Fedora Silverblue that depend solely on distribution independent packages to run desktop applications. Are these package formats ready to become main packages formats for Linux distributions?

In this article we will take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each package format individually, and of distribution independent package formats in general.

I haven't really been keeping up with this relatively recent development of new distribution-independent package formats, so I was unpleasantly surprised when, after installing Linux Mint on my laptop, I would often find two different installable packages of the same program in the software manager. Often, these would have different versions.

Regardless of technical merit, that's not exactly a friendly user experience.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 10:02 UTC
Apple

As Apple continues to update its iPhones with new security features, law enforcement and other investigators are constantly playing catch-up, trying to find the best way to circumvent the protections or to grab evidence. Last month, Forbes reported the first known instance of a search warrant being used to unlock a suspect's iPhone X with their own face, leveraging the iPhone X's Face ID feature.

But Face ID can of course also work against law enforcement - too many failed attempts with the 'wrong' face can force the iPhone to request a potentially harder to obtain passcode instead. Taking advantage of legal differences in how passcodes are protected, US law enforcement have forced people to unlock their devices with not just their face but their fingerprints too. But still, in a set of presentation slides obtained by Motherboard this week, one company specialising in mobile forensics is telling investigators not to even look at phones with Face ID, because they might accidentally trigger this mechanism.

The security mechanisms on modern phones are complex legal problems for law enforcement, and one example in the article highlights just how far law enforcement is willing to go: UK police enacted a fake mugging to steal a suspect's phone as he was using it, so it would be unlocked. The officers then proceeded to endlessly swipe so it wouldn't lock itself.

Crazy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 09:57 UTC
Intel

VT-x is name of CPU virtualisation technology by Intel. KVM is component of Linux kernel which makes use of VT-x. And QEMU is a user-space application which allows users to create virtual machines. QEMU makes use of KVM to achieve efficient virtualisation. In this article we will talk about how these three technologies work together. Don't expect an in-depth exposition about all aspects here, although in future, I might follow this up with more focused posts about some specific parts.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 09:56 UTC
Apple

Early in the platform's life-long before the release of the Apple TV 4K - which has very attractive specifications for game development - Apple lifted the requirement that games support its controller. But the first impression had already been made. And even if developers could release games that required a controller, the lack of a controller bundle for games-minded Apple TV buyers meant that developers couldn't feel confident they'd find a large audience that could play their games.

But there's more going on here than just controller support. To find out more, we talked to the people who would have the most complete perspective on the Apple TV's video game credentials.

Apple doesn't understand games. It never has, and I doubt it ever will (at least, in the near future). People often like to point at iOS as a successful gaming platform, but I don't count the endless string of gambling apps designed to prey on children and other willing people to really be games. If your gaming platform isn't even popular enough for Minecraft, you don't have a gaming platform.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 00:00 UTC
In the News

Ever since selling Handspring to Palm in the early 2000s, Jeff Hawkins, creator of the Palm Pilot and founder of Palm, has been working on his true passion: neuroscience and trying to understand how the brain works. Teaming up with several neuroscientists and some former Palm people, his company Numenta, entirely funded by Hawkins himself, is now ready to show its research to the world.

Mr. Hawkins says that before the world can build artificial intelligence, it must explain human intelligence so it can create machines that genuinely work like the brain. "You do not have to emulate the entire brain," he said. "But you do have to understand how the brain works and emulate the important parts."

[...]

Now, after more than a decade of quiet work at Numenta, he thinks he and a handful of researchers working with him are well on their way to cracking the problem. On Monday, at a conference in the Netherlands, he is expected to unveil their latest research, which he says explains the inner workings of cortical columns, a basic building block of brain function.

Numenta's research is apparently so complex that Alphabet's artificial intelligence research company, DeepMind, told him they simply didn't understand it. If this work, which I think is detailed in this scientific paper published over the weekend (but don't quote me on it - it might be another paper altogether), is indeed the breakthrough neuroscience has been waiting for, it could have enormous consequences, not just for neuroscience and biology, but also for artificial intelligence and its applications in the world of computing.

I'm very curious to see if this research holds up to scientific scrutiny and peer review, because even the smallest of steps towards understanding how the brain works would be a massive scientific breakthrough.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Oct 2018 00:37 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we've concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product. While we still believe in RSS and support the goals of open, interoperable formats on the Web, we strongly believe that the best way to meet the needs of RSS and its users is via WebExtensions.

With that in mind, we have decided to remove the built-in feed preview feature, subscription UI, and the "live bookmarks" support from the core of Firefox, now that improved replacements for those features are available via add-ons.

I would assume most RSS users already use more capable RSS readers and/or browser extensions, so it makes perfect sense for Firefox developers to remove this functionality from the browser so they no longer have to maintain it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Oct 2018 00:35 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Interim OS is a radical new operating system with a focus on minimalism. It steals conceptually from Lisp machines (language-based kernel) and Plan 9 (everything is a file system). It boots to a JITting Lisp-like REPL and offers the programmer/user the system's resources as filesystems.

You can run it on a Raspberry Pi 2, or as a hosted operating system on ARM Linux, x86 Linux, OS X, Windows, and even on AmigaOS 3.x.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Oct 2018 17:51 UTC
OpenBSD

One of the key aspects of hardening the user-space side of an operating system is to provide mechanisms for restricting which parts of the filesystem hierarchy a given process can access. Linux has a number of mechanisms of varying capability and complexity for this purpose, but other kernels have taken a different approach. Over the last few months, OpenBSD has inaugurated a new system call named unveil() for this type of hardening that differs significantly from the mechanisms found in Linux.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th Oct 2018 11:05 UTC
Internet & Networking

Some nice momentum for privacy-focused search engine DuckDuckGo which has just announced it's hit 30 million daily searches a year after reaching 20M - a year-on-year increase of 50%.

Hitting the first 10M daily searches took the search engine a full seven years, and then it was another two to get to 20M. So as growth curves go it must have required patience and a little faith in the run up.

I switched from Google to DDG as well, and only use the !g command whenever I feel DDG isn't giving me the search result I'm looking for. These days, virtually every browser supports DDG as well, making it possible to search using the address bar and similar functionality like that. I don't really miss Google Search in my day-to-day use.

And as a multilingual person and translator, DDG has one feature that has made my life a lot easier. Sometimes I need to search in English, and sometimes I need to search in Dutch. Years and years ago, you could go to Google.nl for Dutch search results, and Google.com for English results. At some point in the recent past, Google decided to remove this functionality, forcing users into one language and making it incredibly cumbersome to search in other languages.

DDG, on the other hand, has this incredibly handy little toggle atop the search results that allows me to instantly switch between Dutch and English results, without even having to change the search query. Clicking on the downward triangle next to it allows me to pick other languages as well. This handy little feature is an absolute lifesaver, and I can't imagine using online search functionality without it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Oct 2018 23:58 UTC, submitted by garyd
Google

Unlike regular phone Android, Android Things is not customizable by third-parties. All Android Things devices use an OS image direct from Google, and Google centrally distributes updates to all Android Things devices for three years. Android Things doesn't really have an interface. It's designed to get a device up and running and show a single app, which on the smart displays is the Google Smart Display app. Qualcomm's "Home Hub" platform was purposely built to run Android Things and this Google Assistant software - the SD624 is for smart displays, while the less powerful SDA212 is for speakers.

When it came time to build the Google Home Hub, Google didn't use any of this. At the show, I had a quick chat with Diya Jolly, Google's VP of product management, and learned that Google's Home Hub doesn't run Android Things - it's actually built on Google's Cast platform, so it's closer to a souped-up Chromecast than a stripped-down Android phone. It also doesn't use Qualcomm's SD624 Home Hub Platform. Instead, Google opted for an Amlogic chip.

This is such an incredibly Google thing to do. Build an entire platform specifically for things like smart displays, and then build a smart display that does not use said entire platform. It's a nerdy little detail that virtually no user will care about, but it just makes me wonder - why?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Oct 2018 23:54 UTC
Android

All the way back in 2012, Samsung created a new file system purpose-built for flash-based storage, called 'F2FS'. It's typically faster on smartphones than the ext4 file system that most Android devices use, but it has suffered from reliability issues over the years. Google apparently thinks it's ready for prime-time though, as the Pixel 3 and 3 XL both use F2FS for local storage.

The technical details of F2FS are a bit complicated - some of the features include multi-head logging, TRIM/FITRIM support, and an adaptive logging scheme. The main advantage compared to ext4 is improved performance, specifically with random write speeds. It's also less prone to slowing down when limited free storage space is available.

The Pixel 3 isn't the first Android phone to use F2FS, as evidenced by its website.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th Oct 2018 20:12 UTC
Linux

It would be reasonable to expect doing nothing to be an easy, simple task for a kernel, but it isn't. At Kernel Recipes 2018, Rafael Wysocki discussed what CPUs do when they don't have anything to do, how the kernel handles this, problems inherent in the current strategy, and how his recent rework of the kernel's idle loop has improved power consumption on systems that aren't doing anything.

I had no idea doing nothing was this complex.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th Oct 2018 21:28 UTC, submitted by jonsmirl
Microsoft

I'm pleased to announce that Microsoft is joining the Open Invention Network ("OIN"), a community dedicated to protecting Linux and other open source software programs from patent risk.

We know Microsoft’s decision to join OIN may be viewed as surprising to some; it is no secret that there has been friction in the past between Microsoft and the open source community over the issue of patents. For others who have followed our evolution, we hope this announcement will be viewed as the next logical step for a company that is listening to customers and developers and is firmly committed to Linux and other open source programs.

Chalk this one up to the "good news, no ifs and buts about it" section.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Oct 2018 23:46 UTC
Android

Not everything got leaked before Google's event today. One surprise announcement that wowed was Call Screen, a new feature that lets the Google Assistant answer your incoming calls and politely ask what the caller wants. A real-time transcript will appear on your screen, allowing you to decide whether or not you want to pick up.

When your Pixel rings, a "Screen call" button shows up alongside the usual controls. Tapping it will prompt the Google Assistant to tell your caller that the call is being screened and ask what it's about. Their explanation is transcribed on your screen, and you have options to mark the call as spam or tell the caller you'll get back to them, among others.

This is an amazing feature that will save a lot of people a lot of frustration. I want this feature on my phone now.

On a related note, Google Duplex, the feature whereby the Google Assistant will call restaurants and such on your behalf, will be rolled out to Pixel phones next month.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th Oct 2018 23:36 UTC, submitted by JRepin
KDE

KDE has released Plasma 5.14 desktop.

A lot of work has gone into improving Discover, Plasma's software manager, and, among other things, we have added a Firmware Update feature and many subtle user interface improvements to give it a smoother feel. We have also rewritten many effects in our window manager KWin and improved it for slicker animations in your work day. Other improvements we have made include a new Display Configuration widget which is useful when giving presentations.

The new release will find its way to your Linux distribution of choice soon enough.