Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 15th Aug 2018 18:45 UTC
Window Managers

TinyWM is a tiny window manager that I created as an exercise in minimalism. It is also maybe helpful in learning some of the very basics of creating a window manager. It is only around 50 lines of C. There is also a Python version using python-xlib.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Aug 2018 22:34 UTC
Apple

There's a thriving market for unofficial, aftermarket iPhone parts, and in China, there are entire massive factories that are dedicated to producing these components for repair shops unable to get ahold of parts that have been produced by Apple.

The entire Apple device repair ecosystem is fascinating, complex, and oftentimes confusing to consumers given the disconnect between Apple, Apple Authorized Service Providers, third-party factories, and independent repair shops, so we thought we'd delve into the complicated world of Apple repairs.

Just as for cars, all repair and spare parts information should be publicly available to third party repair shops. The fact that this even has to be a shady business to begin with is preposterous.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Aug 2018 22:25 UTC
Apple

10 years later, the App Store isn't new anymore, and Apple continues to tweak its rules so that developers can create sustainable business models, instead of selling high-quality software for a few dollars or monetizing through advertising. If Apple can't make it worthwhile for developers to make high-quality utilities for the iPhone, then the vibrant software ecosystem that made it so valuable could decay.

Apple's main tool to fight the downward pricing pressure on iPhone apps is subscriptions.

The application store model is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing since it made it very easy for developers to get their code to users, but that ease also caused the supply side of applications to grow exponentially. The end result is something we are all aware of - application stores are littered with garbage, prices of software have plummeted to unsustainable levels, which in turn has all but killed off the independent application developer. The top application lists are now dominated by either high-profile applications such as Facebook or Twitter, or predatory pay-to-win gambling "games". Doing any search in a modern application store reveals piles of useless junk.

The next step is obvious: Apple (and perhaps Google) will attempt an almost Netflix-like app subscription service, where you pay Apple a monthly fee for unlimited use of applications available in the store. It's the next step in milking the last possible drop out of third party developers, and while it will surely allow application store proponents to continue to claim the model is working, it's just a stay of execution.

Developing quality software is a time-consuming and expensive task, and the current application store model - with or without subscriptions - is simply incompatible with it. Either software delivery on modern computing devices gets rethought completely, or even the last remaining bits of quality software will simply disappear from application stores.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Aug 2018 18:53 UTC
3D News, GL, DirectX

Moments ago at NVIDIA's SIGGRAPH 2018 keynote presentation, company CEO Jensen Huang formally unveiled the company's much awaited (and much rumored) Turing GPU architecture. The next generation of NVIDIA's GPU designs, Turing will be incorporating a number of new features and is rolling out this year. While the focus of today's announcements is on the professional visualization (ProViz) side of matters, we expect to see this used in other upcoming NVIDIA products as well. And by the same token, today's reveal should not be considered an exhaustive listing of all of Turing's features.

If you've been holding off on upgrading a 10x0 or earlier card, you're about to be rewarded - at Gamescom next week, NVIDIA is expected to unveil the consumer cards based on the Turing architecture.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Aug 2018 18:49 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Recently, Intel bought Altera, one of the largest producers of FPGAs. Intel paid a whopping $16.7 billion, making it their largest acquisition ever. In other news, Microsoft is using FPGAs in its data centers, and Amazon is offering them on their cloud services. Previously, these FPGAs were mainly used in electronics engineering, but not so much in software engineering. Are FPGAs about to take off and become serious alternatives to CPUs and GPUs?

FPGAs are used extensively by e.g. the Amiga community to recreate older chipsets.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Aug 2018 22:40 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

So CEO Michael Dell presented shareholders with a $25 billion buyout that would take the company private, giving it space away from the public limelight (and pressure from investors) to rethink and reposition the struggling computer company for the future.

Fast-forward to 2018, and Dell's prospects seem far better. Dell is now worth an estimated $70 billion - nearly triple what the buyout valued it at five years ago - and it has announced a bid to return to the public sector in a $22 billion buyout. It’s an astounding transformation. Dell and his investment partners at Silver Lake transformed the company from a struggling consumer electronics company into an enterprise powerhouse.

It's indeed a pretty amazing turnaround. A few years ago, I would've never seriously considered a Dell. These days, though, their XPS 13 and 15 laptops are some of the best laptops you can get, with Linux editions available as well.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Aug 2018 18:13 UTC
IBM

The PC-RETRO Kit Beta (Catalog #PC-RETRO) is a hobby electronics kit for building a faithful reproduction of the classic IBM PC 5150 motherboard from 1982. We have been in development on this new product offering for over 1 year. We started with the original circuit diagrams, as published by IBM in their Technical Reference Manual. These open source circuit diagrams launched the explosion in PC clone products that followed the IBM PC introduction. Reverse engineering the original IBM board was a substantial undertaking, as we found many differences between the 'official' circuit diagrams and actual board construction. Additionally, you can imagine the complexity of trouble-shooting this board and verifying the correct operation! Not to mention the logistical challenge of sourcing the original vintage electronic parts. You will receive all the components to build a PC Motherboard exactly as shown here.

At a mere $189.50 (including international shipping; $149.50 for domestic US customers), this is an absolute steal. I'm very tempted to look into getting this, but my utter lack of even the most basic soldering skills makes me a little nervous. Might be a better idea to get some soldering test kits before attempting a project like this.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Aug 2018 18:08 UTC
AMD

If you live by the workstation, you die by the performance. When it comes to processing data, throughput is key: the more a user can do, the more projects are accomplished, and the more contracts can be completed. This means that workstation users are often compute bound, and like to throw resources at the problem, be it cores, memory, storage, or graphics acceleration. AMD’s latest foray into the mix is its second generation Threadripper product, also known as Threadripper 2, which breaks the old limit on cores and pricing: the 2990WX gives 32 cores and 64 threads for only $1799. There is also the 2950X, with 16 cores and 32 threads, for a new low of $899. We tested them both.

Do I need a Threadripper machine for my job? Nope. Do I want a Threadripper machine for my job? Hell yes. The AnandTech review of the Threadripper 2 line is in, so sit back and enjoy the pretty numbers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Aug 2018 18:03 UTC
Google

Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used privacy settings that say they will prevent it from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request.

Is anyone really surprised by this? Everything tracks you. Your smartphone, your smartphone's operating system, the applications that run on it, the backend services it relies upon, the carrier it uses, and so on. Even feature phones are tracked by your carrier, and of course, even without a phone, countless cameras will pinpoint where you are just fine.

This ship has sailed, and there's nothing we can do about it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 12th Aug 2018 19:17 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

What you're seeing above is the first Palm smartphone since the Pre 3 was announced in 2011. Currently codenamed 'Pepito,' this new handset is headed for Verizon, and it's the possibly the weirdest Android phone of 2018. Sporting a tiny 3.3-inch 720p LCD screen, Pepito is easily the smallest Android device in years to be sold in the USA, and probably one of the smallest in the world. The diminutive size doesn't end at the display - this phone will have a tiny 800mAh battery, we've been able to confirm. That probably doesn't make this phone much of an all-day device, and it really is a bit of a head-scratcher.

The Pepito is powered by a Snapdragon 435 processor and, oddly, has 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage according to our source. Of course, it's possible there could be multiple storage and RAM SKUs depending on region and operator. We don't have any information about where this device is being released aside from Verizon here in America.

Not the highest-specced phone, but I like the elegant design and tiny size - bucks the trend, really, in a welcome way. The logo needs some work though.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 11th Aug 2018 20:26 UTC
Multimedia, AV

Given its appearance in one form or another in all but the cheapest audio gear produced in the last 70 years or so, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the ubiquitous VU meter is just one of those electronic add-ons that's more a result of marketing than engineering. After all, the seemingly arbitrary scale and the vague "volume units" label makes it seem like something a manufacturer would slap on a device just to make it look good. And while that no doubt happens, it turns out that the concept of a VU meter and its execution has some serious engineering behind that belies the really simple question it seeks to answer: how loud is this audio signal?

I love analog VU meters, and I'm kind of sad regular, non-professional music equipment has done away with them entirely.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 11th Aug 2018 16:25 UTC, submitted by Kochise
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Some x86 CPUs have hidden backdoors that let you seize root by sending a command to an undocumented RISC core that manages the main CPU, security researcher Christopher Domas told the Black Hat conference here Thursday (Aug. 9).

The command - ".byte 0x0f, 0x3f" in Linux - "isn't supposed to exist, doesn't have a name, and gives you root right away," Domas said, adding that he calls it "God Mode."

The backdoor completely breaks the protection-ring model of operating-system security, in which the OS kernel runs in ring 0, device drivers run in rings 1 and 2, and user applications and interfaces ("userland") run in ring 3, furthest from the kernel and with the least privileges. To put it simply, Domas' God Mode takes you from the outermost to the innermost ring in four bytes.

That's one hell of a bug.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 10th Aug 2018 00:06 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Long before phone addiction panic gripped the masses and before screen time became a facet of our wellness and digital detoxes, there was one good and wise piece of technology that served our families. Maybe it was in the family room or in the kitchen. It could have been a Mac or PC. Chances are it had a totally mesmerizing screensaver. It was the shared family desktop.

I can still see the Dell I grew up using as clear as day, like I just connected to NetZero yesterday. It sat in my eldest sister’s room, which was just off the kitchen. Depending on when you peeked into the room, you might have found my dad playing Solitaire, my sister downloading songs from Napster, or me playing Wheel of Fortune or writing my name in Microsoft Paint. The rules for using the family desktop were pretty simple: homework trumped games; Dad trumped all. Like the other shared equipment in our house, its usefulness was focused and direct: it was a tool that the whole family used, and it was our portal to the wild, weird, wonderful internet. As such, we adored it.

This describes my parental home perfectly, except that our first computer was way earlier than the Napster days - we got our first computer in 1990 or 1991 - and that my brothers and I were way more adept at using the computer than my parents were. Still, this brings back some very old memories.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 9th Aug 2018 21:26 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Nominally a book that covers the rough century between the invention of the telegraph in the 1840s and that of computing in the 1950s, The Chinese Typewriter is secretly a history of translation and empire, written language and modernity, misguided struggle and brutal intellectual defeat. The Chinese typewriter is 'one of the most important and illustrative domains of Chinese techno-linguistic innovation in the 19th and 20th centuries ... one of the most significant and misunderstood inventions in the history of modern information technology', and 'a historical lens of remarkable clarity through which to examine the social construction of technology, the technological construction of the social, and the fraught relationship between Chinese writing and global modernity'. It was where empires met.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 9th Aug 2018 21:23 UTC
Windows

A recent Windows 10 Insider Feedback Hub quest revealed that Microsoft is developing a new throwaway sandboxed desktop feature called "InPrivate Desktop". This feature will allow administrators to run untrusted executables in a secure sandbox without fear that it can make any changes to the operating system or system's files.

"InPrivate Desktop (Preview) provides admins a way to launch a throwaway sandbox for secure, one-time execution of untrusted software," the Feedback Hub questions explains. "This is basically an in-box, speedy VM that is recycled when you close the app!"

This is the obvious way in which Microsoft could isolate any legacy Win32 applications in future non-Win32 versions of Windows.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 9th Aug 2018 19:07 UTC
Games

Riot Games, founded in 2006, has become one of the biggest companies in gaming on the back of its sole release, League of Legends, which had 100 million monthly players in 2016. With 2,500 employees across 20 offices, Riot is a powerhouse. In 2013, Riot was named one of Business Insider's 25 best tech companies to work for. Two years later, it made $1.6 billion in revenue. Its Los Angeles campus is cushy in the way you'd expect a money-bloated tech company's offices to be. It's got a gym, a coffee shop, a cafeteria with free food, a LAN cafe. Employees often stay late to grind out competitive skill points in League of Legends with their Riot family and are communicating on Slack well into the night. Women who don't fit in with Riot's "bro culture"- a term I heard from over a half dozen sources while reporting this story - say these amenities help make the job bearable for only so long.

Over the course of several months, Kotaku has spoken to 28 current and former Riot employees, many of whom came forward with stories that echo Lacy's. Some of those employees spoke on the record; most spoke anonymously because they feared for their future careers in the games industry or they were concerned that League of Legends' passionate fanbase would retaliate against them for speaking out. Many of those sources painted a picture of Riot as a place where women are treated unfairly, where the company's culture puts female employees at a disadvantage. Other current employees, speaking on the record, disputed that account, with some top female employees telling Kotaku they had not personally experienced gender discrimination at Riot.

A very detailed and well-researched article, with ample room for both sides of the story. It covers the experiences of both women and men with regards to harrassing behaviour, but also relays the experiences of people who never felt any sense of harrasment, while also allowing senior leadership and the company itself to properly respond to the claims made.

To go along with this story, there's the experiences written down by former Riot employee Meagen Marie, which are quite chilling. This retelling is obviously of a lot more personal nature, but it does seem to align with Riot having a deeply sexist culture.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Aug 2018 22:23 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

With the latest Firefox experiment, Advance, you can explore more of the web efficiently, with real-time recommendations based on your current page and your most recent web history.

With Advance we're taking you back to our Firefox roots and the experience that started everyone surfing the web. That time when the World Wide Web was uncharted territory and we could freely discover new topics and ideas online. The Internet was a different place.

I get what Mozilla is trying to do here, and they obviously have rightfully earned the trust of many over the years, but is this kind of functionality really something people who choose to use Firefox are looking for, or even tolerate? This seems like something that doesn't align with the average Firefox user at all.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Aug 2018 22:17 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

If you deem your new smartwatch the most futuristic piece of technology around, better you have a look at this strange thing dating back to the good old Eighties. It's the UC-2000, a wristwatch wearable computer introduced in 1984 by well-known Japanese tech company and watchmaker Seiko.

I love these things. They're not exactly pretty, but its designers and engineers must've worked within some insane limitations.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Aug 2018 22:49 UTC
Mac OS X

Fast forward 5 years and Apple still doesn't have a solution that satisfies customers that have extensive need for customization and specialized workflows. During the time of trash can Mac Pro, I worked on a 5K iMac, because I really liked the hi-resolution display. But hiding away all those cables was a chore. After Apple showed us the future of professional hardware with the iMac Pro, I was fed up with the situation and I started to investigate the possibility of building my own Hackintosh. Putting all the hardware together was the easy part, making macOS work was tough, but I did it.

I honestly don't believe a 'Hackintosh' is a suitable machine for any mission-critical environment, but if you're willing to deal with the risks and minor headaches, it's a not-as-hard-as-you-think way to get your hands on a very powerful macOS machine for a very reasonable price - with a lot more options and choices than Apple will ever give you, even if you take the hypothetical, vapourware new Mac Pro into account.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Aug 2018 22:44 UTC
Android

Back in March, a trusted source revealed to us that a Palm-branded Android smartphone was slated to launch on Verizon in the second half of 2018. We haven't heard anything since then, but a Palm device with model name 'PVG100' has just rolled through both the FCC and Wi-Fi Alliance.

As is commonplace with these filings, much of the information and all photos are obscured at the request of the manufacturer. However, there's still a bit of information that can be gleaned. The FCC page is barren aside from the model name and some operating frequencies, but the Wi-Fi Alliance PDF reveals that the PVG100 will run Android 8.1 Oreo. Interestingly, the only frequency band listed is 2.4GHz, meaning that the PVG100 will not have 5GHz. Without 5GHz support, it's unlikely that this device will wind up being very upmarket.

These Palm phones will probably have little to nothing to do with the Palm I loved (the pre-webOS Palm, because webOS was terrible and not a proper Palm product).