Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Feb 2017 23:45 UTC
Windows

The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build doesn't add much in the way of features - it's mostly just bug fixes - but one small new feature has been spotted, and it could be contentious. Vitor Mikaelson noticed that the latest build lets you restrict the installation of applications built using the Win32 API.

The Settings app has three positions: allow apps from anywhere (the default), allow apps from anywhere but prefer apps from the Store, and only allow apps from the Store. Put in its most restrictive third position, this setting will block the installation of traditional Win32 applications; only those shipped through the Store using the Project Centennial technology will work. Interestingly, the switch only appears to govern installation. Changing the setting to "Store apps only" will allow existing Win32 applications to work, only preventing new ones from being installed.

You can feel both Apple and Microsoft struggling with the balance between store-only and free-for-all.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Feb 2017 23:39 UTC, submitted by malxau
General Development

In this article we'll walk through an example of how to interpret a closed source program, how to analyze its behavior, and how to ultimately alter that behavior to do what we want. These techniques are well known within many circles, but few tutorials exist to help people get started. The context for this example investigation is the linker's subsystem field generation, but the techniques can be applied to other problems that seem interesting.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Feb 2017 23:25 UTC
Apple

The Apple engineers were smart when they were building their MessagePads. The MessagePad required an immense 8MB of storage for the Newton operating system. In the 90's, flash memory was extremely expensive, so they had to use ROM chips that were mass-produced and could never be updated. But they knew that they would have changes to their firmware until release day, and they would need to able to fix bugs even after the machine was sold.

They came up with three solutions.

[...]

If all else fails, MessagePads have their ROM chips sitting on a daughter board, a small additional cicuit board that is fitted into a common (at that time) connector and can be changed without tools after opening the case.

[...]

Anyway, wouldn't it be fantastic to create a souped-up ROM board? 8MB Flash and 8MB NewtonOS, also in Flash, being able to patch it, fix it, extend it, have fun. Maybe have even more that 16MB if that is possible. Is it possible? How can we find out?

An early draft of the licensee information for this ROM card exists, but it is not detailed enough to build such a card. Before starting a patch wire solution, I wanted to know how the original board worked, and then fill in the missing information in that draft.

Well, I went all the way and reverse engineered the entire ROM board. Here are my findings.

Amazing work.

 

Linked by paolone on Mon 27th Feb 2017 00:10 UTC
Amiga & AROS

After many years of active development, AROS finally seems to be able to 'evolve' the now 30+ years old architecture of the Amiga API. The original Amiga computers from Commodore brought to home users and professionals the first pre-emptive, window based operating system at affordable prices, although its kernel was tailored to the single Motorola 68000 CPU mounted on the machines. After Commodore's demise in 1994, a long debate started about the evolution of the Amiga platform and, although many announcements were made, current AmigaOS 4.1 is still a 32bit-based, single-core oriented operating system, and the same is true for Amiga-like alternatives MorphOS and AROS.

Things, however, are changing. In his weekly survey about AROS progress on AROS-EXEC.org and Amigaworld.net, Krzysztof Smiechowicz talked about "Work on handling additional CPU cores in x86_64 AROS kernel", adding "Initial version of SMP scheduler has been introduced in AROS i386/x86_64 kernel" just a week later. In the following weeks, a screenshot from coder Nick Andrews and a video on Youtube showed a 64-bit version of AROS, runnning on multicore AMD and Intel processors, handling 4 and 8 cores correctly.

SMP is being added to AROS by experienced coders Nick Andrews and Michal Schulz, and while it is not available in public nightly builds just yet, there is finally the chance to see an Amiga-like operating system handling modern CPUs properly.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Feb 2017 00:03 UTC
Android

One other phone I want to highlight out of MWC in Barcelona: a new BlackBerry Android phone! With a proper hardware keyboard! The BlackBerry Priv from 2015 suffered from some performance issues, so I hope they get it right this time.

Now that the BlackBerry KEYone is official, that means the full run down of specs are available now as well. For the KEYone, every component of the device, including the Snapdragon 625 was specifically chosen with the goal of lengthening the battery life in mind. Mind you, the battery itself is the largest ever put in a BlackBerry, (3505 mAh) so we're already off to a great start.

It looks nice, too. Very intrigued by this phone.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 26th Feb 2017 23:56 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Nokia unveiled its new lineup of phones, and there's definitely some good stuff in here. The Nokia 3, 5, and 6 are very understated Android phones with modest specifications, but with one huge selling point: stock Android, with Google security updates. Nokia is really touting it as a feature, too, which is music to my ears. The phones are not extravagant, don't come loaded with crapware or useless features, and do exactly what it says on the tin.

In addition, the company released a new Nokia 3310:

Nokia has sold 126 million of its original 3310 phone since it was first introduced back in September, 2000. It was a time before the iPhone, and Nokia ruled with popular handsets that let you play simple games like Snake. Now the 3310 is making a nostalgic return in the form of a more modern variant, thanks to Nokia-branded phone maker HMD. Like its predecessor, it will still be called the Nokia 3310, but this time it’s running Nokia’s Series 30+ software, with a 2.4-inch QVGA display, a 2-megapixel camera, and even a microSD slot.

I'm a little underwhelmed by this phone - not because of its specifications or anything, because those are exactly as I expected and wanted from this phone. No, I miss one crucial thing: it doesn't have WhatsApp (or WeChat, for that matter, for our Chinese friends), and you obviously can't install it either. WhatsApp is the backbone - for better or worse, I didn't choose this to be so, don't blame me, etc. etc. - of mobile communications in The Netherlands and much of the rest of the world, and without it, I literally have no use for this phone, not even as a backup phone.

Very strange omission indeed, but other than that - it looks great.

 

Written by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Feb 2017 23:31 UTC
Apple

If you listen to Apple podcasts - and you really should, because ATP and Gruber's The Talkshow are a delight to listen to, even if it's sometimes infuriatingly inaccurate about Windows, Android, and Linux - you would know there's a lot of talk going on about what Apple is going to do to 'salvage' the iPad, and what Apple is going to do - if anything - to replace the Mac Pro. They sometimes take it a step further, and go into what the future of macOS and iOS is going to - will they continue to exist side-by-side? Will macOS be tightened up and made more like iOS, or will iOS be expanded to make it more like macOS?

These questions arise from Apple's seeming indifference towards the iPad, and the obvious situation with the lack of updates for the Mac Pro, the Mac Mini, and to a lesser degree even the iMac. On top of that, the rumour mill is running in overdrive, and it further fuel the fires of these discussions.

I've been thinking about this a lot these past few months, and I've been talking to people who know their Apple stuff, and the more I take a step back and look at all the discussions, rumours, and Apple's actions - and lack thereof - the more obvious it becomes: it seems like Apple is about to completely redefine its infamous product matrix.

In case you don't remember, back in the late '90s, Steve Jobs showed the following product matrix:

The old Apple product matrix.

Before I show you what I think Apple is going to do, here are a few reasons underpinning it, in list form:

  • The Mac Pro was introduced to much fanfare, but hasn't been updated in - as of writing - more than three years.

  • Likewise, the Mac Mini hasn't been updated in well over two years.

  • The MacBook Air - the number one crowd pleaser among non-techy buyers - hasn't been updated in two years.

  • The iMac hasn't been updated in over 18 months.

  • Apple told Nilay Patel that the company is out of the standalone display business. If true, the logical extension of this would be that Apple is out of the headless Mac business. As John Gruber noted in the latest The Talkshow episode - do you really think Apple is going to put ugly LG monitors in its brand new, meticulously designed headquarters?

  • The rumour mill claims Apple is expected to expand its iPad lineup even further, with more Pro models.

  • iPads - even the basic models - have an insane amount of computing power, and newer models have lots of RAM and crazy fast processors. What for? To watch Netflix? I don't think so.

  • And last but not least: Apple debuted a number of new commercials last week, in which the company positions the iPad not as a companion device, but as your only device, touting its productivity features such as Microsoft Office support.

Add all this up, and I'm getting the feeling Apple is working towards a product matrix that looks more like this:

The new Apple product matrix.

The basic gist is that I feel Apple is slowly but surely working towards positioning iOS computers as its consumer line, and macOS computers as its pro line.

Since I can already hear people tapping away at their keyboards about Xcode this and consumption device that - it's important to note that what is iOS today will be very different from what will be iOS in the future. iOS surely has its limitations right now - specifically things like awkward and cumbersome file management, no proper windowing, etc. - but there's no reason to assume that what iOS looks and feels like today is what it'll look and feel like forever.

A lot of people are exploring what an IDE and related software will look like on iOS (just follow Steven Troughton-Smith and Federico Viticci on Twitter - they talk a lot about production-oriented iPad applications). The problem here isn't that iOS can't do complex applications - the problem is that the application ecosystem isn't conducive to such complex applications, which is quite a big hole Apple dug itself into by letting the App Store model ravage the indie developer scene, race all prices to the bottom of the barrel, and creating the expectation that everything is either 99 cents or free.

Another issue easily spotted in the product matrix is that the iPad Pro awkwardly sits in the desktop line, even though it clearly isn't a desktop device. It could very well be that we'll eventually see an iOS desktop or desktop-like device, but I honestly don't think it's worth the effort. People have overwhelmingly voted with their wallets, and portable computing has resoundingly won.

If this hunch of iOS = consumer, macOS = pro does indeed pan out, I don't expect it to happen overnight; in fact, it will most likely take several years, in a way where you barely notice it's even happening. We should be seeing a heavier emphasis on things like iPad keyboards, which may even include 'hard shell' keyboards which effectively turn them into laptops. On the software side, we should see things like mouse and trackpad support, improved multitasking (perhaps even some form of windowing), and improved file management. Of course, this would be accompanied by a marketing campaign more heavily focused on positioning the iPad as an all-round device capable of replacing your laptop.

Looking at the evidence I listed above, the conversations I've had with people who know Apple really well, and the Apple podcasts I've been listening to, I feel like this is a plausible future for Apple. I obviously don't have any insider information or anything like that - this is all based on gut feeling, some common sense, and the listed evidence. This is not a prediction, and not an "Apple must do this, or else"-kind of thing - just something I've been piecing together these past few months.

This year, 2017, will make or break a lot of this stuff.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Feb 2017 11:02 UTC, submitted by AmiKit
Amiga & AROS

Looking for an easy way to install AmigaOS 4? We made everything as easy as possible to emulate AmigaOS 4.1 on your Windows or Mac.

Basically, Flower Pot makes the process of installing AamigaOS 4 on Windows or macOS using WinUAE as easy as possible. All you need is the AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition ISO (the version for Classic!) and required ROM files, and the rest is automated. This means that the only way to legally get this up and running is to not only buy AmigaOS 4 for Classic (which is not that expensive at €25), but also to somehow get the Amiga 4000 ROM. My first thought was that other than extracting said ROM yourself, the only other way to get it was to buy Amiga Forever - but I'm not sure Amiga Forever contains the required ROM, which may mean you have to sail the seven seas to get it (Update: Amiga Forever supports it!)

In any event, I'm interested in getting this up and running, since buying an actual Amiga system is prohibitively expensive.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 23rd Feb 2017 00:10 UTC
Google

Turns out the processor/SoC in the latest two ChromeBooks - the Samsung models - are part of a wider program by Google.

The OP1 is built by Rockchip, which has made ARM processors for a while and isn't especially well-regarded among US consumers. And, strangely enough, even discovering that Rockchip makes the OP1 took a bit of sleuthing. The company doesn't have its brand anywhere near the Chromebook Plus. Also, the chip is called the OP1, which implies that there's going to be an OP2 and OP3 and so on. What exactly is going on here? Just what is OP?

Well! Turns out there's a website for answering that exact question, helpfully named whatisop.com. OP is a designation for SoCs that are optimized for Chrome OS. Naturally, I assumed it was a Rockchip brand - but that's not the case at all. And the website ostensibly designed to explain OP to us doesn't tell us who owns it (and it's even registered anonymously), so OP strangely mysterious.

Mystery solved: OP is a trademark owned by Google, and bestowed on SoCs that meet a Google spec for a good Chrome OS device. Basically, if a Chromebook has an OP processor, it means that Google certifies that it’s been optimized for Chrome OS.

Everybody is racing towards ARM laptops. Intel's decision to sell Xscale is probably going to be looked back upon as one of the worst decisions in technology history.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Feb 2017 22:43 UTC
In the News

Not just one, but seven Earth-size planets that could potentially harbor life have been identified orbiting a tiny star not too far away, offering the first realistic opportunity to search for biological signs of alien life outside of the solar system.

The planets orbit a dwarf star named Trappist-1, about 40 light years, or about 235 trillion miles, from Earth. That is quite close, and by happy accident, the orientation of the orbits of the seven planets allows them to be studied in great detail.

One or more of the exoplanets - planets around stars other than the sun - in this new system could be at the right temperature to be awash in oceans of water, astronomers said, based on the distance of the planets from the dwarf star.

Science is awesome.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Feb 2017 22:42 UTC
AMD

AMD's benchmarks showed that the top Ryzen 7 1800X, compared to the 8-core Intel Core i7-6900K, both at out-of-the-box frequencies, gives an identical score on the single threaded test and a +9% in the multi-threaded test. AMD put this down to the way their multi-threading works over the Intel design. Also, the fact that the 1800X is half of the price of the i7-6900K.

If these promises and benchmarks hold up, Intel will be facing some incredibly tough competition on the desktop/laptop side for the first time in a long, long time.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Feb 2017 12:33 UTC
Windows

European Union data protection watchdogs said on Monday they were still concerned about the privacy settings of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system despite the U.S. company announcing changes to the installation process.

The watchdogs, a group made up of the EU's 28 authorities responsible for enforcing data protection law, wrote to Microsoft last year expressing concerns about the default installation settings of Windows 10 and users' apparent lack of control over the company's processing of their data.

Remember Scroogled? Good times.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Feb 2017 23:13 UTC
Internet & Networking

When Max Karlsson found out that he was going to be in charge of Sweden's official Twitter account this week, he was looking forward to sharing some of his photography, or riffing about music and technology - nothing too different from how hundreds of others have used the handle since Sweden opened it up to ordinary users in 2011.

"My thought was to speak about the interests and values that I have," Karlsson, 22, said in a phone interview Monday evening. "And then Trump hit."

I find it fascinating that the official Twitter account for Sweden changes hands every week between Swedish citizens. In this particular case, it gives an ordinary Swede the opportunity to use facts to dispel a bunch of nonsense from the most powerful man in the world, who is apparently incapable of separating fact from Fox News-infused fiction.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Feb 2017 23:06 UTC
In the News

In September 1885, a bunch of librarians spent four days holed up in scenic Lake George, just over 200 miles north of New York City. In the presence of such library-world luminaries as Melvil Dewey - the well-organized chap whose Dewey Decimal System keeps shelves orderly to this day - they discussed a range of issues, from the significance of the term "bookworm" to the question of whether libraries ought to have a separate reference-room for ladies.

They then turned their attention to another crucial issue: handwriting. As libraries acquired more books, card catalogs needed to expand fast in order to keep track of them. Though the newly invented typewriter was beginning to take hold, it took time and effort to teach the art of "machine writing." Librarians still had to handwrite their catalog cards. And this was causing problems.

Fascinating story - and funny how I was taught something very close to Library Hand cursive script (the one from A Library Primer listed in the article) when I was a kid.

 

Linked by diegocg on Mon 20th Feb 2017 19:10 UTC
Linux

Linux 4.10 has been released. This release adds support for virtualized GPUs, a new 'perf c2c' tool for cacheline contention analysis in NUMA systems, a new 'perf sched timehist' command for a detailed history of task scheduling, improved writeback management that should make the system more responsive under heavy writing load, a new hybrid block polling method that uses less CPU than pure polling, support for ARM devices such as the Nexus 5 & 6 or Allwinner A64, a feature that allows to attach eBPF programs to cgroups, an experimental MD RAID5 writeback cache, support for Intel Cache Allocation Technology, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 17th Feb 2017 22:40 UTC
IBM

I'm pretty sure all of you are aware of Advanced Interactive Executive, or AIX, IBM's high-end, professional UNIX operating system. It has been in development since 1986, and is currently at version 7.2, released in 2015. It's one of those operating systems you hear relatively little about here on OSNews, if only because it sits in a part of the market where few of us ever encounter it.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to learn that AIX hasn't been confined to (relatively) exotic non-x86 hardware such as IBM Power and PowerPC-based systems. During my research into the IBM PS/2, I discovered that IBM released versions of AIX for PS/2 systems. The first release was AIX 1.1 1989, followed by 1.2 in 1990, and the last release, 1.3, in 1992.

From the AIX 1.3 PS/2 announcement letter:

Performance tuning in AIX PS/2 Operating System Version 1.3 offers increased throughput for Input/Output (I/O) in both raw and block mode, in addition to kernel performance enhancements and smaller size requirements available through the availability of serviceable shared libraries usage in applications written to utilize them. Enhancements have also been made to the pager and swapper areas of memory management that have resulted in performance increases.

Improvements in the windowing and Graphical User Interface (GUI) areas are highlighted with the introduction of the X Windowing System V11 R5 from MIT available in AIX PS/2 X-Windows Version 1.3 and AIXwindows Environment for PS/2 Version 1.3 and OSF's Motif 1.1.3 available in AIXwindows Environment for PS/2 Version 1.3 along with AIXwindows Desktop. Support for the IBM Xstation 120 and Xstation 130 is provided in the AIX PS/2 Xstation Manager Version 1.3 Support for XGA-2 provides non-interlaced, high resolution graphics on those displays that support it.

The internet is a great thing, and IBM AIX 1.3 for PS/2 can be found on abandonware sites, and there are some repositories with more information. The full AIX 1.3 PS/2, with all the additional packages you had to buy separately, comes in at a whopping 94 1.44 MB floppies. The installation procedure is complex, and I haven't yet been able to get it installed in VirtualBox. I want to give this some visibility, because maybe someone with more experience with AIX can get AIX PS/2 to run inside VirtualBox or some other virtualisation tool.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Feb 2017 23:09 UTC, submitted by AmineKhaldi
ReactOS

Today marks the fifth release of the ReactOS 0.4.x series, as well as the fifth following the 4 month release cycle started by 0.4.0 itself. Progress has continued steadily, with a great deal of work going on in the background to improve ReactOS' general usability and stability. Many of these improvements were on display at the FOSDEM convention in Brussels that took place on the 4th and 5th of this month. Certainly one of the more notable albeit less visible additions was the incorporation of basic printing support by Colin Finck. At present ReactOS is only capable of sending print commands to a parallel port printer, but this is the first step towards universal support and Colin should be applauded for his effort.

It seems ReactOS can run Office 2007 now. That's actually quite neat.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Feb 2017 23:07 UTC, submitted by kragil
OSNews, Generic OSes

ToaruOS 1.0 was released 18 days ago, and since then, several bugfix releases have been released. The latest release - the one you want to test - is 1.0.3.

ToaruOS is a complete hobby operating system, including a kernel and userspace with many graphical applications. This is the first release considered to be "user-ready", but please keep in mind that ToaruOS is a hobby project and it may not be stable or suitable for any purpose you might have for an operating system. This release represents the culmination of many years of development, research, and learning.

IT's a remarkably fun operating system, and runs without any problems in VirtualBox. I've played with it a bit during the day, messing around with the basic but elegantly simple UI, browsing the file system, installing a few packages through the graphical package manager, and playing some Quake. It's rare for hobby operating systems to achieve this level of functionality in a 1.0 release, so colour me pleasantly surprised.

ToaruOS's kernel in its current form is 32-bit, non-SMP, monolithic (but modular), and Unix-like. It supports processes, threads, shared memory, files, pipes, TTYs, packet-based IPC, and basic IPv4 networking. Driver modules allow for access to EXT2 and ISO9660 filesystems, PATA and ATAPI disk access for hard drives and CDs, framebuffer support on most virtual machines (as well as bootloader-assisted generic framebuffer support), networking on AMD PCnet FAST, Realtek RTL8139, and Intel PRO/1000-series NICs, PS/2 mice and keyboards, audio on Intel AC'97 chipsets, as well as special support for VirtualBox's guest additions.

The userspace includes a dynamic linker, a full-featured compositing windowing system, many Unix-like utilities, a port of Python 3.6 (including many binding libraries for the ToaruOS windowing environment), and several graphical applications (including a package manager).

The code's on github.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Feb 2017 22:59 UTC
Legal

Apple is planning to fight proposed electronics "Right to Repair" legislation being considered by the Nebraska state legislature, according to a source within the legislature who is familiar with the bill's path through the statehouse.

The legislation would require Apple and other electronics manufacturers to sell repair parts to consumers and independent repair shops, and would require manufacturers to make diagnostic and service manuals available to the public.

This is completely normal in the automotive sector, and I see no reason why the tech sector should be any different.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 15th Feb 2017 21:51 UTC
IBM

Today, after sitting in storage for over 20 years, my brother and I dusted off his old IBM PS/2 Model 50 (8550-021), with the goal of cleaning it up and making sure it still works. It was still working when he stored it, so it should still be okay today (barring any unavoidable degradation caused by the slow march of time). As far as he remembers, it's got DOS installed on its 20MB hard drive (and a bunch of games).

I've taken it apart completely so that I can set to cleaning it thoroughly tomorrow. Everything seems to be in relatively pristine condition (save for the case, which is battered in a grungy, industrial kind of way). A visual inspection didn't reveal anything blown or out of the ordinary on the motherboard or HDD/FDD riser cards, and from what I can tell without opening it up, the PSU seems to not feature any blown caps either.

Originally, I was planning on just getting some cheap PS/2 keyboard and mouse somewhere (turns out none of us owns any of those any more), but the more I was awestruck by the industrial beauty and elegance of the PS/2 and its modular internals, I felt overcome by a strong urge to do this machine justice - assuming it still works, I'm buying the original PS/2 mouse and IBM Model M keyboard. It's the least I can do.

I've also been looking at other ways to expand and upgrade the device (which I'll do only after having confirmed it still works, of course). I've found an AST Advantage/2 RAM expansion/SCSI controller 16-bit MCA card (with 4MB of RAM installed) in an online store, which would be a neat way to add some additional memory to the machine. It's a multifunction MCA card that adds 8 RAM slots and a SCSI interface to the PS/2. I'm not entirely sure how these additional RAM slots work (i.e., does any RAM get added to extended memory?), but for its relatively low price, it seems like an interesting exotic piece of hardware to own either way.

There are other, far more substantial upgrades and peripherals I'd like to add to it, such as the IBM 486SLC2-50/25 processor upgrade kit (incredibly rare and prohibitively expensive if you do find one) or a math co-processor (haven't been able to find one, and would be rather useless for running a few DOS games anyway). Additionally, there are rare things like an MCA Sound Blaster or SGI IrisVision (more information) that'd be awesome to have, but I doubt I'll ever find them. I'd also love to get my hands on a matching IBM PS/2-era monitor, but I highly doubt I'll be able to find one that is in relatively good condition, close enough so I wouldn't have to ship it (dangerous), and not incredibly expensive.

This (admittedly modest) project has me quite excited, and I can't wait to see if it still works. This is not some disposable, faceless early 2000s Compaq or whatever - this is an iconic and truly classic machine that deserves care, attention, and continued periodic maintenance, even if it'll only serve as decoration. You don't just throw out or dump an IBM PS/2, and I possess the skills and passion to keep it in working order, so why not do so?