Linked by nfeske on Tue 1st Dec 2015 21:46 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

With the just released version 15.11, the Genode OS framework takes a big step towards desktop computing. On that account, its GUI and audio stacks have become much more modular, dynamic, and flexible. Moreover, the release features the port of Intel KMS from Linux, extends the support for the USB Armory and Xilinx Zynq-7000, and introduces new file-system infrastructure such as a VFS server.

In their release documentation, the Genode developers dedicate an entire section (including screenshots) to the ambition to use Genode as desktop OS. It turns out that the framework's existing component architecture solves a number of difficult problems in new and elegant ways. For example, the configuration of all types of components - be it low-level device drivers or high-level GUI components - can be edited live with a plain text editor. The changes become effective by merely saving a file. This works even for components that have no means or permissions to access a file system at all. Another interesting twist on classical GUI-integration features is Genode's new copy-and-paste mechanism that prevents the clipboard to be misused by malicious applications as a covert information channel while retaining the convenience of traditional clipboard mechanisms.

At a lower level, the desktop theme of the release is supported by the new Intel KMS driver ported from the Linux kernel. It allows the use of multiple displays, and screen resolutions can be switched on the fly. With nearly 70,000 SLOC of Linux kernel code, the porting was a major feat. This work continues the pattern of reusing Linux kernel code, which already enabled Genode to use the Intel wireless stack, the Linux USB stack, and the Linux TCP/IP stack as user-level components. The Intel KMS driver is interesting also in another respect: Since it is tightly coupled with the Intel GEM and DRM infrastructure of the Linux kernel, those subsystems had to be ported as well. So the driver may become a suitable starting point for the development of a future GPU multiplexer.

Thanks to the developer's continuous focus on making the framework fit for day-to-day computing, Genode is now used by a hand full of die-hard Genode enthusiasts as their primary OS. Still, many tasks are carried out via a guest OS in VirtualBox. But all of the circa 40 underlying components such as the kernel, device drivers, protocol stacks, and a growing number of applications are working nicely together and are stable and fast enough to get productive work done.

Besides the main focus on desktop computing, the release is not short of other areas of improvement. Xilinx Zynq-7000 has been added to the supported platforms, TrustZone on the USB Armory received a lot of attention, and a new VFS server makes Genode's file-system infrastructure much more flexible. Those and many more topics are covered by the detailed release documentation.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Dec 2015 21:46 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Mozilla chairperson Mitchell Baker:

Therefore I believe Thunderbird should would thrive best by separating itself from reliance on Mozilla development systems and in some cases, Mozilla technology. The current setting isn't stable, and we should start actively looking into how we can transition in an orderly way to a future where Thunderbird and Firefox are un-coupled. I don't know what this will look like, or how it will work yet. I do know that it needs to happen, for both Firefox and Thunderbird's sake. This is a big job, and may require expertise that the Thunderbird team doesn't yet have. Mozilla can provide various forms of assistance to the Thunderbird team via a set of the Mozilla Foundation’s capabilities.

Are there still any Thunderbird users left? It's been in maintenance mode for a while, and there's several great alternatives (some of them even based on Thunderbird). That being said, having Thunderbird as a separate entity from Firefox, that can make its own decisions, could benefit the open source project greatly.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Dec 2015 18:54 UTC

The one thing that disappointed me about the Robin was the state of its software optimization. Nextbit hopes to ship out the first handsets to preorder customers and Kickstarter backers in late January, but it still has a long way to go until its software is up to the task. The Robin's current Android build is slow, in spite of the capable Snapdragon 808 processor within, and unfortunately buggy. The camera app, for example, is not yet functional, so there's nothing to judge one of the phone's key components on.

This phone would be a lot more interesting if they cut the cloud nonsense, and just focused on delivering this unique design as a high-quality, affordable pure Android phone.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Dec 2015 18:51 UTC
Mac OS X

There are a number of reasons for Sketch leaving the Mac App Store - many of which in isolation wouldn't cause us huge concern. However as with all gripes, when compounded they make it hard to justify staying: App Review continues to take at least a week, there are technical limitations imposed by the Mac App Store guidelines (sandboxing and so on) that limit some of the features we want to bring to Sketch, and upgrade pricing remains unavailable.

And this is yet another lauded developer leaving the fledgling Mac App Store behind. Tapbots' Paul Haddad is pretty on point.

Five to ten years from now, we'll all laugh about how terrible of an idea the centralised, controlled, closed application store was, and mourn the immense damage it has done to developers. A short gold rush, followed by the total destruction of the independent developer community. I hope it was worth it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Dec 2015 00:37 UTC, submitted by Anonymous

To provide the best experience for the most-used Linux versions, we will end support for Google Chrome on 32-bit Linux, Ubuntu Precise (12.04), and Debian 7 (wheezy) in early March, 2016. Chrome will continue to function on these platforms but will no longer receive updates and security fixes.

We intend to continue supporting the 32-bit build configurations on Linux to support building Chromium. If you are using Precise, we'd recommend that you to upgrade to Trusty.

The first signs of the end of 32bit are on the wall - starting with Linux. I wonder how long Google will continue to support 32bit Chrome on Windows. For some strange reason, Microsoft is still selling 32bit Windows 10.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 1st Dec 2015 00:33 UTC
Internet & Networking

The following series of maps depicts the speed at which news traveled to Venice, fron 1500 to 1765. The isochronic lines represent one week, and give a broad indication of the time required for letters to reach their destination. All three maps describe the speed of letters traveling toward Venice.

Today, thanks to telephony and internet, this is all instantaneous. Kind of amazing how we went from weeks and weeks for news to get around, to mere seconds, in a matter of just several centuries. The moment I press 'publish' on this news item, it's there in your browser, hitting the RSS feeds, going on Twitter.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 30th Nov 2015 22:34 UTC

If a report from the Japanese blog Macotakara is to be believed, Apple is planning on getting rid of the headphone jack in the next iPhone. As it attempts to once again shrink its flagship device, Apple is reportedly planning on shipping EarPods that connect through the Lighting port with the next iPhone in order to remove the thicker 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a bad idea.

Indeed it is. If Apple were to really remove the 3.5mm jack, it will do so for one reason: control. The 3.5mm jack is obviously an open standard, and Apple can do little to control what kind of headphones you use. Now that Apple owns a very popular brand of headphones, I'n sure the company is itching to lock consumers into its Lightning port.

If true, yet another terrible anti-consumer move from Apple.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 29th Nov 2015 17:47 UTC

I am less frustrated, and more focused working on this setup. A big chunk of that is even outside the constant popups in OS X, there's simply less to be distracted by.

I've gone so far as to have to literally switch a cable to move between machines (as opposed to a KVM), to help me train my brain into a different context.

Overall I'm quite happy with the choices I made here.

A nice write-up from someone switching from OS X to FreeBSD, and everything that entails.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 29th Nov 2015 17:42 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

XINU stands for Xinu Is Not Unix -- although it shares concepts and even names with Unix, the internal design differs completely. Xinu is a small, elegant operating system that supports dynamic process creation, dynamic memory allocation, network communication, local and remote file systems, a shell, and device-independent I/O functions. The small size makes Xinu suitable for embedded environments.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Nov 2015 21:35 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

From the good women and men over at the EFF:

Earlier this year it was revealed that Lenovo was shipping computers preloaded with software called Superfish, which installed its own HTTPS root certificate on affected computers. That in and of itself wouldn't be so bad, except Superfish's certificates all used the same private key. That meant all the affected computers were vulnerable to a "man in the middle" attack in which an attacker could use that private key to eavesdrop on users' encrypted connections to websites, and even impersonate other websites.

Now it appears that Dell has done the same thing, shipping laptops pre-installed with an HTTPS root certificate issued by Dell, known as eDellRoot. The certificate could allow malicious software or an attacker to impersonate Google, your bank, or any other website. It could also allow an attacker to install malicious code that has a valid signature, bypassing Windows security controls. The security team for the Chrome browser appears to have already revoked the certificate. People can test if their computer is affected by the bogus certificate by following this link.

Did you buy a Dell computer during your Black Friday shopping thing over there in the US? Might want to look it over before handing it your loved one.

Alternatively, just buy a Mac and don't deal with this nonsense.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 27th Nov 2015 21:31 UTC
General Unix

The latest problem I was working out was how to run Unix on the Atari ST. The Tramiels had somehow wrangled a license for AT&T's SVR-something-or-other version of Unix (might have been SVR3, but this was in the bad old days when AT&T was actively fucking up Unix, and it could have been just about any version, including SVR666). The license was for a mind boggling, nay, jaw-dropping ten bucks a seat. The problem was that the ST didn’t have any kind of memory management hardware, just a raw CPU flinging real addresses at naked DRAM, and the machine's cheap-ass vanilla 68000 was incapable of recovering from a fault unless you cheated.

On a related note, there's MiNT.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 25th Nov 2015 23:14 UTC

Have you ever wondered what's inside your Macbook's charger? There's a lot more circuitry crammed into the compact power adapter than you'd expect, including a microprocessor. This charger teardown looks at the numerous components in the charger and explains how they work together to power your laptop.

Fascinating little bit of technology you don't really pay much attention to.


Linked by joekiser on Wed 25th Nov 2015 20:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

From the Jolla Blog:

Many of you have been rightfully asking, where did our tablet money go? Below is an analysis of it in a simple graph. Big part of the tablet project went to Sailfish OS software development (more than 50% of project costs). As I have said in earlier blogs, hardware is the easy part, software is the king (and the beast).


Overall, as I also explained in a recent TechCrunch interview, the alternative OS is a really big and challenging agenda. But I still believe it is moving ahead, yet very slowly. The primary challenge for us is that our agenda might be somewhat forward leaning, and we need to wait until the world catches up with this vision that other OSs are heavily needed to create an alternative for Android. The interest for our agenda is just now emerging. I firmly believe that companies and consumers will soon realize that the world really needs options in mobile OSs. We've already had many interesting discussions with potential new partners about using Sailfish OS in their own projects. I'm looking forward to announcing the results of these talks soon.

I wonder how the story would have been different if Sailfish OS were free software and had a strong community to aid in software development.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Nov 2015 17:57 UTC

Malware means software designed to function in ways that mistreat or harm the user. (This does not include accidental errors.) This page explains how Microsoft software is malware.

Malware and nonfree software are two different issues. The difference between free software and nonfree software is in whether the users have control of the program or vice versa. It's not directly a question of what the program does when it runs. However, in practice nonfree software is often malware, because the developer's awareness that the users would be powerless to fix any malicious functionalities tempts the developer to impose some.



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Nov 2015 00:11 UTC

One of the biggest freedoms associated with free software is the ability to replace a program with an updated or modified version. Even so, of the many millions of people using Linux-powered phones, few are able to run a mainline kernel on those phones, even if they have the technical skills to do the replacement. The sad fact is that no mainstream phone available runs mainline kernels. A session at the 2015 Kernel Summit, led by Rob Herring, explored this problem and what might be done to address it.

This indeed a big problem, and I'm glad it's finally being picked up.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Nov 2015 00:06 UTC

One the most requested features we receive is to make app builds and deployment faster in Android Studio. Today at the Android Developer Summit, we're announcing a preview of Android Studio 2.0 featuring Instant Run that will dramatically improve your development workflow. With Android Studio 2.0, we are also including a preview of a new GPU Profiler.

Instant Run allows you to change the code of your program as it's running on your device or emulator, and if it indeed works as advertised, this should be a major boon for developers. TechCrunch claims Google's also improved the emulator in this release, and if there's one thing I know about programming for Android, it's that the emulator was absolutely terrible, so good to know they're working on it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 24th Nov 2015 00:00 UTC

Recently I started playing Minecraft, again. I find vanilla Minecraft somewhat boring, so I always look out for modpacks. After searching for new modpacks, I stumpled upon FTB Horizons: Daybreaker. Looking at the included mods list, OpenComputers caught my eye.

As the name suggests, OpenComputers adds computers to Minecraft. Real computers! They are highly modular too. You can add peripherals, from monitors to keyboards and expansion cards that add capabilities such as graphics and network. They can also be programmed in Lua, in-game. Another type of card also exists, the Internet card which, as you can imagine, can communicate with the real-life Internet. Awesome.

It never ceases to amaze me what can be done with Minecraft.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Nov 2015 23:40 UTC

The first reviews for Microsoft's latest flagship smartphones are coming in, the first device with Windows 10 for phones. This is going to be the big one, right? After several false starts and restarts, this was finally going to be it, everyone told us.

The Verge:

In the mobile world, Microsoft is way behind Google and Apple, and has what many would say is an insurmountable deficit to make up. It could have pulled out all of the stops and produced a phone that was visually impactful, wildly innovative, and truly riveting compared to anything else to make up lost ground.

The Lumia 950 is, unfortunately, none of those things. Sure, Microsoft put some newer guts in it, and Windows 10 has some interesting features, but there's nothing really here that would drive anyone but the most die hard Windows fan to buy it.

The WSJ:

It feels like the Lumia 950 is a proof of concept that might help Microsoft get momentum for its new strategy. But I can't recommend buying a $600 proof of concept. For now, your phone stays... A phone.

And Ars Technica:

If the Lumia 950 were more keenly priced then it might be easier to get excited about it. Along with its bigger brother, it fills a glaring gap in the Lumia range and does at last offer an upgrade path. For Windows Phone fans (and I am one), this phone, or its bigger brother, is much needed and very welcome. But this is not a phone that is likely to win over new converts. It does its job, and it keeps the platform ticking over. The struggle to attract new users, however, remains.

Way too little, way too late. Windows Phone is done.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Nov 2015 15:08 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jolla Ltd, the mobile company from Finland today announced that its latest financing round which aimed to end in November, has been postponed and the company needs to adjust its operations accordingly. At the same time the company has filed for a debt restructuring program in Finland, to ensure the continuity of its business. Jolla will also temporarily lay off a big part of its personnel.

To anyone capable of basic pattern recognition, this does not come as a surprise. I doubt I'm getting my tablet, even though I backed it in the first hour of availability, but to be honest, I'm much more concerned about the people being "temporarily" laid off. These are all people who took an incredible risk to follow a dream, and I hope - despite the dire signs - Jolla pulls through and they can keep their jobs, or that they can easily and quickly find new jobs.

Almost two years ago, I wrote in my Jolla review:

Few devices have a history as complicated as the Jolla and Sailfish. The ten-year journey from the Nokia N770 to the Jolla was long, arduous, filled with focus shifts, mergers, and other complications. Like the nameless protagonist in The Last Resort, in order to step out of the shadows of the old world, Jolla had to leave Providence behind, traverse the Great Divide, cross the Rockies to reach the Malibu, and set sail across the Pacific to end up on the pearly white beaches of Lahaina.

However, also just like the nameless protagonist, they found that the natural beauty of Lahaina had already been framed and plasticised by hotel chains and fast food restaurants. It is in that environment that Jolla must make a stand and survive - because there's no more new frontier.

It seems like Jolla was unable to survive amidst the hotel chains and fast food restaurants of the mobile technology industry.

Only a few days ago, my brother had a gift for me. Something special, something I know he cares about a lot. A square black box, embossed with the outline of a phone with a slide-out keyboard, and, in silver lettering, the timeless "NOKIA Nseries" and "Nokia N900". None of you know my brother - obviously - but I know just how huge of a moment this was. Up until only a few months ago, he still used his Nokia N900 as his one and only smartphone. Not as a curiosity for parlour tricks - no, as his primary, day-to-day smartphone.

His attachment and love for his N900 is something you don't see very often in technology. It's not the kind of deluded fandom you see in some other circles, but more of a "I know this device is outdated and slow and that the software isn't very modern, but it works for me". Talk to any current N900 user, and you'll get the same vibe. In fact, the N900 my brother gave to me wasn't his only one, he still has another one as back-up.

As a back-up to what? Well, after a short stint with a Nokia N9 - which I bought from him a few years ago - he went back to his N900, until a few months ago, when he finally settled on a new device, a Sony Z3 Compact. After the last few months, he finally felt comfortable enough to donate one of his N900s (but not both!). Unsurprisingly, he was always interested in Jolla and kept an eye on them, and while he certainly played with mine on occasion, it never clicked.

When, as Jolla, spiritual successor to the infamous and beloved Nokia Maemo/Harmattan family, you can't even entice someone like my brother, you know you're lost in a world where you're never going to compete with Android or iOS.

My limited edition Jolla The First One will always have a special place in my heart, and the tablet, if it ever ships to me, will certainly be one of the more prized curiosities in my collection, but I'm afraid the ship has sailed on Jolla.

It's probably in Fiji by now.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Nov 2015 21:28 UTC

Much of the marketing around Apple's new iPad Pro has been centered on its ability to run professional grade software and the variety of creativity apps it supports. But for smaller developers of pro software, the iPad Pro may present more of a quandary than a new computing platform.

The reason? Despite the new tablet's processing power and capabilities, it's still running on mobile software - and developers aren't totally convinced the economic incentives exist in the App Store for iOS. In short, they feel they wouldn't be able to charge users the amounts they normally would for a version of their software that runs on a desktop.

It's a problem that exists not only around the iPad Pro, but mobile software development in general, and highlights the very real challenges that smaller software companies face when deciding which software platforms to prioritize - especially as mobile tablets and PCs converge.

This is a huge problem for closed, mobile-first devices like Apple's iPad Pro. Large companies like Adobe can run comprehensive cloud infrastructures and fund the burden of mobile development with the sales of proper software. Smaller developers, however, cannot. This problem doesn't exist on competitors like the Surface Pro, because they run a traditional, proper desktop.

After the starry eyes of the initial gold rush subsided, it became clear centralised application stores wreaked havoc in the software industry, and caused a spiraling race to the bottom. Sadly, it seems like Apple has no answer to this problem for its iPad Pro.