Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Nov 2018 23:12 UTC
Windows

Microsoft released the latest Windows 10 insider build for next year's April Windows 10 update, and it contained a welcome susprise.

Ever since we introduced the ability to choose between light and dark in Windows 10, we've heard feedback asking for a truer separation between the two options. When you select Light under Settings > Personalization > Colors, the expectation is that the system color would be lighter too. And it didn’t do that before - the taskbar and many other things stayed dark. Now, if you choose Light under Settings > Personalization > Colors, all system UI will now be light. This includes the taskbar, Start menu, Action Center, touch keyboard, and more.

This looks really, really nice. There's a few other changes in this build as well, but do note we're very early in the development process, so these builds are not for the faint of heart.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Nov 2018 23:07 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Among obscure pop culture tidbits and stories about wacky inventions, Tedium has often documented the continued survival of technology long thought of as obsolete. From calculagraphs to COBOL, we love hearing that ancient tech survives in the 21st century and revel in the uses that keep them around. So it was surprising to dig through the Tedium archives looking for something I expected to find, but didn't. Today, we're righting that wrong and diving into the robust and thriving world of a technology that was foundational to the progress humanity made during the 20th century. Today's Tedium is talking vacuum tubes.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Nov 2018 23:04 UTC
KDE

A little less than a year after the release of KDevelop 5.2 and a little more than 20 years after KDevelop's first official release, we are happy to announce the availability of KDevelop 5.3 today. Below is a summary of the significant changes.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Nov 2018 00:56 UTC
Linux

Samsung debuted DeX last year to make your phone behave a bit more like a computer when plugged into a monitor. This year, DeX functionality has improved so you don't need to expensive custom dock, just a video cable. At Samsung's developer conference last week, it announced DeX would also get full Linux support. It's only officially available to those in the beta program, but we've got the APK.

I remain convinced that this is eventually what all our phones will be able to do - adapt to whatever input method and/or display you hook up to it. We're in the early stages today, with lots of rough edges, performance hiccups, and other issues, but eventually, we won't bat an eye at walking into our homes and without us doing anything, our phone wirelessly hooks up to all displays in our house. Want to work on that presentation for tomorrow? Walk into your office, sit down, and your phone automatically wirelessly connects to the mouse, keyboard, and display on your desk. Want to watch Netflix? Just yell a command at your TV, and your phone plays season 7 of Game of Thrones: The Next Generation on your TV. And so on.

This is still a long way off, and it requires serious advances in wireless transmission and latency, but this is the future I want.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 23:13 UTC
In the News

While this is not a story about computing, it is a story about technology, and a very fascinating technology at that. Sure, steam heating systems may not sound particularly exciting, but trust me - you'd be wrong.

Back in 2016, The New Yorker ran a short story about a presentation by Dan Holohan.

Dan Holohan, a tall, bespectacled man, took the floor. Through such books as "The Lost Art of Steam Heating" and "We Got Steam Heat! A Homeowner's Guide to Peaceful Coexistence", as well as the Web site HeatingHelp.com, Holohan has built a community among those who work on and live with the nineteenth-century heating technology that is still common, if not commonly understood, in New York and in other older cities across the country.

It turns out a version of this presentation, held at the Central Park Arsenal for The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York (what a magnificent name!), is available on YouTube, and let me tell you - like you right now, I didn't think this subject could be even remotely interesting. As it turns out, though, ancient steam heating systems are an absolutely fascinating subject and kind of a neat piece of engineering. Did you know, for instance, that the 102 floors of the Empire State Building are heated with only one and a half pounds of steam pressure?

Holohan is clearly a man proud of his knowledge and trade, and his excitement about this arcane subject is palpable. I highly suggest taking 50 minutes out of your day to watch his presentation.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 22:45 UTC
Android

One UI will initially be rolled out as a beta for users later this month, and in January 2019, will officially make its way to all Galaxy S9, S9+, and Note 9 devices.

What we've seen of One UI so far looks quite promising, but it's also not without its faults. Here's both the good and bad that you can look forward to when the update lands on your phone.

One UI is Samsung's new TouchWiz, and it's kind of hilarious. For a number of applications, Samsung decided to put all the content on the bottom half of the screen, while reserving the top half for just one header (like "Settings" or "Messages"). Basically, you have a huge screen and a tall display, only for literally half of it to be taken up by a massive single-word header.

Okay Samsung. Okay.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 22:37 UTC
Windows

Microsoft has finally re-released the October 2018 Update for Windows 10, after pulling it about a month ago because a serious bug deleted a small number of users' files. Alongside the re-release, the company published a blog post detailing the testing process for Windows 10. This paragraph stood out to me:

Critical to any discussion of Windows quality is the sheer scale of the Windows ecosystem, where tens of thousands of hardware and software partners extend the value of Windows as they bring their innovation to hundreds of millions of customers. With Windows 10 alone we work to deliver quality to over 700 million monthly active Windows 10 devices, over 35 million application titles with greater than 175 million application versions, and 16 million unique hardware/driver combinations. In addition, the ecosystem delivers new drivers, firmware, application updates and/or non-security updates daily. Simply put, we have a very large and dynamic ecosystem that requires constant attention and care during every single update. That all this scale and complexity can "just work" is key to Microsoft's mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

With the virtually unlimited number of hardware and software permutations Windows runs on, it's actually nothing short of a miracle that updates go out to most users every month. Sure there is the occasional problem - like what happened a month ago - but Windows' update proces is an engineering marvel, and while blind Microsoft and Windows hate often blinds people to the things Microsoft does well, the fact remains that there is no other operating system in the world that even comes close to Windows when it comes to releasing updates for such a wide variety of possible hardware and software permutations.

I mean, Apple has had to pull a watchOS update only recently because it bricked Apple Watches - and how many Apple Watch models are there, total? Ten?

Windows has more than enough issues, but its update process is not one of them.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 01:16 UTC
Internet & Networking

The next version of HTTP, as agreed upon by the Internet Engineering Taskforce, is going to make some big changes.

In its continued efforts to make Web networking faster, Google has been working on an experimental network protocol named QUIC: "Quick UDP Internet Connections." QUIC abandons TCP, instead using its sibling protocol UDP (User Datagram Protocol). UDP is the "opposite" of TCP; it's unreliable (data that is sent from one end may never be received by the other end, and the other end has no way of knowing that something has gone missing), and it is unordered (data sent later can overtake data sent earlier, arriving jumbled up). UDP is, however, very simple, and new protocols are often built on top of UDP.

QUIC reinstates the reliability and ordering that TCP has but without introducing the same number of round trips and latency. For example, if a client is reconnecting to a server, the client can send important encryption data with the very first packet, enabling the server to resurrect the old connection, using the same encryption as previously negotiated, without requiring any additional round trips.

I am ashamed to admit that I actually know remarkably little of how the core technologies underpinning the internet and the world wide web actually work. It's apparently so well-designed and suited for its task that few of us ever really have to stop and think about how it all works - but when you do, it kind of feels like magic how all of our computers, smartphones, and other connected devices just talk to each other and every little packet of data gets sent to exactly the right place.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 00:15 UTC
Intel

One of the recent topics permeating through the custom PC space recently has been about power draw. Intel's latest eight-core processors are still rated at a TDP of 95W, and yet users are seeing power consumption north of 150-180W, which doesn't make much sense. In this guide, we want to give you a proper understanding why this is the case, and why it gives us reviewers such a headache.

A detailed look at this nebulous topic by AnandTech.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Nov 2018 00:13 UTC
Internet & Networking

At DuckDuckGo, we do not collect or share any personal information. That's our privacy policy in a nutshell. For example, we do not store IP addresses, and we do not create unique cookies. As such, we do not even have the ability to create search histories or search sessions for any individual - privacy by design.

At the same time, we need a way to reliably improve our products for our users in an anonymous way. There are a few methods we've developed to achieve this.

Spoiler alert: it doesn't involve collecting user data.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 12th Nov 2018 22:44 UTC
Apple

Have you ever wanted to run a Linux shell on your iOS device to transfer files, write shell scripts, or simply to use Vi to develop code or edit files? Now you can, with a project called iSH that is currently available as a TestFlight beta for iOS devices.

iSH is a project that aims to bring a Linux shell to iOS devices using a usermode x86 emulator. iSH is built on the Alpine Linux distro, which is designed to have a small footprint, be secure, and easy to use with little or no distracting bells and whistles.

Neat and useful project. Let's hope it eventually gets approved for App Store distribution.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 10th Nov 2018 00:35 UTC
Windows

The mobile platform I chose was put to bed last year, with no new hardware or software features planned. As such, when Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Windows 10, Joe Belfiore, confirmed that Windows 10 Mobile was no longer of "focus" to Microsoft, I threw in the towel. I've used both iOS and Android devices since then, and I can't say I've found my new home yet. Nothing I've used has been a full-time replacement for my Windows phones.

So, after over a year of hunting for my next true mobile companion, I've temporarily given up the search to go back "home". I jokingly called this Windows 10 Mobile's last voyage, but in a funny way, it's true. Outside of security updates, Windows 10 Mobile is no longer being maintained, meaning there are some issues that are starting to arise.

Windows Phone 7/8 was the only modern smartphone operating systems I've truly ever liked. The design, the applications, the fluidity - it felt like it was designed for me. I found it a joy to use, but it quickly became apparent that few developers were building applications for the platform, and the general public was never interested. This article is interesting, as it shows that using Windows 10 Mobile is like today.

I feel like I should snap up an HP Elite x3 for my collection of devices running dead platforms.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 10th Nov 2018 00:15 UTC
Android

At a technical level, APEX has been compared to Magisk, which works by mounting folders into the system partition at boot, rather than modifying the system partition directly (which is detectable). APEX appears to extend that same functionality over into core Android packages, separating out things like the Android Runtime into their own packages, separate from the system partition. That means they can be individually and separately updated from the system image.

It's possible that modularized OEM modifications could then be distributed on top of a Google-maintained system image - basically meaning the version of Android itself on a given phone could potentially be updated by Google, but the bits responsible for an OEM skin could be present, updated, and maintained as separate components. That's not to mention how it could ease ROM development, as Treble has.

It's good to see Google working to go beyond Treble, because the cold and harsh facts are that Treble hasn't made any serious dent in the update problem at all. The problem is as big as it's ever been.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Nov 2018 23:55 UTC, submitted by garyd
Windows

On October 2, 2018, Microsoft announced that the availability of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update. This post will cover what you can expect to see in WSL for the October 2018 Update, Windows 10 version 1809, and from recent Windows Insiders builds. You can find additional information on our detailed release notes.

Mind you, as you can see in the previous news item, 1809 was pulled and hasn't been rereleased yet. I'm not entirely sure why this blog post detailing these changes is still up without acknowledging that.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Nov 2018 23:51 UTC
Windows

Microsoft skipped over Release Preview with Windows 10 version 1809, and four days later, the update was pulled from Windows Update. This was mainly due to some users' files being deleted upon upgrading. Moreover, it turned out that the issue had been reported to the Feedback Hub, but it hadn't been upvoted enough times for anyone to notice.

The company published a blog post a few days after that, explaining the issue and saying that you'll now be able to indicate severity of a bug in a Feedback Hub report. There was a slight apology, and a sign that Microsoft will do at least the bare minimum to make sure that this doesn't happen again.

Microsoft hasn't said a word about it since.

Not a good few weeks for Windows Update and related services.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Nov 2018 01:37 UTC
Amiga & AROS

Speaking of Amiga, Mark Round has written a great blog post about running old AmigaOS 3.x software on AmigaOS 4, and the best ways to do so.

While I’ve been having a lot of fun with the new software written specifically for AmigaOS 4, the bulk of my software is still “classic” titles that used to run on my A1200. One of the first things I did when I set up my X5000 was to transfer my old Amiga’s hard drive over so I could continue running this library of software. I also wanted to set up an emulation of my A1200 so I can quickly launch a classic Workbench 3.9 session and pick up all my old projects and bits of code I’d written over the years.

Fortunately, the X5000 and AmigaOS 4 offers a variety of ways of running all your old software.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Nov 2018 01:30 UTC
Amiga & AROS

A brand new version of Icaros Desktop is now available to everyone. V2.2.4 includes new brilliant features and applications, small but important fixes and, for you Amiga lovers, a vintage GUI that can be selected after installation, which reproduces the plain old Amiga OS 3.1 interface.

Icaros Desktop is one of the easiest ways to experiences AROS, the open source Amiga-like operating system for x86.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 8th Nov 2018 15:57 UTC
Windows

Some Windows 10 users are having problems with their Pro licenses today, as users on the company's Community Forums and Reddit are reporting that their Windows 10 Pro systems are saying they are not activated, and telling users to install Windows 10 Home instead. Most of the reports appear to be coming from users who obtained the Windows 10 license thanks to the free upgrade path Microsoft offered back in 2015, suggesting that the issue is somehow related to it.

According to some of the reports, while the system says that users have a Windows 10 Home license, the Microsoft Store link in the settings page blocks them from attempting to buy a Pro license.

This happened to my workstation today, and it was a bit of a frightening moment - I earn my living using this machine, so seeing the big "Windows not activated" watermark certainly made me feel quite uncomfortable. Luckily, a reboot fixed it, but it does highlight just how problematic Microsoft's activation systems can be. I begrudgingly understand that Microsoft needs some way of determining the legitimacy of Windows installations and that it needs to deter piracy, but major bugs like this really shouldn't happen, ever.

Update: as it turns out, the reboot didn't fix my issue at all. After running for a little while, my machine again reverted to a deactivated state. This means a watermark on the desktop interfering with things like video games, and all personalization options - colours, backgrounds, etc. - are disabled. It also seems this issue is quite widespread.

Microsoft has not provided any official statement (!), and all we have to go on is an unofficial statement on its support forums that reads:

Microsoft has just released an Emerging issue announcement about current activation issue related to Pro edition recently. This happens in Japan, Korea, American and many other countries.I am very sorry to inform you that there is a temporary issue with Microsoft's activation server at the moment and some customers might experience this issue where Windows is displayed as not activated.

Our engineers are working tirelessly to resolve this issue and it is expected to be corrected within one to two business days.

This is clearly unacceptable. Users' machines currently have functionality disabled, and a big watermark is interfering with everything you do on your computer. Microsoft is basically saying "yeah just deal with that for a few days", which is entirely, utterly, and completely unacceptable.

Sadly, there's absolutely nothing users can do about this. As always, software is special and not held to the same standards as other products, so nothing will come of this - no fines, no government investigations, no lawsuits, nothing. If this happened to a car or even a goddamn toaster, recalls would be all over the news and heads would roll. Not with software, though - because software is special, and releasing garbage software under pressure from managers is entirely normal and acceptable, and repercussions and consequences are words entirely alien to consumer software companies.

Sadly, it is what it is.

Update II: the issue is now truly fixed. Affected users can go to Settings > Update & Security > Activation and click on the troubleshooter.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 8th Nov 2018 00:52 UTC
Apple

Apple's latest iOS devices aren't perfect, but even the platform's biggest detractors recognize that the company is leading the market when it comes to mobile CPU and GPU performance - not by a little, but by a lot. It's all done on custom silicon designed within Apple - a different approach than that taken by any mainstream Android or Windows device.

But not every consumer - even the "professional" target consumer of the iPad Pro - really groks the fact this gap is so big. How is this possible? What does this architecture actually look like? Why is Apple doing this, and how did it get here?

After the hardware announcements last week, Ars sat down with Anand Shimpi from Hardware Technologies at Apple and Apple's Senior VP of Marketing Phil Schiller to ask. We wanted to hear exactly what Apple is trying to accomplish by making its own chips and how the A12X is architected. It turns out that the iPad Pro's striking, console-level graphics performance and many of the other headlining features in new Apple devices (like FaceID and various augmented-reality applications) may not be possible any other way.

During Apple's event last week, the company didn't even mention Intel once, and profusely made it very clear just how much faster the A12X is compared to all other laptops - even its own - that obviously all run on Intel (or AMD) processors. It seems like with this exclusive Ars Technica article, Apple is continuing its A12X marketing blitz, which all just further solidifies that Intel's days inside Apple's Macs are almost over.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 8th Nov 2018 00:43 UTC
Android

At Samsung's Developer Conference earlier today, the company gave a short glimpse of its smartphone with foldable display.

Samsung's folding phone will actually have three screens - a large display that will unfold the phone into a small tablet, and a smaller display which sits on the outside of the phone for use in one-handed operation. Samsung calls this smaller screen the "cover display," and it definitely seems smaller than what you get on a modern, large-display smartphone. The idea is that since the "large" tablet display can only be used in the full-size mode, you'll need this secondary display for more day-to-day smartphone functions.

The demo device was inside a "black box" to disguise the actual industrial design, but that suggests this phone is getting pretty close to being done (also, the bezels won't be that large - it's deliberate obfuscation). Samsung says production of Infinity folding panels should be ready in the coming months, suggesting the phone could launch in the early part of next year.

Meanwhile, Google has announced that Android will support foldable displays, so that applications can seamlessly shrink and expand based on the state of the foldable display.

I love the technology that makes all this possible, but I think it'll take a few generations and iterating before these foldable displays truly become useful.

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