Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 22nd Apr 2018 15:18 UTC
In the News

Terminals have a special place in computing history, surviving along with the command line in the face of the rising ubiquity of graphical interfaces. Terminal emulators have replaced hardware terminals, which themselves were upgrades from punched cards and toggle-switch inputs. Modern distributions now ship with a surprising variety of terminal emulators. While some people may be happy with the default terminal provided by their desktop environment, others take great pride at using exotic software for running their favorite shell or text editor. But as we'll see in this two-part series, not all terminals are created equal: they vary wildly in terms of functionality, size, and performance.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 22nd Apr 2018 15:08 UTC
Legal

The Justice Department has opened an antitrust investigation into potential coordination by AT&T, Verizon and a telecommunications standards organization to hinder consumers from easily switching wireless carriers, according to six people with knowledge of the inquiry.

In February, the Justice Department issued demands to AT&T, Verizon and the G.S.M.A., a mobile industry standards-setting group, for information on potential collusion to thwart a technology known as eSIM, said two of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the details are confidential.

The problem, of course, is that in the US, these carriers bribe corrupt politicians to enact laws to hinder competition, for instance by making community broadband initiatives illegal. I doubt investigations like these will do anything to fix the root cause.

But hey, it's a start.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 21st Apr 2018 03:56 UTC
Android

Ars Technica takes a good look at Android Go, and concludes:

The best thing about Android Go is that it doesn't force anything on users. If you're like me and find Google Maps Go to be nearly useless, you are totally free to download the full version of Google Maps. Because of this, Android Go is never an "inferior" version of Android. In the current builds, at least, it's purely a lighter, less resource-intensive version of Android. If you can't stand the functionality reduction, you can easily fix it by downloading the full versions of apps.

However scattershot the overall package seems, Android Go does succeed in lowering the bar for what it takes to run Android. It's certainly more useful than something like Firefox OS or Tizen. Hardware this is cheap still doesn't result in a user experience I can call "good" though. If you can afford something better, spend the extra money.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Apr 2018 22:52 UTC
Windows

How much does adding somewhat frivolous animations to an OS matter? I'm not sure, but I do know that users of Windows will be very vocal as Microsoft experiments with adding them to Windows 10.

In Windows 10 Redstone 5 (due fall 2018) I expect Microsoft to continue to refine, improve, and make more consistent UI elements in Windows 10. That includes adding more animations to simple behaviors like the Action Center, but I can already see push back.

I know that especially among the kind of people who read OSNews, "animations" in UI design tends to be a very dirty word. I very much do not belong to that group of people, since I adore proper, well-thought out use of animations in UI design, such as the fun little touches in Material Design, the pivots and slides in Windows Phone's Metro, and yes, the brand new flourishes in Microsoft's Fluent Design, which is currently making its way to Windows 10 users all around the world.

I'm fine with being in the minority here on this one - to each their own.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Apr 2018 22:46 UTC
Multimedia, AV FFmpeg 4.0 has been released, and it's a major one. Since this particular subject matter - and its changelog - are way beyond the scope of my capabilities, I'll just leave you with the generic description of the project (in case you live under a rock).

FFmpeg is the leading multimedia framework, able to decode, encode, transcode, mux, demux, stream, filter and play pretty much anything that humans and machines have created. It supports the most obscure ancient formats up to the cutting edge. No matter if they were designed by some standards committee, the community or a corporation. It is also highly portable: FFmpeg compiles, runs, and passes our testing infrastructure FATE across Linux, Mac OS X, Microsoft Windows, the BSDs, Solaris, etc. under a wide variety of build environments, machine architectures, and configurations.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Apr 2018 21:21 UTC
Android

The Verge has a big exclusive - Google has managed to corral carriers into supporting something called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services", or Chat, which basically replaces SMS in every Android phone.

top-tier Android phone can cost upwards of a thousand dollars, and for that money, you'll get some amazing features. It will have a stellar screen, top-flight camera, gobs of storage, and an absolutely atrocious texting experience.

Most people in the world, whether they buy an iPhone or an Android phone, dump all the preinstalled chat applications into a junk folder, install WhatsApp or WeChat (or Telegram in repressive dictatorships like Russia and Iran), and forget this American obsession with iMessage vs. Google's 238437 chat apps even exists.

That being said.

Now, the company is doing something different. Instead of bringing a better app to the table, it's trying to change the rules of the texting game, on a global scale. Google has been quietly corralling every major cellphone carrier on the planet into adopting technology to replace SMS. It's going to be called "Chat", and it's based on a standard called the "Universal Profile for Rich Communication Services". SMS is the default that everybody has to fall back to, and so Google's goal is to make that default texting experience on an Android phone as good as other modern messaging apps.

Sounds like something they should've done ten years ago, but as you dive further into the details, a whole bunch of huge red flags pop up:

But remember, Chat is a carrier-based service, not a Google service. It's just "Chat", not "Google Chat". In a sign of its strategic importance to Google, the company has spearheaded development on the new standard, so that every carrier's Chat services will be interoperable. But, like SMS, Chat won't be end-to-end encrypted, and it will follow the same legal intercept standards. In other words: it won't be as secure as iMessage or Signal.

In the current political and societal climate, the lack of end-to-end encryption is absolutely bonkers. Obviously, there's no encryption because carriers (and our governments) want to snoop on our communications, but with end-to-end encrypted options readily available, why even bother going 2-3 years back in time?

If you're still trying to wrap your head around the idea that Google won't have a standalone consumer chat app, well, so am I. "The fundamental thesis behind the RCS protocol is it's a carrier service," Sabharwal says. That means that the carriers will be the final arbiters of what Chat can and can't do - and whether it will be successful. The good news is that Google appears to have herded all the carrier cats into a box where their Chat services will actually be interoperable.

Isn't the point to get away from under carrier control, not slide back under it?

I just don't see how such an archaic service like this will ever gain any traction, when most of the world has already settled on its chat service, mostly dictated by what your friends and family uses. Without end-to-end encryption and while under carrier control, this service seems like a massive step backward - not forward.

 

Linked by MikeB on Fri 20th Apr 2018 16:10 UTC
Morphos

Morph.Zone reports:

Dan Wood of kookytech.net has published a new MorphOS video that shows some of the new features of MorphOS 3.10 and demonstrates how to change the look of MorphOS in two easy to follow steps.

Also the lastest issue of Amiga print magazine Amiga Future has a review of MorphOS 3.10 (reading excerpt).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 20th Apr 2018 16:08 UTC
AMD

The headline results for the new processors are that they offer more performance than AMD’s first generation of Ryzen, use the same socket, are offered at similar prices, are competitive with the competition, and come bundled with some nice coolers. While the new Ryzen 2000-series processors are not enough to cause anyone that has already invested in Ryzen 1000-series to upgrade, AMD is offering a very attractive proposition to anyone two-to-three generations (or more) behind to upgrade into a high performance system.

AMD's strong run in processors continues.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Apr 2018 19:29 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

Look at this screenshot of MacPaint from the mid-1980s. Now look at this screenshot of a current version of Microsoft Excel for Mac. Finally, consider just how different the two applications actually are. The former is a 30-year-old black and white first party application for painting while the latter is a current and unabashedly third party application for creating spreadsheets. Yet despite having been created in very different decades for very different purposes by very different companies, these two very different applications still seem a part of the same thread. Anyone with experience in one could easily find some familiarity in the other, and while the creators of the Macintosh set out to build a truly consistent experience, there is only one significant piece of UX that these two mostly disparate applications share - the menu bar.

The lack of a menu bar in (most) touch applications is really what sets them apart from regular, mouse-based applications. It makes it virtually impossible to add more complex functionality without resorting to first-run onboarding experiences (terrible) or undiscoverable gestures (terrible). While menus would work just fine on devices with larger screens such as tablets and touch laptops - I use touch menus on my Surface Pro 4 all the time and they work flawlessly - the real estate they take up is too precious on smartphones.

If touch really wants to become a first-class citizen among the mouse and keyboard, developers need to let go of their fear of menus. Especially for more complex, productivity-oriented touch applications on tablets and touch laptops, menus are a perfectly fine UI element. Without them, touch applications will never catch up to their mouse counterparts.

 

Linked by Drumhellar on Thu 19th Apr 2018 19:28 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft has released details on Azure Sphere, their bid to make IoT devices secure by default:

First is a new class of microcontrollers (MCUs) that supports seven critical hardware features that Microsoft says are a necessary foundation to build secure systems. These include support for unforgeable encryption keys protected by hardware, the ability to update system software, and hardware-enforced compartmentalization between software components. Microsoft has some track record in building such systems, in particular with the Xbox, which is designed to have tamper-proof hardware that's securely updatable.

[...]

Second is a new operating system: Azure Sphere OS. The company says this OS combines a custom Linux kernel with Windows-inspired security features, providing a secure platform that scales down to smaller systems than Windows can reach. Application code is run within containers to provide isolation, and Microsoft will have a custom security monitor running beneath the Linux kernel to protect system integrity and arbitrate access to critical resources.

The third part is Azure Sphere Security Service, a cloud service that will detect security issues (by recognizing failures and errors on devices), act as a source of software updates, and mediate secure communications between devices and to the cloud.

The Microsoft-made microcontroller designs will be available to manufacturers under royalty-free licenses.

Additionally, the big news is Microsoft's own Linux distribution, a first for the company. They do have a custom Linux build they us in-house for Azure's networking stack, but that isn't available outside of the company.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 19th Apr 2018 19:18 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

But a laptop is more than just a video playback machine. For myself and millions of others, it's the primary tool for earning a living. We use these machines to read, write, remember, create, connect, and communicate. And in most of these other applications, a 16:9 screen of 13 to 15 inches in size just feels like a poor fit.

As long as I can easily open more than one document side by side, any aspect ratio gets my blessing. I don't mind black bars on video, especially since today's screens have pretty good black levels, so they're hardly distracting. Still, I'm glad more and more laptop makers are starting to see the benefit in 3:2-like displays.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 18th Apr 2018 22:03 UTC
General Development

Honestly, I don't think the Atari 2600 BASIC has ever had a fair review. It's pretty much reviled as a horrible program, a horrible programming environment and practically useless. But I think that's selling it short. Yes, it's bad (and I'll get to that in a bit), but in using it for the past few days, there are some impressive features on a system where the RAM can't hold a full Tweet and half the CPU time is spent Racing The Beam. I'll get the bad out of the way first.

Input comes from the Atari Keypads, dual 12-button keypads. If that weren't bad enough, I'm using my keyboard as an emulated pair of Atari Keypads, where I have to keep this image open at all times.

Okay, here's how this works.

An older story - it's from 2015 - but fascinating nonetheless.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th Apr 2018 22:32 UTC
Windows

It looked like Windows 10 build 17133 was going to be blessed as the 1803 update, but that plan has been derailed. Though the build was pushed out to Windows Insiders on the release preview ring - an action that, in the past, has indicated that a build is production ready - it turns out that it had a bug causing blue screens of death.

Microsoft could likely have addressed the situation with an incremental update, but for whatever reason, it didn't. Instead, we have a new build, 17134. This build is identical to 17133 except that it fixes the particular crashing issue. Fast ring Insiders have the build now, and it should trickle out to Slow ring and Release Preview ring shortly. If all goes well, the build will then make its way out to regular Windows users on the stable release channel.

Microsoft's various rings for Windows testing seem to be really paying off. They give testers a lot of flexibility in just how bleeding edge they wish to be, and they make it very easy to change between the various levels, while also providing people like me - who really don't have the time to actively test and report bugs - a safe and easy way to get big updates a few weeks before it hits mainstream.

So basically what Linux distributions have been doing for two decades.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th Apr 2018 22:27 UTC
Intel

The company is announcing two specific TDT features. The first is "Advanced Memory Scanning." In an effort to evade file-based anti-virus software, certain kinds of malware refrain from writing anything to disk. This can have downsides for the malware - it can't persistently infect a machine and, instead, has to reinfect the machine each time it is rebooted - but makes it harder to spot and analyze. To counter this, anti-malware software can scan system memory to look for anything untoward. This, however, comes at a performance cost, with Intel claiming it can cause processor loads of as much as 20 percent.

This is where Advanced Memory Scanning comes into effect: instead of using the CPU to scan through memory for any telltale malware signatures, the task is offloaded to the integrated GPU. In typical desktop applications, the GPU sits there only lightly loaded, with abundant unused processing capacity. Intel says that moving the memory scanning to the GPU cuts the processor load to about two percent.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 17th Apr 2018 22:22 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

It was supposed to be the laptop that saved the world.

In late 2005, tech visionary and MIT Media Lab founder Nicholas Negroponte pulled the cloth cover off a small green computer with a bright yellow crank. The device was the first working prototype for Negroponte's new nonprofit One Laptop Per Child, dubbed "the green machine" or simply "the $100 laptop". And it was like nothing that Negroponte's audience - at either his panel at a UN-sponsored tech summit in Tunis, or around the globe - had ever seen.

The OLPC was all the rage and hype for a few years back then, but it never materialised. Still, while not nearly the same thing, cheap mobile phones and smartphones have played a somewhat similar role.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th Apr 2018 01:51 UTC
ReactOS

ReactOS 0.4.8 has been released, and its biggest new feature is experimental support for NT6+ applications.

With software specifically leaving NT5 behind, ReactOS is expanding its target to support NT6+ (Vista, Windows 8, Windows 10) software. Colin, Giannis and Mark are creating the needed logic in NTDLL and LDR for this purpose. Giannis has finished the side-by-side support and the implicit activation context, Colin has changed Kernel32 to accept software made for NT6+, and Mark keeps working on the shim compatibility layer. Although in a really greenish and experimental state, the new additions in 0.4.8 should start helping several software pieces created for Vista and upwards to start working in ReactOS. Microsoft coined the term backwards compatibility, ReactOS the forward compatibility one.

There's tons of other improvements, as well.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th Apr 2018 01:49 UTC
Android

On the right you can see photos of a Coolpad Modena 2, which was built around MediaTek's MT6735P SoC (System on a chip). In case you are wondering why we're not showing a picture with postmarketOS running on it: we can't! This is because the vendor decided to ship it with a closed down bootloader, which prevents users from running custom kernels.

The postmarketOS team details how they are cracking open the bootloader and the cellular modem firmware on MediaTek-based devices.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th Apr 2018 01:45 UTC
Mac OS X

It's perplexing that this flagship feature of macOS 10.13.4 feels so incomplete. Sure, we've come a long way since enthusiasts were hacking it together with help from online forums, but more work needs to be done to ensure a consistent experience. We wouldn't advise going out and buying an enclosure just yet, but we nevertheless see reasons in the performance gains to be hopeful that we could recommend it at some point in the future.

It seems strange to me that switching GPUs - even external ones - is such an arduous process. It seems this process is more seemless on Windows. On macOS it seems each and every applications needs to be modified to add support for it, whereas on Windows, the operating system itself takes care of it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th Apr 2018 01:37 UTC
Multimedia, AV

64kB intros, 64k for short, are like demos but with an added arbitrary limitation on the size: they must fit entirely within a single binary file of no more than 65536 bytes. No extra assets, no network, no extra libraries: the usual rule is that it should run on a freshly installed Windows PC with up to date drivers.

This is crazy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Apr 2018 22:58 UTC, submitted by MikeB
Amiga & AROS

Trevor Dickinson of A-EON Technology compares the performance of the newly released game Tower57 on various AmigaOne configurations running AmigaOS 4.1 and PowerPC Macs running MorphOS:

It's probably no surprise that the AmigaOne X5000/20 comes out on top by quite a margin. The AmigaOne X1000 was no slowcoach either and pushed the G5 PowerMac into third place in my tests. It was also really good to see the AmigaOne A1222 giving the 2.5 Ghz PowerMac a run for its money. However, the really good news is that all of the Amiga Next-generation machines compared favourably with the commercial Steam release and were all very playable.

I'm quite surprised by the performance of MorphOS 3.10 on my PowerBook G4 1.33Ghz - even on its paltry 512MB RAM (upgraded yesterday to 2GB). The browser is quite worrisome due to WebKit not being built anymore for PowerPC/big endian so it's quite slow, but everything else is quite smooth. I'm planning on upgrading the mechanical hard drive to an SSD for an additional little boost, but it's nice to see that such old machines can be revived with something other than a custom Linux installation.