Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 22:49 UTC
General Development

Rust 1.27.0 has been released! As regular readers will know, I'm not a programmer and know very little about the two main new features in this release. The biggest new feature is SIMD.

Okay, now for the big news: the basics of SIMD are now available! SIMD stands for "single instruction, multiple data".

The detailed release notes have more information.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 22:45 UTC
Legal

The shifting rules about software patentability reflect a long-running tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit loves software patents; the Supreme Court is more skeptical.

That fight continues today. While the Federal Circuit has invalidated many software patents in the four years since the Alice ruling, it also seems to be looking for legal theories that could justify more software patents. Only continued vigilance from the Supreme Court is likely to ensure things don't get out of hand again.

The 40-year-old Flook ruling remains a key weapon in the Supreme Court's arsenal. It's the court's strongest statement against patenting software. And, while software patent supporters aren't happy about it, it's still the law of the land.

That's the third US legal article in a row, but it's a great article that looks at the history of the tug of war between the Supreme Court and the Federal Circuit.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 22:41 UTC
Legal

A California net neutrality bill that could have been the strictest such law in the country was dramatically scaled back yesterday after state lawmakers caved to demands from AT&T and cable lobbyists.

While the California Senate approved the bill with all of its core parts intact last month, a State Assembly committee's Democratic leadership yesterday removed key provisions.

"What happened today was outrageous," Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), the bill author, said. "These hostile amendments eviscerate the bill and leave us with a net neutrality bill in name only."

Corruption works.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 22:37 UTC
Legal

The U.S. Supreme Court freed states and local governments to start collecting billions of dollars in new sales taxes from online retailers, overturning a ruling that had made much of the internet a tax-free zone and put traditional retailers at a disadvantage.

News of the ruling caused shares of Internet retailers including Amazon.com Inc. and Wayfair Inc. to fall.

The court's 1992 decision involving catalog sales had shielded retailers from tax-collection duties if they didn’t have a physical presence in a state. Writing for the 5-4 court Thursday, Justice Anthony Kennedy said that ruling was obsolete in the e-commerce era.

The sticker price not being the actual price you pay at the register is one of those things that always baffles and annoys me whenever I'm visiting the US. It seems odd to me that physical retailers have to charge tax, but online retailers don't. Seems like an odd loophole that needed fixing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 13:25 UTC
Intel

Intel Corporation today announced the resignation of Brian Krzanich as CEO and a member of the board of directors. The board has named Chief Financial Officer Robert Swan interim chief executive officer, effective immediately.

Intel was recently informed that Mr. Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel's non-fraternization policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel's values and adhere to the company's code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr. Krzanich's resignation.

Companies have these rules for a reason - and it's good to see the consequences of violating them apply to the CEO as well. That being said, I doubt Krzanich will be living in a cardboard box any time soon.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Jun 2018 07:44 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Mozilla recently hit the reset button on Firefox. About two years ago, six Mozilla employees were huddled around a bonfire one night in Santa Cruz, Calif., when they began discussing the state of web browsers. Eventually, they concluded there was a "crisis of confidence" in the web.

"If they don't trust the web, they won't use the web," Mark Mayo, Mozilla's chief product officer, said in an interview. "That just felt to us like that actually might be the direction we're going. And so we started to think about tools and architectures and different approaches."

Now Firefox is back. Mozilla released a new version late last year, code-named Quantum. It is sleekly designed and fast; Mozilla said the revamped Firefox consumes less memory than the competition, meaning you can fire up lots of tabs and browsing will still feel buttery smooth.

Firefox is in a good place right now, and has gained a lot of momentum since the release of Quantum. With Chrome's dominance, I'm really glad people are looking at alternatives such as Firefox and even Edge (the latter being my browser of choice for some inexplicable reason).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Jun 2018 23:25 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Verizon and AT&T have promised to stop selling their mobile customers' location information to third-party data brokers following a security problem that leaked the real-time location of US cell phone users.

Good news for Verizon and AT&T customers, but one has to wonder who's going to pay for this. They're going to have to recover the lost income somewhere, and that's probably going to be, well, you.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Jun 2018 22:46 UTC
Legal

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court officially picked up the long-running antitrust case Apple v. Pepper. The court will decide whether iPhone users can sue Apple for locking down the iOS ecosystem, something the suit's plaintiffs say is creating an anti-competitive monopoly.

Apple v. Pepper could theoretically affect how tech companies can build walled gardens around their products. The Supreme Court isn't going to make a call on that specific issue, but its decision could affect people's relationship with all kinds of digital platforms. Here's what's at stake when the Supreme Court case starts, which should happen sometime in the next year.

Sideloading code on a computer you own should not void any warranties.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Jun 2018 22:44 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

If there's a singular trend to point to for phones in 2018, it's the effort to cram as much screen into a device as possible. Oppo's new Find X, which is being officially announced at a live streamed event in Paris today, combines a number of trendy design ideas, plus some even newer tricks, to fit an extremely large 6.4-inch display into a phone that you can still hold in one hand. The Find X’s design is so space efficient that Oppo claims it has a screen to body ratio of 93.8 percent. And it does this without utilizing a notch, which should make at least some people happy.

The most interesting aspect of the Find X's design is its camera system, which is completely hidden when the phone is off or the camera app is closed. When you turn the Find X on and open the camera app, the entire top section of the phone motorizes up and reveals a 25-megapixel front-facing camera, 3D facial scanning system, and 16-megapixel + 20-megapixel dual rear camera. Close the camera app and the whole assembly motors back into the phone's chassis. Oppo says the camera can open in just 0.5 seconds, and based on my experience, that seems fairly accurate.

I have my doubts about the longevity and durability of motorized camera systems like these, but there's no denying it's a pretty neat trick.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 23:28 UTC
Apple

On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone - not just power users - can reap the benefits.

While it's still too early to comment on the long-term impact of Shortcuts, I can at least attempt to understand the potential of this new technology. In this article, I'll try to explain the differences between Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts app, as well as answering some common questions about how much Shortcuts borrows from the original Workflow app. Let's dig in.

Workflow was an amazing iOS application, even with the inherent limitations imposed by iOS. Now that Workflow is owned by Apple and properly integrated into iOS, it should provide an even better experience. While I'm not particularly interested in Shortcuts on my iPhone X, I can't wait to dig into it on my iPad Pro.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 21:57 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft has ported Windows 10 and Linux to E2, its homegrown processor architecture it has spent years working on mostly in secret.

As well as the two operating systems, the US giant's researchers say they have also ported Busybox and FreeRTOS, plus a collection of toolkits for developing and building applications for the processor: the standard C/C++ and .NET Core runtime libraries, the Windows kernel debugger, Visual C++ 2017's command line tools, and .NET's just-in-time compiler RyuJIT.

Microsoft has also ported the widely used LLVM C/C++ compiler and debugger, and related C/C++ runtime libraries. The team wanted to demonstrate that programmers do not need to rewrite their software for the experimental chipset, and that instead programs just need to be recompiled - then they are ready to roll on the new technology.

I had no idea Microsoft was working on its own instruction set - even if only for research purposes. The Register has some more information on what E2 is like.

The Register understands from people familiar with its development that prototype E2 processors exist in the form of FPGAs - chips with reprogrammable circuitry that are typically used during the development of chips. For example, a dual-core implementation on Xilinx FPGAs exists, clocked at 50MHz. The team has also developed a cycle-accurate simulator capable of booting Windows and Linux, and running applications.

Qualcomm researchers were evaluating two EDGE chip designs with Microsoft: a small R0 core, and an R1 core running up to 2GHz fabricated using a 10nm process. The project, we must stress, is very much a work in progress.

It seems to be a radical departure from the norm, and I'm very interested to see where this will lead.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 21:48 UTC
Legal

On June 20, the European Parliament will set in motion a process that could force online platforms like Facebook, Reddit and even 4chan to censor their users' content before it ever gets online.

A proposed new European copyright law wants large websites to use "content recognition technologies" to scan for copyrighted videos, music, photos, text and code in a move that that could impact everyone from the open source software community to remixers, livestreamers and teenage meme creators.

Anybody who has ever had any dealings with YouTube's Content ID system will know just how terrible of an idea this is.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 21:38 UTC
IBM

At a small event in San Francisco last night, IBM hosted two debate club-style discussions between two humans and an AI called "Project Debater". The goal was for the AI to engage in a series of reasoned arguments according to some pretty standard rules of debate: no awareness of the debate topic ahead of time, no pre-canned responses. Each side gave a four-minute introductory speech, a four-minute rebuttal to the other's arguments, and a two-minute closing statement.

Project Debater held its own.

I'd pay so much money to see prominent political leaders debate this machine.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 08:38 UTC
FreeBSD

We're pleased to announce that June 19 has been declared FreeBSD Day. Join us in honoring The FreeBSD Project's pioneering legacy and continuing impact on technology.

Why today? Well, 25 years ago to the day, the name FreeBSD was chosen as the name for the project. FreeBSD formed the base of all kinds of operating systems we use every day today - like macOS and iOS and the operating systems on the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 3, 4, and Vita - and FreeBSD code can be found in the unlikeliest of places, such as Haiku, which uses FreeBSD network drivers, and even Windows, which, although information is sparse, seemed to at one point use FreeBSD code for command-line networking utilities like ftp, nslookup, rcp, and rsh.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Jun 2018 08:37 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

My big project this year is to get a DEC 340 monitor working. Here is a picture of one of them.

The DEC 340 was a very early and rare computer monitor dating from the mid '60s used of course, on DEC computers, their PDP series. Two cabinets of rack mounted electronics. The 340 is historic and was used in some early work that pioneered modern computer graphic techniques. It is quite a bit different from Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors used by personal computers we were all familiar with a few years ago. In comparison it is alien technology. All circuits are implemented using discrete components and there are no integrated circuits anywhere in the design. The discrete components themselves are unusual dating from the early days of transistor use.

It always amazes me how fast technology has developed over the past few decades.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Jun 2018 23:22 UTC
Linux

For reasons beyond the scope of this entry, today I feel like writing down a broad and simplified overview of how modern Linux systems boot. Due to being a sysadmin who has stubbed his toe here repeatedly, I'm going to especially focus on points of failure.

I always find it fascinating to read about how computers boot - it's often a very intricate process, built atop decades of backwards compatibility.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Jun 2018 23:16 UTC
Legal

Assembly programming can be intimidating for people who have never looked into it any deeper than a glance, but giving that it underpins how the computers we use work it can be helpful having context in regards to what is actually being run by the CPU.

You can run the code samples live on the webpage itself thanks to Emscription and v86. Neat.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Jun 2018 23:11 UTC
General Development

So I just finished my first Flutter app and I feel I can safely invest much more of my time long term to the framework. Writing a Flutter app has been a litmus test and Flutter passed the test. It’s amazing to now be able to competently write apps for iOS and Android. I also love writing and scaling backends and my wife Irina is a UX so it’s a powerful combination.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Jun 2018 14:33 UTC
Apple

Augmented reality (AR) has played prominently in nearly all of Apple's events since iOS 11 was introduced, Tim Cook has said he believes it will be as revolutionary as the smartphone itself, and AR was Apple's biggest focus in sessions with developers at WWDC this year.

But why? Most users don't think the killer app for AR has arrived yet - unless you count Pokémon Go. The use cases so far are cool, but they're not necessary and they're arguably a lot less cool on an iPhone or iPad screen than they would be if you had glasses or contacts that did the same things.

From this year's WWDC keynote to Apple's various developer sessions hosted at the San Jose Convention Center and posted online for everyone to view, though, it's clear that Apple is investing heavily in augmented reality for the future. We're going to comb through what Apple has said about AR and ARKit this week, go over exactly what the toolkit does and how it works, and speculate about the company's strategy - why Apple seems to care so much about AR, and why it thinks it's going to get there first in a coming gold rush.

While AR clearly has a role to play in professional settings (e.g construction work, medical settings, and so on), I still haven't seen a general purpose application that justifies the heavy investment in AR by Apple. All demos usually come down to "oh, that's neat, I guess" and "that is incredibly uncomfortable". Where's the killer app?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Jun 2018 14:27 UTC
Linux

FBGraphics was made to produce fullscreen pixels effects easily with non-accelerated framebuffer by leveraging multi-core processors, it is a bit like a software GPU (much less complex and featured!), the initial target platform is a Raspberry PI 3B and extend to the NanoPI (and many others embedded devices), the library should just work with many others devices with a Linux framebuffer altough there is at the moment some restrictions on the supported framebuffer format (24 bits).

FBGraphics is lightweight and does not intend to be a fully featured graphics library, it provide a limited set of graphics primitive and a small set of useful functions to start doing framebuffer graphics right away with or without multi-core support.

Neat project.