Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 19th Oct 2018 19:56 UTC
Android

After news earlier this week that Google was going to make sweeping changes to how it licenses Android within the European Union, The Verge now has the prices Google is going to charge.

EU countries are divided into three tiers, with the highest fees coming in the UK, Sweden, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands. In those countries, a device with a pixel density higher than 500 ppi would have to pay a $40 fee to license Google's suite of apps, according to pricing documents. 400 to 500ppi devices would pay a $20 fee, while devices under 400 ppi would pay only $10. In some countries, for lower-end phones, the fee can be as little as $2.50 per device.

That's quite a bit more than I would've thought.

 

Linked by Feneric on Fri 19th Oct 2018 19:04 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

From the Byte Cellar:

What inspired me to pull the Model 4 down off the shelf were a number of tweets from telnet BBS pals showing the system being put to great use logged into various systems across the web. Some of the screenshots showed the machine rendering ANSI "graphics" onscreen and I looked into it. As I suspected, the stock Model 4 is not capable of taking on a custom character set such as is needed by ANSI emulation, and I discovered the system had been equipped with a graphics board and the ANSI-supporting terminal program, ANSITerm, was rendering "text" to a graphics display; the character set was basically a software font.

And I just had to go there.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 19th Oct 2018 18:58 UTC
Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an interview with BuzzFeed News, went on the record for the first time to deny allegations that his company was the victim of a hardware-based attack carried out by the Chinese government. And, in an unprecedented move for the company, he called for a retraction of the story that made this claim.

I have zero reason to believe anything Apple or Tim Cook says on this matter. Apple is utterly and wholly dependent on the Chinese government, and assuming the Bloomberg story is 100% accurate, I doubt Tim Cook would openly side with Bloomberg and thus openly attack the Chinese government. Xi Jinping can literally make or break Apple - the American company cannot build its iPhones anywhere else, as not only would it take an utterly massive hit in its margins, it would take years - possibly even decades - to train the amount of staff needed to build that many iPhones. Apple simply has no choice but to bend over backwards for the Chinese government, which is why Apple readily hands over all of its Chinese customers' data to the Chinese government.

That being said, this doesn't automatically mean the Bloomberg story is 100% accurate. I don't believe in crazy conspiracy theories - conspiracy theories are dumb - about coordinated leaks by the Trump administration to discourage American companies from building their products in China. The Trump administration is wholly and utterly inept at doing anything and is held together only by a common desire to oppress women and minorities and sack America before the curtain falls, so I doubt they could even arrange a single secret meeting with Bloomberg journalists without Trump incoherently tweeting about it or somebody resigning over it.

The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, and only time will tell where, exactly, that middle lies.

 

Linked by Frank Schmidt on Fri 19th Oct 2018 18:41 UTC
X11, Window Managers

Arcan is a display server++ project that has been mentioned on OSNews a few times before. Arcan's developers recently posted an in-depth comparison of Arcan to Xorg - claiming to soon be not only at feature parity but beyond it.

It is worthwhile to stress that this project in no way attempts to 'replace' Xorg in the sense that you can expect to transfer your individual workflow and mental model of how system graphics works without any kind of friction or effort. That said, it has also been an unspoken goal to make sure that everything that can be done in an Xorg environment should be possible here - in general there is nothing wrong with the feature set in X (though a bit limited), it is the nitty gritty details of how these features work, are implemented and interact that has not really kept up with the times or been modelled in a coherent way. Thus, it is a decent requirement specification to start with - just be careful with the implementation and much more can be had to a fraction of the code size.

A fascinating read if you are familiar with some of the technical difficulties here.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Oct 2018 21:42 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Ubuntu 18.10 has been released.

The Linux 4.18 kernel together with updates in Mesa and X.org significantly improve game performance. Graphics support expands to AMD VegaM in the latest Intel Kabylake-G CPUs, Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, B+ and Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.

Ubuntu 18.10 introduces the GNOME 3.30 desktop and Yaru, the new community-developed default theme. Fingerprint unlock functionality is featured for compatible PCs and the latest versions of Firefox, LibreOffice, and Chromium are included.

The full release notes are also available.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Oct 2018 21:39 UTC
OpenBSD

We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 6.4. This is our 45th release. We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of more than twenty years with only two remote holes in the default install.

As in our previous releases, 6.4 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 22:49 UTC
Legal

Three state treasurers and a top official from New York have joined a shareholders' motion to install an independent chairman at Facebook, claiming the move would improve governance and accountability.

[...]

The move comes as Facebook was presented with a new legal challenge. The technology company has been accused of misleading advertisers by inflating the viewing figures for videos on its site.

A group of US advertisers launched a fraud claim against the social media giant on Tuesday, stating that it had overstated the average viewing time of advertising videos on the site by between 100 and 900pc before reporting them in 2016.

All tech companies are pretty terrible as far as companies go, but Facebook really seems to be going out of its way to lead the pack. As far as I'm concerned, we shut it down. Would anyone really miss it?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 22:45 UTC
Apple

Let me take you back to 25 May, 1999.

One look at QuickTime 4.0 Player and one must wonder whether Apple, arguably the most zealous defender of consistency in user interface design, has abandoned its twenty-year effort to champion interface standards. As with IBM's RealThings, it would seem that appearance has taken precedence to the basic principles of graphical interface design. In an effort to achieve what some consider to be a more modern appearance, Apple has removed the very interface clues and subtleties that allowed us to learn how to use GUI in the first place. Window borders, title bars, window management controls, meaningful control labels, state indicators, focus indicators, default control indicators, and discernible keyboard access mechanisms are all gone. According to IBM's RealThings, and apparently to Apple, such items and the meaningful information they provide are merely "visual noise and clutter". While the graphical designer may be pleased with the result, the user is left in a state of confusion: unable to determine which objects are controls, which are available at any point in the interaction, how they are activated, where they may be located, and how basic functions can be performed.

Looking back, QuickTime 4.0 Player really signaled the end of proper GUI design at Apple. Up until that point, Apple had refined what became known as Platinum to a T - it was a beautifully consistent, logical, easy to use, and pleasant to look at UI. After introducing the world to 'brushed metal', Apple slowly slid downhill - and they've never been able to recover.

Fascinating to look back and read articles such as these, almost 20 years later.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:12 UTC
Android

There's a new phone with the word "Palm" on it that's tiny, intriguing, and has very little to do with Palm beyond that word printed on the back. It comes from a startup in San Francisco, which purchased the rights for the name from TCL last year. It costs $349.99 and will be available in November, but you can't go out and buy it on its own. It's only available as an add-on to a current line. Also, Steph Curry is somehow involved.

This is a rather interesting little device, as it seems one of the very phones focusing on being a small device that gets out of your way instead of trying to draw you in. I honestly don't understand the business model, though - who's going to buy a second $350 phone you can only get when you buy your primary phone? This seems doomed to fail, even though I'm sure there are quite a few people who'd love to buy a relatively cheap, well-designed full Android phone that isn't a surfboard.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:08 UTC
Linux

Elementary OS, a rather interesting Linux distribution with a very heavy focus on usability, has released its latest release.

elementary OS is made up of two main parts: the "desktop" which includes the core user experience, look and feel, and system pieces; and the apps that come with the OS out of the box. elementary OS 5 Juno includes major updates across several of these core apps.

Elementary OS is sometimes regarded as the macOS of the Linux world, as it aims to pretty much streamline and hide all the less user friendly aspects of using Linux to higher degree than even systems like Ubuntu or Linux Mint. They also consider design a central aspect, which does seem to bear fruit - Elementary looks incredibly attractive.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 17th Oct 2018 00:03 UTC
Android

Google has detailed its response to the EU Android antitrust ruling, and going forward, Google's going to change quite a few things about how it distributes Android in the European Union.

First, we're updating the compatibility agreements with mobile device makers that set out how Android is used to develop smartphones and tablets. Going forward, Android partners wishing to distribute Google apps may also build non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the European Economic Area (EEA).

Second, device manufacturers will be able to license the Google mobile application suite separately from the Google Search App or the Chrome browser. Since the pre-installation of Google Search and Chrome together with our other apps helped us fund the development and free distribution of Android, we will introduce a new paid licensing agreement for smartphones and tablets shipped into the EEA. Android will remain free and open source.

Third, we will offer separate licenses to the Google Search app and to Chrome.

While I doubt we'll see a sudden increase in competing platforms, these changes do make it possible for device makers to offer devices that are less tied to Google alongside their regular Google Android devices. I can imagine OEMs offering devices that run Microsoft's growing suite of Android applications, which would be a good thing for competition.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 16th Oct 2018 20:13 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

At its annual Adobe Max conference, Adobe announced plans to bring a complete version of Photoshop to the iPad in 2019.

Photoshop CC for iPad will feature a revamped interface designed specifically for a touch experience, but it will bring the power and functionality people are accustomed to on the desktop.

This is the real, full photoshop - the same codebase as the regular Photoshop, but running on the iPad with a touch UI. The Verge's Dami Lee and artist colleagues at The Verge got to test this new version of Photoshop, and they are very clear to stress that the biggest news here isn't even having the "real" Photoshop on the iPad, but the plans Adobe has for the PSD file format.

But the biggest change of all is a total rethinking of the classic .psd file for the cloud, which will turn using Photoshop into something much more like Google Docs. Photoshop for the iPad is a big deal, but Cloud PSD is the change that will let Adobe bring Photoshop everywhere.

This does seem to be much more than a simple cash grab, and I'm very intrigued to see if Adobe finally taking the iPad serious as a computing platform will convince others to do so, too - most notably Apple.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 22:44 UTC
Microsoft

Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, philanthropist and owner of two professional sports teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Portland Trail Blazers, died on Monday in Seattle. He was 65.

With Bill Gates being such a prominent figure, you'd almost always forget about Paul Allen. Our condolences to his friends and family.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 12:11 UTC
Linux

In recent years, three different distribution independent package formats have gained a lot of popularity. There are already a few Linux distributions like Endless OS and Fedora Silverblue that depend solely on distribution independent packages to run desktop applications. Are these package formats ready to become main packages formats for Linux distributions?

In this article we will take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each package format individually, and of distribution independent package formats in general.

I haven't really been keeping up with this relatively recent development of new distribution-independent package formats, so I was unpleasantly surprised when, after installing Linux Mint on my laptop, I would often find two different installable packages of the same program in the software manager. Often, these would have different versions.

Regardless of technical merit, that's not exactly a friendly user experience.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 10:02 UTC
Apple

As Apple continues to update its iPhones with new security features, law enforcement and other investigators are constantly playing catch-up, trying to find the best way to circumvent the protections or to grab evidence. Last month, Forbes reported the first known instance of a search warrant being used to unlock a suspect's iPhone X with their own face, leveraging the iPhone X's Face ID feature.

But Face ID can of course also work against law enforcement - too many failed attempts with the 'wrong' face can force the iPhone to request a potentially harder to obtain passcode instead. Taking advantage of legal differences in how passcodes are protected, US law enforcement have forced people to unlock their devices with not just their face but their fingerprints too. But still, in a set of presentation slides obtained by Motherboard this week, one company specialising in mobile forensics is telling investigators not to even look at phones with Face ID, because they might accidentally trigger this mechanism.

The security mechanisms on modern phones are complex legal problems for law enforcement, and one example in the article highlights just how far law enforcement is willing to go: UK police enacted a fake mugging to steal a suspect's phone as he was using it, so it would be unlocked. The officers then proceeded to endlessly swipe so it wouldn't lock itself.

Crazy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 09:57 UTC
Intel

VT-x is name of CPU virtualisation technology by Intel. KVM is component of Linux kernel which makes use of VT-x. And QEMU is a user-space application which allows users to create virtual machines. QEMU makes use of KVM to achieve efficient virtualisation. In this article we will talk about how these three technologies work together. Don't expect an in-depth exposition about all aspects here, although in future, I might follow this up with more focused posts about some specific parts.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 09:56 UTC
Apple

Early in the platform's life-long before the release of the Apple TV 4K - which has very attractive specifications for game development - Apple lifted the requirement that games support its controller. But the first impression had already been made. And even if developers could release games that required a controller, the lack of a controller bundle for games-minded Apple TV buyers meant that developers couldn't feel confident they'd find a large audience that could play their games.

But there's more going on here than just controller support. To find out more, we talked to the people who would have the most complete perspective on the Apple TV's video game credentials.

Apple doesn't understand games. It never has, and I doubt it ever will (at least, in the near future). People often like to point at iOS as a successful gaming platform, but I don't count the endless string of gambling apps designed to prey on children and other willing people to really be games. If your gaming platform isn't even popular enough for Minecraft, you don't have a gaming platform.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 15th Oct 2018 00:00 UTC
In the News

Ever since selling Handspring to Palm in the early 2000s, Jeff Hawkins, creator of the Palm Pilot and founder of Palm, has been working on his true passion: neuroscience and trying to understand how the brain works. Teaming up with several neuroscientists and some former Palm people, his company Numenta, entirely funded by Hawkins himself, is now ready to show its research to the world.

Mr. Hawkins says that before the world can build artificial intelligence, it must explain human intelligence so it can create machines that genuinely work like the brain. "You do not have to emulate the entire brain," he said. "But you do have to understand how the brain works and emulate the important parts."

[...]

Now, after more than a decade of quiet work at Numenta, he thinks he and a handful of researchers working with him are well on their way to cracking the problem. On Monday, at a conference in the Netherlands, he is expected to unveil their latest research, which he says explains the inner workings of cortical columns, a basic building block of brain function.

Numenta's research is apparently so complex that Alphabet's artificial intelligence research company, DeepMind, told him they simply didn't understand it. If this work, which I think is detailed in this scientific paper published over the weekend (but don't quote me on it - it might be another paper altogether), is indeed the breakthrough neuroscience has been waiting for, it could have enormous consequences, not just for neuroscience and biology, but also for artificial intelligence and its applications in the world of computing.

I'm very curious to see if this research holds up to scientific scrutiny and peer review, because even the smallest of steps towards understanding how the brain works would be a massive scientific breakthrough.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Oct 2018 00:37 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

After considering the maintenance, performance and security costs of the feed preview and subscription features in Firefox, we've concluded that it is no longer sustainable to keep feed support in the core of the product. While we still believe in RSS and support the goals of open, interoperable formats on the Web, we strongly believe that the best way to meet the needs of RSS and its users is via WebExtensions.

With that in mind, we have decided to remove the built-in feed preview feature, subscription UI, and the "live bookmarks" support from the core of Firefox, now that improved replacements for those features are available via add-ons.

I would assume most RSS users already use more capable RSS readers and/or browser extensions, so it makes perfect sense for Firefox developers to remove this functionality from the browser so they no longer have to maintain it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 13th Oct 2018 00:35 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Interim OS is a radical new operating system with a focus on minimalism. It steals conceptually from Lisp machines (language-based kernel) and Plan 9 (everything is a file system). It boots to a JITting Lisp-like REPL and offers the programmer/user the system's resources as filesystems.

You can run it on a Raspberry Pi 2, or as a hosted operating system on ARM Linux, x86 Linux, OS X, Windows, and even on AmigaOS 3.x.