Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jun 2017 19:26 UTC
Games

Atari CEO Fred Chesnais told GamesBeat in an exclusive interview that his fabled video game company is working on a new game console.

In doing so, the New York company might be cashing in on the popularity of retro games and Nintendo’s NES Classic Edition, which turned out to be surprisingly popular for providing a method to easily play old games like Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda in HD on a TV.

[...]

Chesnais declined to describe a lot of details about the console. But he said it is based on PC technology. He said Atari is still working on the design and will reveal it at a later date.

It seems extremely unlikely that this will be a console in the Xbox, Playstation, or Switch sense, but if it's based on PC technology, it won't be some rebranded Android tablet either. I wasn't an Atari kid when I was young - PC and Nintendo all the way - so I have no sense of nostalgia for the company, but I'm still intrigued.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jun 2017 12:07 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Now that Ubuntu phones and tablets are gone, I would like to offer my thoughts on why I personally think the project failed and what one may learn from it.

To recapitulate my involvement in the project: I had been using Ubuntu Touch on a Nexus 7 on an on-and-off-basis between its announcement in 2013 and December 2014, started working on Click apps in December 2014, started writing the 15-part “Hacking Ubuntu Touch” blog post series about system internals in January 2015, became an Ubuntu Phone Insider, got a Meizu MX4 from Canonical, organized and sponsored the UbuContest app development contest, worked on bug reports and apps until about April 2016, and then sold off/converted all my remaining devices in mid-2016. So I think I can offer some thoughts about the project, its challenges and where we could have done better.

Excellent and detailed explanation of why Ubuntu Phone failed.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jun 2017 12:07 UTC
Apple

In what is surely the greatest bit of irony in the tech industry this week, a recording of an internal Apple briefing on countering leaking has leaked. Tons of interesting insight in the article covering the recording, but this bit jumped out at me, because I never put two and two together in this regard:

Apple's Chinese workers have plenty of incentive to leak or smuggle parts. "A lot, like 99.9 percent, of these folks are good people who are coming to a place that has a job, they're gonna make money, and they're gonna go back and start a business in their province or they're gonna do something else with it, support their family," Rice says. "But there's a whole slew of folks that can be tempted because what happens if I offer you, say, three months' salary?' In some cases we've seen up to a year's worth of salary being rewarded for stealing product out of the factory." Apple workers on the production line make approximately $350 a month, not including overtime, according to a 2016 report from China Labor Watch.

It never dawned on me that leaks could be the result of underpaid factory workers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jun 2017 21:39 UTC
AMD

The big news out of AMD was the launch of Zen, the new high-performance core that is designed to underpin the product roadmap for the next few generations of products. To much fanfare, AMD launched consumer level parts based on Zen, called Ryzen, earlier this year. There was a lot of discussion in the consumer space about these parts and the competitiveness, and despite the column inches dedicated to it, Ryzen wasn't designed to be the big story this year. That was left to their server generation of products, which are designed to take a sizeable market share and reinvigorate AMD's bottom line on the finance sheet. A few weeks ago AMD announced the naming of the new line of enterprise-class processors, called EPYC, and today marks the official launch with configurations up to 32 cores and 64 threads per processor. We also got an insight into several features of the design, including the AMD Infinity Fabric.

For the past few years, the processor market was boring and dominated by Intel.

This is the year everything changes.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jun 2017 10:36 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

The European parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) has put forward a proposal that would amend the EU's charter of fundamental rights to extend privacy rights to the digital realm and prevent governments of EU Member States from backdooring end-to-end encrypted services.

"This Regulation aims at ensuring an effective and equal protection of end-users when using functionally equivalent services, so as to ensure the protection of confidentiality, irrespective of the technological medium chosen," they write in the draft eprivacy proposal. "The protection of confidentiality of communications is also an essential condition for the respect of other related fundamental rights and freedoms, such as the protection of freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom of expression and information."

On encryption the committee amends an earlier text, proposed by the EU's executive body, the European Commission, to state: "[W]hen encryption of electronic communications data is used, decryption, reverse engineering or monitoring of such communications shall be prohibited. Member States shall not impose any obligations on electronic communications service providers that would result in the weakening of the security and encryption of their networks and services."

It's only a committee proposal for now that will need approval from the European Parliament, but at least it's something. It also happens to fly in the face of European leaders, who are talking of weakening encryption or banning it outright.

This proposal would obviously be the right thing to do, but with so many leaders around the world exploiting the wholly irrational fear of terrorism (you're much more likely to die sitting on the couch than at the hands of terrorists here in Europe) among the media-primed public and people falling for that nonsense hook, line, and sinker (see Brexit, Trump, and extreme right parties in The Netherlands and France), this proposal will most likely not make it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Jun 2017 22:04 UTC
Debian and its clones

In Stretch, the default MySQL variant is now MariaDB. The replacement of packages for MySQL 5.5 or 5.6 by the MariaDB 10.1 variant will happen automatically upon upgrade.

Firefox and Thunderbird return to Debian with the release of Stretch, and replace their debranded versions Iceweasel and Icedove, which were present in the archive for more than 10 years.

In addition, Debian GNU/Hurd also has a new release.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Jun 2017 21:55 UTC
Intel

This review comes in two big meaty chunks to sink your teeth into. The first part is discussing the new Skylake-X processors, from silicon to design and covering some of the microarchitecture features, such as AVX-512-F support and cache structure. As mentioned, Skylake-X has some significantly different functionality to the Skylake-S core, which has an impact on how software should be written to take advantage of the new features.

The second part is our testing and results. We were lucky enough to source all three Skylake-X processors for this review, and have been running some regression testing of the older processors on our new 2017 testing suite. There have been some hiccups along the way though, and we'll point them out as we go.

An extra morsel to run after is our IPC testing. We spend some time to run tests on Skylake-S and Skylake-X to see which benchmarks benefit from the new microarchitecture design, and if it really does mean anything to consumers at this stage.

As always, AnandTech delivers the goods when it comes to CPU reviews.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Jun 2017 21:53 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft researchers have created an artificial intelligence-based system that learned how to get the maximum score on the addictive 1980s video game Ms. Pac-Man, using a divide-and-conquer method that could have broad implications for teaching AI agents to do complex tasks that augment human capabilities.

These AIs are relatively simple and single-purpose now, but just remember what computers looked like only a few decades ago.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Jun 2017 22:53 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

On Fuchsia, a newly created process has nothing. A newly created process cannot access any kernel objects, cannot allocate memory, and cannot even execute code. Of course, such a process isn't very useful, which is why we typically create processes with some initial resources and capabilities.

Most commonly, a process starts executing some code with an initial stack, some command line arguments, environment variables, a set of initial handles. One of the most important initial handles is the PA_VMAR_ROOT, which the process can use to map additional memory into its address space.

Not the most detailed description just yet, but Fuchsia seems to be getting fleshed out more and more.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Jun 2017 22:50 UTC
ReactOS

ReactOS is participating in Google Summer of Code, and two of their projects have been detailed. Trevor Thompson is working on improving the NTFS driver:

When I started last year, ReactOS could read files from an NTFS volume, but had no write support whatsoever. After GSoC last year, the driver in my branch could overwrite existing files. I also fixed a few bugs in the driver's ability to read files, which have already been merged into the trunk. I also fixed ReactOS' implementation of LargeMCB's, which our NTFS driver has come to rely on, and which a few other filesystem drivers rely on.

My goals for this summer are simply file creation and deletion.

Meanwhile, Shriraj Sawant is working on adding taskbar features (more about Sawant in his GSoC blog post):

The current shell in ReactOS lets user manager running applications, start other applications and manage files but nothing more. This idea is about implementing 3 small shell extensions for showing the state of the battery of the machine, for ejecting usb devices and implementing the quick launch toolbar. These are important requirements and they are much needed while presenting ReactOS in real hardware. Not knowing the state of the battery or not being able to eject a usb flash drive is a serious usability problem. The shell extensions would be developed and tested to work on Windows.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Jun 2017 22:03 UTC
Internet & Networking

It was almost four years ago I switched from webmail to a customized email configuration based on Notmuch and Emacs. Notmuch served as both as a native back-end that provided indexing and tagging, as well as a front-end, written in Emacs Lisp. It dramatically improved my email experience, and I wished I had done it earlier. I've really enjoyed having so much direct control over my email.

However, I'm always fiddling with things - fiddling feels a lot more productive than it actually is - and last month I re-invented my email situation, this time switching to a combination of Mutt, Vim, mu, and tmux. The entirety of my email interface now resides inside a terminal, and I’m enjoying it even more. I feel I've "leveled up" again in my email habits.

I'm fairly sure a number of OSNews readers use similar setups.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Jun 2017 22:18 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Charles P. Thacker ("Chuck" to those who knew him), who helped pioneer many aspects of the personal computer, and who was awarded the 2009 ACM A.M. Turing Award in recognition of his pioneering design and realization of the first modern personal computer, and for his contributions to Ethernet and the tablet computer, died Monday, June 12, at the age of 74, after a brief illness.

[...]

Thacker spent the 1970s and 1980s at PARC. During this period, he served as leader of the project that developed the Xerox Alto personal computer system, the first computer designed from the ground up to support an operating system based on a graphical user interface. The hardware of the Alto, introduced in 1973, was designed mostly by Thacker, with Lampson developing its software.

It's hard to put into words how much this man - and his peers and team at Xerox - contributed to the world of computing. What an incredible genius to lose.

Thank you for your immeasurable contributions, good sir.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Jun 2017 22:15 UTC, submitted by Ryan Freeman
OpenBSD Theo de Raadt unveiled and described an interesting new kernel security feature: Kernel Address Randomized Link.

Over the last three weeks I've been working on a new randomization feature which will protect the kernel.

The situation today is that many people install a kernel binary from OpenBSD, and then run that same kernel binary for 6 months or more. We have substantial randomization for the memory allocations made by the kernel, and for userland also of course.

However that kernel is always in the same physical memory, at the same virtual address space (we call it KVA).

Improving this situation takes a few steps.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Jun 2017 22:13 UTC
Google

Google has hired a veteran chip architect away from Apple and is now looking to build its own chips for future versions of its flagship Pixel phone, Variety has learned from sources familiar with the hire. Manu Gulati, who had been spearheading Apple's own chip developments for close to eight years, joined Google in the last few weeks. He publicly announced the job change on his Linkedin profile Tuesday morning, stating that he now works as Google's Lead SoC Architect.

Unsurprising, since Google publicly stated that they were going to build their own silicon for the Pixel way back in October 2016. Google has reportedly also made a deal with LG for displays. It doesn't take rocket science to figure out Google is taking this whole Pixel thing a lot more serious than the glorified rebrand HTC phone that is the first Pixel seems to illustrate.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Jun 2017 22:04 UTC
In the News

While these are a couple of very specific examples, they are part of a wider industry trend that is woefully underdiscussed. As an industry, we have become overly accepting of this idea that it's okay for PR to actively lie to consumers if it will help their products sell better or be more positively received. PR dishonesty is considered par for the course.

We see this all over the technology industry. People take whatever a company PR person or some manager says as truth, without a single shred of critical thinking. This is quite dangerous, and reminds me of people blindly believing everything some political bigshot says as truth.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 14th Jun 2017 21:59 UTC
Windows

Microsoft first revealed its concerns over Chromebooks in an attack on Google’s laptops more than three years ago. While Chromebooks haven’t become best-sellers for consumers just yet, they have started to become popular with students in the US and slowly with some businesses. Microsoft is now revealing it's worried about this threat with two new videos on its Windows YouTube channel today.

One of the reasons Windows conquered the home was by first conquering the corporate world - people wanted the same computer at home as the one they were using at work. Now imagine if a whole generation of kids grows up with not just Android and iOS smartphones, but also ChromeOS PCs.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 13th Jun 2017 21:07 UTC
Apple

The Verge has published a long excerpt from the upcoming book The One Device: The secret history of the iPhone by Motherboard editor Brian Merchant, and there's quite a few interesting details in there. What stands out if you take it all in is that unlike what many seem to think - and unlike the romanticised image Apple tries to maintain - Apple didn't take some singular, targeted, focused stride to "invent" the iPhone.

For example, Phil Schiller wanted a hardware keyboard, and remained stubborn in his conviction:

The iPod phone was losing support. The executives debated which project to pursue, but Phil Schiller, Apple's head of marketing, had an answer: Neither. He wanted a keyboard with hard buttons. The BlackBerry was arguably the first hit smartphone. It had an email client and a tiny hard keyboard. After everyone else, including Fadell, started to agree that multitouch was the way forward, Schiller became the lone holdout.

He "just sat there with his sword out every time, going, 'No, we've got to have a hard keyboard. No. Hard keyboard.' And he wouldn't listen to reason as all of us were like, 'No, this works now, Phil.' And he'd say, 'You gotta have a hard keyboard!'" Fadell says.

In fact, Jobs was incredibly insecure about whether Apple should even pursue a phone at all.

Privately, Jobs had other reservations. One former Apple executive who had daily meetings with Jobs told me that the carrier issue wasn't his biggest hang-up. He was concerned with a lack of focus in the company, and he "wasn't convinced that smartphones were going to be for anyone but the 'pocket protector crowd,' as we used to call them."

The iPhone that would eventually change the industry wasn't a clear vision in Steve Jobs' mind's eye - no, it was the result of hundreds of incredibly smart engineers trying out thousands of different ideas and solutions, and endless arguing with other engineers and management - up to and including Jobs himself - to try and convince them their particular idea was the best one. The iPhone is the result of thousands of little and big arguments, small and huge decisions, eventually leading to one of the most transformative devices in computing history.

Jobs did not invent the iPhone. Apple's management didn't invent the iPhone. The iPhone was invented by hundreds of relatively nameless engineers, who poured years of their lives into it.

And a hundred years from now, nobody will remember their names.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 12th Jun 2017 20:31 UTC, submitted by dionicio
Intel

You'd expect with Microsoft adding x86 emulation to its upcoming ARM-based windows 10 PCs all the possible licensing issues would be sorted. As ubiquitous as x86 is, it's easy to forget it's still a patent minefield guarded by Intel. And surprise, surprise, with the chipmaker under pressure from AMD and ARM, it felt the need to make that very, very clear. Dangling at the end of a celebratory PR blog post about 40 years of x86, Intel writes:

However, there have been reports that some companies may try to emulate Intel's proprietary x86 ISA without Intel's authorization. Emulation is not a new technology, and Transmeta was notably the last company to claim to have produced a compatible x86 processor using emulation ("code morphing") techniques. Intel enforced patents relating to SIMD instruction set enhancements against Transmeta's x86 implementation even though it used emulation. In any event, Transmeta was not commercially successful, and it exited the microprocessor business 10 years ago.

Only time will tell if new attempts to emulate Intel's x86 ISA will meet a different fate. Intel welcomes lawful competition, and we are confident that Intel's microprocessors, which have been specifically optimized to implement Intel's x86 ISA for almost four decades, will deliver amazing experiences, consistency across applications, and a full breadth of consumer offerings, full manageability and IT integration for the enterprise. However, we do not welcome unlawful infringement of our patents, and we fully expect other companies to continue to respect Intel's intellectual property rights. Strong intellectual property protections make it possible for Intel to continue to invest the enormous resources required to advance Intel's dynamic x86 ISA, and Intel will maintain its vigilance to protect its innovations and investments.

I'm assuming Microsoft has all this stuff licensed nice and proper, but it's interesting that Intel felt the need to emphasize this as strongly as they do here. Which companies is Intel referring to here? Maybe Apple?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 12th Jun 2017 20:18 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

It's one of many, for sure, but as far as I'm concerned, we can never have enough of them: experimental hobby operating systems. GopherOS - no, not what you think - is an experimental operating system written in Go, licensed under the MIT license. It's all very small and early, but possibly interesting to some of you.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 12th Jun 2017 20:13 UTC
Apple

At WWDC, Apple reported that they've paid out $70 billion to developers, with 30% of that ($21 billion!) in the last year. That's a huge spike, and surprising to me because it didn't seem like my friends and I were spending more on apps last year. But that's anecdotal, so I wondered: where are these revenues coming from? I opened App Store to browse the top grossing apps.

The controlled, walled garden at work.