Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Nov 2018 01:26 UTC
Windows

Another great little story from The Old New Thing.

At one point, the following code was added to the part of the kernel that brings the system out of a low-power state:

        ;
        ; Invalidate the processor cache so that any stray gamma
        ; rays (I'm serious) that may have flipped cache bits
        ; while in S1 will be ignored.
        ;
        ; Honestly.  The processor manufacturer asked for this.
        ; I'm serious.
        ;
         invd

I'm not sure what the thinking here is. I mean, if the cache might have been zapped by a stray gamma ray, then couldn't RAM have been zapped by a stray gamma ray, too? Or is processor cache more susceptible to gamma rays than RAM? The person who wrote the comment seems to share my incredulity.

The invd was commented out a few weeks later, but the comment block remains in Windows' kernel code to this day. Amazing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Nov 2018 23:42 UTC
Linux

Android devices are based on the Linux kernel but, since the beginning, those devices have not run mainline kernels. The amount of out-of-tree code shipped on those devices has been seen as a problem for most of this time, and significant resources have been dedicated to reducing it. At the 2018 Linux Plumbers Conference, Sandeep Patil talked about this problem and what is being done to address it. The dream of running mainline kernels on Android devices has not yet been achieved, but it may be closer than many people think.

As I always say - Android is the most popular Linux distribution of all time, and by a huge, huge margin. This often makes a lot of people very angry, as they come up with all sorts of additional random imaginary requirements as to what constitutes a Linux distribution. If they manage to get the Android version of the Linux kernel back into mainline, these discussions will probably become even more nebulous - and entertaining.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Nov 2018 23:37 UTC
IBM

Archaic to most people, IBM mainframes play a pivotal role in our everyday life. Behind the scenes, these state-of-the-art machines process billions of transactions every day. Announced in July of last year, IBM's latest mainframe is the z14, succeeding the z13 which launched back in 2015.

Earlier this year at the 65th International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco IBM presented some of the architectural changes between the z13 and z14. The paper was presented by Christopher Berry, a Senior Technical Staff Member for the IBM Systems Hardware Development Team. Mr. Berry led the z14 physical design execution.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Nov 2018 12:17 UTC, submitted by Jason Morris
OSNews, Generic OSes

Now the 10th official release of Xformer, released on October 10 2018 and of course called Xformer 10, has been largely rewritten and optimized for today's Windows 10 PCs and Windows 10 ARM64 devices, such as Microsoft Surface tablets, all-in-one touch-screen Sony VAIO desktops, and all-day Qualcomm Snapdragon-based ARM64 tablets. Xformer 10 has also been verified to run on Windows 7 machines but some of the cool new features that you will read about below are best used with modern touch-screen hardware.

After almost three years of development by Xformer creator Darek Mihocka and fellow Atari 8-bit developer Danny Miller, there are two big themes in this major upgrade of the classic ATARI 8-bit emulator Xformer.

Xformer runs Atari 400/800, Atari 800XL, and Atari 130XE software on Windows PCs. This new version comes, among other things, with autodetection functionality that automatically selects the right settings based on the Atari program you load. Nifty.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Nov 2018 12:13 UTC
General Development

The concept of running Wine on ARM devices isn't new. StarCraft (as well as Diablo 1 & 2) is playable on ARM through Wine thanks to the insanely hard work of the Lithuanian hacker notaz. But while working on my project I couldn't find anything but scattered bits of information and sometimes there was even nothing at all. So this guide will walk you trough the steps required to execute Windows software with Wine on ARM devices running *nix. I specifically focus on a Raspberry Pi 3B+ running Raspbian and here's a screenshot of Notepad++ running there.

Detailed article about running Windows software on ARM Linux using Wine, including how to recompile x86 Windows applications to ARM.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Nov 2018 01:14 UTC
Intel

AnandTech has published its comprehensive benchmarks and tests of the Intel Core i9-9980XE, and while this $2000 processor is unlikely to grace any of our computers, the article has some choice words for Intel. The problem with the 9980XE is that it's basically a 7980XE with slightly higher frequencies partly because Intel switched the TIM from paste to solder, and the numbers confirm this - the performance improvement isn't all that great.

And this is a big problem for Intel.

It all boils down to 'more of the same, but slightly better'

While Intel is having another crack at Skylake, its competition is trying to innovate, not only by trying new designs that may or may not work, but they are already showcasing the next generation several months in advance with both process node and microarchitectural changes. As much as Intel prides itself on its technological prowess, and has done well this decade, there’s something stuck in the pipe. At a time when Intel needs evolution, it is stuck doing refresh iterations.

Intel needs a breakthrough, because it can't keep sucking blood from the 14nm stone forever.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 17th Nov 2018 02:31 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

The government of The Netherlands recently commissioned the Privacy Company to perform a data protection impact assessment regarding the government's use of Microsoft Office products, and the results of this assessment are alarming.

The SLM Rijk conducts negotiations with Microsoft for approximately 300.000 digital work stations of the national government. The Enterprise version of the Office software is deployed by different governmental organisations, such as ministries, the judiciary, the police and the taxing authority.

The results of this Data Protection Impact Assessment (DPIA) are alarming. Microsoft collects and stores personal data about the behaviour of individual employees on a large scale, without any public documentation. The DPIA report (in English) as published by the Ministry is available here.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, but it's good to see governments taking these matters seriously, and forcing technology companies to change their policies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 17th Nov 2018 02:26 UTC
Debian and its clones

There is always at least a small risk when installing a package for a distribution. By its very nature, package installation is an invasive process; some packages require the ability to make radical changes to the system - changes that users surely would not want other packages to take advantage of. Packages that are made available by distributions are vetted for problems of this sort, though, of course, mistakes can be made. Third-party packages are an even bigger potential problem because they lack this vetting, as was discussed in early October on the debian-devel mailing list. Solutions in this area are not particularly easy, however.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 17th Nov 2018 02:23 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

As of last nightly (20181115100051), Firefox now supports Wayland on Linux, thanks to the work from Martin Stransky and Jan Horak, mostly.

Before that, it was possible to build your own Firefox with Wayland support (and Fedora does it), but now the downloads from mozilla.org come with Wayland support out of the box for the first time.

The transition to Wayland seems to be taking its time, but with how big of an undertaking this is, that only makes sense.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 17th Nov 2018 02:20 UTC
In the News

Today, in a landmark decision, representatives from 60 countries voted to redefine the International System of Units (SI), changing the world's definition of the kilogram, the ampere, the kelvin and the mole, for ever.

The decision, made at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles, France, which is organised by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), means that all SI units will now be defined in terms of constants that describe the natural world. This will assure the future stability of the SI and open the opportunity for the use of new technologies, including quantum technologies, to implement the definitions.

The metric system - or, as it is known today, the International System of Units (SI) - is an amazing achievement of mankind. Save for a few archaic holdouts who still measure things by sheep intestines and cow brains, the entire world has standardized on this system, so that regardless of where you are, things innately make sense.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Nov 2018 01:06 UTC
Internet & Networking

While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.

Revealing, but unsurprising recount of how Facebook went on the attack to ward off the numerous criticisms of the company. It doesn't susprise me one bit that Facebook isn't just a terrible company on the outside, but also on the inside.

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Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 16th Nov 2018 00:51 UTC
Windows

Today is an exciting day for Windows 10 on ARM. With the official release of Visual Studio 15.9, developers now have the officially supported SDK and tools for creating 64-bit ARM (ARM64) apps. In addition, the Microsoft Store is now officially accepting submissions for apps built for the ARM64 architecture.

Let's see how long Microsoft sticks with this attempt.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.