Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Mar 2017 22:47 UTC
Legal

The United States, a country in North-America bogged down by extensive corruption, just passed a bill allowing ISPs to share and sell users' browsing history without their consent.

Internet providers now just need a signature from President Trump before they’re free to take, share, and even sell your web browsing history without your permission.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution today overturning an Obama-era FCC rule that required internet providers to get customers' permission before sharing their browsing history with other companies. The rules also required internet providers to protect that data from hackers and inform customers of any breaches.

The corrupt US senator who sponsored this clearly atrocious bill, Marsha Blackburn, from an area in the southern part of the country called Tennessee, received 693,000 US dollar in bribes from AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, and other related companies who operate in the country's dysfunctional telecommunications sector.

In the United States, officially a representative democracy, it is entirely normal for high-level figures - up to and including the president of the troubled nation, a man named Donald Trump - to receive vast sums of money to enact laws written by corporations, regardless of their effects on civil liberties or the poor and needy people of the country.

Americans, as citizens of the nation are called, often lack access to basic necessities such as healthcare, parental leave, clean drinking water, high-quality infrastructure, and so on. This is in spite of the country's vast natural resources and wealth, to which only a few percent of the country's population of 320 million have access to.

 

Linked by intric8 on Tue 28th Mar 2017 20:59 UTC
Amiga & AROS

The Amiga has what is with no doubt in my mind, the absolute finest sound chip inside of any computer or console throughout the 1980's as well as most, if not all of the 1990's. Full disclosure; I have an MT-32... And the Amiga can actually do a piano. Yes, in a time when the vast majority of IBM and compatible PC owners were using a small speaker stuck deep inside of a metal tomb, Amiga users had a quality of sound nobody else could touch for that price.

[...]

To combat the story that has long been shaped that the Amiga was not popular to musicians because it did not have built in MIDI connectors I give you this quote given directly to me from the creator of the sequencing program Music-X, Talin:

"The story with MIDI is actually much more complex than most people realize. You see, the early Amiga models had a hardware bug which made the serial port unreliable at high data rates. Basically the problem was that the serial port hardware had only a one-byte buffer, and if you didn't grab that byte before the next byte came in then data would be lost. Unfortunately, the Amiga's four timer chips would generate a software interrupt at regular intervals, during which time the serial port could not be serviced. And while MIDI speed wasn't super-high, it was high enough that you'd get a dropped byte every 10 minutes or so depending on how many notes you were sending over. Note that this did not affect the higher-end MIDI adapters which had their own dedicated serial point, but those were considerably more expensive."

Interesting article about past MIDI challenges with the Amiga and how to hook up a modern synth to an Amiga to make music.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Mar 2017 20:55 UTC, submitted by Mark0
General Development

An SBX container is composed of a collections of blocks with size submultiple/equal to that of a sector, so they can survive any level of fragmentation. Each block has a minimal header that includes a unique file identifier, block sequence number, checksum, version. Additionally, non-critical info/metadata are contained in block 0 (like name, file size, crypto-hash, other attributes, etc.).

If disaster strikes, recovery can be performed simply by scanning a volume/image, reading sector-sized slices and checking block signatures and then CRCs to detect valid SBX blocks. Then the blocks can be grouped by UIDs, sorted by sequence number and reassembled to form the original SeqBox containers.

This was submitted to us by the author of the project, so hopefully she or he can answer possibly questions in the comments.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 28th Mar 2017 20:46 UTC
In the News

Who is winning the race for jobs between robots and humans? Last year, two leading economists described a future in which humans come out ahead. But now they’ve declared a different winner: the robots.

The industry most affected by automation is manufacturing. For every robot per thousand workers, up to six workers lost their jobs and wages fell by as much as three-fourths of a percent, according to a new paper by the economists, Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University. It appears to be the first study to quantify large, direct, negative effects of robots.

These effects are only "negative" effects because of the way our society currently works. Nobody is going to stop automation, but automation is going to make our capitalist systems wholly and deeply untenable. Those countries who recognise and adapt to this fact the earliest, will be the ones coming out on top once the dust settles.

Countries that look backwards and thereby artificially stunt their economic growth by investing in wholly outdated and destructive industries... Well. Good luck.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Mar 2017 23:30 UTC
BSD and Darwin derivatives

DragonFly version 4.8 brings EFI boot support in the installer, further speed improvements in the kernel, a new NVMe driver, a new eMMC driver, and Intel video driver updates.

A ton of changes in this release.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Mar 2017 20:03 UTC
Apple

Apple has released iOS 10.3, which brings with it a major change you should really, really be aware of before you install this update.

iOS 10.3 introduces a new Apple File System (APFS), which is installed when an iOS device is updated. APFS is optimized for flash/SSD storage and includes improved support for encryption. Other features include snapshots for freezing the state of a file system (better for backups), space sharing, and better space efficiency, all of which should result in a more stable platform. Customers updating to iOS 10.3 should first make a backup given that the update installs a new file system.

While everything should work out just fine with this update, I'd take additional precautions to make sure all your important data is properly backed up.

In addition, Apple also released macOS Sierra 10.12.4, which introduces Night Shift to the Mac.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Mar 2017 19:57 UTC
General Development

Modern computer science is dominated by men. But it hasn't always been this way.

A lot of computing pioneers - the people who programmed the first digital computers - were women. And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.

What happened?

An older article from 2014 that - sadly - just refuses to become irrelevant.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 27th Mar 2017 19:01 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

March has been a particularly fecund time for new Android Wear watch announcements, though unlike previous years, the brands behind these devices are almost all from the fashion and luxury spheres of business. Tag Heuer, Montblanc, Hugo Boss, Tommy Hilfiger, Diesel, Emporio Armani, Michael Kors, and Movado are just some of the well known names announcing Wear 2.0 smartwatches. This wave of new products is symptomatic of a broader trend in the tech industry: one where a high degree of component and software integration has made it almost trivial to launch a new tech product, whether or not you're actually a tech company.

Maybe this is the right strategy for Android Wear. I've definitely seen some nice Wear 2.0 devices for later this year, and we wouldn't have this much variety if Google had kept Wear 2.0 close to its chest, much like what Apple does with the Apple Watch. If you don't like a square watch - and which sane person does? - you're out of luck on Apple's side of things.

That being said, none of these have actually come out yet, so I'm not holding my breath on any of them being any good. All I want is an understated, simple smartwatch that doesn't have all this useless garbage like NFC, Wi-Fi, or LTE sucking up battery. I have my eyes on the LG Watch Style for exactly that reason, but they don't sell it in The Netherlands.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Mar 2017 00:27 UTC
In the News

You may recall that a couple of years ago we ran a piece talking about how Ada County, the most populous county in Idaho, was desperately looking for Zip disks and drives to help keep its aging voting machines running.

As it turns out, Ada County isn't alone. Apparently a lot of counties are in the same boat.

Once, while buying a PowerMac G4 from someone (factory-equipped with an internal Zip drive), I stumbled upon his huge collection of external Zip drives and disks, which he promptly handed over as a gift. Other than playing with them out of idle curiosity, I never used them for anything.

Instead of disposing of them years later, I guess I should've sent those 15 or so external Zip drives and 30-odd disks as emergency foreign aid to America. Underfunding democracy seems like a terrible idea.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 24th Mar 2017 00:21 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

This was freaky. When you owned any 8-bit computer, you became intimately familiar with its colour scheme. This simple photograph blew my mind. That blue colour just wasn't possible.

According to the caption, by presenting two colours to the eye and alternating them quickly enough, a whole new colour emerged. What would this new, secret colour look like on your crappy early-90s CRT television? The screenshot was only a hint. Would it glow? Would it flicker?

Twenty-six years later, I found out the answer.

This article is all about colour switching on the Commodore 64. There are interactive examples to play with below. I haven't found anything else on the topic, so it's possible this is the only resource on the subject.

It's amazing what talented programmers can eke out of old 8bit machines.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 23rd Mar 2017 00:38 UTC
Android

There's a new Android tablet you can go and buy, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Here's our review of it, where Jake notes that apps freeze if they're not in the foreground. Which is a good reminder: Android apps on tablets have never really been very good. They usually end up feeling like stretched-out phone apps.

Things have gotten better in the past couple years, but it's still a problem. In fact, it has always been a problem. I wonder if anybody ever told Google that it was a problem and it should try to do a better job incentivizing developers to make apps that work better on tablets.

Oh, wait, somebody has.

Brutal, but true.

Devil's advocate take: since tablets don't matter, do tablet apps really matter?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 22nd Mar 2017 22:42 UTC
Multimedia, AV

About four years ago, we shared our plans for playing premium video in HTML5, replacing Silverlight and eliminating the extra step of installing and updating browser plug-ins.  

Since then, we have launched HTML5 video on Chrome OS, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Edge on all supported operating systems.  And though we do not officially support Linux, Chrome playback has worked on that platform since late 2014.  Starting today, users of Firefox can also enjoy Netflix on Linux. This marks a huge milestone for us and our partners, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla that helped make it possible.

It wasn't that long ago we barely dared to imagine HTML5 video taking over from Flash and Silverlight.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Mar 2017 23:27 UTC
Android

Google has released the first Developer Preview for Android O, which is probably going to be released somewhere in the Fall. There's a lot changes in this one, but the biggest one is probably the limits Android O is going to place on applications running in the background.

Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user's battery life and the device's interactive performance. To make this possible, we've put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. These changes will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user's device and battery. Background limits represent a significant change in Android, so we want every developer to get familiar with them. Check out the documentation on background execution limits and background location limits for details.

There's more - improvements in keyboard navigation, Navigation Channels for managing notifications, picture-in-picture on smartphones, wide-gamut colour support for applications, several new Java 8 features, and more. A big one for audio people: Sony has contributed a lot of work to audio in Android O, adding the LDAC wireless audio codec.

It's available on the usual Nexus devices.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Mar 2017 23:14 UTC
Games

In the early life of the Nintendo Switch, when it was still codenamed Nintendo NX, there were a lot of rumors floating around about the device. We saw a console with an oval shape and a screen that seemed built into the buttons and rumors that the new device would run Android as its operating system.

While the product we have today resembles nothing of those early prototypes, it looks like the Android rumor may not have been far off. Cyanogen's Kirt McMaster tweeted early this morning to say that Nintendo had approached him about designing a custom Android-based operating system for their new console, but he had some choice words for the company.

Add this to the list of terrible business decisions by Cyanogen and its CEO.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 21st Mar 2017 00:02 UTC
Multimedia, AV

In this video you'll see the first machine and the last machine as well as some in-between. There's talk about MD-LP, Net-MD and HiMD. It's a personal retrospective of a format that was loved by many people around the world but one that is all too often is judged purely on its lack of performance in the US market.

Great video by a great channel.

I'm one of those MiniDisc people. MiniDisc was fairly successful in The Netherlands, and quite a few people around me were MiniDisc users as well. I've had countless machines over the years, and I was still using HiMD well into the smartphone era - and carried both a smartphone and my HiMD player for quite a while. Even though the world had long ago moved on to MP3 players and then smartphones, I was still using MD.

I've long wondered why, and this video finally made it dawn on me: rituals. Since prerecorded MiniDiscs were rare and incredibly expensive, you copied CDs onto MiniDiscs instead. Especially before the advent of NetMD and later HiMD, you did this without the help of a computer. You'd get a new album, listen to it, enjoy it - and then, to make sure you could listen to it on the go, you plugged one end of an optical cable into your CD player, the other end into your portable MD recorder, and copy the CD in real time. Once it was done, neat freaks like me would even enter all the track information using the little dial on the recorder, track by track, letter by letter. Painstaking doesn't even begin to describe it.

Even listening to your MiniDiscs - they were satisfying to hold, the loading and unloading was deeply mechanical, the spring-loading trays were a delight. It was just an endless array of rituals that, while pointless and cumbersome to others, were deeply enriching and soothing to me. I guess it must be similar to people still using vinyl today.

To me, MiniDisc was one of the greatest formats - not because it was better or more advanced (even though during the 90s and early 2000s, it actually was), but because it was full of little delights and rituals. Just one of those irrational things that only few of us will ever fully understand.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Mar 2017 23:44 UTC
General Development

I decided I wanted to hack Final Fantasy 1, one of my favorite games growing up, that I put in more than 100 hours playing. I used fceux as my NES emulator, same as in the video and followed mostly the same patterns.

I kept some notes on how I did it and thought others might find the process as interesting and fun as I did. I ended up losing most of the notes from a few years ago, so I went back and rediscovered the different memory locations and values to use again.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Mar 2017 23:42 UTC
In the News

Now refrigerators last 8-10 years, if you are fortunate. How in the world have our appliances regressed so much in the past few decades? I've bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950s that still work perfectly fine. I've come across washers and dryers from the 1960s and 1970s that were still working like the day they were made. Now, many appliances break and need servicing within 2-3 years and, overall, new appliances last 1/3 to 1/4 as long as appliances built decades ago. They break more frequently, and sooner, than ever before. They rust and deteriorate much quicker than in the past. Why is this happening, and what's really going on? I've been wrestling over these questions for years while selling thousands of appliances, and more recently, working with used appliance sellers and repair techs all across the country. The following is what I've discovered.

This is something we've all instinctively known, but Ryan Finlay goes into detail as to what, exactly, are the causes. The article's from 2015, but I stumbled on it today on Twitter, and I thought it was a great, informative read.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 18th Mar 2017 00:51 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Swatch Group AG said it's developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems for smartwatches as Switzerland's largest maker of timepieces vies with Silicon Valley for control of consumers' wrists.

The company's Tissot brand will introduce a model around the end of 2018 that uses the Swiss-made system, which will also be able to connect small objects and wearables, Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said in an interview Thursday. The technology will need less battery power and it will protect data better, he said later at a press conference.

It makes sense. Unlike as on smartphones or PCs, I don't think people really want applications on smartwatches. Notifications and fitness - that's what seems to define the (admittedly, limited) appeal of smartwatches. There's no reason why a traditional watchmaker wouldn't be able to provide such limited functionality in a robust way, possibly providing anything from watches that are all-screen to mechanical watches with more limited 'smart' additions.

With Wear 2.0 effectively being fake news at this point, where else is Swatch going to turn to?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 17th Mar 2017 22:48 UTC
AMD

Realistically, nobody should have expected Ryzen to be king of the hill when it comes to gaming. We know that Broadwell isn't, after all; Intel's Skylake and Kaby Lake parts both beat Broadwell in a wide range of games. This is the case even though Skylake and Kaby Lake are limited to four cores and eight threads; for many or most games, high IPC and high clock speeds are the key to top performance, and that's precisely what Kaby Lake delivers.

In spite of this, reading the various reviews around the Web - and comment threads, tweets, and reddit posts - one gets the feeling that many were hoping or expecting Ryzen to somehow beat Intel across the board, and there's a prevailing narrative that Ryzen is in some sense a bad gaming chip. But this argument is often paired with the claim that some kind of non-specific "optimization" is going to salvage the processor's performance, that AMD fans just need to keep the faith for a few months, and that soon Ryzen's full power will be revealed.

Both parts of this reaction are more than a little flawed.

I'm just glad there's finally competition in the desktop processor space again. Intel started to charge some outrageous prices these past few years, but if you wanted the best performance, you really didn't have much of a choice.

With Ryzen, AMD is showing the world it's back on track. It might not be there yet in every aspect, but it's an amazingly promising start.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 17th Mar 2017 22:45 UTC
Windows

Now Microsoft is planning to preload another app in Windows 10: Sling TV. While only US Windows 10 users will get Sling TV preloaded without the necessary subscription, it will sit alongside Candy Crush and Solitaire as other examples of what will soon be described as bloatware. Thankfully, it’s easy to uninstall these unnecessary apps, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t add more to the mix in the future. Microsoft used to blame its OEM partners for bundling lots of useless apps on Windows PCs, but now it has itself to blame for doing the same to Windows 10.

More and more ads are coming to products you actually already pay for.