Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Feb 2018 23:08 UTC
Windows

In November last year I wrote about the forgotten and obscure feature of early Windows 95 builds that lets you run Windows 3.1 in a window on Windows 95. Since then I was wondering if this would still work on the final build (950) of Windows 95, considering so much has changed since build 58s.

I won't spoil it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Feb 2018 23:04 UTC, submitted by Morgan
Google

Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. To my mind, translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one's many years of experience in life, and on one's creative imagination. If, some "fine" day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness.

As a translator myself, I can indeed confirm Google Translate is complete and utter garbage, but the idea that I would "mourn" the end of translators seems outlandish to me. The unstoppable march of technology has eliminated countless jobs over the course of human existence, and if translators are next, I don't see any reason to mourn the end of my occupation. Of course, it'd suck for me personally, but that's about it.

That being said, I'm not afraid of running out of work any time soon. Google Translate's results are pretty terrible, and they only seem to be getting worse for me, instead of getting better. There's no doubt in my mind that machine translation will eventually get good enough, but I think it'll take at least another 20 years, if not more, to get there.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 3rd Feb 2018 14:15 UTC, submitted by Drumhellar
Mac OS X

When users attempt to launch a 32-bit app in 10.13.4, it will still launch, but it will do so with a warning message notifying the user that the app will eventually not be compatible with the operating system unless it is updated. This follows the same approach that Apple took with iOS, which completed its sunset of 32-bit app support with iOS 11 last fall.

This is good. I would prefer other companies, too, take a more aggressive approach towards deprecating outdated technology in consumer technology.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Feb 2018 19:29 UTC
Internet & Networking

China's most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it's an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China's electronic ID system.

WeChat is a remarkably clever move by the Chinese government. Everybody over there is already using it, and by basically co-opting it, they get a free statewide monitoring and control platform. Ban a few western alternatives here and there, and you're done. Western nations are toying with similar ideas - see e.g. Germany's new laws - and it doesn't take a genius to see the dangers here. While you may 'trust' your current government to not abuse such wide-ranging laws and technical capabilities, you might not be so eager with the next one. If Americans can vote for a Trump, Europeans can, too.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Feb 2018 19:12 UTC
Amiga & AROS

The Faery Tale Adventure was a computer game that I created for the Amiga in 1987. It was moderately popular for its day, and was ported to a number of platforms, including MS-DOS and the Sega Genesis.

I decided to write this account because, much to my surprise, there is still interest in the game - I occasionally get fan email or inquiries as to whether there will ever be a sequel. And so I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of how the game came to be, and what happened afterwards.

An account by David Joiner of a game he wrote for the Amiga. One of those stories that's just fun to read, no ifs and buts. Grab a coffee and enjoy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Feb 2018 01:10 UTC
Android

Essential - the phone company led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin - has had some difficulty in getting a stable 8.0 Oreo update released. After three beta releases, the company is not quite satisfied that the update is ready for general release. Because of these protracted issues, Essential has announced plans to skip the 8.0 release entirely in favor of 8.1, which will "push the public release back a couple weeks," according to the company.

Not even a phone with close to stock Android, built by the very same person who developed Android in the first place, can be updated to a newer Android release without delays, stability issues, and general problems - to the point where they're skipping a version altogether.

Android is a mess.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 1st Feb 2018 01:08 UTC
AMD

AMD reported its fourth quarter and full year results for 2017 yesterday evening. The company's financial results are easily the best its posted in five years and arguably some of the best results we've seen in a decade (this last needs a bit of unpacking, but we'll get to that).

And fully deserved, too, despite the somewhat overly adulatory attitude many seem to have towards AMD.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 30th Jan 2018 23:36 UTC
Legal

Third party phone repair shops say that phone makers like Apple and game console makers like Sony and Microsoft have effectively monopolized repair, using their size and power to drive smaller companies out of business.

Verizon and Apple have worked in union to thwart such bills in several states, but traditionally don't like to publicly talk about their lobbying on this front. They now have another state to worry about, with Washington State considering their own right to repair bill, created in the wake of outrage over Apple's decision to throttle the performance of older phones to (Apple insists) protect device integrity in the wake of failing battery performance.

I've said it a million times by now, but I see no reason why computers should be treated any different than cars: PC and phone makers should be forced to publicise the necessary information to allow third-party repair shops to repair their devices, all without voiding warranty.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 30th Jan 2018 23:35 UTC
Apple

For several years, Apple has been steadily designing more and more of the chips powering its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. This creates a better user experience and helps trump rivals. Recently the company got a fresh incentive to go all-in on silicon: revelations that microprocessors with components designed by Intel Corp., Arm Holdings Plc and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. are vulnerable to hacking.

[...]

That original “system-on-a-chip” has since been succeeded by increasingly powerful processors. Today, Apple packs its devices with custom components that process artificial intelligence tasks, track your steps, power game graphics, secure Face ID or Touch ID data, run the Apple Watch, pair AirPods to your phone and help make Macs work the way they do. The result: a chip powerhouse that could one day threaten the dominance of Qualcomm Inc. and even, eventually, Intel.

Apple's chip business really puts the company in a unique position. No other phone or PC maker can rely on such a powerful chip division, with the exception of Samsung, but Samsung's own ARM chips are nowhere near as powerful as Apple's. Assuming Apple manages to turn their chip prowess into real-world advantages for users, it'll be hard for competitors to catch up.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 29th Jan 2018 23:17 UTC
Windows

Microsoft has released an update that disables Intel's microcode Spectre mitigations.

Intel has reported issues with recently released microcode meant to address Spectre variant 2 (CVE 2017-5715 Branch Target Injection) - specifically Intel noted that this microcode can cause "higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" and then noted that situations like this may result in "data loss or corruption". Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption. On January 22, Intel recommended that customers stop deploying the current microcode version on affected processors while they perform additional testing on the updated solution. We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential effect of the current microcode version, and we encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions.

This whole thing is a mess.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 27th Jan 2018 00:54 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Firefox Quantum continues to make news as Mozilla incorporates even more innovative technology into the platform. The development team behind the WebExtensions architecture is no exception, landing a slew of new API and improvements that can now be found in Firefox 59 (just released to the Beta channel).

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 27th Jan 2018 00:47 UTC
Windows

Following the publication last year of the data collected by Windows 10's built-in telemetry and diagnostic tracking, Microsoft today announced that the next major Windows 10 update, due around March or April, will support a new app, the Windows Diagnostic Data Viewer, that will allow Windows users to browse and inspect the data that the system has collected.

While I doubt this tool will alleviate any of the concerns some people have over Windows 10's data collection, it does at least give some insight into what's being sent to Microsoft - assuming, that is, you trust the reporting to be truthful and accurate.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jan 2018 14:40 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

If there's one thing that will make even the most powerful computer feel like a 7 year old rig, it's Adobe Lightroom paired with RAW files from any high-megapixel camera.

In my case, I spent over a year of spare time editing 848GB worth of 11,000+ 42-megapixel RAW photos and 4K videos from my New Zealand trip and making these nine photosets. I quickly realized that my two year old iMac was not up to the challenge.

In 2015 I took a stab at solving my photo storage problem with a cloud-backed 12TB Synology NAS. That setup is still running great. Now I just need to keep up with the performance requirements of having the latest camera gear with absurd file sizes.

I decided it was time to upgrade to something a bit more powerful. This time I decided to build a PC and switch to Windows 10 for my heavy computing tasks. Yes, I switched to Windows.

I love articles like this, because there is no one true way to build a computer for any task, and everyone has their own opinions and ideas and preferences, making sure not one self-built PC is the same as anyone else's. Add in a healthy dose of urban legends and tradition, and you have a great cocktail for endless discussions that never go anywhere.

It's clickbait without actually being clickbait.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th Jan 2018 14:34 UTC
Legal

The European Commission has fined Qualcomm €997m for abusing its market dominance in LTE baseband chipsets. Qualcomm prevented rivals from competing in the market by making significant payments to a key customer on condition it would not buy from rivals. This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.

Qualcomm sounds like an upstanding company. Of course, they are appealing the decision.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jan 2018 22:35 UTC
Games

After years of work, hackers have finally managed to unlock the PS4 hardware with an exploit that lets the system run homebrew and pirated PS4 software. In a somewhat more surprising discovery, those hackers have also unlocked the ability to run many PS2 games directly on the console, using the same system-level emulation that powers legitimate PlayStation Classics downloads.

That's actually quite useful. Too bad this requires hacking and cracking, instead of it simply being a legitimate option. I have quite a few PS2 games I'd love to play directly on my PS4, instead of having to buy remasters.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jan 2018 22:31 UTC
Mac OS X

Along with macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, Apple this morning released two new security updates that are designed to address the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities on machines that continue to run macOS Sierra and OS X El Capitan.

As outlined in Apple's security support document, Security Update 2018-001 available for macOS Sierra 10.12.6 and OS X El Capitan 10.11.6 offers several mitigations for both Meltdown and Spectre, along with fixes for other security issues, and the updates should be installed immediately.

Together with last week's update, this means the last three major revisions of macOS are now protected from the processor bugs.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 23rd Jan 2018 22:26 UTC
Internet & Networking

Today we're taking a major step to simplify online privacy with the launch of fully revamped versions of our browser extension and mobile app, now with built-in tracker network blocking, smarter encryption, and, of course, private search - all designed to operate seamlessly together while you search and browse the web. Our updated app and extension are now available across all major platforms - Firefox, Safari, Chrome, iOS, and Android - so that you can easily get all the privacy essentials you need on any device with just one download.

Seems like a natural extension of what DuckDuckGo is already known for. Nice work.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 22nd Jan 2018 17:51 UTC
Windows

Microsoft is making a bigger push to keep students and teachers using Windows this week. At the annual Bett education show in London, Microsoft is revealing new Windows 10 and Windows 10 S devices that are priced from just $189. The software giant is also partnering with the BBC, LEGO, NASA, PBS, and Pearson to bring a variety of Mixed Reality and video curricula to schools.

Lenovo has created a $189 100e laptop. It’s based on Intel’s Celeron Apollo Lake chips, so it’s a low-cost netbook essentially, designed for schools. Lenovo is also introducing its 300e, a 2-in-1 laptop with pen support, priced at $279. The new Lenovo devices are joined by two from JP, with a Windows Hello laptop priced at $199 and a pen and touch device at $299. All four laptops will be targeted towards education, designed to convince schools not to switch to Chromebooks.

I'm not sure if these wil persuade schools away from Chromebooks, but assuming non-education customers can get them as well, they may be great little machines for running secondary operating systems on.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 20th Jan 2018 00:13 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The disclosure of the Meltdown and Spectre vulnerabilities has brought a new level of attention to the security bugs that can lurk at the hardware level. Massive amounts of work have gone into improving the (still poor) security of our software, but all of that is in vain if the hardware gives away the game. The CPUs that we run in our systems are highly proprietary and have been shown to contain unpleasant surprises (the Intel management engine, for example). It is thus natural to wonder whether it is time to make a move to open-source hardware, much like we have done with our software. Such a move may well be possible, and it would certainly offer some benefits, but it would be no panacea.

Given the complexity of modern CPUs and the fierceness of the market in which they are sold, it might be surprising to think that they could be developed in an open manner. But there are serious initiatives working in this area; the idea of an open CPU design is not pure fantasy. A quick look around turns up several efforts; the following list is necessarily incomplete.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 18th Jan 2018 23:57 UTC
Google

So after the recent news that the Fuchsia team picked the Chrome OS-powered Google Pixelbook as a supported device, we jumped at the chance to get it up and running. And after a little elbow grease, it actually booted. Now, we're not just running the system UI on top of Android like last time, we're running Fuchsia directly on a piece of hardware!

This means it's finally time for a deep dive on what Fuchsia looks like in early 2018. Our usual in-development OS testing caveats apply: Fuchsia only started development in 2016 and probably has several years of development time ahead of it. Everything can - and probably will - change between now and release (if a release ever even happens). Google won't even officially acknowledge the OS exists - Fuchsia is a bunch of code sitting on fuchsia.googlesource.com.

This is quite exciting, and I'm definitely jealous I can't justify buying a Pixelbook just for this. Not that I could - as with everything Google, it's not available here.