Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Sep 2017 23:31 UTC
General Development

This release is the result of the community's work over the past six months, including: C++17 support, co-routines, improved optimizations, new compiler warnings, many bug fixes, and more.

The release notes contain more details.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Sep 2017 16:10 UTC, submitted by henderson101
Apple

Remember when Scotty Allen built his own iPhone from parts bought in Shenzhen? This time around, he ups the ante and adds a headphone jack to an iPhone 7. He had to design his own custom circuit board, have it printed, and build it into his iPhone 7. It's an amazing project, and it's an incredibly interesting 30 minute video.

I've spent the past four months in Shenzhen, China, modifying an iPhone 7 to add a fully functional headphone jack. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time anyone has done anything like this.

In April, I decided to finally upgrade my iPhone 6s to an iPhone7 to get better camera quality for the videos I was shooting when I was out on adventures in the industrial markets and manufacturing world. But I was super annoyed that it doesn't have a headphone jack! I already have headphones I really liked, and I didn’t like the idea of having to keep track of an adapter just to use them.

So I figured I'd add my own - after all, how hard could it be?

It turns out, really really hard. But possible.

He sent the circuit board he designed and built to Apple, and open sourced all the schematics needed so those with the right tools and expertise can build it at home.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Sep 2017 11:08 UTC
Google Jon von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivalvi (and former CEO of Opera):

Recently, our Google AdWords campaigns were suspended without warning. This was the second time that I have encountered this situation. This time, however, timing spoke volumes.

I had several interviews where I voiced concerns about the data gathering and ad targeting practices - in particular, those of Google and Facebook. They collect and aggregate far too much personal information from their users. I see this as a very serious, democracy-threatening problem, as the vast targeting opportunities offered by Google and Facebook are not only good for very targeted marketing, but also for tailored propaganda. The idea of the Internet turning into a battlefield of propaganda is very far away from the ideal.

Two days after my thoughts were published in an article by Wired, we found out that all the campaigns under our Google AdWords account were suspended - without prior warning. Was this just a coincidence? Or was it deliberate, a way of sending us a message?

Large technology companies have an immense amount of control over and influence on our society, far more than they - or anyone else, for that matter - care to admit. We're way past the point where governments should step in and start to correct this dangerous situation. It's time for another breakup of the Bell System. It's time we, as society, take a long, hard look at corporations - in tech and elsewhere - and ask ourselves if we really want to be subject to the control of organisations we effectively have no democratic control over.

I'm not a proponent of nationalisation, but I am a proponent of breaking up Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and possibly others (I'm sticking to technology for now) to severely limit their power and influence. The products and services these companies create have become too important and too vital to the functioning of our society, and they should be treated as such.

It wouldn't be the first time we, as society, decide a certain product has become too vital to leave in corporations' unrestricted hands.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 4th Sep 2017 22:20 UTC, submitted by Jaikrishnan
Android

Ars has a very detailed review - more of an in-depth deconstruction, to be honest, and that's a good thing - of Android 8.0 Oreo.

Take a closer look at Oreo and you really can see the focus on fundamentals. Google is revamping the notification system with a new layout, new controls, and a new color scheme. It's taking responsibility for Android security with a Google-branded security solution. App background processing has been reined in, hopefully providing better battery life and more consistent performance. There's even been some work done on Android's perpetual update problem, with Project Treble allowing for easier update development and streaming updates allowing for easier installation by users. And, as with every release, more parts of Android get more modularized, with emojis and GPU driver updates now available without an OS update.

Saving this one for tomorrow.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 4th Sep 2017 22:16 UTC
Oracle and SUN

Remember, back in December 2016, when there were rumours Oracle was killing Solaris? And how a month later, Solaris effectively switched to maintenance mode, and then to a "continuous deliver model"?

The news from the ex-Sun community jungle drums is that the January rumours were true and Oracle laid off the core talent of the Solaris and SPARC teams on Friday. That surely has to mean a maintenance-only future for the product range, especially with Solaris 12 cancelled. A classic Oracle "silent EOL", no matter what they claim.

With the hardware deprecated, my guess is that's the last of the Sun assets Oracle acquired written off. Just how good were Oracle's decisions on buying Sun?

Sun's Solaris is dead.

Bryan Cantrill on this news (this Bryan Cantrill):

As had been rumored for a while, Oracle effectively killed Solaris on Friday. When I first saw this, I had assumed that this was merely a deep cut, but in talking to Solaris engineers still at Oracle, it is clearly much more than that. It is a cut so deep as to be fatal: the core Solaris engineering organization lost on the order of 90% of its people, including essentially all management.

[...]

Judging merely by its tombstone, the life of Solaris can be viewed as tragic: born out of wedlock between Sun and AT&T and dying at the hands of a remorseless corporate sociopath a quarter century later. And even that may be overstating its longevity: Solaris may not have been truly born until it was made open source, and - certainly to me, anyway - it died the moment it was again made proprietary. But in that shorter life, Solaris achieved the singular: immortality for its revolutionary technologies. So while we can mourn the loss of the proprietary embodiment of Solaris (and we can certainly lament the coarse way in which its technologists were treated!), we can rejoice in the eternal life of its technologies - in illumos and beyond!

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 3rd Sep 2017 17:56 UTC
Linux

We talked about postmarketOS back in late May, and this weekend the project published a summary of all the work they've done over the past 100 days.

What you see here is only the tip of the iceberg. So much work has gone into fixing bugs, and little improvements, that it would be ridiculous to go through the effort and list them all. The community has grown so fast in such a short time and we have people with all kinds of skills on board, ranging from Linux experts to kernel hackers to people who reverse engineer bootloaders (hi @McBitter!). We collaborate with people from other projects as well, such as @pavelmachek, who is close to using his N900 as a daily driver with his own distribution, recently just reached out to us.

So if you read through the whole post, you are probably interested in what we do. Consider contributing to the project, the entry barrier is really low. pmbootstrap automates everything for you and we are more than happy to help you through any issues you encounter in the chat. There are also a lot of opportunities to help with development, so there's plenty to do. And plenty of fun to have.

That's a lot of work for just 100 days.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 2nd Sep 2017 22:51 UTC
ReactOS

0.4.6 is a major step towards real hardware support. Several dual boot issues have been fixed and now partitions are managed in a safer way avoiding corruption of the partition list structures. ReactOS Loader can now load custom kernels and HALs.

Printing Subsystem is still greenish in 0.4.6, however Colin Finck has implemented a huge number of new APIs and fixed some of the bugs reported and detected by the ReactOS automated tests.

Regarding drivers, Pierre Schweitzer has added an NFS driver and started implementing RDBSS and RXCE, needed to enable SMB support in the future, Sylvain Petreolle has imported a Digital TV tuning device driver and the UDFS driver has been re-enabled in 0.4.6 after fixing several deadlocks and issues which was making it previously unusable. Critical bugs and leakages in CDFS, SCSI and HDAUDBUS have been also fixed.

That's some solid progress.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 2nd Sep 2017 00:43 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

The first ever commercial Asteroid OS smartwatch, Connect Watch, was revealed today by a French company going by the same name. A Wi-Fi only model and a 3G model were unveiled with prices 99€ and 129€ respectively. Sales for these watches will commence tomorrow. Connect watch aims to provide a free watch alternative to the Android Wear and Tizen watches. The watches are capable to function on their own without the need for a smartphone and the 3G model can perform calls as well.

Asteroid OS, for those of you who don't know, is a Nemo Mobile based open source smartwatch OS and thus shares a lot of blood with Sailfish OS. Spearheaded by a talented young programmer Florent Revest, The project has matured a lot in 2 years since it inception and garnered lot of interest around the world. Jolla's Sailfish OS for smartwatch demo displayed in Slush 2016 and MWC 2017 was also based on Asteroid OS. No Asteroid OS sync application for Sailfish OS is yet to be in development.

It's 2017, and I can post a news item about an alternative operating system shipping on a smartwatch.

Today was a good day.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 2nd Sep 2017 00:39 UTC
Windows

The Windows 10 Fall Creators Update now has a release date: October 17. Microsoft started finalizing the release last week, and we'd expect this release to follow the pattern seen in previous Windows updates: the final build will be done some time in September and roll out to members of the Windows Insider program's fast, slow, and release preview rings. Then it will hit Windows Update. From there, we'd expect a slow ramp up in availability.

Not the most substantial Windows update for regular users, but I do like the faster update cycle for Windows. I'm glad the monolithic releases of yore are gone for most users, while enterprise users are still able to opt for the Long Term Servicing Branch for the more monolithic approach.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 2nd Sep 2017 00:34 UTC
Android

The hardening of Android's userspace has increasingly made the underlying Linux kernel a more attractive target to attackers. As a result, more than a third of Android security bugs were found in the kernel last year. In Android 8.0 (Oreo), significant effort has gone into hardening the kernel to reduce the number and impact of security bugs.

Android Nougat worked to protect the kernel by isolating it from userspace processes with the addition of SELinux ioctl filtering and requiring seccomp-bpf support, which allows apps to filter access to available system calls when processing untrusted input. Android 8.0 focuses on kernel self-protection with four security-hardening features backported from upstream Linux to all Android kernels supported in devices that first ship with this release.

Is it common to have to backport security features of newer Linux versions to older ones? Or is this just a peculiarity of Android's Linux kernel being so far behind the times?

 

Linked by nfeske on Fri 1st Sep 2017 10:00 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

With version 17.08, the Genode OS project conquers the highly complex topic of hardware-accelerated graphics. In true microkernel fashion, Genode's new Intel-GPU multiplexer provides the bare minimum of functionality to enable (potentially untrusted) components to use the GPU without interfering with each other. Further highlights of the new release are the broadened support for the seL4 microkernel on ARM and 64-bit x86, the ability to boot via UEFI, and Genode's use as Xen DomU domain.

Seven years ago, the Genode developers took their first baby steps with the use of hardware-accelerated graphics. However, their original port of the Intel graphics execution manager along with Mesa/Gallium to the Genode user land never outgrew an experimental stage. One particular limitation was that the GPU could only be used by a single application exclusively. At that time, the secure sharing of GPUs among multiple - and potentially malicious - applications was an afterthought in the predominant driver architectures like Linux' DRI. A port of this driver architecture to Genode would not magically solve that.

In the meanwhile, hardware features like per-process graphics translation tables (PPGTT) and hardware contexts have proliferated and are now present in all modern Intel GPUs. What MMU-based virtual memory is to a CPU, these features are to a GPU. They in principle allow the sandboxed execution of GPU commands under the regime of a potentially very small GPU driver, analogously to how a microkernel facilitates an MMU to sandbox user-level components. However, with about 100K lines of code, Intel's official i915 driver stack as used in the Linux kernel is far from being small and simple. To put the number in perspective, modern microkernels like seL4 or NOVA consist of merely 10K lines of code. Inflating Genode's trusted computing base by on order of magnitude would be a tough decision. There had to be another way. Hence, one year ago, an experiment was started to develop a clean-slate GPU multiplexer as a Genode component. In contrast to the i915 driver stack that needs to accommodate a mind boggling number of legacy hardware that is still in broad use, Genode's custom GPU multiplexer could do a clear cut by only supporting very recent GPUs. The result is quite reassuring. At far less than 10K of code, Genode's new user-land GPU multiplexer is able to accommodate trusted and untrusted OpenGL applications side by side. The current release features the first version of this component along with several examples.

Besides the GPU topic, the new release comes with numerous other improvements. Most noteworthy is the ability to use Genode with the seL4 kernel on the ARM and 64-bit x86 architectures. The upgraded seL4 support also enables SMP on x86, priorities, and Genode's CPU-monitoring facilities. Following up on the big infrastructural changes of the previous releases, the current release comes with gradual refinements of the VFS infrastructure, the timing accuracy, and the package-management tools. The complete picture is presented in the official release documentation.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 1st Sep 2017 09:58 UTC
Apple

Apple finally has something to say about net neutrality. In its first comment to the FCC about proposed upcoming rollbacks to net neutrality rules, Apple writes:

Our deep respect for our customers' security, privacy, and control over personal information extends to our customers' broadband connectivity choices. We work hard to build great products, and what consumers do with those tools is up to them - not Apple, and not broadband providers. Apple therefore believes that the Federal Communications Commission should retain strong, enforceable open internet protections that advance the following key policy principles:

The comment's a good - albeit late - start, but it does leave some wiggle room, as it, for instance, doesn't advocate for keeping internet traffic under Title II. Apple is, at the very least, in good company, as a staggering 98.5% of all comments to the FCC were in favour of maintaining the United States' current strong net neutrality rules.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Aug 2017 19:19 UTC
Apple

Mark Gurman has a major scoop about the next iPhone:

Apple Inc. plans to transform the way people use its next high-end iPhone by eliminating the concept of a home button and making other adjustments to a flagship device that's becoming almost all screen, according to images of the new device viewed by Bloomberg News and people familiar with the gadget.

The home button is the key to the iPhone and the design hasn't changed much since it launched in 2007. Currently, users click it to return to the starting app grid that greets them multiple times a day. They hold it down to talk to the Siri digital assistant. Double click it and you get multitasking where different apps screens can be swiped through like a carousel.

Apple is preparing three new iPhones for debut next month. One of the models, a new high-end device, packs in enough changes to make it one of the biggest iPhone updates in the product's decade-long history. With a crisper screen that takes up nearly the entire front, Apple has tested the complete removal of the home button - even a digital one - in favor of new gesture controls for tasks like going to the main app grid and opening multitasking, according to the people and the images.

I don't really dwell too much on iPhone rumours, but this one is an exception because one, it's about a major change to the core user interaction model of iOS and the iPhone, and two, I happen to know this rumour happens to be accurate.

The removal of the home button and replacing it with what is effectively a gesture area is probably the single-biggest user interface change in iOS since the day it was released, and it also happens to be yet another step in the enduring quest Android and iOS are on to become more like webOS. Steven-Troughton-Smith (go support his work!) showed a number of mockups to give a better idea of what it's going to look like.

Replacing the iconic home button with a gesture area is actually a pretty fundamental shift in the interaction model of iOS. It seems to indicate that Apple is confident enough that users are well-versed in touch interfaces enough to start "hiding" important, crucial interactions - like going back to the homescreen - behind gestures that are clearly less discoverable than that huge home button. Google did something similar - but far less consequential - by removing the "drawer" button in Android's dock with a swipe-up gesture.

If this trend persists, it would seem Apple's (and to a lesser extent, Google's) engineers think that the touch paradigm is old and established enough to be more abstract, which opens up a whole slew of other possibilities. Up until now, undiscoverable gestures were generally used for more power-user oriented interactions, but with this next iPhone, they will be used for basic, cornerstone iOS interactions.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 30th Aug 2017 19:01 UTC
Windows

The NYPD has to scrap the 36,000 smartphones it gave cops over the past two years because they're already obsolete and can't be upgraded, The Post has learned.

The city bought Microsoft-based Nokia smartphones as part of a $160 million NYPD Mobility Initiative that Mayor Bill de Blasio touted as "a huge step into the 21st century".

In 2014. They bought these in 2014.

In 2014.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Aug 2017 21:43 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Jämsänjoki update fixes dozens of bugs reported by our community, adds many improvements and new corporate features, like mobile device management (MDM), new Camera user interface with quick access from Lock Screen, smarter Calendar on Events, WPA2 Enterprise PEAP support, new VPN options (PPTP, L2TP), Bluez version 5 for Jolla C and much more.

At some point, I need to write a retrospective of some sort about Sailfish OS. My Jolla Phone and Tablet are collecting dust in a closet somewhere, so I might as well put them to good use.

In any event, Jolla also unveiled something called Sailfish X, which is a ROM image of Sailfish for the Sony Xperia X. Interestingly enough, the ROM image isn't free - it costs about €50 and requires a Linux PC to flash it onto the Xperia X you need to buy separately. Peculiar business model, but who knows - I've seen stranger things.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Aug 2017 21:36 UTC
Android

With more than two billion active devices, Android is the largest mobile platform in the world. And for the past nine years, we've worked to create a rich set of tools, frameworks and APIs that deliver developers' creations to people everywhere. Today, we're releasing a preview of a new software development kit (SDK) called ARCore. It brings augmented reality capabilities to existing and future Android phones. Developers can start experimenting with it right now.

We've been developing the fundamental technologies that power mobile AR over the last three years with Tango, and ARCore is built on that work. But, it works without any additional hardware, which means it can scale across the Android ecosystem. ARCore will run on millions of devices, starting today with the Pixel and Samsung's S8, running 7.0 Nougat and above. We're targeting 100 million devices at the end of the preview. We're working with manufacturers like Samsung, Huawei, LG, ASUS and others to make this possible with a consistent bar for quality and high performance.

Essentially Google's answer to Apple's ARKit, and definitely a rebranding (at least partially) of Project Tango.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Aug 2017 20:29 UTC
Gnome

Daniel Aleksandersen writes:

Jonas Ådahl from Red Hat has been busy adding new D-Bus APIs to libmutter. Mutter is the GNOME window manager and Wayland compositor. The two new APIs, org.gnome.Mutter.RemoteDesktop and org.gnome.Mutter.ScreenCast, expose a PipeWire stream containing the contents of the system's screens. The new APIs can create full-screen streams, or streams for individual windows. Only the former has been implemented.

These new APIs finally allows for services such as RDP and VNC servers and screen recording under Wayland. Once again, Mr. Åhdahl delivers! He has also created GNOME Remote Desktop, a new user-level systemd service daemon that is built on the new RemoteDesktop API in libmutter, plus VNC support from libvncserver. The new service can be used to connect up a remote VNC client to your local screen’s session. GNOME Remote Desktop appears to be a drop-in replacement for Vino server.

GNOME has been without its own Remote Desktop option since the switch to Wayland, and this work fills that gap.

 

Written by Thom Holwerda on Sat 26th Aug 2017 19:08 UTC
Games

So this happened, and half the internet is in a frenzy. Now, admittedly, it doesn't take much to frenzy the internet, but this is truly a doozy:

The lesson here is "never go to sleep". All sorts of things happen while people sleep. Cats go on adventures, presidents threaten nuclear war and, well, ex-Valve writers post thinly-disguised plot summaries of the unreleased and, so far as best guesses go, long-cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Long time Half-Life scribe, the excellent Marc Laidlaw (who left Valve last year), casually tossed out a link to his website last night, which led to a short story about Gertie Fremont, Alex Vaunt and their climactic battle against evil alien invaders the Disparate (the site's having a wobble, but the page is archived right here).

While that might sound like satirical tomfoolery, the actual story very much sounds like how the final chapter of Half-Life 3 could have played out. It involves time-travelling cruise liners, resurrected overlords, the heart of the Combine and the fate of one Doctor Gordon Freeman.

This is really happening.

Everything points to this being a thinly-veiled act of rebellion against Half-Life's creators never getting the chance to finish the story they were telling. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 ended on probably the biggest unfulfilled cliffhanger in gaming history, and for almost ten years now, we've been waiting for a continuation or a conclusion. This must be incredibly frustrating for the original creators of the Half-Life series, and honestly, I'm surprised it's taken them this long to start breaking rank.

From everything we've heard over the years, we can conclude that there will never be a Half-Life 3 or even an Episode 3. Many - if not most - of the original creators of Half-Life 1 and 2 have left Valve, and the company has little to no incentive to create a game that, like Duke Nukem Forever, will never live up to the hype they themselves created.

The established theory regarding why there's no Half-Life 3 or Episode 3 is that Valve wanted the game to be as defining and revolutionary as Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2, but I think that's the wrong mindset to have. Gaming has come a long, long way since the late 90s and early 2000s, and over roughly the past decade or so there simply haven't been any games that rebooted or revolutionised entire genres, or established new ones. The only game I can think of in the past ten years that created a new genre of games and had an everlasting impact on the industry is Minecraft, and that was a fluke.

The industry is more mature, more settled now, and it's much harder to be revolutionary today than it was 20 years ago. The great games of today aren't revolutionary; they are evolutionary, perfecting and polishing established genres, taking them to new heights. Games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn aren't loved because they changed the industry; they're loved because they took existing genres and executed them in the very best ways the current generation of technologies allows us to do.

I see no reason why Half-Life 3 or Episode 3 should change the world or revolutionise what we think of as games. Just let it tell a great story with the characters we love, polish its chosen genre to perfection, and people will love it just as much 20 years from now as we love Half-Life 1 and 2 today.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 26th Aug 2017 19:08 UTC
In the News

Some light weekend reading: ethical guidelines for self-driving cars, as proposed by an ethics commission of the German government.

The technological developments are forcing government and society to reflect on the emerging changes. The decision that has to be taken is whether the licensing of automated driving systems is ethically justifiable or possibly even imperative. If these systems are licensed - and it is already apparent that this is happening at international level - everything hinges on the conditions in which they are used and the way in which they are designed. At the fundamental level, it all comes down to the following question. How much dependence on technologically complex systems - which in the future will be based on artificial intelligence, possibly with machine learning capabilities - are we willing to accept in order to achieve, in return, more safety, mobility and convenience? What precautions need to be taken to ensure controllability, transparency and data autonomy? What technological development guidelines are required to ensure that we do not blur the contours of a human society that places individuals, their freedom of development, their physical and intellectual integrity and their entitlement to social respect at the heart of its legal regime?

Cars are legalised murder weapons, and the car is probably one of the deadliest inventions of mankind. Self-driving cars, therefore, open up a whole Pandora's box oef ethical dilemmas, and it only makes sense for governments and lawmakers to start addressing these.

Beyond the ethics related to life and death, though, there are also simpler, more banal ethical considerations. What if, in the hunger for more profits, a car maker makes a deal with McDonalds, and tweaks its self-driving car software just a tad bit so that it drives customers past McDonalds more often, even if it increases total travel time? What if a car maker makes similar deals with major chains like Target, Walmart, and Whole Foods, so that smaller chains or independent stores don't even show up when you say "take me to the nearest place that sells X"? Is that something we should allow?

Should we even allow self-driving car software to be closed-source to begin with? Again - cars are legal murder weapons, and do we really trust car manufacturers enough not to cut corners when developing self-driving car software to meet deadlines or due to bad management or underpaid developers? Shouldn't all this development and all this code be out there for the world to see?

Interesting times ahead.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 24th Aug 2017 21:27 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless Purism, maker of Linux laptops with Coreboot, have started started a crowdfunding campaign for their smartphone. Now, I rarely - if ever - link to crowdfunding campaigns (for obvious reasons), but I feel this one might just be quite, quite desirable for many OSNews readers.

Librem 5, the phone that focuses on security by design and privacy protection by default. Running Free/Libre and Open Source software and a GNU+Linux Operating System designed to create an open development utopia, rather than the walled gardens from all other phone providers.

A fully standards-based freedom-oriented system, based on Debian and many other upstream projects, has never been done before - we will be the first to seriously attempt this.

The Librem 5 phone will be the world's first ever IP-native mobile handset, using end-to-end encrypted decentralized communication.

It'll have hardware killswitches for the camera, microphone, WiFi, and the baseband. I wish the team a lot of luck - they'll need it, because making a phone is hard.