Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Aug 2015 17:27 UTC, submitted by Nth_Man
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Many people have resisted the idea that Chromebooks really were growing in popularity. Now, less five years after the first commercial Chromebook, the Samsung Series 5 and Acer Chromebook went on sale, NPD, the global retail research group, is reporting that Chromebook sales in June and early July had exceeded "sales of Windows notebooks ... passing the 50 percent market share threshold."

I found this hard to believe, and as it turns out, the author is being clickbaity by burying an important little fact further down in the story: this only applies to B2B channels. I changed the OSNews headline (which is usually just copied) accordingly.

Still, it's evident that Chromebooks are here to stay, and are, indeed, a huge success.


Linked by tenox on Fri 14th Aug 2015 17:21 UTC
General Development

This is follow up to a previously posted challenge to virtualize VenturComm Venix/86 so that it can be run on a modern machine under an emulator. The competition was a huge success and the rest of this post is an entry by the winner - Jim Carpenter. Enjoy!


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 14th Aug 2015 10:09 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

From a consumer's perspective, Google's Android operating system has been an exceedingly good thing. It's the only viable competitor to have kept pace with Apple's iPhone, and in its time it has stimulated grand battles between device manufacturers - first competing on specs, and now on price. All this competition has driven smartphone development forward at a blistering pace, and we're all profiting from it now, but it has its downsides, too. Today is a fitting day to take a closer look at those.

Odd article. It argues that cheaper, low-cost Android devices are hurting consumers, which I find peculiar. People have a choice. Nobody is forcing you to buy any phone - you actively choose to get something cheap, risks included. These cheaper manufacturers - from shady ones all the way to by-now proven companies like OnePlus and OPPO - provide more choice, not less. Thanks to these companies, I get to choose between sending 40-50% free money profit margins to Apple or Samsung, or get a similarly specced phone of equal quality for a fraction of the price.

This is good. This is choice. I know a lot of people ascribe to the idea that you should not give people too much choice because their dainty, fragile little minds can't comprehend it, but I disagree with that vehemently. More choice in the market is always better than less choice - and if that means companies like HTC have to crumble because they can't keep up... Well, I just don't care. They'll make way for a dozen others.

That's business.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Aug 2015 17:00 UTC

At an event in Beijing, Xiaomi unveiled MIUI 7, the manufacturer's latest OS. Based on Android 5.1 Lollipop, MIUI 7 brings a host of UI changes, themes, features and a whole new way to receive calls.

Laugh about Xiaomi all you want, but they will bring their Android 5.1 (MIUI 7) to virtually all of its phones - only a phone form 2011 is not getting it.

This is how you do it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Aug 2015 16:21 UTC

Apple updated its Boot Camp software to include support for Windows 10. In other words, you can now officially run Windows 10 on your Mac - assuming you have a Mac from 2012 or later (roughly - don't pin me down on this one).


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Aug 2015 13:20 UTC, submitted by birdie

This article was not created to say that Linux is better (it's definitely not). It was created to stop Microsoft fans roaring in regard to Windows 10 and how it's better than Windows 7 in every regard - it's actually worse in most regards aside from DirectX 12 (which is actually hidden from the user and it's only exposed in games).

Some points are more reasonable than others, but they all have at least a decent grain of truth to them. Sometimes, I don't want carefully crafted, PR-whispered, politically correct reviews that you can interpret either way.

Sometimes, you just want a sucker punch.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Aug 2015 10:08 UTC
Multimedia, AV

LG is launching a new Hi-Fi music service later this month, but the company's not touting it as an Apple Music or a Spotify rival. After all, it will only be accessible through certain devices, particularly its premium phones, which likely includes the LG G4 and its predecessors, the G3 and the G2. The service will be available in 70 countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, Brazil, Russia, China and Italy.

For the life of me, I cannot understand why companies like LG, who aren't exactly raking in massive profits from their smartphone sales, are wasting precious time and money on pointless nonsense like this. Nobody is going to use this, nobody is going to care, and within less than a few years, it will be shutdown.

What's the point?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Aug 2015 22:54 UTC

Windows 8 and Windows 10 contain a surprising feature that many users will find unwelcome: PC OEMs can embed a Windows executable in their system firmware. Windows 8 and 10 will then extract this executable during boot time and run it automatically. In this way, the OEM can inject software onto a Windows machine even if the operating system was cleanly installed.

The good news is that most OEMs fortunately do not seem to take advantage of this feature. The bad news is that "most" is not "all." Between October 2014 and April of this year, Lenovo used this feature to preinstall software onto certain Lenovo desktop and laptop systems, calling the feature the "Lenovo Service Engine."

Microsoft provides more detailed on what, exactly, this functionality, dubbed the Windows Platform Binary Table, is supposed to be for (.docx file!), and how it works. From reading the document, it becomes clear that installing tracking software - which is what Lenovo is using this for - is not exactly what Microsoft had in mind.

The Windows PC world is such a mess.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Aug 2015 19:00 UTC
Oracle and SUN

Oracle's chief security officer is tired of customers performing their own security tests on Oracle software, and she's not going to take it anymore. That was the message of a post she made to her corporate blog on August 10 - a post that has since been taken down.

Strangely satisfying to watch this trainwreck unfold. Perhaps because the trainwreck in question is one of the most despicable companies in tech?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Aug 2015 03:40 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Fiddling with installation media for operating systems is annoying and cumbersome - and sometimes it's even impossible to create said installation media to begin with.

And Apple's solution to this conundrum is very neat: even with a blank hard disk, the system firmware can connect to Wi-Fi or wired Ethernet, go online, and download the operating system directly from Apple. You can do a bare metal restore with nothing more than an Internet connection.

This is just one of those little things that Apple can do relatively easily due to the integration between its hardware and software. Things like this take forever to get done properly on the PC side of things - although on the Linux side of things I used to download the minimal installation ISO and just download the rest of the operating system at install time through FTP or whatever.

In true Linux fashion, this was a manual process. I would love for all this to be automated, as well as for the installation medium - even the minimal one that only boots the installer and connects to FTP - to be eliminated. Apple has done it, and so can the rest of the PC world.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Aug 2015 23:12 UTC

Ever since Microsoft announced their Bridge technologies at Build 2015 questions about how they work (and how well) have been asked. The tools let developers port over Android apps (Project Astoria), iOS apps (Project Islandwood), web apps (Project Westminster) and classic Win32 apps (Project Centennial) to Windows 10 including phone.

This morning, the actual tools for Project Astoria have leaked onto the web and users can freely (and illegally) download Android APKs and sideload them to their Windows Phone running Windows 10 Mobile. This follows yesterday's leak of the documentation for the project.

Project Astoria is fascinating. If you look at the leaked documenation, you'll see Microsoft is running (parts of) the Android subsystem and Linux kernel in kernel mode. This should be nice for performance, but at the same time, it doesn't seem like something that'll be good from a security standpoint.

The leaked documentation also explains that in Project Astoria, all activities belong to a back stack within a single task. In regular Android, activities can belong to different tasks, with their own back stacks. If I'm reading this right (and please, do correct me if I'm wrong - this isn't exactly my expertise), this should simplify the back button behaviour - and is probably a consequence of Project Astoria only being able to run one process at a time.

Another fun part of Astoria: there's a WebKit rendering engine in there. Yes, Windows 10 Mobile will have a WebKit rendering engine. Fascinating.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Aug 2015 23:00 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

We have built and uploaded the first ever working Qubes Live USB image! It's based on the recently released 3.0-rc2 release. Now you should be able to run and try Qubes OS of any laptop without needing to install it anywhere!

We've talked about Qubes before, but since it's been a while, here's a quick primer:

Qubes is an open-source operating system designed to provide strong security for desktop computing using Security by Compartmentalization approach. Qubes is based on Xen, the X Window System, and Linux, and can run most Linux applications and utilize most of the Linux drivers.

This new live USB image should make it a lot easier to give Qubes a go.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Aug 2015 22:53 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

This is the annotated transcript of our DefCon 23/BlackHat 2015 talk, which presented the full details of Thunderstrike 2, the first firmware worm for Apple's Macs that can spread via both software or Thunderbolt hardware accessories and writes itself to the boot flash on the system's motherboard. The original slides are available.

While I think it's unlikely this worm will pose any real threat in the real world, I find it amazing that we're living in a world where this is possible in the first place.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Aug 2015 18:18 UTC

Windows 10 IoT Core is a new edition for Windows targeted towards small, embedded devices that may or may not have screens. For devices with screens, Windows 10 IoT Core does not have a Windows shell experience; instead you can write a Universal Windows app that is the interface and "personality" for your device. IoT core designed to have a low barrier to entry and make it easy to build professional grade devices. It's designed to work with a variety of open source languages and works well with Visual Studio.

Internet of Things, coming to you from a proud tradition of the tech industry being horrible at coming up with decent names.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Aug 2015 18:15 UTC
Internet & Networking

In a few years, after the dust has settled, we're all going to look back at today's web's excesses and abuses as an almost unbelievable embarrassment. Hopefully, the worst is behind us. And it's time to stop demonizing people who use tools to bring that sanity to their web browsers today.



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Aug 2015 21:01 UTC

Google has just announced a major reorganisation if its company structure, as well as a new CEO. Basically, the company has created a sort of umbrella corporation containing all the independent business that (used to!) make up Google. In this new structure, Google is just one company within Alphabet, but so are Alphabet's other ventures, such as its medical companies, the driverless car company, and so on, and so forth.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related. Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We'll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we'll determine their compensation. In addition, with this new structure we plan to implement segment reporting for our Q4 results, where Google financials will be provided separately than those for the rest of Alphabet businesses as a whole.

Alphabet will be headed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page, but Google will get a new CEO in Sundar Pichai.

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai. Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I've been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google. I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations. I have been spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that. Google itself is also making all sorts of new products, and I know Sundar will always be focused on innovation - continuing to stretch boundaries. I know he deeply cares that we can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world's information. Recent launches like Google Photos and Google Now using machine learning are amazing progress. Google also has some services that are run with their own identity, like YouTube. Susan is doing a great job as CEO, running a strong brand and driving incredible growth.

Possible bonus perk: this is an antitrust lightning rod.

It's going to take me a while to adjust to this somewhat strange - for now - naming scheme.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Aug 2015 19:01 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The post-PC era is a term that was made popular by Apple at its introduction of the iPad in 2010, and one that a lot of people took to mean the PC will eventually die and tablets and smartphones will take its place. The PC isn't exactly healthy right now, but it's also nowhere near death, no matter how many stories try to exaggerate its continued decline.

I've never been a fan of the term "post-PC era", since it's obviously just a marketing ploy.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Aug 2015 18:59 UTC

In order to address some of the sources of CPU overhead and provide developers with more explicit control over rendering, w've been working to bring a new 3D rendering API, Vulkan, to Android. Like OpenGL ES, Vulkan is an open standard for 3D graphics and rendering maintained by Khronos. Vulkan is being designed from the ground up to minimize CPU overhead in the driver, and allow your application to control GPU operation more directly. Vulkan also enables better parallelization by allowing multiple threads to perform work such as command buffer construction at once.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Aug 2015 07:14 UTC

That wasn't all. Vestager (pronounced Vestayer) announced a new investigation into whether Google had abused its dominant position with the Android operating system for smartphones. She suggested other cases were possible, too - regarding Google’s expansion into the markets for local search, maps, images, travel, etc. For Google, this was a nightmare portending years of scrutiny, a fine of up to $6 billion, and edicts that could forever limit the effectiveness of its products. The company must file a response to Vestige's "statement of objections" by Aug. 17.

In the span of just 15 months, Google somehow lost Europe.

I honestly don't believe this will go that far - I'm sure Google's learned from Microsoft's mistakes in Europe, and that it will give in just enough to avoid serious consequences.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Aug 2015 22:30 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The Moto G often feels like the culmination of everything that Motorola has learned in the course of making its other phones. Yes, it's a stripped-down version of Motorola's so-called flagship, the Moto X, but it's by no means an afterthought. It's reason to question what a "flagship" really is. If a flagship is literally the standard-bearer, then it's worth remembering that the Moto G is the Motorola phone that most people are going to use - it's the phone that's going to define Motorola. When you consider that the Moto G is Motorola's "best selling smartphone ever," Motorola's top-of-the-line phones start to seem more like testing grounds than devices designed to take over the market. Given how impressive and popular the Moto G is, it's hard to see it as anything but Motorola's actual flagship.

I wouldn't only call the Moto G the culmination of everything Motorola has learned, but also what Android has learned. I just can't get over the fact that they managed to pack so much quality and smartphone into this cheap device.