Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Jul 2018 11:18 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

I promised you an Atari story, so you get an Atari story. How about a history of and ode to the Atari ST, the Amiga and Macintosh competitor?

Surviving on its remaining video-game inventory, the new company went to work developing Tramiel's new 16-bit computer. Based on the same Motorola 68000 processor used in the Apple Macintosh, the Atari ST (the ST apparently standing for "sixteen/thirty-two" although some have speculated it stood for "Sam Tramiel" after Jack's son), was designed to be attractive to a wide variety of computer users. Like the Commodore 64, the ST could be plugged into a television for casual video-gaming, but additionally it could use a colour or monochrome monitor - the latter of which featuring a higher resolution than the Macintosh, an appeal to those in the then-emerging world of desktop publishing. It also came standard with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports for controlling synthesisers, making it attractive to musicians.

I actually bought an Atari T-shirt last week that I'm wearing right now, which is a tad bit disingenuous since I've never actually used an Atari, be it a console or an ST. The ST is on my wish list, though, alongside an Amiga 1200 and C64. I promise I'll earn the right to wear this shirt.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Jul 2018 11:07 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

And so Amiga/BeOS/Atari day continues! We've already reported that LibreOffice now runs on Haiku, so here's a recap on the long road it has taken Haiku developers to get it working.

As many of you are already aware, LibreOffice is now available on Haiku. This has been a long journey that has started for me around 2014, when I was looking for things I could do for the project. LibreOffice port was one of those things. It seemed to need so much effort, most people didn't even want to start. That's understandable given people were busy developing the OS. However, it's not the first time someone tried to do it.

I'm a bit of a spoil-sport here in that I'm not a particular fan of ports, and as an old BeOS user I greatly prefer software that's been developed exclusively for BeOS/Haiku. At the same time, I obviously realise that's simply not realistic for complex software packages such as office suits, and as such, relying on LibreOffice is by far the most optimal tradeoff in making sure Haiku can be used for office tasks.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th Jul 2018 11:07 UTC
Amiga & AROS

Here's a heads up I am quite happy to be giving: today is going to be an Amiga/BeOS/Atari day on OSNews. Let's start with this story about converting an Amiga 600 to a FPGS-based emulation machine.

That said, a couple of months ago I ran across the MiSTer FPGA project spearheaded by sorgelig. This project is based on the Terasic DE10-Nano board which has a decent sized Altera Cyclone FPGA paired with a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 CPU. Sorgelig has designed a number of add-on boards that allow the DE10 to interface with additional devices. He also has ported (and improved) many cores for this board, including the Minimig-AGA core which provides a very nice recreation of the Amiga from a 500 to a 1200.

After buying a DE10 and getting the Minimig-AGA core running on it, I was immediately infatuated with the quality of "emulation" on this thing. It felt much more complete than the UAE4ARM and Amiberry emulators and the video quality looked much nicer. Not to mention, the near-instant power on (and off) felt more like a real Amiga. Following in the footsteps of my previous Raspberry Pi conversions, I decided to convert an Amiga 600 to FPGA as the 600 case fits so nicely on my desk.

As the author notes, this is not a simple or straightforward mod, as there's 3D printing involved. Still, it's a fascinating process to document.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 8th Jul 2018 19:42 UTC
IBM

The IBM Model M was a keyboard was first released in 1985 as a cheaper successor to the Model F. It's hard to imagine a keyboard more expensive as Model M keyboards cost a bomb even in those days but it's true.

The Model F was based on a very durable capacitive buckling spring but was expensive to produce hence IBM made the Model M with a lower-cost membrane buckling spring model. At the same time, the Model M pioneered the ANSI 101-key layout that is still in use today. This keyboard was also the first one to utilise the PS/2 connector which would go on to be in service for decades.

The Keyboard.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jul 2018 22:26 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

The Rust programming language belongs to the category of modern programming languages that aim to provide a reliable and safe alternative to C and C++. In the past few years, few people have been working on getting the compiler, and the other build tools to our platform. And in fact, since Rust 1.0 there have been reasonably working binary packages for building Rust projects on Haiku.

With the recent addition of Rust 1.27.0 in the HaikuPorts repository, I thought it would be good to do a short, public write-up of the current state of Rust on Haiku, and some insight into the future.

Two BeOS/Haiku items on the same day. Today was a good day.

 

Linked by Adurbe on Fri 6th Jul 2018 22:23 UTC
Legal

A controversial overhaul of the EU's copyright law that sparked a fierce debate between internet giants and content creators has been rejected.

The proposed rules would have put more responsibility on websites to check for copyright infringements, and forced platforms to pay for linking to news.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jul 2018 19:09 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

It's a bit of a slow news week in technology this week due the US celebrating Independence Day this past 4 July, so Ars decided to repost this article about BFS, and I'm nothing if not a sucker for BeOS content, so here it goes.

The Be operating system file system, known simply as BFS, is the file system for the Haiku, BeOS, and SkyOS operating systems. When it was created in the late '90s as part of the ill-fated BeOS project, BFS's ahead-of-its-time feature set immediately struck the fancy OS geeks. That feature set includes:

  • A 64-bit address space
  • Use of journaling
  • Highly multithreaded reading
  • Support of database-like extended file attributes
  • Optimization for streaming file access

A dozen years later, the legendary BFS still merits exploration - so we're diving in today, starting with some filesystem basics and moving on to a discussion of the above features. We also chatted with two people intimately familiar with the OS: the person who developed BFS for Be and the developer behind the open-source version of BFS.

A good read.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 6th Jul 2018 19:01 UTC
Mac OS X

In some ways, the narrative is out of Apple’s hands. The myth of Snow Leopard is bigger than life, a cultural reference rooted in nostalgia. OS X Lion succeeded 10.6.8 in July 2011 - closing in on 7 years ago. At this point, millions of Mac users have never even used Snow Leopard, and can’t attest to its reliability.

However, a kernel of truth persists underneath the mythology. Improvements to iOS and macOS, no matter how small, contribute to a better experience for everyone. Fixing bugs might not be as marketable as shiny new Animoji or a fresh design, but maintenance can only be deferred so long. If Apple can knock stability out of the park in 2018, maybe the legend of Snow Leopard can finally be put to rest.

There's a tendency for people to fondly look back upon older releases, whether warranted or not. Since I switched away from the Mac before Snow Leopard came out, and was a fervent Mac user during the PowerPC days, my personal Snow Leopard is Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger, which I still consider my personal best Mac OS X release. Mac OS X is obviously not alone in this; Linux and Windows users will also have their favourite older releases after which supposedly everything "went downhill".

It's just human nature.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jul 2018 22:30 UTC
Windows

A couple of months ago, it was reported that Microsoft will be launching a cheaper Surface tablet. According to the original report, it was going to include an Intel Core M processor, also known as the Y-series. As we noted at the time, this didn't make sense, given the $281 price point for a Core m3 and the fact that it's supposed to go into a $399 tablet. It would probably be the most inexpensive Core M device ever.

But according to a report from WinFuture, the $399 tablet will include Intel's Pentium CPUs, and that makes a lot more sense. The base model will have a Pentium Silver N5000, which is a quad-core, 32-bit 'Gemini Lake' processor that's clocked at 1.1GHz.

I find this absolutely puzzling. My Surface Pro 4 with its Core i5 processor isn't exactly a speedy computer, and going down to mere Pentium processors surely makes these new rumoured Surface devices even slower. On top of that, didn't Microsoft just make a whole big deal out of Windows on ARM, which would surely be a far better fit for such a cheaper Surface tablet? Or would ARM processor at these price points be even slower? Surely this device will have to be locked into using Microsoft Store applications, since classic Win32 applications will have a lot of trouble functioning properly on such processors.

If this rumour is true, these cheap Surfaces are going to deliver a terrible user experience.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jul 2018 22:23 UTC
In the News

So you've just bought the best Windows laptop, you've gritted your teeth through Cortana's obnoxiously cheery setup narration, and the above screenshot is the Start menu you're presented with. Exactly how special do you feel as you watch the tiles animating and blinking at you like a slots machine? I'll tell you how I felt as I was getting to grips with the Huawei MateBook X Pro for the first time: perplexed. Perplexed that this level of bloatware infestation is still a thing in 2018, especially on a computer costing $1,499 and running an OS called Windows 10 "Pro". Why are we still tolerating this?

Before anyone assumes that this is just a rant against and about Windows, I'll happily include Apple's iOS and some varieties of Google's Android in my scorn. The blight of undesired software and prompts is all around us. If I buy an iPhone, Apple pins the Apple Watch app on my home screen, whether I have the compatible watch or not. Or if I go to Apple's nemesis, Samsung forces its Bixby assistant into everything I do with a Galaxy S.

The Windows bloatware in particular irks me, since Windows is not a free or pre-installed operating system you just kind of get for free; I purchased my Windows license and have an Office 365 subscription, and yet, I, too, got this bloatware nonsense when I installed Windows 10. I removed all of it right away, but to me, it's inexcusable.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th Jul 2018 21:23 UTC
Games

The week-long Summer Games Done Quick gaming marathon concluded on Saturday after raising $2.1 million for charity. That may very well lead outsiders to ask: What kind of gaming event can raise so much money for a global nonprofit like Doctors Without Borders?

Fans of the Games Done Quick organization, which runs two charity marathons a year, might answer that question by pointing to a slew of "speedruns" - attempts to beat a video game as quickly as possible - for classic and modern titles alike. Or they might start shouting a bunch of inside jokes and catch phrases, which are abundant at such a tight-knit, community-driven gathering of some of gaming's biggest nerds.

Either way, while the event has since concluded, its most impressive and silliest moments live on thanks to a complete YouTube video dump. Hours upon hours of speedruns, both quick and lengthy, live on at the Games Done Quick channel. So we thought we'd take this American holiday opportunity to help outsiders catch up on the craziness with a few of our favorite full-game clips.

I always look forward to the two GDQ events every year, and I usually plan my weeks off in such a way that I don't have to work during them. This year's SGDQ was another great experience, and thanks to the wonders of VOD dumps, I can now go back and watch all the runs I missed.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 23:11 UTC, submitted by judgen
SuSE, openSUSE

SUSE, the open source software company, has been sold to a Swedish private equity firm.

EQT Partners will acquire SUSE from current owners Micro Focus in a deal worth $2.5 billion USD and is expected to close in early 2019.

EQT is described as “a development-focused investor with extensive experience in the software industry”.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 23:05 UTC
Windows

Microsoft's Edge browser is the default browser in Windows 10. It's updated twice a year alongside new Windows 10 feature updates, but some people think that cadence of updating is too slow. Google Chrome and Firefox are updated very often with new features and changes, but Edge is stuck being updated alongside Windows 10.

Of course it should. A browser should be updated way more often than twice a year. Especially earlier in its existence, Edge had several annoying bugs that were probably fixed rather quickly, but then took months and months to actually reach me, at which point I had already moved back to Chrome. Edge is a lot less buggy these days, and I'm back to using it full time, but I still want it updated more often.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 23:03 UTC
Microsoft

After a lot of news recently about Microsoft's rumoured Andromeda device, Mary Jo Foley poured cold water on my hope by publishing a story based on her usually well-informed Microsoft sources that Andromeda's future is hanging by a thread, that the software is far, far from ready, and that Andromeda could very well be cancelled. In response, Neowin's Rich Woods published a passionate plea for Microsoft to make Andromeda a reality.

Microsoft talks about innovating and exploring new device types and form factors a lot. It clearly doesn't want to miss out on the next big thing, in the same way that it missed out on phones and it's now missing out on smart speakers.

But the only way to do that is to actually experiment with new things. It's also important to iterate on these things until they actually work, taking feedback from customers and implementing it into a better product. Few new products are an immediate success, but they can be with some work.

Andromeda is one of these things. It's an exciting product, whether it's successful or not.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 00:29 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Third-party app developers can read the emails of millions of Gmail users, a report from The Wall Street Journal highlighted today. Gmail’s access settings allows data companies and app developers to see people’s emails and view private details, including recipient addresses, time stamps, and entire messages. And while those apps do need to receive user consent, the consent form isn’t exactly clear that it would allow humans - and not just computers - to read your emails.

Wait, you mean to tell me that when I granted one of those newfangled we-will-organise-your-email-for-you email clients access to my email I granted them access to my email? I am shocked, shocked I say!

Privacy and security stories tend to get easily inflated, and while it indeed sucks that actual people at said companies can read your email, you did explicitly grant them access to your email account. It's all spelled out right there in the Google account permission dialog. These companies aren't here to make your email lives easier - they're here to mine your data and sell it to third parties.

You wouldn't let a random small company install cameras in your house. Why do you treat your email any differently?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 00:18 UTC
Microsoft

I'm back to say I was wrong, and I've found a machine that not only matches Apple's standard of hardware quality, but goes far beyond it to demonstrate how a laptop of the future should work.

That machine is the 15-inch Surface Book 2 and somehow Microsoft has made the 2-in-1 that Apple should've been building all along, to the same level of quality I'd expect from anyone other than Microsoft.

I've used the Surface Book 2 as my daily computer for three months now and it's consistently blown me away with how well considered it is across the board, how great the software works and has completely converted me into the touchscreen laptop camp.

That's what happens when Apple ignores its Mac product line - people start looking at alternatives, only to realize that Apple's laptops weren't nearly as far ahead of the rest - if at all - as they once thought.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd Jul 2018 00:14 UTC
Games

When Microsoft took to the Game Developers Conference in 2000 to drum up interest in the original Xbox, it used a prototype console that was, basically, a giant X.

This prototype was used for the hardware reveal at GDC by ex-Microsoft boss Bill Gates and head of the Xbox project Seamus Blackley. Microsoft took this unit to trade shows and events such as GDC to help give developers an idea of what they've be working with and present demonstrations to press, despite it not offering the power the retail unit would.

According to Dean Takahashi's book Opening the Xbox, each prototype unit cost $18,000 to manufacture because they were milled out of a solid block of aluminium. In a recent tweet, Seamus Blackley, one of the key players in Microsoft's Xbox, said the prototype was a working unit.

Interesting little bit of Xbox history.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jul 2018 20:32 UTC
Apple

Years later, I had that story on my mind when I was browsing a local online classifieds site and stumbled across a gem: a Macintosh IIsi. Even better, the old computer was for sale along with the elusive but much-desired Portrait Display, a must-have for the desktop publishing industry of its time. I bought it the very next day.

It took me several days just to get the machine to boot at all, but I kept thinking back to that article. Could I do any better? With much less? Am I that arrogant? Am I a masochist?

Cupertino retro-curiosity ultimately won out: I decided to enroll the Macintosh IIsi as my main computing system for a while. A 1990 bit of gear would now go through the 2018 paces. Just how far can 20MHz of raw processing power take you in the 21st century?

The Macintosh IIsi is such an elegant machine, a fitting home for the equally elegant System 7.x.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jul 2018 20:30 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

We've been on a bit of a history trip lately with old computer articles and books, and this one from 1985 certainly fits right in.

In January 1981, a handful of semiconductor engineers at MOS Technology in West Chester, Pa., a subsidiary of Commodore International Ltd., began designing a graphics chip and sound chip to sell to whoever wanted to make "the world's best video game". In January 1982, a home computer incorporating those chips was introduced at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nev. By using in-house integrated-circuit-fabrication facilities for prototyping, the engineers had cut design time for each chip to less than nine months, and they had designed and built five prototype computers for the show in less than five weeks. What surprised the rest of the home-computer industry the most, however, was the introductory price of the Commodore 64: $595 for a unit incorporating a keyboard, a central processor, the graphics and sound chips, and 64 kilobytes of memory instead of the 16 or 32 that were considered the norm.

A fully decked-out Commodore 64 with all the crucial peripherals - tape drive, disk drive, printer, joysticks, official monitor - is still very high on my wish list.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jul 2018 20:21 UTC
Android

Today we're rolling out Beta 3 of Android P, our next milestone in this year's Android P developer preview. With the developer APIs already finalized in the previous update, Beta 3 now takes us very close to what you'll see in the final version of Android P, due later this summer.

Available on Pixel devices and a number of third party devices.