Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Jun 2017 21:39 UTC
Apple

Apple is calling iOS 11 its biggest software release ever for the iPad, thanks to the myriad iPad features it includes, like a new dock that supports improved multitasking, a Files app for better managing files, improved Apple Pencil support, a new App Switcher, and system-wide drag and drop.

iOS 11 also includes many features for both the iPhone and the iPad. There's an incredible ARKit API that's going to let developers build all kinds of new augmented reality apps, and there's also a CoreML machine learning API that's going to allow apps to become a whole lot smarter.

Peer-to-peer Apple Pay payments are being introduced, Messages is gaining a new App Drawer that makes it easier to access apps and stickers, a Do Not Disturb feature that mutes notifications will make it easier for drivers to stay focused on the road, and Siri, Photos, and the Camera app are gaining huge improvements.

There's a ton of great stuff coming once iOS 11 is released, and it truly looks like the iPad-focused release people have been asking for. Be sure to take a peek at Apple's official iOS 11 page, as it details some of the prime new features.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Jun 2017 16:47 UTC, submitted by Daniel Mark
SGI and IRIX

The MaXX Interactive Desktop a.k.a. The MaXX Desktop is the continuation of the 5dwm.org implementation released many years back. So don't be mistaken, there is only one implementation of the SGI Desktop on Linux.

Our goal is to bring to the masses this great user experience which focus on performance, stability and productivity. The MaXX Desktop is available in two versions, the free Community Edition (CE) which provides basic SGI Desktop experience and the commercially available Professional Edition (PE) that comes with support, CPU and GPU specific optimizations and a full SGI Desktop experience. The MaXX Desktop PE is excellent for SGI customers using both IRIX and Linux platforms or for power users using pro applications.

The first release was released a few days ago. And yes, I used the SGI database category for this news item. Try and stop me.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 5th Jun 2017 16:41 UTC
Windows

Here's a quick recap before we dive in. CShell is Microsoft's new Windows Shell that will eventually replace the existing Windows Shell in future releases of Windows 10. It's an adaptable shell that can scale in real time, adapting to different screen sizes and orientations on the fly. CShell is a shell modularized into sub-components, which can transition between those components when required, making for a far more flexible user experience on devices that have multiple form factors.

The actual Windows Explorer shell is one of the last high-profile parts of Windows that's still mostly Win32. This CShell is supposed to be its replacement.

 

Linked by nfeske on Sat 3rd Jun 2017 21:44 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

With the new version 17.05, the Genode project moves forward to the goal of becoming more attractive and approachable to a wider audience. On the one hand, the release promises to be a sustainable basis for longer-term projects. With a modern tool chain based on GCC 6.3, Qt 5.8, VirtualBox 5.2.11, and the framework's finished API modernization, the foreseeable future will be free of disruptions for users. On the other hand, Genode introduced a new approach and tooling for package management to relieve users from low-level technicalities.

Modern operating systems are unthinkable without a package-management solution for installing and updating software. Until now, however, Genode's work flows were primarily geared towards appliance-like systems that come in the shape of system images. Even though the Genode developers managed to build a day-to-day usable OS (called "Turmvilla") for their own use on that basis, there is a natural limit of how scalable such systems can be. Even for the developers, installing and updating such a system is a burden. Instead up building and installing a new system image on each update, users universally expect to install software from ready-to-use packages, and to update and configure the system in parts instead of a whole.

The discussion of suitable package-management approaches for Genode reaches several years back. The first step in this direction were custom tools for managing and integrating 3rd-party source code with the framework. But there was no notion of pre-built and easy-to-install packages, nor even a tangible idea of what a package in the context of Genode should represent. During a long period of experimentation, the developers encountered and fell in love with the Nix package manager. This encounter was followed by porting work, mind-bending architectural discussions, and a series of prototype scenarios. However, while those prototypes were technically sophisticated and interesting playgrounds, they were also complicated. A real-world solution remained cloudy.

At one time, it became clear that the universal notions of "software packages" and the role of a package manager made things more complicated than they should be. After all, Nix is designed for Unix-like systems with its existing ecosystem of libraries, build tools, conventions, and methodologies. In contrast, Genode opens up unique opportunities for simplification thanks to its breath of scope that covers the entire software stack including the build system, tool chain, the ABI and API design, the inter-component protocols, the dynamic linker, the system configuration, and the execution runtime. By taking a step back and soul-searching for the actual problem to solve, a strikingly simple new approach emerged. It is undeniably inspired by the virtues of Nix. But it leverages Genode in ways that wouldn't be possible with a ported version of Nix. For example, it facilitates Genode's notion of library ABIs to largely decouple libraries from applications and thereby completely eliminates transitive build-time dependencies. Or as another example, by introducing sensible categories of packaged content, the need for a package description language disappeared.

Genode's release 17.05 contains the new packaging tools. Even though they are still labeled as experimental, the release comes with several examples of modest system scenarios based on them. Other prominent news are a feature-complete version of VirtualBox 5 for the NOVA microkernel, the update of Qt to version 5.8, added support for the Nim programming language, a new tool chain based on GCC 6.3 including Ada support, new tools for monitoring network traffic and CPU load, greatly enhanced flexibility of the init component, and a brand new timeout API. All these topics are covered in detail by the release documentation.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 3rd Jun 2017 20:30 UTC
Google

Chrome has always focused on giving users the best possible experience browsing the web. For example, Chrome, like other browsers, prevents pop-ups in new tabs based on the fact that they are annoying. Today, we have an even better understanding of the types of experiences that bother users when it comes to unwanted advertising. New public, consumer-driven research done by the Coalition for Better Ads in creating the Better Ads Standards outlines a number of these experiences, such as full-page ad interstitials, ads that unexpectedly play sound, and flashing ads. In dialog with the Coalition and other industry groups, we plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards starting in early 2018.

Interesting that this will also block Google's ads. I'll still feel more comfortable with third party blockers, though.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 31st May 2017 22:51 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces

I wonder if these rugged aesthetics, now commonplace in cutting-edge websites, can work at scale - in mobile apps used by +1b people. Instagram's new UI paved the way: can this effort be replicated in other categories (e.g. gaming)? Is brutalism a fad or the future of app design? Would it make apps more usable, easy-to-use and delightful? To end with, would it generate more growth? Conversions experts sometimes suggest that more text equals more engagement - what if we push this idea to the extreme?

There's something unsettling about these brutalist redesigns by Pierre Buttin - but I don't outright hate them. There's something very functional about them.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 31st May 2017 22:45 UTC
AMD

At today's press conference, AMD has confirmed that the 16 core processor will for most purposes be half of an Epyc processor. This means that the two die MCM chip will feature 4 DDR4 channels and a whopping 64 lanes of PCIe, with all 64 lanes being enabled for all ThreadRipper SKUs. This will be broken up into 60+4: 60 lanes directly from the CPU for feeding PCIe and M.2 slots, and then another 4 lanes going to the chipset (with an undisclosed number of lanes then coming off of it) to drive basic I/O, USB, and other features. AMD seems to be particularly relishing the point on PCIe lanes in light of the yesterday's Intel HEDT announcement, which maxes out at 44 lanes and no chip below $1000 actually has all of them enabled.

All this competition.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 31st May 2017 20:17 UTC
Windows

Microsoft and Qualcomm just announced at Computex that Lenovo, HP, and ASUS are expected to be the first companies with devices that feature the Snapdragon 835. Powered by Windows 10 on ARM, the ultra-thin and always-connected devices are said to usher in a new era of mobile computing.

I am excited about ARM-based Windows machines, because this time around, there'll be a compatibility layer for running x86 applications. The built-in LTE, 4x-5x (claimed) standy time and 50% more battery life (again, claimed) are very welcome, too.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 31st May 2017 20:13 UTC
Android

Google I/O doesn't need skydivers or LCD Soundsystem to keep us interested year to year - we'll happily settle for what is becoming an annual chat with members of the Android team. Heading into this year's conference, the group was fresh off the release of the second Android O Developer Preview and the announcement of Project Treble, a massive modularization of Android's hardware dependencies that should make updates a little easier on everyone involved with the OS. So as usual, there was plenty to talk about.

Dave Burke, VP of engineering for Android, has made time for us at several recent conferences, but this year we also had Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson, PM director for Android, in on the conversation. Given the opportunity, we tried to keep these questions pretty technical.

Ars does a duo-interview with two Android execs at Google.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 30th May 2017 17:18 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Android's creator, Andy Rubin, has been teasing his next big project for a while now, and today he finally unveiled everything: his new company Essential has a new smartphone, an Amazon Echo-like device with its own operating system, and a few accessories. Just another company trying to break into the smartphone market, surely, were it not for the creator of Danger and Android at the helm.

The phone has all the latest and greatest specifications, including an almost bezelless screen. It makes an interesting design choice by placing the front camera inside the screen at the top, which I'm sure most people will either not care about or deeply hate. I want to see the whole thing in person first, but I like that they at least try to 'own' this design choice. Another rather unique element is the ceramic back, which is a material choice we'll probably see more of over the coming years.

Of particular note: the company is hinting at using stock Android, with fast updates. I've seen those promises before, so I'm not exactly taking them at face value when I hear them for the 1038th time.

Their Amazon Echo competitor, the Essential Home, has a screen and sports its own operating system, but the company doesn't have a whole lot to say about it other than some marketing fluff, such as this:

Ambient OS is the API to your home that enables the creation of applications that extend the reach of a single device. For example, you can setup a timer and have the lights in the livingroom flash when it goes off. With the Ambient OS API, developers have access to available devices, services, and home information and can use these resources as the building blocks of their applications.

So probably Android with some custom API bits on top. They do state they are focusing on privacy, doing the AI and API bits on-device instead of in the cloud - which is a plus for me, but I'm not sure normal people really care too much about this at all.

In Rubin's blog post announcing the company and its devices, he has some... Interesting words to say about what Android has become.

For all the good Android has done to help bring technology to nearly everyone it has also helped create this weird new world where people are forced to fight with the very technology that was supposed to simplify their lives. Was this what we had intended? Was this the best we could do?

Is it just me, or is Rubin not happy with who his child has become?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 30th May 2017 09:19 UTC
Intel

Lots of news from Intel today - the company announced a new line of processors and accompanying motherboard chipset. I have to admit I find Intel's product and platform names completely and utterly confusing, but from what I gather, the company announced new high-end i7 and i5 processors, as well as even higher-end, high-core counts i7s and a new line, the i9. The X299 chipset brings it all together.

I was keeping an eye on these new processors as I just ordered all the parts for my brand new computer, but I had already decided not to wait for these since I prefer not to jump onto new processors and chipsets right away (which is why I didn't opt for Ryzen either). Looking at the replacement for the processor I eventually settled on - the 7700K - I'm pretty sure I made the right call, since the speed bump seems minor (100Mhz), while TDP goes up relatively considerably.

The high core count processors are - much like the Ryzen 7 1800X - incredibly alluring in a "I want all the cores" kind of way, but for the most part, few workloads actually benefit from more cores in processors. Aside from workstation-oriented workloads I personally do not engage in, it really seems like processors are running ahead of the software they run.

Still, with Ryzen and now Intel's new parts, there's a ton of choice out there if you're building a new computer.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 29th May 2017 23:25 UTC
General Development

Cooper Harasyn found a Super Mario World save corruption glitch, and we worked together to create a jailbreak that works on real, unmodified cartridges and Super Nintendos.

They managed to install a hex editor and a mod loader onto unmodified Super Mario World cartridges running on unmodified Super Nintendos. With the mod loader, you can, for instance, give Mario telekinesis powers. This is somewhat reminiscent of a similar extraordinary feat in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night we talked about earlier this year.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 28th May 2017 22:29 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Astute readers will notice that that's exactly the same message as PC DOS 1.0 (August 1981) shows, but this COMMAND.COM did not prompt for the date. That's because this disk is not from August but rather early June 1981 - newest file is timestamped June 6, 1981 - which may make it the oldest known surviving piece of software written for the IBM PC (not counting the IBM PC ROMs which are dated April 1981). It’s certainly the oldest known surviving PC operating system.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record on this topic, but it can't be said often enough: the preservation of software - whether important world-changing or not - is crucial if we want to document the history of where software came from, and where it's going to.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 28th May 2017 22:26 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

Shortly after I published my Cartography Comparison last June, I noticed Google updating some of the areas we had focused on.

Coincidence or not, it was interesting. And it made me wonder what else would change, if we kept watching. Would Google keep adding detail? And would Apple, like Google, also start making changes?

So I wrote a script that takes monthly screenshots of Google and Apple Maps. And thirteen months later, we now have a year's worth of images.

This is a fascinating article. Google is changing the look of the actual maps in Google Maps a lot, and improving its data all the time - whereas Apple seems to lag behind, and contains far less places of interest, stores, and so on.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 27th May 2017 09:33 UTC
Linux

It is 2017. Pick an average PC from 2007 and install a minimal GNU/Linux based operating system. You will be able to do basic computing tasks (eg. surfing the web, reading E-Mails, listening to music, chatting) just like on an expensive modern PC. You will even get security updates, so your old computer is protected, just like as a new one.

postmarketOS (I love the name) aims to do the same for smartphones. A small Linux distribution with a phone interface, designed to be easy to update and maintain to solve the problems Android poses in this area. The project is in its infancy, so it needs a lot of help to further realise its vision.

This is a great idea, and it could breathe life into devices not even LineageOS can keep alive.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 27th May 2017 09:26 UTC
Apple

Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks, according to a person familiar with the matter. The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company's devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence - such as facial recognition and speech recognition, said the person, who requested anonymity discussing a product that hasn't been made public. Apple declined to comment.

It's interesting - and unsurprising - that while Google is investing in server-side AI by developing its own custom AI hardware, Apple is apparently investing in keeping AI local. It fits right into the different approaches to privacy by these two companies, which is why I find this entirely unsurprising.

As a sidenote - isn't it interesting how when new technologies come around, we try to offload it to a specific chip, only to then bring it back into the main processor later on?

 

Linked by Bjorn Stahl on Fri 26th May 2017 19:55 UTC
General Development OSNews covered the One night in Prio article, and now a new version of its umbrella project, Arcan, has been released (which only happens two or three times a year). The actual details are covered in the release post.

So, what is Arcan?

Arcan is a powerful development framework for creating virtually anything between user interfaces for specialised embedded applications all the way to full-blown standalone desktop environments.

At its heart lies a robust and portable multimedia engine, with a well-tested and well-documented interface, programmable in Lua. At every step of the way, the underlying development emphasises security, performance and debugability guided by a principle of least surprise in terms of API design.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th May 2017 23:08 UTC
Google

Google already monitors online shopping - but now it's also keeping an eye on what people buy in physical stores as it tries to sell more digital advertising.

The Internet giant said Tuesday that a new tool will track how much money people spend in merchants' bricks-and-mortar stores after clicking on their digital ads.

The analysis will be done by matching the combined ad clicks of people who are logged into Google services with their collective purchases on credit and debit cards. Google says it won't be able to examine the specific items bought or how much a specific individual spent.

Well, this seems like something our politicians should prevent. This is such a terrible idea.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th May 2017 23:03 UTC
Amiga & AROS

Ars reviews the Amiga X5000, and concludes:

The X5000 is different. It feels like an exotic car: expensive, beautifully engineered, and unique. If you bought one, you'd be one of a proud few, a collector and enthusiast. It practically begs for you to dig in and tinker with the internals - the system comes with an SDK, a C compiler, Python, and a huge amount of documentation for things like MUI, the innovative GUI library. On top of that, there is the mysterious XMOS chip, crying out for someone to create software that leverages its strengths. It feels like a developer’s machine.

Should you buy one? That depends very much on what your needs are. If you are simply after the best price-to-performance ratio for a desktop computer, this is not the machine for you. But if you are interested in something very different, something that is pleasant and fun to use, and yet can still be used for modern desktop workloads, then the X5000 is worth a look. I have had this review unit on my desktop for over a month now, and frankly I don’t want to give it back.

I reviewed the sam440ep with AmigaOS 4 way back in 2009, and came to a relatively similar conclusion - these machines are a ton of fun, but they're just prohibitively expensive, meaning only existing AmigaOS users will really get their hands on these. They really, really need a more accessible machine or board - a few hundred Euros, tops.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 24th May 2017 20:02 UTC
Windows

Over the past 3 months, we have largely completed the rollout of Git/GVFS to the Windows team at Microsoft.

As a refresher, the Windows code base is approximately 3.5M files and, when checked in to a Git repo, results in a repo of about 300GB. Further, the Windows team is about 4,000 engineers and the engineering system produces 1,760 daily "lab builds" across 440 branches in addition to thousands of pull request validation builds. All 3 of the dimensions (file count, repo size and activity), independently, provide daunting scaling challenges and taken together they make it unbelievably challenging to create a great experience. Before the move to Git, in Source Depot, it was spread across 40+ depots and we had a tool to manage operations that spanned them.

As of my writing 3 months ago, we had all the code in one Git repo, a few hundred engineers using it and a small fraction (<10%) of the daily build load. Since then, we have rolled out in waves across the engineering team.