Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Apr 2016 22:00 UTC
Legal

You would think there would be some more tangible action Congress could take, given its constitutional mandate to provide oversight of the executive branch, but you would be wrong. In theory, they might repeal FISA, but it's pretty clear that's not going to happen. We've been doing this dance for three congressional terms now and this is basically all that ever occurs.

It's especially weird since the NSA's charter is for foreign intelligence, so the answer to "how many Americans are you spying on?" should really be zero. But we all know that's not true, thanks to documents leaked by a whistleblower who is unable to enter the country on pain of immediate lifetime imprisonment.

If the current election cycle in the US has proven anything to me, it's that the American 'democracy' is fundamentally broken, down to its very core. How on earth can the NSA just refuse to answer these questions?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 22nd Apr 2016 21:57 UTC
Windows

At its Build developer conference a few weeks ago, Microsoft announced the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, a major update for Windows 10 due this summer. One of its biggest aspects was substantially reworked and improved pen support ("Ink" in Microsoft terminology) intended to make pen applications easier to find and use and to make stylus use more powerful. A new Windows build that provides the first access to these new features, version 14328, has just been promoted to the fast ring.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 22:15 UTC
Google

Google is beginning to look beyond search to tap into some of the most lucrative and promising businesses in the tech industry: artificial intelligence and cloud computing. The company, the largest and most significant part of Alphabet Inc., has grown to mammoth proportions off the back of its search-based advertising division. But those revenues are starting to slow. The cloud allows companies to manage and sell server space and software that lives inside its data centers, like AI, to other large companies. That type of service-based business is fast becoming the new way to reap profits in the tech industry.

Google is, effectively, a monoculture, and that's a huge sticking point for the company's future. The company's surely got a number of endeavours that could prove hugely profitable in the future (e.g. its driverless car technology), but that's still a considerable number of years in the future.

For a company with what is probably the biggest server infrastructure in the world, it seems like a logical place to look.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 22:04 UTC, submitted by Adurbe
Opera Software

Today, we want to share with you another big thing that you will first see in the developer channel for Opera for computers.

We are the first major browser maker to integrate an unlimited and free VPN or virtual private network. Now, you don't have to download VPN extensions or pay for VPN subscriptions to access blocked websites and to shield your browsing when on public Wi-Fi.

A great addition to a browser, and in these times, every browser should have it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 21st Apr 2016 13:04 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Canonical announced today it will release Ubuntu 16.04 LTS on 21st April, featuring the new 'snap' package format and LXD pure-container hypervisor. This is the latest version of the world’s most widely used Linux platform across desktop, IoT and cloud computing.

The images are available for download now, but no official announcement just yet.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 20th Apr 2016 10:26 UTC
Android

The European Commission has formally lodged an antitrust complaint regarding Android.

The European Commission has informed Google of its preliminary view that the company has, in breach of EU antitrust rules, abused its dominant position by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.

The Commission's preliminary view is that Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. First, the practices mean that Google Search is pre-installed and set as the default, or exclusive, search service on most Android devices sold in Europe. Second, the practices appear to close off ways for rival search engines to access the market, via competing mobile browsers and operating systems. In addition, they also seem to harm consumers by stifling competition and restricting innovation in the wider mobile space.

Google has already responded in a blog post (read the whole thing):

The European Commission has been investigating our approach, and today issued a Statement of Objections, raising questions about its impact on competition. We take these concerns seriously, but we also believe that our business model keeps manufacturers’ costs low and their flexibility high, while giving consumers unprecedented control of their mobile devices. That's how we designed the model.

This EU antitrust complaint is one of the biggest jokes in EU antitrust history; an even bigger joke than the Windows N editions. Not only is Android open source, the operating system has created a vastly more open and consumer- and competition friendly mobile operating system than anything else that has ever existed on the market. The situation before Android was absolutely dreadful - dozens, if not hundreds, of closed little feature phone platforms, the closed-source Windows Mobile, the completely locked-down iOS, the heavily fragmented, obtuse, and effectively locked-down Symbian.

The situation after Android is that any user has a lot of control over the software they run on their phone, with tons of cheap, yet high quality devices to choose from. You can install whatever software you want, from whatever source you want, without having to go through Google or anyone else. Developers can target a vast segment of the market - Android has 80% market share in Europe - without being beholden to the nonsensical whims of a single corporation. In addition, users can run Android on pretty much any phone without any additional Google software or services.

The situation clearly isn't perfect by any means, but the real problems with mobile software are not in Android - or iOS for that matter - but in the baseband processors, firmware, and similar software. Far less sexy, of course, and yet a far bigger problem that needs to be tackled.

This entire antitrust complaint is a complete waste of money and taxpayer resources - which, coincidentally, makes it a very EU thing to do.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Apr 2016 20:01 UTC
Games

Earlier this year, rumors began to fly that Sony would release an upgraded version of the PlayStation 4, a console often called the PS4.5 or the PS4K by fans and press. Today, multiple sources have confirmed for us details of the project, which is internally referred to as the NEO. No price was provided, but previous reports indicate that the NEO would sell at $399. At time of publishing, Sony has not returned our request for comment, but we will update this story if the company responds.

The NEO will feature a higher clock speed than the original PS4, an improved GPU, and higher bandwidth on the memory. The documents we've received note that the HDD in the NEO is the same as that in the original PlayStation 4, but it's not clear if that means in terms of capacity or connection speed. Starting in October, every PS4 game is required to ship with both a "Base Mode" which will run on the currently available PS4 and a "NEO Mode" for use on the new console.

I'm not sure what to think of this. It just feels like this wouldn't go down well with consumers who just bought a regular PS4, and developers would have to actually worry about all of this, do additional testing, possibly extra coding, and so on. It feels needlessly convoluted, especially since the PS4 isn't that old to begin with.

Meanwhile, Microsoft claims it isn't interested in doing this, but you can bet your vanilla red pinky that Microsoft would follow suit in a heartbeat if this turns out to be a success.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 19th Apr 2016 19:45 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

There is something special happening in a generic office park in an uninspiring suburb near Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Inside, amid the low gray cubicles, clustered desks, and empty swivel chairs, an impossible 8-inch robot drone from an alien planet hovers chest-high in front of a row of potted plants. It is steampunk-cute, minutely detailed. I can walk around it and examine it from any angle. I can squat to look at its ornate underside. Bending closer, I bring my face to within inches of it to inspect its tiny pipes and protruding armatures. I can see polishing swirls where the metallic surface was “milled.” When I raise a hand, it approaches and extends a glowing appendage to touch my fingertip. I reach out and move it around. I step back across the room to view it from afar. All the while it hums and slowly rotates above a desk. It looks as real as the lamps and computer monitors around it. It’s not. I’m seeing all this through a synthetic-reality headset. Intellectually, I know this drone is an elaborate simulation, but as far as my eyes are concerned it’s really there, in that ordinary office. It is a virtual object, but there is no evidence of pixels or digital artifacts in its three-dimensional fullness. If I reposition my head just so, I can get the virtual drone to line up in front of a bright office lamp and perceive that it is faintly transparent, but that hint does not impede the strong sense of it being present. This, of course, is one of the great promises of artificial reality - either you get teleported to magical places or magical things get teleported to you. And in this prototype headset, created by the much speculated about, ultrasecretive company called Magic Leap, this alien drone certainly does seem to be transported to this office in Florida - and its reality is stronger than I thought possible.

The video is very cool, but the rig they're using makes it very clear this is still very early days. That being said - it looks amazing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Apr 2016 22:38 UTC
Games

The recent update to NetHack has been eagerly awaited by fans of that game for the last thirteen years. This shadowy group behind the update, known by fans simply as DevTeam, can be very tight-lipped about what they're up to. The community has generally viewed them with a sort of worshipful awe as they have slowly added new depth and sophistication to the game with each iteration. (A popular catchphrase is TDTTOE, or "The DevTeam Thinks of Everything.")

The release of the update seemed like a great time to talk to the developers of this beloved title, about the past and future of the game, and the devotion of the fan community that makes its ongoing development possible.

I've only ever played NetHack a few times, but I'm definitely aware of its status. Fascinating to see it has such a peculiar development.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 18th Apr 2016 22:36 UTC
Apple

To emphasize this point, Apple shared a great statistic: their average users unlocks their phones 80 times a day. Other reports state people look at their phones upwards of 130 times a day but those are less of the average and more the heavier users. Regardless, the simple act of logging into our phone via a secure form of login like passcodes or fingerprints is now taken for granted in much of Apple's ecosystem when, just a few years ago, anyone could have stolen my phone and have access to my personal information. Here again, Apple shared that 89% of their users with a Touch ID-capable device have set it up and use it.

While using a fingerprint reader or scanner for security purposes obviously wasn't invented by Apple, this is yet another one of those cases where Apple took an existing idea, made it incredibly user-friendly, improved the hardware a ton, and now it's the standard on every phone.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Apr 2016 22:23 UTC
Android

The HTC 10 takes the HTC design formula and distills it down to its purest form. There's nothing but excellent smartphone here - no silly gimmicks or odd design decisions. Even the software was treated rather well, with any curiosities relegated to optional parts of the OS that can be turned off or replaced.

HTC really seems to have taken the feedback from the One M9 to heart. The design is much more compact, with less bezel dead space dedicated to speakers and an HTC logo. The SoC is improved by dumping one of the first and hottest Snapdragon 810 implementations for the cooler, faster 820. The ugly side ridge design of the M9 is gone. The camera is a lot better, too, particularly when it comes to low light.

I have a soft spot for HTC, but with Nexus phones being the Android enthusiasts' phones, and with Samsung taking everything else, it's going to be hard for them to sit somewhere in the middle. People who buy Samsung aren't going to suddenly buy an HTC, and toned-down Sense or no, this is still not Android-proper, so updates will be a mess (it's already running outdated software), so enthusiasts won't really be enticed either.

I'm not really sure where HTC's smartphone business is going.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Apr 2016 22:18 UTC
Apple

Recently, I decided buy an iPhone 6S and turn on iMessage.1 iPhones are great! But in the process of setting it up, I ran into some hassles that reminded me that for all the advancements that Apple has made with iOS over the years, it still can feel like it's stuck in an old era of phones that were controlled by corporate politics. The iPhone is a computer, but sometimes it acts too much like a RAZR.

Anything even remotely related to managing files is a complete disaster on iOS, and it's one of the main things Apple will need to address going forward, now that iOS is their future.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 15th Apr 2016 21:27 UTC
Games

When I visited Jordan at his home in New Jersey, he sat in his family's living room at dusk, lit by a glowing iMac screen, and mused on Minecraft's appeal. "It's like the earth, the world, and you’re the creator of it," he said. On-screen, he steered us over to the entrance to the maze, and I peered in at the contraptions chugging away. "My art teacher always says, 'No games are creative, except for the people who create them.' But she said, 'The only exception that I have for that is Minecraft.'" He floated over to the maze's exit, where he had posted a sign for the survivors: The journey matters more than what you get in the end.

Minecraft is the digital age's Lego.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th Apr 2016 23:16 UTC
Windows

This library is just a proof-of-concept of the windows kernel-mode drivers, which can be written in Rust programming language.

It contains the types, constants and bindings for the Windows Driver Kit with target OS starting from Windows XP (x86/x64).

Neat proof-of-concept.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 13th Apr 2016 23:09 UTC
Linux

Namespaces and cgroups are two of the main kernel technologies most of the new trend on software containerization (think Docker) rides on. To put it simple, cgroups are a metering and limiting mechanism, they control how much of a system resource (CPU, memory) you can use. On the other hand, namespaces limit what you can see. Thanks to namespaces processes have their own view of the system's resources.

The Linux kernel provides 6 types of namespaces: pid, net, mnt, uts, ipc and user. For instance, a process inside a pid namespace only sees processes in the same namespace. Thanks to the mnt namespace, it's possible to attach a process to its own filesystem (like chroot). In this article I focus only in network namespaces.

If you have grasped the concept of namespaces you may have at this point an intuitive idea of what a network namespace might offer. Network namespaces provide a brand-new network stack for all the processes within the namespace. That includes network interfaces, routing tables and iptables rules.

 

Linked by gezelterrl on Wed 13th Apr 2016 09:36 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

As Mark Twain famously wrote, "...the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated". So with OpenVMS.

VMS Software, Inc. (VSI) today announced the worldwide availability of VSI OpenVMS Version 8.4-2 (Maynard Release) operating system for HPE Integrity servers. The Maynard Release is the second by VSI. The new OS is compatible with HPE Integrity servers running the latest Intel Itanium 9500 series processor, as well as most prior generations of the Itanium processor family. VSI also reconfirmed plans to offer OpenVMS on x86-based servers.

"This second release reaffirms our long-term commitment to the OpenVMS platform, and builds upon our highly successful first release of OpenVMS in June of 2015," said Duane P. Harris, CEO of VMS Software. "It is the first of many exciting improvements planned for OpenVMS, including future updates to the file system, TCP/IP, and other major improvements that we look forward to sharing with our customers as we work our way through the planned roadmap."

 

Linked by Radio on Mon 11th Apr 2016 17:30 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

NICTA, Australia's Information and Communications Technology Research Centre, has published a paper on the lessons learned by 20 years of work around the L4 microkernel.

Some of you may remember that NICTA has developped the seL4 microkernel, one of the first - if not the first - microkernel formally verified, an important stepstone in securing computing systems against whole classes of bugs and attacks.

The L4 microkernel has undergone 20 years of use and evolution. It has an active user and developer community, and there are commercial versions that are deployed on a large scale and in safety-critical systems. In this article we examine the lessons learnt in those 20 years about microkernel design and implementation. We revisit the L4 design papers, and examine the evolution of design and implementation from the original L4 to the latest generation of L4 kernels. We specifically look at seL4, which has pushed the L4 model furthest and was the first OS kernel to undergo a complete formal verification of its implementation as well as a sound analysis of worst-case execution times. We demonstrate that while much has changed, the fundamental principles of minimality, generality and high inter-process communication (IPC) performance remain the main drivers of design and implementation decisions.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Apr 2016 17:29 UTC
Amiga & AROS

In terms of planning our lives around what our TVs spit out, we've come a long way from the overly condensed pages of TV Guide. In fact, the magazine was already looking awful obsolete in the 1980s and 1990s, when cable systems around the country began dedicating entire channels to listing TV schedules.

The set-top box, the power-sucking block that serves as the liaison between you and your cable company, is a common sight in homes around the country these days.

But before all that was the Commodore Amiga, a device that played a quiet but important role in the cable television revolution.

Absolutely fascinating - I don't think we had anything even remotely like this in The Netherlands.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Apr 2016 17:27 UTC
Android

Android Studio 2.0 is the fastest way to build high quality, performant apps for the Android platform, including phones and tablets, Android Auto, Android Wear, and Android TV. As the official IDE from Google, Android Studio includes everything you need to build an app, including a code editor, code analysis tools, emulators and more. This new and stable version of Android Studio has fast build speeds and a fast emulator with support for the latest Android version and Google Play Services.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Apr 2016 01:11 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

RISC-V is a new general-purpose instruction-set architecture (ISA) that's BSD licensed, extensible, and royalty free. It's clean and modular with a 32-, 64-, or 128-bit integer base and various optional extensions (e.g., floating point). RISC-V is easier to implement than some alternatives - minimal RISC-V cores are roughly half the size of equivalent ARM cores - and the ISA has already gathered some support from the semiconductor industry.