Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd Jan 2017 21:17 UTC

Last October at the Windows 10 event in New York City, Microsoft officially unveiled the Windows 10 Creators Update, codenamed "Redstone 2". At the event, Microsoft stated that the update will be released in "early 2017" but we didn't know when exactly the update will arrive.

Until now, anyway.

Per my sources, Microsoft will be releasing the Windows 10 Creators Update this April.

The more regular, smaller updates Windows gets now is such a huge step up from the monolithic releases of yore.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Dec 2016 21:07 UTC

The third and most important thing to consider is this is the only device you can buy right now that supports Google Tango. Tango is Google-made software that, combined with specific hardware, offers advanced 3D sensing. If basic augmented reality creates a flat layer of digital information on your smartphone screen - think Pokémon Go, with the game content built on top of your real world - Tango goes beyond that, to the point where it interprets and measures spaces and objects around you and then lets you interact with digital things as though they're really, physically there.

Tango sits in that category of technologies like Google Glass and virtual reality in that you can see it takes a lot of research and innovation to build, but that's hard to see a use for in my personal life. It makes much more sense in countless professional environments, but it'll need a lot more work - judging by this review - before it'd be ready for that.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 29th Dec 2016 21:03 UTC

The well-choreographed customs routine is part of a hidden bounty of perks, tax breaks and subsidies in China that supports the world's biggest iPhone factory, according to confidential government records reviewed by The New York Times, as well as more than 100 interviews with factory workers, logistics handlers, truck drivers, tax specialists and current and former Apple executives. The package of sweeteners and incentives, worth billions of dollars, is central to the production of the iPhone, Apple's best-selling and most profitable product.

Fascinating look at what the local Chinese governments do to entice Foxconn.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Dec 2016 22:42 UTC
Internet & Networking

The trouble with being a former typesetter is that every day online is a new adventure in torture. Take the shape of quotation marks. These humble symbols are a dagger in my eye when a straight, or typewriter-style, pair appears in the midst of what is often otherwise typographic beauty. It's a small, infuriating difference: "this" versus “this.”

I'll stop replacing curly quotes with straight quotes on OSNews the day the tech industry gives me back my Dutch quotation marks („Like so”, he said) and adds multilingual support to Google Now and Siri and so on (which right now require a full wipe to change languages, making them useless for hundreds of millions of people who live bilingual lives).

Yes, I can be petty.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Dec 2016 22:22 UTC

Microsoft knows this, and have announced at WinHEC that they are looking at making the use of Precision Touchpads a requirement for devices part of the Hardware Compatibility Program, for future versions of Windows 10 after the Creators Update. This, in theory, would mean hardware makers would have no choice but to implement Precision Touchpads rather than touchpads from Synaptics or some other 3rd party trackpad maker if they wish to preload Windows 10 on their devices.

I get the impression that most Windows laptops have perfectly decent trackpad hardware, but they just really suck at the software aspect of the story. More often than not, trackpads will function like a PS/2 mouse, with little to no regard for them actually being surfaces instead of rolling balls or bouncing lasers. Even when laptop makers include terrible third-party drivers with horrid configuration applications, the end result is still garbage.

I've never actually used one of these fabled Precision Trackpads before, so I can't attest to their quality, but from what I hear, they're almost Apple-level in terms of quality.

And honestly - even a potato would be better than the average Windows trackpad.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Dec 2016 21:07 UTC

Clearly there was something extraordinary about Word for Windows. Part of its success was due to Microsoft's marketing acumen. But it was also a stunning technical achievement, and its ability to run on ordinary PCs created the first popular vanguard of the new graphics-oriented style of document preparation.

Remember, this was a time when a typical personal computer might have an 8 Mhz processor, 1 megabyte of memory, a 20 megabyte hard disk, and a floppy disk drive. How did Word accomplish so much with so little?

There's only one way to understand the magic in detail: read the code. With the permission of Microsoft Corporation, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use, the source code of Word for Windows version 1.1a as it was on January 10, 1991.

Quite amazing that we're getting access to the source code for pivotal software like this.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Dec 2016 00:24 UTC

PIXEL represents our best guess as to what the majority of users are looking for in a desktop environment: a clean, modern user interface; a curated suite of productivity software and programming tools, both free and proprietary; and the Chromium web browser with useful plugins, including Adobe Flash, preinstalled. And all of this is built on top of Debian, providing instant access to thousands of free applications.

Put simply, it's the GNU/Linux we would want to use.

The Raspberry Pi's "own" Linux distribution is now also available for Windows and Mac - i.e., a live image you can run on your PC.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Dec 2016 21:27 UTC
General Development

This text is a practical guide to writing your own x86 operating system. It is designed to give enough help with the technical details while at the same time not reveal too much with samples and code excerpts. We've tried to collect parts of the vast (and often excellent) expanse of material and tutorials available, on the web and otherwise, and add our own insights into the problems we encountered and struggled with.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Dec 2016 21:26 UTC

Apple removed the "battery time remaining" indicator from the battery status menu in the latest version 10.12.2 of macOS. Apparently it wasn't accurate.

Did you know that MacBook batteries have a dedicated chip that keeps track of how much energy goes in and out of the battery during all times? For example, the 13" MacBook Pro from 2015 uses a BQ20Z451 "battery fuel gauge chip" from Texas Instruments.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 27th Dec 2016 11:54 UTC, submitted by
OSNews, Generic OSes

The FreeDOS 1.2 release is an updated, more modern FreeDOS. You'll see that we changed many of the packages. Some packages were replaced, deprecated by newer and better packages. We also added other packages. And we expanded what we should include in the FreeDOS distribution. Where FreeDOS 1.0 and 1.1 where fairly spartan distributions with only "core" packages and software sets, the FreeDOS 1.2 distribution includes a rich set of additional packages. We even include games.

But the biggest change you are likely to notice in FreeDOS 1.2 is the updated installer. Jerome Shidel wrote an entirely new FreeDOS install program, and it looks great! We focused on keeping the new installer simple and easy to use. While many DOS users in 2016 are experienced DOS programmers and DOS power users, we often see many new users to FreeDOS, and I wanted to make the install process pleasant for them. The default mode for the installer is very straightforward, and you only have to answer a few questions to install FreeDOS on your system. There's also an "Advanced" mode where power users can tweak the install and customize the experience.

Great Christmas gift.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 24th Dec 2016 20:46 UTC
In the News

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes - and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.

Donald Trump, the next president of the United States and commander-in-chief of the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world, said in a tweet this week: "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes". He also told a TV host "let there be an arms race".

In response to these remarks by the next president of the United States and commander-in-chief of the most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world, Vladimir Putin, president of the Russian Federation and supreme commander-in-chief of the other most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world, said "We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces, especially with missile complexes that can reliably penetrate any existing and prospective missile defence systems".

Sleep tight, and merry Christmas.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 24th Dec 2016 20:36 UTC

The implosion of Cyanogen, Inc., has reached its zenith. The company is shutting down all services related to CyanogenMod, effectively killing the open source community project, and since Cyanogen, Inc., owns all the trademarks regarding Cyanogen, the community project can't continue operating as-is.

As a result, CyanogenMod has forked itself into LineageOS, and plans to continue doing what it does best.

Embracing that spirit, we the community of developers, designers, device maintainers and translators have taken the steps necessary to produce a fork of the CM source code and pending patches. This is more than just a 'rebrand'. This fork will return to the grassroots community effort that used to define CM while maintaining the professional quality and reliability you have come to expect more recently.

I hate saying "I told you so" but... Who am I kidding - I love saying "I told you so".

I told you so.


Written by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Dec 2016 22:48 UTC

On Monday, an angry Apple appealed against an August ruling by the European Commission ordering the company to pay Ireland some €13 billion in back taxes, plus interest. Disappointingly, the Silicon Valley tech giant failed to address the fundamentals of the case, relying instead on a series of ad hominem attacks and procedural objections. If this is the best the company has to offer, it deserves to lose its case and pay its bills in full.

The problem for Apple (and Ireland) is that the company has no leg to stand on - so it has to resort to flat-out lies, like stating laws are being applied retroactively (not true - the treaties and laws applied are much older than this case) or that the case is unprecedented and Apple is being singled out (not true - dozes of companies all across the EU have been punished for the same thing) or that it's just anti-American rhetoric (not true - many of the punished companies are European).

What's even worse for Apple - this thing is a PR nightmare, at least here in Europe. In many European countries, we're used to relatively high taxes (compared to other parts of the world), so large corporations, be they American, European or otherwise, paying an effective tax rate of only 0,005 (no joke!), doesn't exactly sit well with European citizens.

It's really hard to swallow for people in a EU net contributor country like The Netherlands to see our tax money sent to Ireland in the form of bailouts - Ireland received a €64 billion bailout from the EU after the 2008 banking crisis - while Ireland then proceeds to illegally give Apple one of the biggest tax breaks in history. It's a little populist to frame it this way, but here it goes: I pay taxes to my government in the assumption they would go to maintaining services in my own country and all across Europe (I'd like other nations to come to our aid, too, if we were ever in such a position), while in reality, a part of it went to Tim Cook. That irks me.

Apple is not going to win this case. The EU's case is strong, detailed, and built on a solid base of legal precedent. And this brings us to Trump's meeting with technology leaders last week. During that meeting, Tim Cook also got some one-on-one-one time with Trump (and Elon Musk), something not all attendees were granted. When asked by Apple employees why Tim Cook attended the meeting, he had this to say (among other things):

We have other things that are more business-centric - like tax reform - and something we've long advocated for: a simple system. And we’d like intellectual property reform to try to stop the people suing when they don’t do anything as a company.

Apple has several hundred billion dollars sitting in foreign, non-US bank accounts. If it were to repatriate that money, Apple would have to pay the United States corporate tax, which amounts to about 39.6%. Apple obviously doesn't want to pay those taxes, so that's why it keeps its massive cash pile in foreign bank accounts.

Apple wants a tax holiday. It wants the US government to give Apple a special tax deal wherein it can repatriate those more than 200 billion dollars at a much, much lower tax rate, and with a Republican president, Senate, and House, such a deal seems a lot closer than it was before. However, the Trump administration is, obviously, not going to declare such a tax holiday out of the goodness of their hearts. This is politics, this is business; nothing comes for free.

This means Apple will have to give the Trump administration something it wants, and if you look at Trump's campaign, one of the first things that could come to mind is Apple bringing manufacturing back to the US. The problem here is that bringing manufacturing back to the US is a multi-decade undertaking of strengthening, improving, and expanding vocational education, construction of factories, and the development of brand new manufacturing lines (assuming it's even possible at all, which is a big assumption). Tim Cook can't just snap his fingers and magically recreate Foxconn in the US - this will take decades, and far outlive Trump's four-year or even eight-year term, at which point some other president will take credit for it.

Trump will want something else - and it's going to be Apple's cooperation in the fields of anti-terrorism and homeland security - big, big issues during Trump's campaign. During the campaign, Trump called for a boycott of Apple because the company refused to assist the FBI in breaking into a terrorist's iPhone. Admirably, Apple and Tim Cook took a very principled stand against it, standing up for encryption and user privacy.

And here we have it. I wouldn't be surprised if over the coming years, Apple will be forced to choose between a tax holiday for its 200+ billion dollars stored in foreign bank accounts on the one side, and encryption and user privacy on the other. How do you think shareholders will react when they hear Apple can repatriate more than 200 billion dollars at a very low tax rate... And all they have to do is give in on encryption and user privacy? Do you think shareholders will be able to resist that?

Do you think Tim Cook will be able to resist that?

The coming years will be a massive test for Apple and Tim Cook. How much is their loudly proclaimed morality - and by extension, that of their customers - worth?


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Dec 2016 22:48 UTC
General Development

GCC 6.3 is a bug-fix release from the GCC 6 branch containing important fixes for regressions and serious bugs in GCC 6.2 with more than 79 bugs fixed since the previous release.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Dec 2016 22:47 UTC

The European Union has ruled that the "general and and indiscriminate" collection of computer data by governments is only permitted when used to fight serious crime. The decision, handed down today by the European Court of Justice, directly challenges the UK's recently-passed surveillance legislation, which includes plans to retain every citizen's mobile and desktop browser history for up to a year.

The Court notes that the collection of such data means citizens feel they are under "constant surveillance" and allows governments to draw "very precise conclusions" about their private lives. "Only the objective of fighting serious crime is capable of justifying such interference," said the Court, adding that legislation like the UK's "exceeds the limits of what is strictly necessary and cannot be considered to be justified within a democratic society."

While I have my reservations about many of the EU's institutions (I'm actually a proponent of the concept of the EU - just not the current execution), the EU courts have consistently been a stalwart ally in citizen's rights.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Dec 2016 16:03 UTC
Mac OS X

Mark Gurman, trustworthy and extremely reliable Apple reporters with uncannily good sources inside Apple, paints a grim picture of the future of the Mac.

Interviews with people familiar with Apple's inner workings reveal that the Mac is getting far less attention than it once did. They say the Mac team has lost clout with the famed industrial design group led by Jony Ive and the company's software team. They also describe a lack of clear direction from senior management, departures of key people working on Mac hardware and technical challenges that have delayed the roll-out of new computers.

And just in case you're one of the people who ridiculed or attacked me for stating OS X is effectively dead and iOS is Apple's future, this nugget might interest you - emphasis mine.

In another sign that the company has prioritized the iPhone, Apple re-organized its software engineering department so there's no longer a dedicated Mac operating system team. There is now just one team, and most of the engineers are iOS first, giving the people working on the iPhone and iPad more power.

It's been clear to anyone with an unbiased, open mind towards Apple's past few years that the Mac simply has no or low priority within Apple, and this only further solidifies it.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Dec 2016 11:43 UTC
Mac OS X

Tim Cook, in a posting to Apple's internal messaging board:

The desktop is very strategic for us. It's unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop - the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.

The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we're committed to desktops. If there's any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

When a CEO has to go out and say the company is committed to X, the company is probably not committed to X.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Dec 2016 23:42 UTC
General Development

A while back I decided to try to write a Game Boy emulator in Common Lisp based on this series of articles. I made some good progress but eventually got bogged down because I was trying to learn a bunch of complex new things at once.


Instead of dragging on, I decided to take a break and try something simpler: a CHIP-8 emulator/interpreter. The CHIP-8 is much simpler than the Game Boy, which made it easier to experiment with the rest of the infrastructure.

In this post and a couple of future ones I'll walk through all of my CHIP-8 emulator implementation.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Dec 2016 23:38 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

The GNU project has released GNU Hurd 0.9, GNU Mach 1.8, and GNU MIG 1.8. Hurd has been in development for a long time, and is supposed to - eventually - be the official kernel for the GNU operating system, a role currently unofficially filled by the Linux kernel. GNU Mach is a little bit different.

GNU Mach is the GNU distribution of the Mach microkernel, upon which a GNU Hurd system is based. The microkernel provides an Inter Process Communication (IPC) mechanism that the Hurd uses to define interfaces for implementing in a distributed multi-server fashion the services a traditional operating system kernel provides.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Dec 2016 23:32 UTC

This is one of those projects that's just all around cool: Anders Granlund is bringing Wolfenstein 3D to the GameBoy Color, and since the GBC is quite hardware-constrained, he needs to employ some extreme measures to accomplish this. One of these measures is to add a co-processor into the game cartridge.