Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Jun 2016 22:58 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Speaking of the Xerox Alto - let's move on a few years and talk about the Xerox Star, its successor and, like the Alto, one of the most influential computers ever made. There's this great demo up on YouTube, where some of its creators walk you through the basics of using the Xerox Star, from basic filing, down to the included virtual keyboard which could display any keyboard layout you wanted - including things like Japanese or a math panel.

I love watching videos of the Xerox Star in action, because it shows you just how little the basic concepts of the graphical user interfaces we use every day - OS X/Windows or iOS/Android or whatever - have changed since the '70s, when Xerox invented all the basic parts of it. Of course, it has been refined over the decades, but the basic structure and most important elements have changed little.

Like still relying on shoehorning a timesharing punchcard mainframe operating system onto a phone, we still rely on the same old Xerox concepts of icons and windows and dialogs on our phones as well. Hardware has progressed at an incredibly pace - we have watches tons more powerful than 100 Xerox Stars combined - but software, including UI, has not kept up.

We should have better by now.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 20th Jun 2016 13:05 UTC
Apple

Apple announced a new file system that will make its way into all of its OS variants (macOS, tvOS, iOS, watchOS) in the coming years. Media coverage to this point has been mostly breathless elongations of Apple’s developer documentation. With a dearth of detail I decided to attend the presentation and Q&A with the APFS team at WWDC. Dominic Giampaolo and Eric Tamura, two members of the APFS team, gave an overview to a packed room; along with other members of the team, they patiently answered questions later in the day. With those data points and some first hand usage I wanted to provide an overview and analysis both as a user of Apple-ecosystem products and as a long-time operating system and file system developer.

An incredibly detailed look at Apple's new filesystem, APFS.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 19th Jun 2016 22:13 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Alan Kay recently loaned his 1970's Xerox Alto to Y Combinator and I'm helping with the restoration of this legendary system. The Alto was the first computer designed around a graphical user interface and introduced Ethernet and the laser printer to the world. The Alto also was one of the first object-oriented systems, supporting the Mesa and Smalltalk languages. The Alto was truly revolutionary when it came out in 1973, designed by computer pioneer Chuck Thacker.

This is just great. All-around great. No possible way to snark, be cynical, blame it on Android updates or iOS walled gardens - just plain old great. Be sure to watch the introductory video, and definitely don't forget part one of the restoration, with more sure to follow.

Goosebumps the entire time. I would give a lot to be in that room.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 19th Jun 2016 22:10 UTC
Apple

To make a long story short, it sounds like Apple is going to be collecting a lot more data from your phone. They're mainly doing this to make their services better, not to collect individual users' usage habits. To guarantee this, Apple intends to apply sophisticated statistical techniques to ensure that this aggregate data - the statistical functions it computes over all your information - don't leak your individual contributions. In principle this sounds pretty good. But of course, the devil is always in the details.

While we don't have those details, this seems like a good time to at least talk a bit about what Differential Privacy is, how it can be achieved, and what it could mean for Apple - and for your iPhone.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Jun 2016 21:40 UTC
Android

Our testing, technical analyses and audio latency measurement database of more than 4,238 different Android models/builds shows that Google has been making great progress in order to solve the Android round-trip audio latency problem, however progress seems to be slowing as the current media server internals are not likely to be hacked much further unless fundamental changes should happen. To date, we have seen no improvements with Android N with regards to audio latency.

We receive emails from all around the world, almost on a daily basis, where developers beg us for a solution to Android Audio's 10 ms Problem. Which is why we're proud to announce a solution to Android Audio 10ms Problem, which you can install and demo today.

Few regular users will ever care, but for those users that do need low audio latency for music/audio creation applications, this is a godsend.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Jun 2016 21:34 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Earlier this month we took a look at ARM’s new Mali-G71 GPU. Based on the company's equally new Bifrost architecture, Mali-G71 marks a significant architectural change for the Mali family, incorporating a modern thread level parallelism (TLP) centric execution design. The Mali GPU is in turn the heart of ARM’s graphics product stack - what ARM calls their Mali Multimedia Suite - but in practice it is not a complete graphics and display solution on its own.

As part of their IP development process and to allow SoC integrators to mix and match different blocks, the Mali GPU is only the compute/rendering portion of the graphics stack; the display controller and video encode/decode processor are separate. Splitting up these blocks in this fashion gives ARM's customers some additional flexibility, allowing something like Mali-G71 to be mixed with other existing controllers (be it ARM or otherwise), but at the same time these parts aren't wholly divorced within ARM. Even though they’re separate products, ARM likes to update all of the parts of their graphics stack in relative lockstep. To that end, with the Mali GPU core update behind them, this week ARM is announcing an updated video processor, codenamed Egil, to replace the current Mali-V550 processor.

AnandTech takes a first look at what's coming.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 16th Jun 2016 21:31 UTC, submitted by Nth_Man
Qt

I'm very happy to announce that Qt 5.7 is now available. It's been only 3 months since we released Qt 5.6, so one might expect a rather small release with Qt 5.7. But apart from the usual bug fixes and performance improvements, we have managed to add a whole bunch of new things to this release.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 15th Jun 2016 22:02 UTC
Apple

At that same WWDC Apple announced Time Machine, a product that would record file system versions through time for backup and recovery. How were they doing this? We were energized by the idea that there might be another piece of adopted Solaris technology. When we launched Solaris 10, DTrace shared the marquee with ZFS, a new filesystem that was to become the standard against which other filesystems are compared. Key among the many features of ZFS were snapshots that made it simple to capture the state of a filesystem, send the changes around, recover data, etc. Time Machine looked for all the world like a GUI on ZFS (indeed the GUI that we had imagined but knew to be well beyond the capabilities of Sun).

Of course Time Machine had nothing to do with ZFS. After the keynote we rushed to an Apple engineer we knew. With shame in his voice he admitted that it was really just a bunch of hard links to directories. For those who don’t know a symlink from a symtab this is the moral equivalent of using newspaper as insulation: it's fine until the completely anticipated calamity destroys everything you hold dear.

So there was no ZFS in Mac OS X, at least not yet.

Somewhat related: the history of Microsoft's WinFS.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Jun 2016 21:51 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Maru OS is a platform that lets you run both Google Android and Debian Linux on a smartphone. Use your device as a phone, and it'll act like any other Android phone. Connect an external display, mouse, and keyboard and you've got a full-fledged Debian Linux desktop environment.

It's available for the Nexus 5 now.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Jun 2016 21:46 UTC
Apple

Apple's new Watch software, watchOS 3, isn't just new software, it's an admission that Apple had it all wrong when it came to interactions on the first-generation Apple Watch. It's less of a revamp and more of a rescue of the Watch, an attempt to deconstruct the old software and to focus on the stuff that people actually care about.

It's rare for Apple to be this forward.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 14th Jun 2016 13:30 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft Corp. and LinkedIn Corporation on Monday announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Microsoft will acquire LinkedIn for $196 per share in an all-cash transaction valued at $26.2 billion, inclusive of LinkedIn's net cash. LinkedIn will retain its distinct brand, culture and independence. Jeff Weiner will remain CEO of LinkedIn, reporting to Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft. Reid Hoffman, chairman of the board, co-founder and controlling shareholder of LinkedIn, and Weiner both fully support this transaction. The transaction is expected to close this calendar year.

This deal is so incredibly boring I can't even be bothered to finish this sen

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Jun 2016 22:49 UTC
Mac OS X

Moving on from iOS 10, we get to OS X, and the biggest news is the forthcoming death of HFS+, but before we get there, Apple made it official: OS X is now macOS, causing millions of slightly peculiar people like myself to twitch every time we have to type it out. It should, of course, be called Mac OS, but maybe that's why I'm a sad, lonely translator, and Apple has so much money it can buy, like, I don't know, Belgium. macOS Sierra (10.12? We don't yet know) will be coming this fall.

With that out of the way: Apple announced a brand new file system. You'd think big news like this would be front and centre during the keynote, but I guess not everybody gets bug-eyed by the supposed brutal murder of HFS+. In any event, the new Apple file system is called Apple File System - because, you know, Apple is for creative snowflakes - and it's been designed to scale from the Apple Watch all the way up to Mac OS macOS (this is not going to work out). Since I'm by far not qualified enough to tell you the details, I'll direct you to Ars, where they've got a good overview of what APFS is all about, or you can dive straight into Apple's technical documentation.

For the rest, macOS was pretty under-served at WWDC, as expected. Siri is coming to the Mac, and there's things like a universal clipboard that works across devices, and Apple states that every application can be tabbed now - basically all multi-window applications can be tabbed, without developer input. I'm kind of curious how this will work in practice. Lastly, Apple is making it first steps towards macOS treating the file system like iOS does it (i.e., pretending it doesn't exist), by using iCloud to automatically sync your desktop and documents folder. All optional now, but you can expect this to expand and eventually be mandatory, and cover all user-facing files.

One final tidbit: the Mac App Store has been effectively declared dead - all the APIs that were previously only available to MAS applications, are now available to everyone. And nobody shed a tear.

As always, there's more, but this is the highlight reel.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 13th Jun 2016 21:50 UTC
Apple

While I was watching Belgium vs. Italy, Apple did its whole WWDC thing, so time for some serious catch-up here on OSNews. Amidst all the frustrations caused by Belgium's terrible play (still better than my own country, because we didn't even qualify!), sideways glances at Twitter made it clear there was some awesome stuff taking place at WWDC, and since I'm trying this new thing where I'm not writing a mega keynote story, let's chop it up a bit and look at the most interesting things in separate items.

Let's start with iOS 10. First, while technically a small thing, it will cause millions of iOS users to heave a sigh of relief: starting with iOS 10, Apple will let you remove all the craptastic crapware that's been accumulating in iOS over the years. No more 'crapware' folder on every iPhone, but a glorious little red jiggling X. It's taken them way too long, but for me it's probably the most welcome change in iOS at WWDC.

Apple also redesigned the lock screen, giving it the ability to display rich notifications, so you can interact with the notifications without opening the applications they belong to. They also introduced lock screen widgets. ESPN, for example, allows you to watch highlight videos without even opening the application.

Siri's also been improved, and most notably, has been opened up to third parties. This mean you can now tell Siri to send a message through WhatsApp, or order a car through Uber. The number of supported applications is still relatively small, but this will surely rise in the near future. Siri's contextually aware too, now, so it looks at your location, calendar contents, contact information, and so on.

There's way more going on, of course, but nothing else really jumped out at me.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 10th Jun 2016 12:25 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

The 3.5mm port is dying - at least when it comes to smartphones. If the persistent Lightning headphone rumor wasn't enough to persuade you, the fact that Motorola beat Apple to the punch should be. Motorola's new Moto Z and Moto Z Force don't have that familiar circular hole for your cans to plug into, and it now seems inevitable that almost every phone within a few years will forgo the port in favor of a single socket for both charging and using headphones.

This is a change that few people actually want. It's driven entirely by the makers of our phones and their desire to ditch what they view as an unnecessary port.

It's all about control. You can't put DRM on a 3.5mm jack, but you can do so on a digital port or wireless connection. Imagine only Beats headphones being certified to pull the best quality audio out of an iPhone, protected through Apple DRM.

You know it's going to happen.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 10th Jun 2016 12:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

If LG and Google's Ara didn't get you excited about modularized smartphones, perhaps Lenovo's new Moto Z line will. The Moto Z, which was announced today and will be available in two forms on Verizon this summer before heading to the rest of the world in the fall, has a new system for accessory add-ons called Moto Mods. The Mods attach to the back of the phone via magnets and provide a new look, improved audio, a projector, or other extra features.

I guess this is the new thing thrown to see at the wall if it sticks.

I see more potential in Ara's take on modular smartphones than the kind of stuff LG and Motorola is doing, which feels a bit tacked-on and limited.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 9th Jun 2016 05:59 UTC
Mac OS X

It's widely expected at this point that Apple will rebrand Mac OS X to simply 'macOS' next week at WWDC, but hidden in today's announcements regarding the App Store was yet another hint at the change. In a FAQ from on the iTunes Connect website, Apple mistakenly refers to Mac OS X as 'macOS,' again prematurely hinting at the change.

I like dropping the X, but I really dislike Apple's terrible use of case. iOS is horrible enough, but tvOS, watchOS and macOS look absolutely dreadful, each a stumbling block in any sentence they appear in. Nobody with any sense of style or legibility would abuse case like that.

Not at all unlike those people who style it as 'OSnews' instead of the obviously correct and only way to style it, namely 'OSNews'. Yes, this is an internal struggle over here, and yes, this stuff matters.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Jun 2016 21:23 UTC
Apple

Apple's annual conference for developers, which kicks off next Monday, is normally when the company previews its newest software for iOS and Mac OS X. But this year's WWDC isn't just about new operating systems: starting next week and continuing throughout the fall, Apple will begin rolling out new incentives for developers in its App Store, including a new revenue-share model and the introduction of search ads in its iOS App Store.

In a rare pre-WWDC sit-down interview with The Verge, Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said that Apple would soon alter its revenue-sharing model for apps. While the well-known 70/30 split will remain, developers who are able to maintain a subscription with a customer longer than a year will see Apple's cut drop down to 15 percent. The option to sell subscriptions will also be available to all developers instead of just a few kinds of apps. "Now we're going to open up to all categories," Schiller says, "and that includes games, which is a huge category."

As much as I applaud Apple for trying to do something about the terrible state of their application store, I don't think any of this will provide the answer. If people are unwilling to spend a euro on an application, the solution clearly is not to ask them to pay a euro a month. No, these changes feel far more like trying to increase the revenue for the big, established players, further drowning out the few interesting indie developers that remain.

Back when the gold rush in mobile development was still in full swing, I was mocked for suggesting the model simply wasn't tenable, and was wreaking havoc among the indie development scene. I do feel at least a little bit of vindication that finally, finally, Apple seems to agree with me that their application store model is broken.

Great scoop for The Verge and Lauren Goode, by the way.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Jun 2016 21:18 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

In the next few days, Firefox 48 Beta becomes available. If all goes well in our beta testing, we're about 6 weeks away from shipping the first phase of E10S to Firefox release users with the launch of Firefox 48 on August 2nd.

E10S is short for "Electrolysis". Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we're using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer's processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won't lock up too.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 8th Jun 2016 20:49 UTC
Windows

WSL executes unmodified Linux ELF64 binaries by emulating a Linux kernel interface on top of the Windows NT kernel. One of the kernel interfaces that it exposes are system calls (syscalls). This post will dive into how syscalls are handled in WSL.

Exactly what it says on the tin.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 7th Jun 2016 20:10 UTC
Android

Google's data shows that Marshmallow actually claimed 10.1% of all Android installs, based on data collected on June 6. The previous Android version, Lollipop, went down slightly from 35.6% in May to 35.4%, but it is still the version of Android with the most installs.

Pathetic.

Are you men and women tired of me bringing this up all the time yet? Yes?

Good. Expect more. Until Google gets its act together, I will keep talking about this.