Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 16th May 2016 21:39 UTC
Internet & Networking

Later this year we plan to change how Chromium hints to websites about the presence of Flash Player, by changing the default response of Navigator.plugins and Navigator.mimeTypes. If a site offers an HTML5 experience, this change will make that the primary experience. We will continue to ship Flash Player with Chrome, and if a site truly requires Flash, a prompt will appear at the top of the page when the user first visits that site, giving them the option of allowing it to run for that site

And so the slow march of death of Flash continues, ever onward, never looking back, into the abyss, a neverending blackness, cold and deep, nevermore to return.

 

Linked by diegocg on Mon 16th May 2016 21:37 UTC
Linux

Linux 4.6 has been released. This release adds support for USB 3.1 SuperSpeedPlus (10 Gbps), the new distributed file system OrangeFS, a more reliable out-of-memory handling, support for Intel memory protection keys, a facility to make easier and faster implementations of application layer protocols, support for 802.1AE MAC-level encryption (MACsec), support for the version V of the BATMAN protocol, a OCFS2 online inode checker, support for cgroup namespaces, and support for the pNFS SCSI layout, and many other improvements and new drivers. Here is the full list of changes.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th May 2016 19:44 UTC
Google

I downloaded the new Gboard for iOS today, and have been really enjoying it so far. Along with wondering about what Google will tell advertisers now that they can read every single thing I type, I came to the realization that pretty much every major function of my iPhone has now been taken over by Google software.

I use Google products for email, search, photos, maps, and video. Gboard effectively puts Google inside every app I use that requires me to type, from texting to taking notes. The only activity that isn't really mediated by the search giant at this point are voice calls, although in the past I have used Google Voice.

This is why, despite rumblings, we've not yet seen Apple allowing iOS users to set default applications.

The day Apple allows this, we're going to see a whole lot of Google iPhones.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th May 2016 23:26 UTC
Android

During hours of unrelenting cross-examination today, Andy Rubin, Google's former Android chief, was on the stand in the Oracle v. Google trial defending how he built the mobile OS.

Rubin's testimony began yesterday. He's another one of the star witnesses in this second courtroom showdown between the two software giants in which Oracle has said it will seek up to $9 billion in damages for Google's use of certain Java APIs in the Android operating system. Since an appeals court decided that APIs can be copyrighted, Google's only remaining defense in this case is that its use of those APIs constitutes "fair use."

The "API's are copyrightable"-ruling is one of those rulings we will look back on decades from now and point to as "that's where it all went wrong", much like how we now look back upon disastrous rulings like Citizens United or the slew of bad rulings that legitimised software patents.

And we have the despicable Oracle to thank for that. As I've pointed out before, it's no coincidence that the three-pronged legal attack on Android - from Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle - all started at around the same time, and that Larry Ellison was a very close friend of Steve Jobs.

When all this stuff hits the fan even harder, you know who to thank.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th May 2016 23:16 UTC
Opera Software

Today, we are sharing with you yet another feature to try out in the developer channel for Opera for computers.

We are the first major browser to include a dedicated power saving mode, designed to extend your laptop battery life by up to 50% compared with, for example, Google Chrome. Depending on your type of hardware, it can mean several hours more browsing before you need to recharge your laptop.

Very interesting feature - but I'll be interested in real-world tests and benchmarks.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:31 UTC
Windows

The other notable change in build 14342 isn't a feature that's been added but rather one that's been removed. Windows Phone 8.1 and Windows 10 both included a contentious feature called Wi-Fi Sense that allowed Wi-Fi credentials to be shared with your Facebook and Skype contacts. Citing the lack of end-user uptake of this feature, it has been removed from 14342.

Windows 10 will still sync Wi-Fi credentials among your own machines, so signing on to a network with one Windows 10 PC will allow all the other PCs that use the same Microsoft Account to also access the network, so this (arguably more important) capability isn't going away, but the one that raised so many hackles after it was spotted a year after its introduction is consigned to the dustbin of history.

Good. This was such an incredibly creepy and potentially dangerous feature that I really cannot fathom that it got through the countless levels of triage Windows features certainly go through.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:28 UTC
Google

Google began digging up dirt and laying fiber optic pipes in Kansas City, Kan., five years ago in April. Its first customers were wired the following year.

For the years after, it was unclear - certainly outside of Google - just what Google wanted to accomplish with this first venture outside of its core business. Now it's evident: Google was using Kansas City as a testbed for an audacious project - one to take on broadband providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon, which enjoy long-held duopolies and monopolies across the country, and build out a national service. To provide real competition.

Googlers won't say this out loud, but they despise the cable industry. They find it inert, predatory and, worst, anti-innovation. So Google wants to replace it.

No better microcosm of the complete and utter ineptitude of the US government to implement, maintain, and modernise infrastructure than the US cable industry. I still can't believe that the internet in the US is as dreadfully horrible as it is.

If it takes Google to break the deadlock, so be it - even though it shouldn't be a profit-hungry company to do so.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 11th May 2016 22:21 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

We need competition; we also need diversity. We need the possibility that young, game-changing market entrants might come along. We need that idea to be kept alive, to make sure that all the browsers don't shift from keeping users happy to just keeping a few giant corporations that dominate the Web happy. Because there's always pressure to do that, and if all the browsers end up playing that same old game, the users will always lose.

We need more Firefoxes.

We need more browsers that treat their users, rather than publishers, as their customers. It's the natural cycle of concentration-disruption-renewal that has kept the Web vibrant for nearly 20 years (eons, in web-years).

We may never get another one, though.

Sometimes, I feel a little dirty for using Chrome just about anywhere, instead of Firefox. The problem is that switching browsers is not something I just do willy-nilly; you build up certain ways of using a browser, and with it being by far the most-used and most important application on my PC, even the tiniest of things become ingrained, and the tiniest of differences between browsers will annoy the crap out of me. I do give other browsers a chance every now and then, just to keep up with the times - but I always end up back at Chrome.

That being said, Doctorow's article paints a very bleak picture of the future of browsers, because according to him, the W3C has basically become a tool for the few big tech companies to dictate the direction of browsers and therefore the web with it, with disastrous consequences.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 10th May 2016 09:29 UTC
In the News

Ghost in the Shell is the product of and response to decades of physical erasure and technological alienation. It's pop cultural fallout, a delicately layered croissant of appropriation upon appropriation. It's as timely as ever, but it feels wildly inappropriate for an American studio and the British director of Snow White and the Huntsman to pick it up and sell it back to us. At the same time, Japan and the US have been stealing and selling images to each other for decades, and the result hasn't always been awful. I would still argue, though, that the knotty history that leads to Motoko Kusanagi will be lost in translation. This isn't The Matrix or Pacific Rim, this isn't just a look and a vibe being lifted. This is the entire history of Japan's relationship with itself, the US and technology, and without that, you're left with nothing but an empty prosthesis.

Beautifully written analysis of the Ghost in the Shell casting issue, by Emily Yoshida.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th May 2016 22:17 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Minoca OS is a leading-edge, highly customizable, general purpose operating system. It features application level functionality such as virtual memory, networking, and POSIX compatibility, but at a significantly reduced image and memory footprint. Unique development, debugging, and real-time profiling tools make getting to the bottom of issues straightforward and easy. Direct support from the development team behind Minoca OS simplifies the process of creating OS images tailored to your application, saving on engineering resources and development time. Minoca OS is a one-stop shop for systems-level design.

Since this will be the main question: no, it is not open source (count the buzzwords). There's a free version that's free to use in non-commercial settings, and a pro version that isn't free, but does come with source access. So no, not open source - but not everything has to be. It's not like open source operating system folks are starved for entertainment in that department.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 9th May 2016 21:33 UTC
OpenBSD

OpenBSD is an operating system that prioritizes security, encryption, and free (as in free and open) software. It's built in the open - anyone can see the code and discussions around it. That's no accident - the earliest contributors recognized that transparency and public discussion are essential to effective security. If you follow the project and the email lists for any length of time, it becomes clear that the core contributors are passionate about security and quality. These are volunteers that spend their limited, precious spare time on building a great operating system that they give away for free because they want to see secure, high quality software thrive in the world. They've been doing it for 20 years.

What they've made works really well. While it's not as easy for a consumer to use as Windows or OS X, to someone more technically inclined, it's straightforward to use as a server or as a desktop for many use cases. And the big feature: it starts our very secure and if you're careful you can keep it that way as you customize it to suit your purpose.

A heartfelt case for OpenBSD.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 5th May 2016 22:39 UTC
Windows

Microsoft had been planning to introduce a unique 3D Touch feature with a flagship Windows phone back in 2014. While the device was canceled, the work behind Microsoft's Kinect-like gestures lives on. In a new Microsoft Research video, the software maker is revealing some of the features it was working on under the guise of "pre-touch sensing for mobile interaction."

This is exactly the kind of cool stuff that could've given Windows Phone a very interesting edge. Unlike Apple's 3D touch, which is a completely pointless gimmick, the examples in the Microsoft video seem quite useful, and do actually streamline a number of mobile UI interactions.

I hope this isn't shelved permanently.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th May 2016 09:39 UTC
Android

Two weeks shy of Google detailing the next big revision of Android at its annual developer conference, the current Android version is still struggling to make its way out to devices. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is currently running on just 7.5 percent of active Android devices that have access to the Google Play Store. The rest of the field is dominated by 2014's Android Lollipop at 35.6 percent, 2013's KitKat at 32.5 percent, and 2012's Jelly Bean at 20.1 percent. 2011's Ice Cream Sandwich still clings on to a stubborn 2 percent and the immortal Android Gingerbread (version 2.3!) accounts for 2.2 percent of Android smartphones.

Using an iPhone 6S since it came out has made me appreciate more and more just how much better Android is than iOS - but it's all for naught if Google doesn't get off its bum and fixes this long-running problem. Now that Android at 6.x is definitively better than iOS, it's way, way, way, way beyond time for Google to drop everything they're doing and somehow find a way to forcefully and resolutely address this deficit.

If the latest version of Android is the best (i.e., the least crappy) mobile operating system out there, but nobody is running it, is it really the best mobile operating system?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 4th May 2016 09:39 UTC
Apple

Apple CEO Tim Cook insisted last week that everything was great with his company despite its first quarterly revenue decline since 2003. He and Apple's chief financial officer used the word "optimistic" 10 times during a conference call with analysts. Then the company's share price pessimistically fell for eight consecutive market days -- something that hasn't happened to Apple in nearly 18 years.

Declaring victory didn't work the first time, so Cook made a trip to Jim Cramer's therapy couch on Monday to try to soothe investors. It's unfair to compare Apple's numbers to the 2014 debut of the iPhone 6, which was a tough act to follow, Cook said. He added: Everything is great. Look at how much money we're making. The smartphone market has plenty of room to run. Customers love us so much. Then Cook attended a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Here's what Cook didn't say: 1) Apple has been misjudging its own business, and that makes it tough to believe what executives say; and 2) The company failed to prepare investors for an inevitable slowdown in growth -- even if that slowdown proves temporary. If one duty of public company executives is to underpromise and overdeliver, Apple has flopped in that job.

A lot of people will just mockingly file away articles like this under the "Apple is doomed!" moniker, but what these people don't understand is that most of the stock market isn't about whether or not Apple is doomed or not - it's all about meeting expectations. You can suffer a massive loss, but if the loss is less than what you and the market predicted, your shares would go up. You could be doing incredibly well like Apple, but if you underdeliver, your shares will go down.

And this article makes a strong case Cook failed at underpromising.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 3rd May 2016 22:23 UTC
Games

But most exciting, to me at least, is PocketCHIP will ship with PICO-8 preinstalled. If you've never heard of PICO-8, you have a bunch of weird little video games to catch up on. Basically it's a "fantasy console" that runs in a browser or on a desktop, but has resource limitations akin to a Game Boy Color. What's even better is PICO-8 has built-in tools for building your own game - complete with code, sprite, and sound editors - and every game someone else makes can be opened up and tweaked. PocketCHIP will include a browser for the hundreds of published PICO-8 games, turning it into an out-of-the-box handheld console.

So this thing completely passed by my radar, and it's actually kind of amazing. The PocketCHIP is a CHIP in a Game Boy-like case, and comes with the aforementioned PICO-8 environment preinstalled. I immediately ordered one today, and I can't wait for it to arrive come June.

This is a ton of value for what you're getting, and the built-in coding ability, while not useful to me - since I can't program - should be a huge boon for many people here on OSNews. The device's QWERTY keyboard means you can code right on the device itself.

All in all, incredibly neat.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd May 2016 22:12 UTC
Intel

After missing the early days of the smartphone revolution, Intel spent in excess of $10 billion over the last three years in an effort to get a foothold in mobile devices.

Now, having gained little ground in phones and with the tablet market shrinking, Intel is essentially throwing in the towel. The company quietly confirmed last week that it has axed several chips from its roadmap, including all of the smartphone processors in its current plans.

This isn't the first time Intel tried to go mobile. It actually had quite a successful line of mobile ARM processors: XScale. These were ARM5 processors that powered a ton of devices, and I think most of us know it from Windows PocketPC devices (and later Palm OS devices). Intel eventually sold XScale to Marvell, because the company wanted to focus on its desktop/laptop and server processors, in 2006 - right before the big mobile revolution happened.

I can't help but wonder if that turned out to be a really dumb move.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd May 2016 21:59 UTC
Windows

A new email from Microsoft's Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, firmly states that the company is devoted to Windows 10 on mobile for 'many years' and that they are currently working on next generation products.

Whenever you have to repeatedly come out and say you're committed to something, you're probably not committed to it.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd May 2016 21:57 UTC
In the News

In 1993, Prince frustrated contract lawyers and computer users everywhere when he changed his name to glyph known as "The Love Symbol." Though he never said so explicitly, it's generally understood that the name change was attempt to stick it to his record label, Warner Bros., which now had to deal with a top-tier artist with a new, unpronounceable, untypeable name. But it wasn't just Warner Bros. that had a problem: The Love Symbol proved frustrating for people who wanted to both speak and write about Prince. Writers, editors, and layout designers at magazines and newspapers wouldn't be able to type the actual name of the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. So Prince did the only thing you could do in that situation: He had a custom-designed font distributed to news outlets on a floppy disk.

Lovely story.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd May 2016 19:13 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

This is a Compaq LTE 5280 laptop from the early 1990s, running a bespoke CA card. In 2016, McLaren Automotive - one of the most high-tech car and technology companies on the planet - still uses it and its DOS-based software to service the remaining hundred McLaren F1s out there, each valued at $10 million or more.

They're finally going to replace them, because it's getting too hard to find replacements.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 2nd May 2016 19:11 UTC
Google

Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I've often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google's cartography was revamped three years ago - but surely this didn't include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appear to be a recent development.

An interesting article, for sure, but the final conclusion at the end of the article is a case of false equivalency; just because a classic paper map and a modern digital map are both 'maps', doesn't mean they are equivalents. There's no zooming and (easy) panning on paper maps, no search functionality, no natural language processing, no automatic route planning, no dynamic display, nothing. You can't simply apply what works for paper maps onto a static, fixed-zoom portion of a digital map and call it a day.

That being said, Google Maps does have several really annoying lapses in interface judgement, such as that really annoying 'local photo's' bar that keeps popping back up no matter how often you tell it you're not interested, but that's a different matter altogether.