Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jul 2016 23:55 UTC, submitted by arsipaani
In the News

From Engadget:

The source code for Apollo 11's guidance computer has been available for a while (Google hosted it several years ago, for instance), but would you know how to find it or search through it? As of this week, it's almost ridiculously easy. Former NASA intern Chris Garry has posted the entire Apollo Guidance Computer source code on GitHub, giving you a good peek at the software that took NASA to the Moon. As Reddit users point out, it's clear that the developers had a mighty sense of humor -- line 666 of the lunar landing turns up a "numero mysterioso," and there's even a reference to radio DJ Magnificent Montague's classic "burn, baby, burn."

Yes, it's been available for a while, but any moment to reflect on one of man's greatest technological achievements is a moment worth savouring.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 12th Jul 2016 23:49 UTC, submitted by Alfman
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Symantec and Norton are among the most popular security tools, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security warns of critical flaws that could pose great risks.

A slew of corporate, government and personal computers are protected by Symantec, but are they really protected? Homeland Security believes there's reason to worry, and has issued a warning this week.

"Symantec and Norton branded antivirus products contain multiple vulnerabilities. Some of these products are in widespread use throughout government and industry," notes the alert. "Exploitation of these vulnerabilities could allow a remote attacker to take control of an affected system."

My deep dislike and mistrust for antivirus peddlers and their shady business practices are known around these parts, so none of this obviously surprises me in the slightest. These are companies fooling otherwise fantastic websites like Ars Technica into publishing FUD articles about OS X/iOS/Android/Linux/BeOS/MULTICS eating all your documents and murdering your firstborn unlessyoubuytheirproductswhichareototallynotresourcehogsandreallyarentuselesspiecesofjunk, so I'm not surprised their products are insecure.

Since I'm anything but oblivious to the irony of posting this story (in fact, it's one of the prime reasons to post this), be sure to read the source note from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to make up your own mind.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Jul 2016 22:13 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

A look into Dr Abrasive's lab and a super detailed behind-the-scenes of what it took to engineer a plug-in-flash-card for the Sega Saturn.

Stop whatever you're doing (if at all safe), make a nice hot drink like coffee, tea, or some coco, sit down on the couch with your laptop or phone or whatever, get comfortable, turn down the lights, and enjoy 27 minutes of human ingenuity.

Stuff like this brings the biggest smile to my face.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Jul 2016 20:31 UTC
Android

A common criticism of free-software projects built for Android is that they all too often rely not just on the frameworks and libraries that are part of the official Android Open Source Project (AOSP), but on the proprietary APIs implemented in various add-ons from Google - such as the Google Maps API or the Google Cloud Messaging message-broker service. Working around these Google-supplied components is not trivial, but there is at least one effort underway to provide a drop-in free-software replacement: microG.

We talked about microG over two years ago.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 11th Jul 2016 19:46 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Let me be clear - Pokemon Go and Niantic can now:

  • Read all your email
  • Send email as you
  • Access all your Google drive documents (including deleting them)
  • Look at your search history and your Maps navigation history
  • Access any private photos you may store in Google Photos
  • And a whole lot more

What's more, given the use of email as an authentication mechanism (think "Forgot password" links) they now have a pretty good chance of gaining access to your accounts on other sites too.

This only applies to iOS, so Android users seem to have nothing to worry about. The fault lies with Niantic, so let's hope they fix it soon.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 9th Jul 2016 00:58 UTC
In the News

When my brain started combining the complexity of being Black in America with the real world proposal of wandering and exploration that is designed into the gamplay of Pokemon GO, there was only one conclusion. I might die if I keep playing.

This week has proven he's not wrong.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jul 2016 22:38 UTC
Internet & Networking

Facebook Messenger has started rolling out Secret Conversations, a feature that enables end to end encryption for conversations within Messenger. Secret Conversations is built on Signal Protocol, a modern, open source, strong encryption protocol we developed for asynchronous messaging systems.

Signal Protocol powers our own private messaging app, Signal. The protocol is designed from the ground up to make seamless end-to-end encrypted messaging possible and to make private communication simple. To amplify the impact and scope of private communication, we also collaborate with other popular messaging apps like WhatsApp, Google Allo, and now Facebook Messenger to help integrate Signal Protocol into those products.

These are all good steps forward, trail-blazed by - at least among the big companies - Apple.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jul 2016 22:36 UTC
Apple

Some of my favorite operating system updates are ones that rethink longstanding parts of the user interface in intelligent ways, and iOS 10 seems to be shaping up into that kind of update. The lock screen has been newly modeled around TouchID, which was brand-new three years ago but practically omnipresent in iDevices today. The Today View has been broken up into a bunch of configurable widgets and merged with the Siri suggestions screen. Notifications are more versatile and pleasant to interact with. And Messages' improvements, while they won't be to everyone's taste, bring Apple's built-in app more in line with the current zeitgeist as represented by Slack or Facebook Messenger.

There are more new features in iOS 10 - improvements to core apps like Photos, Music, and Health, tweaks to how the keyboard works, Apple Pay on the web, and a bunch of other minor changes - that we'll have more time to look at in our final review. But so far the majority of the changes are for the better. Old hardware is getting dropped, but that frees developers from worrying about actively supported devices with 512MB of RAM. The iPad isn't getting nearly the amount of love that it got from iOS 9, but in recent years Apple has been happy to dole out feature updates throughout the year in large point releases like it did in iOS 9.3. If performance on older devices and battery life are both up to snuff in the final release, most of my complaints will end up being pretty minor.

Ars' iOS preview - always worth a read to know what's up with the new release.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jul 2016 22:42 UTC
Apple

Today, Apple release the public betas of macOS Sierra and iOS 10. You need to enroll your device through the Apple Beta Software Program; you can always go back to the released versions, or keep using the betas until they update to the final versions once the time has come. As always, install them at your own peril - and for the love of Fiona, don't do it on devices you rely on.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jul 2016 19:51 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft is proud of its work on AI, and eager to convey the sense that this time around, it's poised to win. In June, it invited me to its campus to interview some of Nadella's top lieutenants, who are building AI into every corner of the company's business. Over the next two days, Microsoft showed me a wide range of applications for its advancements in natural language processing and machine learning.

The company, as ever, talks a big game. Microsoft's historical instincts about where technology is going have been spot-on. But the company has a record of dropping the ball when it comes to acting on that instinct. It saw the promise in smartphones and tablets, for example, long before its peers. But Apple and Google beat Microsoft anyway. The question looming over the company's efforts around AI is simple:

Why should it it be different this time?

I know we're just at the very beginning of this whole thing, but so far, I'm not particularly impressed with the fruits of all this AI work for us as end users. Things like Cortana and Siri generally just offer more cumbersome ways of doing something achieved quicker with other methods, and they demonstrate little to no "intelligence". Knowing I have a translation deadline at 15:00 and reminding me of it is not really intelligence; it's just a talkative alarm with an annoying attitude.

Much like VR, this just needs way, way more technological progress and breakthroughs to really be what its name implies.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jul 2016 19:41 UTC, submitted by henderson101
Apple

Continuous gives you the power of a traditional desktop .NET IDE - full C# 6 and F# 4 language support with semantic highlighting and code completion - while also featuring live code execution so you don’t have to wait around for code to compile and run. Continuous works completely offline so you get super fast compiles and your code is secure.

Continuous gives you access to all of .NET’s standard library, F#’s core library, all of Xamarin's iOS binding, and Xamarin.Forms. Access to all of these libraries means you won’t be constrained by Continuous - you can write code exactly as you’re used to.

It's absolutely baffling neither Apple nor Microsoft made this application. While I doubt this will suddenly make tablet-doubters such as myself take tablets seriously as the future of computing, it's exactly these kinds of applications that can really show what a platform is capable of. I'd love for applications like this to prove me wrong when it comes to the future of tablets.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jul 2016 09:50 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Ben Thompson, 8 July, 2014:

Ultimately, though, Samsung's fundamental problem is that they have no software-based differentiation, which means in the long run all they can do is compete on price. Perhaps they should ask HP or Dell how that goes.

Dan Frommer, 31 July, 2014:

But we've seen this story before. This particular chart shows Nokia's adjusted closing price from the day Apple released the first iPhone, in 2007, to the day in 2013 when Microsoft announced it would acquire Nokia's struggling handset business.

[...]

For Samsung, there's no easy fix.

Se Young Lee (and Ben Thompson again, curiously enough), 4 August, 2015:

The coming years are set to be more somber for the South Korean tech giant, as it is forced to slash prices and accept lower margins at its mobile division in order to see off competition from rivals including China's Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Xiaomi Inc in the mid-to-low end of the market.

Behind Samsung's reality-check is the fact it is stuck with the same Android operating system used by its low-cost competitors, who are producing increasingly-capable phones of their own.

"The writing has long been on the wall for any premium Android maker: as soon as low end hardware became 'good enough,' there would be no reason to buy a premium brand," said Ben Thompson, an analyst at Stratechery.com in Taipei.

Horace Dediu, 13 October, 2014:

So the short answer is that Samsung needs to create new categories or businesses. The challenge for them is that they need to control the platform and service infrastructure. These are currently out of their control and I’m not quite sure how they can regain that control.

Fast-forward to today:

Samsung Electronics' earnings guidance for the second quarter of 2016 show the company expecting to record its strongest profits in more than two years.

[...]

The results suggest Samsung's best quarterly performance since it made an 8.49 trillion won operating profit in early 2014 before entering a slump that it's only recently started to bounce back from. The figures are preliminary, though Samsung is usually accurate in its forecasting.

Samsung is doomed.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jul 2016 22:50 UTC
Internet & Networking

It would be nice if, like most email services, these major and forthcoming messaging services could somehow interoperate in the same client of your choice, so they could all somehow learn your preferences and you could use a single scheme of settings and preferences to control their behavior (maybe you could "snooze" them) and their notifications. But that seems highly unlikely. Palm's webOS operating system had a feature something like this called Synergy, but it's defunct.

Or, you know, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, etc. could come together and create a single, open, open source, standardised messaging platform for which everybody can make clients. They could, perhaps, call it "Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol" or XMPP.

Of course, that would require those companies actually giving a rat's bum about their customers, which they don't really do, so suck it up, Mossberg.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jul 2016 22:46 UTC, submitted by jockm
Legal

An update to the Rossman story we talked about earlier this week:

I am told by my attorney that Apple & the firm like my channel, are fans of it, and are friendly.

I am as surprised by this as any of you are.

I'm still interested in the precise issue they have with the channel, as it isn't often customary for high end Manhattan lawfirms to reach out to me to tell me that they're fans. It is persistently clear that there is an issue they have with the content, but I don't know what it is yet. That in and of itself is bothersome and unnerving, but whatayagannado.

Peculiar case.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jul 2016 22:42 UTC
Google

In any case, I tend not to worry too much. And I tend to not worry too much about all the digital data I hand over every minute of every day. That's not to say I don't care. I certainly do. And there are some companies I trust more than others. Cable company? Screw 'em. I'd unplug if I could. But I don't think I'm quite ready to subject my wife and kids to that. Cell carrier? They're only after one thing. (Except for when I'm on Project Fi. Those guys rock.)

But Google? Google probably knows more about me than anyone. Probably more than I know myself. That's never been more apparent than when I scrolled through the first 100 pixels or so of the My Activity section on my Google account. Everything I've searched for. Apps I've used. Websites I opened. Destinations I've navigated to. All there, and pretty much in real time.

There really seem to be two groups of people: those that value the openness of Google regarding the data it collects, giving you insight and control over it, and those that value the secrecy of Apple, trying to keep everything on your device in a way that it can't be tracked to you.

The debate passes me by, because I treat my devices as if they are public devices; I don't put anything on there that I don't want other to see, read, or know about. A device is not my mind, so I don't treat it as such. I don't trust any company - Google, Apple, my carrier, or whatever - and I have enough understanding of technology to know that nothing connected to the internet is really private or safe.

The idea of "trusting" a company with my deepest private data is wholly alien to me.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jul 2016 23:34 UTC
In the News

We live, we are so often told, in an information age. It is an era obsessed with space, time and speed, in which social media inculcates virtual lives that run parallel to our "real" lives and in which communications technologies collapse distances around the globe. Many of us struggle with the bombardment of information we receive and experience anxiety as a result of new media, which we feel threaten our relationships and "usual" modes of human interaction.

Though the technologies may change, these fears actually have a very long history: more than a century ago our forebears had the same concerns. Literary, medical and cultural responses in the Victorian age to the perceived problems of stress and overwork anticipate many of the preoccupations of our own era to an extent that is perhaps surprising.

Fascinating look at how people were afraid of new technology over a century ago.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jul 2016 23:30 UTC
Apple

Apple and Donate Life America announced today that, for the first time ever, iPhone users will be able to sign up to be an organ, eye and tissue donor right from the Health app with the release of iOS 10. Through a simple sign up process, iPhone users can learn more and take action with just a few taps. All registrations submitted from iPhone are sent directly to the National Donate Life Registry managed by Donate Life America. The ability to quickly and easily become a nationally-registered donor enables people to carry their decision with them wherever they go.

There's a lack of donors in many, many countries, and relatively simple initiatives like this can do a lot to get people to sign up to be a donor and potentially save a lot of lives.

Great initiative by Apple and Donate Life America.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jul 2016 12:50 UTC
BSD and Darwin derivatives

It's been my impression that the BSD communit{y,ies}, in general, understand Linux far better than the Linux communit{y,ies} understand BSD. I have a few theories on why that is, but that's not really relevant. I think a lot of Linux people get turned off BSD because they don't really understand how and why it's put together. Thus, this rant; as a BSD person, I want to try to explain how BSD works in a way that Linux people can absorb.

While there's overwhelming similarity between the operating systems in most cases, there are also a lot of differences. As you probe more into the differences, you find that they emerge from deep-seated disagreements. Some are disagreements over development methodology, some over deployment and usage, some about what's important, some about who's important, and some about which flavor of ice cream is superior. Just comparing the surface differences doesn't tell you anything; it's the deeper differences that both explain and justify why each group does things the way they do.

The article is undated, but I seem to recall it's actually quite old (2005-ish or so). Still, it's an interesting read.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 2nd Jul 2016 00:15 UTC
Legal

We talk a lot on this blog about why it's getting harder to fix electronics. Not just because of how those devices are designed, but also because a lot manufacturers don't want anyone to know how to fix them. And those companies can issue legal threats to keep repair information - like schematics and repair manuals - out of public view.

It looks like Louis Rossmann, an independent Apple repair tech, is fending off a legal attack from one of those companies.

[...]

For context, Louis does board-level repairs of Apple laptops. You can't do that and you can't teach other people how to fix boards without circuit schematics - which he shows on his channel. Most electronics companies don't share schematics with the public. And certain companies might argue that showing schematics on video is a violation of their copyright. (Louis, by the way, was one of the most vocal supporters of a Right to Repair law in New York that would have protected independent repair techs and given them more access to repair information. Apple's lobbyists killed the bill before it could be voted on.)

Happy 4th of July, America.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 30th Jun 2016 10:14 UTC
In the News

[US senator Elizabeth] Warren had different beefs with Google, Apple and Amazon, but the common thread was that she accused each one of using its powerful platform to "lock out smaller guys and newer guys," including some that compete with Google, Apple and Amazon.

Google, she said, uses "its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature;" Apple "has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services" that compete with Apple Music; and Amazon "uses its position as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers."

"Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and ... they deserve to be highly profitable and successful," Warren said. "But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again."

Before we start, I strongly urge you to watch Warren's actual speech, instead of just reading the linked article. Warren explains clearly why the extreme consolidation and monopolisation in all manner of sectors in America is absolutely terrible for consumers, killing competition, dampening innovation, and maintaining high prices.

Obviously, this entire speech is music to my ears. Warren is the obvious - and effectively inevitable - VP pick for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, meaning that if she were to beat the Republican nominee come November, the United States will have a Europe-style democratic socialist as vice-president. Obviously, this has the monopolistic US companies and their corporate cheerleaders shaking in their boots.

Thanks to the unexpectedly successful Sanders campaign, Clinton is effectively forced to pick Sanders' friend and ideological compeer as her VP, directly threatening the free ride these companies have been getting for decades since the Reagan years, perpetuated by both Republicans and Democrats ever since. It won't be immediate - the VP position is more of a mindshare podium than one of policy-making - but it represents a huge shift in how the United States government and its politics treat the business world.

There's a reason Tim Cook is raising money for Paul Ryan.