Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 12th May 2017 03:17 UTC
Amiga & AROS

Tuomas Järvensivu and Harri Salokorpi:

The 30th anniversary of Amiga inspired me to dig into Amiga programming. Back in Amiga's golden era (late '80s and early '90s) I never had the chance to try this out since despite my relentless whining my parents wouldn't get me one. Luckily later when I was studying at the uni, I managed to bargain one fine Amiga 500 specimen from the flea market at an affordable price of 20 euros.

Although Amiga as such is not that useful a platform to know these days, learning how to write programs for it can be very educational. Amiga as an environment is much simpler than (for instance) modern PCs. This makes learning low-level programming on it faster than on more complex environments. Although the hardware architecture is quite simple, it has some computer system design features that are still in use in modern environments as well such as DMA and interrupts. On top of being plain fun, writing assembly on Amiga teaches programming concepts that are usually hidden by higher-level languages and modern operating systems.

I've written this blog post together with Harri Salokorpi. We'll walk you through an example that creates graphics on the display with a simple animation. We both hope this blog post provides a quick start to those who want to try out programming on this legendary device. However, we're mostly going to use an emulator as a development environment, so the real device is not mandatory.

Fascinating article for those of us who can actually program.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th May 2017 22:13 UTC
Windows

At Microsoft's Build conference, the company showed off the Windows Fall Creators Update. This update is going to bring a number of quite interesting things to Windows - such as a number of features that let you move between applications on Windows and iOS/Android, using Microsoft's Cortana application on those platforms.

For instance, you can share your clipboard with your mobile devices, and pick up where you left off reading articles or watching videos - yes, like Apple's Continuity, but cross-platform. There's also a timeline feature which allows you to scroll back in time to see what you were watching or reading or whatever days or weeks ago. All this will be available in the Cortana application on iOS and Android, too.

Microsoft also officially unveiled its new design language for Windows applications, Fluent Design System, replacing the Metro they're using now. To be honest, it's not really replacing Metro so much as expanding it, and I think the best way to describe it is "Material Design, now with lots of blur". Fluent Design is already making its way to current Windows versions and applications through the Windows Store, but much of what Microsoft showed off today in videos is still in the concept phase.

Additionally, Microsoft shed some light on its Windows-on-ARM plans, detailing how it allows x86 code on ARM processors. You will be able to run any x86 Windows application on Windows-on-ARM, both from the Windows Store and downloaded elsewhere. The technology is an extension of Windows on Windows, which is currently used to allow 32bit applications to run on 64bit Windows (WoW64) and was also used to allow 16bit applications to run on 32bit Windows (WOW).

Lastly, Microsoft unveiled that it's working with Apple to bring iTunes to the Windows Store as a UWP-packaged Win32 application. Autodesk and SAP will bring their applications to the Windows Store as well.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 11th May 2017 21:56 UTC
Windows

One of the biggest surprises at Microsoft's Build developer conference last year was that the company was building support for the Bash shell on top of an Ubuntu-based Linux subsystem right into Windows 10. This feature launched widely with the release of the Windows 10 Anniversary update and over the course of the last few months, it built upon this project with frequent updates, but it remained Ubuntu-based. As the company announced today, though, it's now also adding support for OpenSuSE and Fedora, too.

Microsoft really wants Windows to be the platform of choice for developers. They also showed off the Xamarin Live Player, allowing you to deply iOS applications on iOS devices using Visual Studio.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th May 2017 12:48 UTC
Opera Software

Opera Neon, released in January, is an experimental browser that envisions the future of web browsers, similar to the way concept cars predict the future of automobiles. One of its novelties is the ability to seamlessly hop between discovering new content and chatting with friends, or even share online discoveries while browsing.

Inspired by Neon, we decided to bring those seamless transitions between chat and discoveries to the Opera browser. The result is Opera Reborn, complete with integrated popular messengers so you can keep chatting with friends without skipping a beat.

It's great to see Opera back to making interesting browsers, even if the features specified aren't exactly my thing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th May 2017 08:41 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

Haiku has been accepted into Google Summer of Code again this year, and over the past few days the project has detailed some of the areas developers will be focusing on. For instance, Vivek will be working to bring 3D hardware acceleration to Haiku:

The Mesa renderer in Haiku presently ventures into software rendering. Haiku uses software for rendering frame buffers and then writes them to the graphics hardware. The goal of my project is to port Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) Driver for i915, from the Linux kernel to Haiku with the help of DragonflyBSD's Linux Compatibility layer, so that those drivers can be later extended to add OpenGL support (Mesa3D) for hardware accelerated 3D rendering.

Other projects include bringing Harfbuzz support to Haiku, building a Haiku preferences pane (blasphemy to an old BeOS user such as myself, but entirely a 100% good idea for normal people), developing a calendar application, and adding Btrfs write support.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 10th May 2017 08:31 UTC
Internet & Networking

Every year, the internet gets a little less fair. The corporations that run it get a little bigger, their power grows more concentrated, and a bit of their idealism gives way to ruthless pragmatism.

And if Ajit Pai, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, gets his way, the hegemons are likely to grow only larger and more powerful.

This column is nominally about network neutrality, the often sleep-inducing debate about the rules that broadband companies like Comcast and AT&T must follow when managing their networks. But really, this is a story about ballooning corporate power.

John Oliver has a great video about the fight for net neutrality in the United States, and set up a website that makes it easy to send comments to the FCC to compel them to maintain net neutrality.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th May 2017 22:45 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Micah Singleton:

The past few years haven't been great for the luxury watch market. Economic downturns, currency devaluations, and the development of the smartwatch - once poised to be the next major tech sector following the smartphone and tablet - helped usher in two years of declines in sales and profits for the Swiss watch industry. The common narrative was that the watch industry was being killed by smartwatches and was ultimately doomed. But much like the introduction of quartz watches in the '70s, which nearly decimated the luxury watch market, Switzerland rebounded and is now growing once again.

It was kind of cute to see 20-something Apple bloggers predict the end of mechanical watches because of Apple's wrist calculator.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 9th May 2017 18:13 UTC
Windows

The arguments are well-worn, and we've been hearing them ever since Apple opened the App Store for the iPhone. Windows 10 S blocks the execution of any program that wasn't downloaded from the Windows Store. Arbitrary downloaded apps, or even apps with physical install media, are forbidden, a move that on the one hand prevents running malware but on the other blocks the use of most Windows software. Windows Store apps include both tightly sandboxed apps, built using the Universal Windows Platform, and lightly restricted Win32 apps that have been packaged for the Store using the Desktop App converter, formerly known as Project Centennial.

This positions Microsoft as a gatekeeper - although its criteria for entry within the store is for the most part not stringent, it does reserve the right to remove software that it deems undesirable - and means that the vast majority of extant Windows software can't be used. This means that PC mainstays, from Adobe Photoshop to Valve's Steam, can't be used on Windows 10 S. It also means that Windows 10 S systems can't be used to develop new Windows software. Should you want to run this kind of software, you'll need to upgrade to the full Windows 10 Pro for $50.

Aside from the obvious and entirely valid moral arguments against locked-down computers, there's also a huge psychological one specific to Windows 10 S: it's taking something away that we used to have. Comparisons to iOS or Android are, therefore, off.

I'm not a fan of locked-down, application store-only devices, because the companies patrolling these stores don't just do it for security and quality reasons, but also for anti-competitive and puritan reasons. They will block perceived competitive threats, and since they're American companies, they will throw gigantic fits over nudity while allowing gratuitous violence like it's no big deal. These application and digital content stores export (to us) outdated American ideas about sex and nudity and impose them upon their users.

I know why Microsoft is hiding the switch behind a $50 upgrade to Windows 10 Pro - to discourage people from actually upgrading, therefore trapping more people into the Windows Store - but like with Android, this switch should be standard and free to flick back and forth at will.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th May 2017 17:05 UTC
Google

Ars Technica has an article with screenshots about a new development in Fuchsia, Google's research (maybe?) operating system. The project has a very basic and barebones graphical user interface now.

The home screen is a giant vertically scrolling list. In the center you'll see a (placeholder) profile picture, the date, a city name, and a battery icon. Above the are "Story" cards - basically Recent Apps - and below it is a scrolling list of suggestions, sort of like a Google Now placeholder. Leave the main screen and you'll see a Fuchsia "home" button pop up on the bottom of the screen, which is just a single white circle.

The GUI is called Armadillo, and Hotfixit.net has instructions on how to build it, and a video of it in action.

Google still hasn't said anything about Fuchsia's purpose or intended goal, but Travis Geiselbrecht did state in IRC that it isn't a toy, and it isn't a 20% project. At this point, the safest bet is to just call it a research operating system, but of course, it's exciting to imagine this brand new open source operating system having a bigger role to play.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 8th May 2017 14:25 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Back when this machine was just a crowdfunding project, we got a few submissions about it. Since we generally do not link to crowdfunding projects before they're, you know, actually available products (for obvious reasons), I never did anything with them. Now, though, the GPD Pocket is out and about, and it seems to be a pretty amazing tiny laptop we really have to talk about, because it's adorable and remarkably capable.

It's an all-aluminium Windows 10/Linux laptop with a 7" 1920x1200 IPS display with 323 ppi, the top-of-the-line Intel Atom x7-Z8750 1.6Ghz quad-core processor, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 405, and a 128GB SSD. It has a chicklet-style keyboard, a little nub mouse pointer, and can be ordered with either Linux or Windows. It has decent battery life too - they claim 12 hours. According to reviews, it seems to be ticking all the right boxes, making it an actually decent product to buy. IT's $469 on IndieGoGo right now, and the retail price will be $599.

I've always wanted such a tiny laptop, but most of the time they were ugly plastic pieces of garbage that barely got by. This seems to be the first one that isn't actually a bad product (save for the terrible product descriptions on their website), and I'm definitely intrigued. Is there a market for machines like this?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 5th May 2017 19:30 UTC
Games

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland:

In the nearly 18 months since a CD-ROM-based "Nintendo PlayStation" prototype was first found in an estate sale, emulator makers and homebrew programmers have created a facsimile of what CD-based games would look like on an SNES. Efforts by hacker Ben Heck to get that kind of software actually working on the one-of-a-kind hardware, though, had been stymied by problems getting the CD-ROM drive to talk to the system.

Those problems are now a thing of the past.

In a newly posted video, Heck lays out how the system's CD-ROM drive suddenly started sending valid data to the system literally overnight. "I was working on this yesterday and the CD-ROM wasn't even detecting the disc," Heck says in the video. "I came in this morning and jiggled the cables around and got ready to work on it some more, and all of a sudden it works... did a magic elf come in overnight?"

I'm a sucker for exotic game hardware.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 4th May 2017 23:46 UTC
Apple

Long before the iPhone or even the Mac, Apple was a handful of people working in an industry that was only just beginning to take the idea of personal computing seriously. In the earliest days of those early days, Steves Wozniak and Jobs made their first device together: the Apple I. Few of these were sold, and fewer still survive - but the Living Computers museum in Seattle managed to get three. And one of them was Jobs' personal machine.

If I ever go to the US again, visiting some of the great computer museums is definitely high on the list. I'd love to actually see an Apple I - especially Steve Jobs' - in real life.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 4th May 2017 23:42 UTC
Intel

Last month, Intel's new naming scheme for its Xeon processors leaked. Instead of E3, E5, and E7 branding, the chips would be given metallic names, from Bronze at the bottom-end through Silver and Gold to Platinum at the top. Today, the company made this new branding official as part of a larger shake-up of its Xeon platform.

The next generation of Xeons, due to arrive this summer, will make up what Intel calls the "Xeon Scalable Processor Family." This explains the change in core naming that is accompanying the new branding; the SP suffix is replacing the E, EP, and EX suffixes used in previous-generation Xeons.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 4th May 2017 23:38 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

No company has done as much damage to the perceived value of software, and the sustainability of being an independent developer, as Apple.

Not that other companies wouldn't have done the same thing - they would have. It's just that Apple was the successful one.

It's resolutely the fault of us as consumers, and it's actively encouraged by the App Store.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 3rd May 2017 13:49 UTC
Windows

From Microsoft's FAQ about Windows 10 S:

Yes, Microsoft Edge is the default web browser on Microsoft 10 S. You are able to download another browser that might be available from the Windows Store, but Microsoft Edge will remain the default if, for example, you open an .htm file. Additionally, the default search provider in Microsoft Edge and Internet Explorer cannot be changed.

Braindead. Edge is buggy and messy, Bing is garbage. Not being able to change default applications is one of the many reasons using iOS is so grating and cumbersome, and Microsoft copying that behaviour is really, really dumb.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd May 2017 15:41 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft's education press event just wrapped up, and two announcements stood out. First and foremost, the company unveiled Windows 10 S. Windows 10 S is exactly the same as regular Windows 10, except in that it's locked to applications available in the Windows Store. Note that this doesn't mean it can't run Win32 applications; it runs Win32 applications, but only those available in the Windows Store. Users can upgrade Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro for 50 dollars to allow the use of non-Windows Store applications.

The second announcement that stood out was a new hardware device: the Surface Laptop. Aimed straight at college/university students currently probably buying MacBooks, the Surface Laptop is a downright beautiful machine with all the current specifications we've come to expect from a modern laptop, such as Core i5 and i7 processors, SSD storage, a 2250x1500 13.5" display, and a battery life of 14.5 hours. Starting price will be $999. Americans can order today, and it will ship 15 June.

It's available in four colours, and one of those colours is burgundy, so everything else is invalid and a waste of time, because the burgundy model is the only model that counts. I really don't want to go back to a laptop with a fixed keyboard, but at the same time, burgundy. All your arguments and facts and reasoning and fake news are irrelevant now.

In all seriousness, this looks like a great laptop, aimed directly at Apple's popularity among college students. As usual, there's no word on when this thing comes to The Netherlands (nobody cares about us), but once it does, I'm going to have a seriously hard time not buying a specced-out burgundy model.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st May 2017 21:49 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

However, the Z4 will also run Tizen 3.0, and as the developer's notes for the latest version of the OS show, the software is getting some pretty interesting new features. It now supports Khronos’ new graphics API Vulkan, which should provide a boost to mobile gaming; and the open-source web runtime Crosswalk, which should make for a smoother internet-browsing experience. Version 3.0 also adds support for 64-bit Intel and ARM CPUs; multiple users on a single device (take that iOS); and voice control via S Voice. Of course, not all of these features will be available on the Z4, but the handset will be the first to feel at least some of these benefits (Vulkan being the big one).

I want one of these Z phones, but they are pretty much impossible to come by.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st May 2017 21:45 UTC
Games

One of those fans, a programmer from Kansas with an offbeat sense of humor and an unmissable skillset, released a PC emulator for the NES - a reverse-engineered software version of the hardware platform. Called "NESticle", its Windows icon was, quite literally and indelicately, a pair of testicles.

NESticle, nonetheless, did something amazing: It allowed people to play old Nintendo games on cheap computers made by Packard Bell and other firms, and did so while introducing a number of fundamental new ways to appreciate those games. Divorced from Nintendo's famously draconian licensing strategy, it introduced new ways of thinking about well-tread video games.

Would we have the retro-friendly gaming culture that we do today without its existence? Maybe, but it's possible it might not be quite so vibrant.

This is the story of how NESticle helped turn retro gaming into a modern cultural force.

I have a retroarch setup on my PC with support for various systems from my childhood, stocked with the games I played as a kid. Other than such personal use, emulators for classic systems serve a vital function in our culture: they make sure old titles will still be playable long after the last hardware to play them on has perished.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st May 2017 21:41 UTC
Mac OS X

Apple is working on new desktop Macs, including a ground-up redesign of the tiny-but-controversial 2013 Mac Pro. We're also due for some new iMacs, which Apple says will include some features that will make less-demanding pro users happy.

But we don't know when they're coming, and the Mac Pro in particular is going to take at least a year to get here. Apple's reassurances are nice, but it's a small comfort to anyone who wants high-end processing power in a Mac right now. Apple hasn't put out a new desktop since it refreshed the iMacs in October of 2015, and the older, slower components in these computers keeps Apple out of new high-end fields like VR.

This is a problem for people who prefer or need macOS, since Apple's operating system is only really designed to work on Apple’s hardware. But for the truly adventurous and desperate, there's another place to turn: fake Macs built with standard PC components, popularly known as "Hackintoshes". They've been around for a long time, but the state of Apple's desktop lineup is making them feel newly relevant these days. So we spoke with people who currently rely on Hackintoshes to see how the computers are being used - and what they'd like to see from Apple.

My 2009 article on building a hackintosh is still one of the most popular articles on OSNews. This movement is anything but new, and has always been far more popular than people seem to think - it's only been brought to the forefront again lately due to Apple's abysmal Mac product line-up.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 1st May 2017 10:56 UTC
Apple

Apple Inc. is expected to report Tuesday that its stockpile of cash has topped a quarter of a trillion dollars [actual source is the WSJ, but it's paywalled there], an unrivaled corporate hoard that is greater than the market value of both Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Procter & Gamble Co. and exceeds the combined foreign-currency reserves held by the U.K. and Canada combined.

The goal of a capitalist, free market-based society is that as companies get more successful, they invest their winnings back into the company, increasing productivity, hiring more people, and thus improving the overall state of the economy. While inherently flawed, this system has brought us a lot of good, and has lifted quite a number of people out of abject poverty.

However, one has to ask what individuals and corporations hoarding this much money as Apple is doing are contributing to society. Apple's 250 billion dollars are locked away, and aren't used for anything. Every day, Apple is extracting vast sums of wealth from society - as they should in a capitalist society - but they are no longer investing it back into society. And Apple isn't alone in this, of course - a rich few are extracting immense amounts of wealth from society without giving back.

This breaks the traditional capitalist model.

Things like increased automation and robotisation are only going to accelerate this process. At some point, we're going to have to stop and ask ourselves if this is tenable, and if not, what we are going to do about it. It goes against the core 'values' of die-hard capitalists, but we might reach a point where we have to forcibly - through law - take it from companies like Apple.