Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 25th Jan 2015 20:44 UTC

Consider the humble video game cartridge. It's a small, durable plastic box that imparts the most immediate, user-friendly software experience ever created. Just plug it in, and you're playing a game in seconds.

If you’ve ever used one, you have two men to thank: Wallace Kirschner and Lawrence Haskel, who invented the game cartridge 40 years ago while working at an obscure company and rebounding from a business failure. Once the pair's programmable system had been streamlined and turned into a commercial product - the Channel F console - by a team at pioneering electronics company Fairchild, it changed the fundamental business model of home video games forever. By injecting flexibility into a new technology, it paved the way for massive industry growth and the birth of a new creative medium.

Ah, gaming with effectively no loading times. Those were the days.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 24th Jan 2015 23:17 UTC
Mac OS X

Steven Troughton-Smith:

Just to provide an example for this post, I put together a trivial drawing app called BitPaint. It isn't very interesting, but it should illustrate a few things:

  1. What's involved in bringing a trivial classic Mac app to Carbon
  2. How the Classic Mac OS build process works
  3. How much source compatibility exists between 1984's Toolbox and Carbon today

The answer to the third question is surprising: a lot. In fact, Steven managed to build an application that runs on every version of Mac OS/OS X, all the way from System 1.0 to today's OS X 10.10 Yosemite. I've been following Steven's progress (and by following I mean 'looked at pretty screenshots' because I don't understand the developer stuff), and it's quite incredible to see a single codebase run on such a long string of Mac OS/OS X releases.

A crucial aspect in this whole endeavour has been mpw, "an m68k binary translator/emulator whose sole purpose is to try and emulate enough of Classic Mac OS to run MPW's [note the caps!] own tools directly on OS X".

I am incredibly psyched about mpw. Its developer, ksherlock, has been very responsive to everything I've come up against as I stress test it against various tools and projects.

Right now it's a fully usable tool that makes Classic Mac OS compilation possible and easy to do on modern versions of OS X, without requiring emulators or ancient IDEs or the like. To my knowledge, this is the first time this has been possible (excluding legacy versions of CodeWarrior).

This entire post is a must-read.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Jan 2015 23:06 UTC

"We have bigger hopes, higher aspirations for Windows," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said on Wednesday, standing on a stage above a secret room filled with crazy holographic technology. "We want to move from people needing Windows to choosing Windows, to loving Windows. That is our bold goal." He's right: love is a problem that Microsoft needs to solve.

I use Windows because out of the options, it's the one that bugs me the least. Now, I have a tendency to dislike all software - it's crazy how many faults and problems we accept in software - so it's unlikely they'll ever get me to 'love' anything, but I still get the general idea: without dominance, mobile users need to choose Windows willingly. This is new ground for Microsoft.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Jan 2015 23:00 UTC
Mac OS X

Don't look now, but Google's Project Zero vulnerability research program may have dropped more zero-day vulnerabilities - this time on Apple's OS X platform.

In the past two days, Project Zero has disclosed OS X vulnerabilities here, here, and here. At first glance, none of them appear to be highly critical, since all three appear to require the attacker to already have some access to a targeted machine. What's more, the first vulnerability, the one involving the "networkd 'effective_audit_token' XPC," may already have been mitigated in OS X Yosemite, but if so the Google advisory doesn't make this explicit and Apple doesn't publicly discuss security matters with reporters.

You'd think a writer at Ars Technica was aware of what a zero-day is. These are 90-days, meaning Google is giving - int his case - Apple two to three times as long as industry sort-of standard (which is 30-45 days). Of course, Google dropping zero-days on Apple will draw a lot more clicks, but that doesn't make it any less bullshit. Then again, it isn't like this is the first time this particular author sensationalises to the point of ridiculousness.

The other points from before, of course, still stand. In addition, it'd be great if other companies started combing through Google's stuff too.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 23rd Jan 2015 19:08 UTC

Some of the new features that Joe demoed on Wednesday will be available for our Windows Insiders starting today with our newest build - 9926. However, not everything you saw on Wednesday is included in this new build. Much is still in-progress and we’re getting it out to you as fast as we can - so you can try it out and give us feedback. Over the course of the next few builds, you will see us refine Windows 10 and continue to improve the experiences as well as quality and stability.

This new build contains the first set of features unveiled earlier this week. Neowin has a bunch of screenshots.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Jan 2015 23:04 UTC

100Gb network adapters are coming, said Jesper Brouer in his talk at the LCA 2015 kernel miniconference. Driving such adapters at their full wire speed is going to be a significant challenge for the Linux kernel; meeting that challenge is the subject of his current and future work. The good news is that Linux networking has gotten quite a bit faster as a result - even if there are still problems to be solved.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Jan 2015 18:03 UTC

That day has already come and passed; dubbed "KDE Frameworks 5" for the technology, and "Plasma 5" for the environment/applications, these technologies have been in circulation as technical demonstrations and alternatives for some months now. A combination of nervous anticipation and memories of being burned by the 4.0 releases lead all but the bravest to venture early and discover nothing nearly as painful as the transition between KDE 3 and Plasma. With KDE Plasma 5.2 being formally announced as the default environment of Kubuntu 15.04 due only months away, Frameworks 5 and Plasma have been recognised as maturing usable products - which means it's time to take a serious look at what to expect when you turn it on for the first time.

I am extremely impressed with the progress the KDE team has been making with 5.0. I can't wait until the 5.2 release hits. In any case, this is a very in-depth look at what the current state of KDE 5.x offers - grab a cup of coffee and enjoy.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Jan 2015 17:27 UTC

Microsoft unveiled its plans for a free copy of Windows 10 for Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 users yesterday, but it looks like Windows RT is being left out in the cold. In a statement provided to The Verge, Microsoft confirms the Surface Pro 3 and "entire Surface Pro lineup" will get the update to Windows 10, but Windows RT won't get the full OS. "We are working on an update for Surface, which will have some of the functionality of Windows 10. More information to come," says a Microsoft spokesperson. This means tablets like the Surface RT and Surface 2 won't get Windows 10.

Windows RT is dead.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 22nd Jan 2015 13:07 UTC
Internet & Networking

BlackBerry CEO John Chen has published an open letter to US president Obama on net neutrality. Interestingly enough, he conflates net neutrality with what he calls "content/application neutrality". At the beginning of the letter it's a bit unclear what he means by this, but later one, all pieces of his puzzle fall into place.

Unfortunately, not all content and applications providers have embraced openness and neutrality. Unlike BlackBerry, which allows iPhone users to download and use our BBM service, Apple does not allow BlackBerry or Android users to download Apple’s iMessage messaging service. Netflix, which has forcefully advocated for carrier neutrality, has discriminated against BlackBerry customers by refusing to make its streaming movie service available to them. Many other applications providers similarly offer service only to iPhone and Android users. This dynamic has created a two-tiered wireless broadband ecosystem, in which iPhone and Android users are able to access far more content and applications than customers using devices running other operating systems. These are precisely the sort of discriminatory practices that neutrality advocates have criticized at the carrier level.

Therefore, neutrality must be mandated at the application and content layer if we truly want a free, open and non-discriminatory internet. All wireless broadband customers must have the ability to access any lawful applications and content they choose, and applications/content providers must be prohibited from discriminating based on the customer's mobile operating system.

I'm not entirely sure what to say about this. While I would personally welcome a world where companies are multi-platform by nature, it is completely preposterous to legally force them to do so. I could somewhat understand (but still oppose) a call for using open standards so third parties could e.g. create their own Hangouts, WhatsApp, iMessage, or Skype clients, but legally forcing companies to create applications for competing platforms? That's insane.

Except for those with an agenda, we would all love to live in a world where companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft use nothing but open standards and protocols, creating a level playing field for newcomers and small players. However, unless the closed nature of a protocol harms consumers, companies should be free to be as closed as they very well please.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jan 2015 22:01 UTC

Google is preparing to sell mobile phone plans directly to customers and manage their calls and mobile data over a cellular network, according to three people with knowledge of the plans.

The new service is expected run on Sprint and T-Mobile's networks, two people familiar with the product say. Google is expected to reach deals to buy wholesale access to those carriers' mobile voice and data networks, making it a mobile virtual network operator, or MVNO, they say.

This could be huge (The Verge verifies it). Of course, this is US-only.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jan 2015 19:08 UTC

Update: And here's the video.

Microsoft has just revealed its next great innovation: Windows Holographic! It's an augmented reality experience that employs a headset, much like all the VR goggles that are currently rising in popularity, but Microsoft's solution adds holograms to the world around you. The HoloLens headset is described as "the most advanced holographic computer the world has ever seen." It's a self-contained computer, including a CPU, a GPU, and a dedicated holographic processor. The dark lenses up front contain a see-through display, there's spatial sound so you can "hear" holograms behind you, and it also integrates a set of sensors. HoloLens, says Microsoft, will be available in the Windows 10 timeframe.

They showed Minecraft as a holographic world draped over your coffee table and the rest of the house. The user placed Minecraft TNT blocks on a real world, and detonated them to reveal a minecraft world behind the exploded wall. And so, much, more. And this is no tech demo: it's working right now, and the people in the audience will be able to use it once the presentation is over. Even regular universal Windows applications can run inside this environment. Heck, they showed a simple holographic MS Paint-like application which allows you to create all kinds of fun holographic objects that you can manipulate with your hands. Scientists at NASA are using HoloLens to walk on Mars.

While this requires a clunky headset now, this can eventually power real holographic displays. This is so exciting. I'l add video once they're up, but for now, Wired and Engadget have more.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jan 2015 18:15 UTC

The Microsoft Windows 10 announcement is still ongoing, but one thing is standing out - Microsoft is finally, finally taking its own tools seriously. They showed a whole slew of new applications, and like Windows 10 being one single platform from phone through Xbox to PC, all of them are 100% universal. And, for the first time, these modern/Metro applications look like real, working, full-featured applications, instead of simple viewers or broken crap.

It goes very far: proper Metro Microsoft Office applications - Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook - that run on phones, tablets, and PCs, sharing their data automatically, and running the exact same code. Even their new browser - codenamed Spartan - is a universal application. It's all looking really, really great, and based on the live stuff we've seen so far, it seems like Microsoft is actually pulling it off.

For the very first time, it finally feels like Win32 can go the way of the dodo. All these new applications are proper, grown-up applications that look like they can actually replace traditional Win32 ones. Even though Win32 applications are now properly integrated into Metro (they use the same gestures and stuff now), it feels like Microsoft is finally hitting the point where it can leave Win32 behind, and focus entirely on modern/Metro.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 21st Jan 2015 17:47 UTC

Microsoft is currently presenting Windows 10, and they unveiled that it will be a free upgrade for Windows 7 and Windows 8 users (and for Windows Phone 8.1 users).

Beyond this, Myerson shared Microsoft's vision for Windows as a service, not just an operating system. A big part of that is Microsoft's new commitment to keep devices consistently updated throughout the "supported lifetime for the device." It sounds like that means those upgrading from Microsoft's older versions of Windows will consistently receive updates to keep it as up-to-date as possible. Myerson noted that this will let developer "target every single Windows device" when they build apps - anything that makes it easier for developers to reach more users will certainly be appreciated by both the developer community as well as end users.

Sounds good to me. The idea of big, monolithic releases is archaic.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jan 2015 21:28 UTC
General Development

We've spoken in the past about teaching Clang to fully support Windows and be compatible with MSVC. Until now, a big missing piece in this story has been debugging the clang-generated executables. Over the past 6 months, we've started working on making LLDB work well on Windows and support debugging both regular Windows programs and those produced by Clang.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jan 2015 21:21 UTC
Internet Explorer

Neowin has learned a bit more about these extensions and how Microsoft plans to make its browser attractive for developers. Spartan will be able to use Chrome extensions and, while we are not sure if they will work 100% natively, the way extensions have been implemented is nearly identical to that of Chrome which will make it a simple process for developers to make their extensions work on Spartan.

Interesting. I'm not a heavy extensions users - FlashBlock and AdBlock - but I know many people are.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jan 2015 19:31 UTC
Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu

Canonical is today bringing Snappy Ubuntu Core out of the cloud and into physical devices with the reveal of Snappy Core for smart devices.

First announced in December 2014, Snappy Core is a new lightweight Ubuntu distribution designed for the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) specifically. Before today, only the cloud image had been revealed, but now the company is showing off its work on real connected devices.

I have no idea what any of this means in normal-people-speak.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jan 2015 14:40 UTC

The biggest takeaway Microsoft is hoping to deliver this week, sources say, is that Windows 10 is built on a single, common "core" (known internally as "OneCore") that will work across a variety of devices, from phones, tablets, PCs, large-screen displays like the company's Perceptive Pixel multitouch-screen devices, and ultimately, Xbox.

OneCore implies more than just the common kernel that Microsoft touted as part of its Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 stories. In addition to the OS kernel, OneCore also includes the dynamic link libraries (DLLs), application platform layer and other pieces of the operating system. Microsoft's pitch to developers with Windows 10 will be they can target the same core environment with their apps, and those "Universal" apps will work across a range of screen sizes. These apps will be available in a single store, rather than separate Windows, Windows Phone and Xbox stores.

Microsoft has been hinting about all this for years now, but they've never managed to pull it off. If they do pull it off tomorrow, they'll be the first to have a completely unified platform on all consumer-oriented device types. Apple has both iOS and OS X, and Google has Android and Chrome OS - and both of them seem to be taking steps towards unification, albeit in different ways.

Whether or not this is actually what will turn things around for Windows in mobile is a whole different girl scout cookie.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 20th Jan 2015 10:35 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Last week, Samsung officially announced its first Tizen-based smartphone, the Z1 in India. The device is priced at INR 5,700 (~ $92), a relatively higher price tag for its low-end hardware, especially when you compare it with Android value-for-money smartphones like the Xiaomi Redmi 1S and the Asus Zenfone 4. It features a 1.2GHz dual-core processor from Spreadtrum, 768MB RAM, and 4GB internal storage, but Samsung is trying to defend its pricing. The Korean giant claims that Tizen can not only run Android apps, it is also lighter than other platforms. It means that Tizen requires relatively less powerful hardware to run as smooth as other platforms.

A new video from Simrandeep Singh Garcha shows that Tizen runs quite fast and smooth on the Z1, a rarity for smartphones in a similar price range. The video shows Tizen running without any sort of lag on the Z1, as well as new features like customisable colour themes and icon sets. It appears that even things like web browsing are smooth and fast on Tizen, as seen in the second video, thanks to faster page load times as well as smooth scrolling, panning, and zooming.

Credit where credit is due: it actually looks kind of nice, which is surprising, considering its developed by Samsung. This still doesn't take my doubt away about Tizen's viability in the smartphone space, but I still welcome any and all competition for Android and iOS.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Jan 2015 12:24 UTC, submitted by Alfman
Privacy, Security, Encryption

Microsoft has heavily criticized Google and its 90-days security disclosure policy after the firm publicly revealed two zero-day vulnerabilities in Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system one after one just days before Microsoft planned to issue a patch to kill the bugs. But, seemingly Google don't give a damn thought.

Once again, Google has publicly disclosed a new serious vulnerability in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1 before Microsoft has been able to produce a patch, leaving users of both the operating systems exposed to hackers until next month, when the company plans to deliver a fix.

First, this article makes the usual mistake of calling these vulnerabilities "zero day". They are not zero day. They are 90 day. A huge difference that changes the entire context of the story. Microsoft gets 90 days - three months - to address these issues. I do not see why Google has to account for Microsoft's inflexible security policies which leave users in the lurch.

Second, note that Google also disclosed two OS X vulnerabilities alongside the Windows one. Nobody seems to be talking about those.

Third, Google, how about addressing your own security problems.


Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 19th Jan 2015 12:16 UTC

For the past six months or so, I've become increasingly concerned about the quality of Apple software. From the painful gestation of OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) with its damaged iWork apps, to the chaotic iOS 8 launch, iCloud glitches, and the trouble with Continuity, I've gotten a bad feeling about Apple’s software quality management. "It Just Works", the company's pleasant-sounding motto, became an easy target, giving rise to jibes of "it just needs more work".

Even if the endless list of complaints from die-hard Apple users and developers is somehow entirely nothing but anti-Apple propaganda, Apple is still left with a growing perception problem.

Personally, as a semi-long-time Apple user (since 2003 I believe), I've never thought of Apple's software as "particularly good" - the rest was just worse. However, considering the general quality of software, that's not saying much (software is of horribly low quality when compared to other tools we use). Now that we no longer have Windows XP but Windows 7 and up, now that we no longer have Android 2.x and Symbian but Android 5.0, people are beginning to realise what I knew all along: Apple's software isn't good. It was just a little bit less crappy than everyone else's.