Google poaches 14-year Mac veteran from Apple to bring Fuchsia to market

We learned in 2016 that Google was working on an entirely new operating system called Fuchsia. Development continues with newfeatures and testing on a variety of form factors spotted regularly. Google has since hired 14-year Apple engineer Bill Stevenson to work on its upcoming OS, and help bring it to market.

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It’s not surprising why Google would want someone with that background and experience to bring up Fuchsia. In a LinkedIn post shared yesterday, Stevenson specifically notes “joining Google to help bring a new operating system called Fuchsia to market.”

That’s a serious name Google is adding to the already large Fuchsia team, and the focus on bringing the new operating system to market adds fuel to the fire that Fuchsia is definitely more than just a mere research or vanity project.

Emulator project aims to resurrect classic Mac apps and games without the OS

Want to be able to run classic Mac OS applications compiled for the Motorola 68000 series of processors on your ever-so-modern Mac OS X machine? Or maybe you’d rather run them on a Raspberry Pi, or an Android device for that matter? There’s an emulation project that’s trying to achieve just thatAdvanced Mac Substitute (AMS).

Emulators of older computer platforms and game consoles are popular with vintage game enthusiasts. But emulators also could be attractive to others with some emotional (or economic) attachment to old binaries—like those with a sudden desire to resurrect aged Aldus PageMaker files.

Definitely a very cool project.

Proposed revision to Chrome Extension Manifest could cripple content blockers

A proposed change to Chrome would neuter content blockers:

While we’re still waiting for a Chromium-powered version of Microsoft Edge to materialize, we do know that it is intended that the browser will end up supporting Chrome extensions. However, according to a draft of the Chrome Extension Manifest V3 implementation, it appears that there could be some bad news for content blocking solutions designed for the browser.

According to the draft, use of the webRequest API currently used by content blockers “will be discouraged (and likely limited) in its blocking form” while a non-blocking implementation would allow nothing more than observation of network activity. Instead, developers will have access to the new declearativeNetRequest API. However, the proposal has drawn the ire from content blocker heavyweights such as Raymond Hill, best known as the author of uBlock Origin and uMatrix.

This clearly feels like a slippery slope where eventually all forms of content blocking will be either made impossible or very limited. Google is an advertising company, after all, and content blockers must in some way influence the company’s bottom line.

Luckily, there’s always Firefox.

Android Q will include more ways for carriers to SIM lock your phone

Over the weekend, four commits were posted to various parts of Android’s Gerrit source code management, all entitled “Carrier restriction enhancements for Android Q.” In them, we see that network carriers will have more fine-grained control over which networks devices will and will not work on.

More specifically, it will be possible to designate a list of “allowed” and “excluded” carriers, essentially a whitelist and a blacklist of what will and won’t work on a particular phone. This can be done with a fine-grained detail to even allow blocking virtual carrier networks that run on the same towers as your main carrier.

I’m sure carriers won’t abuse this functionality at all.

Gear S3 gets Tizen 4 update with a host of new features

Samsung is pushing out a big update to the Gear S3 which introduces a host of new features to the smartwatch. It carries the firmware version R760XXU2DSA1 and also bumps the device to Tizen version 4.0.0.2. The update is currently available in the US, with a wider roll out expected in the coming days.

An update like this would normally barely even register on my radar, but the fact of the matter is that Samsung’s smartwatches are one of the very few sets of devices running Tizen – along with Samsung smart TVs.

Google is fined $57 million under Europe’s data privacy law

In the first major example, the French data protection authority announced Monday that it had fined Google 50 million euros, or about $57 million, for not properly disclosing to users how data is collected across its services — including its search engine, Google Maps and YouTube — to present personalized advertisements.

The penalty is the largest to date under the European Union privacy law, known as the General Data Protection Regulation, which took effect in May, and shows that regulators are following through on a pledge to use the rules to push back against internet companies whose businesses depend on collecting data. Facebook is also a subject of several investigations by the data protection authorities in Europe.

Peanuts for a company like Google, but still – the GDPR at work here.

Introducing Darkstar: a Xerox Star emulator

Given its history and relationship to the Alto, the Star seemed appropriate for my next emulation project. (You can find the Alto emulator, ContrAlto, here). As with the Alto a substantial amount of detailed hardware documentation had been preserved and archived, making it possible to learn about the machine’s inner workings… Except in a few rather important places.

Fortunately, Al Kossow at Bitsavers was able to provide extra documentation that filled in most of the holes. Cross-referencing all of this with the available schematics, it looked like there was enough information to make the project possible.

This is an amazing project, and the article provides a lot of details about the process of writing the emulator. I’m definitely going to try this out this week to see if I can get it running. I’ve never used the Star, and that’s likely never going to change – they’re rare, expensive, and in museums – so this is the next best thing.

I think most of us owe it to ourselves to try this out.

zkeme80: a Forth-based OS for the TI-84+ calculator

If you’ve been looking at operating systems for the TI-84+, chances are you’ve come across KnightOS. It’s well developed and has plenty of Unix-like features such as filesystems and tasks, and even a C compiler. But maybe that’s not what you want. You want an minimal operating system that allows you to extend it in any way you wish, bonus points if you don’t need to know Z80 assembly to do so.

zkeme80 is that operating system, a minimal core with a mostly ANS standard conforming Forth interpreter/compiler. From words covering sprites and graphics, to text and memory access, everything you need to make the next hit Snake clone or RPN-based layer is already there. zkeme80 lowers the barrier of entry for customizing an operating system and enable rapid development cycles. Below the Forth layer, you’ll find two lowest level and highest level languages, Z80 assembly and Scheme. The best assembler is an extensible one, where writing macros should be a joy, not a pain, and Scheme has that macro system.

I wish I still had the TI-83 I used back in high school. A friend and I bought a communication cable for our TI-83s so that we could play multiplayer Bomberman during classes. Fun times.

Windows 98 icons are great

Rather than some designer’s flashy vision of the future, Windows 98 icons made the operating system feel like a place to get real work done. They had hard edges, soft colors and easy-to-recognize symbols.

It’s obvious that the icons were meticulously crafted. Each 256-color .ico file includes a pixel-perfect 16×16, 32×32 and 48×48 version that looks equally good on the taskbar and desktop.

They are, indeed, quite good. Most platforms from that era had exquisite icon design – think Mac OS 9 or BeOS – and we really seem to have lost some of that usability. I feel like Haiku’s current icon set best captures that same aesthetic, but in a modern coat (and a unique, custom-designed vector icon format).

Even with the Google/Fossil deal, Wear OS is doomed

It’s all being blown way out of proportion. The Fossil deal is not going to fix Wear OS. This is not the acquisition that will lead to a Pixel Watch. In reality, the deal was probably too small to really matter. Let’s pour some cold water on all this optimism. Wear OS is still doomed.

I wouldn’t call Wear OS “doomed” per se, but to say it’s not doing particularly well is a massive understatement.

Microsoft to end Windows 10 Mobile updates and support in December

Microsoft is planning to end support for Windows 10 Mobile devices in December. While Microsoft revealed back in 2017 that the company was no longer developing new features or hardware for Windows 10 Mobile, security and software updates have continued. These security updates will now cease on December 10th 2019, and devices will be unsupported after this date. “Windows 10 Mobile, version 1709 (released October 2017) is the last release of Windows 10 Mobile and Microsoft will end support on December 10, 2019,” reads a Microsoft support note that was updated this week.

Microsoft is now recommending that Windows 10 Mobile users move to iOS or Android devices. “With the Windows 10 Mobile OS end of support, we recommend that customers move to a supported Android or iOS device,” explains a FAQ on Windows 10 Mobile end of life. After Microsoft pulls support in December, device backups for settings and some apps will continue for three months until March 10th, 2020. Microsoft notes “some services including photo uploads and restoring a device from an existing device backup may continue to work for up to another 12 months from end of support.”

It’s yet another one of those moments where Windows Phone dies a little more, and every time, it makes me sad. I was a first-day adopter of both Windows Phone 7.x and 8.x, and to this day I maintain it was the most pleasant to use modern mobile operating system. I’m still sad Microsoft was unable to attract the third party developers required to keep a smartphone platform afloat.

Sailfish OS 3.0.1 released

Sailfish OS 3.0.1 has been released. From the release notes:

Sipoonkorpi is mainly a bug fixing update, bringing in just a few new features. We’ve added Bulgarian language support and improved the handling of email folders. You can now create light ambiences, and respond to meeting invitations through Exchange and Google. We’ve also tuned up SD card encryption and protected critical Top Menu toggles with the security code.

It’s available for Jolla devices and the Xperia X and XA2.

Is C++ fast?

A library that I work on often these days, meshoptimizer, has changed over time to use fewer and fewer C++ library features, up until the current state where the code closely resembles C even though it uses some C++ features. There have been many reasons behind the changes – dropping C++11 requirement allowed me to make sure anybody can compile the library on any platform, removing std::vector substantially improved performance of unoptimized builds, removing algorithm includes sped up compilation. However, I’ve never quite taken the leap all the way to C with this codebase. Today we’ll explore the gamut of possible C++ implementations for one specific algorithm, mesh simplifier, henceforth known as simplifier.cpp, and see if going all the way to C is worthwhile.

Satya Nadella teases Microsoft 365 subscription for consumers

Microsoft first unveiled its Microsoft 365 bundle of Windows 10 and Office for businesses and schools back in 2017. While a bundle of buying Office and Windows licenses makes sense for commercial customers, Microsoft is also looking to launch a similar bundle for consumers. Speaking to journalists at a media event earlier this week, attended by The Verge, CEO Satya Nadella gave some hints that Microsoft 365 will appear for consumers.

I already have an Office 365 subscription, and the idea of adding Windows to that certainly seems appealing to me. It’s easy, straightforward, and doesn’t require any periodic large purchases either.

Tim Cook pretends to care about privacy in Time op-ed

Tim Cook, in an op-ed in Time Magazine:

In 2019, it’s time to stand up for the right to privacy—yours, mine, all of ours. Consumers shouldn’t have to tolerate another year of companies irresponsibly amassing huge user profiles, data breaches that seem out of control and the vanishing ability to control our own digital lives.

This problem is solvable—it isn’t too big, too challenging or too late. Innovation, breakthrough ideas and great features can go hand in hand with user privacy—and they must. Realizing technology’s potential depends on it.

That’s why I and others are calling on the U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive federal privacy legislation—a landmark package of reforms that protect and empower the consumer. Last year, before a global body of privacy regulators, I laid out four principles that I believe should guide legislation.

If Tim Cook and Apple really cared about privacy, they wouldn’t have thrown 1.2 billion Chinese under the bus by handing over iCloud data to the Chinese government, and by sheepishly refusing to even mention “China” when it comes to Apple’s thin veneer of “privacy first”.

Apple’s complete cooperation with the Chinese government makes it very clear that Apple is all too eager to roll over and disregard its privacy chest-thumping the second their own bottom line is at risk. And lest we forget – China is a totalitarian, repressive regime that doesn’t shy away from torture and concentration camps.

How many Chinese Apple users have ended up in prison – or worse – because Tim Cook only cares about your privacy if you’re western?

Google is buying Fossil’s smartwatch tech for $40 million

Rumors about a Pixel Watch have abounded for years. Such a device would certainly make sense as Google attempts to prove the viability of its struggling wearable operating system, Wear OS. Seems the company is finally getting serious about the prospect. Today Fossil announced plans to sell its smartwatch IP to the software giant for $40 million.

Sounds like Google will be getting a nice head start here as well. The deal pertains to “a smartwatch technology currently under development” and involves the transfer of a number of Fossil employees to team Google.

Wear OS is definitely struggling, but it sure isn’t because of lack of trying from Fossil. The company has been churning out a whole wide variety of Wear OS devices, and they offer enough choice in design that anyone can find something they like – at acceptable price points, too.

Sadly, like any other Wear OS OEM, they’re held back by a lack of acceptable silicon, since Qualcomm has been unable to deliver a chip that’s even remotely as good as Apple’s wearable SoC.

Perhaps Google’s stewardship can address this problem.

Unity clarifies ToS changes, welcomes back “unsupported” SpatialOS

Days after a nasty public split with cloud gaming developer Improbable, Unity has reinstated the company’s license and updated its own terms of service to offer what it is calling a “commitment to being an open platform.”

“When you make a game with Unity, you own the content and you should have the right to put it wherever you want,” Unity wrote in a blog post explaining the move. “Our TOS didn’t reflect this principle—something that is not in line with who we are.”

The new terms of service allow Unity developers to integrate any third-party service into their projects, no questions asked. As a caveat, though, Unity will now distinguish between “supported” third-party services—those Unity ensures will “always [run] well on the latest version of our software”—and “unsupported” third-party services, which developers use at their own risk.

Negative publicity can definitely work.

Microsoft decouples Cortana and Search in Windows 10’s taskbar

Microsoft has released a new Windows Insider preview build, and it contains a significant chance we’re all going to be happy about.

Going forward, we’ll be decoupling Search and Cortana in the taskbar. This will enable each experience to innovate independently to best serve their target audiences and use cases. Some Insiders have had this update for a few weeks now, and we appreciate all the feedback we’ve received about it so far! For those new to this update, when it rolls out to you, you’ll find clicking the search box in the taskbar now launches our experience focused on giving you the best in house search experience and clicking the Cortana icon will launch you straight into our voice-first digital assistant experience.

Cortana is useless, and any steps Microsoft takes to get it out of my way is welcome to me.

Early Android Q build has a system-wide dark theme, permission revamp, more

The early Android Q leaked build we have obtained was built just this week with the February 2019 security patches, and it’s up-to-date with Google’s AOSP internal master. That means it has a ton of new Android platform features that you won’t find anywhere publicly, but there are no Google Pixel software customizations nor are there pre-installed Google Play apps or services so I don’t have any new information to share on those fronts. Still, there’s a lot to digest here, so we’ve flashed the build on the Pixel 3 XL to find out what’s new—both on the surface-level and under-the-hood. This article will focus on all the surface-level changes we’ve found in Android Q.

There’s a lot of good stuff in here, most notably a complete redesign of the permissions user interface, as well as even stricter limitations on what applications can do, such as only granting certain permissions while the application in question is in use. There’s also a system-wide dark mode, hints of a DeX-like desktop mode, and a lot more.