Moving Firefox to a faster 4-week release cycle

And today we’re excited to announce that we’re moving to a four-week release cycle! We’re adjusting our cadence to increase our agility, and bring you new features more quickly. In recent quarters, we’ve had many requests to take features to market sooner. Feature teams are increasingly working in sprints that align better with shorter release cycles. Considering these factors, it is time we changed our release cadence.

I’ve been incredibly satisfied with Firefox for a long time now, and aside from a few hiccups along the way, I trust the team to handle a faster release cycle just fine.

Richard Stallman resigns from FSF, MIT after defending child rape

Richard Stallman has resigned as president of and from the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation. The move comes after several reports on deeply inappropriate behaviour towards women, as well as a spirited defense of convicted child trafficker and child rapist Jeffrey Epstein. Stallman defended Marvin Minsky, an AI pioneer accused of raping one of Epstein’s trafficked children, by basically saying that since the underage child was forced by Epstein, Minsky wasn’t at fault for raping an underage child.

Early in the thread, Stallman insists that the “most plausible scenario” is that Epstein’s underage victims were “entirely willing” while being trafficked. Stallman goes on to argue about the definition of “sexual assault,” “rape,” and whether they apply to Minsky and Giuffre’s deposition statement that she was forced to have sex with him.

In response to a student pointing out that Giuffre was 17 when she was forced to have sex with Minsky in the Virgin Islands, Stallman said “it is morally absurd to define ‘rape’ in a way that depends on minor details such as which country it was in or whether the victim was 18 years old or 17.”

Stallman has a history of defending child rape, so perhaps this shouldn’t come as a surprise. On top of all this, there’s a long list of problematic behaviour towards women.

Today, a notice on the Free Software Foundation website announced his resignation, after he left MIT yesterday, too.

On September 16, 2019, Richard M. Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation, resigned as president and from its board of directors.

The board will be conducting a search for a new president, beginning immediately. Further details of the search will be published on fsf.org.

Good riddance to bad people. We’ve always known Stallman had some seriously disturbing ideas, but I had no idea they went this far and this deep. This is for the better of the Free software community as a whole.

PineTime is a $25 smartwatch/companion for PinePhone Linux phone

We’ve recently seen Linux smartphones are coming in a few weeks or months, but the $150 PinePhone may not come alone, and soon be joined by a $25 companion, namely PineTime smartwatch.

That’s what we learned through a tweet by Pine64 explaining the PineTime is a Linux smartphone companion that can run FreeRTOS or Arm Mbed operating systems. It will be a side-project however, and the focus is still on PinePhone and Pinebook Pro, meaning it will take a while depending on the level of community engagement.

Thanks in part due to easy access to Chinese OEMs, there’s a lot of interesting working going in building and shipping consumer-oriented devices like smartphones and smartwatches running Linux that isn’t Android – which only a few short years ago would’ve required massive funding and seemed like pipe dreams.

While these devices may not be as fast or polished as an Android device or iPhone, they are starting to form a viable option for people who truly value open source.

Amazon changed search algorithm in ways that boost its own products

Amazon.com has adjusted its product-search system to more prominently feature listings that are more profitable for the company, said people who worked on the project—a move, contested internally, that could favor Amazon’s own brands.

Late last year, these people said, Amazon optimized the secret algorithm that ranks listings so that instead of showing customers mainly the most-relevant and best-selling listings when they search—as it had for more than a decade—the site also gives a boost to items that are more profitable for the company.

Might I also point out that Amazon is cutting the healthcare benefits of Whole Foods temporary workers while Jeff Bezos earns about 1300 dollar per second?

Ethics aren’t exactly high on tech companies’ agendas.

Linux 5.3 released

Linux 5.3 has been released.

This release includes support for AMD Navi GPUs; support for the umwait x86 instructions that let processes wait for short amounts of time without spinning loops; a ‘utilization clamping’ mechanism that is used to boost interactivity on power-asymmetric CPUs used in phones; a new pidfd_open(2) system call that completes the work done to let users deal with the PID reuse problem; 16 millions of new IPv4 addresses in the 0.0.0.0/8 range are made available; support for Zhaoxin x86 CPUs; support Intel Speed Select for easier power selection in Xeon servers; and support for the lightweight hypervisor ACRN, built for embedded IoT devices.

As always, many other new drivers and improvements can be found in the changelog.

Volkswagen’s bold plan to create a new car operating system

Eventually, that’s going to mean a single software stack common across VW Group’s vehicles—everything from the instrument displays and the infotainment to powertrain and chassis management (think traction and stability control or advanced driver assistance systems), plus a common connected car infrastructure and cloud. However, each brand will still get to develop its own UX in the same way that Porsche and Audi can build very different-looking vehicles from the same MLB Evo toolbox.

They’re going to base it on Android, but without much of the Google parts because of privacy concerns (i.e., VW wants that data for itself, not share it with Google). And, as always in the car world, it will be many, many years before this initiative will make its way to VW Group’s cars – the unit won’t be fully staffed until 2025.

KaiOS Developer Portal launches to help programmers create apps for the platform

With the launch of the KaiOS Developer Portal, developers new to the platform have all of the tools they need to begin building and distributing apps for KaiOS. The guide can help you get a feel for things with sample code, there are instructions for setting up your development environment, and there’s an easy to set up simulator that lets you run your app virtually to ensure everything is working.

KaiOS is used by more than 100 million people, so there’s definitely value in taking a look if you’re a mobile developer.

Sorry Apple, iPhones aren’t for pro video

The Twitter tirade started after we saw yet another “Apple Blue Line Bar Graph Better Than Android Gray Line Benchmark”. The A12 is more powerful than any Android, and the A13 will beat that!

But here’s the problem.

I truly believe Apple chips are silly powerful, but for the last four years, Apple really hasn’t let us touch that power. I shared my rendering experiences again, comparing the iPhone XS against the iPhone SE. In iMove, the iPhone SE continues to render video faster than the XS.

[…]

Rendering the same video, the OnePlus is a LOT faster at the task than the more expensive XS. The OnePlus also delivers a final video at twice the bitrate of the iPhone (which does look better to my eye). Better quality, twice the size, in two thirds the time.

The common wisdom is that Apple’s A series chips are considerably faster than their Snapdragon counterparts, and I, too, have highlighted that wisdom here on OSNews a number of times.

However, if we leave the world of synthetic benchmarks and Apple’s terrible bar graphs behind and start looking at real-world performance, the common wisdom doesn’t seem to hold up. When even an outdated iPhone SE beats another iPhone that’s years newer and four times as expensive, you know something’s up.

Performance is more complicated than a synthetic benchmark that can be gamed or Apple’s entirely meaningless bar graphs.

GNOME 3.34 released

The latest version of GNOME 3 has been released today. Version 3.34 contains six months of work by the GNOME community and includes many improvements, performance improvements and new features.

Highlights from this release include visual refreshes for a number of applications, including the desktop itself. The background selection settings also received a redesign, making it easier to select custom backgrounds.

They have a video highlighting the changes too.

The iPhone and Apple’s services strategy

Ben Thompson, on Apple’s services strategy:

Apple also adjusted their AppleCare+ terms yesterday: now you can subscribe monthly and AppleCare+ will carry on until you cancel, just as other Apple services like Apple Music or Apple Arcade do. The company already has the iPhone Upgrade Program, that bundles a yearly iPhone and AppleCare+, but this shift for AppleCare+ purchased on its own is another step towards assuming that Apple’s relationship with its customers will be a subscription-based one.

To that end, how long until there is a variant of the iPhone Upgrade Program that is simply an all-up Apple subscription? Pay one monthly fee, and get everything Apple has to offer. Indeed, nothing would show that Apple is a Services company more than making the iPhone itself a service, at least as far as the customer relationship goes. You might even say it is innovative.

in a way, iPhones already work this way; you don’t really own your iPhone, as it is entirely locked down and not yours to do with as you please. The financing aspect of the equation seems to also be falling in place now, and I indeed wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple offer the described iPhone leasing program over the coming years.

Every iPad wants to be a Surface now

“Netbooks aren’t better at anything,” joked Steve Jobs when he stood on stage nearly 10 years ago to introduce the first iPad. Apple’s original vision for its tablet was for a new category of device that was focused on browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and ebooks. “If there’s going to be a third category of device it’s going to have to be better at these kinds of tasks than a laptop or a smartphone, otherwise it has no reason for being,” said Jobs.

It wasn’t a giant iPhone, nor was it a full laptop replacement. The iPad has always been something in-between for nearly a decade, but now every iPad wants to be a Surface.

The Surface concept has always been a sound concept for many people – it’s the software that’s always been an issue, and will continue to be an issue for a long time to come. Windows is too much of a desktop, and iPadOS is too much of a smartphone operating system. Our software is lagging behind the hardware.

LG set to demonstrate new system that combines webOS IVI and Microsoft’s MCVP

LG has announced that it will demonstrate a new system that integrates its webOS Auto In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system with Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform (MCVP). By combining webOS Auto and MCVP, the In-Vehicle Infotainment system will be able to collect and transmit data about the driver status, door status, and app usage.

I can’t decide whether it’s sad or great that webOS has managed to find a second, third or even fourth life as an operating system for cars. I do wonder, though, how much of this platform is really webOS – webOS was basically a badly optimised and cobbled together Linux distribution, and I’m assuming very little of what we would recognise as webOS remains in LG’s current automotive and television platforms.

Haiku monthly activity report for Augustus

Haiku’s monthly activity report for August has been published, and it’s a big one, so I urge you to read the whole report for all the details on what’s changed, fixed, and new in Haiku over the past month. There should be something for everyone in there.

My personal favourite little tidbit is this one, though.

Pascal Abresch got the first part of his work to handle “media” keys (play, pause, and other additional keys) recognized by Haiku. The PS/2 driver has been adjusted, but adding all these new keys to the keymap means we now have more than 128 possible keys, which the BeOS keymap format does not allow. So we will need a new one, and this will break compatibility with old apps using the keymap directly (as the API allows).

I don’t know why, exactly, this fascinates me so much, but I like the mental image of one of the original BeOS developers, coding for Hobbit development boards, writing the code for keyboard handling, deciding upon the 128 key limit being enough for a long time to come.

If only they knew.

50 states and territories launch massive joint probe into Google

You thought Google would escape my ire today, didn’t you?

A coalition of attorneys general representing 50 US states and territories today announced a long-awaited joint probe into antitrust complaints against one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Google.

The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is spearheading the bipartisan investigation, which is beginning with the search and digital advertising markets. Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” Paxton told reporters during a press conference.

Is anybody surprised by this? Google’s dominance in search is bad enough as it is, but the company’s real monopolistic power comes not from search, but from its more nebulous online advertising business. It’s not nearly as sexy as App Store manipulation or bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, but it’s just as potentially detrimental to the overall market as they are.

Apple, Foxconn broke a Chinese labor law to build latest iPhones

Apple Inc. and manufacturing partner Foxconn violated a Chinese labor rule by using too many temporary staff in the world’s largest iPhone factory, the companies confirmed following a report that also alleged harsh working conditions.

The claims came from China Labor Watch, which issued the report ahead of an Apple event on Tuesday to announce new iPhones. The non-profit advocacy group investigates conditions in Chinese factories, and says it has uncovered other alleged labor rights violations by Apple partners in the past.

We all know how this tune goes: Apple will claim once again it’s going to fix the issue with a sternly worded letter to Foxconn, nothing will change, and a year from now we’ll have another report of even more violations. It’s as routine as the September iPhone event.

Of course, Apple could, you know, use some of its 245 billion dollar stuffed in offshore tax havens to improve the lives of the people building its fancy gadgets, but that would imply a sense of morals and values that we know by now Apple simply lacks.

How Apple stacked the App Store with its own products

Top spots in App Store search results are some of the most fought over real estate in the online economy. The store generated more than $50 billion in sales last year, and the company said two-thirds of app downloads started with a search.

But as Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia.

Apple’s apps have ranked first recently for at least 700 search terms in the store, according to a New York Times analysis of six years of search results compiled by Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. Some searches produced as many as 14 Apple apps before showing results from rivals, the analysis showed. (Though competitors could pay Apple to place ads above the Apple results.)

The data from The Times’ analysis are clear-cut and quite damning, and just goes to show how easy it is for companies like Apple to effectively shut out competitors simply by artificially pushing their own applications in their own walled-garden operating system. This is the kind of behaviour that net you antritrust complaints.

Of course, you can pay Apple to be the top search result in the App Store. That sounds suspiciously like that other “shakedown” Apple bloggers were complaining about only a few days ago. I’m curious to see how – as always – Apple is somehow a special snowflake to whom different rules apply.

Android 10: the Ars Technica review

Despite the change, Android 10 brings a lot of tasty, frequently user-requested changes to Android. The OS is finally getting a dark mode, the share menu is getting revamped, and gesture navigation has seen huge improvements over the half-baked version introduced in Android 9. Developers have a host of new APIs to play with, including support for upcoming foldable smartphones, floating app “Bubbles,” and a new, more generalized biometrics API. And on top of all that, there’s a host of changes to work around, like considerations for the new gesture navigation system and new app restrictions focused on privacy and security. Even the notification panel is getting a fresh injection of artificial intelligence, and of course there are new emoji.

The under-the-hood work on Android modularity continues, as always, with Android 10. This year “Project Mainline” is the highlighted engineering effort. This initiative creates a new, more powerful file type for system-level code, and it sees several chunks of functionality move out of the difficult-to-update core OS and into the Play Store, where they will get monthly updates. There’s new dual boot functionality, too, which will allow curious users to quickly switch between retail and beta builds of Android.

As has become Ars tradition, we will be covering every single change in excruciating detail. So even if Google is ditching the snack theme, you may want to grab your own snack before diving in to the following 20,000+ words of Android 10 intel.

Always a worthy read. Get some coffee or tea, sit down and relax, and read.