Updated Debian 10: 10.2 released

The Debian project is pleased to announce the second update of its stable distribution Debian 10 (codename buster). This point release mainly adds corrections for security issues, along with a few adjustments for serious problems. Security advisories have already been published separately and are referenced where available.

Debian users probably already have this installed, because Debian package management is awesome and you can pry APT from my cold, dead hands and yes I’m totally biased when I say that APT is massively better than any of its alternatives.

Sue me.

Writing userspace USB drivers for abandoned devices

I recently found some USB devices on eBay (Epiphan VGA2USB LR) that could take VGA as input and present the output as a webcam. Given that I was keen on the idea of not needing to lug out a VGA monitor ever again and there was claimed Linux support I took the risk and bought the whole job lot for about £20 (25 USD).

When they arrived, I plugged one in under the expectation that it would come up as USB UVC Devices but they did not. Was I missing something?

Turns out that he was, and that was the start of a rather wild ride.

Developer runs Windows 10 IoT Core on a graphing calculator

An independent developer has managed to hack a Calculator to run Windows 10 operating system, but it’s not a basic or scientific calculator that we normally use. According to the photos, the device is actually the HP’s Prime Graphing Calculator which comes with a touch screen interface, and good industrial design.

The photos shared by the developer Ben shows off Windows 10 IoT (Internet of Things) edition running on the HP Prime Graphing Calculator.

Perhaps not the most useful hack in the world, but still very cool.

Supreme Court agrees to review disastrous ruling on API copyrights

Ars Technica reports:

The Supreme Court has agreed to review one of the decade’s most significant software copyright decisions: last year’s ruling by an appeals court that Google infringed Oracle’s copyrights when Google created an independent implementation of the Java programming language.

The 2018 ruling by the Federal Circuit appeals court “will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs,” Google wrote in its January petition to the Supreme Court.

In a sane world, this idiotic ruling would be overturned and Larry Ellison cries in his huge pile of money. Sadly, this world is far from sane, so this could really go either way.

The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X review: 16 cores on 7nm with PCIe 4.0

Deciding between building a mainstream PC and a high-end desktop has historically been very clear cut: if budget is a concern, and you’re interested in gaming, then typically a user looks to the mainstream. Otherwise, if a user is looking to do more professional high-compute work, then they look at the high-end desktop. Over the course of AMD’s recent run of high-core count Ryzen processors that line has blurred. This year, that line has disappeared. Even in 2016, mainstream CPUs used to top out at four cores: today they now top out at sixteen.

Does anyone need sixteen cores? Yes.

Does everyone need sixteen cores? No.

Do I want sixteen cores? Yes.

1Password takes 200 million in venture capital

I wanted to be the first one to tell you: I’m incredibly proud to announce that we’ve partnered with Accel to help 1Password continue the amazing growth and success we’ve seen over the past 14 years. Accel will be investing USD$200 million for a minority stake in 1Password. Along with the investment – their largest initial investment in their 35-year history – Accel brings the experience and expertise we need to grow further and faster.

I use 1Password, and I’m deeply skeptical of venture capital investments like these. 1Password has been profitable since its founding, so this investment is not a make-or-break kind of thing, which makes me worried about the future. Password managers require a lot of trust from their users, and trust is not something I give to venture capitalists.

Microsoft is working to bring 64-bit Intel app emulation to Windows on ARM

With Microsoft’s launch of the Surface Pro X last week, questions were once again raised about the apps that can run on it. The answer is that like any Windows 10 on ARM PC, it can run native ARM (ARM and ARM64) apps, and it can run emulated 32-bit Intel (x86) apps. This leaves out 64-bit Intel (AMD64, or x64) apps, so if you want an app that’s only available in an x64 flavor, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Photoshop Elements, you can’t use it.

That’s going to change though. Speaking with several sources, I can confirm that Microsoft is indeed working on bringing x64 app emulation to Windows on ARM. When that will happen is a bit more unclear, but it seems like it could be in Windows 10 21H1, which would mean that the general public will have access to it in the first half of 2021, and Windows Insiders will be able to test it out next year.

Developing tools and technologies like this always carries an inherent risk – if it’s slow and cumbersome, people will complain and won’t want to use your operating system. If it’s fast and seamless, however, developers have little to no incentive to develop native ARM64 applications for Windows on ARM. That’s a fine line to tread, and definitely something Microsoft will have issues with.

On a related note, the ARM64 version of Microsoft’s new Edge browser has been released.

Windows 10 to disallow WEP encryption

Microsoft is planning to remove WEP encryption from Windows 10.

Since the 1903 release, a warning message has appeared when connecting to Wi-Fi networks secured with WEP or TKIP (which are not as secure as those using WPA2 or WPA3). In a future release, any connection to a Wi-Fi network using these old ciphers will be disallowed. Wi-Fi routers should be updated to use AES ciphers, available with WPA2 or WPA3.

WEP is very old – it entered the scene in 1997 – and was cracked in 2001. It’s incredibly easy to crack, so it only makes sense to remove this outdated feature from Windows.

Apple debuts new MacBook Pro with working keyboard

The updated 16-inch MacBook Pro features a larger display with slimmer bezels than the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which it has replaced in Apple’s notebook lineup. The display has a resolution of 3072×1920 pixels with up to 500 nits of brightness.

The notebook features an updated “Magic Keyboard” that does away with the unpopular butterfly mechanism, returning instead to a more reliable scissor mechanism with 1mm key travel, along with Intel’s latest 9th-generation processors with up to 8 cores. It also has up to 64GB of RAM and up to 8TB of SSD storage.

Above the keyboard, the Touch Bar lives on, but the 16-inch MacBook Pro marks the return of a physical Esc key. In line with the latest MacBook Air, the Touch ID sensor has also been separated from the Touch Bar.

It took them 4 years, but Apple finally remembered how to make a keyboard. Aside from the new MacBook Pro, Apple also announced the new Mac Pro will be available in December.

BBC feature on Terry Davis of TempleOS

When a homeless man was accidentally killed by a train on the 11/08/18 in The Dalles, Oregon, no one realised how many people it would effect. The man was a computer programmer called Terry Davis and he was on a mission from God.

He’d designed an entire operating system called Temple OS and according to Terry its creation had been a direct instruction from God himself. As a fellow programmer explained it, ‘you can imagine how over time one man might build a house, but this is like building a sky scraper, on your own!’ And this was all done while Terry battled a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

Aleks Krotoski searches the emails, web posts and live streams to piece together the life of a remarkable individual who’s work touched so many and is now celebrated not just as a technological achievement but an artistic one.

Davis’ story was a sad one, and partially intertwined with OSNews and the crew here. His behaviour meant we eventually had to ban him from the site, but even after that, then-OSNews editor Kroc Kamen worked with him for an OSNews article.

Tearing apart printf()

If ‘Hello World’ is the first program for C students, then printf() is probably the first function. I’ve had to answer questions about printf() many times over the years, so I’ve finally set aside time for an informal writeup. The common questions fit roughly in to two forms:

Easy: How does printf mechanically solve the format problem?
Complex: How does printf actually display text on my console?

My usual answer? “Just open up stdio.h and track it down”

This wild goose chase is not only a great learning experience, but also an interesting test for the dedicated beginner. Will they come back with an answer? If so, how detailed is it? What IS a good answer?

This is incredibly detailed and definitely over my head, but I’m sure many of you will enjoy this one greatly.

Google’s secret ‘Project Nightingale’ gathers personal health data on millions of Americans

Google is teaming with one of the country’s largest health-care systems on a secret project to collect and crunch the detailed personal health information of millions of Americans across 21 states, according to people familiar with the matter and internal documents.

[…]

The data involved in Project Nightingale includes lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, complete with patient names and dates of birth.

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter.

There’s a lot of money to be made in healthcare, and it was only a matter of time before creepy technology companies like Google would want a piece of this pie – through massive amounts of personal information.

Technically, this is all above board, though. It’s fully within federal regulations and laws, so this practice is unlikely to stop.

Viral tweet about Apple Card leads to Goldman Sachs probe

A Wall Street regulator is opening a probe into Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s credit card practices after a viral tweet from a tech entrepreneur alleged gender discrimination in the new Apple Card’s algorithms when determining credit limits.

A series of posts from David Heinemeier Hansson starting Thursday railed against the Apple Card for giving him 20 times the credit limit that his wife got. The tweets, many of which contain profanity, immediately gained traction online, even attracting comment from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Hansson didn’t disclose any specific income-related information for either of them but said they filed joint tax returns and that his wife has a better credit score than he does.

The whole Twitter thread by David Heinemeier Hansson is an exercise in inflexible bureaucracy and an unshakable belief in the black box algorithm that nobody even seems to understand. Bias in algorithms is a real problem, and it will only become a bigger problem as they become more and more important in every aspect of our society.

IBM, sonic delay lines, and the history of the 80×24 display

What explains the popularity of terminals with 80×24 and 80×25 displays? A recent blog post “80×25” motivated me to investigate this. The source of 80-column lines is clearly punch cards, as commonly claimed. But why 24 or 25 lines? There are many theories, but I found a simple answer: IBM, in particular its dominance of the terminal market. In 1971, IBM introduced a terminal with an 80×24 display (the 3270) and it soon became the best-selling terminal, forcing competing terminals to match its 80×24 size. The display for the IBM PC added one more line to its screen, making the 80×25 size standard in the PC world. The impact of these systems remains decades later: 80-character lines are still a standard, along with both 80×24 and 80×25 terminal windows.

As noted, a follow-up to our earlier discussion.

What happened if you tried to access a network file bigger than 2GB from MS-DOS?

One of my friends is into retrocomputing, and he wondered what happened on MS-DOS if you asked it to access a file on a network share that was bigger than what FAT16 could express.

My friend was under the mistaken impression that when MS-DOS accessed a network resource, it was the sector access that was remoted. Under this model, MS-DOS would still open the boot sector, look for the FAT, parse it, then calculate where the directories were, read them directly from the network hard drive, and write raw data directly to the network hard drive.

This is not how it works.

Raymond Chen is an international treasure.

AMD Q4: 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X, Threadripper up to 32-Core 3970X

AMD is set to close out the year on a high note. As promised, the company will be delivering its latest 16-core Ryzen 9 3950X processor, built with two 7nm TSMC chiplets, to the consumer platform for $749. Not only this, but AMD today has lifted the covers on its next generation Threadripper platform, which includes Zen 2-based chiplets, a new socket, and an astounding 4x increase in CPU-to-chipset bandwidth.

At this point it’s starting to feel like kicking Intel when they’re down.

Bill Gates: everyone would be using Windows Mobile instead of Android if not for the US antitrust investigation

Gates said that he has no “doubt the antitrust lawsuit was bad for Microsoft” as the company would have otherwise focused more on developing the mobile operating system. The lawsuit ended up distracting him away from Windows Mobile and he ultimately “screwed that up“.

He also said that Microsoft was “three months too late on a release” that would have been used by Motorola on a smartphone. While he did not provide the specifics, it is possible that Gates is referring to the iconic Motorola Droid which launched with Android and made consumers in the US notice the OS thanks to the heavy marketing push from Verizon and Motorola.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this is actually quite close to reality. Had Verizon and an – at the time – influential phone makers like Motorola with its Droid phone and all the marketing blitz that accompanied it opted for a Microsoft product, I wouldn’t be so sure Android would’ve gotten the head start that it did.

Microsoft Edge is officially coming to Linux soon

It looks like Microsoft could finally bring Chromium-powered Edge, the revamped browser with dark mode and a set of exciting features to Linux.

Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser specifically built for Linux is being actively developed, and the development was confirmed at the Ignite conference. As shown in the screenshot of a slide from Ignite session, Microsoft Edge is listed as a compatible software for Linux.

I wonder if Microsoft will do the legwork to ensure proper integration with GNOME, KDE, and others.

Intel Performance Strategy Team publishing intentionally misleading benchmarks

Today something happened that many may not have seen. Intel published a set of benchmarks showing its advantage of a dual Intel Xeon Platinum 9282 system versus the AMD EPYC 7742. Vendors present benchmarks to show that their products are good from time-to-time. There is one difference in this case: we checked Intel’s work and found that they presented a number to intentionally mislead would-be buyers as to the company’s relative performance versus AMD.

Intel is desperate, and it’s really starting to show.

Linux 5.5 to add support for SGI Octane I, Octane II workstations

The Linux 5.5 kernel due out as stable in early 2020 will finally have mainline support for the MIPS-powered SGI Octane and Octane II workstations that originally ran with SGI’s IRIX operating system about two decades ago.

There have been out-of-tree patches for running Linux on the SGI Octane MIPS-based systems while Linux 5.5 is set to finally have this support mainlined for these two decade old workstations should you still be running the hardware and looking for something else besides IRIX or support in other platforms like OpenBSD. Mind you, these workstations were already succeeded by the SGI Octane III a decade ago with Intel x86.

Better late than never.