E Ink demos a folding e-reader that can also take notes

Folding smartphones are slowly making their way into the mainstream. Could foldable e-readers be next? The E Ink Corporation, the company behind the digital paper tech found in the majority of e-readers, is trying to make it happen. The firm’s R&D lab has been developing foldable e-ink screens for a while, and its latest prototype clearly demonstrates the idea’s potential.

This feels like such a natural fit for an e-reader. A foldable e-reader mimics a real book a lot more accurately than a regular portrait display does, and can potentially reduce the amount of times you have to perform a digital page flip. Still nowhere near a real book, of course, but a tiny step closer nonetheless.

Windows 10 2004’s new Hosted App Model is pretty great

Microsoft has a long history of innovations which never really went anywhere, but with the new Hosted App Model on Windows 10 the company may just have hit it out of the ballpark.

Microsoft introduced the Hosted App Model in Windows 10 2004 ie. the Windows 10 May 2020 Update, and the technology already appears set to solve a wide variety of problems for both Microsoft and end-users.

In the Hosted App Model, an app can declare itself as a host for other applications, while allowing those applications to retain their identity as independent apps.

It does seem like a neat technology.

Microsoft signals renewed interest in Windows with latest reshuffle

The Verge reports:

The software giant placed Surface chief Panos Panay in charge of Windows earlier this year, and is now reshuffling parts of that team. It follows Microsoft’s decision to slice Windows into two parts more than two years ago after the departure of former Windows chief Terry Myerson. Microsoft moved core Windows development to a cloud and AI team (Azure), and created a new group to work on Windows 10 “experiences” like apps, the Start menu, and new features.

Now, Microsoft is moving parts of Windows development back under Panos Panay’s control. Specifically, that means the Windows fundamentals and developer experience teams have been returned to what we traditionally call the Windows team. It’s an admission that the big Windows split didn’t work quite as planned. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of that with a messy development experience for Windows 10, delayed Windows updates, a lack of major new features, and lots of Windows update issues recently.

That’s a lot of reshuffling, but I wonder what the purpose of it all really is. It seems most Windows users want Windows to just be… Windows. They don’t want ‘modern’ apps forced upon them, they don’t want touch-optimised user interfaces, they don’t want application stores, and they certainly don’t want Windows anywhere else but their desktops and laptops. How much freedom to push the Windows platform forward do you really have when all users want is to run the same set of Win32 applications in perpetuity?

They’ve tried creating a version of Windows only capable of running ‘modern’ apps, and it failedtwice (and a third attempt is on the way). They tried combining the two into one with an adaptable UI – and everybody hated it. They’ve been trying to just kind of coast by on Windows 10, and as the above article notes, it’s been quite problematic. They’ve tried to put full Windows on phonestwice! – and nobody wanted that either.

What other options remain?

Next step in SSD evolution: NVMe zoned namespaces explained

In June we saw an update to the NVMe standard. The update defines a software interface to assist in actually reading and writing to the drives in a way to which SSDs and NAND flash actually works.

Instead of emulating the traditional block device model that SSDs inherited from hard drives and earlier storage technologies, the new NVMe Zoned Namespaces optional feature allows SSDs to implement a different storage abstraction over flash memory. This is quite similar to the extensions SAS and SATA have added to accommodate Shingled Magnetic Recording (SMR) hard drives, with a few extras for SSDs. ‘Zoned’ SSDs with this new feature can offer better performance than regular SSDs, with less overprovisioning and less DRAM. The downside is that applications and operating systems have to be updated to support zoned storage, but that work is well underway.

Some light reading heading into the weekend.

US to ban transactions with TikTok and WeChat in 45 days

U.S. President Donald Trump has issued executive orders to ban any U.S. transactions with WeChat, the messaging app owned by Tencent Holdings, and ByteDance, owner of TikTok, within 45 days, describing the Chinese-owned companies as threats to national security.

“The spread in the United States of mobile applications developed and owned by companies in the People’s Republic of China . . . continues to threaten the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States,” said Trump in the two executive orders signed on Thursday.

I definitely think the world should impose severe sanctions on China and western companies working with them for the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Uyghurs and other minority groups, as well as the forced labour used to make Apple computers and Nike shoes. There’s also something intuitively wrong with China blocking and censoring western applications, platforms, and media – something many western companies comply with all too eagerly – all the while expecting Chinese state-owned or state-controlled companies to have complete freedom to collect and possibly spy everywhere else.

That being said, the Trump regime is not exactly known for coherent, consistent, and well thought-out policies, and these executive orders probably have more to do with diverting attention away from the complete and utter failure of the regime’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis and the upcoming election than anything else. These orders will probably be watered down over the coming weeks, so their value in putting pressure on China will be minimal.

Two things always happen when you point out atrocities committed by China. First, people point to problems in the US in a massive case of whataboutism, as if the problems in the US excuse a genocide in China. On top of that, if you think the admittedly big problems in the US means the US is a genocidal totalitarian fascist dictatorship, your false equivalency is so false it can shatter glass for kilometres around.

Second, apologists will say something along the lines of “okay, so you have nothing made in China?” This is a silly point to make. As individual consumers, it is literally impossible to avoid products made in China or other murderous regimes – just think of where your oil comes from. No, it’s governments and large corporations that have the power to put pressure on China, and so far, they have failed hard. They’ve been letting a genocide happen under their very noses, and once again, they choose to look away, because they value money more than human lives.

It’s always a struggle to go into politics on a tech website and it almost certainly makes me impopular, but since virtually all our technology is almost entirely or partly made in China, it’s impossible to ignore it and look away. Awareness is the first step, and covering your ears and eyes won’t make the problems go away. By letting our governments and the corporations we buy from get away with choosing money over human lives – money that we ordinary people do not benefit from anyway, since most of it ends up in the pockets of the ultra-wealthy anyway – none of this will ever change.

LibreOffice 7.0 released

The LibreOffice Project announces the availability of LibreOffice 7.0, a new major release providing significant new features: support for OpenDocument Format (ODF) 1.3; Skia graphics engine and Vulkan GPU-based acceleration for better performance; and carefully improved compatibility with DOCX, XLSX and PPTX files.

A pretty major release. You can download and install it for Linux, Windows, and macOS, or wait until your Linux distribution ships it.

Microsoft cuts xCloud iOS testing early as its future on Apple devices remains unclear

Microsoft has ended its xCloud game streaming test for iOS devices today. The software giant had been testing xCloud on iOS in a very limited way over the past few months, but made it clear the service would only be launching on Android earlier this week. Microsoft had informed xCloud testers that the preview would end on September 11th, but only the Android preview will continue until next month.

[…]

The future of xCloud on iOS remains unclear and potentially out of Microsoft’s hands. The issues appear to be related, in part at least, to Apple’s rules on in-app purchases through its App Store. Apple also has strict limits on “remote desktop clients” that mean apps are only allowed to connect to a user-owned host device or game console owned by the user. Both the host device and client must be connected on a local network, too. While Microsoft could potentially work around the in-app purchase App Store policies, the remote desktop client rules are likely the bigger hurdle.

We can’t have third party services competing with Apple Arcade (remember Apple Arcade?) now, can we?

The vigilante hunting down cheaters in video games

What a guy. What a guy.

His name is Mohamed Al-Sharifi but he’s best known as GamerDoc. This 24-year-old from London is becoming an important player in the seemingly never-ending and ever-escalating cat-and-mouse game between gaming companies against hackers and cheat developers. All online games today employ advanced anti-cheat systems that monitor gamers’ computers to see if they’re running any cheats. For Valorant, Riot Games developed the Vanguard system, which runs at the kernel level. This is an integral part of the operating system that manages almost every single thing a system does. It should be one of the most highly secure parts of any computer system, and which could completely compromise a user if accessed by a hacker. Riot has drawn criticism for Vanguard for this reason, with security experts saying it’s too intrusive. But even a game with an advanced system like Vanguard has cheaters. The company banned more than 8,000 of them when the game was still in beta.

Turns out a 24-year old guy from London is more effective at fighting cheating than a deeply dangerous rootkit. I am so surprised.

Haiku makes progress on ARM port

The July activity report from the Haiku project is out, and there’s a lot of stuff in there. My favourite highlight:

kallisti5 continued work on the ARM architecture, specifically the ARM64 EFI bootloader. EFI CPU code was refactored to be architecture-specific, allowing CPU init code to be properly called, further progressing the EFI bootloader, which is now building and running.

I love the progress on ARM, since ARM seems to have a bright future – Haiku needs to be there.

Linux 5.8 released with AMD energy driver, F2FS LZO-RLE, IBM POWER10 booting

As Phoronix notes:

See our Linux 5.8 feature overview for all the exciting changes from an AMD Energy Driver for Zen/Zen2 CPUs to new F2FS compression capabilities, POWER10 CPUs starting to boot with the mainline kernel code, power management improvements, and much more. This is also the first major kernel release featuring the new inclusive terminology guidelines.

You can build it yourself, or just wait until it trickles down into your distribution of choice.

Telegram files EU antitrust complaint against Apple’s App Store

Telegram, the messaging app, has become the latest company to file a formal antitrust complaint to the EU over Apple’s App Store.

In a complaint to EU competition chief Margrethe Vestager, Telegram, which has more than 400 million users, said Apple must “allow users to have the opportunity of downloading software outside of the App Store.”

Allowing applications from outside the App Store is the bare minimum of what our governments must mandate from Apple (and other platform makers with similar restrictions). I will go several steps further: all software and firmware on devices shipping to consumers must be open source. No exceptions.

To function in a modern western society, computers – smartphone, desktop, laptop – are required. They have become a hugely important pillar of our society, and yet, our devices are controlled not by society or our governments, but by large corporations who don’t have to answer to anyone.

This is unacceptable. Access to vital parts of our society are getting more and more restricted to computers, and this means we should have the right to control them, so we can prevent people being locked out because of opaque App Store rules or foreign government interference. If all these devices are open – open source, down to the firmware – we will never be locked out by anyone.

Imagine having to file your taxes, but for some reason Apple decided to not approve the latest update to the government app you’re supposed to use and remove it from the App Store. Is that the future we should want?

How Google is bringing Windows apps to Chromebooks

Google revealed earlier this year that it’s planning to support Windows applications on Chromebooks thanks to a partnership with Parallels. It’s a collaboration that will see a full version of Windows boot inside Chrome OS, providing businesses the option to run existing desktop apps on Google’s range of lightweight Chromebook devices. In an exclusive interview with The Verge, Google is now detailing how and why Windows apps are arriving on Chrome OS.

Google wants to give you access to Windows apps when you really need them, as a hop in and out experience. “The analogy I give is that yes, the world is all state of the art and Dolby Atmos home theaters, but every once in a while you do have that old wedding video on a VHS that you need to get to,” says Cyrus Mistry, group product manager for Chrome OS. “We want to make sure you have that option [for Windows apps] as well… so that every once in a while you’ll be able to get that when you need it, but we don’t want that to be the world you’re living in.”

This feels very much like a stopgap measure designed specifically for enterprises relying on old internal Win32 applications. For employees of such companies, Chromebooks – or anything that isn’t Windows – simply isn’t an option, but this might fix that.

Still, I doubt this will perform great.

Microsoft is reportedly in talks to buy TikTok’s US operations

Amid reports that President Donald Trump plans to order TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell the social-media app’s US operations, Microsoft has emerged as a potential buyer.

I would think there are a lot bigger fish to fry when it comes to Chinese interests controlling western corporations, such as Apple, which is all but a Chinese company at this point, or the influence of Tencent, which has stakes in countless western companies.

Nvidia is reportedly in ‘advanced talks’ to buy ARM for more than $32 billion

SoftBank has been rumored to be exploring a sale of ARM — the British chip designer that powers nearly every major mobile processor from companies like Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, and Huawei — and now, it might have found a buyer. Nvidia is reportedly in “advanced talks” to buy ARM in a deal worth over $32 billion, according to Bloomberg.

Nvidia is said to be the only company that’s involved in concrete discussions with SoftBank for the purchase at this time, and a deal could arrive “in the next few weeks,” although nothing is finalized yet. If the deal does go through, it would be one of the largest deals ever in the computer chip business and would likely draw intense regulatory scrutiny.

It’s not the worst option.

Upcoming review: something POWERful

I’ve got a very special piece of hardware coming my way for review: a Blackbird Secure Desktop from Raptor Computing Systems. The Blackbird is a desktop PC with an IBM POWER9 processor that is open source from top to its very bottom – no firmware blobs, no management engines, no proprietary BIOS.

As the product page details:

The Blackbird™ mainboard is an affordable, owner-controllable, desktop and entry server level mainboard. Built around the IBM POWER9 processor, and leveraging Linux and OpenPOWER™ technology, Blackbird™ allows you to secure your data without sacrificing performance. Designed with a fully owner-controlled CPU domain, you can audit and modify any portion of the open source firmware on the Blackbird™ mainboard, all the way down to the CPU microcode. This is an unprecedented level of access for any modern desktop-class machine, and one that is increasingly needed to assure safety and compliance with new regulations, such as the EU’s GDPR.

I don’t yet know what exact specifications my review unit will have, but I’m assuming it’ll be the base model that has the 4-core POWER9 processor with SMT4 (4-way multithreading). I do know it’ll come with an AMD Radeon Pro WX4100 LP, which will be the only piece of hardware requiring card-side proprietary firmware (but it’s optional, since the mainboard itself has basic open source graphics capability too).

I don’t usually do this, but there’s a first thing for everything, so here we go: do any of you have any questions about this exotic hardware you want me to try and answer? Specific things to look into? I’ll also be able to ask some questions to Raptor’s CTO, so there’s a lot of opportunity to get some serious answers.

I’ll try to take as many suggestions into account as I can. The current estimated delivery date is 6 August, so expect the actual review in late August or early September. Also I’m sorry for the title pun.

M2OS: RTOS with simple tasking support for small microcontrollers

M2OS is a small Real-Time Operating System that allows running multitasking applications in small microcontrollers with scarce memory resources.

M2OS implements a simple scheduling policy based on non-preemptive one-shot tasks which requires a very small memory footprint. Moreover, with this scheduling policy the same stack area can be used by all the tasks and, consequently, the system only needs to allocate a stack area large enough to fit the largest task stack.

It’s quite rare we find an operating system that’s actually never been mentioned on ONSews before. To be fair, it’s only been around since March of this year and it’s highly niche, but still.

Tech CEOs invoke the American Dream to obscure the nightmare they created

During Wednesday’s congressional antitrust hearing, the CEOs of Apple, Amazon, Google, and Facebook used their opening statements to try and paint themselves—and their companies—as uniquely American success stories with humble origins, heart-warming anecdotes, and impactful lessons for the American people.

[…]

While these CEOs talked a lot about America and its possibilities, and how their companies and even personal histories embody it, it is undeniable that their actions are undermining what they claim to celebrate.

It was sad display.

You can now debug programs using GDB on Redox OS

Now, the reason for not finishing is that I’m basically done! That’s right, GDB has served us reliably for the past few weeks, where we’ve been able to debug our dynamic linker (ld.so) and find problems with shared libraries. We got to the point where the amazing @bjorn3 has managed to run his first rust program compiled on Redox using his rustc cranelift backend!

While obviously we would’ve found the bugs without gdb eventually, I’d love to attribute enough credit to it that it warrants being posted here!

Redox OS is an operating system written in Rust.