To break Google’s monopoly on search, make its index public

Fortunately, there is a simple way to end the company’s monopoly without breaking up its search engine, and that is to turn its “index”—the mammoth and ever-growing database it maintains of internet content—into a kind of public commons.

There is precedent for this both in law and in Google’s business practices. When private ownership of essential resources and services—water, electricity, telecommunications, and so on—no longer serves the public interest, governments often step in to control them. One particular government intervention is especially relevant to the Big Tech dilemma: the 1956 consent decree in the U.S. in which AT&T agreed to share all its patents with other companies free of charge. As tech investor Roger McNamee and others have pointed out, that sharing reverberated around the world, leading to a significant increase in technological competition and innovation.

This is an interesting proposition. I don’t know if this will increase competition in any meaningful way, or if it’ll just lead to a shift in power from Google to the other major technology companies without really creating opportunities for newcomers, but it’s certainly yet another proposal on how to deal with the ever growing power these companies wield.

How US tech giants are helping to build China’s surveillance state

The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently.

Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people.

IBM, of course, has always been perfectly fine with aiding in and profiting from genocide, so it’s not really surprising that the company jumped at the chance to aid the totalitarian Chinese regime’s genocide against the Uhgurs. Google’s involvement may be slightly more surprising since the company has no real presence in China, but I don’t think anyone should be shocked.

Many western companies choose profits over ethics in China, such as Apple, who aides the Chinese dictatorship’s massive surveillance state by handing over all Chinese Apple user’s iCloud data to the Chinese government. Since such anti-privacy measures are legally mandated in China, you can safely assume that any western technology company active in China is just as guilty as IBM, Google, and Apple.

40 years later, lessons from the rise and quick decline of the first ‘killer app’

Remember VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet? Today’s tech giants do, and that is why they buy up and invest in potential competitive threats.

It was the first killer app, the spark for Apple’s early success and a trigger for the broader PC boom that vaulted Microsoft to its central position in business computing. And within a few years, it was tech-industry roadkill.

Many silicon valley startups basically have only one purpose these days: flaunt their ideas in front of the tech giants, and hope VC funding doesn’t run dry before one of them buys them. They’re not building sustainable businesses; they’re building a corporate advertorials.

Pete’s QBasic site

QBasic lives!

QBasic is an old-school, vintage programming language that was designed for beginners. QBasic ran on MS-DOS, and was a more advanced version of BASIC. QB was a lot of people’s first foray into programming (particularly those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s). Therefore, a lot of people look back at QBasic with nostalgia.

QBasic is one of the very few programming languages I actually ever even used – back when i was a very young kid – so I do have some faint nostalgia for it. Great to see such a dedicated community keeping it alive.

One player spent 10 years exploring every corner of Eve Online

Eve Online is unique among spacefaring games — not just for its complexity, but for its structure. The galaxy of New Eden is composed of nearly 8,000 star systems, each one placed into the virtual firmament by the hand of its creators at CCP Games. Some are easy to find, while others are hidden.

Few players have actually visited all of New Eden’s known star systems. Fewer still have visited the thousands more that are hidden from view. But only one has visited all of them without losing a single starship. The journey took 10 long years.

That’s quite an amazing achievement, especially considering Eve Online is incredibly boring.

AmigaOS 3.1.4.1 released

Hyperion Entertainment CVBA is pleased to announced the immediate availability of AmigaOS 3.1.4.1 as a free update to AmigaOS 3.1.4 released in September 2018.

Since then, some bugs were found and functionality reviewed. We are therefore providing updates that address those issues in order to improve the user experience and also added more workarounds to improve compatibility with some oddly behaving programs.

A small bugfix release for the operating system that never dies.

Debian 10 “buster” released

In this release, GNOME defaults to using the Wayland display server instead of Xorg. Wayland has a simpler and more modern design, which has advantages for security. However, the Xorg display server is still installed by default and the default display manager allows users to choose Xorg as the display server for their next session.

Thanks to the Reproducible Builds project, over 91% of the source packages included in Debian 10 will build bit-for-bit identical binary packages. This is an important verification feature which protects users against malicious attempts to tamper with compilers and build networks. Future Debian releases will include tools and metadata so that end-users can validate the provenance of packages within the archive.

Debian forms the bedrock under many popular distributions, so any new Debian release is a major milestone, and will eventually find its way, in one form or another, to many Linux users’ computers.

Facebook’s $5 billion FTC fine is an embarrassing joke

Facebook’s stock went up after news of a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine for various privacy violations broke today.

That, as the New York Times’ Mike Isaac points out, is the real story here: the United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook’s long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook’s stock price went up.

Facebook was one of the most important tools that Russia used to interfere in the US presidential elections. Do you really think that the regime profiting from said interference is going to punish their golden ticket?

Microsoft discreetly drops ‘telemetry’ as part of larger ‘security cumulative update’ for Windows 7

Microsoft appears to have once again attempted to sneak telemetry components. The company released security updates for all supported operating systems on the July 2019 Patch Day. However, this month’s cumulative updates, which were supposed to contain only security-related components, contain an unexpected compatibility/telemetry component.

The suspicious components were hidden in plain sight. Incidentally, this is the second time Microsoft has attempted to insert telemetry components. However, during the first attempt the Windows OS maker had openly mentioned the inclusion of the telemetry components, whereas this time, the company didn’t offer any indication. This methodology appears to an attempt to garner more accurate data about usage and installation patterns of the Windows operating system as Microsoft will soon phase out Windows 7.

People sticking with Windows 7 are a potential gold mine for Microsoft, so from the company’s perspective, it makes perfect sense to try and collect as much data about Windows 7 users as possible. Such data will help them determine what the best approach would be to get these users to upgrade.

If such telemetry collection is opt-in, then I see no problem with it. Sneaking it in as part of a security update, however, is downright scummy.

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 review

So how does AMD’s first example of RDNA stack up? For AMD and for consumers it’s much needed progress. To be sure, the Radeon RX 5700 series cards are not going to be Turing killers. But they are competitive in price, performance, and power consumption – the all-important trifecta that AMD has trailed NVIDIA at for too many years now.

AMD’s new graphics cards have already managed to do what has been sorely needed for a long time now: they’ve forced NVIDIA to lower prices and release new cards sooner than they otherwise would’ve.

This is why competition is so important.

Windows 10 20H1 build hints at old Microsoft Edge removal

According to an entry in Windows 10 20H1 Build 18936, Microsoft has started working on a new change that would hide the legacy Edge browser when ChromiumEdge is installed. A new entry titled ‘HideUwpEdgeFromAppListIfWin32EdgePresent’ has been spotted in Windows 10 20H1 and the function could be enabled with third-party tool Mach2, but it does nothing at the moment.

Microsoft seems to be really aggressive with this endeavour.

Microsoft is making Windows 10 passwordless

Microsoft is planning to make Windows 10 PCs work without passwords. While the company has been working on removing passwords from Windows 10 and its Microsoft Accounts for a number of months now, the next major update to Windows 10 next year will go one step further. You’ll soon be able to enable a passwordless sign-in for Microsoft accounts on a Windows 10 device. This means PCs will use Windows Hello face authentication, fingerprints, or a PIN code. The password option will simply disappear from the login screen, if you decide to opt in to this new “make your device passwordless” feature.

I’m totally on board with this – I love the depth sensor-based Windows Hello on my Dell XPS 13 – but a big problem is that it’s so difficult to get Windows Hello facial recognition on a regular desktop. Only very few cameras actually have the required sensors – not even Microsoft’s own webcams support Windows Hello – making it hard to opt into this passwordless future.

Any company that can make an affordable Windows Hello sensor that’s small and easy to attach to a display gets my money.

Haiku monthly activity report for June

Speaking of Travis Geiselbrecht – Haiku has another activity report.

He also started benchmarking the uses of the allocator and found various opportunities to save memory, and use dedicated object caches instead of the generic malloc allocator, helping reduce memory fragmentation. The first patches have just started to land (in packagefs), there will likely be more. Ideally beta2 will be able to boot and install with 256MB of RAM or maybe even less thanks to this work.

That’s the kind of specifications that make me very happy. It’s good to know that Haiku’s developers are attempting to keep the operating system lightweight enough to work on older hardware.

Meanwhile, waddlesplash is also auditing the code and starting to work towards making APIs more restricted (allowing some things only for the root user, for example), in order to provide some more privilege separation. Haiku has so far been largely a single user system, and did not worry too much about the usual attack vectors for an UNIX system. But modern computers are often online and we should try to keep our user’s data reasonably safe. We have a long way to go, but we have to start with something.

Multiuser will be one of the many big hurdles Haiku will face.

Fuchsia adds official Snapdragon 835 support

It’s somewhat strange that they’ve chosen to support the Snapdragon 835, as the chip is now two generations behind. Thus far, many of the chips in devices Google has developed Fuchsia support for had not even hit the market when development began. Perhaps supporting the Snapdragon 835 will act as a stepping stone toward newer chips like last year’s Snapdragon 845 or this year’s Snapdragon 855.

The only reason I’m linking to this rather uneventful story is the name of one of the reviewers of the commit in question – Travis Geiselbrecht.

IE Mode now works in Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser

Earlier this year at its Build 2019 developer conference, Microsoft announced IE Mode for its upcoming Chromium-based version of Edge. Now, you can finally use it.

The feature allows you to open a webpage in an Internet Explorer tab within the Edge browser itself. You’ll need to enable a flag called ‘Enable IE Integration’ first, and then when you have a page open, you can go to More tools -> Show this page using Internet Explorer to change the tab you’re in.

As many of you rightfully pointed out the last time we talked about the new Edge, this might be the feature that will push a lot of especially enterprise users to Edge – something I clearly didn’t take into account.

RISC-V Foundation ratification of the RISC-V base ISA and privileged architecture specifications

The RISC-V Foundation, a non-profit corporation controlled by its members to drive the adoption and implementation of the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), today announced the ratification of the RISC-V base ISA and privileged architecture specifications. The RISC-V base architecture is the interface between application software and hardware. Software that’s coded to this specification will continue to work on RISC-V processors in perpetuity, even as the architecture evolves through the development of new extensions.

Microsoft is using Android’s share and ‘open with’ menus to advertise its other apps

Microsoft has done a lot on Android in recent years, and last week many were excited when the company launched its Your Phone Companion app for mirroring notifications on a Windows 10 PC. However, that’s had an unfortunate side effect that sees Microsoft inserting ads in Android’s share menus for its various other apps.

They’re placing ads in the share and open with menus in Android if you install a Microsoft Android application. This is just terrible, scummy, and tasteless on so many levels, I don’t even know where to begin.

The AMD 3rd gen Ryzen deep dive review: 3700X and 3900X raising the bar

In the majority of controlled tests, AMD has done something they haven’t been able to achieve in almost 15 years, since the tail-end of the Athlon 64’s reign in 2005: that is to have a CPU microarchitecture with higher performance per clock than Intel’s leading architecture. Zen 2 finally achieves this symbolic mark by a hair’s margin, with the new core improving IPC by 10-13% when compared to Zen+.

Having said that, Intel still very much holds the single-threaded performance crown by a few percent. Intel’s higher achieved frequencies as well as continued larger lead in memory sensitive workloads are still goals that AMD has to work towards, and future Zen iterations will have to further improve in order to have a shot at the ST performance crown.

Beyond this, it’s remarkable that AMD has been able to achieve all of this while consuming significantly less power than Intel’s best desktop chip, all thanks to the new process node.

AMD’s brand new Zen 2 processors are nothing short of a slam dunk, and the desktop processor market hasn’t been this exciting and competitive in 15 years. I’m contemplating building a small light-load workstation for my new office, and there’s no way it won’t be team red, since AMD offers the amazing value across the board – low end, mid range, and high end.

Huawei’s HongmengOS is faster than Android and MacOS, has broader application

In an interview with a French magazine, Huawei’s CEO and founder, Ren Zhengfei, has stated that the homegrown HongmengOS will be faster than Android and will have a broader application as well. It can be used not only on smartphones but on routers, network switches, tablets, computers and even data centers.

It will also be faster than macOS, he says.

Nobody cares. No applications, no platform. Sadly, it’s as simple as that.

Android engineers take us on a deep dive of Android Q

As has become tradition for Ars at Google I/O, we recently sat down with some of the people who make Android to learn more about Google’s latest OS. For 2019, the talk was all about Android Q and this year’s big engineering effort, Project Mainline. Mainline’s goal is to enable Google (and sometimes OEMs!) to directly update core parts of the OS without pushing out a whole system update. If that sounds technical and challenging, well, it is.

These are always great reads, and a welcome new tradition.