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.

The curious case of the Raspberry Pi in the network closet

Christian Haschek found a Raspberry Pi attached in a network closet at the company he works for, and since nobody knew what it was or where it came from, he and his colleagues decided to investigate.

I asked him to unplug it, store it in a safe location, take photos of all parts and to make an image from the SD card (since I mostly work remote). I have worked on many Raspberry Pi projects and I felt confident I could find out what it does.

At this point nobody thought it was going to be malicious, more like one of our staffers was playing around with something.

Interesting – but worrisome – story.

Google sets deadlines for 64bit support in Android applications

64-bit CPUs deliver faster, richer experiences for your users. Adding a 64-bit version of your app provides performance improvements, makes way for future innovation, and sets you up for devices with 64-bit only hardware.

We want to help you get ready and know you need time to plan. We’ve supported 64-bit CPUs since Android 5.0 Lollipop and in 2017 we first announced that apps using native code must provide a 64-bit version (in addition to the 32-bit version). Today we’re providing more detailed information and timelines to make it as easy as possible to transition in 2019.

Important information for Android developers regarding requirements around 64bit support.

Fedora, UUIDs, and user tracking

“User tracking” is generally contentious in free-software communities—even if the “tracking” is not really intended to do so. It is often distributions that have the most interest in counting their users, but Linux users tend to be more privacy conscious than users of more mainstream desktop operating systems. The Fedora project recently discussed how to count its users and ways to preserve their privacy while doing so.

As always, an exceptionally good article from LWN.

DuckDuckGo switches to Apple Maps for search results

We’re excited to announce that map and address-related searches on DuckDuckGo for mobile and desktop are now powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework, giving you a valuable combination of mapping and privacy. As one of the first global companies using Apple MapKit JS, we can now offer users improved address searches, additional visual features, enhanced satellite imagery, and continually updated maps already in use on billions of Apple devices worldwide.

With this updated integration, Apple Maps are now available both embedded within our private search results for relevant queries, as well as available from the “Maps” tab on any search result page.

I’m sure Apple users in San Francisco will be very happy with this news.

For me, this means there’s no way I’ll be using DuckDuckGo’s location search and other mapping functions – Apple Maps is entirely unusable in The Netherlands, with severely outdated and faulty maps that are outright dangerous. I understand the privacy angle, but I feel like are better, more accurate options than Apple Maps. The world is larger than Silicon Valley.

Intel Core i9-9990XE: up to 5.0 GHz, auction only

AnandTech has seen documents and supporting information from multiple sources that show that Intel is planning to release a new high-end desktop processor, the Core i9-9990XE. These documents show that the processors will not be sold at retail; rather they will only be sold to system integrators, and then only through a closed online auction. 

This new processor will be the highest numbered processor in Intel’s high-end desktop line. The current top processor is the i9-9980XE, an 18 core part with a base frequency of 3.5 GHz and a turbo frequency of 4.0 GHz. The i9-9990XE, on the other hand, is not simply the 9980XE with an increase in frequency.

The Core i9-9990XE will be a 14 core processor, but with a base frequency of 4.0 GHz and a turbo frequency of 5.0 GHz. This makes it a super-binned 9940X.

This probably means this is very much a low-yield chip Intel can’t make enough of to sell at retail.

The first Windows 10 build for foldable devices appears

According to BuildFeed, which regularly posts about new builds of Windows 10, the first build of a new SKU for foldable devices has been compiled. It comes with the build string rs_shell_devices_foldables.190111-1800, and it’s from the 19H1 development branch. The build number is 18313.1004.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that this is for Microsoft’s rumored Andromeda device. While the project was shelved back in July, it was originally for a foldable PC that could fit in your pocket. It’s likely now that it will be a larger device that’s slated for later on this year.

Foldable devices are definitely coming this year, but I feel like it might take a while for both users and device and software makers to figure out where, exactly, the fit into our lives.

Vintage gaming on Xenix

This post is about vintage gaming in vintage unusual operating systems, focused on Xenix/x86. Tried Hampa’s turnkey xenix86 images while they had been tested in fake86, 8086tiny and other emulators. The installation was surprisingly easy, because most software packages in floppy/tape images are basically in .tar format, so let’s check GAMES 360k floppy image’s content on host.

I can’t get enough of articles like these.

“Don’t kill my app!”

With Android 6 (Marshmallow), Google has introduced Doze mode to the base Android, in an attempt to unify battery saving across the various Android phones.

Unfortunately, vendors (e.g. Xiaomi, Huawei, OnePlus or even Samsung..) did not seem to catch that ball and they all have their own battery savers, usually very poorly written, saving battery only superficially with side effects.

Naturally users blame developers for their apps failing to deliver. But the truth is developers do the maximum they can. Always investigating new device specific hacks to keep their (your!) apps working. But in many cases they simply fall short as vendors have full control over processes on your phone.

This is a legitimate problem on my OnePlus 6T. I enjoy using this phone, but the aggressive non-standard application cycle management definitely leads to issues with not receiving notifications or login procedures being restarted as you leave an application. It doesn’t happen often enough to truly bother me, but I can definitely see how people who make more extensive use of their phone than I do run into this issue every day.

Getting an IBM AS/400 midrange computer on the internet

Recently I’ve gotten a hold of an old IBM mid-range computer, an AS/400 150. This is an 1997 server very much aimed at businesses, pay-rolling, inventory management and such. It can be used as a multi user system, with users logging in via a terminal. The operating system it runs is OS/400 and that is also the only OS it can run, no Linux available for this system. Of course it comes with all the fun programming languages like COBOL and RPG, all the business classics.


It’s compatible with the IBM system/36, so any programs made for an 80’s S/36 machine run without problems on the AS/400 machines. It also looks very much 90s, though I personally like the cover at the back, hiding all ports.

Stories like these are always great reads. This is the kind of hardware I eventually want to collect and play around with once I have the space to do so.

Firefox 69 will have Flash disabled by default

According to Mozilla’s plugin roadmap, the firm planned to disable Flash by default in Firefox sometime this year. Now, a new bug filing has revealed that the plugin will be disabled as of Firefox 69 which is due for release on September 3, 2019. Mozilla will disable Flash beginning with the Nightly builds before it works its way down to the Stable channel.

The disabling of Flash comes in anticipation of Adobe ending support for its Flash plugin at the end of 2020. Mozilla has said that it will completely remove Flash support for consumer versions of Firefox in early 2020, while the Extended Support Release (ESR) version will have support until the end of the year. In 2021, Mozilla has said that Firefox will refuse entirely to load the plugin due to a lack of security updates from Adobe.

Aside from the occasional Flash-based online game, is Flash even a thing these days? Do any of you still use it on a regular basis?

LG’s groundbreaking roll-up TV is going on sale this year

LG is going several steps further by making the TV go away completely whenever you’re not watching. It drops slowly and very steadily into the base and, with the push of a button, will rise back up in 10 seconds or so. It all happens rather quietly, too. You can’t see the actual “roll” when the TV is closed in, sadly; a transparent base would’ve been great for us nerds to see what’s happening inside the base as the TV comes in or unfurls, but the white is certainly a little more stylish. Functionally, LG tells me it hasn’t made many changes to the way the LG Display prototype worked aside from enhancing the base. I didn’t get to ask about durability testing — how many times the OLED TV R has been tested to go up and down, for example — but that’s something I’m hoping to get an answer to.

We don’t really talk about TVs all that much on OSNews – it’s generally a boring industry – but this rollable display technology is just plain cool.

Software patents poised to make a comeback under new patent office rules

Ars Technica reports that software patents might be making a comeback.

landmark 2014 ruling by the Supreme Court called into question the validity of many software patents. In the wake of that ruling, countless broad software patents became invalid, dealing a blow to litigation-happy patent trolls nationwide.

But this week the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) proposed new rules that would make it easier to patent software. If those rules take effect, it could take us back to the bad old days when it was easy to get broad software patents—and to sue companies that accidentally infringe them.

What could possibly go wrong?

Making a Game Boy game

Recently I got an internship doing back-end PHP and Python stuff for a website for my university. It’s a really nice job that I find fun and I’m thankful to have. But… at the same time, doing all this high-level web dev stuff has given me a big itch I need to scratch. That itch being the fun of low level bit fiddling.

itch.io’s weekly game jam email came in my inbox and it announced the Mini Jam 4. It was a 48 hour (well, a bit more actually) jam where the restriction was to have graphics like a Game Boy. My perfectly logical and sound reaction to this was to make a Game Boy homebrew, because that seemed neat to do. The themes were “seasons” and “flames”.

I’n not a programmer, but I can imagine old consoles like the Game Boy are great platforms to use to expand your programming skills.

AMD reveals Radeon VII: high-end 7nm Vega video card

Speaking of AMD, the company is on a roll as it also announced a new high-end consumer graphics card, which it says can take on Nvidia’s RTX 2080 graphics card.

As it turns out, the video card wars are going to charge into 2019 quite a bit hotter than any of us were expecting. Moments ago, as part of AMD’s CES 2019 keynote, CEO Dr. Lisa Su announced that AMD will be releasing a new high-end, high-performance Radeon graphics card. Dubbed the Radeon VII (Seven), AMD has their eyes set on countering NVIDIA’s previously untouchable GeForce RTX 2080. And, if the card lives up to AMD’s expectations, then come February 7th it may just as well do that.

[…]

At a high level then, the Radeon VII employs a slightly cut down version of AMD’s Vega 20 GPU. With 60 of 64 CUs enabled, it actually has a few less CUs than AMD’s previous flagship, the Radeon RX Vega 64, but it makes up for the loss with much higher clockspeeds and a much more powerful memory and pixel throughput backend. As a result, AMD says that the Radeon VII should beat their former flagship by anywhere between 20% and 42% depending on the game (with an overall average of 29%), which on paper would be just enough to put the card in spitting distance of NVIDIA’s RTX 2080, and making it a viable and competitive 4K gaming card.

AMD has managed to shake up the processor market with their Zen architectures, and it’s high time the same happens to the video card market. Nvidia has basically had this market all to itself for several years now, so hopefully this new Radeon card can shake things up a bit and hold us over until 2020, when Intel will be entering the dedicated graphics card market as well.

AMD Ryzen 3rd gen ‘Matisse’ coming mid 2019

During AMD’s CES keynote, the company unveiled some of the details of its upcoming 3rd generation Ryzen processors, which are built on top of the Zen 2 architecture. We don’t have any independent benchmarks quite yet, of course, but the power figures comparing a Ryzen 3 processor to an Intel 9900K are nothing to sneeze at (note that these figures are coming from AMD, so get out your salt).

Also, in that same test, it showed the system level power. This includes the motherboard, DRAM, SSD, and so on. As the systems were supposedly identical, this makes the comparison CPU only. The Intel system, during Cinebench, ran at 180W. This result is in line with what we’ve seen on our systems, and sounds correct. The AMD system on the other hand was running at 130-132W.

If we take a look at our average system idle power in our own reviews which is around 55W, this would make the Intel CPU around 125W, whereas the AMD CPU would be around 75W.

Even assuming these figures are idealised, that’s still a pretty startling difference.