A developer is working on turning a Nintendo Switch into an Android tablet

The Nintendo Switch is Nintendo’s latest console/handheld, and it’s doing really well for itself in terms of sales and appeal. It also marks a change in attitude from Nintendo as well, as the device is not only powered by an Nvidia Tegra system-on-chip, but the company even reportedly wanted to employ the now-defunct Cyanogen Inc. to develop their operating system. Since the discovery of the Fusée Gelée vulnerability, Switch modding has really taken off in the community. Users have theorized for a long time now whether it would be possible to port Android to the Switch. After all, Linux has been ported to it and the device uses the Tegra X1 SoC for which there is documentation to refer to. All that’s left is the blood, sweat, and tears of developers interested enough in porting Android. One developer by the name of ByLaws is taking the challenge of turning a Nintendo Switch into an Android tablet.

The Switch is such a perfect formfactor and device for retro gaming. It’s really too bad that such things break warranties and/or block device and game updates, because otherwise I’d get emulators running on my Switch in a heartbeat.

Intel officials expect Apple to move Macs to ARM in 2020

Ina Fried, for Axois, about Apple’s expected plan to move Macs to its own in-house ARM chips:

Although the company has yet to say so publicly, developers and Intel officials have privately told Axios they expect such a move as soon as next year.

I’m quite excited about this move. Apple has sway in the industry, and anything that lights a fire under Intel and the x86 archicture in general can only be seen as a good thing – more competition is always better.

Linux gaming is on a life-support system called Steam

Fast-forward nearly six years. Steam Machines puttered out as an idea, though Valve hasn’t dropped its support for Linux. It maintains a Linux Steam client with 5,800 native games, and just last August, Valve unveiled Proton, a compatibility layer designed to make every Steam title run open-source-style. With Proton currently in beta, the number of Steam titles playable on Linux has jumped to 9,500. There are an estimated 30,000 games on Steam overall, so that’s roughly one-in-three, and Valve is just getting started.

However, the percentage of PC players that actually use Linux has remained roughly the same since 2013, and it’s a tiny fraction of the gaming market — just about 2 percent. Linux is no closer to claiming the gaming world’s crown than it was six years ago, when Newell predicted the open-source, user-generated-content revolution.

While that is undeniably true, it’s now at least definitely more viable to play games on Linux, even if it’s generally nowhere near the kinds of performance levels possible on Windows – assuming the titles run on Linux at all, of course.

Apple to target combining iPhone, iPad and Mac apps by 2021

Apple Inc. wants to make it easier for software coders to create tools, games and other applications for its main devices in one fell swoop – an overhaul designed to encourage app development and, ultimately, boost revenue.

The ultimate goal of the multistep initiative, code-named “Marzipan,” is by 2021 to help developers build an app once and have it work on the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers, said people familiar with the effort. That should spur the creation of new software, increasing the utility of the company’s gadgets.

This seems more of a repitition of what we already knew than truly new information.

Samsung’s foldable phone is the Galaxy Fold

Samsung first teased its foldable phone back in November, and at the company’s Galaxy Unpacked event today it’s further detailing its foldable plans. Samsung’s foldable now has a name, the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the company is revealing more about what this unique smartphone can do. Samsung is planning to launch the Galaxy Fold on April 26th, starting at $1,980. There will be both an LTE and 5G version of the Galaxy Fold, and Samsung is even planning on launching the device in Europe on May 3rd, starting at 2,000 euros.

The technology is definitely amazing and futuristic, but this device is clearly more of a very expensive tech demo than a real, mass-market product. There’s nothing wrong with that – I like having crazy technology available, even if it’s at high prices – but a monumental shift in the market this is not. Yet.

Samsung’s new One UI Android skin

Samsung has been very slowly rolling out its Android 9 update to a very small selection of its phones, and with it, the company is introducing a fairly radical redesign of the user interface it slaps on top of Android. It’s called One UI, and it seems like people are… Actually really positive about it?

Since I – and many others with me – have treated Samsung’s UIs and skins as a punching bag for almost a decade now, it seems only fair to also highlight when they seem to be doing something right. First, Dieter Bohn at The Verge:

I’ve been testing One UI on a Galaxy S9 for the past week or so and thus far I really like it. In some ways, I like it better than what Google itself is shipping on the Pixel 3. If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t yet trust Samsung to deliver major software updates quickly, I would be shouting about One UI from the rooftops. As it is, I just want to point out that it’s time for us to stop instinctively turning our noses up at Samsung’s version of Android.

There are still some annoying parts of One UI, but they don’t ruin what is otherwise a full-featured, coherent, and (dare I say) thoughtful version of Android. This is not the conventional wisdom about Samsung software.

Second, Abhay Venkatesh at NeoWin:

Samsung’s One UI is a huge step in the right direction. The fresh, fluid UI makes it a joy to use, and the addition of smart UI elements, dark mode, and other nifty improvements make for a great experience. The navigation system combines the best of either world and in true Samsung fashion, provides users with an abundance of options. The company’s efforts to continually improve its software and strike a balance between excess customization and usability is evident. However, a lot of the remnants remain from the years that have passed, and it will be interesting to see how Samsung moves the design language forward.

I’m glad to see Samsung improve its software, since that will benefit a lot of people all over the world, and it’s always refreshing to have your preconceived notions challenged.

Magic Lantern

Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. We have created an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware.

Magic Lantern is not a “hack”, or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon’s own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. Our only modification was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card.

ML is being developed by photo and video enthusiasts, adding functionality such as: HDR images and video, timelapse, motion detection, focus assist tools, manual audio controls much more.

What a fascinating project. I knew you could put custom ROM images on digital cameras, but this seems like a far safer and less warranty-breaking way of extending and improving the functionality of your camera.

NetBSD Gains Hardware Accelerated Virtualization

NetBSD, the highly portable Unix-like Open Source operating system known for its platform diversity, has gained hardware-accelerated virtualization support via an improved NetBSD Virtual Machine Monitor (NVMM).

A virtualization API is provided in libnvmm, that allows to easily create and manage virtual machines via NVMM.

It’s always nice to see the major BSD distributions gain expanded hardware and software support. It will come as no surprise to anyone that we believe that competition is always a good thing when it comes to operating systems.

Sailfish OS becomes Aurora OS in Russia

It appears that Sailfish, the Operating System by Finnish company Jolla, will now power 8 million+ devices for the Russian government. Renamed AuroraOS, at least in Russia, it has the Android compatibility layer stripped away. Last year, Russian company Rostelecom bought three quarters of the open mobile platform that developed Sailfish. Rostelecom is one of the foremost Russian telecommunications companies. It’s also a leading provider of broadband, IPTV, landline subscriptions in Russia. After the production woes of the last few years, it’s nice to see Sailfish finding a footing, even if it is in reduced form and exclusive to Russia.

Apple puts modem engineering unit into chip design group

Apple has moved its modem chip engineering effort into its in-house hardware technology group from its supply chain unit, two people familiar with the move told Reuters, a sign the tech company is looking to develop a key component of its iPhones after years of buying it from outside suppliers.

Understandable move by Apple, both from a business perspective, and from a security perspective. The open source world really needs to build open source baseband processors at some point.

Building a RISC-V PC

While it’s clear that the most significant opportunities for RISC-V will be in democratising custom silicon for accelerating specific tasks and enabling new applications — and it’s already driving a renaissance in novel computer architectures, for e.g. IoT and edge processing — one question that people cannot help but ask is, so when can I have a RISC-V PC? The answer to which is, right now.

[…]

The result is a RISC-V powered system that can be used as a desktop computer and thanks to the efforts of Atish Patra at Western Digital, installing Fedora Linux is a breeze. This is obviously not exactly commodity hardware, but it does show that the ingredients are there and the combination provides a powerful development platform for anyone who might want to prototype a RISC-V PC — or indeed a vast array of other applications which stand to benefit from the open ISA.

This has me very excited. Over the last few decades, virtually all competitors to x86 slowly died out – SPARC, PowerPC, MIPS, etc. – which turned desktop computing hardware into a rather boring affair. Recently we’ve been seeing more and more ARM desktop boards, and now it seems RISC-V is starting to dabble in this area too.

Great news.

A touchpad is not a mouse, or at least not a good one

One of the things about having a pretty nice work laptop with a screen that’s large enough to have more than one real window at once is that I actually use it, and I use it with multiple windows, and that means that I need to use the mouse. I like computer mice in general so I don’t object to this, but like most modern laptops my Dell XPS 13 doesn’t have a mouse, it has a trackpad (or touchpad, take your pick). You can use a modern touchpad as a mouse, but over my time in using the XPS 13 I’ve come to understand (rather viscerally) that a touchpad is not a mouse and trying to act as if it was is not a good idea. There are some things that a touchpad makes easy and natural that aren’t very natural on a mouse, and a fair number of things that are natural on a mouse but don’t work very well on a touchpad (at least for me; they might for people who are more experienced with touchpads).

Chris Siebenmann makes some good points regarding touchpads here. Despite the fact that touchpads on Windows and Linux have gotten better over the years, they’re still not nearly as good as Apple’s, and will never beat a mouse. I feel like mouse input on laptops is ripe for serious innovation.

PC speaker to eleven

«System Beeps» is a music album in shape of an MS-DOS program that features original music composed for PC Speaker using the same basic old techniques like ones found in classic PC games. It follows the usual retrocomputing demoscene formula — take something rusty and obsolete, and push it to eleven — and attempts to reveal the long hidden potential of this humble little sound device. You can hear it in action and form an opinion on how successful this attempt was at Bandcamp, or in the video below. The following article is an in-depth overview of the original PC Speaker capabilities and making of the project, for those who would like to know more.

What an amazing work of art, and I love the detailed description of how it was made using nothing but the PC speaker. This article is quite detailed, and the project itself is released under the CC-BY license.

What happened to the 100,000-hour LED bulbs?

Early adopters of LED lighting will remember 50,000 hour or even 100,000 hour lifetime ratings printed on the box. But during a recent trip to the hardware store the longest advertised lifetime I found was 25,000 hours. Others claimed only 7,500 or 15,000 hours. And yes, these are brand-name bulbs from Cree and GE.

So, what happened to those 100,000 hour residential LED bulbs? Were the initial estimates just over-optimistic? Was it all marketing hype? Or, did we not know enough about LED aging to predict the true useful life of a bulb?

I put these questions to the test. Join me after the break for some background on the light bulb cartel from the days of incandescent bulbs (not a joke, a cartel controlled the life of your bulbs), and for the destruction of some modern LED bulbs to see why the lifetimes are clocking in a lot lower than the original wave of LED replacements.

Just a good, fun, but also depressing read.

Encryption for everyone: how Adiantum will keep more Android devices secure

Adiantum is a new form of encryption that we built specifically to run on phones and smart devices that don’t have the specialized hardware to use current methods to encrypt locally stored data efficiently. Adiantum is designed to run efficiently without that specialized hardware. This will make the next generation of devices more secure than their predecessors, and allow the next billion people coming online for the first time to do so safely. Adiantum will help secure our connected world by allowing everything from smart watches to internet-connected medical devices to encrypt sensitive data. (For more details about the ins and outs of Adiantum, check out the security blog.)

Encryption should be available on every single Android phone, not just the high-end, expensive models only the lucky few in the world can afford. Good move.

The AMD Radeon VII review: an unexpected shot at the high-end

AnandTech has published its review of AMD’s surprise new high-end Radeon VII graphics card, and the results should be cause for some cautious optimism among PC builders.

Overall then, the Radeon VII puts its best foot forward when it offers itself as a high-VRAM prosumer card for gaming content creators. And at its $699 price point, that’s not a bad place to occupy. However for pure gamers, it’s a little too difficult to suggest this card instead of NVIDIA’s better performing GeForce RTX 2080.

So where does this leave AMD? Fortunately for the Radeon rebels, their situation is improved even if the overall competitive landscape hasn’t been significantly changed. It’s not a win for AMD, but being able to compete with NVIDIA at this level means just that: AMD is still competitive. They can compete on performance, and thanks to Vega 20 they have a new slew of compute features to work with. It’s going to win AMD business today, and it’s going to help prepare AMD for tomorrow for the next phase that is Navi. It’s still an uphill battle, but with Radeon VII and Vega 20, AMD is now one more step up that hill.

While not a slam-dunk, the Radeon VII definitely shows AMD can get at least close to NVIDIA’s RTX cards, and that should make all of us quite happy – NVIDIA has had this market to itself for far too long, and it’s showing in the arrogant pricing the company maintains. While neither RTX cards nor this new Radeon VII make me want to replace my GTX 1070 – and its custom watercooling parts – it at least makes me hopeful that the coming years will be more competitive.

How much will staying patched on Windows 7 cost you?

Microsoft said last Fall that it would offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates on a per-device basis for big customers willing to pay for them after the company ends Windows 7 support on January 14, 2020. Microsoft officials wouldn’t talk about how much those updates would cost, beyond saying they’d get more expensive over time.

However, Microsoft has briefed some of its partners and salespeople about the cost of these Extended Support Updates (ESUs). And, as you’d expect, they’re not cheap, especially for customers who may want to apply them on multiple PCs. They’re even more expensive for customers using the Pro version of Windows than the Enterprise one.

These extended security updates are only available to enterprise and educiation users, so no luck if you’re an individual home user.That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these updates make their way into less than legal channels.

VLC 4.0 to get new user interface, better Wayland support, more

VLC 4.0 is on the way, and the VLC developers have listed what they have in store for this major new release. The most obvious new user-facing feature is brand new user interfaces for each platform the media player supports, such as KDE, Gnome, Windows, macOS, and more.

Work on the new VLC 4.0 user-interface is progressing, there will be GNOME and KDE adaptations, support for both server-side and client-side decorations, and great support for Wayland as well as X11 — including support for macOS, Windows, etc.

With VLC 4.0, they intend to gut out support for Windows XP/Vista as well as bumping the macOS, iOS, and Android requirements. On the Linux front, they intend to require OpenGL acceleration for this media player.

There’s no information yet on when this new release will be made available.

Hatari 2.2.0 released

Hatari 2.2.0 has been released.

Hatari is an Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon emulator for GNU/Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, Windows and other systems which are supported by the SDL library. The Atari ST was a 16/32 bit computer system which was first released by Atari in 1985. Using the Motorola 68000 CPU, it was a very popular computer having quite a lot of CPU power at that time. Unlike many other Atari ST emulators which try to give you a good environment for running GEM applications, Hatari tries to emulate the hardware of a ST as close as possible so that it is able to run most of the old ST games and demos. Hatari is open source software and is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL).

This new release – a year in the making – has a sizeable changelog, but I’m not exactly an Atari expert, so I’m not entirely sure which of the changes are the most exciting.