Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Sep 2018 21:42 UTC
Android

Android 9 Pie brings Google's updated Material Design spec (don't call it "Material Design 2") to Android OS, and it begins a wave of UI updates that will spread across Google's entire portfolio. In Android, that means revamped interfaces for the notification panel, Recent Apps, settings, and various bits of system UI. For future smartphone designs (like, say, the Pixel 3), Android 9 includes an experimental gesture navigation system and built-in notch support. There's also a new screenshot editor, lots of improvements for text selection, and changes to the way rotation works.

Under the hood, more changes have come, too, with AI-powered battery usage controls, new rules for Play Store developers, and changes to how apps get distributed.

The usual Android review by Ars. Always worth a read.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 13th Sep 2018 21:34 UTC
Google

It's not just Washington. Even in Silicon Valley, people have started wondering: where's Larry? Page has long been reclusive, a computer scientist who pondered technical problems away from the public eye, preferring to chase moonshots over magazine covers. Unlike founder-CEO peers (Mark Zuckerberg comes to mind), he hasn't presented at product launches or on earnings calls since 2013, and he hasn't done press since 2015. He leaves day-to-day decisions to Pichai and a handful of advisers. But a slew of interviews in recent months with colleagues and confidants, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about retribution from Alphabet, describe Page as an executive who's more withdrawn than ever, bordering on emeritus, invisible to wide swaths of the company. Supporters contend he's still engaged, but his immersion in the technology solutions of tomorrow has distracted him from the problems Google faces today. "What I didn't see in the last year was a strong central voice about how [Google's] going to operate on these issues that are societal and less technical," says a longtime executive who recently left the company.

The money quote - quite literally: "People who know him say he's disappearing more frequently to his private, white-sand Caribbean island.". With the numerous challenges Google is facing, it seems odd that Page is being so reclusive.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 20:13 UTC
Microsoft

How about a throwback to 1997?

I've used and tinkered with every HTML Editor out there and I can say without qualification or pause that Microsoft FrontPage 98 is the easiest and most powerful suite of Web Design and Management tools available today -- and the fact that it's presently only in a beta state must make the competition shiver -- for the bar of excellence has not just gently risen with the debut of FrontPage 98.

That bar of excellence has been crushed through to the uppermost level by FrontPage 98 and few website HTML programs have the means or inspiration to meet that new watermark of exquisite elegance in creating websites.

Microsoft FrontPage 98 proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Web Creation and Site Manipulation can, finally and without excuse or caveat, be friendly while providing hardcore functionality in the same brilliant stroke.

Those were the days.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 19:45 UTC
Windows

Windows 10 insider build 17744, which will be available in next month to the public as Windows 10 2018 October update has warned a user when he tries to install Firefox browser to open and use Microsoft Edge. We know Windows 10 nudges to use Edge as the default browser, but this is definitely different. A user shared about this on Twitter, here is what the dialog informed the user.

I'm already an Edge user so I won't be bothered by these dialogs, but it's really annoying how browser makers - and by browser makers I mean Microsoft and Google - are taking every opportunity to shove annoying "please use Chrome/Edge" dialogs in our faces. It's user-hostile behaviour, and it feels cheap and scummy.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 19:42 UTC
Apple

Apple today in California officially announced the "iPhone Xs" and "iPhone Xs Max", the latest iPhone models coming this year. The company confirmed that both models will come in Space Gray, Silver, and Gold color options, with Gold being the new addition to the iPhone Xs lineup this year.

The iPhone Xs models have the same design as the iPhone X from 2017, with an edge-to-edge OLED display, greatly reduced bezels, and a "notch" that houses the front-facing TrueDepth Camera system. The iPhone Xs is the direct iPhone X successor and measures in at 5.8 inches, while the XS Max is Apple's biggest iPhone yet at 6.5 inches.

Even by "S" standards, this is a relatively small update to the top-tier iPhone, but as an iPhone X user I can say that's honestly perfectly fine - the X is simply still one of the best phones on the market today. Apple also unveiled the iPhone Xr, a cheaper version of the same iPhone X design, which sports an LCD display instead of OLED, and comes in a variety of colours.

Lastly, Apple also released the Apple Watch Series 4, which is a bigger update. It has a much larger display than the Series 3, it's noticeably thinner, and comes with a electrocardiogram functionality and other FDA-approved heartrate functions. They also come with a processor that supposedly makes them twice as fast. A nice upgrade for sure.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 19:33 UTC
Apple

It's iPhone launch day today, which I would usually greet with some meditation on the expected features or design of the new device and how it fits into the wider competitive field. This year, however, I want to zoom out rather than in. Because no matter how much or how little the iPhone changes today, no matter how awful its new naming scheme, we can all be certain that Apple will sell tens of millions of its 2018 iteration before the year is through. It's this apparent inevitability to Apple's commercial success that I find fascinating.

The only danger the iPhone can run into at this stage is a sudden collapse in its perceived coolness factor among the general public - but barring anything unforeseen, I don't see that happening any time soon. We'll be stuck with the iPhone being the smartphone all others get compared to for a long time to come.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 19:29 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

This work describes the porting of Hyperkernel, an x86 kernel, to the ARMv8-A architecture. Hyperkernel was created to demonstrate various OS design decisions that are amenable to push-button verification. Hyperkernel simplifies reasoning about virtual memory by separating the kernel and user address spaces. In addition, Hyperkernel adopts an exokernel design to minimize code complexity, and thus its required proof burden. Both of Hyperkernel's design choices are accomplished through the use of x86 virtualization support. After developing an x86 prototype, advantageous design differences between x86 and ARM motivated us to port Hyperkernel to the ARMv8-A architecture. We explored these differences and benchmarked aspects of the new interface Hyperkernel provides on ARM to demonstrate that the ARM version of Hyperkernel should be explored further in the future. We also outline the ARMv8-A architecture and the various design challenges overcome to fit Hyperkernel within the ARM programming model.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 00:03 UTC
Google

A coming revision to Chrome OS will enable Windows-compatible network browsing by default. This means that Chromebooks will be able to connect with Windows PCs just as easily as other Windows PCs do today.

A very welcome change, especially among corporate users.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 12th Sep 2018 00:00 UTC
Mac OS X

Back in 2016, security researcher and developer Jonathan Zdziarski released a tool called Little Flocker that could protect Macs at the file level. Much as a firewall analyzes and blocks network traffic, Little Flocker locked down the file system and allowed only authorized applications access to only approved files.

Little Flocker was too complex to manage for average users, but it quickly became a darling among Mac security experts.

[...]

When Zdziarski took a job at Apple in 2017, he sold Little Flocker to the security vendor F-Secure, which released it as Xfence. Zdziarski's job change started the clock ticking on when we might see similar capabilities built into macOS. With macOS 10.14 Mojave, Apple has added file-level protections, plus some additional security enhancements. And you know what? Mojave is running into the same usability issues that users of Little Flocker endured.

I had never heard of this functionality. It seems like one of those things particularly Apple ought to be good at to integrate in a user-friendly manner.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 11th Sep 2018 23:57 UTC
Windows

As previously announced, Windows 7 extended support is ending January 14, 2020. While many of you are already well on your way in deploying Windows 10, we understand that everyone is at a different point in the upgrade process.

With that in mind, today we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year. Windows 7 ESUs will be available to all Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Enterprise customers in Volume Licensing, with a discount to customers with Windows software assurance, Windows 10 Enterprise or Windows 10 Education subscriptions. In addition, Office 365 ProPlus will be supported on devices with active Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. This means that customers who purchase the Windows 7 ESU will be able to continue to run Office 365 ProPlus.

Lots of corporate customers are still using Windows 7, and for many, there's little reason to upgrade. Microsoft is just catering to those customers, while making sure it'll be nigh-impossible for regular consumers to benefit from this paid-for extended support.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Sep 2018 22:24 UTC
Apple

The "monitor ROM" of an Apple 1 fit in one page (256 bytes). This is my attempt to take the disassembled code, give names to the variables and routines, and try to document how it worked.

Amazing work.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Sep 2018 22:17 UTC
Android

It's been two and a half years since Qualcomm last released a major new smartwatch chip, and in the time since, Android smartwatches have languished. But in the coming months, they could finally start seeing some meaningful improvements: Qualcomm is releasing a new processor for watches, called the Snapdragon Wear 3100, that's meant to extend battery life, enhance always-on displays, and offer more versatility when it comes to sports devices and fitness sensors.

Good news, since the Android Wear world had really died down. This new chip should breath some much-needed new life in the market. It also highlights the distinct and profound advantage Apple has in that it designs its own chips.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Sep 2018 22:12 UTC
Benchmarks

Does anyone remember our articles regarding unscrupulous benchmark behavior back in 2013? At the time we called the industry out on the fact that most vendors were increasing thermal and power limits to boost their scores in common benchmark software. Fast forward to 2018, and it is happening again.

Companies lie. They lie all the time. As with anything related to performance measuring and comparisons - wait for trusted third party benchmarks from places like AnandTech and GamersNexus. Company-provided figures are almost always anything from unrealistic best-case scenarios at best, or downright lies at worst.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 10th Sep 2018 21:59 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

During preparation for a workshop at DEF CON in August on locating privacy leaks in network traffic, we discovered a number of applications on both iOS and Android that were broadcasting precise location data back to the applications' developers - in some cases in unencrypted formats. Research released late Friday by Sudo Security's Guardian mobile firewall team provided some confirmation to our findings - and demonstrated that many apps are sharing location data with firms that market location data information without the users' knowledge.

Is anyone still surprised by this? Apple was recently also forced to remove one of the most popular apps in the Mac App Store because it turned out to be spyware. The one redeeming feature of closed application stores is that they're safer - if that advantage turns out to be a lot less solid than proponents of walled gardens proclaim, why do we keep insisting on maintaining them?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 8th Sep 2018 00:03 UTC, submitted by hornett
OSNews, Generic OSes

Terrence Andrew Davis, sole creator and developer of TempleOS (née LoseThos), has passed away at age 48. Davis suffered from mental illness - schizophrenia - which had a severe impact on his life. He claimed he created his operating system after having spoken with and receiving instructions from god, and he was a controversial figure, also here on OSNews, for his incomprehensible rants and abrasive style towards OSNews readers and staff. We eventually had to ban him, but our then-editor Kroc Kamen worked with him in 2010 to publish an article about his operating system despite his ban.

Davis was clearly a gifted programmer - writing an entire operating system is no small feat - and it was sad to see him affected by his mental illness. I mourn his passing, and I wish his family and friends all the strength they need in these trying times. His family and friends are asking people to donate to "organizations working to ease the pain and suffering caused by mental illness", such as The Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I hope he found peace - wherever he may be.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Sep 2018 23:44 UTC, submitted by Rohan Pearce
BeOS & Derivatives

Haiku developer Adrien Destugues said that some of the remaining work before the beta is released includes "fixing some of the most embarrassing bugs". "But we also need to set up various things to make it possible to publish updates and bugfixes to the beta after it has shipped," he adds.

An interview with Haiku developer Adrien Destugues about the upcoming beta release.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 7th Sep 2018 23:38 UTC
General Development

And so I've placed a bet on Go. It is just as conceptually simple as C, sports a friendly BSD-style license, and already has its own parallel ecosystem. No stinky LLVM, in fact no traces of C at all! It's an overlooked revolution! I can follow symbols through packages however deep I want to and I always end up in Go or its assembly. Well, so long as nothing ugly uses Cgo.

Right, now that I've embraced the garbage collector, how do I make an interface that doesn't look like it dates back to the '80s? And can I avoid Cgo?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Sep 2018 23:34 UTC
Google

"People have a really hard time understanding URLs," says Adrienne Porter Felt, Chrome's engineering manager. "They're hard to read, it's hard to know which part of them is supposed to be trusted, and in general I don't think URLs are working as a good way to convey site identity. So we want to move toward a place where web identity is understandable by everyone - they know who they're talking to when they're using a website and they can reason about whether they can trust them. But this will mean big changes in how and when Chrome displays URLs. We want to challenge how URLs should be displayed and question it as we're figuring out the right way to convey identity."

Judging by the reactions across the web to this news, I'm going to have the minority opinion by saying that I'm actually a proponent of looking at what's wrong with the status quo so we can try to improve it. Computing is actually an incredibly conservative industry, and far too often the reaction to "can we do this better?" is "no, because it's always been that way".

That being said, I'm not a fan of such an undertaking in this specific case being done by a for-profit, closed entity such as Google. I know the Chromium project is open source, but it's effectively a Google project and what they decide goes - an important effort such as modernizing the URL scheme should be an industry-wide effort.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Sep 2018 23:07 UTC
Games
Microsoft's newest game accessory, the Xbox Adaptive Controller, probably isn't for you. That's just an odds game, when counting the percentage of people who fall into the "limited mobility" camp that this strange, unique controller is aimed at.

But that's the incredible thing about the XAC: that it's targeting a particularly fractured audience. Limited mobility is a giant, vague category, after all, with so many physical ailments to account for (let alone psychological ones). And previous answers in the gaming sphere have typically been specialized, one-of-a-kind controllers for single hands, feet, heads, and more.

XAC wins out in an odd way: by leaving some major work in users' hands. This $99 lap-sized device is truly incomplete on its own, as it's designed from the ground up to require add-on joysticks, buttons, and more. As a result, there's no way to fully review the possibilities Microsoft's XAC opens up for disabled gamers. Still, we've put a retail unit through its paces to see what kind of accessibility canvas this revolutionary "controller" opens up - and exactly how it works - to help limited-mobility gamers and their caretakers decide if its functionality, ease-of-use, and practical cost is right for them.

This is one of the most amazing products Microsoft has ever created. This must've taken a considerable amount of research, development, time, and money - and all that for what is a relatively small group of underserved people in the videogame community. I love how every little detail about this product - from packaging to the final product - is designed solely for people with limited mobility.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 6th Sep 2018 21:14 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

The US, UK, and three other governments have called on tech companies to build backdoors into their encrypted products, so that law enforcement will always be able to obtain access. If companies don't, the governments say they "may pursue technological, enforcement, legislative, or other measures" in order to get into locked devices and services.

Their statement came out of a meeting last week between nations in the Five Eyes pact, an intelligence sharing agreement between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The nations issued a statement covering a range of technology-related issues they face, but it was their remarks on encryption that stood out the most.

Break encryption, or we'll break you.