Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Jun 2018 23:35 UTC
Android

With the launch of Android 8.0 last year, Google released Project Treble into the world. Treble was one of Android's biggest engineering projects ever, modularizing the Android operating system away from the hardware and greatly reducing the amount of work needed to update a device. The goal here is nothing short of fixing Android's continual fragmentation problem, and now, six months later, it seems like the plan is actually working.

There are indeed some small signs of hope, but the reality is that as long as Samsung isn't on board, it's effectively all for naught. I find this article far too positive when you look at the reality of Android updates, but at least there's some progress.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 10th Jun 2018 23:31 UTC
General Development

The IRS has a lot of mainframes. And as millions of Americans recently found out, many of them are quite old. So as I wandered about meeting different types of engineers and chatting about their day-to-day blockers I started to learn much more about how these machines worked. It was a fascinating rabbit hole that exposed me to things like "decimal machines" and "2 out of 5 code". It revealed something to me that I had not ever considered:

Computers did not always use binary code.

Computers did not always use base 2. Computers did not always operate on just an on/off value. There were other things, different things that were tried and eventually abandoned. Some of them predating the advent of electronics itself.

Here's a little taste of some of those systems.

I've often wondered why computers are binary to begin with, but it was one of those stray questions that sometimes pops up in your head while you're waiting for your coffee or while driving, only to then rapidly disappear.

I have an answer now, but I don't really understand any of this.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jun 2018 23:27 UTC
BeOS & Derivatives

Haiku's latest monthly activity report is out, and it contains a lot of interesting points of progress. Since I can't highlight them all, here's one that I think is vital.

Korli continued his work on 32-bit applications support for x86_64. He now has most of the binary-loading, commpage, signals, and syscall system changes merged, though there are still a lot of pending changes to fix individual syscalls and then start applications in 32-bit mode.

There's also a major new port: LibreOffice has been ported to Haiku.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jun 2018 23:23 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y

But I think the reason that this year's WWDC felt a little Googley is that both companies are trying to articulate a vision of computing that mixes AI, mobile apps, and the desktop. They're clearly heading in the same general direction.

It's becoming ever harder to distinguish the two companies. They are clearly trying to work towards the same future, but they're coming at it from different directions. It's fascinating to watch.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jun 2018 21:28 UTC
Intel

Intel's recent demonstration of a 28-core processor running at 5GHz has certainly stirred the pot here at Computex, particularly because the presentation appeared to imply this would be a shipping chip with a 5.0GHz stock speed. Unfortunately, it turns out that Intel overclocked the 28-core processor to such an extreme that it required a one-horsepower industrial water chiller. That means it took an incredibly expensive (not to mention extreme) setup to pull off the demo. You definitely won't find this type of setup on a normal desktop PC.

We met with the company last night, and while Intel didn't provide many details, a company representative explained to us that "in the excitement of the moment," the company merely "forgot" to tell the crowd that it had overclocked the system. Intel also said it isn't targeting the gaming crowd with the new chip.

A lot of people always say "CEO's and companies don't lie because that's illegal, so you can always believe them".

Yeah.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jun 2018 21:26 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The computer industry is full of noble failures. Big ones. Little ones. Ideas that were 10 years too early. Ideas that were 15 years too early. Ideas that were 30 years too early. And concepts that, while fundamental to the way that our computing culture works today, hadn’t yet reached their full potential. Though certainly successful in its early years, the ARM processor very much fits in the latter category. Today, variants of these processors are in just about everything, from tiny computers, to smartphones, to video game consoles, to television sets, and even some servers. But the company that initially forged the processor is almost forgotten at this point, seemingly lost to history (especially outside of Europe) despite being an early icon of British computing. Tonight's Tedium ponders the story of Acorn Computers, the long-departed company whose best idea is probably in the device you're using to read this.

This introduction is basically clickbait specifically designed for OSNews readers. Well done.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 8th Jun 2018 21:23 UTC
Games

Better start saving up for that PlayStation 5, Xbox Two, or Nintendo Swatch (that last follow-up name idea is a freebie, by the way). That generation of consoles might be the last one ever, according to Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot. After that, he predicts cheap local boxes could provide easier access to ever-evolving high-end gaming streamed to the masses from cloud-based servers.

I think that's a little optimistic, but the trend is clear.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jun 2018 23:58 UTC
Google

Sundar Pichai has outlined the rules the company will follow when it comes to the development and application of AI.

We recognize that such powerful technology raises equally powerful questions about its use. How AI is developed and used will have a significant impact on society for many years to come. As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right. So today, we’re announcing seven principles to guide our work going forward. These are not theoretical concepts; they are concrete standards that will actively govern our research and product development and will impact our business decisions.

We acknowledge that this area is dynamic and evolving, and we will approach our work with humility, a commitment to internal and external engagement, and a willingness to adapt our approach as we learn over time.

It honestly blows my mind that we've already reached the point where we need to set rules for the development of artificial intelligence, and it blows my mind even more that we seem to have to rely on corporations self-regulating - which effectively means there are no rules at all. For now it feels like "artificial intelligence" isn't really intelligence in the sense of what humans and some other animals display, but once algorithms and computers start learning about more than jut identifying dog pictures or mimicking human voice inflections, things might snowball a lot quicker than we expect.

AI is clearly way beyond my comfort zone, and I find it very difficult to properly ascertain the risks involved. For once, I'd like society and governments to be on top of a technological development instead of discovering after the fact that we let it all go horribly wrong.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jun 2018 20:55 UTC
Windows

Windows Insider Preview build 17686 includes a hint that Microsoft may soon allow users to "switch to S mode". If true, the software giant may finally reverse on of the worst design decisions in Windows history.

You can see this hint by opening the Settings app and typing S mode. As you can see in the shot above, Settings provides a search hint for a Settings interface called Switch to S Mode.

I would definitely use this switch; I pretty much run only Store Applications on my Surface Pro 4 anyway, and an easy switch to allow classic Win32 applications if the need arises seems useful.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jun 2018 20:54 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

An anonymous user sent this one in, and even though it's old - 2014 - I hadn't read it yet, and I don't think it's ever been posted here.

It's a Monday night in Bristol in July 1983. Your parents are downstairs watching Coronation Street while you skulk in your bedroom under the pretence of doing homework. In reality, you're hunched over your cassette recorder, fingers hovering over the buttons in feverish anticipation. A quiver of excitement runs through you as a voice from the radio announces: "and now the moment you've all been waiting for..." There's a satisfying clunk as you press down on play and record simultaneously, and moments later the room is filled with strange metallic squawks and crackles. "SCREEEEEEEEEEE..."

You're listening to the Datarama show on Radio West and partaking in the UK's first attempt to send a computer program over local radio. Joe Tozer, who co-hosted the show, recalls how it all began: "I think it was just one of those 'ping!' moments when you realise that the home computer program is just audio on a cassette, so why not transmit it over air? It just seemed a cool idea."

I have very little experience with using cassettes as a data storage medium, except for that one time, somewhere in the late '80s or early '90s, where a neighbour kid and I loaded Rambo for the C64 from a cassette tape. That's the only time I ever did such a thing, and in hindsight, I'm glad I got to experience this era of computing, even if it was only once.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 7th Jun 2018 20:48 UTC
Mac OS X

Apple made a big splash at WWDC this year when it announced that it would be letting developers port their iOS applications over to the Mac sometime next year - and that Apple had already started the process by bringing over the iOS versions of the Home, Stocks, News, and Voice Memo apps to macOS 10.14 Mojave.

The project - rumored to be codenamed Marzipan - is still in the early stages, and Apple isn't even planning on offering it to developers until 2019. And there's already a fair amount of confusion and outcry over what Apple's doing here: whether or not it will see the death of the traditional Mac app as we know it, exactly how these new kinds of apps will work, whether they'll feel like traditional "native" Mac apps, and even whether or not it's fair to call these apps "ports". So here's what's actually going on.

A fair overview of "Marzipan" and what it could mean for the future of the Mac.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 21:17 UTC
ReactOS

ReactOS has unveiled its Google Summer of Code project, undertaken by Victor Perevertki.

My project is both simple and complicated. I want to add to ReactOS an option to install on and boot from BTRFS partitions. There are a few little things left to implement this:

  • BTRFS support in bootloader.
  • Fixes in cache controller and memory manager in order to boot with WinBtrfs driver. It is getting better every week, but right now used only with fastfat driver for FAT32.

My primary goal for this internship is implement BTRFS support in FreeLdr - our bootloader.

Another great GSoC project to keep an eye on.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 21:13 UTC
Microsoft

In a blog post, Microsoft announced Visual Studio 2019.

Because the Developer Tools teams (especially .NET and Roslyn) do so much work in GitHub, you'll start to see check-ins that indicate that we're laying the foundation for Visual Studio 2019, and we're now in the early planning phase of Visual Studio 2019 and Visual Studio for Mac. We remain committed to making Visual Studio faster, more reliable, more productive for individuals and teams, easier to use, and easier to get started with. Expect more and better refactorings, better navigation, more capabilities in the debugger, faster solution load, and faster builds. But also expect us to continue to explore how connected capabilities like Live Share can enable developers to collaborate in real time from across the world and how we can make cloud scenarios like working with online source repositories more seamless. Expect us to push the boundaries of individual and team productivity with capabilities like IntelliCode, where Visual Studio can use Azure to train and deliver AI-powered assistance into the IDE.

Our goal with this next release is to make it a simple, easy upgrade for everyone - for example, Visual Studio 2019 previews will install side by side with Visual Studio 2017 and won't require a major operating system upgrade.

The company doesn't have a release date yet.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 17:03 UTC
AMD

At the AMD press event at Computex, it was revealed that these new processors would have up to 32 cores in total, mirroring the 32-core versions of EPYC. On EPYC, those processors have four active dies, with eight active cores on each die (four for each CCX). On EPYC however, there are eight memory channels, and AMD's X399 platform only has support for four channels. For the first generation this meant that each of the two active die would have two memory channels attached - in the second generation Threadripper this is still the case: the two now 'active' parts of the chip do not have direct memory access.

I feel like the battle for the highest core count at the lowest possible price while still maintaining individual core clock is really the new focus for Intel and AMD. My only hope is that this will spur better and easier parallelisation in software so that we can all benefit from this battle.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 16:59 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Developer conference season is coming to an end with Apple's WWDC this week, and the main takeaway is that between Google's "Digital Wellbeing" and Apple's "Screen Time", the two biggest smartphone developers are taking some time to discourage smartphone overuse.

On the surface, the two companies are taking very similar approaches with the tools they're offering to present information to users. Apple and Google are both adding new dashboards, with options for more zoomed-out perspectives on how you're spending your time, along with more granular views of how often you're using individual apps - down to the minute. There's data on how many notifications you've received, where they're coming from, and breakdowns of when you're actually on your phone.

I like these features. I don't really need them - I don't even use my phone all that much - but I do like that they give me insight into how long I use certain applications, how often I pick up my phone, and so on. Neat data to have.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 14:15 UTC
Apple

Apple has one hardware-specific feature planned that wasn't announced at Monday's WWDC keynote. In iOS 12, users will be able to use Live Listen, a special feature previously reserved for hearing aids certified through Apple's Made for iPhone hearing aid program, with their AirPods.

After enabling the feature in the iPhone's settings, users will be able to use their phones effectively as a directional mic. This means you can have AirPods in at a noisy restaurant with your iPhone on the table, for example, and the voice of whomever is speaking will be routed to your AirPods.

What a great accessibility feature for people with hearing problems.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 10:09 UTC
Legal

Facebook and Google were paid millions for political advertising purposes in Washington but failed for years to publish related information - such as the advertiser's address - as required by state law, alleges a lawsuit by the state's attorney general.

Washington law requires that "political campaign and lobbying contributions and expenditures be fully disclosed to the public and that secrecy is to be avoided".

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 6th Jun 2018 10:07 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

Alexa for PCs, announced earlier this year, brings the cloud-based voice service to Windows 10 computers. Today, we introduce Alexa for PC solutions from Original Design Manufacturers (ODMs). Customers use PCs every day for business and entertainment. We believe voice is the next major disruption in the PC category, which is an important part of our "Alexa Everywhere" vision.

Four Windows 10 PCs have been added to our portfolio of qualified ODM solutions integrated with Alexa: An all-in-one desktop from Wistron, and convertible notebooks from Compal, Quanta, and Wistron. All of these pre-tested, final-product designs have been built for a far-field Alexa experience, with Intel CPUs, drivers, wake word engine, and microphone arrays.

I find Amazon devices very off-putting. I know Alexa devices are popular in the US, but does anyone outside of the US use Alexa?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jun 2018 21:51 UTC
Privacy, Security, Encryption

For years, Facebook's sneakiest data-collector has been the "Like" button. Any site that wants Facebook traffic needs one, which means they're just about everywhere. And in order to work right, the button needs to log you in - which is to say, it needs to know who you are. How else would Facebook know who liked the post? Even if you don't click, Facebook registers that you loaded the button, which means they get a map of every Like-enabled site you've been to, just the kind of data that advertisers will pay to target against.

Today at WWDC, Apple took a direct shot at that system and Facebook itself. Onstage, Apple's VP of software Craig Federighi described Safari's new anti-tracking features in unusually confrontational terms.

"We've all seen these like buttons and share buttons," Federighi told the crowd. "Well it turns out, these can be used to track you, whether you click on them or not. So this year, we're shutting that down."

This is one of the very rare cases where competing corporate interests actually work out in the favour of consumers. One way or another, this will be added to all browsers.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 5th Jun 2018 21:45 UTC
Intel

Alongside the launch of Intel's first 5 GHz processor, the 6-core Core i7-8086K, Intel today also showcased a 28-core single socket machine also running at 5 GHz. The system on display scored 7334 in Cinebench R15, and Gregory Bryant (SVP and GM of Intel Client Computing Group) explicitly stated that it would be coming in Q4 this year.

No other details were provided, however for it to exist in a current platform, this new processor would likely be in LGA2066 (X299) or LGA3647 (the server socket). Intel technically already makes 28-core monolithic designs in the Intel Xeon Scalable Platform with the Xeon Platinum 8180, which is a $10k processor, which runs a lot slower than 5.0 GHz.

This sounds like an absolutely insane processor few of us will ever get to enjoy.