Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 21:54 UTC, submitted by AmixG5
Amiga & AROS

The new, cleaned-up, polished Amiga operating system for your 68K machine fixes all the small annoyances that have piled up over the years. Originally intended as a bug-fix release, it also modernizes many system components previously upgraded in OS 3.9.

Contrary to its modest revision number, AmigaOS 3.1.4 is arguably as large an upgrade as OS 3.9 was, and surpasses it in stability and robustness. Over 320K of release notes cover almost every aspect of your favourite classic AmigaOS - from bootmenu to datatypes.

This is not AmigaOS 4 - just making that clear here - but an updated version of AmigaOS 3 for classic 68K-based Amigas.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 21:51 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems

The Spectrum was not the first Sinclair computer to make it big. It was, however, the first to go massive. In the months prior to launching, 'The Computer Programme' had aired on the BBC, legitimising the home micro computer as the must have educational item of the 1980's. For Sinclair and the ZX Spectrum the time was right, parents were keen, and the kids were excited. Games would soon be were everywhere thanks to all the kids programming their brand new Spectrums.

A major success factor, the one that gave the Spectrum its name, is the computer's capacity to generate a spectrum of colours. The micro is capable of generating 16 colours; 8 low intensity colours and 8 matching bright variants. It's hard to imagine now, but in 1982 these 16 colours were enough to start a home computer revolution. Richard Altwasser, the engineer employed by Sinclair to develop the Spectrum's graphic systems, was setting a new benchmark with some very innovative ideas.

I've missed the entire 8 bit home micro revolution - I simply was too young or not even born yet. It must've been such an exciting time.

 



Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 21:08 UTC
Mozilla & Gecko clones

Web users are increasingly turning to ad blockers to avoid ads, which are often perceived as annoying or an invasion of privacy. While there has been significant research into the factors driving ad blocker adoption and the detrimental effect to ad publishers on the Web, the resulting effects of ad blocker usage on Web users’ browsing experience is not well understood. To approach this problem, we conduct a retrospective natural field experiment using Firefox browser usage data, with the goal of estimating the effect of adblocking on user engagement with the Web. We focus on new users who installed an ad blocker after a baseline observation period, to avoid comparing different populations. Their subsequent browser activity is compared against that of a control group, whose members do not use ad blockers, over a corresponding observation period, controlling for prior baseline usage. In order to estimate causal effects, we employ propensity score matching on a number of other features recorded during the baseline period. In the group that installed an ad blocker, we find significant increases in both active time spent in the browser (+28% over control) and the number of pages viewed (+15% over control), while seeing no change in the number of searches. Additionally, by reapplying the same methodology to other popular Firefox browser extensions, we show that these effects are specific to ad blockers. We conclude that ad blocking has a positive impact on user engagement with the Web, suggesting that any costs of using ad blockers to users' browsing experience are largely drowned out by the utility that they offer.

I, too, use ad blockers on all my browsers and devices - and I can safely say that if ad blockers didn't exist, I'd be spending a lot less time reading websites online. Note that this study was performed by Mozilla employees.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 21:04 UTC
Games

Streaming media has transformed the way we consume music and video, making it easy to instantly access your favorite content. It's a technically complex process that has come a long way in a few short years, but the next technical frontier for streaming will be much more demanding than video.

We've been working on Project Stream, a technical test to solve some of the biggest challenges of streaming. For this test, we're going to push the limits with one of the most demanding applications for streaming - a blockbuster video game.

Google's trying their hands at game streaming - in the case of this test, Assassin's Creed Odyssey (which I happen to have just started on my PS4 Pro). If one company has the hardware to actually pull this off properly and consistently, it's Google.

 

Linked by Bjorn Stahl on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 20:59 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

More than three quarters of a year has gone by since last time, but the Arcan project has squeezed out a new release of the 'multimedia server' or 'desktop engine' Arcan and its related subproject, the Durden desktop environment.

For those unaware of the project as such, it might be worthwhile to skim through a recent summary that can be found in the article "Revisiting the Arcan Project" - but suffice to say that it is an ambitious attempt at replacing large swaths (terminal emulators, display server, audio server, and so on) of the normal user-facing parts of the BSD and Linux userspace, with a single compact and coherently scriptable component.

 

Linked by jonsmirl on Tue 2nd Oct 2018 17:44 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

CirnOS is an operating system for the Raspberry Pi built for the purpose of usability and simplicity. It provides a simple environment for running Lua scripts on Raspberry Pi. It has no kernel or time management - it is single threaded. You run your code on the device, and that is it.

CirnOS has only been tested on the Raspberry Pi Zero, but should work on the original Raspberry Pi and the Zero W.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 29th Sep 2018 09:42 UTC, submitted by BlueofRainbow
BeOS & Derivatives

It's been just about a month less than six years since Haiku’s last release in November 2012 - too long. As a result of such a long gap between releases, there are a lot more changes in this release than in previous ones, and so this document is weightier than it has been in the past. The notes are mostly organized in order of importance and relevance, not chronologically, and due to the sheer number of changes, thousands of smaller improvements simply aren't recognized here.

Please keep in mind that this is beta-quality software, which means it is feature complete but still contains known and unknown bugs. While we are mostly confident in its stability, we cannot provide assurances against data loss.

This is a massive release, especially if you haven't been keeping up with any of the nightly releases over the years. There's so much new stuff and improvements in here that it makes no sense trying to summarise them, so I highly suggest reading the release notes carefully, downloading the beta, and giving it a go yourself in either a virtual environment or on actual metal.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 29th Sep 2018 07:42 UTC
Microsoft

In March 2014, Microsoft released the source code to MS-DOS 1.25 and 2.0 via the Computer History Museum. The announcement also contains a brief history of how MS-DOS came to be for those new to the subject, and ends with many links to related articles and resources for those interested in learning more.

Today, we're re-open-sourcing MS-DOS on GitHub. Why? Because it's much easier to find, read, and refer to MS-DOS source files if they're in a GitHub repo than in the original downloadable compressed archive file.

Good move.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 29th Sep 2018 07:40 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft first started work on its touch-friendly Office apps for Windows 8.1 more than five years ago. Designed for tablets or laptops with touchscreens, the apps are lightweight and speedy versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Microsoft has updated them regularly for Windows 10, but now that the company has halted work on Windows 10 Mobile, it's also halting work on these Office apps.

The apps aren’t fully dead yet, but Microsoft is no longer developing new features for them. "We are currently prioritizing development for the iOS and Android versions of our apps; and on Windows, we are prioritizing Win32 and web versions of our apps," explains a Microsoft spokesperson in a statement to The Verge.

Typical Microsoft. They develop this entirely new way of writing and building applications, they want everyone to switch to it, but then fail at the dogfooding stage because the Office team is incapable of moving beyond its slow and bloated existing codebase. They got farther than ever before this time - the UWP Office apps are quite full-featured and much faster and more pleasant to use than their traditional counterparts - but still never even got in sight of the finish line.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 29th Sep 2018 07:34 UTC
Android

Google's major Wear OS revamp is out today, and soon it will arrive on most devices released in the past year and a half (although Ars has already spent a week with a pre-release version of the OS). In the face of relentless competition from the Apple Watch Series 4 and Samsung Galaxy Watch, Google's most obvious change in the new Wear OS is a new UI for most of the main screens. There's not much in the way of new functionality or features, but everything is laid out better.

Seems like a very welcome update to a struggling platform.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Sep 2018 22:36 UTC
Features, Office

It used to happen sporadically but now it is a daily experience. As I am browsing the net I click on a link (usually a newspaper website). The page starts to load. Then I wait. And I wait. And I wait. It takes several seconds.

Once loaded, my patience is not rewarded since my MacBook Air mid-2011 seems to barely be able to keep up. Videos start playing left and right. Sound is not even turned off by default anymore. This shitshow festival of lights and sounds is discouraging but I am committed to learn about world news. I continue.

I have the silly idea to scroll down (searching for the meaty citations located between double quotes) and the framerate drops to 15 frames per second. Later, for no apparent reason, all fans will start running at full speed. The air exhaust will expel burning hot air. MacOS X's ActivityMonitor.app reveals countless "Helpers" processes which are not helping at all. I wonder if the machine is going to die on my lap, or take off like a jet and fly away.

This happens even on my brand new laptop or my crazy powerful custom PC. This short article is basically a reply to the article we talked about earlier this week, and I'm pretty sure this is a subject we won't be done with for a long time to come.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Sep 2018 22:18 UTC
SGI and IRIX

Nearly 30 years after Silicon Graphics ruled the high-performance computing roost, its supercomputers have found themselves a new home with a small community full of enthusiasts - some of whom weren’t even alive during the company's heyday.

SGI machines are definitely on my list of platforms to sink my teeth into in the future. I don't think I'll be focusing on these more eccentric supercomputer-type workstations, but they are fascinating nonetheless. I'm very glad there's an active community of people keeping these machines working.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Sep 2018 19:05 UTC
Linux

Suppose you have a program running on your system that you don't quite trust. Maybe it's a program submitted by a student to an automated grading system. Or maybe it's a QEMU device model running in a Xen control domain ("domain 0" or "dom0"), and you want to make sure that even if an attacker from a rogue virtual machine manages to take over the QEMU process, they can't do any further harm. There are many things you want to do as far as restricting its ability to do mischief. But one thing in particular you probably want to do is to be able to reliably kill the process once you think it should be done. This turns out to be quite a bit more tricky than you'd think.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 27th Sep 2018 19:04 UTC
Legal

I've been away for a few days, so there's some backlog for me to chew through.

Qualcomm has unveiled explosive charges against Apple, accusing it of stealing "vast swaths" of confidential information and trade secrets for the purpose of improving the performance of chips provided by rival Intel, according to a court filing.

Qualcomm hopes the court will amend allegations in its existing lawsuit against Apple accusing it of breaching the so called master software agreement that Apple signed when it became a customer of Qualcomm's earlier this decade.

One unlikeable horrible company fighting the other. Am I supposed to root for someone here?

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Sep 2018 23:02 UTC
Features, Office

I've been programming for 15 years now. Recently our industry's lack of care for efficiency, simplicity, and excellence started really getting to me, to the point of me getting depressed by my own career and the IT in general.

Modern cars work, let's say for the sake of argument, at 98% of what's physically possible with the current engine design. Modern buildings use just enough material to fulfill their function and stay safe under the given conditions. All planes converged to the optimal size/form/load and basically look the same.

Only in software, it's fine if a program runs at 1% or even 0.01% of the possible performance. Everybody just seems to be ok with it. People are often even proud about how much inefficient it is, as in "why should we worry, computers are fast enough".

A bit ranty here and there, but this entire "old man yells at cloud" article is very much music to my ears. Software is bad. We expect software to be bad. We accept that software is bad. We make excuses why software is bad. We tell people it's okay that software is bad. We say it is inevitable that software is bad.

If any other industry were as lax about quality and performance as the software industry, we'd be up in arms.

 

Linked by skalk on Mon 24th Sep 2018 22:56 UTC
OSNews, Generic OSes

Sculpt is an open-source general-purpose OS based on the Genode framework. It combines a microkernel architecture, capability-based security, sandboxed device drivers, and hardware-virtualized guests in a novel operating system for commodity x86-64 hardware.

The third version of Sculpt OS is now available under codename Sculpt VC. It is based on Genode OS framework release 18.08. "Sculpt with Visual Composition" takes a step forward to turn Sculpt into a useable system for a wider audience. It features a graphical user interface for performing fundamental tasks like connecting to a wireless network, or installing and running software from packages. However, the full power of the system is still accessible only via a textual interface. A detailed description of the usage and structure of Sculpt VC can be found in its documentation.

Sculpt VC is available in form of an USB stick image thats boots on bare metal x86 hardware. The image has a size of 24 MiB only. Alternatively, a virtual appliance for VirtualBox is provided.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Sep 2018 22:52 UTC
Mac OS X

With macOS Mojave, Apple is adding support to run UIKit apps on macOS without the requirement of rewriting the UI in AppKit. While this isn’t yet something that's officially supported for third-party developers, let's explore what to expect in 2019 and how to try it out today.

Coincidentally, macOS Mojave has been released today as well, so head on over to the Mac App Store and update your Macs.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Sep 2018 20:02 UTC
Microsoft

Microsoft is unveiling an ambitious effort to overhaul its search experience in Office, Windows, Bing and more today. Dubbed Microsoft Search, the new search experience will first start appearing on Bing and Office.com today. Bing isn't going away, but Microsoft Search is the new name for a combination of Bing and the search results you might expect to find in Windows applications. It's designed to combine traditional search results with commands, app features, and personalized results. Search is being moved to a central area in Office apps, allowing Excel users to find commands and features in results alongside documents and other search results.

I've never been a fan of combining web and local search results on my operating system's search tool - the two are clearly separated in my mind and I regard them as two entirely different and distinct entities. I'm sure I'm revealing my age here, and that younger generations don't perceive this distinction at all, but I'm just hoping I can turn this off.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Sep 2018 19:14 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

Recently, I paid $12 at Mingtong Digital Mall for a complete phone, featuring quad-band GSM, Bluetooth, MP3 playback, and an OLED display plus keypad for the UI. Simple, but functional; nothing compared to a smartphone, but useful if you’re going out and worried about getting your primary phone wet or stolen.

[...]

How is this possible? I don't have the answers, but it's something I'm trying to learn. A teardown yields a few hints.

These are amazing products for a specific niche, and the young teenager in me who got his first cellphone at 13 marvels at the price of this thing.

 

Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 24th Sep 2018 19:10 UTC
General Development

In an assembly language we typically don't have to worry very much about the distinction between pointers and integers. Some instructions happen to generate addresses whereas others behave arithmetically, but underneath there's a single data type: bitvectors. At the opposite end of the PL spectrum, a high-level language won't offer opportunities for pointer/integer confusion because the abstractions are completely firewalled off from each other. Also, of course, a high-level language may choose not to expose anything that resembles a pointer.