Apple does Chinese government’s bidding once more, removes indie podcast apps from the App Store in China

Apple Inc. removed podcast apps Pocket Casts and Castro from its App Store in China at the request of the Cyberspace Administration of China, the apps’ developers said this week. “We believe podcasting is and should remain an open medium, free of government censorship,” Pocket Casts wrote on Twitter. “As such we won’t be censoring podcast content at their request.” The developers said that Apple contacted them on behalf of the Chinese regulator and that the app was removed two days later. The developer wrote that Apple said Pocket Casts includes “content that is illegal in China as determined by the CAC.” It turns out the developers behind these two small podcast applications have a stronger and bigger backbone than Apple – because Apple censored its own podcasts application when the Chinese government ordered them to.

Intel discloses Lakefield CPUs specifications

Over the past 12 months, Intel has slowly started to disclose information about its first hybrid x86 platform, Lakefield. This new processor combines one ‘big’ CPU core with four ‘small’ CPU cores, along with a hefty chunk of graphics, with Intel setting out to deliver a new computing form factor. Highlights for this processor include its small footprint, due to new 3D stacking ‘Foveros’ technology, as well as its low standby SoC power, as low as 2.5 mW, which Intel states is 91% lower than previous low power Intel processors. This is Intel’s latest attempt to take on ARM in very thin laptops and tablets and other low-power devices.

Haiku R1 beta 2 released

The second beta for Haiku R1 marks twenty months of hard work to improve Haiku’s hardware support and its overall stability. Since Beta 1, there have been 101 contributors with over 2800 code commits in total. More than 900 bugs and enhancement tickets have been resolved for this release. There’s so many improvements in this new release that it’s hard to pick favourites. Since many Haiku users basically use the operating system on a rolling release basis through online updates, it’s easy to lose track of what’s new between beta and 2. I have a VM for Haiku that I regularly update and use, and it’s remarkable just how stable and fast Haiku has become over the years.

KDE Plasma 5.19 released

Plasma 5.19 is out! If we gave alliterative names to Plasma releases, this one could be “Polished Plasma”. The effort developers have put into squashing bugs and removing annoying papercuts has been immense. In this release, we have prioritized making Plasma more consistent, correcting and unifying designs of widgets and desktop elements; worked on giving you more control over your desktop by adding configuration options to the System Settings; and improved usability, making Plasma and its components easier to use and an overall more pleasurable experience. It’s been a joy to follow the focus on fixing papercuts in KDE and its applications, and now’s the time to give it a go through something like KDE Neon.

Apple will announce move to ARM-based Macs later this month, says report

Apple will announce that it’s shifting from using Intel processors to its own ARM-based chips this month at WWDC 2020, Bloomberg reports. The developer conference is due to take place starting on June 22nd with an online-only format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Bloomberg notes that the timing of the announcement could change due to the health crisis. Rumors of Apple switching to using its own ARM-based processors in its Macs have been around for years, but a recent report from Bloomberg claimed that the shift was imminent, and that the first Mac powered by an ARM-based processor would arrive in 2021. The company reportedly has at least three ARM-based Mac processors in development based on the next iPhone’s A14 chip as part of Apple’s “Kalamata” project. While I like ARM bringing the competition to x86, Apple is not the right company to get excited over. ARM in and of itself is already more fragmented and locked-in than x86, and Apple cranks this up a notch. A lot of people are excited over ARM Macs, but I have a feeling they may be in for a very rude awakening. No more Steam. No more Bootcamp. No more Linux or other alternative operating systems. Far more Electron apps and shoddy iOS ports (developers barely wanted to make native x86 Mac apps, even fewer will make ARM Mac apps). No Adobe applications for the coming years. iOS-like restrictions for ARM macOS. Rude awakening indeed.

ArcaOS 5.0.5 released

ArcaOS 5.0.5 introduces support for xHCI (USB3) controllers to install on a wider array of systems than ever before. What’s more, for updaters, even if your USB controller was previously unsupported, and you had to install or update from DVD in the past, you may now boot into the installer from USB stick to perform the update. USB3-attached keyboards and mice should work, as well. ArcaOS 5.0.5 includes over 100 updates, enhancements, and fixes since 5.0.4 was released. If you have experienced difficulty installing previous releases of ArcaOS on your hardware, the fixes and updates included in 5.0.5 may address your issue(s). ArcaOS is a continuation of IBM’s OS/2, updated and fixed for modern hardware and with modern applications.

States are leaning toward a push to break up Google’s ad tech business

The state attorneys general investigating Google for potential antitrust violations are leaning toward pushing for a breakup of its ad technology business as part of an expected suit, people familiar with the situation told CNBC. Fifty attorneys general have been probing Google’s business practices for months, alongside a similar probe being led by the U.S. Department of Justice. Both the states and the DOJ are looking to file a suit against the internet giant as soon as within the next few months, the people told CNBC. Any corporate break up always depends on the details, but there’s no denying the large technology companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, and others have amassed such immense amounts of wealth and influence that they should definitely be either leashed, or broken up entirely – something the US in particular has a lot of experience with.

Emacs as an email client

Emailing in Emacs is a super power that I have been grateful for over the past several years. Below I will describe a simple setup that works for me and more importantly for me, it’s something I like. This setup makes me almost want to write descriptive emails simply because it moves the pain of writing emails into the same ecosystem that I feel comfortable writing long form articles, programs, design documents and other artifacts that involve “putting my thoughts down”. I cringe everytime I see an email written in rich text with broad lines going well over 150 characters. It may not be for me – in fact, it’s really not for me – but I always greatly enjoy reading about people’s unique way of doing things with hardware and software.

Those Win9x Crashes on Fast Machines…

It is well known that Win9x variants prior to Windows 98 have a tendency to crash on fast CPUs. The definition of “fast” is of course fuzzy but the problems were known to occur on AMD K6-2 processors running at 350 MHz or faster as early as 1998. This led to some acrimony when Microsoft attempted to charge $35 for the fix. The crashes were intermittent on the 350 MHz parts but harder to avoid with faster clock speeds. The problem soon started affecting other CPUs with higher frequencies, but it didn’t affect Intel processors for a while. Were Intel CPUs somehow better? Not exactly, but there was a reason for that; more about it later. I have been long aware of this problem but never looked into the details. And when I did, at first I didn’t realize it. An acquaintance mentioned that Windows 3.11 for Workgroups no longer works in a VM. A good and interesting read.

Microsoft Defender SmartScreen is hurting independent developers

Let us say you are an independent developer and it is time to publish your app to the world. To make it easier, you build an installer and start distributing it. A courageous early adopter downloads and runs it, only to be greeted by this strongly worded warning: Indeed, in today’s Windows environment, Microsoft actively blocks binaries from running; thanks to “SmartScreen”. This article details some of the problems with SmartSCreen, which in theory could be an important and useful technology.

5G coronavirus conspiracy theorists are endangering the workers who keep networks running

Since the UK entered lockdown in March, engineers like Qureshi had unwillingly found themselves on the front line of a strange global crusade. Conspiracy theorists had linked the spread of the novel coronavirus to the installation of new 5G mobile networks, with some claiming the cellular network weakened the immune system and allowed the virus to thrive, while others said 5G masts were broadcasting the virus through the ether (all “crackpot” claims, to quote the UK government). The thing these theories have in common is that they give people someone to blame. And though some of that paranoia comes from a reasonable mistrust of large corporations and institutions, the end target was always workers like Qureshi, out on the street in high-visibility vests, just trying to do their job. These people are what the facepalm was invented for.

Buyer beware – that 2TB-6TB “NAS” drive you’ve been eyeing might be SMR

Storage vendors, including but reportedly not limited to Western Digital, have quietly begun shipping SMR (Shingled Magnetic Recording) disks in place of earlier CMR (Conventional Magnetic Recording) disks. SMR is a technology that allows vendors to eke out higher storage densities, netting more TB capacity on the same number of platters—or fewer platters, for the same amount of TB. Until recently, the technology has only been seen in very large disks, which were typically clearly marked as “archival”. In addition to higher capacities, SMR is associated with much lower random I/O performance than CMR disks offer. This is going to be another one of those stupid things us technology buyers have to look out for when buying storage, isn’t it? Like

Linux Mint won’t install snaps behind your back

A few weeks ago, we talked about how Ubuntu is forcing snap packages on users, even when using apt. Since various distributions are based on Ubuntu, a lot of users of those distributions are wondering if snaps will infect their systems, too. One of the most popular Ubuntu-based distributions, Linux Mint, has a clear answer. First, I’m happy to confirm that Linux Mint 20, like previous Mint releases will not ship with any snaps or snapd installed. Second, to address this situation we’ll do exactly what we said we would: • In Linux Mint 20, Chromium won’t be an empty package which installs snapd behind your back. It will be an empty package which tells you why it’s empty and tells you where to look to get Chromium yourself.• In Linux Mint 20, APT will forbid snapd from getting installed. You’ll still be able to install it yourself and we’ll document this in the release notes, but by default APT won’t allow repository packages from doing this on your behalf. This is good news, and the right route to take.

Twitter, Reddit file in support of lawsuit challenging US government’s social media registration requirement for visa applicants

Twitter, Reddit, and Internet Association filed an amicus brief late yesterday in support of a lawsuit filed last year by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP on behalf of plaintiffs Doc Society and International Documentary Association, challenging rules that require nearly all visa applicants to register their social media handles with the U.S. government and connected policies permitting the retention and dissemination of that information. The brief argues that the social media registration requirement and connected policies “unquestionably chill a vast quantity of speech” and harm the First Amendment rights of their users, particularly those who use pseudonymous handles to discuss political, controversial, or otherwise sensitive issues on the platforms. This has bad idea written all over it, but that has never stopped any government from implementing tech-related policy. This won’t be an issue for average joes around the world – many western countries have visa-free travel to the US anyway through things like the ESTA program – but it will be for people from repressive regimes.

Linux 5.7 kernel released

As far as Linux 5.7 goes there are many new features and improvements like an Apple USB “Fast Charge” driver, Intel Tiger Lake “Gen12” graphics are now deemed stable and promoted out of the experimental flag, AMD Renoir graphics are in good shape, F2FS Zstd support, Qualcomm Snapdragon 865 support on this mainline kernel, and a lot more. You can of course build the new kernel yourself, but it’ll make its way to your distribution of choice soon enough.

Google details Fuchsia, states it is not experimental

It seems Google has opened up a little bit about its Fuchsia operating system. A (I think) new ‘Overview’ page details what Fuchsia is, what it’s not, and what it’s intended to be used for. Security is obviously a primary goal of the operating system: Security and privacy are woven deeply into the architecture of Fuchsia. The basic building blocks of Fuchsia, the kernel primitives, are exposed to applications as object-capabilities, which means that applications running on Fuchsia have no ambient authority: applications can interact only with the objects to which they have been granted access explicitly. Software is delivered in hermetic packages and everything is sandboxed, which means all software that runs on the system, including applications and system components, receives the least privilege it needs to perform its job and gains access only to the information it needs to know. Google seems to want to make really clear that Fuchsia is diametrically the opposite of Android when it comes to updates. They don’t mince words here, and it might as well read “everything Android is not”: Fuchsia works by combining components delivered in packages. Fuchsia packages are designed to be updated independently or even delivered ephemerally, which means packages are designed to come and go from the device as needed and the software is always up-to-date, like a Web page. Fuchsia aims to provide drivers with a binary-stable interface. In the future, drivers compiled for one version of Fuchsia will continue to work in future versions of Fuchsia without needing to be modified or even recompiled. This approach means that Fuchsia devices will be able to update to newer versions of Fuchsia seamlessly while keeping their existing drivers. There’s more information about Fuchsia on the page, but the final paragraph should finally shed some light on that Google is definitely serious about the new operating system, and is intending to actually, you know, use it for stuff. Fuchsia’s goal is to power production devices and products used for business-critical applications. As such, Fuchsia is not a playground for experimental operating system concepts. Instead, the platform roadmap is driven by practical use cases arising from partner and product needs.

Genode 20.05 released

Genode 20.05 takes our road map’s focus on the consolidation and optimization of the framework and its API to heart. It contains countless of under-the-hood improvements, mostly on the account of vastly intensified automated testing, the confrontation of Genode with increasingly complex software stacks, and stressful real-world work loads. You will find this theme throughout the release notes below. The result of this overhaul is captured in the updated version of the Genode Foundations book (Section New revision of the Genode Foundations book). I wish every project had release notes as detailed as Genode’s always are. Excellent work.

PowerPC Solaris on the RS/6000

One of the weirdest times in computing was during the mid-90s, when the major RISC vendors all had their own plans to dominate the consumer market and eventually wipe out Intel. This was a time that led to overpriced non-x86 systems that intended to wipe out the PC, Windows NT being ported to non-x86 platforms, PC style hardware paired with RISC CPUs, Apple putting the processor line from IBM servers into Macs, and Silicon Graphics designing a game console for Nintendo. While their attempts worked wonders in the embedded field for MIPS and the AIM alliance, quite a few of these attempts at breaking into the mainstream were total flops. Despite this, there were some weird products released during this period that most only assumed existed in tech magazine ads and reviews. One such product was Solaris for PowerPC. Now Solaris has existed on Intel platforms for ages and the Illumos fork has some interesting ports including a DEC Alpha port, but a forgotten official port exists for the PowerPC CPU architecture. Unlike OS/2, it’s complete and has a networking stack. It’s also perhaps one of the weirdest OSes on the PowerPC platform. I love machines from this era. There’s some seriously weird hardware from that time floating around eBay for serious prices.

Android Studio 4.0 released

Some highlights of Android Studio 4.0 include a new Motion Editor to help bring your apps to life, a Build Analyzer to investigate causes for slower build times, and Java 8 language APIs you can use regardless of your app’s minimum API level. Based on your feedback, we’ve also overhauled the CPU Profiler user interface to provide a more intuitive workflow and easier side-by-side analysis of thread activity. And the improved Layout Inspector now provides live data of your app’s UI, so you can easily debug exactly what’s being shown on the device. It’s available on the stable channel.