Intel to discontinue Itanium 9700 ‘Kittson’ processor, the last of the Itaniums

Intel on Thursday notified its partners and customers that it would be discontinuing its Itanium 9700-series codenamed Kittson processors, the last Itanium chips on the market. Under their product discontinuance plan, Intel will cease shipments of Itanium CPUs in mid-2021, or a bit over two years from now. The impact to hardware vendors should be minimal – at this point HP Enterprise is the only company still buying the chips – but it nonetheless marks the end of an era for Intel, and their interesting experiment into a non-x86 VLIW-style architecture. Itanium has a long and troubled history, but it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to experiment and play with. Maybe the definitive discontinuation of the platform will inject some more stock of machines into eBay.

New study: Google manipulates users into constant tracking

Today, the Norwegian Consumer Council has filed a complaint against Google. Based on new research Google is accused of using deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked. Google tracks users through “Location History” and “Web & App Activity”, which are settings integrated into all Google accounts. For users of mobile phones with Android, such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid. Google is processing incredibly detailed and extensive personal data without proper legal grounds, and the data has been acquired through manipulation techniques, says Gro Mette Moen, acting head of unit, digital services in the Norwegian Consumer Council. Is anybody surprised by this?

The Windows 3.0 File Manager is now available in the Microsoft Store

Last April, Microsoft open sourced the original File Manager that shipped with Windows 3.0, allowing users to make changes and if they want, compile it for use on Windows 10. Now, the firm is making it easier to run the legacy app, as it’s offering the Windows 3.0 File Manager through the Microsoft Store (via Aggiornamenti Lumia) as a UWP app. It’s definitely neat to play with this – and it works wonderfully. It also has a few updated features, but retains its classic look.

Apple blocks Google and Facebook from running its internal iOS apps

Apple has now shut down Google’s ability to distribute its internal iOS apps, following a similar shutdown that was issued to Facebook earlier this week. A person familiar with the situation tells The Verge that early versions of Google Maps, Hangouts, Gmail, and other pre-release beta apps have stopped working today, alongside employee-only apps like a Gbus app for transportation and Google’s internal cafe app. “We’re working with Apple to fix a temporary disruption to some of our corporate iOS apps, which we expect will be resolved soon,” says a Google spokesperson in a statement to The Verge. Apple has not yet commented on the situation. There are two sides to this story. One the one hand, I’m glad Apple is taking measures and revoking some of these companies’ developer rights. These kinds of privacy-invading apps are a terrible idea, even if people get paid for them, and no platform should allow them. On the other hand, though, I would much rather have such tactics be wholly illegal on a national level, since leaving such decisions in the hands of easily corruptible corporrations – see Apple and China – is a recipe for disaster.

The platform Microsoft forgot

When Microsoft revealed that it was finally putting its long-running, if disregarded, Windows Phone line out to pasture, it was less roar, more whimper. It was a valiant effort that introduced some original thinking to the smartphone space, but it ultimately was a noble failure. But it got me thinking about a platform with Microsoft’s fingerprints on it, that was a noble and influential attempt at producing a standard, but ultimately fell into obscurity, with the industry choosing a different path. Today’s Tedium is about the Windows Phone of the ’80s, MSX. The MSX was one of the first computers I used, since a friend of mine had one. I can’t remember what, exactly, we did with it, but I’m pretty sure it was games. The MSX was weirdly popular in The Netherlands, and they’re still relatively easy to come by here.

Microsoft guy: Mozilla should give up on Firefox and go with Chromium too

A Microsoft program manager has caused a stir on Twitter over the weekend by suggesting that Firefox-maker Mozilla should give up on its own rendering engine and move on with Chromium. “Thought: It’s time for @mozilla to get down from their philosophical ivory tower. The web is dominated by Chromium, if they really ‘cared’ about the web, they would be contributing instead of building a parallel universe that’s used by less than five percent?” wrote Kenneth Auchenberg, who builds web developer tools for Microsoft’s Visual Studio Code. This is such a rude and discourteous thing to say to a competitor – a competitor that has played a crucial role in bringing back competition to the browser market back when Internet Explorer 6 kept the web down like an anker. We need competition on the web.

‘Karma’: inside the hack used by the UAE to break into iPhones of foes

A team of former U.S. government intelligence operatives working for the United Arab Emirates hacked into the iPhones of activists, diplomats and rival foreign leaders with the help of a sophisticated spying tool called Karma, in a campaign that shows how potent cyber-weapons are proliferating beyond the world’s superpowers and into the hands of smaller nations. The cyber tool allowed the small Gulf country to monitor hundreds of targets beginning in 2016, from the Emir of Qatar and a senior Turkish official to a Nobel Peace laureate human-rights activist in Yemen, according to five former operatives and program documents reviewed by Reuters. The sources interviewed by Reuters were not Emirati citizens. No device is secure.

Google takes its first steps toward killing the URL

In September, members of Google’s Chrome security team put forth a radical proposal: kill off URLs as we know them. The researchers aren’t actually advocating a change to the web’s underlying infrastructure. They do, though, want to rework how browsers convey what website you’re looking at, so that you don’t have to contend with increasingly long and unintelligible URLs—and the fraud that has sprung up around them. In a talk at the Bay Area Enigma security conference on Tuesday, Chrome usable security lead Emily Stark is wading into the controversy, detailing Google’s first steps toward more robust website identity. I don’t know if Google’s proposed steps are any good, but I do like it that at least some people are not afraid to challenge the status quo. Things can always be better, and holding on to the past because “it’s always been that way” is a terrible argument.

Facebook pays teens to install VPN that spies on them

Great reporting by TechCrunch’s Josh Constine: Desperate for data on its competitors, Facebook has been secretly paying people to install a “Facebook Research” VPN that lets the company suck in all of a user’s phone and web activity, similar to Facebook’s Onavo Protect app that Apple banned in June and that was removed in August. Facebook sidesteps the App Store and rewards teenagers and adults to download the Research app and give it root access in what may be a violation of Apple policy so the social network can decrypt and analyze their phone activity, a TechCrunch investigation confirms. Facebook admitted to TechCrunch it was running the Research program to gather data on usage habits, and it has no plans to stop. Since 2016, Facebook has been paying users ages 13 to 35 up to $20 per month plus referral fees to sell their privacy by installing the iOS or Android “Facebook Research” app. Facebook even asked users to screenshot their Amazon order history page. The program is administered through beta testing services Applause, BetaBound and uTest to cloak Facebook’s involvement, and is referred to in some documentation as “Project Atlas” — a fitting name for Facebook’s effort to map new trends and rivals around the globe. This is a very interesting case. These users are clearly doing this of their own volition; they are making the choice to give up their privacy so Facebook can see literally everything they do on their iPhone. At the same time, we can all agree this scummy, sleazy, and stupid, and I would love for Apple to have the guts to revoke Facebook’s iOS developer account. They won’t, of course, but if Apple really cares about privacy – they do not, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that they do – they should remove Facebook from the App Store.

RIOT: the friendly operating system for the Internet of Things

RIOT powers the Internet of Things like Linux powers the Internet. RIOT is a free, open source operating system developed by a grassroots community gathering companies, academia, and hobbyists, distributed all around the world. RIOT supports most low-power IoT devices and microcontroller architectures (32-bit, 16-bit, 8-bit). RIOT aims to implement all relevant open standards supporting an Internet of Things that is connected, secure, durable & privacy-friendly. Back in my day, we used to call this an embedded operating system.

Apple was warned about alarming FaceTime eavesdropping bug last week

Yesterday, a worrying and invasive bug that allowed callers to secretly listen in on unknowing recipients through Apple’s FaceTime app quickly made news headlines. It was discovered that people could initiate a FaceTime call and, with a couple short steps, tap into the microphone on the other end as the call rang — without the other person accepting the FaceTime request. Apple said last night that an iOS update to eliminate the privacy bug is coming this week; in the meantime, the company took the step of disabling group FaceTime at the server level as an immediate emergency fix. However, new information suggests that Apple has already had several days to respond; the company was tipped off about it last week. Back on January 20th, a Twitter user tweeted at Apple’s support account clearly outlining the gist of the FaceTime bug: “My teen found a major security flaw in Apple’s new iOS. He can listen in to your iPhone/iPad without your approval.” The parent’s teenager had discovered the problem one day prior on January 19th, according to tech entrepreneur John Meyer, who has been in contact with them. CNET has identified the tipster as Michele Thompson, whose 14-year-old son first encountered the flaw while setting up a group FaceTime call with friends to coordinate strategy during a game of Fortnite. This article is definitely worth a read, since it illustrates very well just how negligent Apple has been with this issue. The mother of the boy who discovered the flaw is a lawyer, and through proper letters and other means, she informed Apple of the major security flaw through all the various channels Apple offers. Apple wasn’t very forthcoming, and despite knowing about the issue, didn’t do anything about it until yesterday, when the company disabled Group FaceTime and promised a fix would come “later this week”.

The CADR microprocessor

The CADR microprocessor is a general purpose processor designed for convenient emulation of complex order codes, particularly those involving stacks and pointer manipulation. It is the central processor in the LISP machine project, where it interprets the bit-efficient 16-bit order code produced by the LISP machine compiler. (The terms “LISP machine” and “CADR machine” are sometimes confused. In this document, the CADR machine is a particular design of microprocessor, while the LISP machine is the CADR machine plus the microcode which interprets the LISP machine order code.) I’ll admit I have no idea what anything in this long, technical description means, but I’m pretty sure this is right up many readers’ alleys.

Nvidia CEO warns of “extraordinary, unusually turbulent, disappointing” Q4

Ars Technica writes: On Monday, Nvidia took the unusual step of offering a revised Q4 2019 financial estimate ahead of its scheduled disclosure on February 14. The reason: Nvidia had already predicted low revenue numbers, and the hardware producer is already confident that its low estimate was still too high. The original quarterly revenue estimate of $2.7 billion has since dropped to $2.2 billion, a change of roughly 19 percent. A few new data points factor into that revision. The biggest consumer-facing issue, according to Nvidia, is “lower than expected” sales of its RTX line of new graphics cards. This series, full of proprietary technologies like a dedicated raytracing processor, kicked off in September 2018 with the $1,199 RTX 2080 Ti and the $799 RTX 2080. The RTX launch was bungled, and the cryptocurrency hype is way past its prime. It’s not a surprise Nvidia is going to experience a rough year.

Windows 10 and reserved storage

Starting with the next major Windows update, Microsoft is going to reserve about 7 GB of disk space on Windows’ root drive for something it calls “reserved storage”, basically a space for updates, apps, temporary files, and system caches. Note that the 7 GB is variable, and will change depending on how you use your system. When apps and system processes create temporary files, these files will automatically be placed into reserved storage. These temporary files won’t consume free user space when they are created and will be less likely to do so as temporary files increase in number, provided that the reserve isn’t full. Since disk space has been set aside for this purpose, your device will function more reliably. Storage sense will automatically remove unneeded temporary files, but if for some reason your reserve area fills up Windows will continue to operate as expected while temporarily consuming some disk space outside of the reserve if it is temporarily full. In the comments under the blog post announcing this change, Microsoft’s Craig Barkhouse explains in more detail how, exactly, this feature is implemented. Instead of opting for VHXD or separate partitions – which would cause a performance hit and compatibility issues due to the files residing in a different file system namespace – the company optied for making use of NTFS. As Barkhouse explains: Instead we designed an elegant solution that would require new support being added to NTFS. The idea is NTFS provides a mechanism for the servicing stack to specify how much space it needs reserved, say 7GB. Then NTFS reserves that 7GB for servicing usage only. What is the effect of that? Well the visible free space on C: drops by 7GB, which reduces how much space normal applications can use. Servicing can use those 7GB however. And as servicing eats into those 7GB, the visible free space on C: is not affected (unless servicing uses beyond the 7GB that was reserved). The way NTFS knows to use the reserved space as opposed to the general user space is that servicing marks its own files and directories in a special way. You can see that this mechanism has similar free space characteristics as using a separate partition or a VHDX, yet the files seamlessly live in the same namespace which is a huge benefit. This functionality will only be activated on fresh installations of the next major Windows update, so existing systems will not be affected.

Bringing Internet Explorer 11 to Windows Server 2012 and Windows Embedded 8 Standard

To continue the shift to a faster, more secure browsing experience, starting in the spring of 2019, commercial customers running Windows Server 2012 and Windows Embedded 8 Standard can begin using IE11 in their test environments or pilot rings. To simplify deployment, you will be able to download IE11 via the Microsoft Update Catalog. We will also publish the IE11 upgrade through Windows Update and Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) for all versions of Windows Server 2012 and Windows Embedded 8 Standard later this year. I understand that embedded and server users aren’t the kinds of users to just upgrade to the bleeding edge all the time, but the fact they didn’t even have the option of moving to IE11 (Internet Explorer!) seems crazy to me.

Wine 4.0 released

This release represents a year of development effort and over 6,000 individual changes. It contains a large number of improvements that are listed in the release notes below. The main new features in Wine 4.0 are Vulkan support, Direct3D 12 support, game controllers support, and high-DPI support on Android.

The Virtual Apollo Guidance Computer

This repository is associated with the website of the Virtual AGC project, which provides a virtual machine which simulates the AGC, the DSKY, and some other portions of the guidance system. In other words, if the virtual machine—which we call yaAGC—is given the same software which was originally run by the real AGCs, and is fed the same input signals encountered by the real AGCs during Apollo missions, then it will respond in the same way as the real AGCs did. The Virtual AGC software is open source code so that it can be studied or modified. The repository contains the actual assembly-language source code for the AGC, for as many missions as we’ve been able to acquire, along with software for processing that AGC code. Principal tools are an assembler (to create executable code from the source code) and a CPU simulator (to run the executable code), as well as simulated peripherals (such as the DSKY). Similar source code and tools are provided for the very-different abort computer that resided in the Lunar Module. Finally, any supplemental software material we have been able to find or create for the Saturn rocket’s LVDC computer or for the Gemini on-board computer (OBC) are provided, though these materials are minimal at present. The Apollo moonlanding project is probably one of the greatest – if not the greatest – technological achievement of mankind. Making sure we have all the tools and code necessary to study the code used is a vital project.

Linux Mint 19.1: a sneaky popular distro skips upheaval, offers small upgrades

While Ubuntu and Red Hat grabbed most of the Linux headlines last year, Linux Mint, once the darling of the tech press, had a relatively quiet year. Perhaps that’s understandable with IBM buying Red Hat and Canonical moving back to the GNOME desktop. For the most part Linux Mint and its developers seemed to keep their heads down, working away while others enjoyed the limelight. Still, the Linux Mint team did churn out version 19, which brought the distro up to the Ubuntu 18.04 base. While the new release may not have garnered mass attention, and probably isn’t anyone’s top pick for “the cloud,” Linux Mint nevertheless remains the distro I see most frequently in the real world. When I watch a Linux tutorial or screen cast on YouTube, odds are I’ll see the Linux Mint logo in the toolbar. When I see someone using Linux at the coffee shop, it usually turns out to be Linux Mint. When I ask fellow Linux users which distro they use, the main answers are Ubuntu… And Linux Mint. All of that is anecdotal, but it still points to a simple truth. For a distro, that has seen little press lately, Linux Mint manages to remain popular with users. Linux Mint is definitely my distribution of choice – they don’t try to change the world, and just want to develop a solid, fairly traditional desktop-oriented distribution, and they’re damn good at it. It’s on my laptop, and the fact I barely even realise I’m using Linux while using Mint tells you all you need to know.

A tiny screw shows why iPhones won’t be ‘assembled in USA’

But when Apple began making the $3,000 computer in Austin, Tex., it struggled to find enough screws, according to three people who worked on the project and spoke on the condition of anonymity because of confidentiality agreements. In China, Apple relied on factories that can produce vast quantities of custom screws on short notice. In Texas, where they say everything is bigger, it turned out the screw suppliers were not. Tests of new versions of the computer were hamstrung because a 20-employee machine shop that Apple’s manufacturing contractor was relying on could produce at most 1,000 screws a day. Manufacturing at the kinds of scales Apple operates at is infinitely more complex than most people seem to think. It’s easy for a president to spout some rambling nonsense about building iPhones in the US to get people riled up, but if you can’t even produce enough screws for a low-volume product like the Mac Pro, you really have no business in the production of technology products.