AMD teases first Navi GPU products: RX 5700 Series launches in July

More AMD news – this time on the graphics front, where the company is still catching up to NVIDIA. While the bulk of this morning’s AMD Computex keynote has been on AMD’s 3rd generation Ryzen CPUs and their underlying Zen 2 architecture, the company also took a moment to briefly touch upon its highly anticipated Navi GPU architecture and associated family of products. AMD didn’t go too deep here, but they have given us just enough to be tantalized ahead of a full reveal in the not too distant future. The first Navi cards will be the Radeon RX 5700 series, which are launching in July and on an architectural level will offer 25% better performance per clock per core and 50% better power efficiency than AMD’s current-generation Vega architecture. The products will also be AMD’s first video cards using faster GDDR6 memory. Meanwhile AMD isn’t offering much in the way of concrete details on performance, but they are showing it off versus NVIDIA’s GeForce RTX 2070 in the AMD-favorable game Strange Brigade. Not that many details just yet, so it’s safe to assume AMD is not yet ready to truly take on NVIDIA. That being said – like with Zen and Ryzen, give AMD a few generations, and NVIDIA might finally be facing real competition.

AMD Ryzen 3000 announced: five CPUs, 12 cores for $499, up to 4.6 GHz, PCIe 4.0

Today at Computex, AMD CEO Dr. Lisa Su is announcing the raft of processors it will be launching on its new Zen 2 chiplet-based microarchitecture. Among other things, AMD is unveiling its new Ryzen 9 product tier, which it is using for its 12-core Ryzen 9 3900X processor, and which runs at 4.6 GHz boost. All of the five processors will be PCIe 4.0 enabled, and while they are being accompanied by the new X570 chipset launch, they still use the same AM4 socket, meaning some AMD 300 and 400-series motherboards can still be used. We have all the details inside. If the first few waves of Zen-based processors put AMD back on the map, this is the wave that will propel the company beyond Intel on all fronts – single-core performance, multicore performance, price, and on all fronts, from workstations to gaming. Intel will probably be trailing AMD on all these fronts until at least 2022. AMD’s turnaround over the past few years is nothing short of stunning, and I’m quite sure my next machine will be rocking team red once again.

“Please don’t theme our apps”

We are developers and designers making apps for the GNOME platform. We take pride in our craft and work hard to make sure our applications are a great experience for people. Unfortunately, all our efforts designing, developing, and testing our apps are made futile by theming in many cases. This is insanity – even if they claim it only applies to distribution makers. Their argument basically comes down to certain themes making certain applications look bad, and that theming removes branding from applications. First, theming making applications look bad is either an issue with the theme that needs to be fixed or an issue with Gtk+/GNOME being bad at theming, and second, your branding is irrelevant on my computer, or on my distribution. I use KDE, and one of the main reasons I do so is to ensure I can make my desktop and its applications look exactly the way I want them to look.

Google working on new way to run Android apps in Chrome OS called ‘ARCVM’

Kyle Bradshaw at 9to5Google: Officially, Google has “no plans” to make any changes to the status quo of Android apps on Chrome OS. Under the surface, however, the Chromium team has been making an effort to make Chrome OS’s Android apps support more like their Linux apps support. The effort, aptly named ARCVM (short for ARC Virtual Machine), from the bits of evidence available, seems poised to take advantage of the work done on the Crostini project by running Android through the same Termina VM. By moving to a virtual machine, Chrome OS’s Android support will be able to take advantage of the same security features, and the ability to easily reset should anything go wrong. I’ve always been curious about running Android applications on Linux, but none of the solutions out there seem to work very well. Perhaps some of Google’s work here can find its way to desktop Linux.

Why does Windows really use backslash as path separator?

More or less anyone using modern PCs has to wonder: why does Windows use backslash as a path separator when the rest of the world uses forward slash? The clear intermediate answer is “because DOS and OS/2 used backslash”. Both Windows 9x and NT were directly or indirectly derived from DOS and OS/2, and certainly inherited much of the DOS cultural landscape. That, of course, is not much of an answer. The obvious next question is, why did DOS use backslash as a path separator? When DOS 2.0 added support for hierarchical directory structure, it was more than a little influenced by UNIX (or perhaps more specifically XENIX), and using the forward slash as a path separator would have been the logical choice. That’s what everyone can agree on. Beyond that, things get a bit muddled. A fascinating bit of sleuthing, and the author comes to an interesting theory. What’s fascinating to me is that I don’t even consciously realise the MS-DOS is the odd one out here – I just adapt to it without even thinking about it.

Ubuntu 19.10 to add NVIDIA’s proprietary driver to ISO

For Ubuntu 19.10 the developers are adding the NVIDIA driver packages onto the ISO. The NVIDIA binary drivers won’t be activated by default, but will be present on the install media to make it easier to enable post-install. The open source Nouveau driver will remain the default, but this will make it easier to opt for NVIDIA’s proprietary driver. NVIDIA has given permission for this inclusion.

Federal Trade Commission wins antitrust case against Qualcomm

One of the key points of this case is that “In numerous cases Qualcomm threatened with a disruption of chipset supplies unless OEMs accepted its patent licensing terms, and there were various agreements under which OEMs paid a higher patent royalty when using third-party modem chips than Qualcomm’s products.” The judge found that “Qualcomm’s licensing practices have strangled competition in the CDMA and premium LTE modem chip markets for years, and harmed rivals, OEMs, and end consumers in the process.” As a remedy, Qualcomm is ordered to take several steps which will reduce the amount of power it holds over its customers and will need to renegotiate new license terms without the threats that had accompanied previous negotiations.

Haiku switches system allocator to rpmalloc

As of hrev53136, we’ve finally replaced the aging hoard2 with a shiny new mmap-based allocator – mjansson’s rpmalloc. Thanks to @pulkomandy and @mmlr for helping out with that work! The main benefit here will be on 64-bit Haiku, as applications will now (finally) be able to use more than 1.5GB of RAM each, a limitation of the old allocator. But there are some pretty nice (10-15%) performance benefits over the old allocator, too. More of the technical details can be found in the commit message 5, but essentially the only thing to be concerned about is if things start suddenly crashing more often. It’s already known to exacerbate a few pre-existing WebKit crashes (mostly around Google Maps or the like, which were already so unstable as to be unusable anyway).

Why Linux on Desktop ‘Failed’: A discussion with Mark Shuttleworth

In an interesting video interview, Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth shares his thoughts on desktop Linux. Some of his most prominent statements include: “I think the bigger challenge has been that we haven’t invented anything in the Linux that was like deeply, powerfully ahead of its time” and, “if in the free software community we only allow ourselves to talk about things that look like something that already exists, then we’re sort of defining ourselves as a series of forks and fragmentations.”

Buying an IBM mainframe

I bought an IBM mainframe for personal use. I am doing this for learning and figuring out how it works. If you are curious about what goes into this process, I hope this post will interest you. Is it just me, or is everyone buying an IBM mainframe these days? What’s with the sudden resurgence in interest?

Apple and Amazon cut a deal that upended the Mac resale market

When John Bumstead looked at listings for his products on Amazon.com in early January, he was waiting for the guillotine to fall. A small online business owner from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bumstead specializes in refurbishing and selling old MacBooks, models he typically buys from recyclers and fixes up himself. But on January 4th, Bumstead’s entire business dwindled into nonexistence as his listings were removed from the platform due to a new policy limiting all but the largest companies and specially authorized providers from selling Apple products. Apple made a special deal with Amazon to basically exterminate all third party repair services and used Apple product sellers that aren’t specifically approved by Apple. The result is a sharp increase in pricing on used Apple products sold on Amazon – exactly what Apple wants, of course – and smaller, non-Apple approved resellers are dying off. Charming. And people actually claim Apple has morals and values.

The US DOC gives Huawei a 90-day window to support existing devices

The Trump administration is working to ban Huawei products from the US market and ban US companies from supplying the Chinese company with software and components. The move will have wide-ranging consequences for Huawei’s smartphone, laptop, and telecom-equipment businesses. For the next 90 days, though, Huawei will be allowed to support those products. The US Department of Commerce (DOC) has granted temporary general export license for 90 days, so while the company is still banned from doing business with most US companies, it is allowed to continue critical product support. Meanwhile, ARM has also cut ties with Huawei. This story is far, far from over.

Linux distributions without systemd

If you are reading this post you’re very much likely not a fan of systemd already. So we won’t preach on why systemd is bad, but today we’ll focus more on what are the alternatives out there. Our approach is obviously not for settling for less but for changing things for the better. We have started the world after systemd project some time ago and the search isn’t over. So what are the non-systemd distros out there? I’ll be honest and say that I completely missed the systemd controversy back when it happened, and while I’ve tried reading up on the criticism of systemd, I clearly lack the technical acumen to say anything meaningful about it either way. But hey, for those of you out there who don’t like systemd – this one’s for you.

Google pulls Huawei’s Android license

Big news over the weekend. Following The United States government’s ban on importing products from Huawei, Google had to suspend Huawei’s Android license. Alphabet’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world. Holders of current Huawei smartphones with Google apps, however, will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Google, a Google spokesperson said, confirming earlier reporting by Reuters. This means that from now on, Huawei only has access to the AOSP parts of Android – it no longer has access to the Google Play Store and other Google Play Services. This is a major blow to Huawei’s business in the United States. Other companies, like Intel and Qualcomm, have also complied with the US government’s ban and are also blacklisiting Huawei. Huawei’s response doesn’t say much: Huawei has made substantial contributions to the development and growth of Android around the world. As one of Android’s key global partners, we have worked closely with their open-source platform to develop an ecosystem that has benefitted both users and the industry. Huawei will continue to provide security updates and after-sales services to all existing Huawei and Honor smartphone and tablet products, covering those that have been sold and that are still in stock globally. It’s important to note that the US government has as of yet been unable to provide any evidence that Huawei devices contain backdoors or are somehow used to spy on people. That being said, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine such a scenario – all countries spy on all other countries, and China is in a unique position, as the manufacturing centre of the world, to do so. I do wish to point out, though, that devices from other companies – Apple, Google, Dell, and virtually everyone else – are manufactured in the same factories by the same people led by the same managers owned by the same Chinese government as Huawei devices. Singling out Huawei, while trusting your Pixel 3 or iPhone X which rolls off the same assembly line, seems naive, at best. China will, probably, retaliate, especially since Chinese people themselves seem to solidly back Huawei. The totalitarian government has many ways it can strike back, and with a growing sentiment in China to boycott Apple, it wouldn’t be surprising to see China target Apple, specifically, in its response.

Translating an ARM iOS app to Intel macOS using Bitcode

What is Bitcode? Well, bitcode with a small b is an architecture-specific intermediate representation used by LLVM, and capital-B Bitcode pertains to a set of features allowing you to embed this representation in your Mach-O binary and the mechanisms by which you can provide it to Apple in your App Store submissions. Of course, the specter of macOS on ARM has been in the public psyche for many years now, and many have pondered whether Bitcode will make this transition more straightforward. The commonly held belief is that Bitcode is not suited to massive architectural changes like moving between Intel and ARM. I was unconvinced, so I decided to test the theory! By Steven Troughton-Smith, so you know you’re going to learn more than you bargained for.

Wide color photos are coming to Android

Android is now at the point where sRGB color gamut with 8 bits per color channel is not enough to take advantage of the display and camera technology. At Android we have been working to make wide color photography happen end-to-end, e.g. more bits and bigger gamuts. This means, eventually users will be able to capture the richness of the scenes, share a wide color pictures with friends and view wide color pictures on their phones. And now with Android Q, it’s starting to get really close to reality: wide color photography is coming to Android. So, it’s very important to applications to be wide color gamut ready. This article will show how you can test your application to see whether it’s wide color gamut ready and wide color gamut capable, and the steps you need to take to be ready for wide color gamut photography.

IBM 360 Model 20 rescue and restoration

In late April of 2019 Adam Bradley and Chris Blackburn were sitting in a pub on a Monday night when Chris happened across a somewhat unusual eBay listing for an IBM 360 Model 20. This eBay listing was unusual mainly because it didn’t actually list the computer as an IBM 360, but rather as an “seltene Anlage “Puma Computer IBM 2020” which roughly translates from German into “rare plant “Puma Computer IBM 2020”. Amazing story.

Three big reasons why Americans aren’t upgrading their phones

Last month, Verizon and AT&T made official something you’ve probably been aware of for a while: American smartphone owners are upgrading a lot less than they used to. In fact, they’re hitting record lows at the two biggest US carriers, with people apparently more content than ever to keep hold of their existing device. This is a global trend, as the smartphone market is reaching maturity and saturation in many developed nations, and yet it’s most pronounced in the United States for a few reasons particular to the country. The article focuses on the United States, but correctly points out this is a global trend in the developed world. Not only are phones quite expensive, they have also been more than good enough for quite a few years now, and there’s very little in the sense of revolutionary progress being made form generation to generation. Earlier this year, I dropped my OnePlus 6T on a sharp rocky edge, and it broke the glass back. I sent it in for repairs – €40, not bad – and while it was being repaired, I dusted off my old Nexus 6P and used it instead. I was surprised by just how perfectly fine and usable it was – sure, it was a little slower here and there, the screen isn’t as nice, those sorts of things, but as a whole, if I hadn’t had the 6T to compare it to, I would be none the wiser. It makes perfect sense for general consumers to stick with their expensive phones for longer, especially now that the market has pretty much saturated.

How the first smartphone came out in 1994, but flopped

Silicon Valley’s favorite mantra goes “Fail often, fail fast.” It captures the tech industry’s long history of dismantled startups, lost jobs, demoralization, and bankruptcy. One casualty was General Magic, an offshoot of Apple that strove to develop the next level in personal computing: a handheld computer. At the time they considered the project an advanced PDA, but today we’d recognize it as a smartphone. Before the iPhone, General Magic created the operating system for the Sony Magic Link in 1994. Sandy Kerruish and Matt Maude’s new documentary General Magic details the colossal failure that ensued. Apple, Microsoft, General Magic, and Palm were all working on PDAs at the time. Only one of them succeeded.