Chrome phasing out support for user agent

Google announced its decision to drop support for the User-Agent string in its Chrome browser. Instead, Chrome will offer a new API called Client Hints that will give the user greater control over which information is shared with websites. We’ve talked about this earlier this year, but I want to highlight it again since it’s very important this initiative doesn’t devolve into Google and Chrome shoving this alternative down the web’s throat. Deprecating user agent strings is a good thing, but only if the replacement is a collective effort supported by everyone.

Apple just killed offline web apps while purporting to protect your privacy [updated: not really]

Update: the WebKit blog post has been updated with a clarification: Web applications added to the home screen are not part of Safari and thus have their own counter of days of use. Their days of use will match actual use of the web application which resets the timer. We do not expect the first-party in such a web application to have its website data deleted. That’s definitely a relief, and good thing they cleared this up. Original continues below: On the face of it, WebKit’s announcement yesterday titled Full Third-Party Cookie Blocking and More sounds like something I would wholeheartedly welcome. Unfortunately, I can’t because the “and more” bit effectively kills off Offline Web Apps and, with it, the chance to have privacy-respecting apps like the prototype I was exploring earlier in the year based on DAT. Block all third-party cookies, yes, by all means. But deleting all local storage (including Indexed DB, etc.) after 7 days effectively blocks any future decentralised apps using the browser (client side) as a trusted replication node in a peer-to-peer network. And that’s a huge blow to the future of privacy. I’m sure that’s entirely a coincidence for a company that wants to force everyone to use their App Store, the open web be damned.

Apple CarPlay, Android Auto distract drivers more than pot, alcohol, says study

When Apple CarPlay and Android Auto first started rolling out, initial evidence suggested these technologies held promise to reduce distracted driving. These systems funneled the most important features from our phones onto the infotainment screen, curbing motorists’ desire to reach for their handhelds. Yet, it looks like these mirroring technologies may not be nearly as safe as initially hoped. A new study from the UK’s IAM Roadsmart, an independent road safety organization, paints a far bleaker picture. The stark findings showed that drivers using one of the smartphone mirroring systems in a car displayed reaction times slower than someone who’d used cannabis. In fact, these motorists’ reaction times were five times slower than someone driving with the legal limit of alcohol in their system. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with more than two braincells to rub together. These systems are based on touch screen technology, and touchscreens without any tactility are simply not suited for use while operating a motor vehicle. Touchscreens are far more distracting than plain old tactile buttons in a fixed order that you learn over time and can feel, and it blows my mind that no safety regulations heavily curtailing their use to parked situations has been enacted just yet.

The Counterpoint program launcher

The Counterpoint program launcher was supplied with the Amstrad PC5086 and other Amstrad PCs from that era. It acts as a user-friendly front end, replacing the full GUIs (Windows 2.0, or GEM) supplied with previous models. The Amstrad-branded version opens with a warning that it should only be used on Amstrad computers. However it appears to run successfully in non-Amstrad environments, such as the virtual machine used to make these screenshots. I love discovering user interfaces I’ve never known about this before, and this one fits the bill just right. Wild UI experimentation was the norm during the late ’80s and early ’90s, before we all settled on what we’re all using now. Digging into the past and learning from even relatively obscure footnotes such as these is fascinating.

Android 11 Preview 2 hands-on: more polish and a new install method

It came out much later in March than we expected, but yesterday Google launched the second developer preview for Android 11, the next big version of Android due out at the end of the year. Despite the coronavirus disrupting just about every part of normal life, Google posted the same schedule it did with Preview 1, indicating that the plan is still to have a preview release every month. Anyway, here are the important new things in this release. As always, an excellent look at the new features by Ars. We’re still early on in Android 11’s development cycle, though, so everything is still very much subject to change.

EAX x86 register: meaning and history

Usually, x86 tutorials don’t spend much time explaining the historical perspective of design and naming decisions. When learning x86 assembly, you’re usually told something along the lines: Here’s EAX. It’s a register. Use it. So, what exactly do those letters stand for? E–A–X. I’m afraid there’s no short answer! We’ll have to go back to 1972… I love digital archeology.

Microsoft teases new File Explorer, Start Menu for Windows 10

We have seen earlier that Microsoft’s designers are working on a new Start Menu for Windows 10 (not Windows 10X) and now Panos Panay has posted a video celebrating 1 billion Windows 10 installations which appears to confirm that the changes and more are on the way. There’s finally hopefully going to be a modern replacement for Explorer, and context menus seem to be modern and thus consistent too. The already mentioned updated Stert menu is coming, too.

Announcing DirectX 12 Ultimate

From the team that has brought PC and Console gamers the latest in graphics innovation for nearly 25 years, we are beyond pleased to bring gamers DirectX 12 Ultimate, the culmination of the best graphics technology we’ve ever introduced in an unprecedented alignment between PC and Xbox Series X. When gamers purchase PC graphics hardware with the DX12 Ultimate logo or an Xbox Series X, they can do so with the confidence that their hardware is guaranteed to support ALL next generation graphics hardware features, including DirectX Raytracing, Variable Rate Shading, Mesh Shaders and Sampler Feedback. This mark of quality ensures stellar “future-proof” feature support for next generation games! That’s some Vista-era name right there.

Inside PlayStation 5: the specs and the tech that deliver Sony’s next-gen vision

Sony has broken its silence. PlayStation 5 specifications are now out in the open with system architect Mark Cerny delivering a deep dive presentation into the nature of the new hardware and the ways in which we should expect a true generational leap over PlayStation 4. Digital Foundry had the chance to watch the lecture a couple of days ahead of time and had the opportunity to talk to Cerny in more depth afterwards about the nature of the custom PlayStation hardware and the philosophy behind its design. And just as with the Xbox Series X, specifications are meaningless without the games to back them up.

Apple releases iOS, iPadOS 13.4 with cursor support, new iPad Pro with touchpad

Apple today released the golden master version of iOS and iPadOS 13.4, the latest major updates to the iOS 13 operating system that was released in September. The iOS and ‌iPadOS‌ 13.4 GMs come after a little over a month of beta testing. The biggest new feature – which is accompanied by new iPad Pro devices and a keyboard with trackpad – is mouse support in iPadOS. The cool thing here is that Apple’s iOS cursor – a dot, so not an arrow – is a thing of marvel, and it does some really neat tricks that you won’t find anywhere else. When you hover over a tappable button, the pointer disappears and instead you get a hover-state highlight around the button. Hover over an app icon in the Dock or on your homescreen, and instead of seeing the mouse pointer on top of the icon, you see a highlight around the icon, much like the way icons are popped on tvOS. When text editing, the cursor changes to an I-beam, of course, but it’s an all-new I-beam cursor, not the one you get in iOS while using the on-screen keyboard as a virtual trackpad (after a tap-and-hold on the spacebar or two-finger tap-and-drag on the key area). This new I-beam cursor is smart. It adjusts to the size of the text you’re editing — if you’re editing 16-point text you’ll get a smaller cursor; if you’re editing 48-point text you’ll get a larger cursor. (Lo these 35+ years after the original Macintosh, it suddenly strikes me as a bit silly that the I-beam cursor stays small even when editing very large text.) The new iPadOS I-beam cursor also is aware of where lines are in text fields, and “snaps” to the line. There seem to be a lot of small little niceties here that seem so obvious once you see them in action. It’s really cool stuff, and I can’t wait to try it out.

Marvell cranks up cores and clocks with “Triton” ThunderX3

Arm server chip upstart Ampere Computing made a big splash with its 80-core “Quicksilver” Altra processor two weeks ago, and Marvell, which is the volume leader in Arm server chips with its “Vulcan” ThunderX2 processors (largely inherited from its acquisition of Broadcom’s Arm server chip assets), is hitting back with some revelations about its future “Triton” ThunderX3 chip and its roadmap out beyond that. Competition in the ARM server space is really heating up.

Google halts Chrome and Chrome OS releases to ensure stability during pandemic

Due to adjusted work schedules at this time, we are pausing upcoming Chrome and Chrome OS releases. Our primary objectives are to ensure they continue to be stable, secure, and work reliably for anyone who depends on them. We’ll continue to prioritize any updates related to security, which will be included in Chrome 80. Basically, Google wants to ensure the stability of Chrome and Chrome OS now that a lot of people are working from home due to the pandemic. Good call.

NsCDE: Not so Common Desktop Environment

NsCDE is a retro but powerful (kind of) UNIX desktop environment which resembles CDE’s look and (partially feel), but with a more powerful and flexible beneath-the-surface framework, more suited for 21st century UNIX-like and Linux systems and user requirements than original CDE. NsCDE can be considered as something between a heavyweight FVWM theme on steroids, combined with a couple of other free software components and custom FVWM applications and heavy configurations. NsCDE can be considered as lightweight hybrid desktop environment. Be still, my beating heart.

AMD details Renoir: the Ryzen Mobile 4000 Series 7nm APU uncovered

AMD’s laptop offerings haven’t been amazing these past few years, but with the unveiling of their 4000 processors, that’s finally going to change. All that seems set to change. Fast forward to 2020, and notebook users are eagerly awaiting the arrival of products based on AMD’s latest Ryzen Mobile 4000 series processors, which combine up to eight Zen 2 cores and upgraded Vega graphics into a small CPU for the notebook market. AMD has already made waves with its Zen 2 cores in the desktop and enterprise space, and the company has already announced it plans to put eight of those cores, along with a significantly upgraded graphics design, into a processor that has a thermal design point of 15 W. These 15 W parts are designed for ultraportable notebooks, and AMD has a number of design wins lined up to show just how good an AMD system can be. The same silicon will also go into 45 W-class style notebooks, with a higher base frequency. These parts are geared more towards discrete graphics options, for gaming notebooks or more powerful business designs. The gaming market (at 45 W), the commercial market (15W to 45W) and the ultraportable market (15 W) are where AMD is hoping to strike hardest with the new hardware. I can’t wait for serious competition to Intel in the laptop space. It’s sorely needed.

Microsoft unveils full Xbox Series X specs with 1TB expansion cards

Microsoft is revealing the full specs for its Xbox Series X console today, and it includes support for removable storage and much faster load times for games. The software giant will be using a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores clocked at 3.8GHz each, a custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU with 12 teraflops and 52 compute units clocked at 1.825GHz each. This is all based on a 7nm process and includes 16GB of GDDR6 RAM with a 1TB custom NVME SSD storage drive. Microsoft is using two mainboards on this Xbox Series X compact design, and the entire unit is cooled through air being pulled in from the bottom and pushed out at the top via a 130mm fan. That’s some serious firepower, but the Xbox One series didn’t lack power either, yet lost the market share battle to the PS4 without putting up much of a fight. Firepower means nothing without the games to back it up, and that’s where the Xbox One simply failed to deliver. Show us the games, because without those, all this hardware is useless. That being said, I’ve always had a soft sport for chimney-like computer designs since the PowerMac G4 Cube, and this fits right in there. Perhaps not the most practical design, but it sure does stand out.

Looking inside a vintage Soviet TTL logic integrated circuit

This blog post examines a 1980s chip used in a Soyuz space clock. The microscope photo below shows the tiny silicon die inside the package, with a nice, geometric layout. The silicon appears pinkish or purplish in this photo, while the metal wiring layer on top is white. Around the edge of the chip, the bond wires (black) connect pads on the chip to the chip’s pins. The tiny structures on the chip are resistors and transistors. That’s just cool.

Microsoft launches new WinUI website, listing the advantages of the platform

Microsoft has launched a new website for the Windows UI Library (WinUI) that provides more information on the various advantages of the modern libraries for the development of Windows. WinUI allows developers to access and use Fluent controls, styles, and other UWP XAML controls via NuGet packages. While earlier versions of the WinUI focused on UWP, the Redmond giant has been expanding the framework. The preview version of WinUI 3.0 brought with it support for the full Windows 10 native UI platform. The extended scope of the platform meant that developers could use WinUI XAML with their existing WPF, Windows Forms, and Win32 applications. The website terms WinUI as the modern native UI platform of Windows. Will this be the one that sticks?

French competition authority fines Apple 1.1 billion euro

Thanks to Dutch technology website Tweakers’ Arnoud Wokke for pointing this one out before any of the major sites have – Apple has been fined for 1.1 billion euros by the French competition authority for anti-competitive practices. You can read the announcement in French, too. The short of it is that between 2005 and 2013, Apple primarily sold its products in France through two specific wholesalers, who have also been fined, and the three of them agreed not to compete, limiting competition. Apple also imposed pricing upon its independent Authorised Resellers and Premium Resellers, making it impossible for them to compete on price. In addition, Apple also limited the supply given to these resellers compared to its own stores, which further limited the their ability to function. What’s interesting here is that this is Apple’s modus operandi all over Europe and the rest of the world, so it wouldn’t surprise me if other EU countries will work off of this ruling in the near future. This kind of illegal behaviour by massive corporations has gone unpunished for long enough, and it’s high time serious punishments are doled out. Good on the French authorities for this one.

Windows 10 version 2004 is coming: here’s what you need to know about it

We’re once again approaching that time of the year when Microsoft releases a new feature update to Windows 10. In line with the version numbering scheme we’ve been seeing, this update is currently known as Windows 10 version 2004, or 20H1, because it’s being released in the first half of the year. While we did get a feature update in the second half of 2019, there was only a very small number of additions, and those additions were also minor in nature. It was more about refining the previous update than making significant leaps forward. Surprisingly, even though version 2004 is a more significant feature update, it’s one of the smaller ones, despite having a longer period of testing with Insiders than what we’ve seen before. With that being said, there are still a few changes and improvements to many parts of the experience, and if you want to know all about it, we’ve compiled this list for you. Let’s get started. There’s some nice additions in there, but nothing earth-shattering or game-changing. Windows 10 is five years old now, and it feels like the model of frequent feature updates (instead of monolithic Windows releases and the occasional service pack) just isn’t really moving the needle.

The polygons of Another World: Atari Jaguar

We already covered earlier articles in this series, but I want to highlight this one too, because it covers one of the most unique consoles ever developed – the Atari Jaguar. The designers of the Jaguar departed from the traditional architecture where one CPU drives fixed-pipeline audio and graphics chips as we saw earlier in the series with the SNES and Genesis. If we find a Motorola 68000 like in the Atari, Amiga, and Genesis (albeit running at 13.295 Mhz) and a sprites engine (called Object), there is also two 32-bit RISC processors running at 26.59 MHz called TOM and JERRY. The Jaguar is wild.