LG has announced that it will demonstrate a new system that integrates its webOS Auto In-Vehicle Infotainment (IVI) system with Microsoft Connected Vehicle Platform (MCVP). By combining webOS Auto and MCVP, the In-Vehicle Infotainment system will be able to collect and transmit data about the driver status, door status, and app usage. I can’t decide whether it’s sad or great that webOS has managed to find a second, third or even fourth life as an operating system for cars. I do wonder, though, how much of this platform is really webOS – webOS was basically a badly optimised and cobbled together Linux distribution, and I’m assuming very little of what we would recognise as webOS remains in LG’s current automotive and television platforms.
Haiku’s monthly activity report for August has been published, and it’s a big one, so I urge you to read the whole report for all the details on what’s changed, fixed, and new in Haiku over the past month. There should be something for everyone in there. My personal favourite little tidbit is this one, though. Pascal Abresch got the first part of his work to handle “media” keys (play, pause, and other additional keys) recognized by Haiku. The PS/2 driver has been adjusted, but adding all these new keys to the keymap means we now have more than 128 possible keys, which the BeOS keymap format does not allow. So we will need a new one, and this will break compatibility with old apps using the keymap directly (as the API allows). I don’t know why, exactly, this fascinates me so much, but I like the mental image of one of the original BeOS developers, coding for Hobbit development boards, writing the code for keyboard handling, deciding upon the 128 key limit being enough for a long time to come. If only they knew.
Apple today held its annual iPhone-centric event, which saw the debut of the new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11 Pro Max, Apple Watch Series 5, and 10.2-inch iPad, along with new details on Apple Arcade and Apple TV+. Decent spec bumps to old designs all around, but nothing to get too excited about.
You thought Google would escape my ire today, didn’t you? A coalition of attorneys general representing 50 US states and territories today announced a long-awaited joint probe into antitrust complaints against one of the biggest tech companies in the world, Google. The office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is spearheading the bipartisan investigation, which is beginning with the search and digital advertising markets. Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet,” Paxton told reporters during a press conference. Is anybody surprised by this? Google’s dominance in search is bad enough as it is, but the company’s real monopolistic power comes not from search, but from its more nebulous online advertising business. It’s not nearly as sexy as App Store manipulation or bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, but it’s just as potentially detrimental to the overall market as they are.
Apple Inc. and manufacturing partner Foxconn violated a Chinese labor rule by using too many temporary staff in the world’s largest iPhone factory, the companies confirmed following a report that also alleged harsh working conditions. The claims came from China Labor Watch, which issued the report ahead of an Apple event on Tuesday to announce new iPhones. The non-profit advocacy group investigates conditions in Chinese factories, and says it has uncovered other alleged labor rights violations by Apple partners in the past. We all know how this tune goes: Apple will claim once again it’s going to fix the issue with a sternly worded letter to Foxconn, nothing will change, and a year from now we’ll have another report of even more violations. It’s as routine as the September iPhone event. Of course, Apple could, you know, use some of its 245 billion dollar stuffed in offshore tax havens to improve the lives of the people building its fancy gadgets, but that would imply a sense of morals and values that we know by now Apple simply lacks.
Top spots in App Store search results are some of the most fought over real estate in the online economy. The store generated more than $50 billion in sales last year, and the company said two-thirds of app downloads started with a search. But as Apple has become one of the largest competitors on a platform that it controls, suspicions that the company has been tipping the scales in its own favor are at the heart of antitrust complaints in the United States, Europe and Russia. Apple’s apps have ranked first recently for at least 700 search terms in the store, according to a New York Times analysis of six years of search results compiled by Sensor Tower, an app analytics firm. Some searches produced as many as 14 Apple apps before showing results from rivals, the analysis showed. (Though competitors could pay Apple to place ads above the Apple results.) The data from The Times’ analysis are clear-cut and quite damning, and just goes to show how easy it is for companies like Apple to effectively shut out competitors simply by artificially pushing their own applications in their own walled-garden operating system. This is the kind of behaviour that net you antritrust complaints. Of course, you can pay Apple to be the top search result in the App Store. That sounds suspiciously like that other “shakedown” Apple bloggers were complaining about only a few days ago. I’m curious to see how – as always – Apple is somehow a special snowflake to whom different rules apply.
Despite the change, Android 10 brings a lot of tasty, frequently user-requested changes to Android. The OS is finally getting a dark mode, the share menu is getting revamped, and gesture navigation has seen huge improvements over the half-baked version introduced in Android 9. Developers have a host of new APIs to play with, including support for upcoming foldable smartphones, floating app “Bubbles,” and a new, more generalized biometrics API. And on top of all that, there’s a host of changes to work around, like considerations for the new gesture navigation system and new app restrictions focused on privacy and security. Even the notification panel is getting a fresh injection of artificial intelligence, and of course there are new emoji. The under-the-hood work on Android modularity continues, as always, with Android 10. This year “Project Mainline” is the highlighted engineering effort. This initiative creates a new, more powerful file type for system-level code, and it sees several chunks of functionality move out of the difficult-to-update core OS and into the Play Store, where they will get monthly updates. There’s new dual boot functionality, too, which will allow curious users to quickly switch between retail and beta builds of Android. As has become Ars tradition, we will be covering every single change in excruciating detail. So even if Google is ditching the snack theme, you may want to grab your own snack before diving in to the following 20,000+ words of Android 10 intel. Always a worthy read. Get some coffee or tea, sit down and relax, and read.
Today, Apple responded to Google’s discovery of a major iPhone security flaw with a bristling statement that accused its rival of creating “false impressions.” But Apple did very little to clear up those false impressions, and seems to have created some of its own, as we’ll see by taking a close read. A good point-by-point breakdown of just how awful Apple’s statement really was. Everything about the statement exudes that Apple cares more about the perception of the iPhone’s security among customers than for the lives of the Uighurs in China, who are being systematically eradicated from the country in a state-organised technocratic genocide of which these iPhone hacks were a part. On top of that, Apple is attacking Google, while making no mention of the actual perpetrator of this attack – the Chinese government. Apple is so dependent on China that it can’t condemn anything this totalitarian regime does, including hacking its own primary product as part of a genocide. Only a company as so far up its own ass as Apple could write a statement like this.
A change Apple is making to improve privacy in an upcoming version of its iPhone operating system has alarmed an unlikely group of software makers: developers of privacy-focused encrypted messaging apps. They warn the change, which is already available in public test versions of iOS 13, could end up undermining the privacy goals that prompted it in the first place. Relying on Apple is about as smart a business strategy as trusting a scorpion to carry you across the river.
James Lu, Product Manager of Huawei recently shared the roadmap of Harmony OS at an event in Jakarta. The Huawei product manager also explained the company’s latest operating system. According to the roadmap, the Harmony OS will make its mark to the smartwatches and bands, head units, and most importantly, what they call “Innovative PCs” by the end of 2020. It’ll also be able to power other devices such as smart speakers, VR glasses two years down the line. One of the largest technology companies dropping Android and Linux and going for an entirely homegrown multi-device open source operating system that other countries and regions can adopt and adapt to their needs is probably not the outcome the US government should be aiming for. I don’t think sharpies will be enough here.
For the first time ever, the security exploit broker Zerodium is paying a higher price for zero-day attacks that target Android than it pays for comparable attacks targeting iOS. The company provided a message to Ars, stating that while Google and Samsung have worked hard to significantly improve the security of Android. During the last few months, we have observed an increase in the number of iOS exploits, mostly Safari and iMessage chains, being developed and sold by researchers from all around the world. The zero-day market is so flooded by iOS exploits that we’ve recently started refusing some them. On the other hand, Android security is improving with every new release of the OS thanks to the security teams of Google and Samsung, so it became very hard and time consuming to develop full chains of exploits for Android and it’s even harder to develop zero click exploits not requiring any user interaction. In accordance with these new technical challenges related to Android security and our observations of market trends, we believe that time has come to allocate the highest bounties to Android exploits until Apple re-improves the security of iOS and strengthens its weakest parts which are iMessage and Safari (Webkit and sandbox). The security of an operating system is only as strong as its weakest links, and if Apple is slacking a bit on things like iMessage and Safari, while Google and Samsung work to strengthen Android’s weakest links, this is only a logical outcome.
Android 10 is here! With this release, we focused on making your everyday life easier with features powered by on-device machine learning, as well as supporting new technologies like Foldables and 5G. At the same time, with almost 50 changes related to privacy and security, Android 10 gives you greater protection, transparency, and control over your data. This builds on top of our ongoing commitment to provide industry-leading security and privacy protections on Android. We also built new tools that empower people of all abilities, and help you find the right balance with technology. Coming to only very few devices probably not near you.
I’ve found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the recent pushes to get people to switch from Chrome to Firefox. Google keeps pulling dumb trick after dumb trick in an attempt to have more control over the web. It’s hard not to think that this kind of behavior warrants quitting Chrome and other Google products. But taking a look at Firefox usage statistics, it’s pretty obvious that the trend (looking at Monthly Active Users) is going in the wrong direction. This raises some questions: why is Firefox usage going down, and what does Mozilla need to do to bring it back up? Harsh, but fair. Firefox’s out-of-the-box defaults are very counter-intuitive to its privacy-focused marketing. Nonsense like recommended articles littering the new tab page, forced Pocket integration that you can only disable through about:config, recommended themes and extensions based on your usage, Google being the default browser, and so on, all seem to fly in the face of claims that using Firefox allows you to take control of your privacy. Sure, I disable the Pocket integration, set DDG as my default search engine, and do other things to decrapify Mozilla’s terrible defaults (Firefox is my browser on all my computers and mobile devices), but regular users shouldn’t have to.
Version 8.6 of the popular Debian-derived Linux distribution Knoppix was released on Sunday, rebasing the distribution on Debian 10 (Buster)—released on July 9—with select packages from Debian’s testing and unstable branches to enable support for newer graphics hardware. Knoppix is among the first Linux distributions that can be run live from a DVD, and continues to enjoy a great deal of popularity among Linux enthusiasts. Knoppix 8.6 is notable for being the first publicly-released version of the distribution to abandon systemd, an init system built by Red Hat’s Lennart Poettering intended to replace sysvinit. While adoption of systemd was the subject of considerable controversy and criticism, it is the mainstream default, used by Knoppix’s upstream Debian, as well as other Debian forks such as Ubuntu and Mint; RHEL, CentOS, and Fedora; openSUSE and SLES, as well as Mageia, and by default in Arch. I stay far away from the systemd debate – mostly because I honestly have no clue – but I was actually kind of surprised Knoppix was still around. It’s one of the oldest Linux live CDs around, and somehow I find it comforting that it’s still seeing development.
As I’ve been exploring iOS 13 to write the just-released Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, I’ve become concerned about what seems to be an increasingly frequent pattern in iOS software design. What finally pushed me over the edge into writing this article was documenting Apple Card’s user interface in Wallet, because I found myself typing the same character over and over and over… That’s right, I’m talking about the increasingly ever-present ellipsis ••• buttons in iOS (technically, we generally render a user-interface ellipsis in running text as three bullets to make them more easily seen). At WWDC 2014, Apple railed against the hamburger menu, and ever since it’s very vogue in Apple developer circles to make fun of the hamburger menu. I guess Apple’s major, magical innovation of replacing the three lines with three dots was enough for the company to adopt the concept completely. Of course, Apple has no taste and has no clue how to design good user interfaces these days, so they made it worse by using the button all over the place in weird locations and have it do different things in different places, but we’ll let that slide.
Android 10 is expected to begin rolling out sometime next month to all Pixel phones. According to Canadian carrier Rogers today, the Android 10 launch date is Tuesday, September 3rd. For the past several years, Google has released Android versions at the start of the month alongside security patches. Given that the first Monday of September is Labor Day in the United States, Google looks to be targeting the day after. Now the waiting game begins for the 99.9% of Android users who do not have a Pixel.
Maybe its pervasiveness has long obscured its origins. But Unix, the operating system that in one derivative or another powers nearly all smartphones sold worldwide, was born 50 years ago from the failure of an ambitious project that involved titans like Bell Labs, GE, and MIT. Largely the brainchild of a few programmers at Bell Labs, the unlikely story of Unix begins with a meeting on the top floor of an otherwise unremarkable annex at the sprawling Bell Labs complex in Murray Hill, New Jersey. I acknowledge the importance of UNIX – who doesn’t – but I hate how it has become a huge roadblock to any meaningful rethinking and improvement in lower-level operating system design. The best we can do seems to be to hide the ’60s guts underneath ever more layers, instead of addressing the actual shortcomings of such an old design. But hey, I’ve learned over the years that criticizing UNIX is akin to drowning kittens, so maybe I should just fall in line and parrot the party line – UNIX is great, UNIX is perfect, and UNIX needs zero modernisation because it was instantly perfect.
For those who haven’t encountered it before, xlogo is a trivial X11 application that pops up a window showing the X Window System logo. It’s close to being the X equivalent of a ‘hello, world’ program, which makes it a good lightweight initial test case. Whenever I need to do a quick check of my X11 connectivity (which in my case usually means I’m checking that SSH X forwarding is basically alive), xlogo is a good choice of program to run: it won’t spend ages setting itself up, and unlike text-only alternatives like xdpyinfo, it’ll pop up a window on the target display, which makes it easy to check that my connection has gone to the right display. But that’s not all xlogo is good for. There are several other things I use it for. I remember xlogo from the very first few times I used Linux – somewhere in 2002 or 2003. Together with stuff like xeyes, it was a fun little toy to experiment with after installing Linux for the first time. I had no idea it could actually be useful.
Microsoft is planning to redesign the tablet experience for Windows 10. The software giant has started testing a new design for 2-in-1 convertible PCs that will keep the user interface more similar to the existing desktop design. Currently, Windows 10 throws you into a more tablet-optimized UI that removes task bar icons and puts the Start menu full-screen when a device automatically switches into “tablet mode.” Microsoft is now walking back some of those changes, while keeping some touch-optimized elements for 2-in-1 PCs. In the new tablet experience, the desktop will remain in full view, with the task bar icons visible and increased spacing between them. If enabled, the search box will collapse into an icon, and the touch keyboard will appear when you tap on a text field. File Explorer will also switch to a touch-optimized layout. Windows’ tablet modes have simply never really taken off, so it makes sense for Microsoft to try and come up with better ways to align Windows with what users actually want. I’ve had several Surface devices with detachable keyboards, and not once have I liked the tablet mode. I always prefer to just use the regular desktop environment, with the slightly enlarged and more spaced-out touch targets Windows already supports. This seems like Microsoft embracing this particular way of using Windows and touch, and I’m all for it.
Microsoft ♥ Linux – we say that a lot, and we mean it! Today we’re pleased to announce that Microsoft is supporting the addition of Microsoft’s exFAT technology to the Linux kernel. It’s important to us that the Linux community can make use of exFAT included in the Linux kernel with confidence. To this end, we will be making Microsoft’s technical specification for exFAT publicly available to facilitate development of conformant, interoperable implementations. We also support the eventual inclusion of a Linux kernel with exFAT support in a future revision of the Open Invention Network’s Linux System Definition, where, once accepted, the code will benefit from the defensive patent commitments of OIN’s 3040+ members and licensees. Microsoft has been using its exFAT patents to bat Linux companies over the head with for close to two decades, and it was an important pillar of Microsoft’s strategy of extracting patent licensing fees from all kinds of entities using Linux. Seeing this finally come to a complete and non-negotiable end is a sight to behold, but it does make me wonder – was it really all necessary? Was it worth it? It seems like to me it really wasn’t – in fact, it’s been a catastrophic failure. Linux is now the single most popular operating system in the world, shipping on more devices and hardware than any other. No amount of silly troll patents were going to stop that.