16-bit RISC-V processor made with carbon nanotubes

Our ability to continuously shrink the features of our silicon-based processors appears to be a thing of the past, which has materials scientists considering ways to move beyond silicon. The top candidate is the carbon nanotube, which naturally comes in semiconducting forms, has fantastic electrical properties, and is extremely small. Unfortunately, it has proven extremely hard to grow the nanotubes where they’re needed and just as difficult to manipulate them to place them in the right location. There has been some progress in working around these challenges, but the results have typically been shown in rather limited demonstrations. Now, researchers have used carbon nanotubes to make a general purpose, RISC-V-compliant processor that handles 32-bit instructions and does 16-bit memory addressing. Performance is nothing to write home about, but the processor successfully executed a variation of the traditional programming demo, “Hello world!” It’s an impressive bit of work, but not all of the researchers’ solutions are likely to lead to high-performance processors. The rate of progress on this particular technology is astounding.

Apple now offers genuine parts and tools to independent repair shops, but we have questions

Apple announced today that it will offer genuine parts, diagnostic tools, and repair manuals to independent repair shops. It’s a bold move from a company that has lobbied against Right to Repair bills, and a concession to the reality of iPhone owners’ needs. But we still have questions. There’s some ‘scorpion and the frog’-ness to Apple’s major concession here, and I’d be incredibly wary of the fine print. On top of that, this seems like a classic case of Apple trying to prevent proper right to repair legislation from gaining even more steam by offering a stripped down version of what said legislation would demand of them, so they can point at this news and claim legislation isn’t needed.

All the useless Windows 10 features Microsoft should remove

It’s 2019, and Windows 10 has too many useless and annoying features. Don’t get me wrong: Windows 10 has gotten better and, overall, I love it compared to Windows 8. But some things just need to go. Like any operating system, Windows 10 is full of junk that we’d all love to remove, and this is a decent list. Personally, I’d much rather more and more of the ancient things in Windows 10 get replaced by modern equivalents, such as Explorer, various outdated settings panels, applications like Notepad, and so on.

Fairphone updates its Fairphone updates its ethical smartphone for 2019

Understandably, given Fairphone’s focus on making a phone that’s sustainable rather than a portable powerhouse, the Fairphone 3’s specs aren’t competitive with other flagships we’ve seen this year. It’s got a 5.7-inch Full HD display, a 12-megapixel rear camera, and an 8-megapixel front-facing camera. Internally the phone is built around a Qualcomm Snapdragon 632 processor, and features 4GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage. Its 3000 mAh battery might not be the biggest around, but it’s removable, allowing you to easily replace it if its capacity starts to degrade. The entire phone is made form recycled, conflict-free, and fair trade materials, and is remarkably repairable. Sustainability and repairability from a small company comes with a price tag, however – but at €450, it’s actually not that bad.

Huawei in talks to install the Russian operating system, Aurora, on 360,000 tablets

On paper, the reason for installing Aurora on the tablets is for carrying out Russia’s population consensus in 2020. A Huawei spokesperson confirmed that the company is currently holding talks with the Russian Ministry of Communications. Two sources at Reuters specified, “Huawei is interested in the project. It showed samples of tablets that could be used,” and, “This is a pilot project. We see it as the first stage of launching the Russian OS on Huawei devices.” Aurora is a Russia-specific version of Sailfish OS.

Reliable after 50 years: the Apollo Guidance Computer’s switching power supplies

We recently restored an Apollo Guidance Computer, the revolutionary computer that helped navigate to the Moon and land on its surface. At a time when most computers filled rooms, the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) took up just a cubic foot. This blog post discusses the small but complex switching power supplies that helped make the AGC compact enough to fit onboard the spacecraft. The Apollo project is one of the greatest scientific and engineering achievements in human history, and apparently that goes down to the details. Amazing.

Deconstructing Google’s excuses on tracking protection

Blocking cookies is bad for privacy. That’s the new disingenuous argument from Google, trying to justify why Chrome is so far behind Safari and Firefox in offering privacy protections. As researchers who have spent over a decade studying web tracking and online advertising, we want to set the record straight. Google’s refusal to join Firefox’ and WebKit’s strong privacy positions is both entirely unsurprising and wholly sad. Chrome is the most popular browser in the world, and while I have no doubt Chrome engineers themselves would love to make their browser and engine more privacy-conscious, Google itself obviously has no incentive to do so.

Android Q is Android 10

First, we’re changing the way we name our releases. Our engineering team has always used internal code names for each version, based off of tasty treats, or desserts, in alphabetical order. This naming tradition has become a fun part of the release each year externally, too. But we’ve heard feedback over the years that the names weren’t always understood by everyone in the global community. As a global operating system, it’s important that these names are clear and relatable for everyone in the world. So, this next release of Android will simply use the version number and be called Android 10. We think this change helps make release names simpler and more intuitive for our global community. And while there were many tempting “Q” desserts out there, we think that at version 10 and 2.5 billion active devices, it was time to make this change. Not exactly a hugely important bit of news or anything, but there you have it – the dessert names are no more.

Qt 5 libraries for OS/2

This is a port of the QtBase module of the Qt software development framework version 5 to the OS/2 operating system (and its derivants). This port is carefully crafted and maintained by bww bitwise works GmbH (also referred as bitwiseworks). The current version of the port implements all major parts of the QtBase module and is suitable to compile and run a large amount of Qt 5 applications on OS/2. An impressive effort, but I do have to wonder – what is the benefit of running OS/2 when all of the applications you’re using are better served running on, I don’t know, KDE or Windows? Doesn’t it make more sense to direct effort towards native applications?

Intel launches Comet Lake-U and Comet Lake-Y: up to 6 cores for thin and light laptops

Overall, the launch of Comet Lake comes at a tricky time for Intel. The company is still trying to right itself from the fumbled development of its 10nm process node. While Intel finally has 10nm production increasingly back on track, the company is not yet in a position to completely shift its production of leading-generation processors to 10nm. As a result, Intel’s low-power processors for this generation are going to be a mix of both 14nm parts based on their venerable Skylake CPU architecture, as well as 10nm Ice Lake parts incorporating Intel’s new Sunny Cove CPU architecture, with the 14nm Comet Lake parts filling in the gaps that Ice Lake alone can’t meet. Another year, another Skylake spec bump. Intel sure is doing great.

IBM open sources Power chip instruction set

It has been a long time coming, and it might have been better if this had been done a decade ago. But with a big injection of open source spirit from its acquisition of Red Hat, IBM is finally taking the next step and open sourcing the instruction set architecture of its Power family of processors. Opening up architectures that have fallen out of favour seems to be all the rage these days. Good news, of course, but a tad late.

The STC Executel 3910

Standard Telephone & Cable made quite a few phones for British Telecom in the 70s/80s that most people will recognise instantly even though they didn’t actually know who made them. Probably like me they thought that BT made all their own stuff which I later found out was completely wrong but hey. In the early 80s they branched out into computerised telephones with this lovely looking beast, the Executel 3910. Fellow collector Tony brought this one to my attention and on seeing the pictures I said ‘what the hells is THAT!’ and bought it. It’s a desk phone, pure and simple, but massively computerised with an AMD8085 processor and 32K RAM plus a 5″ monitor for displaying diary and phonebook entries AND, and it’s a big AND, PRESTEL access! A recent video by Techmoan – who bought a working model – brought this device to my attention, and I instantly fell in love with it. This is an incredible piece of engineering and forward-thinking.

I miss Microsoft Encarta

Most folks at Microsoft don’t realize that Encarta exists and is used TODAY all over the developing world on disconnected or occasionally connected computers. (Perhaps Microsoft could make the final version of Encarta available for a free final download so that we might avoid downloading illegal or malware infested versions?) What are your fond memories of Encarta? If you’re not of the Encarta generation, what’s your impression of it? Had you heard or thought of it? I have vague memories of using Encarta back in the early ’90s, but I was much more interested in technology and games as a young kid. These days I tend to read a lot of Wikipedia pages every day, so had I been my current age 25 years ago, I can definitely see myself using Encarta a lot. In any event, definitely neat that the final version of Encarta – from 2009 – runs just fine on Windows 10.

Huawei’s Kirin 990 chipset will finally support 4K video capture at 60fps

With Huawei’s P20 Pro last year and this year’s P30 Pro, the company pulled off some incredible camera innovations, at least in the photo department. In terms of recording video, it hasn’t done as much. Part of the reason for this is because the Kirin 970 and Kirin 980 chipsets don’t support recording video at 4K 60fps, a feature that you’d expect from such camera-centric smartphones. Luckily, that’s about to change with the next generation. While I was in Shenzhen for the past week, Huawei confirmed that the Kirin 990 will indeed support recording video at 4K 60fps. Starting with the Mate 30 series, you’ll no longer have to choose between a high resolution and a high frame rate. It’s incredible how fast Chinese companies manage to improve. If you ever wonder why the United States government is trying to hit Huawei so hard, it’s because of things like this. Aside from the possibly valid spying concerns, Huawei is simply also a major competitor to Silicon Valley, and this is a great way for American corporations/government to strike back. There aren’t many companies who can make every part of a device. Huawei is one of them.

The SuperH-3, part 1: introduction

Windows CE supported the Hitachi SuperH-3 and SuperH-4 processors. These were commonly abbreviated SH-3 and SH-4, or just SH3 and SH4, and the architecture series was known as SHx. I’ll cover the SH-3 processor in this series, with some nods to the SH-4 as they arise. But the only binaries I have available for reverse-engineering are SH-3 binaries, so that’s where my focus will be. Another architecture series by Raymond Chen, diving into some deep details about the SHx architecture.

Understanding modern UEFI-based platform boot

To many, the (UEFI-based) boot process is like voodoo; interesting in that it’s something that most of us use extensively but is – in a technical-understanding sense – generally avoided by all but those that work in this space. In this article, I hope to present a technical overview of how modern PCs boot using UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). I won’t be mentioning every detail – honestly my knowledge in this space isn’t fully comprehensive (and hence the impetus for this article-as-a-primer). A rather detailed overview of the UEFI boot process.

Visible Lisp Computer

The Visible Lisp Computer is a Lisp interpreter that displays the contents of the Lisp workspace on an OLED display, so you can see program execution and garbage collection in real time. It’s a special version of my uLisp interpreter for ARM boards, designed to run on an Adafruit ItsyBitsy M0, or an ATSAMD21E on a prototyping board, interfaced to an I2C OLED display. If I knew what any of this meant, you’d find a few words about this here. Sadly, I don’t know what any of this means.