The Ampere Altra review: 2x 80 cores Arm server performance monster

The Altra overall is an astounding achievement – the company has managed to meet, and maybe even surpass all expectations out of this first-generation design. With one fell swoop Ampere managed to position itself as a top competitor in the server CPU market. The Arm server dream is no longer a dream, it’s here today, and it’s real. AnandTech reviews the 80-core ARM server processor from Ampere – two of them in one server, in fact – and comes away incredibly impressed.

Google kills Android Things, its IoT OS, in January

The Google kills Android Things, its IoT OS, in January | Ars Technica, a version of Android meant for the Internet of Things. Google announced it had basically given up on the project as a general-purpose IoT operating system in 2019, but now there’s an official shutdown date thanks to a new FAQ page detailing the demise of the OS. Google promised three year of updates, but with the last update coming out in August 2019 and Android Things being launched in May 2018, Google made it to 1 year and 3 months.

Apple has stopped providing standalone installers for macOS updates

Apple released macOS Big Sur 11.1 on 14 December. Although yesterday it finally posted standalone installers for the two concomitant security updates to Catalina and Mojave, no standalone updaters for Big Sur have appeared yet. Neither has it made available a standalone updater for macOS 11.0.1, which was released over a month ago. If you feel that you “have a need for individual downloads for Big Sur delta/combo updaters”, please let Apple know. In the strongest possible terms, via Feedback, Apple Support and any other means available. The lockdown continues.

Google, Facebook had illegal deal to rig ad market, Texas says

Alphabet Inc.’s Google reached an illegal deal with Facebook Inc. to maintain a chokehold over the lucrative digital advertising market, according to a lawsuit filed by 10 states led by Texas. The complaint, which targets Google’s central role in the buying and selling of display ads across the web, was filed in federal court in Texas Wednesday. The regulatory onslaught is here, and I have more than enough popcorn in the house to enjoy myself.

GTK 4.0 released

GTK 4.0 has been released. It is impossible to summarize 4 years of development in a single post. We’ve written detailed articles about many of the new things in this release over the past year: Data transfers, Event controllers, Layout managers, Render nodes, Media playback, Scalable lists, Shaders, Accessibility. GTK is the backbone of virtually everything I do on my computers – I run GTK desktops – and I know I’m far from the only one. The benefits and improvements of a new release of this toolkit will find their way to all of the major GTK desktops, and this is the first major step in that proces.

Google and Qualcomm partner to deliver 4 years of Android updates for new Snapdragon devices

Over 3 years ago, Google announced Project Treble, a major rearchitecting of Android designed to speed up software updates. While the architecture introduced by Project Treble has helped OEMs to speed up the delivery of major Android OS updates and monthly security patches, it has had an adverse effect on SoC providers like Qualcomm. In fact, Treble has actually increased the complexity, and thus the engineering costs, associated with providing Android OS update support for any given chipset. That has limited the length of support that Qualcomm can provide for its SoCs, but that will soon change. All Snapdragon SoCs launching with Android 11 or later—starting with the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm will support 4 Android OS version updates as well as 4 years of security updates. That’s an additional year than they previously provided for their flagship 800-series chipsets. Since virtually all popular Android devices use Qualcomm chipsets, this is a big boon for Android users.

Google acquires CloudReady OS that turns old PCs into Chromebooks

Neverware lets you turn old PCs and Macs into Chromebook-esque devices through its CloudReady OS. While primarily aimed at schools and enterprises, a free “Home” edition for everyone is available. Google has now acquired Neverware and CloudReady with plans to integrate it with Chrome OS. Seems like a reasonable acquisition. I’ve always found it odd that Google hasn’t tried to push Chrome OS as a downloadable, installable operating system for people to install. The only way to really experience Chrome OS is to buy a device that comes with it, which often simply doesn’t make any sense. I hope this acquisition means Google intends to offer a version of Chrome OS that we can freely download and install.

A Wayland driver for Wine

After several months of work, we are excited to announce a first proposal for a Wayland driver for Wine. At this point the proposal is in the form of an RFC (Request For Comment), in order to explore how to best move forward with the upstreaming and further development of the driver. The Wayland protocol is by design more constrained compared to more traditional display systems like X11 and win32, which brings a unique sets of challenges in the integration of Wayland with Wine. Since Wayland’s window model is not based on a single flat 2D co-ordinate space, as X11’s was, the Wayland protocol doesn’t allow apps to control their absolute position on the screen. Win32 applications heavily rely on this feature, so the Wayland driver uses a few tricks to accommodate many common cases, like transient windows (menus, tooltips etc). This is an important first step in ensuring Wine performs optimally on Wayland systems, and considering the importance of Wine for the Linux desktop due to projects like Proton, this really needs to be sorted before a full move to Wayland can be made.

Linux kernel 5.10 LTS released

As expected, Linus Torvalds today officially released Linux 5.10. Besides being the last kernel release of 2020, this is a significant milestone in that it’s also a Long Term Support (LTS) kernel to be maintained for at least the next five years and also is a huge kernel update in general with many new features. Linux 5.10 features new hardware support including early bring-up around Intel Rocket Lake and Alder Lake, continued work on Intel Gen12/Xe Graphics, a number of storage/file-system improvements, and more. It will either trickle down to your distribution, or to the mainline repository you use.

Friends remember Microsoft renegade Eric Engstrom, who suggested a DirectX console

Engstrom was known as part of the “Beastie Boys,” a trio of evangelists who paved the way for Microsoft’s expansion in games in the late 1990s and early 2000s with DirectX. The expansion eventually enabled Microsoft to launch the Xbox (X signified DirectX) video game console — an enterprise that generated billions of dollars for Microsoft and made it a major player in the game industry. What a fascinating man and career.

The cleverest floppy disc protection ever? Western Security Ltd.

We’ve reviewed the most powerful BBC Micro model B disc protection scheme I found, across an audit of most of the copy protected discs released for the machine. It’s clever in that you don’t need specialized hardware to create the disc, or read the disc. But you’re going to struggle to duplicate the disc. Copy protection schemes from the ’80 and early ’90s are fascinating, and this one is no exception.

Working from home at 25MHz: You could do worse than a Quadra 700

I know all this because I remain a hopeless computer tinkerer who happened to come across a Quadra 700 around the start of 2020. Unlike my road test of the IIsi for Ars back in 2018, the Quadra 700 presented a tantalizing opportunity to really push the limits of early 90s desktop computing. Could this decades-old workhorse hold a candle to the multi-core behemoths of the 2020s? The IIsi turned out to be surprisingly capable; what about the Quadra 700 with its top-shelf early ‘90s specs? The Quadra 700 is such an enticing machine. Clean, elegant, and capable for its time, I’d love to play around with one today.

Introducing x64 emulation in preview for Windows 10 on ARM PCs

Microsoft has released a preview of 64bit x86 emulation for Windows on ARM. In this preview, you can install x64 apps from the Microsoft Store or from any other location of your choosing. You can try key x64-only productivity apps like Autodesk Sketchbook, as well as games like Rocket League. Other apps, like Chrome, which run today on ARM64 as 32-bit apps, can run as 64-bit using the new x64 emulation capability. These apps may benefit from having more memory when run as 64-bit emulated apps. I’m quite interested in trying out Windows on ARM out of sheer curiosity, but since I was one of the few sad sacks who bought a Surface RT on release day, I may sit this one out for a bit.

Cydia files antitrust lawsuit against Apple

A new lawsuit brought by one of Apple’s oldest foes seeks to force the iPhone maker to allow alternatives to the App Store, the latest in a growing number of cases that aim to curb the tech giant’s power. The lawsuit was filed on Thursday by the maker of Cydia, a once-popular app store for the iPhone that launched in 2007, before Apple created its own version. The lawsuit alleges that Apple used anti-competitive means to nearly destroy Cydia, clearing the way for the App Store, which Cydia’s attorneys say has a monopoly over software distribution on iOS, Apple’s mobile operating system. “Were it not for Apple’s anticompetitive acquisition and maintenance of an illegal monopoly over iOS app distribution, users today would actually be able to choose how and where to locate and obtain iOS apps, and developers would be able to use the iOS app distributor of their choice,” the lawsuit alleges. Apple will fight lawsuits like this all the way to the Supreme Court if it has to, but I think there’s no saving this one. Eventually, somewhere, either in the US, EU, Japan, or even China, some regulator or court will demand the end of the App Store monopoly, and once the wall’s been breached in one jurisdiction, it will benefit the rest of the world.

Some Windows 10 users about to be force upgraded if they use older versions

Starting December 2020, Microsoft will begin Some Windows 10 users about to be force upgraded if they use older versions (windowslatest.com) if they don’t update their PC manually. The move comes after Microsoft announced that it’s ending support for Windows 10 version 1903, including Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 Pro. It shouldn’t be a concern for most users considering that the tech giant issued the upgrade alert two months ago. Microsoft had also confirmed that it would start forcing people to upgrade even if they don’t want to. Does anyone even know what all these version numbers even mean anymore? There’s version numbers, date-based names, build numbers – I have completely and utterly lost track of Windows’ development cycle and rollouts.

U.S. and states say Facebook illegally crushed competition, sue Facebook

The Federal Trade Commission and more than 40 states accused Facebook on Wednesday of becoming a social media monopoly by buying up its rivals to illegally squash competition, and said the deals that turned the social network into a behemoth should be unwound. The prosecutors called for Facebook to break off Instagram and WhatsApp and for new restrictions on future deals, in what amounted to some of the most severe penalties regulators can demand. I hope it gets that far. Next on the list? Apple and Google.

Google’s Fuchsia operating systems steps into the spotlight, transitions to a proper open source project

Google has finally – finally – truly and honestly confirmed Fuchsia is a thing. Fuchsia is a long-term project to create a general-purpose, open source operating system, and today we are expanding Fuchsia’s open source model to welcome contributions from the public. Starting today, we are expanding Fuchsia’s open source model to make it easier for the public to engage with the project. We have created new public mailing lists for project discussions, added a governance model to clarify how strategic decisions are made, and opened up the issue tracker for public contributors to see what’s being worked on. As an open source effort, we welcome high-quality, well-tested contributions from all. There is now a process to become a member to submit patches, or a committer with full write access. In addition, we are also publishing a technical roadmap for Fuchsia to provide better insights for project direction and priorities. Some of the highlights of the roadmap are working on a driver framework for updating the kernel independently of the drivers, improving file systems for performance, and expanding the input pipeline for accessibility. It has been a very, very long time since any of the major technology companies built a new operating system from the ground up. Windows 10 is Windows NT, a project started in 1989 and first released as Windows NT 3.1 in 1993. The Linux kernel was first released in 1991. macOS grew out of NeXTSTEP, development of which started in 1985, seeing its first release in 1989. These operating systems are old. Fuchsia is truly new, and developed by one of the biggest companies in the world, and while Google has a spotty track record when it comes to corporate attention span, I doubt they’d roll out the red carpet like this after four years of sort-of-but-not-really open development if they intend to kill the entire thing two years from now. And even if they do – the code’s out there anyway. There’s a guide on how to build Fuchsia and set up an emulator (for Linux and macOS), so you can start poking around today.

CentOS Project shifts focus to CentOS Stream

The future of the CentOS Project is CentOS Stream, and over the next year we’ll be shifting focus from CentOS Linux, the rebuild of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL), to CentOS Stream, which tracks just ahead of a current RHEL release. CentOS Linux 8, as a rebuild of RHEL 8, will end at the end of 2021. CentOS Stream continues after that date, serving as the upstream (development) branch of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. A lot of people are not going to be happy with this announcement, and it seems this is the first clear insight into what IBM is planning to do with the Red Hat acquisition. Expect a new CentOS to rise to the occasion and takes its place.

Librem 5 Evergreen vs. Pinephone

I recently received my Librem 5 (Evergreen) from Purism. The Librem 5 is a smartphone that runs an otherwise standard linux kernel. However, unlike Android which also relies on the linux kernel under the hood, the Librem 5 uses a GNU userspace, adapted for mobile. This makes it more akin to your typical laptop in some ways, although the form factor still resembles a modern smartphone (at least, mostly). Here are some preliminary thoughts about the phone and how it compares to Pine64’s Pinephone, which is another phone that uses neither Android nor iOS, and relies on a GNU / Linux based OS. A detailed look at and comparison between these two smartphones that definitely share a target market. Devices like this are an excellent example of something I can now consider buying and reviewing thanks to our lovely supporters on Patreon.

Qt 6.0 released

Key changes in Qt 6.0 include: • Leveraging C++17• Next generation QML• New graphics architecture• Unified 2D and 3D for Qt Quick• CMake build system (with qmake still supported for applications)• Multiple improvements throughout A big release – but I’m not a programmer so I won’t pretend to try and understand all of this.