DuckDuckGo is good enough for regular use

DuckDuckGo’s premise is simple. They do not collect or share personal information. They log searches, but they promise that these logs are not linked to personally identifiable information. Their search engine results seemingly come from Bing, but they claim to have their own crawler and hundreds of other sources on top of that. They do customize the results a little: geo-searches like bars near my location give me results from my home city of New York. But search results aren’t personalized. I’ve always wondered how good the results would be. DuckDuckGo is my default, main search engine on all my computers and devices. Every now and then I do use the g command to tell DDG to do a Google search, but overall, I’m incredibly satisfied with how DDG performs.

The UKUI 3.0 Desktop looks phenomenal

Admittedly it’s been while since I last wrote about this (formerly MATE-based) desktop environment, but it’s still out there, shipping as default experience in Ubuntu Kylin, doing its thing. But not for much longer, it seems. Based on an updated shared on Chinese social media, the UKUI team appear to be rebuilding UKUI using Qt. The plan, they say, is to stick to to the same “easy, excellent, expert, elaborate” mantra that the original UKUI desktop was (supposedly) built to. I’m highlighting this here because there’s a ton of interesting Linux desktop work going on in China that we in the west rarely talk about, such as Deepin and its Qt-based Deepin Desktop Environment that’s also available on some other distributions. UKUI fits in that same bucket. There’s, of course, legitimate concerns over code from China, but since these projects are open source, it would seem there’s little to worry about on that front. The fact of the matter is that, totalitarian dictatorship or not, Chinese people are just regular folks, and many of them are probably excellent programmers and designers that can contribute a lot to the health, variety, and competition within the desktop Linux and wider open source community.

Project Sandcastle: Android for the iPhone

Want a more capable and less restrictive operating system on your iPhone? Enter Project Sandcastle. The iPhone restricts users to operate inside a sandbox. But when you buy an iPhone, you own the iPhone hardware. Android for the iPhone gives you the freedom to run a different operating system on that hardware. Android for the iPhone has many exciting practical applications, from forensics research to dual-booting ephemeral devices to combatting e-waste. Our goal has always been to push mobile research forward, and we’re excited to see what the developer community builds from this foundation. This project has some serious pedigree to it, from the original developers behind Android for the very first iPhone, to Corellium, a company Apple is suing because Corellium offers virtualised iOS devices in the cloud for developers. There’s so much going on here I barely know where to start. In any event, the current Android for iPhone beta only supports the iPhone 7 and 7+, but not every part of them, and other devices are clearly in the very early stages. The source code to Project Sandcastle is available on Github. I hope this will one day lead to Android running well on all sorts of iPhone models, if only because it is such a delightful slap in the face to Apple’s anti-consumer restrictions on its hardware and software.

Testing a Chinese x86 CPU: a deep dive into Zen-based Hygon Dhyana processors

In 2016, through a series of joint ventures and created companies, AMD licensed the design of its first generation Zen x86 processors to be sold into China. The goal of this was two-fold: China wanted a ‘home grown’ solution for high-performance x86 compute, and AMD at the time needed a cash injection. The outcome of this web of businesses was the Hygon Dhyana range of processors, which ranged from commercial to server use. Due to the Zen 1 design on which it was based, it has been assumed that the performance was in line with Ryzen 1000 and Naples EPYC, and no-one in the west has publicly tested the hardware. Thanks to a collaboration with our friend Wendell Wilson over at YouTube channel Level1Techs, we now have the first full review of the Hygon CPUs. This is such an intriguing story. This specific joint venture – underreported and unknown to many in the west – may prove invaluable to Chinese own tech sector for years to come.

Running 16 bit Windows applications on 64 bit Windows

Did you ever load up your modern Windows 10 PC, ready to install your favourite application or game, only to be greeted by a dialog telling you it won’t run, and then you realise you’re trying to run a 16 bit application on your modern 64 bit Windows 10 installation? I swear to god, this happens to me all the time. Luckily, there’s a solution to this problem. In fact, there’s multiple solutions to this problem. Of course, you can always just fire up a virtual machine with 32 bit Windows, Windows 3.1, or OS/2 for massive style points, but that’s cumbersome and uncool (except for OS/2. OS/2 is always cool). There’s a better way. Enter winevdm by otya128, which is a combination of MAME’s i386 emulation and the 16 bit part of wine. It allows you to run 16 bit applications on modern 64 bit versions of Windows. Edward Mendelson created a handy installer with some additional useful tools to make the process even easier. As a sidenote, there’s also NTVDMx64, which is a version of Microsoft’s own NTVDM (Windows NT’s virtual DOS machine) adapted for 64 bit (Mendelson made a handy installer for this one, too). By its very nature, NTVDMx64 doesn’t run Windows 16 bit applications; only DOS ones. It is also important to note that NTVDMx64 is based on leaked Windows NT source code, so please be careful in which settings you use it. There’s no real reason I’m talking about this today, other than the fact I that I ran into this stuff a few days ago when watching a YouTube video about running the IBM WorkPlace Shell for Windows 3.x on Windows 10, and thought it was fascinating. It might prove useful for some of you working at companies still running old 16 bit stuff, or if you’re digging around in your old floppy collection.

PowerShell 7.0 released

For those unfamiliar, PowerShell 7 is the latest major update to PowerShell, a cross-platform (Windows, Linux, and macOS) automation tool and configuration framework optimized for dealing with structured data (e.g. JSON, CSV, XML, etc.), REST APIs, and object models. PowerShell includes a command-line shell, object-oriented scripting language, and a set of tools for executing scripts/cmdlets and managing modules. Do we have any PowerShell users on OSNews? If so, why are you using it, and what for?

Ampere Altra launched with 80 Arm cores for the cloud

Today we have the launch of the Ampere Altra Arm CPUs. This is a completely new design built specifically for cloud providers. It has up to 80 cores and is designed to go head-to-head with AMD EPYC 7002 “Rome” series processors as well as 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Refresh parts. Ampere is launching today but we do not have a test system as we have had for all of the other major server chip launches recently. It sounds like Ampere is shipping mass production units soon, but not at the time we were briefed. Hopefully, we can get more hands-on insights in the near future. In this article, we are going to discuss the architecture based on the documents we have and our discussion with the company. We are going to check performance claims and help our readers critically analyze what they are being shown. We are then going to discuss systems disclosed with the chips before getting to our final thoughts. This seems like an impressive piece of engineering, but we’ll definitely need test systems and proper reviews to test the claims about the chip. While I’m very happy AMD is back in the game and we’ve got some real competition to Intel, we as consumers would benefit even more from proper ISA competition, something we haven’t seen in a long time.

WireGuard gives Linux a faster, more secure VPN

Many older VPN offerings are “way too huge and complex, and it’s basically impossible to overview and verify if they are secure or not,” says Jan Jonsson, CEO of VPN service provider Mullvad, which powers Firefox maker Mozilla’s new VPN service. That explains some of the excitement around WireGuard, an open source VPN software and protocol that will soon be part of the Linux kernel—the heart of the open source operating system that powers everything from web servers to Android phones to cars. I’ve always been wary of the countless VPN services littering YouTube and podcast sponsor slots, since you can never be quite sure if you can trust them. Luckily I don’t need a VPN, but I’m glad Linux is getting it built-in.

In praise of chorded input

Speaking about LSDJ, the premiere music software for the Game Boy, George Buckenham writes: But it also got me thinking about chorded input schemes. LSDJ is a workhorse of a program, able to do a lot of stuff. And it’s designed to let you do that stuff quickly – to let you iterate fast, put down a tune fast, adjust things while you’re standing on stage. But also… a Gameboy has 8 buttons – 4 directions, A, B, SELECT and START. So it has to make those buttons work hard. And that’s where chording comes in. Chording is a means of inputting commands to software by holding down multiple buttons at once. Ctrl-C is an example of a chorded command. Hold down Ctrl, then press C while you’re doing it. Text copied. But you can also make chording work harder than that. It requires a lot of planning and thinking to make a complex application controllable by only a few buttons, such as the mere 8 buttons on the original Game Boy. I wouldn’t want to be in the shoes of developers who have to make things work with limitations such as these.

Uyghurs for sale

The Chinese government has facilitated the mass transfer of Uyghur and other ethnic minority citizens from the far west region of Xinjiang to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Apple, BMW, Gap, Huawei, Nike, Samsung, Sony and Volkswagen. The current coronavirus outbreak is showing us once again just how dependent the world is on Chinese manufacturing. The companies implicated in this report – technology companies in particular, since this is OSNews – need all these Chinese workers to function, to exist, and to grow their revenue and Cayman Islands money piles even more, more, more. Do you really think Tim Cook loses one night of sleep over a few thousand Muslims ground to minced meat between the cogs of his manufacturing empire?

Open source hardware: the rise of RISC-V

While open source software is taking over the world, a push for open source hardware has been quietly building. The RISC-V Foundation has been pushing its open sourced instruction set architecture for chips based on the long-established paradigms for reduced instruction set computing. And one of its most vocal advocates is Calista Redmond, the chief executive of the RISC-V Foundation, which is working to promote its adoption. This is a slow burn. RISC-V won’t change the world overnight, but will slowly but surely seep into every corner of the computing industry – and looking at the incompatible, closed-source mess that is the ARM world, we really need RISC-V on all those millions of embedded devices we use every day.

EMM386 and VDS: not quite working

The other day I set out to solve a seemingly simple problem: With a DOS extended application, lock down memory buffers using DPMI and use them for bus-mastering (BusLogic SCSI HBA, though the exact device model isn’t really relevant to the problem). Now, DPMI does not allow querying the physical address of a memory region, although it does have provisions for mapping a given physical memory area. But that doesn’t help here–mapping physical memory is useful for framebuffers where a device memory needs to be mapped so that an application can access it. In my case, I needed the opposite, allowing a bus-mastering device to use already-allocated system memory. I think I may have understood some of these words.

Fuchsia Friday: Google is beginning to ‘dogfood’ test Fuchsia OS

In software development, and especially Google’s development cycles, there’s usually a point where the developers “eat their own dogfood” or use their own work, before letting normal users try it. It seems that Google’s long-in-development Fuchsia OS may finally be reaching this “dogfood” stage. And yet, we’re still no closer to what, exactly, Fuchsia is going to be for.

SeaMonkey 2.53.1 released

The SeaMonkey project is a community effort to develop the SeaMonkey Internet Application Suite (see below). Such a software suite was previously made popular by Netscape and Mozilla, and the SeaMonkey project continues to develop and deliver high-quality updates to this concept. Containing an Internet browser, email & newsgroup client with an included web feed reader, HTML editor, IRC chat and web development tools, SeaMonkey is sure to appeal to advanced users, web developers and corporate users. SeaMonkey has been around for a while, and I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. It’s effectively a modern continuation of the more classic Mozilla browser, the Mozilla Application Suite, which also included a news reader, email client, and so on. Not exactly the kind of thing most people want to use today, but there must still be a place for it in today’s era. That being said, the project just released its latest new version, 2.53.1, so I figured I’d highlight it here.

AMD Launches ultra-low-power Ryzen embedded APUs

While it doesn’t get the same attention as their high-profile mobile, desktop, or server CPU offerings, AMD’s embedded division is an important fourth platform for the chipmaker. To that end, this week the company is revealing its lowest-power Ryzen processors ever, with a new series of embedded chips that are designed for use in ultra-compact commercial and industrial systems. The chips in question are the AMD Ryzen Embedded R1102G and the AMD Ryzen Embedded R1305G SoCs. These parts feature a 6 W or a configurable 8 W – 10 W TDP, respectively. Both SoCs feature two Zen cores with or without simultaneous multithreading, AMD Radeon Vega 3 graphics, 1 MB L2 cache, 4 MB L3 cache, a single channel or a dual-channel memory controller, and two 10 GbE ports. Two quite capable chips. I’ve always liked these low-power chips and have, on numerous occasions, pondered buying the devices these kinds of chips tend to end up in – small industrial machines, thin clients, that sort of stuff – since they’re cheap and abundant on eBay. Sadly, I can never quite find a use for them.

EU considering forcing smartphone makers to make batteries user-replaceable

Are you constantly annoyed that your smartphone battery dies before the rest of the phone? Angry about the wastage that creates? Well, leaked EU proposals could force smartphone manufacturers to to make all batteries removable. That would mean that all brands wanting to sell in the EU would have to make sure each phone has a battery that can be removed by the user – and that even would include Apple, the company most resistant to legislation around its iPhone designs, if attempts to make it change ports in the past is anything to go by. This makes perfect sense. People are keeping their phones for longer and longer, so the ability to easily and quickly replace the battery is a big boon.

Undiscoverable UI madness

I stopped there because we had to get back to work, but without even leaving the Finder and Desktop I was able to find a bunch of things that long-time Mac users had never known about because they never discovered them in their daily use. None of this is meant to say macOS is garbage or anything like that. It’s just interesting to see when people who love the Mac and are so critical of “discoverability” on the iPad. I’m not even saying the iPad is better than the Mac here, I’m just saying that “discoverability” is one of the big things that has people in a tizzy right now about the iPad, but I think some are laying into the iPad harder than is warranted. You have no idea how many undiscoverable or obtuse features, functions, tricks, and so on you take for granted when using old, established platforms like Windows or macOS.

Apple planning over-the-air OS recovery for iOS devices

The third beta version of iOS 13.4 reveals the existence of a new feature called “OS Recovery”, which is quite suggestive. As best we can tell, it looks like a new way to restore an iPhone, iPad, and other Apple devices without the need to connect them to a computer. It’s not yet possible to access it in the system as the feature is still under development and it could be scrapped at any time. According to what we found in the system, it would be possible to restore the iOS directly over-the-air as well as by connecting the device via USB to another iPhone or iPad, similar to how Apple’s Migration Tool works. This seems like one of those things that should’ve been the default for years now on both iOS and Android – so much so that I had to stop and think twice just to remember it isn’t, yet.