Google-backed groups criticize Apple’s new warnings on user tracking

Sixteen marketing associations, some of which are backed by Facebook Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google, faulted Apple for not adhering to an ad-industry system for seeking user consent under European privacy rules. Apps will now need to ask for permission twice, increasing the risk users will refuse, the associations argued. Cry me a river. There’s an interesting note later in the linked article: Apple engineers also said last week the company will bolster a free Apple-made tool that uses anonymous, aggregated data to measure whether advertising campaigns are working and that will not trigger the pop-up. But of course it doesn’t. It’s made by Apple, after all, and we all trust Apple, right? It’s not like Apple rushed to sell out everything privacy-related to a regime committing genocide, so we clearly have nothing to worry about when Apple forces itself into the advertising business by leveraging its iOS platform.

Hands-on: 85+ new macOS Big Sur changes and features

After going in depth with iOS 14 earlier this week, today we focus on macOS Big Sur. The biggest takeaway from my hands-on time with the follow up to macOS Catalina is that Apple’s latest OS is clearly being designed with the future in mind. Although it’s unmistakably Mac, Big Sur is a departure from previous versions of macOS in terms of aesthetics. Everything, from the dock, to the menu bar, to window chrome, icons, and even sounds have been updated. A good overview of the many, many changes in Big Sur. Interesting sidenote: with both Windows and macOS now heavily catering towards touch use, this leaves Linux – and most of the smaller platforms, like the Amiga or Haiku – as one of the last remaining places with graphical user interfaces designed 100% towards mouse input. Big buttons, lots spacing, lots of wasted space – it’s coming to your Mac.

Chrome for Android is finally going 64-bit

The first Android version to support 64-bit architecture was Android 5.0 Lollipop, introduced back in November 2014. Since then, more and more 64-bit processors shipped, and today, virtually all Android devices are capable of running 64-bit software (excluding one or two or more oddballs). However, Google Chrome has never made the jump and is only available in a 32-bit flavor, potentially leading to some unnecessary security and performance degradations. That’s finally changing: Starting with Chrome 85, phones running Android 10 and higher will automatically receive a 64-bit version. It seems odd to me that it took them this long to move one of the most important applications in Android to 64 bit.

Microsoft just sank to a new low by shoving Edge down our throats

If I told you that my entire computer screen just got taken over by a new app that I’d never installed or asked for — it just magically appeared on my desktop, my taskbar, and preempted my next website launch — you’d probably tell me to run a virus scanner and stay away from shady websites, no? But the insanely intrusive app I’m talking about isn’t a piece of ransomware. It’s Microsoft’s new Chromium Edge browser, which the company is now force-feeding users via an automatic update to Windows. People should run whatever the hell they damn well please, but the last few years it has become increasingly clear that Windows is deteriorating fast. Oddly enough, it’s not the operating system itself that’s deteriorating – in fact, Windows is probably in a better technical state than it’s ever been – but the policies and anti-user ‘features’ draped around it. If you read OSNews, you are most likely technically inclined. People who read OSNews don’t need Windows, and shouldn’t be running it. It’s actively hostile towards its users, and you deserve better.

Chrome OS preparing Steam gaming support, starting with 10th Gen Intel Chromebooks

Through a fair bit of digging, we were able to obtain a copy of Borealis, which turned out to be another full Linux distribution. Unlike Crostini, which is based on Debian, Borealis is based on Ubuntu, another popular variety of Linux. Just like the existing Linux apps support, we believe Borealis will integrate itself with Chrome OS rather than being a full desktop experience. However, we found one key difference between Borealis and a normal installation of Ubuntu, as Borealis includes a pre-installed copy of Steam. This lines up with what we learned at CES 2020, when Kan Liu, Google’s director of product management for Chrome OS, shared that the upcoming Steam gaming support would be based on Linux. I am very curious to see how this will perform. My gut feeling is that they will position this more as an endpoint for Steam’s in-home streaming feature than as a way to play games locally on-device, since I don’t know of any ChromeBook with more graphical power than whatever integrated GPU Intel stuffs in their low-end processors.

Review: System76’s Lemur Pro

If you’re a Linux user on the hunt for a new laptop, there’s quite a bit of preparation and research you must do on top of the regular research buying such an expensive piece of equipment already entails. Reading forum posts from other Linux users with the laptop you’re interested in, hunting for detailed specifications to make sure that specific chip version or that exact piece of exotic hardware is fully supported, checking to see if your favourite distribution has adequate support for it, and so on. There is, however, another way. While vastly outnumbered, there are laptops sold with Linux preinstalled. Even some of the big manufacturers, such as Dell, sell laptops with Linux preinstalled, but often only on older models that have been out for a while, or while not fully supporting all hardware (the fingerprint reader and infrared camera on my XPS 13 were not supported by Linux, for instance). For the likes of Dell, Linux in the consumer space is an afterthought, a minor diversion, and it shows. If you want the best possible out-of-the-box Linux experience, you’ll have to go to one of the smaller, more boutique Linux-only OEMs. One of the more prominent Linux OEMs is System76, who have been selling various laptops and desktops with Linux preinstalled for more than decade now. Recently, they launched their new ultraportable, the Lemur Pro, and they kindly loaned one to us for review. Full disclosure: System76 sent us the laptop as a loan, and it will be returned to them after publication of this review. They did not read this review before publication, and placed zero restrictions on anything I could write about. Specifications The Lemur Pro configuration System76 sent to us comes in at $1492, and packs a 4C/8T 10th Gen Intel Core i7-10510U, with frequencies of 1.8 up to 4.9 GHz and 8MB Cache. It came with 16GB of RAM, of which 8 is soldered onto the motherboard, and 8 is seated in the single RAM expansion slot. Storage-wise, it is equipped with a 500GB SSD in one of its two user-accessible M.2 slots – a Samsung 970 Evo Plus. The 14.1″ display has a resolution of 1920×1080 with a matte finish, with a maximum refresh rate of 60Hz. The display is powered by the integrated GPU, and there’s no option for a discrete GPU. The battery is a 73 Wh unit, and is entirely user-replacable. Bucking a trend in the industry, the Lemur Pro is reasonably equipped when it comes to ports: one USB 3.1 Type-C Gen 2 port, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a MicroSD Card Reader, a full-size HDMI port, a barrel connector for the included charger (USB-C charging is also supported), a combined headphone/microphone jack, and the usual Kensington lock. The USB-C port can also be used as a display port with DisplayPort 1.2. Hardware The design of the Lemur Pro is unassuming, mostly black, and free of the kind of design frivolities other laptops tend to suffer from. There’s no RGB here, no flames painted on the lid to make it go faster, no screaming logos or gamer accents – just a black laptop with a System76 logo on the lid. That’s it. It is incredibly light, weighing a mere 0.99 kg – for comparison, a MacBook Air weighs 1.29 kg, so the Lemur Pro is considerably lighter. This does come at a price, however, and the Lemur Pro just doesn’t feel as strong and sturdy as similar laptops with a bit more heft to it. There’s an amount of flex in the display lid, bottom cover, and keyboard cover that you just won’t see in a MacBook Air or an XPS 13. It’s a trade-off you have to make – if you really value the extreme kind of portability the Lemur Pro provides, it means giving in somewhere else. I’m disappointed System76 does not provide a high refresh rate display on the Lemur Pro, in the very least as an option. Once you’ve gotten used to 144Hz (or even higher) on your computer displays, using a 60Hz display feels like a major step back. I understand the battery life concerns, but I’m definitely more than willing to give up a little bit of battery life if it meant a buttery-smooth 144Hz UI. Aside from the lack of a high refresh rate option, the display is excellent – it’s bright and the colours look normal, but note that I’m not a colour expert, so I can’t make any claims about colour accuracy. For my general use, however, I didn’t run into any issues. Speaking of battery life – this is one of the major strong points of the Lemur Pro. System76 advertises a maximum battery life of 14 hours, and while these kind of figures are usually complete nonsense, I think they’re not far off the mark here. Since we do not (yet) have a long history of laptop reviews, we do not have any consistent methodology for measuring battery life, so anything I say here is very subjective and difficult for you as a reader to parse. That being said, with casual use – meaning, browsing, writing, Twitter and e-mailing while watching YouTube videos – I could definitely hit the 10 hour mark at the balanced power setting. Switching to the power saver setting yielded me even more hours of battery life, but it did cause a notable hit in performance, especially for video. Simple 1080p YouTube video – either played in Firefox or locally – would stutter and lag, but everything else seemed to perform just fine. My guess is that the power saver setting targets the integrated Intel GPU quite aggressively, but honestly, for several hours of additional battery life, I think it’s worth it. The battery life is especially remarkable since getting proper battery life out of laptops designed for Windows running Linux is often a major hassle, and no matter what you do, Linux battery life on laptops not designed for Linux always lags

System hardening in Android 11

In Android 11 we continue to increase the security of the Android platform. We have moved to safer default settings, migrated to a hardened memory allocator, and expanded the use of compiler mitigations that defend against classes of vulnerabilities and frustrate exploitation techniques. An overview of the security-related changes in Android 11.

Ampere’s product list: 80 cores, up to 3.3 GHz at 250 W; 128 core in Q4

With the advent of higher performance Arm based cloud computing, a lot of focus is being put on what the various competitors can do in this space. We’ve covered Ampere Computing’s previous eMag products, which actually came from the acquisition of Applied Micro, but the next generation hardware is called Altra, and after a few months of teasing some high performance compute, the company is finally announcing its product list, as well as an upcoming product due for sampling this year. Ampere’s Altra is a realized version of Arm’s Neoverse N1 enterprise core, much like Amazon’s Graviton2, but this time in an 80-core arrangement. Where Graviton2 is designed to suit Amazon’s needs for Arm-based instances, Ampere’s goal is essentially to supply a better-than-Graviton2 solution to the rest of the big cloud service providers (CSPs). Of the companies that have committed to an N1 based design, so far on paper Ampere is publically the biggest and fastest on the books. Can we have these in workstations please? I know they’re not designed for my kinds of uses, but damn if these aren’t awesome.

Haiku monthly activity report for May and June

After the release of the second beta a few weeks ago, Haiku continues its steady pace of improvements and fixes. A few highlights from the work done since the beta release: Korli also worked on improving support for modern x86 CPUs, including the xsave instruction, and enabling use of AVX which requires saving more CPU registers during context switches. A new version of HaikuWebKit has finally been released after help from KapiX and X512 to fix the remaining bugs. It uses a lot less memory, crashes less often, and has better support for modern website. There is ongoing work for further updates and improvements. There’s a lot more in there, so if you have beta 2 running, be sure to update it.

The 25 greatest Java apps ever written

What follows is a list of the 25 most ingenious and influential Java apps ever written, from Wikipedia Search to the US National Security Agency’s Ghidra. The scope of these applications runs the gamut: space exploration, video games, machine learning, genomics, automotive, cybersecurity, and more. It’s posted by Oracle and thus it makes me feel dirty to link to it, but I guess it’s still an interesting list – albeit with one obvious, huge, giant, inescapable elephant of an mission.

Microsoft removes manual deferrals from Windows Update by IT pros ‘to prevent confusion’

Microsoft is removing the ability for business users to defer manually Windows 10 feature updates using Windows Update settings starting with the Windows 10 2004/May Update. Microsoft seemingly made this change public with a change in its Windows 10 2004 for IT Pros documentation on June 23. I’ve read the article three times and I still don’t quite understand what’s going on.

Symbian won

I was working in the mobile phone industry just as smartphones were taking off. I saw the Palm Pilot rise and fall. I witnessed NEC and Sagem and a host of companies launch smartphones and then disappear. But the greatest tragedy of them all was Nokia and their Symbian Operating System. Symbian was, for its time, a brilliant OS. It ran 3D games smoothly, had terrific hardware support, a decent ecosystem for developers. And it was bloody annoying for users. Every few minutes, Symbian would interrupt you to ask “Are you sure you want this app to connect to the Internet?” His final paragraph has a point.

Microsoft Defender ATP for Linux is now generally available

To meet our customers where they are and relieve customer challenges in managing multiple security solutions to protect their unique range of platforms and products, we have been working to extend the richness of Microsoft Defender ATP to non-Windows platforms. Today we are excited to announce general availability of Microsoft Defender Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for Linux! Adding Linux into the existing selection of natively supported platforms by Microsoft Defender ATP marks an important moment for all our customers. It makes Microsoft Defender Security Center a truly unified surface for monitoring and managing security of the full spectrum of desktop and server platforms that are common across enterprise environments (Windows, Windows Server, macOS, and Linux). Defender ATP is an enterprise product, so this news doesn’t mean the end-user program that ships with Windows is coming to Linux. Still, seeing Microsoft embracing Linux left, right, and centre is still a weird sight for someone who still hasn’t forgiven Microsoft for their role in killing any chances of BeOS catching on. I’m still bitter over that one.

iPhone 6S getting iOS 14 is like the Galaxy S6 getting Android 11. Imagine that.

At this point, saying Android has a serious problem when it comes to phones receiving reliable Android upgrades is getting old. We’ve written about it a lot — even I, specifically, have written about it a lot. You’ve told us your thoughts. We all get it. Even with all that, though, the latest announcement of iOS 14 really sends the message home. This week, Apple officially confirmed that the 2020 iteration of iOS will land on every iPhone since the iPhone 6S. That’s a phone that came out in September 2015, which is nearly five years ago. Meanwhile, the flagship Android device from 2015 was the Samsung Galaxy S6. The most recent official version of Android that phone received was Android 7 Nougat, which dropped in 2016. Of course, it was well into 2017 before the Galaxy S6 actually got it. Since then: nothing. Apple deserves praise for being pretty much the only smartphone manufacturer supporting its devices for this long. Despite years of attempts and failed promises, Android devices still barely get two years of updates, and even if, they arrive with major delays.

Is WebP really better than JPEG?

If you have used tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights, you probably have run into a suggestion to use “next-gen image formats”, namely Google’s WebP image format. Google claims that their WebP format is 25 – 34% smaller than JPEG at equivalent quality. I think Google’s result of 25-34% smaller files is mostly caused by the fact that they compared their WebP encoder to the JPEG reference implementation, Independent JPEG Group’s cjpeg, not Mozilla’s improved MozJPEG encoder. I decided to run some tests to see how cjpeg, MozJPEG and WebP compare. I also tested the new AVIF format, based on the open AV1 video codec. AVIF support is already in Firefox behind a flag and should be coming soon to Chrome if this ticket is to be believed. Spoiler alert: WebP doesn’t really provide any benefits, and since websites generally use JPEG as a fallback anyway, you end up with having to store two images at the same time, defeating the purpose entirely.

About the Rosetta translation environment

Rosetta is a translation process that allows users to run apps that contain x86_64 instructions on Apple silicon. Rosetta is meant to ease the transition to Apple silicon, giving you time to create a universal binary for your app. It is not a substitute for creating a native version of your app. To the user, Rosetta is mostly transparent. If an executable contains only Intel instructions, macOS automatically launches Rosetta and begins the translation process. When translation finishes, the system launches the translated executable in place of the original. However, the translation process takes time, so users might perceive that translated apps launch or run more slowly at times. A short overview of Rosetta 2, the translation layer that allows 64bit x86 applications to run on the upcoming ARM-based Macs.

Apple unveils macOS 11

The era of macOS 10 is over, and we’re entering the next era of macOS’s life cycle. This is going to be a massive update, and aside from the transition to ARM, it can be summed up as “macOS: iOS Edition”: the entire graphical user interface has been redesigned to resemble iOS, including massive amounts of whitespace, touch-friendly design, and very white roundrect icons. The new operating system brings the biggest redesign since the introduction of macOS 10, according to Apple. Big Sur borrows a number of elements from Apple’s iOS, including a customizable Control Center, where you can change brightness and toggle Do Not Disturb, and a new notification center, which groups related notifications together. Both interfaces are translucent, like their iOS counterparts. A number of apps have received streamlined new redesigns, including Mail, Photos, Notes, and iWork. Apple has introduced a new search feature to Messages (which organizes results into links, photos, and matching terms), as well as inline replies for group chats, a new photo-selection interface, and Memoji stickers. There’s a new version of Maps for Mac that borrows features from the iOS app, including custom Guides, 360-degree location views, cycling and electric vehicle directions (which you can send directly to an iPhone), and indoor maps. Apple introduced a number of new Catalyst apps as well. I’m not entirely sure about the look, especially since it feels very much like a touch UI that won’t work and feel as well when using a mouse of a trackpad – it looks like a 1:1 copy of the iPad Pro’s iPadOS user interface, for better or worse. Still, judging a GUI by mere screenshots and short videos is a folly, so let’s reserve final judgment until we get to use it. That being said, if you want to try the new GUI now, you can just load up any GNOME-based distribution and apply any of the countless iOS-inspired themes found on Gnome-Look.org. An additional massively important feature is that the upcoming ARM-based Macs will be able to run iOS and iPadOS application unmodified, as-is, much like how Chrome OS can run Android applications. This further underlines how despite years of Apple and its advocates poo-pooing Windows for combining cursor and touch-based interfaces, Apple is now pretty much past any idea of combining the two, and has instead just opted to make everything touch-first, whether you use a mouse or not. Lastly, macOS 11 will come with Rosetta 2, which will allow x86 applications to run unmodified on ARM-based Macs. That’s definitely good news for early adopters, but performance will obviously be a concern with emulation technology such as this.

Apple transitions the Mac to its own ARM processors

Building on its industry-leading A-series chips for iPhones and iPads, Apple wants Macs with its custom silicon to have the highest performance with lower power usage. Apple says the vast majority of Mac apps can be quickly updated to be “universal” with support for both Intel-based Macs and those with Apple’s custom silicon. Starting today, developers will be able to apply for a Mac mini with an A12Z chip inside to help prepare their apps for Apple’s custom silicon. The special Mac mini will be running the macOS Big Sur beta and the latest version of Xcode. The news everyone knew was coming. The transition will take roughly two years, and the first consumer device will become available later this year.

iOS 14 has a new home screen with widgets, a redesigned Siri view, and more

Apple has announced iOS 14 onstage at WWDC 2020, giving the first (official) look at the latest version of its software for the iPhone, and it’s bringing the biggest change to the iOS home screen in years: widgets. Widgets come in a variety of sizes and can still be viewed in the Today view, but in iOS 14, Apple allows widgets to be added to the main Home screen to live right alongside your apps. To add them, there’s a new “widget gallery” where users can easily add and customize widgets. There’s also a new “Smart Stack” widget that automatically shows relevant apps based on the time of day. iOS 14 will be a big update, but a lot of it is catching up to features other platforms have had for a decade now, such as the above-mentioned widgets, which look virtually identical to live tiles on Windows Phone. It also comes with an application drawer (like Android), divided into various application categories (like the Palm OS launcher), and the ability to set your own default browser and email application (like every other operating system since the dawn of time). There’s more, of course, such as picture-in-picture support, something called App Clips where parts of applications can be displayed for quick access (Android has had a similar features for a few years now), and a number of other, smaller things. All in all, it seems like a decent update, bringing a number of features to iOS that most of the world’s smartphone users have been enjoying for a decade or more now. Good news for iOS users, I suppose, but nothing groundbreaking.