How the Commodore Amiga powered your cable system in the ’90s

If you subscribed to cable television in the ’90s, you most likely saw Video Toaster in action on the cable dial. But the most notable use of the Amiga in cable television didn’t actually rely on Video Toaster at all. That was the Prevue Guide, which may not have gotten the attention of the MTV, TBS, or Nickelodeon in those days, but served an important purpose: It was the channel you watched to see what was on those channels. The Amiga was used in a number of projects that required on-screen graphics on TV.

SerenityOS’ founder and main developer goes full-time for SerenityOS

Until now, I’ve been juggling SerenityOS as a side project while also having a full time programming job. That all changes today! I just wrapped up my last day at work, and I’m no longer employed. Instead, I will be focusing on SerenityOS full time starting right now! :^) This is all made possible by the extremely generous support I’m receiving from folks via Patreon, GitHub Sponsors and PayPal! I feel super fortunate to have the trust & support of so many people. Thank you all so much!! SerenityOS is amazing, and its main developer seems to be a delightful person, whose character and demeanor is attracting a lot of interesting developers to the project. The progress it’s making is astonishing, and with this news, that progress is bound to keep steady for a long time to come. Since pretty much all the alternative, small operating systems from the early 2000s died out, it’s heartwarming to see a new one pop up and thrive.

Kvarken 4.1.0 brings full Sailfish 64-bit support to Sony Xperia 10 II

We’re happy to share with you the many firsts in this release: the 1st fully stacked 64-bit ARM Sailfish OS, that you can download and flash onto the Sony Xperia 10 II, which is also the first Sailfish device with AOSP-10 HW adaptation. The commercial Sailfish X package also introduces the 64-bit Android App Support for Xperia 10 II. Sailfish OS Kvarken 4.1.0 has now moved from early access to full release. That means the early access bugs have been ironed out, but also that the paid-for additions (particularly Android App Support) are also now available for it. While the headline changes in 4.1.0 is the shift to full 64-bit ARM and support for the new hardware, it also introduces many other improvements, including to location data support, VPN support, audio recording, browser, calendar sync and contact sync, amongst other things.

Review: the Cosmo Communicator

It’s 2021, and it’s time to upgrade your smartphone. Maybe it’s getting slow, it might be damaged, or your device’s OEM refuses to update your version of Android. Whatever the reason, you set your budget and full of hope and starry-eyed about all the possibilities, you go to your preferred electronics store (or carrier, if you’re American) – and as you scroll through the possible phones, your hopes are shattered and your heart sinks in your shoes. Your choices are between an endless array of black slabs, and while you can technically choose between Android and iOS, you will have most likely made that specific choice ages ago, and switching platforms is hard. Slightly dramatised, sure, but the reality of smartphones today is that all of them look and feel the same. The difference between mid range and high end have shrunk over the years, and while there are still small differences here and there, the general experience is going to be the same from device to device. Even if you skip a few years of upgrades, the jump in performance to the latest and greatest processor isn’t going to make that much of a difference in your day to day use. While you can technically opt for one of the new folding phones, the reality is that they still suffer from early adopter problems, and their prices are far beyond what most of us would want to pay for a smartphone. With all phones looking the same, it’s hard to find a company willing to stand out in a crowd of black rectangles. One of the victims of this race to the rectangle is the smartphone keyboard – whether it’s BlackBerry or Android phones with keyboards, they’re basically no longer being made, and if you’re simply not a fan of typing on featureless glass, you’re pretty much out of luck. Except, not really. There are a few companies left still making smartphones with keyboards, and the British company Planet Computers is one of them. This British company does not just focus on building Android smartphones with keyboards – they take the concept a step further and gun for the iconic Psion devices from the ’90s. The company’s chief designer, Martin Riddiford, worked at Psion in the ’90s and aided in the design of the Psion Series 5’s keyboard, and that design has formed the basis for the company’s first two devices: the Gemini PDA and the Cosmo Communicator. After seeing my sorrowful lament of the Nokia N900, the company contacted me and asked me if I wanted to review their Cosmo Communicator Android smartphone. I obviously didn’t hesitate to say yes, and after a few weeks of delay due to our first child being born, I can finally give you my thoughts and insights on this device that fills a unique niche in the current mobile landscape. Keyboard and hinge The Cosmo Communicator is unlike any other Android device on the market today. As to be expected due to its pedigree, the device resembles a Psion Series 5, or perhaps a Nokia Communicator if you’re more familiar with that line of devices. When closed, the device is thicker and heftier than most other smartphones, but there’s a valid reason for that: open it up, and inside you’ll find a full QWERTY keyboard with real keys. When opened, it looks more like a small laptop than a smartphone. I want to dive straight into that keyboard, since it’s by far the device’s most defining feature. First of all, it’s smaller than a regular keyboard, obviously, so it definitely takes a little time to get used to. I have small hands and tiny fingers, so for me, it wasn’t that hard to get used to the size of the keyboard. The layout of the keys feels natural, and for me, there are no cases where I would’ve opted for keys in different positions. With such a cramped space, you’ll always have to make compromises and hard choices, but I think the Planet team has made all the right choices. The layout will take some getting used to, but that’s to be expected with any new keyboard, especially one in such an exotic form factor. I’m slightly less happy about the actual typing experience, though. Granted, I am a very light typist who applies relatively little force to each key press, but I found that my key presses would often not register unless I applied what I would consider too much force. This problem increases the farther away from the home row I am, and it’s downright annoying. Getting used to a new keyboard layout and smaller keys is one thing – unless you have truly gigantic hands, it won’t take you more than a few days – but having to change how hard you press down on a key is very, very hard to learn. However, as said, if you apply more force for each key press than I do, this might not be much of an issue at all for you. You might wonder if you can use the keyboard when thumb-typing. My hands are definitely too small for thumb-typing, as reaching the centre-most keys requires an uncomfortable amount of stretching and grip adjustments. Again, though, my hands are small, and if you have more average-sized hands, you might be able to thumb-type just fine. The keyboard is backlit, and comes in a variety of keyboard layouts to choose from upon purchase. Using the Fn key, you can also control things like volume, brightness, airplane mode, and other Android-specific features, and Planet was smart enough to include full inverted-T arrow keys. Aside from the cramped size, it comes very close to offering all the functionality of a regular keyboard, and while my personal typing style doesn’t mesh well with it, the Planet team has done a great job given the constraints they were working in. Moving on from the keyboard, the second aspect of the Cosmo that stands out is

Arm announces mobile Armv9 CPU microarchitectures: Cortex-X2, Cortex-A710, and Cortex-A510

It’s that time of the year again, and after last month’s unveiling of Arm’s newest infrastructure Neoverse V1 and Neoverse N2 CPU IPs, it’s now time to cover the client and mobile side of things. This year, things Arm is shaking things up quite a bit more than usual as we’re seeing three new generation microarchitectures for mobile and client: The flagship Cortex-X2 core, a new A78 successor in the form of the Cortex-A710, and for the first time in years, a brand-new little core with the new Cortex-A510. The three new CPUs form a new trio of Armv9 compatible designs that aim to mark a larger architectural/ISA shift that comes very seldomly in the industry. Alongside the new CPU cores, we’re also seeing a new L3 and cluster design with the DSU-110, and Arm is also making a big upgrade in its interconnect IP with the new cache coherent CI-700 mesh network and NI-700 network-on-chip IPs. AnandTech’s usual deep dive into the processors Android devices will be using next year.

Google to use patient data to develop healthcare algorithms for hospital chain

Google has made a deal for access to patient records from HCA, which which operates 181 hospitals and more than 2,000 healthcare sites in 21 states, so the tech company can develop healthcare algorithms, The Wall Street Journal reports. Google will store anonymized data from patient health records and internet-connected medical devices. That data will be used to build programs that could inform medical decisions made by doctors. The deal is described as “multiyear” by the WSJ, without specifying how many years. This feels uncomfortable on so many levels.

Microsoft teases a ‘next generation of Windows’ announcement ‘very soon’

Microsoft isn’t talking about its big Windows plans at Build 2021 this week, and that’s because the company is preparing to detail what’s next for its PC operating system separately. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella teased this announcement during his Build keynote this morning, revealing he has been testing “the next generation of Windows” in recent months. Windows is in a bit of a rut. As far as its core frameworks and lower levels go, it’s an incredibly solid, fast, extensible, and yes, secure operating system that can chug along just fine. The user experience, however, is a garbled, confusing mess consisting of bits and pieces dating back to Windows 3.11 (if you look hard enough). Almost every part of the operating system has multiple sides to it with different user experiences, looks, and feels, and if you come from a modern Linux distribution, the update experience, installing and managing applications, changing settings, and so on, are just downright laughably bad. The user-facing part of Windows doesn’t just need an overhaul – it’s had countless overhauls over the years, all leaving various bits and pieces around that you still encounter today – but a complete redesign. I think the lower-levels and core frameworks are more than fine, but everything on top of that needs a clean start. Microsoft has promised countless of these “next generations” of Windows, and aside from the move from Win9x to Windows NT, they’ve all been thin, patchy veneers atop all the thin, patchy veneers that came before. After so many empty promises, it’s just hard to take them seriously. Mark my words: this “next generation of Windows” is nothing but a few nips and tucks to the current, existing UI to make it slightly less of an inconsistent mess. Nothing more.

Framework Laptop review (hands on): the anti-MacBook is here

Though it can’t match the high-quality screens and discrete GPUs available in some competing laptops (like the Dell XPS 13 and Alienware m15 r4), Framework offers a unique feature customers can’t find anywhere else right now: control.  Laptops have steadily gotten less repairable and upgradeable over time, to the horror of many computing enthusiasts. While we’re starting to see manufacturers ship more notebooks with upgradeable storage and graphics card options, the rest of the components are typically off-limits — and often soldered down in a way that makes trying to replace or upgrade it a dicey proposition at best. By contrast, Framework’s laptop has been designed from the ground up for socket-based modularity. This is a decision Patel claims hasn’t prevented them from achieving nearly the same heights of thinness and lightness as competitors like Apple and Dell have. This is the first review of the Framework Laptop I’ve seen, and it seems very positive. I’m unreasonably excited about this machine, and I’ll try and see if I can get my hands on a review unit. This machine seems like a perfect fit for the average OSNews reader.

Google is officially releasing its Fuchsia OS, starting with first-gen Nest Hub

Google’s long-in-development, from-scratch operating system, Fuchsia, is now running on real Made by Google devices, namely, the first-generation Nest Hub. Google has told us that as of today, an update is beginning to roll out to owners of the first-generation Nest Hub, first released in 2018. For all intents and purposes, this update will not change any of the functionality of the Nest Hub, but under the hood, the smart display will be running Fuchsia OS instead of the Linux-based “Cast OS” it used before. In fact, your experience with the Nest Hub should be essentially identical. This is possible because Google’s smart display experience is built with Flutter, which is designed to consistently bring apps to multiple platforms, Fuchsia included. A big moment for the Fuchsia team, and the culmination of years and years of work. Google is clearly testing the waters here, allowing the brand new operating system to get some experience under its belt in a relatively controlled environment. Theoretically, Google could do the same transparent rollout on Android devices, since Fuchsia can run Android applications just fine – users wouldn’t even notice. However, I’m sure that is still a few years away.

Strong ARMing with MacOS: adventures in cross-platform emulation

BlackBerry recognizes the importance of supporting the cybersecurity community in the fight against cyberthreats, and is therefore following up its release of the PE Tree Tool in 2020 by sharing this methodology report to inform security researchers and pen-testers on how to successfully emulate a MacOS ARM64 kernel under QEMU. Pen-testers and researchers can use the virtualized environment of a stripped-down MacOS kernel for debugging and vulnerability discovery, and this illustrates the extent to which one can use emulation to manipulate and control the kernel to their desired ends, whether it be to find a critical bug or to patch an area of the kernel. More importantly, this project was a successful experiment in cross-platform emulation that has the potential for future development. BlackBerry telling you how to virtualise ARM macOS. Yeah.

The software behind Eurovision

Whether you like the Eurovision Song Contest or not, no one can claim they don’t put on an extravagant show. After watching the performance last night, the thing that stayed with me most wasn’t the music, but the stunning lighting effects, visual effects and camera work. The 1831 lights, 24 cameras, 380 speakers and hundreds of mics all need orchestration in a way that’s hard to comprehend. Software makes it all possible. This year CuePilot was used to manage the entire production. CuePilot allows them to pre-programme all movement and to create a script for programming the lights, to pass to the camera operators and so on. It even allows them to create an entire pre-visualisation of the show — a 3D rendered simulation — before any footage has been shot. It’s so nice that we work now in, actually it feels like a videogame. I cut my shots in CuePilot, I send it to , they put it in the venue, and the venue is complete 3D of course now, with the light, with the movements, with the LED content and actually I see the song or the performance in actually real time and more-or-less real life. The objective is not just to create an elaborate show, but also to manage the emotions of the audience watching it. Gil Laufer, an MSc student at KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and Eurovision fanatic, has researched the effect it has. Our hypothesis was that pre-programmed camera work will result in a more unified experience among the viewers. A unified experience means that in terms of emotions and their intensities, each individual among a group of viewers would feel the same as the other group members. This can be measured and later analyzed using statistical methods. The conclusions drawn from the research is that pre-programmed camera work can result in a more unified experience compared to manual camera work. The ability to do that depends on the overall creativity value of the production, which in turn depends on various aspects such as the number of cameras and the available shooting angles, the production team’s proficiency in using tools as CuePilot, and in the time that the team got to spend on the production. Musical productions may not be the usual fare for OSNews, but the fact is that the sophistication of orchestration, simulation of the final show, and bridging between the software and the hardware its controlling, just wouldn’t be possible without the developments made in operating system and software integration over the last two decades.

The state of toolchains in OpenBSD

For most of the 2010s, the OpenBSD base system has been stuck with GCC 4.2.1. It was released in July 2007, imported into the OpenBSD source tree in October 2009, and became the default compiler on the amd64, i386, hppa, sparc64, socppc and macppc platforms in OpenBSD 4.8, released in November 2010. As specified in the commit message during import, this is the last version released under the GPLv2 license. OpenBSD was not the only operating system sticking to GCC 4.2.1 for licensing reasons, FreeBSD did the same, and Mac OS X as well. As a general rule, and this is not OpenBSD specific, being stuck with old compilers is problematic for several reasons. It seems most platforms OpenBSD supports now come with modern, up-to-date toolchains.

Haiku developer ports Haiku to RISC-V

Have you ever want to follow along as someone ports an entire operating system to a new architecture? Well, now you can! Haiku developer X512 is porting the Haiku operating system to RISC-V, and is posting regularly in a long and detailed ongoing thread on the Haiku discussion forum, detailing his successes and struggles along the way. He’s already quite far along: Most things are working, system is quite stable. Now applications crash show error dialog instead of KDL. Also after removing no more needed workarounds (fully allocate stack memory instead of allocating on demand by page fault handler) memory usage was reduced. It’s fun and informative to read the whole thread from the beginning until today, and see the progress unfold as if you’re sitting right next to X512.

Microsoft and Apple wage war on gadget fight-to-repair laws

One reason these legislative efforts have failed is the opposition, which happens to sell boatloads of new devices every year. Microsoft’s top lawyer advocated against a repair bill in its home state. Lobbyists for Google and Amazon.com Inc. swooped into Colorado this year to help quash a proposal. Trade groups representing Apple Inc. successfully buried a version in Nevada. Telecoms, home appliance firms and medical companies also opposed the measures, but few have the lobbying muscle and cash of these technology giants. While tech companies face high-profile scrutiny in Washington, they quietly wield power in statehouses to shape public policy and stamp out unwelcome laws. Tech companies argue that right-to-repair laws would let pirates rip off intellectual property and expose consumers to security risks. In several statehouses, lobbyists told lawmakers that unauthorized repair shops could damage batteries on devices, posing a threat of spontaneous combustion. What’s good enough for the car industry, is more than good enough for these glorified toaster makers. Cars are basically murder weapons we kind of screwed ourselves into being reliant on, but Apple and Microsoft make complicated toasters that you need to really screw up in order to hurt anyone with. Computer and device makers must be forced to make parts and schematics available to any independent repair shop, just like car makers have to do. So many perfectly capable devices end up in dangerous, toxic landfills in 3rd world countries simply because Apple, Microsoft, and other toaster makers want to increase their bottom line. It’s disgusting behaviour, especially with how sanctimonious they are about protecting the environment and hugging baby seals.

Nyxt browser 2.0 released

Nyxt is a keyboard-oriented, infinitely extensible web browser designed for power users. Conceptually inspired by Emacs and Vim, it has familiar key-bindings (Emacs, vi, CUA), and is fully configurable in Lisp. A browser like this surely isn’t for me, but I feel there’s quite a few OSNews readers among us who would be interested in something like Nyxt. The developers just released version 2.0 with a massive list of improvements and new features.

Improving Firefox stability on Linux

Roughly a year ago at Mozilla we started an effort to improve Firefox stability on Linux. This effort quickly became an example of good synergies between FOSS projects. Just a nice feelgood read about collaboration in the open source world – and if you use Firefox on Linux, like I do, this is already benefiting you greatly.

Microsoft to kill Internet Explorer in 2022

Over the last year, you may have noticed our movement away from Internet Explorer (“IE”) support, such as an announcement of the end of IE support by Microsoft 365 online services. Today, we are at the next stage of that journey: we are announcing that the future of Internet Explorer on Windows 10 is in Microsoft Edge. Not only is Microsoft Edge a faster, more secure and more modern browsing experience than Internet Explorer, but it is also able to address a key concern: compatibility for older, legacy websites and applications. Microsoft Edge has Internet Explorer mode (“IE mode”) built in, so you can access those legacy Internet Explorer-based websites and applications straight from Microsoft Edge. With Microsoft Edge capable of assuming this responsibility and more, the Internet Explorer 11 desktop application will be retired and go out of support on June 15, 2022, for certain versions of Windows 10. It’s going to a nice farm upstate.

Developers flee Freenode after ‘takeover’ by Korean crown prince

Developers of the open source organization Freenode are quitting en masse after Andrew Lee, a tech entrepreneur and the Crown Prince of Korea, has taken control of the network in what developers are describing as an “hostile takeover.”  On Wednesday, a dozen Freenode staff volunteers published posts announcing their resignations, which explain their decision to quit. The broad strokes of the letters explain that they believe Lee bought the entire Freenode network under what they believe are false—but legal—pretenses, and that they have lost control over the network. They said there is little the staff can do to oppose changes that Lee wants to implement.  The now former staff members announced that they are launching a new chat network, Libera.chat, to continue Freenode’s mission. I did not have this on my 2021 bingo card.

Google unveils Material You, a massive overhaul of Android’s user interface

At Google I/O today, Google unveiled more about Android 12, and the biggest change is a complete visual overhaul of the operating system. It’s called Material You, and it’s radically different from what Android looks and feels like today. Every visual and animated aspect of the operating system seems to have been changed. Some examples: Wallpaper-based theming — or “color extraction” as Google calls it — brings bold color combinations to every corner of the OS. It automatically decides which hues in your wallpaper are good for the dominant and complementary colors and applies them in all of Android’s screens, menus, and even first-party apps. Apple likely lit a fire under Google when it added widgets to iOS, and the Mountain View company has responded with a much-needed refresh of its first-party widget designs. Expect to see new clocks, new weather widgets, new shortcuts to oft-used contacts, and easier access to your favorite chats. As well as a refresh of the static design elements, Material You will also breathe new life into animations. We’re going to get more fluid motion, better feedback, and generally much smoother performance. Google says that its work under the hood will reduce the CPU time taken up by core system services by up to 22%, which will be reflected in the user experience. I think it definitely looks new and fresh, and less edgy and harsh than the current Material Design sometimes feels. Of course, everyone will hate these changes at first – as is tradition – but I’m very curious to see this in action on my own phone, and something like this is sure to get me to take a serious look at the next crop of Pixel phones as my possible next phone, just to get my hands on the new look and feel. Aside from the massive visual overhaul, Google is also continuing its improvements on the privacy front, but Android being a Google product, I always feel a tad bit skeptical about this particular effort. We’ll see how long it will take for OEMs to actually ship Android 12 – and how badly they will butcher Material You – and as always, that wait may be long.

Google and Samsung merge Wear OS and Tizen

Today, we’re sharing the biggest update to Wear ever – built with your preferences in mind. We’ve been hard at work in three areas: building a unified platform with Samsung, delivering a new consumer experience and providing updates to your favorite Google apps. WearOS definitely needs a lot of love, and this is a big sign Google is taking the platform seriously. Merging with Samsung’s incompatible Tizen efforts makes sense, and adding Google’s acquisition of FitBit into the mix is a no-brainer, too. I’m one of the few people who actually likes WearOS – warts and all – so I’m excited to see what the future brings here.