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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 2 hours 50 min ago

Windows NT services are assigned a SID based on an SHA-1 hash, but what about the risk of collision?

4 hours 40 min ago
Windows NT services are assigned an identity (SID) based on an SHA-1 hash. We also know that SHA-1 is deprecated due to research showing that it is vulnerable to collision attacks from well-funded opponents. What does this mean for Windows NT services? Some Raymond Chen to kick off the week.

How many kinds of USB-C to USB-C cables are there?

4 hours 43 min ago
Classic USB from the 1.1, 2.0, to 3.0 generations using USB-A and USB-B connectors have a really nice property in that cables were directional and plugs and receptacles were physically distinct to specify a different capability. A USB 3.0 capable USB-B plug was physically larger than a 2.0 plug and would not fit into a USB 2.0-only receptacle. For the end user, this meant that as long as they have a cable that would physically connect to both the host and the device, the system would function properly, as there is only ever one kind of cable that goes from one A plug to a particular flavor of B plug. Does the same hold for USB-C? We all know the answer to this mess.

This could be our first look at an Android-powered feature phone from Nokia

Thursday 18th of July 2019 09:34:37 PM
Kyle Bradshaw at 9To5Google: For the past few months, we’ve been tracking developments in Chrome that point to Android becoming a competitor to KaiOS by entering the feature phone market. Today, the first purported image of an Android feature phone has come to light, with Nokia stylings. Thus far, everything we’ve learned about the likelihood of Android coming to feature phones has come from tidbits within public Chrome code. From the code, we know that Android feature phones will be distinctly different from Android Go, as the feature phones will not have a touchscreen. Instead, the phones will be navigated using a traditional d-pad, shoulder buttons, and the number keys. Feature phones are far from dead, and it seems Google really wants a piece of this pie. KaiOS is kind of an unsung hero here in the west, but it’s quite popular on feature phones all over the world.

Google claims to have cancelled its censored Chinese search engine project

Wednesday 17th of July 2019 11:44:56 PM
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, Google’s vice president of public policy, Karan Bhatia, said that the tech giant’s much-criticized effort to launch a search engine in China had been abandoned. “We have terminated Project Dragonfly,” Bhatia said of the controversial search app for the Chinese market that Google had reportedly been working on last year. He was responding to a series of questions from Republican Sen. Josh Hawley about Google’s business with China. Google employees were decidedly not happy with this project, so internal pressure certainly seems to have made an impact.

Zelda NES screen transitions are undefined behaviour

Wednesday 17th of July 2019 11:36:08 PM
The vertical scrolling effect in the original “The Legend of Zelda” relies on manipulating the NES graphics hardware in a manner likely that was unintended by its designers. Writing to a particular PPU register while a frame is being drawn can result in graphical artefacts. The Legend of Zelda intentionally causes an artefact which manifests itself as partial vertical scrolling. This post gives some background on NES graphics hardware, and explains how the partial vertical scrolling trick works. Game developers on these older, constrained systems had to resort to some very clever thinking to work around said constraints.

Cities: Skylines is Turing complete

Wednesday 17th of July 2019 08:30:35 PM
Cities: Skylines is a city simulation game that is complex enough to build universal logic gates in it. Using universal logic gates it is possible to construct any circuit including Turing complete machines. So, just like in Minecraft one can build a computer inside Cities: Skylines. However, it would be very complicated to build a fully fledged computer using these gates, so I will demonstrate a 4-bit adder instead. Everything is done in the vanilla version of the game, no mods or add-ons are required. I’ve played a lot of Cities: Skylines, but I never thought something like this would be possible.

To break Google’s monopoly on search, make its index public

Monday 15th of July 2019 11:29:08 PM
Fortunately, there is a simple way to end the company’s monopoly without breaking up its search engine, and that is to turn its “index”—the mammoth and ever-growing database it maintains of internet content—into a kind of public commons. There is precedent for this both in law and in Google’s business practices. When private ownership of essential resources and services—water, electricity, telecommunications, and so on—no longer serves the public interest, governments often step in to control them. One particular government intervention is especially relevant to the Big Tech dilemma: the 1956 consent decree in the U.S. in which AT&T agreed to share all its patents with other companies free of charge. As tech investor Roger McNamee and others have pointed out, that sharing reverberated around the world, leading to a significant increase in technological competition and innovation. This is an interesting proposition. I don’t know if this will increase competition in any meaningful way, or if it’ll just lead to a shift in power from Google to the other major technology companies without really creating opportunities for newcomers, but it’s certainly yet another proposal on how to deal with the ever growing power these companies wield.

How US tech giants are helping to build China’s surveillance state

Monday 15th of July 2019 11:20:54 PM
The OpenPower Foundation — a nonprofit led by Google and IBM executives with the aim of trying to “drive innovation” — has set up a collaboration between IBM, Chinese company Semptian, and U.S. chip manufacturer Xilinx. Together, they have worked to advance a breed of microprocessors that enable computers to analyze vast amounts of data more efficiently. Shenzhen-based Semptian is using the devices to enhance the capabilities of internet surveillance and censorship technology it provides to human rights-abusing security agencies in China, according to sources and documents. A company employee said that its technology is being used to covertly monitor the internet activity of 200 million people. IBM, of course, has always been perfectly fine with aiding in and profiting from genocide, so it’s not really surprising that the company jumped at the chance to aid the totalitarian Chinese regime’s genocide against the Uhgurs. Google’s involvement may be slightly more surprising since the company has no real presence in China, but I don’t think anyone should be shocked. Many western companies choose profits over ethics in China, such as Apple, who aides the Chinese dictatorship’s massive surveillance state by handing over all Chinese Apple user’s iCloud data to the Chinese government. Since such anti-privacy measures are legally mandated in China, you can safely assume that any western technology company active in China is just as guilty as IBM, Google, and Apple.

40 years later, lessons from the rise and quick decline of the first ‘killer app’

Monday 15th of July 2019 06:38:40 PM
Remember VisiCalc, the world’s first spreadsheet? Today’s tech giants do, and that is why they buy up and invest in potential competitive threats. It was the first killer app, the spark for Apple’s early success and a trigger for the broader PC boom that vaulted Microsoft to its central position in business computing. And within a few years, it was tech-industry roadkill. Many silicon valley startups basically have only one purpose these days: flaunt their ideas in front of the tech giants, and hope VC funding doesn’t run dry before one of them buys them. They’re not building sustainable businesses; they’re building a corporate advertorials.

Pete’s QBasic site

Monday 15th of July 2019 06:08:44 PM
QBasic lives! QBasic is an old-school, vintage programming language that was designed for beginners. QBasic ran on MS-DOS, and was a more advanced version of BASIC. QB was a lot of people’s first foray into programming (particularly those of us who grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s). Therefore, a lot of people look back at QBasic with nostalgia. QBasic is one of the very few programming languages I actually ever even used – back when i was a very young kid – so I do have some faint nostalgia for it. Great to see such a dedicated community keeping it alive.

One player spent 10 years exploring every corner of Eve Online

Monday 15th of July 2019 04:12:52 PM
Eve Online is unique among spacefaring games — not just for its complexity, but for its structure. The galaxy of New Eden is composed of nearly 8,000 star systems, each one placed into the virtual firmament by the hand of its creators at CCP Games. Some are easy to find, while others are hidden. Few players have actually visited all of New Eden’s known star systems. Fewer still have visited the thousands more that are hidden from view. But only one has visited all of them without losing a single starship. The journey took 10 long years. That’s quite an amazing achievement, especially considering Eve Online is incredibly boring.

AmigaOS 3.1.4.1 released

Sunday 14th of July 2019 09:03:05 PM
Hyperion Entertainment CVBA is pleased to announced the immediate availability of AmigaOS 3.1.4.1 as a free update to AmigaOS 3.1.4 released in September 2018. Since then, some bugs were found and functionality reviewed. We are therefore providing updates that address those issues in order to improve the user experience and also added more workarounds to improve compatibility with some oddly behaving programs. A small bugfix release for the operating system that never dies.

Debian 10 “buster” released

Sunday 14th of July 2019 09:00:58 PM
In this release, GNOME defaults to using the Wayland display server instead of Xorg. Wayland has a simpler and more modern design, which has advantages for security. However, the Xorg display server is still installed by default and the default display manager allows users to choose Xorg as the display server for their next session. Thanks to the Reproducible Builds project, over 91% of the source packages included in Debian 10 will build bit-for-bit identical binary packages. This is an important verification feature which protects users against malicious attempts to tamper with compilers and build networks. Future Debian releases will include tools and metadata so that end-users can validate the provenance of packages within the archive. Debian forms the bedrock under many popular distributions, so any new Debian release is a major milestone, and will eventually find its way, in one form or another, to many Linux users’ computers.

Facebook’s $5 billion FTC fine is an embarrassing joke

Saturday 13th of July 2019 02:22:59 PM
Facebook’s stock went up after news of a record-breaking $5 billion FTC fine for various privacy violations broke today. That, as the New York Times’ Mike Isaac points out, is the real story here: the United States government spent months coming up with a punishment for Facebook’s long list of privacy-related bad behavior, and the best it could do was so weak that Facebook’s stock price went up. Facebook was one of the most important tools that Russia used to interfere in the US presidential elections. Do you really think that the regime profiting from said interference is going to punish their golden ticket?

Microsoft discreetly drops ‘telemetry’ as part of larger ‘security cumulative update’ for Windows 7

Saturday 13th of July 2019 02:20:01 PM
Microsoft appears to have once again attempted to sneak telemetry components. The company released security updates for all supported operating systems on the July 2019 Patch Day. However, this month’s cumulative updates, which were supposed to contain only security-related components, contain an unexpected compatibility/telemetry component. The suspicious components were hidden in plain sight. Incidentally, this is the second time Microsoft has attempted to insert telemetry components. However, during the first attempt the Windows OS maker had openly mentioned the inclusion of the telemetry components, whereas this time, the company didn’t offer any indication. This methodology appears to an attempt to garner more accurate data about usage and installation patterns of the Windows operating system as Microsoft will soon phase out Windows 7. People sticking with Windows 7 are a potential gold mine for Microsoft, so from the company’s perspective, it makes perfect sense to try and collect as much data about Windows 7 users as possible. Such data will help them determine what the best approach would be to get these users to upgrade. If such telemetry collection is opt-in, then I see no problem with it. Sneaking it in as part of a security update, however, is downright scummy.

The AMD Radeon RX 5700 XT and RX 5700 review

Friday 12th of July 2019 10:52:52 PM
So how does AMD’s first example of RDNA stack up? For AMD and for consumers it’s much needed progress. To be sure, the Radeon RX 5700 series cards are not going to be Turing killers. But they are competitive in price, performance, and power consumption – the all-important trifecta that AMD has trailed NVIDIA at for too many years now. AMD’s new graphics cards have already managed to do what has been sorely needed for a long time now: they’ve forced NVIDIA to lower prices and release new cards sooner than they otherwise would’ve. This is why competition is so important.

Windows 10 20H1 build hints at old Microsoft Edge removal

Friday 12th of July 2019 10:48:49 PM
According to an entry in Windows 10 20H1 Build 18936, Microsoft has started working on a new change that would hide the legacy Edge browser when ChromiumEdge is installed. A new entry titled ‘HideUwpEdgeFromAppListIfWin32EdgePresent’ has been spotted in Windows 10 20H1 and the function could be enabled with third-party tool Mach2, but it does nothing at the moment. Microsoft seems to be really aggressive with this endeavour.

Microsoft is making Windows 10 passwordless

Thursday 11th of July 2019 11:26:14 PM
Microsoft is planning to make Windows 10 PCs work without passwords. While the company has been working on removing passwords from Windows 10 and its Microsoft Accounts for a number of months now, the next major update to Windows 10 next year will go one step further. You’ll soon be able to enable a passwordless sign-in for Microsoft accounts on a Windows 10 device. This means PCs will use Windows Hello face authentication, fingerprints, or a PIN code. The password option will simply disappear from the login screen, if you decide to opt in to this new “make your device passwordless” feature. I’m totally on board with this – I love the depth sensor-based Windows Hello on my Dell XPS 13 – but a big problem is that it’s so difficult to get Windows Hello facial recognition on a regular desktop. Only very few cameras actually have the required sensors – not even Microsoft’s own webcams support Windows Hello – making it hard to opt into this passwordless future. Any company that can make an affordable Windows Hello sensor that’s small and easy to attach to a display gets my money.

Haiku monthly activity report for June

Thursday 11th of July 2019 11:22:37 PM
Speaking of Travis Geiselbrecht – Haiku has another activity report. He also started benchmarking the uses of the allocator and found various opportunities to save memory, and use dedicated object caches instead of the generic malloc allocator, helping reduce memory fragmentation. The first patches have just started to land (in packagefs), there will likely be more. Ideally beta2 will be able to boot and install with 256MB of RAM or maybe even less thanks to this work. That’s the kind of specifications that make me very happy. It’s good to know that Haiku’s developers are attempting to keep the operating system lightweight enough to work on older hardware. Meanwhile, waddlesplash is also auditing the code and starting to work towards making APIs more restricted (allowing some things only for the root user, for example), in order to provide some more privilege separation. Haiku has so far been largely a single user system, and did not worry too much about the usual attack vectors for an UNIX system. But modern computers are often online and we should try to keep our user’s data reasonably safe. We have a long way to go, but we have to start with something. Multiuser will be one of the many big hurdles Haiku will face.

Fuchsia adds official Snapdragon 835 support

Thursday 11th of July 2019 11:08:02 PM
It’s somewhat strange that they’ve chosen to support the Snapdragon 835, as the chip is now two generations behind. Thus far, many of the chips in devices Google has developed Fuchsia support for had not even hit the market when development began. Perhaps supporting the Snapdragon 835 will act as a stepping stone toward newer chips like last year’s Snapdragon 845 or this year’s Snapdragon 855. The only reason I’m linking to this rather uneventful story is the name of one of the reviewers of the commit in question – Travis Geiselbrecht.

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