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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 7 min ago

Google memo Reveals plans to track search users in China

Friday 21st of September 2018 06:28:09 PM
Google bosses have forced employees to delete a confidential memo circulating inside the company that revealed explosive details about a plan to launch a censored search engine in China, The Intercept has learned. The memo, authored by a Google engineer who was asked to work on the project, disclosed that the search system, code-named Dragonfly, would require users to log in to perform searches, track their location - and share the resulting history with a Chinese partner who would have "unilateral access" to the data. These are the requirements set forth by the Chinese government that you must fulfil in order to do business of this kind in China. It's the same reason why Apple handed over all of its iCloud data to a company owned and run by the Chinese government - if you want to make money in China, you have to play by their rules. It just goes to show that while these companies make romp and stomp about caring about the privacy of western users, said care goes right out the window if it means they can make more money. Your privacy does not matter - only money matters. And yes, they will do the same thing here in the west the moment it's financially advantagous for them to do so.

Apple File System reference

Friday 21st of September 2018 05:58:10 PM
Some more light reading, right in time for the weekend - the 147 pages long reference to APFS. Apple File System is the default file format used on Apple platforms. Apple File System is the successor to HFS Plus, so some aspects of its design intentionally follow HFS Plus to enable data migration from HFS Plus to Apple File System. Other aspects of its design address limitations with HFS Plus and enable features such as cloning files, snapshots, encryption, and sharing free space between volumes. Most apps interact with the file system using high-level interfaces provided by Foundation, which means most developers don't need to read this document. This document is for developers of software that interacts with the file system directly, without using any frameworks or the operating system - for example, a disk recovery utility or an implementation of Apple File System on another platform. The on-disk data structures described in this document make up the file system; software that interacts with them defines corresponding in-memory data structures. This document could prove quite useful to developers who might wish to add APFS compatibility to for instance Linux.

FreeBSD desktop: pause any application

Thursday 20th of September 2018 11:36:09 PM
After using UNIX for so many years I knew that I could freeze (or pause) any process in the system with kill -17 (SIGSTOP) signal and then unfreeze it with with kill -19 (SIGCONT) signal as I described in the Process Management section of the Ghost in the Shell - Part 2 article. Doing it that way for the desktop applications is PITA to say the least. Can you imagine opening xterm terminal and searching for all Chromium or Firefox processes and then freezing them one by one every time you need it? Me neither. Fortunately with introduction of so called X11 helper utilities - like xdotool(1) - it is now possible to implement it in more usable manner. Today I will show you how to freeze any X11 application with single keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture if you utilize them in any way with small simple script. Handy little trick. The entire series of articles by the same author about FreeBSD on the desktop are interesting and informative reads.

GeForce RTX 2080 Ti and RTX 2080 FE review

Thursday 20th of September 2018 11:31:50 PM
AnandTech benchmarked the new RTX graphics cards, and concludes: So where does that leave things? For traditional performance, both RTX cards line up with current NVIDIA offerings, giving a straightforward point-of-reference for gamers. The observed performance delta between the RTX 2080 Founders Edition and GTX 1080 Ti Founders Edition is at a level achievable by the Titan Xp or overclocked custom GTX 1080 Ti’s. Meanwhile, NVIDIA mentioned that the RTX 2080 Ti should be equal to or faster than the Titan V, and while we currently do not have the card on hand to confirm this, the performance difference from when we did review that card is in-line with NVIDIA's statements. The easier takeaway is that these cards would not be a good buy for GTX 1080 Ti owners, as the RTX 2080 would be a sidegrade and the RTX 2080 Ti would be offering 37% more performance for $1200, a performance difference akin upgrading to a GTX 1080 Ti from a GTX 1080. For prospective buyers in general, it largely depends on how long the GTX 1080 Ti will be on shelves, because as it stands, the RTX 2080 is around $90 more expensive and less likely to be in stock. Looking to the RTX 2080 Ti, diminishing returns start to kick in, where paying 43% or 50% more gets you 27-28% more performance. Neither of the two new RTX cards seem to be particularly smart purchases at this point - the 2080 barely performs any better than a 1080 Ti, and while the 2080 Ti does offer a decent performance improvement over the 1080 Ti, it's also $1200. You might want to wait to see if NVIDIA's raytracing efforts pay off and gets adopted in video games, and if said raytracing features don't suck too much performance.

Ubuntu Desktop images available in Hyper-V gallery

Thursday 20th of September 2018 09:23:23 PM
Today we're very pleased to announce that an optimised Ubuntu Desktop image is available from the Hyper-V gallery. This will give an optimum experience when running Ubuntu Desktop as a guest on a Windows 10 Pro desktop host. From the Ubuntu Report data we know that a lot of people are using Ubuntu as a virtual machine, and so we want to make that experience as seamless as possible. This is probably the most seamless way to run an Ubuntu virtual machine on Windows.

Google creates new governance model for AMP

Thursday 20th of September 2018 09:19:55 PM
The power to make significant decisions in the AMP Project will move from a single Tech Lead to a Technical Steering Committee (TSC) which includes representatives from companies that have committed resources to building AMP, with the end goal of not having any company sit on more than a third of the seats. Google is moving the AMP project to a new, more open governance model, which should address some of the valid concerns people have over the project's Google-centric nature. Google is further exploring creating a separate foundation for AMP, to further solidify the independent nature of AMP. Meanwhile, Microsoft is also adopting AMP by redirecting Bing search results to AMP pages.

Dissecting QNX

Wednesday 19th of September 2018 10:08:51 PM
This work concerns a dissection of QNX's proprietary, real-time operating system aimed at the embedded market. QNX is used in many sensitive and critical devices in different industry verticals and while some prior security research has discussed QNX, mainly as a byproduct of BlackBerry mobile research, there is no prior work on QNX exploit mitigations and secure random number generators. In this work, carried out as part of the master's thesis of the first author, we present the first reverse-engineering and analysis of the exploit mitigations, secure random number generators and memory management internals of QNX versions up to and including QNX 6.6 and the brand new 64-bit QNX 7.0 released in March 2017. We uncover a variety of design issues and vulnerabilities which have significant implications for the exploitability of memory corruption vulnerabilities on QNX as well as the strength of its cryptographic ecosystem. This scientific article is not for people with short attention spans.

LLVM 7.0.0 released

Wednesday 19th of September 2018 10:04:44 PM
The release contains the work on trunk up to SVN revision 338536 plus work on the release branch. It is the result of the community's work over the past six months, including: function multiversioning in Clang with the 'target' attribute for ELF-based x86/x86_64 targets, improved PCH support in clang-cl, preliminary DWARF v5 support, basic support for OpenMP 4.5 offloading to NVPTX, OpenCL C++ support, MSan, X-Ray and libFuzzer support for FreeBSD, early UBSan, X-Ray and libFuzzer support for OpenBSD, UBSan checks for implicit conversions, many long-tail compatibility issues fixed in lld which is now production ready for ELF, COFF and MinGW, new tools llvm-exegesis, llvm-mca and diagtool. And as usual, many optimizations, improved diagnostics, and bug fixes. The release notes have all the details.

Lenovo: Companies working in China install local backdoors

Wednesday 19th of September 2018 10:01:37 PM
Does Lenovo put backdoors in if the Chinese government asks? "If they want backdoors globally? We don't provide them. If they want a backdoor in China, let's just say that every multinational in China does the same thing. "We comply with local laws. If the local laws say we don't put in backdoors, we don't put in backdoors. And we don't just comply with the laws, we follow the ethics and the spirit of the laws." This shouldn't surprise anyone, really. At this point, it's pretty safe to assume that any major technology company selling products in China are putting backdoors into their products sold in China. Microsoft, Apple, phone makers - China is simply too powerful and important to ignore.

Google China prototype links searches to phone numbers

Tuesday 18th of September 2018 10:38:16 PM
Google built a prototype of a censored search engine for China that links users' searches to their personal phone numbers, thus making it easier for the Chinese government to monitor people's queries, The Intercept can reveal. The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. Don't be evil.

Linus apologises for his years of abrasive behaviour

Monday 17th of September 2018 11:17:33 PM
Linus Torvalds on the lkml: This is my reality. I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn't come as a big surprise to anybody. Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don't realize (for years) how badly I've judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good. This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry. The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behavior, and I want to apologize to the people that my personal behavior hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely. I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately. Actions speak louder than words, so we'll see if this sudden realisation will lead to anything tangible.

iOS 12: the MacStories review

Monday 17th of September 2018 11:11:33 PM
With iOS 12, Apple wants to rectify iOS' performance woes, proving to their customers that iOS updates should never induce digital regret. Perhaps more notably though, iOS 12 doesn't have a single consumer feature that encapsulates this release - like Messages might have been for iOS 10 or the iPad for iOS 11. Instead, iOS 12 is a constellation of enhancements revolving around the overarching theme of time. Apple in 2018 needs more time for whatever the next big step of iOS may be; they want iOS users to understand how much time they're spending on their devices; and they want to help users spend less time managing certain system features. Also, funnily enough, saving time is at the core (and in the very name) of iOS 12's most exciting new feature: Shortcuts. iOS 12 isn't Apple's Snow Leopard release: its system changes and updated apps wouldn't justify a "No New Features" slide. However, for the first time in years, it feels as if the company is happy to let its foot off the gas a little and listen to users more. Will the plan work? Federico Viticci's iOS reviews have become one of my favourite things about new iOS releases. They are detailed, thorough, fun to read, and lovingly crafted. So, after you're done updating your iOS devices - iOS 12, watchOS 5, and tvOS 12 have all been released today - grab yourself a coffee or tea and enjoy.

A Commodore 64 operating system with modern concepts

Monday 17th of September 2018 08:50:57 PM
C64 OS has one goal. Make a Commodore 64 feel fast and useful in today's modern world. It's a very high bar. The C64 was introduced in 1982 and has an 8-bit, 1MHz, 6510 CPU with just 64 kilobytes of directly addressable memory. It has a screen resolution of 320x200 pixels, and a fixed palette of 16 colors. But, it is an incredibly versatile machine. And it enjoys an active userbase and a great variety of modern hardware expansions. The C64 has had many operating systems written for it, So why write another? Some of these projects were designed to be experimental, or to demonstrate a point, rather than to solve a problem or to make using the C64 better. Others had good intentions but pushed the machine in ways it wasn't designed for, compromising on speed and usability in the pursuit of features available on more powerful computers. The aim of C64 OS is to work with the limitations of the Commodore 64 and enable it to become useful. It never ceases to amaze me how much functionality programmers can squeeze out of old micros.

NVIDIA Turing GPU architecture deep dive: prelude to RTX

Monday 17th of September 2018 08:46:37 PM
It's been roughly a month since NVIDIA's Turing architecture was revealed, and if the GeForce RTX 20-series announcement a few weeks ago has clued us in on anything, is that real time raytracing was important enough for NVIDIA to drop "GeForce GTX" for "GeForce RTX" and completely change the tenor of how they talk about gaming video cards. Since then, it's become clear that Turing and the GeForce RTX 20-series have a lot of moving parts: RT Cores, real time raytracing, Tensor Cores, AI features (i.e. DLSS), raytracing APIs. All of it coming together for a future direction of both game development and GeForce cards. In a significant departure from past launches, NVIDIA has broken up the embargos around the unveiling of their latest cards into two parts: architecture and performance. For the first part, today NVIDIA has finally lifted the veil on much of the Turing architecture details, and there are many. So many that there are some interesting aspects that have yet to be explained, and some that we'll need to dig into alongside objective data. But it also gives us an opportunity to pick apart the namesake of GeForce RTX: raytracing. AnandTech's deep dive into NVIDIA's new Turing architecture - the only one you really need.

Microsoft backs off from 'warning' about Chrome and Firefox

Monday 17th of September 2018 11:06:01 AM
Microsoft started testing a warning for Windows 10 users last week that displayed a prompt when Chrome or Firefox was about to be installed. The software giant is now reversing this controversial test in its latest Windows 10 preview, released last Friday. The Verge understands Microsoft no longer plans to include this warning in the upcoming Windows 10 October 2018 Update that will ship next month, but that the company may continue to test these types of prompts in future updates. Good move, but I don't think we've seen the last of this quite yet.

The making of Total Annihilation

Monday 17th of September 2018 10:59:57 AM
Total Annihilation came out when games, and RTS games in particular, were quickly evolving. By the mid-Nineties, PCs were capable of capturing the necessary scale of battles, and online gaming was about to become a phenomenon. And it was that world Total Annihilation creator Chris Taylor was waiting for. We caught up with Chris and asked him about the game's origins. Total Annihilation was such an amazing game that kind of seemed to have gotten lost between the much more popular Command & Conquer and Warcraft games of its time. Which is a shame, because it had quite a few revolutionary elements for its time.

Flatpaks now sort of working on Microsoft Windows

Monday 17th of September 2018 10:57:45 AM
Flatpak creator and lead developer Alexander Larsson of Red Hat has got the basics of Flatpak applications working under Microsoft Windows 10. Before getting too excited, while he has the basics working, obviously there are some shortcuts involved. In particular, the Flatpak support requires Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL/a.k.a. "Ubuntu Bash for Windows") as well as needing to install a Win32 X11 Server.

x86 finds its way into your iPhone

Saturday 15th of September 2018 12:18:40 AM
In one of my several lives, I'm supposed to be a vulnerability researcher working on baseband exploitation. As every vulnerability researcher knows, being up to date with recent developments is of utmost importance for the success of your job. So of course, after Apple announced its new, shiny, big, bigger and biggest line of iPhone smartphones, I downloaded some OTA firmwares from and started to look into the new baseband firmware. What I discovered sent a shiver of horror down my spine, the kind of horror that only playing Doom at nighttime, alone in your room, without lights, can produce. Bear with me and I'll tell you what I found... So the baseband processor inside the iPhone XS is a tiny x86 processor. That's not really all that meaningful or impactful, but I find it deeply fascinating nonetheless.

Leaving Apple and Google: /e/ first beta is here

Saturday 15th of September 2018 12:16:27 AM
Less than a year ago, I posted a serie of articles "Leaving Apple & Google..." [part 2, part 2] to announce that I was planning to create a smartphone OS. A new OS that would: be free from Google (no Google services, no Google search, no Google Play store, etc.) be far more respectful of user’s data privacy be attractive enough so that Mom and Dad, children and friends would enjoy using it even if they aren't technophiles or geeks Today we release a first beta of what we have done so far to make the initial vision a reality. It's basically LineageOS with a number of additional tweaks and changes, but if it can become a fully-featured Google-free Android, that's always welcome.

Apple moves the iPhone away from physical SIMs

Thursday 13th of September 2018 09:51:17 PM
On Wednesday, Apple announced that its new iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max will use an eSIM - a purely electronic SIM that allows users to maintain a secondary phone line in a single device. That line could be a secondary domestic line (say you're a journalist and don't want to have separate personal and work iPhones), or the phone could have an American and Canadian number (if you travel across the border frequently). These handsets will have a new "dual SIM dual standby" option, one of which will be a nano SIM. In other words, they will have two distinct phone numbers. (Chinese models will have two SIM slots instead of the eSIM option.) I'm by no means an expert, but something about soldered electronic SIM cards seems unpleasant about me - it seems like another bit of control over our devices handed over to device makers and carriers. Won't this make it easier to lock devices even more?

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