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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 26 min ago

A very small C interpreter for scripting

3 hours 51 min ago
PicoC is a very small C interpreter for scripting. It was originally written as a script language for a UAV's on-board flight system. It's also very suitable for other robotic, embedded and non-embedded applications. The core C source code is around 3500 lines of code. It's not intended to be a complete implementation of ISO C but it has all the essentials. When compiled it only takes a few k of code space and is also very sparing of data space. This means it can work well in small embedded devices. It's also a fun example of how to create a very small language implementation while still keeping the code readable.

Google I/O 2015 was all about making better apps

3 hours 54 min ago
Google's developer tools are an ever-evolving and changing set of utensils that allow the folks building our apps to tie into Google's services while making things we want to install and use every day. They're free, and while they are powerful, some of the finer points of great design have been tricky for devs to handle, and the IDE itself - that's the program that developers use to write the code and build their apps - can be clunky when you stray outside the "hello world" box and get into the nitty-gritty of coding. And testing apps has been a nightmare. Google has addressed these three issues in a big way. Nice overview of some of the things Google has done to make Android development - a pain point for many developers - a little easier. The new testing initiative is pretty rad.

Google launches new privacy and account tool

12 hours 6 min ago
Google has just released a new tool to manage your privacy and information. Here's some of the things the new My Account tool can do: Take the Privacy Checkup and Security Checkup, our simple, step-by-step guides through your most important privacy and security settings. Manage the information that can be used from Search, Maps, YouTube and other products to enhance your experience on Google. For example, you can turn on and off settings such as Web and App Activity, which gets you more relevant, faster search results, or Location History, which enables Google Maps and Now to give you tips for a faster commute back home. Use the Ads Settings tool to control ads based on your interests and the searches you've done. Control which apps and sites are connected to your account. Google has always been at the forefront of providing its user insight into and control over the information it has on you, and this tool fits right into that. It'd be great if the other tech giants - who collect the same information on you but act secretive and deceptive about it - were to follow in its footsteps. Good thing this stuff isn't tied to Android updates, though, or we wouldn't be able to use it until 2034. Anywho, in the same blogpost, the company also introduced a site where it answers questions regarding your information and privacy. In it, the company dispels a persistent myth - namely, that the company sells your information. No. We do not sell your personal information. We do use certain information, such as the searches you have done and your location, to make the ads we show more relevant and useful. Ads are what enable us to make our services like Search, Gmail, and Maps free for everyone. We do not share information with advertisers in a way that personally identifies you, unless you gave us permission. With our Ads Settings tool, you can control ads based on your interests and the searches you have done. When you think about it, it makes zero sense for Google to "sell" or otherwise reveal your personal information to third parties. The information Google has on you is the goose that lays the golden eggs. It's the very reason Google can earn so much money through advertising - it knows more about you than other advertisers do, and is better at inferring patterns and connecting the dots to show you more relevant ads. In the end, though, the question is one of trust. Do your trust Google with your data? Do you trust Apple with that same data? Microsoft? Facebook? Personally, I have zero trust in any of these companies, and thus, anything that I do not want other people to know will not find its way onto my computers or devices. I have a very simple test for this: if I wouldn't yell something loudly in a crowded restaurant or mall or something, it's not going to be input in a computer or device. As for 'regular' information that I have no issues with if companies know it, I personally definitely "trust" Google more than Apple or Microsoft, if only because Google is under a lot more scrutiny than others. Apple is incredibly secretive and deceptive about the information it collects on you, and provides far less insight into and control over it than Google does. Microsoft, meanwhile, has a proven history of questionable behaviour that's well-documented - new Microsoft or no. Let's not even talk about Facebook. In the end, all these companies have virtually the same privacy policies, and you give them the same rights to your stuff if you upload it to them. I choose to use the one under the closest and most scrutiny and which gives me the most insight into and control over my data. Your choice might be different, but don't delude yourself into thinking your data is safe at Google, Microsoft, Apple, or Facebook. When it comes to privacy on the web, just assume everybody can see every bit you send - just like how everyone can hear you when you talk loudly in a crowded place. Do not trust any company, no matter how nice the PR sites look or how vicious its blogger attack dogs are.

Windows 10 to be released on 29 July

17 hours 16 min ago
Microsoft has just officially announced that it will release Windows 10 on 29 July. Familiar, yet better than ever, Windows 10 brings back the Start menu you know and love. Windows 10 is faster than ever before, with quick startup and resume. And Windows 10 provides the most secure platform ever, including Windows Defender for free anti-malware protection, and being the only platform with a commitment to deliver free ongoing security updates for the supported lifetime of the device. Marketing blabber aside, the update will be free for the first year for all Windows 7 and 8 users. You'll get a notification in your notification area which will allow you to reserve your Windows 10 upgrade.

Google's Project Vault computing environment on a micro SD card

Friday 29th of May 2015 11:49:42 PM
Project Vault is a secure computer contained entirely on a micro SD sized device. Google's ATAP said the micro SD format made sense because there's already advanced security features on your phone, contained in the SIM card, which protects the things important to carriers. Vault is designed to be an equivalent, but designed to project a user's important content. Would be fun to play with on my Google Nexus 5. Oh wait.

How an artificial language from 1887 is finding new life online

Friday 29th of May 2015 09:47:21 PM
The internet, though, has been a mixed blessing for Esperanto. While providing a place for Esperantists to convene without the hassle of traveling to conventions or local club meetings, some Esperantists believe those meatspace meet ups were what held the community together. The Esperanto Society of New York has 214 members on Facebook, but only eight of them showed up for the meeting. The shift to the web, meanwhile, has been haphazard, consisting mostly of message boards, listservs, and scattered blogs. A website called Lernu! - Esperanto for the imperative "learn!" - is the center of the Esperanto internet, with online classes and an active forum. But it's stuck with a Web 1.0 aesthetic, and the forum is prone to trolls, a byproduct of Esperanto's culture of openness to almost any conversation as long as it's conducted in - or even tangentially related to - Esperanto. But there's hope that the internet can give the language new life. Wikipedia and its 215,000 pages was a first step, and yesterday, Esperanto debuted on Duolingo, a virtual learning app with 20 million active users - far more people than have ever spoken Esperanto since its invention. This article is the perfect mix between two of my favourite subjects - technology, and language. A highly recommended read.

An Apple customer's thoughts on Google I/O 2015

Friday 29th of May 2015 09:39:14 PM
While Apple's WWDC is of little interest to hard-core Android customers, Google I/O can and often is of significant interest to Apple customers. It's where Google shows off its big new initiatives and previews updates for its existing services. Some years, those are blips on the radar, here for a moment, gone the next. Other years their scope and implications shake the world. This year, for me, fell somewhere in the middle. Google was restrained, relatively speaking, and focused. Yet as much as they acknowledged the need to shore up what came before, the company's focus is clearly on what's coming next. And that's worth a deeper discussion. How iMore's Rene Ritchie perceived the Google I/O accouncements.

Chasing the next billion with Sundar Pichai

Friday 29th of May 2015 05:17:04 PM
The Verge has a long and detailed profile of and interview with Sundar Pichai, the man at Google responsible for just about anything you use. We sat down with Pichai to hear his vision for the Google of the future. He laid out a plan to improve Google's products through machine learning - but more importantly, he sketched out a grand effort to deliver computing capabilities to billions of people around the world. Both in the way he manages his internal teams, and in his belief that technology can change people's lives for the better, Pichai advocates an egalitarian ethos. If there's one thing that stood out during the I/O keynote yesterday, it was that Google was really hammering on the fact that it wants to create products for everyone. It wasn't said with so many words, but the clear implication was "unlike Apple, which only builds products for rich people in the west". This egalitarian view permeated every aspect of the keynote, including the people on stage - instead of the usual procession of western, white 40-something men, almost half of all the presenters were women (I think there were three, like a VP of engineering), and a few people weren't even western to begin with. This is unprecedented for technology companies - Apple, for instance, hasn't ever had a woman present on stage (although Tim Cook did interview a supermodel on stage once). We need this. Technology needs this. We need people from "new" economies, as well as women, to play a big part in the development of our technology to ensure that technology isn't just designed for rich white people, but for everyone. Pichai knows this, and it was drop-dead obvious throughout the entire keynote. Say what you want about Google - and there's a lot to say - but in this aspect, they are so far ahead of the competition it's not really a competition to begin with.

Google is trying to solve the smart home's biggest problem

Thursday 28th of May 2015 11:01:35 PM
At its developers conference this afternoon, Google announced two pieces of software for the smart home and the broader collection of connected devices around us, increasingly known as the internet of things. Those two pieces are Brillo, an operating system, and Weave, a common language for devices to talk to one another. And importantly, Weave doesn't have to run on Brillo - so appliance manufacturers can theoretically add it on to their existing products. I just can't get excited about an internet-connected blender.

Google unveils Now on Tap

Thursday 28th of May 2015 06:45:48 PM
After Android M, Google also talked a lot about Google Now - which is getting a major upgrade called Now on Tap. In short, Now on Tap is context-aware, and knows what's going on in the application you're using right now. If someone sends you a WhatsApp message that says "Want to have dinner at Chez Fred tonight?", you can bring up a Google Now overlay without leaving WhatsApp that shows you a Google Now card with information pertaining to Chez Fred. Or, if you're listening to a song on Spotify, you can just say "OK Google, who's the lead singer", and Google Now will provide the answer. We're working to make Google Now a little smarter in the upcoming Android M release, so you can ask it to assist you with whatever you're doing - right in the moment, anywhere on your phone. With "Now on tap," you can simply tap and hold the home button for assistance without having to leave what you’re doing - whether you're in an app or on a website. For example, if a friend emails you about seeing the new movie Tomorrowland, you can invoke Google Now without leaving your app, to quickly see the ratings, watch a trailer, or even buy tickets - then get right back to what you were doing. Developers do not have to do anything to their applications to make them work with Now on Tap - they only need to be indexed by Google.

Google unveils Android M

Thursday 28th of May 2015 06:03:19 PM
Google I/O is here, and the company's big keynote is still underway. The biggest announcement so far is - as expected - Android M, the next major Android release scheduled for Q3 of this year. Much like how the last few iOS releases played catch-up to major Android features, Android M is really catching up to a number of major, stand-out iOS features - and all of them are very welcome. The biggest new feature coming to Android M is App Permissions - and it's exactly what you're thinking. Instead of applications asking for all possible permissions during installation time, they will now only ask for a permission the first time you use the specific feature of the application that requires it. If you've ever used iOS - well, it's that, essentially. In addition, you can go into the Settings application and revoke an application's individual permissions, or the other way around - look at which applications have a specific permission. If you're familiar with Android, you'll be aware of the incredibly long and confusing list of possible permissions. Alongside implementing an iOS-like permission system, Android M will also pare down the number of permissions to a much smaller number (I think I saw 8 or 10?), making them clearer and more straightforward. All good so far, and yet another example of how competition between the major platforms makes both of them better - consumers, win. There's bad news, though, and it's this: the new permission system will only work with applications built with the Android M SDK. "Legacy" applications will, sadly, default to the existing permission system. While that in and of itself is disappointing enough, it also means we'll be using two different permission systems at the same time for at least several months, and possibly years. Another major new feature in M is a new power state, called Doze, which is basically a deeper form of sleep. Your device will learn your usage patterns, and move to this deep sleep state when it's not being used. According to Google, tablets will benefit the most from this, doubling their standby time. For phones, which get used more often, this will deliver less benefit. Android's intents system is also getting an upgrade, allowing applications to directly link to each other, without throwing up that "open with" dialog. Google Wallet is getting an upgrade and a name change - Android Pay - and now works pretty much exactly like Apple Pay, and it will be available on all Android phones with NFC. In addition, it supports fingerprint readers. Support for these readers will be further integrated and standardised in M. There's a lot more in Android M, but these are the biggest features. Google is releasing a developer preview for select Nexus devices today, and the final release will happen somewhere in Q3. This being Android, though, the biggest elephant in the room remained unmentioned: updates. As great as Android M looks, you'll most likely not be getting it until somewhere next year. Such is life.

Finally, an objective book review: A God In Ruins

Thursday 28th of May 2015 11:30:41 AM
A God In Ruins is a novel by the author Kate Atkinson, following on from a previous novel by the same author entitled Life After Life. The book is 24 cm high and 16.2 cm wide. Across the main surface appears a predominantly brown background, depicting wooden boards. Upon them lies or hangs a rabbit, that is possibly dead, but could also be alive. A great story about ethics in book journalism.

White House tells Supreme Court APIs are copyrightable

Thursday 28th of May 2015 12:04:10 AM
The Justice Department is weighing in on the hot-button intellectual property dispute between Google and Oracle, telling the Supreme Court that APIs are protected by copyright. The Obama administration's position means it is siding with Oracle and a federal appeals court that said application programming interfaces are subject to copyright protections. The high court in January asked for the government's views on the closely watched case. Words can't describe how stupid this is, so here's a picture of a bunny wearing a hat.

The Verge's Pebble Time review

Wednesday 27th of May 2015 09:16:36 PM
The Verge reviews the Pebble Time - the new Pebble, with all-new hardware and all-new software. They conclude: Right now, the Time is an accessory to your smartphone, which is exactly what Pebble wants it to be. But while other smartwatches feel like futuristic platforms that just need more refinement and purpose, it’s not clear how the Pebble Time could go beyond what it already is. It has smaller ambitions than Apple and Google, and for the most part, it already achieves those ambitions. The notifications could certainly get better, the timeline integrations could definitely get more plentiful, and the watch faces could get more colorful. But at the end of the day, it’s still a thing that you wear on your wrist so you don’t have to pick up your phone at every incoming text message. Strange how what they see as a downside for the Pebble compared to Wear and the Apple Watch, I consider to be its strengths. Pebble doesn't waste battery and screen real estate on stuff that's just cumbersome on a watch and only serves to put a really, really complex, cumbersome, and slow UI on a tiny screen on your wrist. The Pebble definitely looks to be a lot more watch and a lot less computer than Google's and Android's offerings, and that's a good thing in my book - not a bad thing. Much better battery life, always-on display, fast and responsive software, and a really simple and straightforward UI. Too bad that the regular Pebble Time isn't exactly the prettiest watch out there, but luckily, the Pebble Time Steel looks a little better. Still square though, so those of us who prefer round watches will have to wait around a bit longer.

Microsoft announces Cortana for Android, iOS

Tuesday 26th of May 2015 11:31:34 PM
Part of the power of a personal assistant comes from being available on the go, on the device you carry with you everywhere. And for people who don't have the benefit of a Windows phone, we want to extend the advantage of Cortana in Windows 10. How will this work? Today, we're announcing a Cortana application for Android phones and for iPhones which works as a companion to Cortana on your Windows 10 PC. The 'Phone Companion' app on the PC will help you install the Cortana app from the Google Play or Apple App Store onto your phone so you’ll be able to take the intelligence of Cortana with you, wherever you go. I've never seen anyone use Siri, save for the occasional parlour trick and the odd one out using it to set alarms. I'm not sure these anthropomorphised ones and zeros are really as a big a deal as these companies want us to believe.

The mystery of the power bank phone taking over Ghana

Tuesday 26th of May 2015 10:14:33 PM
Have you noticed an odd bulge in people's shorts around Accra? It's likely because, like many of my friends, they've recently acquired a new phone. But it's not the iPhone 6 Plus, and it's not the Samsung Galaxy S6. It's this thing. I like it. It's functional and has a certain charm to it.

Apple drops discoveryd in latest OS X beta

Tuesday 26th of May 2015 10:13:09 PM
After many complaints from the developer community about poor networking performance on Yosemite, the latest beta of OS X 10.10.4 has dropped the discoveryd in favor of the old process used by previous versions of Mac operating system. This should address many of the network stability issues introduced with Yosemite and its new networking stack. A clearer sign that discoveryd was a mess, there is not.

Genode 15.05 is accompanied by a book

Tuesday 26th of May 2015 07:11:23 PM
The just released version 15.05 of the Genode OS Framework is the most comprehensive release in the project's history. Among its highlights are a brand-new documentation in the form of a book, principal support for the seL4 microkernel, new infrastructure for user-level device drivers, and the feature completion of the framework's custom kernel. For many years, the Genode OS project was primarily geared towards microkernel enthusiasts and the domain of high-security computing. With version 15.05, the project likes to widen its audience by complementing the release with the downloadable book "Genode Foundations" (PDF). The book equips the reader with a thorough understanding of the architecture, assists developers with the explanation of the development environment and system configuration, and provides a look under the hood of the framework. Furthermore, it contains the specification of the framework's programming interface. If you ever wondered what Genode is all about, the book may hopefully lift the clouds. Besides the added documentation, the second focus of the new version is the project's custom kernel platform called base-hw. This kernel allows the execution of Genode on raw hardware without the need of a 3rd-party microkernel. This line of work originally started as a research vehicle for ARM platforms. But with the addition of kernel-protected capabilities, it has reached feature completeness. Furthermore, thanks to the developers of the Muen isolation kernel, base-hw has become available on the 64-bit x86 architecture. This represents an intermediate step towards running Genode on top of the Muen kernel. Speaking of kernels, the current release introduces the principle ability to run Genode-based systems on top of the seL4 microkernel. As the name suggests, seL4 belongs to the L4-family of microkernels. But there are two things that set this kernel apart from all the other family members. First, with the removal of the kernel memory management from the kernel, it solves a fundamental robustness and security issue that plagues all other L4 kernels so far. This alone would be reason enough to embrace seL4. Second, seL4 is the world's first OS kernel that is formally proven to be correct. That means, it is void of implementation bugs. This makes the kernel extremely valuable in application areas that highly depend on the correctness of the kernel. At the architectural level, the framework thoroughly revised its infrastructure for user-level device drivers, which subjects device drivers to a rigid access-control scheme with respect to hardware resources. The architectural changes come along with added support for message-signaled interrupts and a variety of new device drivers. For example, there is a new AHCI driver, new audio drivers ported from OpenBSD, new SD-card drivers, and added board support for i.MX6. Further noteworthy improvements are the update of the tool chain to GCC 4.9.2, support for GPT partitions, and the ability to pass USB devices to VirtualBox when running on NOVA. These and the many more topics of the version 15.05 are covered in great detail in the release documentation.

Relicensing Dolphin: the long road to GPLv2+

Monday 25th of May 2015 11:11:20 PM
The team quickly came to the conclusion that in order to keep Dolphin relevant in an ever-changing environment, it would need to be relicensed under GPLv2+. This would give Dolphin some much needed freedom to breathe within the open source landscape. As such, relicensing formally began in September of 2014. A massive undertaking.

Relicensing Dolphin: te long road to GPLv2+

Monday 25th of May 2015 11:11:20 PM
The team quickly came to the conclusion that in order to keep Dolphin relevant in an ever-changing environment, it would need to be relicensed under GPLv2+. This would give Dolphin some much needed freedom to breathe within the open source landscape. As such, relicensing formally began in September of 2014. A massive undertaking.

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