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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 57 min ago

Samsung’s new One UI Android skin

7 hours 49 min ago
Samsung has been very slowly rolling out its Android 9 update to a very small selection of its phones, and with it, the company is introducing a fairly radical redesign of the user interface it slaps on top of Android. It’s called One UI, and it seems like people are… Actually really positive about it? Since I – and many others with me – have treated Samsung’s UIs and skins as a punching bag for almost a decade now, it seems only fair to also highlight when they seem to be doing something right. First, Dieter Bohn at The Verge: I’ve been testing One UI on a Galaxy S9 for the past week or so and thus far I really like it. In some ways, I like it better than what Google itself is shipping on the Pixel 3. If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t yet trust Samsung to deliver major software updates quickly, I would be shouting about One UI from the rooftops. As it is, I just want to point out that it’s time for us to stop instinctively turning our noses up at Samsung’s version of Android. There are still some annoying parts of One UI, but they don’t ruin what is otherwise a full-featured, coherent, and (dare I say) thoughtful version of Android. This is not the conventional wisdom about Samsung software. Second, Abhay Venkatesh at NeoWin: Samsung’s One UI is a huge step in the right direction. The fresh, fluid UI makes it a joy to use, and the addition of smart UI elements, dark mode, and other nifty improvements make for a great experience. The navigation system combines the best of either world and in true Samsung fashion, provides users with an abundance of options. The company’s efforts to continually improve its software and strike a balance between excess customization and usability is evident. However, a lot of the remnants remain from the years that have passed, and it will be interesting to see how Samsung moves the design language forward. I’m glad to see Samsung improve its software, since that will benefit a lot of people all over the world, and it’s always refreshing to have your preconceived notions challenged.

Magic Lantern

8 hours 11 min ago
Magic Lantern is a software enhancement that offers increased functionality to the excellent Canon DSLR cameras. We have created an open framework, licensed under GPL, for developing extensions to the official firmware. Magic Lantern is not a “hack”, or a modified firmware, it is an independent program that runs alongside Canon’s own software. Each time you start your camera, Magic Lantern is loaded from your memory card. Our only modification was to enable the ability to run software from the memory card. ML is being developed by photo and video enthusiasts, adding functionality such as: HDR images and video, timelapse, motion detection, focus assist tools, manual audio controls much more. What a fascinating project. I knew you could put custom ROM images on digital cameras, but this seems like a far safer and less warranty-breaking way of extending and improving the functionality of your camera.

NetBSD Gains Hardware Accelerated Virtualization

Monday 18th of February 2019 09:37:27 PM
NetBSD, the highly portable Unix-like Open Source operating system known for its platform diversity, has gained hardware-accelerated virtualization support via an improved NetBSD Virtual Machine Monitor (NVMM). A virtualization API is provided in libnvmm, that allows to easily create and manage virtual machines via NVMM. It’s always nice to see the major BSD distributions gain expanded hardware and software support. It will come as no surprise to anyone that we believe that competition is always a good thing when it comes to operating systems.

Sailfish OS becomes Aurora OS in Russia

Monday 18th of February 2019 09:30:44 PM
It appears that Sailfish, the Operating System by Finnish company Jolla, will now power 8 million+ devices for the Russian government. Renamed AuroraOS, at least in Russia, it has the Android compatibility layer stripped away. Last year, Russian company Rostelecom bought three quarters of the open mobile platform that developed Sailfish. Rostelecom is one of the foremost Russian telecommunications companies. It’s also a leading provider of broadband, IPTV, landline subscriptions in Russia. After the production woes of the last few years, it’s nice to see Sailfish finding a footing, even if it is in reduced form and exclusive to Russia.

Apple puts modem engineering unit into chip design group

Saturday 9th of February 2019 01:43:52 AM
Apple has moved its modem chip engineering effort into its in-house hardware technology group from its supply chain unit, two people familiar with the move told Reuters, a sign the tech company is looking to develop a key component of its iPhones after years of buying it from outside suppliers. Understandable move by Apple, both from a business perspective, and from a security perspective. The open source world really needs to build open source baseband processors at some point.

Building a RISC-V PC

Saturday 9th of February 2019 01:22:39 AM
While it’s clear that the most significant opportunities for RISC-V will be in democratising custom silicon for accelerating specific tasks and enabling new applications — and it’s already driving a renaissance in novel computer architectures, for e.g. IoT and edge processing — one question that people cannot help but ask is, so when can I have a RISC-V PC? The answer to which is, right now. The result is a RISC-V powered system that can be used as a desktop computer and thanks to the efforts of Atish Patra at Western Digital, installing Fedora Linux is a breeze. This is obviously not exactly commodity hardware, but it does show that the ingredients are there and the combination provides a powerful development platform for anyone who might want to prototype a RISC-V PC — or indeed a vast array of other applications which stand to benefit from the open ISA. This has me very excited. Over the last few decades, virtually all competitors to x86 slowly died out – SPARC, PowerPC, MIPS, etc. – which turned desktop computing hardware into a rather boring affair. Recently we’ve been seeing more and more ARM desktop boards, and now it seems RISC-V is starting to dabble in this area too. Great news.

A touchpad is not a mouse, or at least not a good one

Saturday 9th of February 2019 01:12:12 AM
One of the things about having a pretty nice work laptop with a screen that’s large enough to have more than one real window at once is that I actually use it, and I use it with multiple windows, and that means that I need to use the mouse. I like computer mice in general so I don’t object to this, but like most modern laptops my Dell XPS 13 doesn’t have a mouse, it has a trackpad (or touchpad, take your pick). You can use a modern touchpad as a mouse, but over my time in using the XPS 13 I’ve come to understand (rather viscerally) that a touchpad is not a mouse and trying to act as if it was is not a good idea. There are some things that a touchpad makes easy and natural that aren’t very natural on a mouse, and a fair number of things that are natural on a mouse but don’t work very well on a touchpad (at least for me; they might for people who are more experienced with touchpads). Chris Siebenmann makes some good points regarding touchpads here. Despite the fact that touchpads on Windows and Linux have gotten better over the years, they’re still not nearly as good as Apple’s, and will never beat a mouse. I feel like mouse input on laptops is ripe for serious innovation.

PC speaker to eleven

Friday 8th of February 2019 01:03:48 AM
«System Beeps» is a music album in shape of an MS-DOS program that features original music composed for PC Speaker using the same basic old techniques like ones found in classic PC games. It follows the usual retrocomputing demoscene formula — take something rusty and obsolete, and push it to eleven — and attempts to reveal the long hidden potential of this humble little sound device. You can hear it in action and form an opinion on how successful this attempt was at Bandcamp, or in the video below. The following article is an in-depth overview of the original PC Speaker capabilities and making of the project, for those who would like to know more. What an amazing work of art, and I love the detailed description of how it was made using nothing but the PC speaker. This article is quite detailed, and the project itself is released under the CC-BY license.

What happened to the 100,000-hour LED bulbs?

Friday 8th of February 2019 12:59:23 AM
Early adopters of LED lighting will remember 50,000 hour or even 100,000 hour lifetime ratings printed on the box. But during a recent trip to the hardware store the longest advertised lifetime I found was 25,000 hours. Others claimed only 7,500 or 15,000 hours. And yes, these are brand-name bulbs from Cree and GE. So, what happened to those 100,000 hour residential LED bulbs? Were the initial estimates just over-optimistic? Was it all marketing hype? Or, did we not know enough about LED aging to predict the true useful life of a bulb? I put these questions to the test. Join me after the break for some background on the light bulb cartel from the days of incandescent bulbs (not a joke, a cartel controlled the life of your bulbs), and for the destruction of some modern LED bulbs to see why the lifetimes are clocking in a lot lower than the original wave of LED replacements. Just a good, fun, but also depressing read.

Encryption for everyone: how Adiantum will keep more Android devices secure

Friday 8th of February 2019 12:56:44 AM
Adiantum is a new form of encryption that we built specifically to run on phones and smart devices that don’t have the specialized hardware to use current methods to encrypt locally stored data efficiently. Adiantum is designed to run efficiently without that specialized hardware. This will make the next generation of devices more secure than their predecessors, and allow the next billion people coming online for the first time to do so safely. Adiantum will help secure our connected world by allowing everything from smart watches to internet-connected medical devices to encrypt sensitive data. (For more details about the ins and outs of Adiantum, check out the security blog.) Encryption should be available on every single Android phone, not just the high-end, expensive models only the lucky few in the world can afford. Good move.

The AMD Radeon VII review: an unexpected shot at the high-end

Thursday 7th of February 2019 06:47:43 PM
AnandTech has published its review of AMD’s surprise new high-end Radeon VII graphics card, and the results should be cause for some cautious optimism among PC builders. Overall then, the Radeon VII puts its best foot forward when it offers itself as a high-VRAM prosumer card for gaming content creators. And at its $699 price point, that’s not a bad place to occupy. However for pure gamers, it’s a little too difficult to suggest this card instead of NVIDIA’s better performing GeForce RTX 2080. So where does this leave AMD? Fortunately for the Radeon rebels, their situation is improved even if the overall competitive landscape hasn’t been significantly changed. It’s not a win for AMD, but being able to compete with NVIDIA at this level means just that: AMD is still competitive. They can compete on performance, and thanks to Vega 20 they have a new slew of compute features to work with. It’s going to win AMD business today, and it’s going to help prepare AMD for tomorrow for the next phase that is Navi. It’s still an uphill battle, but with Radeon VII and Vega 20, AMD is now one more step up that hill. While not a slam-dunk, the Radeon VII definitely shows AMD can get at least close to NVIDIA’s RTX cards, and that should make all of us quite happy – NVIDIA has had this market to itself for far too long, and it’s showing in the arrogant pricing the company maintains. While neither RTX cards nor this new Radeon VII make me want to replace my GTX 1070 – and its custom watercooling parts – it at least makes me hopeful that the coming years will be more competitive.

How much will staying patched on Windows 7 cost you?

Thursday 7th of February 2019 06:34:04 PM
Microsoft said last Fall that it would offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates on a per-device basis for big customers willing to pay for them after the company ends Windows 7 support on January 14, 2020. Microsoft officials wouldn’t talk about how much those updates would cost, beyond saying they’d get more expensive over time. However, Microsoft has briefed some of its partners and salespeople about the cost of these Extended Support Updates (ESUs). And, as you’d expect, they’re not cheap, especially for customers who may want to apply them on multiple PCs. They’re even more expensive for customers using the Pro version of Windows than the Enterprise one. These extended security updates are only available to enterprise and educiation users, so no luck if you’re an individual home user.That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of these updates make their way into less than legal channels.

VLC 4.0 to get new user interface, better Wayland support, more

Thursday 7th of February 2019 06:29:55 PM
VLC 4.0 is on the way, and the VLC developers have listed what they have in store for this major new release. The most obvious new user-facing feature is brand new user interfaces for each platform the media player supports, such as KDE, Gnome, Windows, macOS, and more. Work on the new VLC 4.0 user-interface is progressing, there will be GNOME and KDE adaptations, support for both server-side and client-side decorations, and great support for Wayland as well as X11 — including support for macOS, Windows, etc. With VLC 4.0, they intend to gut out support for Windows XP/Vista as well as bumping the macOS, iOS, and Android requirements. On the Linux front, they intend to require OpenGL acceleration for this media player. There’s no information yet on when this new release will be made available.

Hatari 2.2.0 released

Tuesday 5th of February 2019 03:50:14 PM
Hatari 2.2.0 has been released. Hatari is an Atari ST/STE/TT/Falcon emulator for GNU/Linux, BSD, Mac OS X, Windows and other systems which are supported by the SDL library. The Atari ST was a 16/32 bit computer system which was first released by Atari in 1985. Using the Motorola 68000 CPU, it was a very popular computer having quite a lot of CPU power at that time. Unlike many other Atari ST emulators which try to give you a good environment for running GEM applications, Hatari tries to emulate the hardware of a ST as close as possible so that it is able to run most of the old ST games and demos. Hatari is open source software and is distributed under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL). This new release – a year in the making – has a sizeable changelog, but I’m not exactly an Atari expert, so I’m not entirely sure which of the changes are the most exciting.

Haiku monthly activity report, January 2019

Tuesday 5th of February 2019 03:46:00 PM
Haiku’s latest monthly activity report for the month of January is out. waddlesplash spent a full week doing a major overhaul of the FreeBSD compatibility layer to port iflib, FreeBSD’s new ethernet driver subsystem. (The ipro1000 driver from FreeBSD 12 uses it now, so it had to be done sooner or later.) As a side effect of this work, PCI device probing and attaching for all FreeBSD-ported drivers is significantly faster and less error-prone (this probably trimmed ~half a second, and perhaps even more, off of boot time on all machines), and paves the way for eventual USB support. After overhauling the compat layer itself, waddlesplash finished porting ethernet and then WiFi drivers from FreeBSD 12. Thanks to the refactor, he rewrote the initialization code in the WiFi layer during this effort, which seems to have resulted in all “spontaneous WiFi disconnects” or “no networks shown” tickets tested so far to be reported as fixed! So, if you were experiencing those errors and haven’t retested, please do. This is just one of the many improvements this month, but there’s a lot more in the report.

Firefox 66 to block automatically playing audible video and audio

Tuesday 5th of February 2019 03:16:12 PM
We know that unsolicited volume can be a great source of distraction and frustration for users of the web. So we are making changes to how Firefox handles playing media with sound. We want to make sure web developers are aware of this new autoplay blocking feature in Firefox. Starting with the release of Firefox 66 for desktop and Firefox for Android, Firefox will block audible audio and video by default. We only allow a site to play audio or video aloud via the HTMLMediaElement API once a web page has had user interaction to initiate the audio, such as the user clicking on a “play” button. Good move, and long overdue. Autplaying video isn’t just a mere annoyance – it’s incredibly rude, obnoxious and desrespectful.

Dotfile madness

Monday 4th of February 2019 04:17:23 PM
We are no longer in control of our home directories. My own home directory contains 25 ordinary files and 144 hidden files. The dotfiles contain data that doesn’t belong to me: it belongs to the programmers whose programs decided to hijack the primary location designed as a storage for my personal files. I can’t place those dotfiles anywhere else and they will appear again if I try to delete them. All I can do is sit here knowing that in the darkness, behind the scenes, they are there. Waiting in silence. Some of those programmers decided to additionally place some normal files and directories in the same place. Those are clearly visible every time I execute ls in my home directory. It is beyond me why my home directory ended up up containing a node_modules directory, package-lock.json, a yarn.lock file (I have never even consciously used yarn!), some 2 strange log files origination from some Java software clearly using an H2 database, and a Desktop directory. That last one has been created by Steam, which is quite unfortunate as I simply do not have a desktop or a desktop environment on my machine. I dread the day in which I will hear a loud knock on my door and one of those programmers will barge in informing me that he is going to store a piece of his furniture in the middle of my living room, If I don’t mind. The way Linux distributions handle the directory structuce in general is deeply broken and inconcistent – trying to cram a modern desktop operating system in a directory structure designed for punch card machines is lunacy – and this is yet another example of that. It’s not just developers being lazy; it’s also developers simply being unable to count on distributions making sane choices and following the FHS to begin with. UNIX-based operating systems are an outdated mess under the hood, and developers are trying to work around that mess by making an even bigger mess using hidden files and random directories all over the place. Of course, saying this is considered sacrilege, as an operating system designed for mainframes in the ’60s is clearly perfect, and never needs to change or alter or improve its underpinnings in any way, shape, or form.

Ultron OS: a simple OS for a high school project

Monday 4th of February 2019 03:53:22 PM
Ultron OS is an x86 Operating System written in C++. It is able to boot, initialise the GDT and IDT and do a couple of things that operating systems are supposed to do. Exactly what is says on the tin: a high school project to write an operating system.

Intel to discontinue Itanium 9700 ‘Kittson’ processor, the last of the Itaniums

Saturday 2nd of February 2019 02:38:23 AM
Intel on Thursday notified its partners and customers that it would be discontinuing its Itanium 9700-series codenamed Kittson processors, the last Itanium chips on the market. Under their product discontinuance plan, Intel will cease shipments of Itanium CPUs in mid-2021, or a bit over two years from now. The impact to hardware vendors should be minimal – at this point HP Enterprise is the only company still buying the chips – but it nonetheless marks the end of an era for Intel, and their interesting experiment into a non-x86 VLIW-style architecture. Itanium has a long and troubled history, but it’s always been something that I’ve wanted to experiment and play with. Maybe the definitive discontinuation of the platform will inject some more stock of machines into eBay.

New study: Google manipulates users into constant tracking

Saturday 2nd of February 2019 02:32:19 AM
Today, the Norwegian Consumer Council has filed a complaint against Google. Based on new research Google is accused of using deceptive design and misleading information, which results in users accepting to be constantly tracked. Google tracks users through “Location History” and “Web & App Activity”, which are settings integrated into all Google accounts. For users of mobile phones with Android, such as Samsung and Huawei phones, this tracking is particularly difficult to avoid. Google is processing incredibly detailed and extensive personal data without proper legal grounds, and the data has been acquired through manipulation techniques, says Gro Mette Moen, acting head of unit, digital services in the Norwegian Consumer Council. Is anybody surprised by this?

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i.MX8M Mini based handheld dev kit has dual Linux BSPs

Solectrix is prepping an “SX Mobile Device Kit” for developing handhelds with Debian and Yocto Linux BSPs, an i.MX8M Mini SoC, an optional 5-inch touchscreen, WiFi, BT, GNSS, and mini-PCIe, and features for prototyping CSI-2 camera sensors. These days we rarely cover mobile computers, most of which are rugged field-service handhelds that run Android, such as Two Technologies’ N5Print. Yet, Solectrix’s SX Mobile Device Kit (MDK) seemed of particular interest since it’s a development kit with Linux BSPs and NXP’s new i.MX8M Mini SoC. In addition, a Solectrix GmbH rep informed us that optional features like GbE and USB Type-A host and GbE ports enable the MDK to be used as a general-purpose embedded development board. Purchase options range from buying the 125 x 78mm PCB by itself all the way up to a fully equipped handheld with a 5-inch screen. Yocto Project and Debian Linux BSPs are available, and the board also supports Android 9 Pie. Read more Also: i.MX8M and Snapdragon 820E SBCs run Linux and Android

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Software Code’s “Wayback Machine” Gets a Boost

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