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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 8 min 50 sec ago

iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: the future of web views

Thursday 25th of June 2015 08:44:17 PM
For a long time, iOS apps have been able to open links as web views. When you tap a link in a Twitter client, an RSS reader, or a bookmark utility, it usually opens in a mini browser that doesn't leave the app, providing you with the convenience of not having to switch between Safari and the app. For years, in spite of some security concerns, this worked well and became the de-facto standard among third-party iOS apps. With iOS 9, Apple wants this to change - and they're bringing the power of Safari to any app that wants to take advantage of it.

An hour with Safari Content Blocker in iOS 9

Thursday 25th of June 2015 08:43:03 PM
I took a little time out today to watch WWDC Session 511 to learn about how Safari Content Blocking will work in iOS 9 and OS X El Capitan. After an hour, I had a little concept app running. I wont really explain the technical details of how the extensions work or how to create them, that is better done by watching the WWDC Session video directly, but I will say its frightfully easy and the code I used for the blocker detailed below is at the bottom of this page. I'm not complaining.

On OS X, why does sudo ls show hidden files?

Wednesday 24th of June 2015 11:10:24 PM
It is showing hidden files (that have names starting with a dot) when invoked by root and doesn’t show them (as expected) when running as a normal user. This differs from what ls on Linux (the one coming from coreutils) does. Why does ls behave this way? Very interesting answer. I love stuff like this.

The genius of Google Play Services

Wednesday 24th of June 2015 11:07:12 PM
If you pay close enough attention to these things, you've probably seen Google Play Services updating from time to time on your Android devices. If you follow the more technical side of Android, you'll know it was announced a couple of years ago to introduce new APIs and features in a way that doesn't require a firmware update. You could be forgiven for dismissing it as a dry and technical part of the OS, but in reality it's a crucially important part of the way modern Android works. Play Services is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because it makes the lives of developers easier and because it bypasses incompetent carriers and OEMs so that users get considerable updates. It's a curse because they're closed source - making it impossible to dig into the code. They make your device less your device, and that's always a bad thing, especially in today's world. So much of this could be addressed if Google opened up as much of it, but that's very unlikely to happen.

Samsung deliberately disabling Windows Update

Wednesday 24th of June 2015 08:16:59 AM
On my home forum Sysnative, a user (wavly) was being assisted with a WU issue, which was going well, aside from the fact that wavly's WU kept getting disabled randomly. It was figured out eventually after using auditpol.exe and registry security auditing that the program that was responsible for disabling WU was Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, which is part of Samsung's SW Update software. SW Update is your typical OEM updating software that will update your Samsung drivers, the bloatware that came on your Samsung machine, etc. The only difference between other OEM updating software is, Samsung's disables WU. No matter how much work Microsoft puts into cleaning up Windows, crappy OEMs like Samsung will undo all their work. How about that line of Surface laptops and desktops, Microsoft?

Unlocked phones in Europe (a guide to what Americans are missing)

Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 11:24:41 PM
Over in Europe, things work a little differently. The carrier model still dominates, but it's just as easy to pick up unlocked, unbranded versions of Android phones big and small that work on just about any local operator (and often many not-so-local ones.) Nice overview of the situation in Europe, but to be honest, I haven't seen any carrier-specific models in The Netherlands in years. In fact, at least on my carrier, you can unlock your phone the moment you get it (a low fee may be charged), and after 12 months, the unlock process is always free (at least for T-Mobile - I'm guessing the same applies to the other two carriers). You can buy unlocked phones from major stores - both online and offline - everywhere, and nobody bats an eye. In fact, in the first quarter of 2014, almost half of all 'mobile connections' were SIM-only - i.e., the mobile phone contract is just the SIM card, without any "free" phone. When you do the maths, clever shopping for a SIM-only contract and an unlocked phone can be hundreds of euros cheaper in the total running time of the contract than going the traditional contract+phone route. Coincidentally, I'm pretty sure this explains why Android is so popular here. You can get unlocked Android flagship-quality phones or last year's flagships for a few hundreds euros, whereas unlocked iPhones are two to three times as expensive. When you give consumers an honest breakdown of what a contract+phone really costs, most people will opt to save hundreds of euros.

Google reveals health-tracking wristband

Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 11:11:57 PM
Google Inc.'s life sciences group has created a health-tracking wristband that could be used in clinical trials and drug tests, giving researchers or physicians minute-by-minute data on how patients are faring. The experimental device, developed within the company's Google X research division, can measure pulse, heart rhythm and skin temperature, and also environmental information like light exposure and noise levels. It won't be marketed as a consumer device, said Andy Conrad, head of the life sciences team at Google. Like Apple's ResearchKit, I'm really glad technology companies are actively trying to help advance medical research, treatments, and so on. Technology can have a huge impact here.

iOS 9 temporarily delete apps to free up space for updates

Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 11:05:30 PM
A new iOS 9 feature added in beta 1 was only discovered when users attempted to update to beta 2 earlier today. This new feature will allow the operating system to intelligently delete applications if you don't have enough free space to perform a software update. Once the update is complete, the apps will automatically be reinstalled and your data will remain intact. Clever feature. I would say 'something for Android to adopt', but then I remembered I'm an idiot.

The Mega Processor

Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 05:56:00 PM
Like all modern processors the Mega-processor is built from transistors. It's just that instead of using teeny-weeny ones integrated on a silicon chip it uses discrete individual ones like those below. Thousands of them. And loads of LEDs. Hand-built. Insane, but also very cool.

Apple's indies

Tuesday 23rd of June 2015 05:54:16 PM
Apple's impulsive response to Swift stands in stark contrast to their treatment of indie app developers, who have been lobbying Apple for almost seven years, requesting Apple reform policies in the App Store to no effect. In particular, Cue's use of the word "indie" can only be described as a callous slap in the face given the circumstances that indie developers have been facing. iOS application developers are expendable, and have zero reach. Taylor Swift is unique, and has a quarter metric frickton of reach. Do the math.

Chrome listening to you shows the importance of privacy

Monday 22nd of June 2015 04:02:35 PM
Yesterday, news broke that Google has been stealth downloading audio listeners onto every computer that runs Chrome, and transmits audio data back to Google. Effectively, this means that Google had taken itself the right to listen to every conversation in every room that runs Chrome somewhere, without any kind of consent from the people eavesdropped on. In official statements, Google shrugged off the practice with what amounts to "we can do that". Remember how everyone used to make fun of people like Richard Stallman? Way back in 2012, we already reached the point where we had to acknolwedge Richard Stallman was right all along (useless sidenote: this is one of the three most popular OSNews articles of all time). In recent years, people have been putting stickers and tape on their laptops to cover up built-in webcams. The next step is, apparently, to rip out the built-in microphones, too. That's what you get when you entrust a major technology company with automatic updates. If it runs software from any of the major companies, your computer isn't yours. Handle it accordingly.

Apple has sudden change of heart, will pay artists for trial period

Monday 22nd of June 2015 11:47:05 AM
After being publicly smacked down by music's biggest star, Apple is changing its tune. Late Sunday night, Apple VP Eddy Cue responded to the open letter that Taylor Swift posted earlier in the day, revealing that Apple now plans to pay artists, labels, and publishers for streams during Apple Music's three-month free trial. The premium streaming service is due to launch on June 30th. Taylor Swift just outsmarted one of the biggest, richest, and most arrogant companies on earth. Impressive. The fact that Apple announced this sudden tail-between-its-legs change of heart in the middle of the night (might've been late Sunday night for US - I suck at timezones), via Twitter no less, is indicative of how badly thought-out this whole Apple Music thing seems to be. The presentation during WWDC was awkward, the three month trial period heavily criticised, and now this. Curious.

Nokia plans smartphone comeback

Sunday 21st of June 2015 07:38:11 PM
Nokia's CEO Rajeev Suri told Germany's Manager Magazin (in German, Reuters report in English) that they plan to start designing and licensing (but not manufacturing) phones again once their agreement with Microsoft expires in 2016. The license would include the use of the Nokia brand name. Does this open the door for Jolla goodness to eventually return to its roots?

Inside the computer: EDSAC

Sunday 21st of June 2015 07:36:19 PM
One of the first computers in the world, EDSAC is being rebuilt at the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park. Andrew Herbert takes us on a walk around inside the computer. The computer memory is pulses of sound waves in long tubes of mercury.

'To Apple, Love Taylor'

Sunday 21st of June 2015 07:29:27 PM
This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field... But will not get paid for a quarter of a year's worth of plays on his or her songs. I'm sure the web will be flooded with slightly differently worded but effectively the same this-isn't-Apple's-fault blog posts and comments shortly, but this whole saga does seem like a major punch in the stomach for small and/or upstart artists. They've already got it rough in this business, and along comes the hugely powerful Apple, who, despite the incredible riches it has stashed away in tax havens, wrangles even that little bit of coin from them. Stay classy, Apple. We don't ask you for free iPhones. Please don't ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation. I don't know much about Taylor Swift other than that she's really popular in the US, but that is one wicked burn.

*Is it the future yet? A week with the Apple Watch*

Thursday 18th of June 2015 04:26:29 PM
I bought an Apple Watch, and I've been wearing it for about two weeks. I'm a notorious mobile computing fanatic and early adopter. How does it hold up to real-world use? How does it compare to the hype? Let's get this out of the way: I've been waiting for an Apple Watch for a long time. While a lot of people were quick to dismiss the whole idea, I've been on board with the idea of a wrist-mounted companion to a smartphone since I first started using a smartphone. I never bought a Pebble or any of the other first generation smart watches, largely because I've been around the block long enough to know that it's hard to be an early adopter, but partially because I wanted to wait and see what Apple would come up with. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

*Is It the future yet? A week with the Apple Watch.*

Thursday 18th of June 2015 04:26:29 PM
I bought an Apple Watch, and I've been wearing it for about two weeks. I'm a notorious mobile computing fanatic and early adopter. How does it hold up to real-world use? How does it compare to the hype? Let's get this out of the way: I've been waiting for an Apple Watch for a long time. While a lot of people were quick to dismiss the whole idea, I've been on board with the idea of a wrist-mounted companion to a smartphone since I first started using a smartphone. I never bought a Pebble or any of the other first generation smart watches, largely because I've been around the block long enough to know that it's hard to be an early adopter, but partially because I wanted to wait and see what Apple would come up with. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

BlackBerry 'Prague' the first Android-powered device?

Thursday 18th of June 2015 04:25:34 PM
There's been a lot of chatter lately about BlackBerry working on a device running Android, and at first, the rumour was that the portrait slider - yes, with a keyboard - the company briefly flashed before our eyes early this year was going to run Android. I got excited over this one, because I've been wanting a modern smartphone with a keyboard for a long time now. The Passport is a good example, but it's quite expensive for entry into a platform with dubious longevity (I did actually try to buy one when I was in Canada late last year, but Canadian stores were afraid of my money). So, the prospect of an Android slider from BlackBerry surely had my wallet rumbling. Too bad. A new rumour today suggests that while BlackBerry is indeed working on an Android device, it's not the slider device, but a lower-end, Android One-like device. Still interesting, of course, but not nearly as interest-piquing as a device with a hardware keyboard. Assuming the rumours don't change tomorrow, those of us hoping for a modern Android smartphone with a hardware keyboard will have to wait a little longer.

The web is getting its bytecode: WebAssembly

Thursday 18th of June 2015 04:15:36 PM
But the people calling for a bytecode for the browser never went away, and they were never entirely wrong about the perceived advantages. And now they're going to get their wish. WebAssembly is a new project being worked on by people from Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, and Apple, to produce a bytecode for the Web. WebAssembly, or wasm for short, is intended to be a portable bytecode that will be efficient for browsers to download and load, providing a more efficient target for compilers than plain JavaScript or even asm.js. Like, for example, .NET bytecode, wasm instructions operate on native machine types such as 32-bit integers, enabling efficient compilation. It's also designed to be extensible, to make it easy to add, say, support for SIMD instruction sets like SSE and AVX.

A reimplementation of NetBSD using a microkernel

Thursday 18th of June 2015 03:07:29 PM
Based on the MINIX 3 microkernel, we have constructed a system that to the user looks a great deal like NetBSD. It uses pkgsrc, NetBSD headers and libraries, and passes over 80% of the KYUA tests). However, inside, the system is completely different. At the bottom is a small (about 13,000 lines of code) microkernel that handles interrupts, message passing, low-level scheduling, and hardware related details. Nearly all of the actual operating system, including memory management, the file system(s), paging, and all the device drivers run as user-mode processes protected by the MMU. As a consequence, failures or security issues in one component cannot spread to other ones. In some cases a failed component can be replaced automatically and on the fly, while the system is running, and without user processes noticing it. The talk will discuss the history, goals, technology, and status of the project.

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