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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 47 min ago

The iPhone feature that lets blind people see with their fingers

Saturday 11th of March 2017 01:16:33 AM
A few years ago, backstage at a conference, I spotted a blind woman using her phone. The phone was speaking everything her finger touched on the screen, allowing her to tear through her apps. My jaw hit the floor. After years of practice, she had cranked the voice's speed so high, I couldn't understand a word it was saying. And here's the kicker: She could do all of this with the screen turned off. Her phone's battery lasted forever. Ever since that day, I've been like a kid at a magic show. I've wanted to know how it's done. I've wanted an inside look at how the blind could navigate a phone that's basically a slab of featureless glass. This week, I got my chance. Joseph Danowsky offered to spend a morning with me, showing me the ropes. There's a ton to dislike about iOS, but its assistive technologies for people with disabilities are absolutely spectacular. Nothing even comes close to it.

Password rules are bullshit

Friday 10th of March 2017 11:35:32 PM
Of the many, many, many bad things about passwords, you know what the worst is? Password rules. Read this.

Windows 10 tip: turn off File Explorer advertising

Friday 10th of March 2017 11:34:14 PM
I've led the charge against Microsoft's advertising efforts in Windows, noting back in 2012 that the software giant cheapened Windows 8 with ads. Despite my warnings about a slippery slope - Microsoft would only escalate its in-box advertising down the road, I cautioned - Windows 10, sadly, was even worse. And now the Creators Update is coming, bringing with it yet another escalation of in-product advertising. Most notably, and most disturbingly, in File Explorer. iOS and Android do the same thing, where they pester you left and right with ads for nonsense like music services or cloud storage. It's user-hostile and infuriating.

This isn't an operating system; it's an RPG

Thursday 9th of March 2017 11:33:16 PM
In Kingsway, Andrew Morrish's upcoming PC role-playing game, monsters are pop-ups, quests are emails and your backpack is a cluttered file folder. That's right, it's an OSRPG. Coming to PC later this year via Adult Swim games, Kingsway is a role-playing adventure that takes the form of the Kingsway Operating System, which is basically a primitive Windows/MacOS for the monster-slaying set. Travel the King's land via World Navigator window, slaying monsters as they pop up on your desktop. Drag-and-drop windows to your heart's content. Incredibly creative, and I can't wait to play this when it comes out. And honestly - the 'operating system' looks better than most of the actual operating systems we have today.

Putting The Times's first email address to bed

Thursday 9th of March 2017 11:29:28 PM
Times Insider shares historic insights from The New York Times. In this article, John Markoff, who covered technology for The Times for 28 years before retiring last month, continues to rue the paper's 1995 choice of nytimes.com over his own nyt.com: "Do you have any idea what a three-letter domain is worth these days?" I love stories like this.

IBM researchers store data in a single atom

Thursday 9th of March 2017 11:24:45 PM
The fundamental components of computers are becoming small enough that they are pressing against the boundaries of the familiar world of Newtonian physics. And nowhere is the scale and precision of operation on better display than in hard disk drives, where a trillion bits may fit in a square inch. But IBM has outdone them all by reading and writing data to a single atom.

"Samsung, corruption, and you"

Thursday 9th of March 2017 12:53:01 PM
But the mood is different in South Korea these days. There's always been public opposition to corruption and nepotism in the country's chaebol conglomerates, but the country has never seen anything like the massive protests that swept the streets last year and helped drive President Park's approval rating down to four percent. In a climate like this, where widespread outrage can lead to the impeachment of a president, even a Samsung chairman might have reason to worry. When a Korean, Chinese, African, or South-American man gives money to politicians in exchange for favours, we call it corruption. When a western man gives money to politicians in exchange for favours, we call it lobbying. Language shapes perception.

Inside the internet's war on science

Wednesday 8th of March 2017 11:34:04 PM
Fantastic article by Stephanie M. Lee: Welcome to the vast universe of self-built social media empires devoted to spreading false, misleading, and polarizing science and health news - sometimes further and wider than the real information. Here, climate change is a government-sponsored hoax, fluoridated water is poisonous, cannabis can cure cancer, and airplanes are constantly spraying pesticides and biological waste into the air. Genetically modified food is destroying humanity and the planet. Vaccines are experimental, autism-causing injections forced on innocent babies. We can't trust anything that we eat, drink, breathe, or medicate with, nor rely on physicians and public health agencies to act in our best interests. Between the organic recipes and menacing stock images of syringes and pills, a clear theme emerges: Everything is rigged - by doctors, Big Pharma, Monsanto, the FDA - and the mainstream media isn’t telling us. (Also, there's usually a link to buy vitamins.) This messaging reflects a new, uniquely conspiratorial strain of libertarianism that hijacks deeply intimate issues - your body, your health, your children's health. It shares magnificently. Indeed, gone are the days when these types of stories would struggle for traction in a media landscape dominated by a few television networks, newspapers, and radio stations. Now anyone on Facebook can take their snake oil straight to the masses - and their message is reverberating in the highest levels of government. Vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who says he's in touch with Trump about a "vaccine safety commission" recently announced a $100,000 "challenge" to prove their safety. Andrew Wakefield, who helped start the anti-vaccine movement with a fraudulent 1998 study that linked vaccines to autism, showed up at an inaugural ball. The president has called climate change a "hoax" and appointed a skeptic to lead the Environmental Protection Agency. Pseudoscience is closer than ever to the mainstream. Clearly, not vaccinating your children is child abuse and should be treated as such; not only does it endanger the lives of your own children, but also the lives of other children who may rely on herd immunity because they can't take vaccinations for proper medical reasons. The fact that these child abusers are this close to the president of the United States and the US government should send chills down the spine of every responsible parent. The war on science is in full swing, and they've already won the White House and US Congress. The amount of damage that can be - and is being - done is staggering.

VMware becomes gold member of Linux Foundation

Wednesday 8th of March 2017 11:24:12 PM
As we can read in recent news, VMware has become a gold member of the Linux foundation. That causes - to say the least - very mixed feelings to me. One thing to keep in mind: The Linux Foundation is an industry association, it exists to act in the joint interest of it's paying members. It is not a charity, and it does not act for the public good. I know and respect that, while some people sometimes appear to be confused about its function. However, allowing an entity like VMware to join, despite their many years long disrespect for the most basic principles of the FOSS Community (such as: Following the GPL and its copyleft principle), really is hard to understand and accept.

Microsoft's latest open source servers shown off

Wednesday 8th of March 2017 11:18:54 PM
At the Open Compute Summit in Santa Clara, California, today, Microsoft showed off the latest iterations of Project Olympus, its open source data center server design. Until now, the servers in Microsoft's data centers have all used Intel x86 processors, but now both of those elements - "Intel" and "x86" - have new competition. In news that's both surprising and unsurprising, Microsoft demonstrated Windows Server running on ARM processors. Qualcomm and Cavium have both designed motherboards for the Project Olympus form factor that use ARM chips: Qualcomm's Centriq 2400 processor, a 10nm 48 core part, and Cavium's ThunderX2 ARMv8-A, with up to 54 cores. In addition to offering lots of cores, both are highly integrated systems-on-chips with PCIe, SATA, and tens of gigabits of Ethernet all integrated. Intel missed the boat on mobile, and is now feeling pressure from both AMD on desktops and ARM in servers. Great for competition.

*Installing SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+*

Tuesday 7th of March 2017 09:14:02 PM
No fancy introduction or longwinded story about childhood memories, just a quick and relatively easy how-to regarding installing and running SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+. Since it's quite likely you're not aware of what SymbOS and the MSX are, I'll give you a short description of both. First, the MSX is a standardised home computing platform conceived by Microsoft Japan in the early 80s. It was quite succesful in Japan, and saw decent success in (weirdly) The Netherlands and Spain, but saw little to no adoption in the United States. I didn't have an MSX myself growing up, but a friend of mine had one, and I remember playing games on it with him when I was round 7-8 years old. SymbOS is - other than a marvellous showcase of programming expertise - a microkernel operating system with preemptive multitasking with a mouse-driven, windows-based graphical user interface. It's available for a number of Z80-based machines of the 80s - the MSX2, MSX2+, MSX TurboR, the complete Amstrad CPC 464/664/6128 range (old and new generation), and all Amstrad PCW models of the 8xxx, 9xxx, and 10 series. Installing SymbOS on an emulated MSX2+ is actually quite easy. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

OpenVMS March 2017 development update

Tuesday 7th of March 2017 09:08:25 PM
This latest 2017-2019 product roadmap includes, for the first time, the latest support roadmap. There is also further details about the next OpenVMS V8.x and V9.0 release for Itanium, along with the "early adapter" release of V9.0 of OpenVMS for x86 servers. Development is continuing at a steady pace.

ATX is outdated garbage, and needs a modern replacement

Monday 6th of March 2017 08:48:09 PM
Okay so I'm using this perfectly fine article as an excuse to bring something up, so bear with me here. If you haven't been paying attention to the PC world lately, you might not have noticed that the lowly PC has seen a bit of a resurgence, with interesting designs and unique concepts. We saw this come to bear at CES just a couple of months ago, where PC makers such as Dell, Lenovo, and HP all trotted out interesting laptop designs. But the laptop isn't the only PC that's seen a design-focused revival. The lowly desktop PC has transformed from a boring beige or black box into a centerpiece of a modern desk space. An all-in-one computer in 2017 is both functional as a computer and beautiful to appreciate as a piece of design. This is only slightly related, but it's something that has been bugging me for years, and since I was confronted with it again this past weekend, I might as well get it out of my system: why is nobody innovating anymore in the field of building your own computer? So many aspects of building your own computer are completely crazy when you think about it, and it seems like nobody is really doing anything to fix them. For instance, why haven't we come up with a way to increase the power you can draw from a PCI-E slot, so that graphics cards don't have to be plugged into the PSU directly with unwieldy power cables, with connectors in the most boneheaded location on the graphics card? Why are we still using those horrible internal 9/10-pin connectors for USB, the front panel, audio, and so on? These are absolutely dreadful connectors, spread out all over the motherboard in illogical places forcing you to route cabling in unnatural ways, and the pins can easily bend. This is terrible 80s technology that we should've fixed by now. And the most idiotic connector of them all, which is huge, stiff, almost impossible to plug in, remove, or route properly: the ATX power plug from the PSU to the motherboard. This thing is probably one of the worst connectors you can possibly find inside any computer, and the slot on the motherboard is in an incredibly illogical place considering most case layouts. To make matters worse, the CPU power connector sits at the top-left (usually) of the motherboard, so that's another unwieldy connector and cable with an unnatural route that you have to deal with. It's just terrible. I like the inside of my computer to look as neat and tidy as possible - not only because it looks nice and is easier to clean, but also because it improves airflow, something quite important with today's processors and graphics cards. However, aging standards with terrible designs and horrible usability that wouldn't look out of place in a 1960s mainframe make that quite the challenge. We've seen some minor improvements already these past ten years or so, with the advent of modular PSUs and the death of the dreadfully terrible IDE cables and Molex connectors, but more work is definitely needed. We need a replacement for the aging ATX standard, which delivers enough power to the motherboard for the board itself, video cards, and the processors and fans, through a single cable with a modern, easy-to-use connector. It'd be great if a replacement for SATA could also carry power, so that we no longer need to route individual power cables to our hard drives. We need to get rid of 9/10-pin connectors for things like USB and the front panel, and replace them with easy-to-use USB-like connectors. And last but certainly not least: put all of these things in locations that make sense for the vast majority of cases in use today, so we can reduce the length of cables, save money in the process, and end up with cleaner, easier-to-use computers. Intel, AMD, NVIDIA, case makers, Microsoft, and whomever else is involved here - sit around a damn table for once, and hash this stuff out. ATX is outdated garbage, and needs a modern replacement. ATX was introduced in 1995 - do you still want to use Windows 95? OS/2 Warp? Version 1.2.0 of the Linux kernel? System 7.5.1? Floppies? CRTs? Of course you don't! Then why the hell are we still using ATX?

Tape reel data recovery from a Polish MERA-400

Monday 6th of March 2017 08:06:51 PM
Around May 2015, Andrea “Mancausoft” Milazzo got in touch with Jakub Filipowicz, a Polish guy involved in MERA-400 computer historical researches; Jakub was writing an emulator of this machine, but the operating system was missing and almost unavailable (details on the mera400.pl website [Polish]). Jakub found 5 magnetic tapes at the Warsaw Museum of Technology, containing hopefully copies of the CROOK operating system. The Museum was not able to read them. After some months, he managed to get the tapes, to try a data recovery, extracting the operating system. Fascinating story with tons of details, definitely a must-read. Interestingly enough - or sadly enough - I can't seem to find a whole lot of information on the MERA 400 in English, and since I don't speak or read Polish, I can't really give much more information than you can find in the source article. There is a Wikipedia page on the MERA 400's progenitor, the K-202.

Nintendo Switch runs FreeBSD

Saturday 4th of March 2017 01:20:15 AM
Interesting little tidbit for the weekend: we now know what operating system the Nintendo Switch is running. Since it's basically an NVIDIA Shield, I kind of expected it to be running Android - heavily modded, of course - but it turns out it's running something else entirely: it's running FreeBSD. Like Sony, Nintendo also opts for FreeBSD for its games console. This means of the four major gaming platforms, two run Windows, and two run FreeBSD. Fascinating.

KolibriOS stored on DNA

Friday 3rd of March 2017 10:24:31 PM
In a paper out this week in Science, researchers Yaniv Erlich and Dina Zielinski report successfully using DNA to store and retrieve "a full computer operating system, movie, and other files". DNA has the potential to provide large-capacity information storage. However, current methods have only been able to use a fraction of the theoretical maximum. Erlich and Zielinski present a method, DNA Fountain, which approaches the theoretical maximum for information stored per nucleotide. They demonstrated efficient encoding of information - including a full computer operating system - into DNA that could be retrieved at scale after multiple rounds of polymerase chain reaction. Which operating system? Turns out it's KolibriOS, the all-assembler, floppy-based x86 operating system originally based on MenuetOS.

The story of Firefox OS

Friday 3rd of March 2017 10:24:11 PM
So I'd like to tell you my version of the story of Firefox OS, from the birth of the Boot to Gecko open source software project as a mailing list post and an empty GitHub repository in 2011, through its commercial launch as the Firefox OS mobile operating system, right up until the "transition" of millions of lines of code to the community in 2016. During this five year journey hundreds of members of the wider Mozilla community came together with a shared vision to disrupt the app ecosystem with the power of the open web. I'd like to reflect on our successes, our failures and the lessons we can learn from the experience of taking an open source browser based mobile operating system to market.

Apple's devices lose luster in American classrooms

Friday 3rd of March 2017 11:06:12 AM
Apple is losing its grip on American classrooms, which technology companies have long used to hook students on their brands for life. Over the last three years, Apple's iPads and Mac notebooks - which accounted for about half of the mobile devices shipped to schools in the United States in 2013 - have steadily lost ground to Chromebooks, inexpensive laptops that run on Google's Chrome operating system and are produced by Samsung, Acer and other computer makers. Mobile devices that run on Apple's iOS and MacOS operating systems have now reached a new low, falling to third place behind both Google-powered laptops and Microsoft Windows devices, according to a report released on Thursday by Futuresource Consulting, a research company. That's got to sting. Out of the many reasons why ChromeBooks are way more successful than iPads in classrooms - they are cheaper, easier to manage, and so on - this is the one you're going to need to remember: Then there is the keyboard issue. While school administrators generally like the iPad’s touch screens for younger elementary school students, some said older students often needed laptops with built-in physical keyboards for writing and taking state assessment tests. My oh my, I wonder what Apple could do to remedy this.

Nintendo Switch review

Friday 3rd of March 2017 01:06:48 AM
The Switch is a console sandwiched between a bar of success lowered by the disaster of the Wii U and the considerable ground Nintendo must make up. Compared to the Wii U on its merits, the Switch is a slam dunk. It takes the basic concept of the Wii U, of a tablet-based console, and fulfills the promise of it in a way Nintendo simply wasn’t capable of realizing in 2012. It’s launching with a piece of software that, more than anything in the Wii U’s first year, demonstrates its inherent capability of delivering what Nintendo says is one of the Switch’s primary missions: a big-budget, AAA game that exists across a handheld device and a television-connected portable. The hardware lives up to its name in how easily and smoothly it moves between those two worlds, in how dead simple it all is to make something pretty magical happen. I am genuinely excited by the Switch, and the prospects it brings to the table. I'm worried about the lineup of games - or lack thereof, really - so I'm not going to jump in straight away. The reviews of the device and its launch Zelda title are positive, though, so I'm looking forward to what Nintendo has in store for the Switch.

Android Studio 2.3 released

Thursday 2nd of March 2017 10:49:13 PM
Android Studio 2.3 has been released. We are most excited about the quality improvements in Android Studio 2.3 but you will find a small set of new features in this release that integrate into each phase of your development flow. When designing your app, take advantage of the updated WebP support for your app images plus check out the updated ConstraintLayout library support and widget palette in the Layout Editor. As you are developing, Android Studio has a new App Link Assistant which helps you build and have a consolidated view of your URIs in your app. While building and deploying your app, use the updated run buttons for a more intuitive and reliable Instant Run experience. Lastly, while testing your app with the Android Emulator, you now have proper copy & paste text support. I hear a lot of negativity regarding Android Studio, but since I'm not a developer, I can't really make heads or tails of it. Is it really as bad as some people make it out to be?

More in Tux Machines

Games and CrossOver

Red Hat and Fedora

Android Leftovers

Leftovers: OSS and Sharing

  • CoreOS Tectonic Now Installs Kubernetes on OpenStack
    CoreOS and OpenStack have a somewhat intertwined history, which is why it's somewhat surprising it took until today for CoreOS's Tectonic Kubernetes distribution to provide an installer that targets OpenStack cloud deployments.
  • Docker and Core OS plan to donate their container technologies to CNCF
    Containers have become a critical component of modern cloud, and Docker Inc. controls the heart of containers, the container runtime. There has been a growing demand that this critical piece of technology should be under control of a neutral, third party so that the community can invest in it freely.
  • How Blockchain Is Helping China Go Greener
    Blockchain has near-universal applicability as a distributed transaction platform for securely authenticating exchanges of data, goods, and services. IBM and the Beijing-based Energy-Blockchain Labs are even using it to help reduce carbon emissions in air-polluted China.
  • An efficient approach to continuous documentation
  • The peril in counting source lines on an OSS project
    There seems to be a phase that OSS projects go through where as they mature and gain traction. As they do it becomes increasingly important for vendors to point to their contributions to credibly say they are the ‘xyz’ company. Heptio is one such vendor operating in the OSS space, and this isn’t lost on us. :) It helps during a sales cycle to be able to say “we are the a big contributor to this project, look at the percentage of code and PRs we submitted”. While transparency is important as is recognizing the contributions that key vendors, focus on a single metric in isolation (and LoC in particular) creates a perverse incentive structure. Taken to its extreme it becomes detrimental to project health.
  • An Open Source Unicycle Motor
    And something to ponder. The company that sells this electric unicycle could choose to use a motor with open firmware or one with closed firmware. To many consumers, that difference might not be so significant. To this consumer, though, that’s a vital difference. To me, I fully own the product I bought when the firmware is open. I explain to others that they ought to choose that level of full ownership whenever they get a chance. And if they join a local makerspace, they will likely meet others with similar values. If you don’t yet have a makerspace in your community, inquire around to see if anyone is in the process of forming one. Then find ways to offer them support. That’s how we do things in the FOSS community.
  • The A/V guy’s take on PyCon Pune
    “This is crazy!”, that was my reaction at some point in PyCon Pune. This is one of my first conference where I participated in a lot of things starting from the website to audio/video and of course being the speaker. I saw a lot of aspects of how a conference works and where what can go wrong. I met some amazing people, people who impacted my life , people who I will never forget. I received so much of love and affection that I can never express in words. So before writing anything else I want to thank each and everyone of you , “Thank you!”.
  • Azure Service Fabric takes first tentative steps toward open source [Ed: Microsoft Peter is openwashing a patent trap with back doors]
  • Simulate the Internet with Flashback, a New WebDev Test Tool from LinkedIn
  • Mashape Raises $18M for API Gateway Tech
    Casado sees Mashape's Kong API gateway in particular as being a particularly well positioned technology. Kong is an open-source API gateway and microservice management technology.
  • PrismTech to Demonstrate Open Source FACE 2.1 Transport Services Segment (TSS) Reference Implementation at Air Force FACE Technical Interchange Meeting
    PrismTech’s TSS reference implementation is being made available under GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) v3 open source license terms.
  • How Open-Source Robotics Hardware Is Accelerating Research and Innovation

    The latest issue of the IEEE Robotics & Automation Magazine features a special report on open-source robotics hardware and its impact in the field.