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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 51 min ago

Ubuntu 17.04 Zesty Zapus released

Monday 17th of April 2017 09:18:40 PM
Sorry for the delay on this one - it's been a... Busy weekend for me personally, so I'm only just now catching up with most of the news from the past few days. Codenamed "Zesty Zapus", Ubuntu 17.04 continues Ubuntu's proud tradition of integrating the latest and greatest open source technologies into a high-quality, easy-to-use Linux distribution. The team has been hard at work through this cycle, introducing new features and fixing bugs. Under the hood, there have been updates to many core packages, including a new 4.10-based kernel, and much more. Ubuntu Desktop has seen incremental improvements, with newer versions of GTK and Qt, updates to major packages like Firefox and LibreOffice, and stability improvements to Unity. This is possibly the last release to feature Unity, which makes it oddly notable. Interesting, too, how that lines up with the Z name.

Early Macintosh emulation comes to the Archive

Monday 17th of April 2017 09:12:16 PM
After offering in-browser emulation of console games, arcade machines, and a range of other home computers, the Internet Archive can now emulate the early models of the Apple Macintosh, the black-and-white, mouse driven computer that radically shifted the future of home computing in 1984. I'm not entirely sure on the legalities of what the Internet Archive is doing - since I don't see any confirmation Apple is participating in this - but I'm obviously very happy they're doing this.

One night in Rio: vacation photos from Plan9

Monday 17th of April 2017 09:06:02 PM
This post is about experimenting with imitating and extending the window management concepts from the venerable Plan9, Rio. The backstory and motivation is simply that I've had the need for a smaller and more 'hackable' base than the feature-heavy Durden environment for a while, and this seemed like a very nice fit.

The world's fastest PowerMac G3 Blue & White

Thursday 13th of April 2017 08:41:15 PM
Welcome to this massive PowerPC goodness crammed series. During these videos, we'll be packing the absolute best technology that this machine can support into this gorgeous Blue & White G3 minitower, creating what I believe will be the fastest B&W G3 on the planet. This is the most involved Power Mac upgrade series I've ever produced, changing every single major component in this box and adding as much as I can to make this machine fly. Sit back, relax and enjoy some mighty fine PowerPC geeky goodness. This is a series of very long videos detailing the entire process. Not the flashiest production values - but honestly, that's a good thing. The creator's excitement is contagious, and it makes me want to undertake a similar project. Just tons of fun to watch, sit back, and relax.

How I made my own iPhone in China

Thursday 13th of April 2017 08:38:37 PM
I've been fascinated by the cell phone parts markets in Shenzhen, China for a while. I'd walked through them a bunch of times, but I still didn't understand basic things, like how they were organized or who was buying all these parts and what they were doing with them. So when someone mentioned they wondered if you could build a working smartphone from parts in the markets, I jumped at the chance to really dive in and understand how everything works. Well, I sat on it for nine months, and then I dove in. I never stopped to think you could do this - but it makes sense. Very cool.

Windows Vista officially dead

Tuesday 11th of April 2017 09:17:11 PM
Released to manufacturing on November 8, 2006 and shipping to consumers on January 30, 2007, Windows Vista had a troubled development and a troubled life once it shipped. But it was an essential Windows release, laying the groundwork for Windows 7 and beyond. For all the criticism that Vista and Microsoft received, the company never really backtracked on the contentious aspects of the release. After a while, those aspects just stopped being contentious. I reviewed Windows Vista way back in 2006 for OSNews, in two parts, followed by another look at the operating system five months later (my fascination with post-XP Windows started all the way back in 2003, when I wrote a Longhorn review for OSNews - three years before I actually joined the OSNews team). The importance of Windows Vista cannot be overstated. In hindsight, it was probably the most important Windows release since Windows 95, as it was a massive overhaul of countless crucial aspects of Windows NT that we still use and rely on today. A new graphics stack, a new audio stack, a new networking stack, a complete overhaul and cleaning of the lowest-level parts of the kernel, and so much more. Windows Vista ended many terrible design decisions from the XP and earlier days. No more kernel access for developers, a new driver model, no more programs running as administrator, and so on. Microsoft forced Windows users to bite the bullet and endure endless UAC dialogs, but it all paid off in the end. And on a personal note, Windows Vista came after Windows XP, and Windows XP was one of the worst operating systems I have ever used. I despise Windows XP, and would rather use a $200 2005 Acer laptop with Vista than a fancy 2009 Sony VAIO or whatever running XP. Windows Vista set the scene for Windows 7 to murder Windows XP for good, and for that reason alone, Vista gets 56 thumbs up from me. Vista was part of a very large undertaking inside Microsoft to completely overhaul the low-level parts of Windows, to prepare the platform for the next decade and beyond. It led to Windows 7, Windows Phone, Windows on the Xbox One, and countless other variants. Not all of those are or were successful, but each of them are still fruits of the incredible engineering work Microsoft's women and men undertook to salvage the architectural trainwreck that was Windows XP and earlier. They did an absolutely amazing job, and on this day, I commend them for it.

OpenBSD 6.1 released

Tuesday 11th of April 2017 08:54:10 PM
We are pleased to announce the official release of OpenBSD 6.1. This is our 42nd release. We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of more than twenty years with only two remote holes in the default install. As in our previous releases, 6.1 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system.

There are now 11 states considering 'right to repair' bills

Monday 10th of April 2017 11:33:13 PM
The right to repair movement is spreading. In recent weeks legislators in Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina have introduced bills that would make it easier for you to fix your electronics, joining eight other states that introduced right-to-repair legislation earlier this year. The bills would require manufacturers to sell replacement parts to consumers and independent repair companies and would also require them to open source diagnostic manuals. It would also give independent repair professionals the ability to bypass software locks that prevent repairs, allowing them to return a gadget back to its factory settings. No-brainer laws in any functioning democracy. I hope these US states show the way, so other states - and hopefully, other countries - will follow.

Debugging macOS kernel using VirtualBox

Monday 10th of April 2017 11:26:34 PM
Late last year, I upgraded my old MBP to the 2016 model with a Skylake processor. As I was debugging a kernel exploit, it turned out that SMAP was enabled inside my VMWare Fusion VM. I wanted to avoid dealing with SMAP, but couldn't figure out how to disable it in Fusion. Luckily, VirtualBox VMs do not support SMAP (yet?). This post will be a step-by-step guide on how to setup macOS kernel source-level debugging using VirtualBox. Though all the step examples are geared toward VirtualBox, this guide can also be used to setup kernel debugging on VMWare Fusion since it's even more straightforward in Fusion.

Sony's giant, $700 e-paper tablet

Monday 10th of April 2017 11:25:45 PM
The DPT-RP1 offers a similar 13.3-inch display as its predecessor, but dramatically improves the resolution from 1200 x 1600 dots to 1650 x 2200 dots. The screen is a "non-slip" panel, which the company says will improve the experience of annotating documents with the included digital pen. The new design is also thinner, lighter, and faster than the previous version; Sony notes that the entire device is roughly as thick as a stack of 30 pages of paper. I love e-paper and e-ink displays, but other than serving their purpose on e-reader devices, it seems the technology hasn't progressed towards more generic use cases such as smartphones and tablets.

A 1986 BBS has brought the old web back to life in 2017

Monday 10th of April 2017 01:51:16 PM
Today, many can be forgiven for thinking that the digital communications revolution kicked off during the mid-1990s, when there was simply an explosion of media and consumer interest in the World Wide Web. Just a decade earlier, however, the future was now for the hundreds of thousands of users already using home computers to communicate with others over the telephone network. The online culture of the 1980s was defined by the pervasiveness of bulletin board systems (BBS), expensive telephone bills, and the dulcet tones of a 1200 baud connection (or 2400, if you were very lucky). While many Ars readers certainly recall bulletin board systems with pixelated reverence, just as many are likely left scratching their heads in confusion ("what exactly is a BBS, anyway?"). It's a good thing, then, that a dedicated number of vintage computing hobbyists are resurrecting these digital communities that were once thought lost to time. With some bulletin board systems being rebooted from long-forgotten floppy disks and with some still running on original 8-bit hardware, the current efforts of these seasoned sysops (that is, system administrators) provide a very literal glimpse into the state of online affairs from more than three decades ago. And while services such as the Internet Archive are an excellent resource for studying the growth of the World Wide Web as it's frozen in time, these hobbyists are opening portals today for modern users to go places that have been long forgotten. I was too young to experience the BBS age - I'm from 1984 - so I always like to read up about it whenever I get the chance. This is an excellent article on the topic.

OS/2 2.0, summer '91 edition

Sunday 9th of April 2017 11:34:52 AM
In a fascinating example of poor timing, disk images of OS/2 2.0 pre-release level 6.605 from July/September 1991 were missing for over 25 years, only to show up literally one day after the 25th anniversary of the OS/2 2.0 release (big thanks to a very helpful reader!). This is a pretty unique pre-release of OS/2 2.0, and as such, it's great it's been saved like this.

A quick look at the Ikea IoT lighting platform

Sunday 9th of April 2017 11:30:08 AM
Ikea recently launched their Trådfri smart lighting platform in the US. The idea of Ikea plus internet security together at last seems like a pretty terrible one, but having taken a look it's surprisingly competent. Hardware-wise, the device is pretty minimal - it seems to be based on the Cypress WICED IoT platform, with 100MBit ethernet and a Silicon Labs Zigbee chipset. It's running the Express Logic ThreadX RTOS, has no running services on any TCP ports and appears to listen on two single UDP ports. As IoT devices go, it's pleasingly minimal. It's always nice to be pleasantly surprised when it comes to non-IT companies and IT security.

*Some notes regarding the new Mac Pro*

Thursday 6th of April 2017 12:02:51 AM
As we learned this week, the 2013 trash can Mac Pro is going to... Well... The trash can. Apple has promised a new "modular" Mac Pro for sometime after 2017. In the light of this news, I thought it would be interesting to look back a model, to the "cheese grater" Mac Pros Apple sold from 2006 until 2013. The cheesegrater is a truly iconic Mac. I love it. On a related note, here's some interesting tidbits and nuggets I've picked up regarding the new Mac Pro from people and sources who know their stuff. The Mac Pro was in limbo inside Apple. The decision to go ahead and develop a modular Mac Pro replacement seems to have been made only in recent months, with development starting only a few weeks ago, which makes it clear why Apple said it won't ship this year. I have no idea how long it takes to develop a new computer like a Mac Pro, but I think we can expect the new Mac Pro late 2018 at the earliest, but most likely it won't be until early 2019 before it ships. What made Apple do a 180? Well, after the announcement of the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, orders for refurbished "old" MacBook Pros supposedly went through the roof, and after the initial batch of reviews came out, they shot up even higher. This response to the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar took Apple completely by surprise. Combined with the problems surrounding the LG UltraFine 5K display and the constant negativity from professional Apple users, the company decided to double down on professional users. As Apple announced, we'll be getting a new Mac Pro and an iMac Pro as a result. In addition, Apple is said to be exploring additional Retina MacBook Pro models without the Touch Bar, and other pro-oriented features, such as hooking an iPad Pro up to a Mac to use it as a Cintiq-like device. All in all, there is definitely excitement in the air regarding professional Mac use, and to be honest - that's been a while. Personally, I'm still very cautious, because in the end, all we got yesterday was a more official version of Tim Cook's endless "we've got great stuff in the pipeline, trust us!" meme that's been going on for a few years now. Until we get it - and that may still be 2 years away - the new Mac Pro is vapourware. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

Windows 10, v1703 basic level diagnostic events and fields

Wednesday 5th of April 2017 11:12:41 PM
The Basic level gathers a limited set of information that is critical for understanding the device and its configuration including: basic device information, quality-related information, app compatibility, and Windows Store. When the level is set to Basic, it also includes the Security level information. The Basic level helps to identify problems that can occur on a particular device hardware or software configuration. For example, it can help determine if crashes are more frequent on devices with a specific amount of memory or that are running a particular driver version. This helps Microsoft fix operating system or app problems. Use this article to learn about diagnostic events, grouped by event area, and the fields within each event. A brief description is provided for each field. Every event generated includes common data, which collects device data. The long, long, long list of data Microsoft gathers when Windows 10's data collection is set to 'basic'. Some... Light reading as the Windows 10 Creator's Update, which is now available, installs (you can also wait until 11 April to get it through Windows Update).

Ubuntu to switch back to GNOME, drop Unity

Wednesday 5th of April 2017 05:28:03 PM
Mark Shuttleworth, dropping a bombshell on a boring Wednesday: We are wrapping up an excellent quarter and an excellent year for the company, with performance in many teams and products that we can be proud of. As we head into the new fiscal year, it's appropriate to reassess each of our initiatives. I'm writing to let you know that we will end our investment in Unity8, the phone and convergence shell. We will shift our default Ubuntu desktop back to GNOME for Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. [...] I took the view that, if convergence was the future and we could deliver it as free software, that would be widely appreciated both in the free software community and in the technology industry, where there is substantial frustration with the existing, closed, alternatives available to manufacturers. I was wrong on both counts. In the community, our efforts were seen fragmentation not innovation. And industry has not rallied to the possibility, instead taking a 'better the devil you know' approach to those form factors, or investing in home-grown platforms. What the Unity8 team has delivered so far is beautiful, usable and solid, but I respect that markets, and community, ultimately decide which products grow and which disappear. That just happened.

Everything is broken

Tuesday 4th of April 2017 09:49:57 PM
Once upon a time, a friend of mine accidentally took over thousands of computers. He had found a vulnerability in a piece of software and started playing with it. In the process, he figured out how to get total administration access over a network. He put it in a script, and ran it to see what would happen, then went to bed for about four hours. Next morning on the way to work he checked on it, and discovered he was now lord and master of about 50,000 computers. After nearly vomiting in fear he killed the whole thing and deleted all the files associated with it. In the end he said he threw the hard drive into a bonfire. I can't tell you who he is because he doesn't want to go to Federal prison, which is what could have happened if he'd told anyone that could do anything about the bug he'd found. Did that bug get fixed? Probably eventually, but not by my friend. This story isn't extraordinary at all. Spend much time in the hacker and security scene, you'll hear stories like this and worse. It's hard to explain to regular people how much technology barely works, how much the infrastructure of our lives is held together by the IT equivalent of baling wire. Computers, and computing, are broken. It's from 2014, but drop everything you're doing right now and read this. Go on. Don't put it off. Read it.

Samsung's Tizen is a cracker's dream

Tuesday 4th of April 2017 09:42:45 PM
But the operating system is riddled with serious security vulnerabilities that make it easy for a hacker to take control of Tizen-powered devices, according to Israeli researcher Amihai Neiderman. "It may be the worst code I've ever seen," he told Motherboard in advance of a talk about his research that he is scheduled to deliver at Kaspersky Lab's Security Analyst Summit on the island of St. Maarten on Monday. "Everything you can do wrong there, they do it. You can see that nobody with any understanding of security looked at this code or wrote it. It's like taking an undergraduate and letting him program your software." Raise your hand if you're surprised.

Apple working on completely rethought Mac Pro, pro displays

Tuesday 4th of April 2017 12:40:31 PM
Every Apple user - professional users specifically - has known for a long time the situation with Apple's most powerful Mac, the Mac Pro, had become entirely untenable. After years of utter silence on the matter, the company has finally opened up today. John Gruber, after a meeting with several Apple executive and three other members of the press: Apple is currently hard at work on a "completely rethought" Mac Pro, with a modular design that can accommodate high-end CPUs and big honking hot-running GPUs, and which should make it easier for Apple to update with new components on a regular basis. They're also working on Apple-branded pro displays to go with them. I also have not-so-great news: These next-gen Mac Pros and pro displays "will not ship this year". (I hope that means "next year", but all Apple said was "not this year".) In the meantime, Apple is today releasing meager speed-bump updates to the existing Mac Pros. The $2999 model goes from 4 Xeon CPU cores to 6, and from dual AMD G300 GPUs to dual G500 GPUs. The $3999 model goes from 6 CPU cores to 8, and from dual D500 GPUs to dual D800 GPUs. Nothing else is changing, including the ports. No USB-C, no Thunderbolt 3 (and so no support for the LG UltraFine 5K display). During the meeting, Apple almost-but-not-quite flat-out apologised for the silence and complete lack of updates over the past three years, almost calling the current Mac Pro a mistake, a miscalculation. Apple's Phil Schiller: We're not going to get into exactly what stage we're in, just that we told the team to take the time to do something really great. To do something that can be supported for a long time with customers with updates and upgrades throughout the years. We'll take the time it takes to do that. The current Mac Pro, as we've said a few times, was constrained thermally and it restricted our ability to upgrade it. And for that, we're sorry to disappoint customers who wanted that, and we've asked the team to go and re-architect and design something great for the future that those Mac Pro customers who want more expandability, more upgradability in the future. It'll meet more of those needs. I can't stress how out-of-character this almost-apology and peek into the future Mac Pro roadmap really are. After more than three years of silence, Apple didn't really have much of a choice, especially now that we know a successor to the Mac Pro is at least a year away. Be sure to read Gruber's entire article - it's well worth it.

Android overtakes Windows for first time

Monday 3rd of April 2017 04:28:43 PM
The research arm of StatCounter, the independent web analytics company, finds that in March, Android topped the worldwide OS internet usage market share with 37.93%, which puts it marginally ahead of Windows  (37.91%) for the first time. "This is a milestone in technology history and the end of an era," commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter, "It marks the end of Microsoft's leadership worldwide of the OS market which it has held since the 1980s. It also represents a major breakthrough for Android which held just 2.4% of global internet usage share only five years ago." Quite a fast rise to power. This means Linux (read this!) now dominates everything from HPC down to mobile and embedded. Who knew that while everyone was off making jokes about "the year of desktop Linux", Linus' little kernel became the motor under the hood of the mobile computing revolution. The first computer for vast swaths of people all over the world runs something not from Microsoft or Apple - but from a huge, worldwide community of developers. And that's kind of nice.

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