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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 28 min 59 sec ago

*Google does not know multilingual people exist*

Sunday 26th of November 2017 10:57:58 PM
It's time to address a longstanding issue with Google, and as these things often go, it has to do with Silicon Valley not knowing multilingual people are a thing. A long, long time ago, searching for stuff on Google in different languages was a breeze. If you typed www.google.nl in your address bar, you went to Dutch Google. If you typed www.google.com, you went to English Google. If you typed www.google.de, you went to German Google. You may notice a pattern here - the country code determined your Google Search language. Crude, but effective. Years ago, however, Google, ever on the lookout to make its users' lives easier, determined, in its endless wisdom, that it would be a great idea to automatically determine your search language based on your location. Slightly more recently, Google seems to have started using not your location, but the information it has on you in your Google account to determine the language you wish to search in when you load Google Search, and on top of that, it tries to guess your search language based on the query you entered. Regardless of whether I go to www.google.nl or to www.google.com, Google standardises to Dutch. The language menu in Tools is entirely useless, since it only gives me the option to search in "Every language" or "Only pages written in Dutch". When I type in a longer, clearly English query, it will switch to showing English results for said query. However, with shorter queries, single-word queries, brands, or other terms that might transcend a specific language, Google simply doesn't know what to do, and it becomes a game of Guess What Language This Query Is Parsed As. As I've detailed before, Silicon Valley doesn't get out much, so they don't realise hundreds of millions of people around the world lead multilingual lives, speaking and searching in several different languages on a daily basis. Many Americans speak both Spanish and English on a daily basis, for instance, and dozens of millions of Europeans speak both their native language as well as English. Especially younger European generations have friends from all over the world, and it's likely they converse in today's lingua franca. Of course, for me personally, the situation is even more dire. I am a translator, and especially when working on more complex translations, I need to alternate between English and Dutch searches several times a minute. I may need to check how often a term is used, what it means exactly, if a technical term is perhaps left untranslated in Dutch, and so on. I need to be able to explicitly tell Google which language to search in. In its blind, unfettered devotion to machine learning and artificial intelligence, Google has made it pretty much impossible for me to use, you know, Google. Meanwhile, DuckDuckGo has a really neat little switch right at the top of its search results, which I can click to switch between English and Dutch - I don't even have to retype the query or reload the site from the address bar. The dropdown menu next to it gives me access to every single other language DuckDuckGo is available in. It's difficult to overstate how this feature has turned web search from a deeply frustrating experience into the frictionless effort it's always supposed to have been. This tiny, simple, elegant little feature is what has drawn me towards using DuckDuckGo. I'm willing to accept slightly less accurate search results if it means I don't have to fight with my search engine every single day to get it to search in the language I want it to. I will continue to harp on Silicon Valley for barely even paying lip service to multilingual users, because it frustrates our entire user experience on a daily basis. To make matters worse, virtually all popular tech media consist of Americans who only speak English, assuring that this issue will never get the attention it needs. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

Adding a Graphics Card to an Amiga 500

Sunday 26th of November 2017 10:15:43 PM
Always after ways to push the trusty Amiga 500 to new limits, I discovered a post on the German A1k.org website about someone who had fitted a graphics card to his A500. This was a feat I felt I should replicate. I'm almost, but not quite, there. However, there were lots of hoops which needed jumping through first... It's Amiga weekend, apparently! This story is a bit more hardware-focuseed, obviously.

Ten years of Icaros Desktop

Sunday 26th of November 2017 10:12:45 PM
It was a long, long time ago. A quite younger myself (Paolo Besser) presented AROS to some hundreds of people visiting Pianeta Amiga 2007, a still popular italian fair about Amiga products. While showing it at the event, I realized that the best way to advertise the open-source Amiga "clone" among the Amiga community was to prove it was already able to do things: AROS, in fact, was being developed for 12 years, but very little was known about its applications outside of its little community of developers and hackers. Most people believed it was simply too far, feature-wise, from AmigaOS and MorphOS to be actually useful for anything. This was, sadly, partially true. AROS hardware support was tiny, it didn't talk with USB devices, it had not hardware acceleration, it could barely do networking but it hadn't even a browser. There were many software pieces already in place, but almost nobody knew how to chain and take advantage of them. Moreover, most AROS applications were difficult to find and configure, so the best most people did with AROS builds was just downloading them from time to time, test the graphic demos, and forget about it 10 minutes later. A real pity: people poking with Lunapaint at Pianeta Amiga 2007 showed amusement and were impressed to see a common PC running an Amiga-ish operating system so nicely. Something more had to be done! Icaros is probably the best and easiest way to experience AROS - and thus, an AmigaOS-like operating system - today. Great work, and here's to another ten years!

FCC releases final proposal to end net neutrality

Wednesday 22nd of November 2017 10:58:41 PM
The FCC has released the final draft of its proposal to destroy net neutrality. The order removes nearly every net neutrality rule on the books - internet providers will be free to experiment with fast and slow lanes, prioritize their own traffic, and block apps and services. There's really only one rule left here: that ISPs have to publicly disclose when they're doing these things. The US already has absolutely terrible internet compared to most developed nations, and this will only make it worse. What an absolutely and utterly bad proposal - clearly the result of deep-rooted corruption and bribery among US carriers and the US government.

Replacing x86 firmware with Linux and Go

Wednesday 22nd of November 2017 10:58:10 PM
The Intel Management Engine (ME), which is a separate processor and operating system running outside of user control on most x86 systems, has long been of concern to users who are security and privacy conscious. Google and others have been working on ways to eliminate as much of that functionality as possible (while still being able to boot and run the system). Ronald Minnich from Google came to Prague to talk about those efforts at the 2017 Embedded Linux Conference Europe.

Android collects locations when location services are disabled

Tuesday 21st of November 2017 04:09:50 PM
Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers - even when location services are disabled - and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals' locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy. Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice. The cell tower addresses have been included in information sent to the system Google uses to manage push notifications and messages on Android phones for the past 11 months, according to a Google spokesperson. The were never used or stored, the spokesperson said, and the company is now taking steps to end the practice after being contacted by Quartz. By the end of November, the company said, Android phones will no longer send cell-tower location data to Google, at least as part of this particular service, which consumers cannot disable. Raise your hand if you're surprised.

"Desktop compositing latency is real and it annoys me"

Tuesday 21st of November 2017 04:03:57 PM
I wiped off my Windows 10 installation today. It wasn't because of the intrusive telemetry or the ads in the start menu but desktop composition. It adds some slight but noticeable latency that makes typing feel uncomfortable. In Windows 7 you can turn it off. If you're fine with unresponsive UI operations and graphical tearing, then, sure, go back to Windows 7 or earlier and turn off compositing to get a few ms back when typing.

Google adds Fuchsia support to Apple's Swift

Monday 20th of November 2017 09:56:51 PM
Google's in-development operating system, named 'Fuchsia,' first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time 'Magenta' kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language. There's a tiny error in this summary form AndroidPolice - Fuchsia's kernel has been renamed to Zircon. All this has been playing out late last week and over the weekend - Google is now working on Swift, and some took this to mean Google forked Apple's programming language, while in reality, it just created a staging ground for Google to work on Swift, pushing changes upstream to the official Swift project when necessary - as confirmed by Chris Lattner, creator of Swift, who used to work at Apple, but now works at Google. Zac Bowling, a Google engineer working on Fuchsia, then highlighted a pull request that Google pushed to the main Swift repository: Swift support for Fuchsia. He also mentioned a few upcoming pull requests: FYI, in the pipeline after this we will have some PRs related to: adding ARM64 support for the Fuchsia SDK fixing cross-compiling issues for targeting BSD, Linux and Fuchsia targets from a Darwin toolchain adding support for using lld for linking specific SDK stdlibs (part of getting a Darwin toolchain capable of cross compiling to other targets) supporting unit tests on Fuchsia Regarding Fuchsia's purpose, this is yet another little puff of smoke. Sadly, we still haven't found the fire.

Intel plans to end legacy BIOS support by 2020

Monday 20th of November 2017 09:42:58 PM
Computer users of a certain age will remember BIOS as ubiquitous firmware that came loaded on PCs. It was the thing you saw briefly before your operating system loaded, and you could dig into the settings to change your computer's boot order, enable or disable some features, and more. Most modern PCs ship with UEFI instead. But most also still have a "legacy BIOS" mode that allows you to use software or hardware that might not be fully compatible with UEFI. In a few years that might not be an option anymore: Intel has announced plans to end support for legacy BIOS compatibility by 2020. This most certainly affects many older operating systems - especially older hobby and alternative operating systems that were never updated with UEFI support.

IBM Blue Lightning: world's fastest 386?

Monday 20th of November 2017 08:41:15 PM
The Blue Lightning CPU is an interesting beast. There is not a whole lot of information about what the processor really is, but it can be pieced together from various scraps of information. Around 1990, IBM needed low-power 32-bit processors with good performance for its portable systems, but no one offered such CPUs yet. IBM licensed the 386SX core from Intel and turned it into the IBM 386SLC processor (SLC reportedly stood for "Super Little Chip"). Fascinating footnote in processor history.

Sun's Project Looking Glass debuted 14 years ago

Monday 20th of November 2017 08:37:25 PM
Almost 14 years ago, way back in 2003, Sun Microsystems unveiled Project Looking Glass, a 3D desktop environment written in Java and making extensive use of Java 3D. The demo, by Jonathan Schwartz, always stuck with me over the years, and since YouTube recommended the demo to me today, I figured it'd be interesting to you remind you all of simpler times, when flipping windows around and 3D rendering in Java actually managed to get us excited (something no other project would ever manage to... Wait.). Project Looking Glass was developed for about three years, and it actually saw a 1.0 release in late 2006. It's one of those random projects exploring what we then thought could be the future of computing, right before the iPhone came onto the scene and changed everything. While nothing came out of Project Looking Glass, Schwartz' demo did teach me the phrase "arbitrarily clever", which I'm unusually attached to.

Did Microsoft manually patch their Equation Editor executable?

Friday 17th of November 2017 11:51:53 AM
Really, quite literally, some pretty skilled Microsoft employee or contractor reverse engineered our friend EQNEDT32.EXE, located the flawed code, and corrected it by manually overwriting existing instructions with better ones (making sure to only use the space previously occupied by original instructions). This... This is one hell of a story. The unanswered question is why, exactly, Microsoft felt the need to do this - do they no longer have access to the source code? Has it simply become impossible to set up the correct build environment? Amazing.

How to set up a Pixelbook for programming

Thursday 16th of November 2017 10:47:19 PM
Well, I've really done it. I've taken a pure and unsullied Google Pixelbook, which at one time was fast and secure in all ways, and made it into a crashy mess. My crime? The desire to code. I'm going to walk you through my process for converting this machine into something that's marginally desirable for programming, but I just wanted to warn you before I begin: this isn't easy, clean, intuitive, or practical. There are rumors that Google is working on better ways to make Chrome OS a host for other flavors of Linux or Linux apps, but right now we're basically working with hacks, and hacks hurt. Because these hacks hurt, I'd implore you to read this entire guide before attempting any of the steps so you know what you're getting yourself into, and if you, in fact, desire the results. I think the PixelBook is a stunningly beautiful and fast machine, and while Chrome OS isn't nearly as useless as people often think it is, it clearly isn't the kind of operating system many OSNews readers would prefer. This is a guide to getting a traditional Linux setup up and running.

RISC-V port merged to Linux

Thursday 16th of November 2017 09:56:37 PM
The RISC-V port was just merged to Linux a few minutes ago. This means we will be in the 4.15 release, which should be out about 10 weeks from last Sunday. As soon as the tarballs are created, the RISC-V Linux ABI will be stable, and since we'll ideally be in a glibc release that comes out soon after that we'll be fully ABI stable by early in February. RISC-V is a completely free and open ISA that hasn't seen much adoption just yet.

Scripting the Haiku GUI with 'hey'

Wednesday 15th of November 2017 11:59:56 PM
Haiku's GUI is in principle entirely scriptable. You can change a window's position and size and manipulate pretty much every widget in it. The tool to do this is hey. It sends BMessages to an application, thus emulating what happens if the user clicks on a menu, checkbox, or other widgets.

The Xerox Alto struts its stuff on its 40th birthday

Wednesday 15th of November 2017 11:58:53 PM
The Xerox Alto, widely recognized as the first modern personal computer, pioneered just about every basic concept we are familiar with in computers today. These include windows, bit-mapped computer displays, the whole idea of WYSIWIG interfaces, the cut/paste/copy tools in word processing programs, and pop-up menus. Most of this vision of the "office of the future" was first unveiled at a meeting of Xerox executives held on 10 Nov 1977, which was 40 years ago last week. To celebrate that birthday, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., brought together some of Parc researchers who worked on the Alto on Friday. They put it through its paces in a series of live demos. These demos used an Alto that had been restored to working order over the past eight months. One of the most important computers ever made.

*More than 1 billion Android devices run outdated software*

Tuesday 14th of November 2017 01:13:13 PM
This is horrifying: But even with the data we have, we can take a guess at how many outdated devices are in use. In May 2017, Google announced that there are over two billion active Android devices. If we look at the latest stats (the far right edge), we can see that nearly half of these devices are two years out of date. At this point, we should expect that there are more than one billion devices that are two years out of date! Given Android's update model, we should expect approximately 0% of those devices to ever get updated to a modern version of Android. Whenever I bring up just how humongous of an issue this is, and just how dangerously irresponsible it is to let average consumers use this platform, apologists come out of the woodwork with two arguments as to why I'm an Apple shill or anti-Google: Google Play Services and Project Treble. Google Play Services indeed ensures that a number of parts of your entire Android operating system and stack are updated through Google Play. This is a good move, and in fact, Android is ahead of iOS in this respect, where things like Safari and the browser engine are updated through operating system updates instead of through the App Store - and operating systems updates present a far bigger barrier to updating than mere app updates do. However, vast parts of Android are not updated through the Play Store at all, and pose a serious security threat to users of the platform. Google Play Services are anything but a silver bullet for Android's appalling update situation. Project Treble is the second term people throw around whenever we talk about Android's lack of updates, but I don't think people really understand what Project Treble is, and what problems it does and does not solve. As Ron Amadeo explains in his excellent Android 8.0 review: Project Treble introduces a "Vendor Interface" - a standardized interface that sits between the OS and the hardware. As long as the SoC vendor plugs into the Vendor Interface and the OS plugs into the Vendor Interface, an upgrade to a new version of Android should "just work." OEMs and carriers will still need to be involved in customizing the OS and rolling it out to users, but now the parties involved in an update can "parallelize" the work needed to get an update running. SoC code is no longer the "first" step that everyone else needs to wait on. Treble addresses an important technical aspect of the Android update process by ensuring OEMs have to spend less time tailoring each Android update to every specific SoC and every specific smartphone. However, it doesn't mean OEMs can now just push a button and have the next Google Android code drop ready to go for all of their phones; they still have to port their modifications and other parts of Android, test everything, have it approved by carriers, and push them out to devices worldwide. Project Treble addresses part of the technical aspect of Android updates, but not nearly all of it. While Treble is a huge improvement and clearly repays a huge technical debt of the Android platform, it doesn't actually address the real reason why OEMs are so lax at updating their phones: the political reason. Even in the entirely unrealistic, unlikely, and honestly impossible event Treble solves all technical barriers to updating Android phones, OEMs still have to, you know, actually choose to do so. Even the most expensive and brand-defining Android flagships - the Note, Galaxy S, LG V, and so on - are updated at best only six months after the release of a new version of Android, and even then, the rollout usually takes months, with some countries, regions, carriers, or phones not getting the update until much, much later. This isn't because it really is that hard to update Android phones - it's because OEMs don't care. Samsung doesn't care. LG doesn't care. HTC doesn't care. They'd much rather spend time and resources on selling you the next flagship than updating the one you already paid for. Treble will do nothing to address that. But let's assume that not only will Treble address all technical barriers, but also all political barriers. Entirely unlikely and impossible, I know, but for the sake of argument, let's assume that it does. Even then, it will be at best four to five years before we experience these benefits from Treble, because while Treble is a requirement for new devices shipping with Android 8.0 out of the box, it's entirely optional for existing devices being updated to 8.0. With the current pace of Android updates, that means it will be no earlier than four to five years from now before we truly start enjoying the fruits of the Treble team's labour. At that point, it will have been twelve to thirteen years of accumulating unupdateable, insecure Android devices. The cold and harsh truth is that as a platform, Android is a mess. It was quickly cobbled together in a rushed response to the original iPhone, and ever since, Google has been trying to repay the technical debt resulting from that rushed response, sucking time and resources away from advancing the state of the art in mobile operating systems. As an aside, I have the suspicion Google has already set an internal timeline to move away from Android as we know it today, and move towards a new operating system altogether. I have the suspicion that Treble isn't so much about Android updates as it is about further containerising the Android runtime to make it as easy as possible to run Android applications as-is on a new platform that avoids and learns from the mistakes made by Android. Each and every one of you knows I'm an Android user. I prefer Android over the competition because it allows me to use my phone the way I want to better than the competition. Up until recently, I would choose Android on Apple hardware over iOS on Android hardware - to use that macOS-vs-Windows meme - any day of the week. These days - I'm not so sure I would. Your options as an Android user today? A Pixel phone you probably can't buy anyway because it's only available in three countries, and even if you can buy it, it falls apart at the seams. You can buy a Samsung or HTC or whatever and perpetually run outdated, insecure software. Or you can buy something from a smaller OEM, and suffer through shady nonsense. You have to be deeply enveloped in the Android bubble to not see the dire situation this platform is in. Read more on this exclusive OSNews article...

OnePlus left a backdoor in its devices with root access

Tuesday 14th of November 2017 10:37:35 AM
Just a month ago, OnePlus was caught collecting personally identifiable data from phone owners through incredibly detailed analytics. While the company eventually reversed course on the data collection, another discovery has been made in the software of OnePlus phones. One developer found an application intended for factory testing, and through some investigation and reverse-engineering, was able to obtain root access using it. People often tout OnePlus phones as an alternative to the Pixel line now that Google abandoned the Nexus concept of affordable, high-quality phones. Recent events, however, have made it very clear that you should really steer clear of phones like this, unless you know very well what you're doing.

Google to remove Accessibility Services apps from the Play Store

Monday 13th of November 2017 11:39:35 PM
Some of the most innovative applications on the Play Store are built on using APIs in ways that Google never intended. There are apps that can remap your volume keys to skip music tracks, record and play back touch inputs on webpages or games, and even provide alternative navigation keys so you can use your device’s entire screen. All of these examples that I’ve just mention rely on Android’s Accessibility APIs. But that may soon change, as the Google Play Store team is sending out emails to developers telling them that they can no longer implement Accessibility Services unless they follow Google’s guidelines. Accessibility Services is an attack vector for malicious software, so in that light it makes sense. Of course, that doesn't make it any less frustrating that good, innovative software gets smothered like this. Luckily, this is Android, so the developers can always just distribute their applications outside of the Play Store through sideloading, but that's not exactly a secure solution for most people - and let's be honest, not being in the Play Store will be the death knell for most developers. The real solution would be to provide APIs for things like this, but I doubt Google is going to invest any time, effort, and money into creating such APIs, since they seem more concerned with shoving useless digital assistants down our throats.

How Firefox got fast again

Monday 13th of November 2017 11:04:55 PM
People have noticed that Firefox is fast again. Over the past seven months, we’ve been rapidly replacing major parts of the engine, introducing Rust and parts of Servo to Firefox. Plus, we’ve had a browser performance strike force scouring the codebase for performance issues, both obvious and non-obvious. We call this Project Quantum, and the first general release of the reborn Firefox Quantum comes out tomorrow. orthographic drawing of jet engine But this doesn’t mean that our work is done. It doesn’t mean that today’s Firefox is as fast and responsive as it’s going to be. So, let’s look at how Firefox got fast again and where it’s going to get faster. I should definitely give Firefox another try - I've tried it over the years but it always felt a little sluggish compared to the competition. Chrome's gotten way too fat over the years, so I've resorted to using Edge on my main computer lately - it isn't perfect, but it it sure is fast, and places very little strain on my machine. I want my browser to get out of my way, and gobbling up processor cycles is exactly not that.

More in Tux Machines

Server/Back End: Orange, Oracle, Docker

  • With OPNFV, Orange Plans a Full-Scale Rollout of Network Functions Virtualization
    Over the past few years, the entire networking industry has begun to transform as network demands rapidly increase. This is true for both the technology itself and the way in which carriers — like my employer Orange, as well as vendors and other service providers — adapt and evolve their approach to meeting these demands. As a result, we’re becoming more and more agile and adept in how we virtualize our evolving network and a shifting ecosystem.” keep up with growing demands and the need to virtualize.
  • Oracle joins the serverless fray with Fn
    With its open source Fn project, Oracle is looking to make a splash in serverless computing. Fn is a container native serverless platform that can be run on-premises or in the cloud. It requires the use of Docker containers. Fn developers will be able to write functions in Java initially, with Go, Ruby, Python, PHP, and Node.js support planned for later. Applications can be built and run without users having to provision, scale, or manage servers, by using the cloud.
  • DevOps, Docker, and Empathy
    Just because we’re using containers doesn’t mean that we “do DevOps.” Docker is not some kind of fairy dust that you can sprinkle around your code and applications to deploy faster. It is only a tool, albeit a very powerful one. And like every tool, it can be misused. Guess what happens when we misuse a power tool? Power fuck-ups. Let’s talk about it. I’m writing this because I have seen a few people expressing very deep frustrations about Docker, and I would like to extend a hand to show them that instead of being a giant pain in the neck, Docker can help them to work better, and (if that’s their goal) be an advantage rather than a burden in their journey (or their “digital transformation” if we want to speak fancy.)

BlackArch Linux Ethical Hacking OS Gets Linux Kernel 4.14.4, Updated Installer

Coming hot on the BlackArch Linux 2017.11.24 ISO snapshot released two weeks ago with more than 50 new hacking tools, the BlackArch Linux 2017.12.11 ISO images are now available to download incorporating the latest version of the BlackArch Installer utility, which fixes a few critical bugs. The bugs were related to a login loop and the supported window managers, and they are now fixed in BlackArch Installer 0.6.2, which is included in the BlackArch Linux 2017.11.24 ISO snapshot. Also included is the Linux 4.14.4 kernel and many of the latest system updates and security patches released upstream. Read more

System76 Enables HiDPI Support on All of Their Linux Laptops and Desktops

We reported last week on the upcoming support for HiDPI displays coming to System76's for its Ubuntu-based Pop!_OS Linux distro, and it didn't take long for them to release the new daemon that would enable HiDPI support on all of its laptops and desktops where Ubuntu or Pop!_OS Linux is installed. HiDPI support was becoming an urgent necessity for System76 as more and more customers started asking for assistance in setting up their displays. And while the Wayland display server isn't yet mature enough to be adopted by all GPU vendors and completely replace X.Org, there was a need for a compromise. Read more

Mint 18.3: The best Linux desktop takes big steps forward

I run many operating systems every day, from macOS, to Windows 7 and 10, to more Linux desktop distributions than you can shake a stick at. And, once more, as a power-user's power user, I've found the latest version of Linux Mint to be the best of the best. Why? Let's start with the basics. MacOS has been shown to have the worst bug I've ever seen in an operating system: The macOS High Sierra security hole that lets anyone get full administrative control. Windows, old and new, continues to have multiple security bugs every lousy month. Linux? Sure, it has security problems. How many of these bugs have had serious desktop impacts? Let me see now. None. Yes, that would be zero. Read more