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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 19 min ago

The dream of Ara

Wednesday 11th of January 2017 10:04:58 PM
VentureBeat has a great, in-depth sourced look at the rise of and fall of Ara, Google's modular phone project. One paragraph in particular stands out to me. "One of the modules that we were working on was basically like a tiny aquarium for your phone," said the source. "It was a little tiny biome that would go inside of a module and it would have a microscope on the bottom part, and it would have live tardigrades and algae - some people call them water bears. They are the tiniest living organism. We had this idea to build a tardigrade module and we'd build a microscope with it. So you'd have this app on your phone and you could essentially look at the tardigrades up close and watch them floating around." Brooklyn-based art, design, and technology agency Midnight Commercial conceived the idea, and was commissioned by Google to build it, demonstrating the depth of what developers could create. If the people working on Ara had the guts to come up with and actually build things like this, they were on the right track. This is exactly the kind of crazy, outlandish stuff that would be a perfect fit and marketing gimmick for a crazy, outlandish product like Ara. I am incredibly sad that Ara has been cancelled. I realise full well it would never be the kind of massive product like the Galaxy series or the iPhone, but I don't care - I just really, really like the idea, the concept, and the possibilities, mass appeal be damned.

Using QEMU to explore the Mac OS Nanokernel

Tuesday 10th of January 2017 11:45:06 PM
The beauty of the internet: there's always someone else who is also interested in the things you're interested in. It turns out, even people who are working on trying to bring Mac OS 9 to the PowerPC G5 can find each other online. Now, it's important to note that even the people themselves acknowledge that this project is a very, very long shot and unlikely to succeed - but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying and learning something along the way. This project (we call it "CountDown G5") is ambitious, sure, and unlikely to succeed. But a few things make it worthwhile: I am learning a lot about low-level kernel programming, which I find fascinating as a hobby. We are crafting a build system in MPW, inspired by that source leak, for very low-level assembly and linking of a NewWorld ROM. This will be useful to other hackers in the future. We have an intermediate goal of increasing the usable logical address space on OS 9 to near the 2 GB hardware limit. The G5 isn't all that different. It has facilities for running 32-bit OSes, and early G5s thankfully left the Block Allocation Table mechanism intact. Be sure to follow the thread on the forum if you're interested in this type of exotic hacking. Meanwhile, also definitely 100% be sure to follow Steven Troughton-Smith, who, over the past few days, has been doing an absolutely crazy amount of work on things that go far beyond my comfort zone (he pointed the above thread out to me just now). He's been investigating all the work the Qemu people have been doing on PowerPC emulation, and he's trying to get all the early and often exotic Mac OS X builds to boot on Qemu. This includes things like altering and recompiling BootX, diving deep into Open Firmware to remove a number of 'fixes' put in place that prevented early OS X versions from booting, and tons of other things.

Jehanne: a Plan 9-based operating system

Tuesday 10th of January 2017 11:21:58 PM
Jehanne is a new distributed operating system designed for programmers. The core values that lead the development are simplicity and security. Jehanne is a fork of Harvey (which in turn is a fork of Plan 9 from Bell Labs merged with Nix's kernel sources) but diverges from the design and conventions of its ancestors whenever they are at odds with its goals. Read about development progress made in 2016.

Announcing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002

Monday 9th of January 2017 11:06:40 PM
Today we are excited to be releasing Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 15002 for PC to Windows Insiders in the Fast ring. This is a BIG update so please take time to look through all of the new changes we detail below. Usually, these new Windows 10 Insider Preview builds are a pretty low-key affair, but this one has a ton of changes, new features and fixes, and the blog post does a good job of summarising them. They cover things like improving resizing performance, various Edge updates, tile folders in the Start menu, a new share UI, and the first steps towards replacing the dreaded Character Map with a new, faster way of inputting special characters. It really feels like Microsoft is at the point where they can address the various relatively minor things that start adding up when you use Windows.

Rux: a hobbyist microkernel written in Rust

Monday 9th of January 2017 10:25:53 PM
Rux's goal is to become a safe general-purpose microkernel. It tries to take advantage of Rust's memory model - ownership and lifetime. While the kernel will be small, unsafe code should be kept minimal. This makes updating functionalities of the kernel hassle-free. Rux uses a design that is similar to seL4. While there won't be formal verification in the short term, it tries to address some design issues of seL4, for example, capability allocation. The code is very approachable for anyone interested in capability-based microkernel design.

Robigalia: Rust on seL4

Monday 9th of January 2017 03:32:29 PM
Robigalia is a project with two goals: Build a robust Rust ecosystem around seL4 2. Create a highly reliable persistent capability OS, continuing the heritage of EROS and Coyotos The year-in-review blogpost has a nice overview of where the project stands.

Forgotten audio formats: Elcaset

Monday 9th of January 2017 11:19:55 AM
Back before all-digital music, back before the Digital Compact Cassette, back before even the Digital Audio Tape existed, there was a strange audio device that briefly captured the imagination of Hi-Fi freaks across the world. The Elcaset, as it was called, was an enlarged cassette that started in Japan, wove its hidden, spinning spools around the world, and then finished, appropriately enough, in Finland. As someone who swore by MiniDisc up until quite recently, I love obscure audio formats. This article is from the summer of last year, but I only came across it just now thanks to Atlas Obscura.

Viva Amiga documentary shows why poeple still use the Amiga

Monday 9th of January 2017 11:07:42 AM
Viva Amiga is a wonderful look at the the history of the platform, the people who built it, and the users who loved it. The opening title says it all: "One Amazing Computer. One chance to save the company. One chance to win the PC wars." This message sets the stage nicely for a dramatic and passionate tale. You can watch the documentary online, but it isn't free.

Alexa: Amazon's operating system

Thursday 5th of January 2017 11:02:34 PM
In short, Amazon is building the operating system of the home - its name is Alexa - and it has all of the qualities of an operating system you might expect: All kinds of hardware manufacturers are lining up to build Alexa-enabled devices, and will inevitably compete with each other to improve quality and lower prices. Even more devices and appliances are plugging into Alexa's easy-to-use and flexible framework, creating the conditions for a moat: appliances are a lot more expensive than software, and much longer lasting, which means everyone who buys something that works with Alexa is much less likely to switch. It's definitely an interesting case to make - and Ben Thomspon does it well - but I still have a very, very hard time seeing voice-driven interfaces as anything but a gimmick at this point in time. Every point I made about this subject in the Summer of 2016 still stands today - limited functionality, terrible speech recognition, inability to deal with dialects and accents, and the complete and utter lack of support for people who live multilingual lives. I can't hammer this last point home often enough: not a single one of the voice-driven interfaces we have today - Alexa, Siri, Google Now, Google Assistant, Cortana, whatever - support multilingual use. Some of them may allow you to go deep into a menu structure to change input language (while some, like smartwatches, even require a full wipe and reset), but that's not a solution to the problem of switching language sometimes even several times a minute, something multilingual people have to do dozens of times every day. And again - there are literally hundreds of millions of people who lead multilingual lives. Heck, Alexa is only available in English and German! If voice-driven interfaces are really as important as people make them out to be, they've got at least a decade of development ahead of them before they become actually useful and usable for the vast majority of the world.

Project NEON: the incremental upgrade for Windows 10's design

Thursday 5th of January 2017 10:49:54 PM
Late last year we reported on Project NEON - the upcoming UI upgrade for Windows 10. Recently we managed a closer look at Microsoft's internal plans for Project NEON and the future of Windows 10's UI (user-interface). Right of the bat I don't want readers to be fooled by those who suggest this is a major or a complete overhaul of Windows 10's design language. In fact, it's a fairly minor update that builds on the current Windows 10 UI (aka MDL2). Nevertheless, change is always exciting, so here's an early look at NEON. Project NEON will heavily focus on animations, simplicity, and consistency - essentially bringing back Windows 7's Aero Glass and mixing it up with animations like the ones from the Windows Phone 8/7 era. This won't be the final design that makes it into Windows, but still - they should really fix that ridiculous border around the titlebar widgets. Other than that - it seems they want to make it less bright and colourful than Metro, which I guess a lot of people will be happy about. Question remains though - there are barely any Metro applications worth using today, so will this change anything?

Rust-based Redox OS 0.0.6 Released

Wednesday 4th of January 2017 10:49:55 PM
Redox OS, a microkernel OS written in Rust, hast just released version 0.0.6, which includes bug fixes and and update to Rust. From the project's 2016 in review post: Today, we have a pretty mature project. It contains many core, usable components. It is already usable, but it is still not mature yet to be used as a replacement for Linux (like BSD is), but we’re slowly getting there. The kernel was rewritten, a memory allocator was added, rendering libc out of the dependency chain, several applications were added, a file system were added, a window manager and display server was implemented, and so on.

Rust-based Redux OS 0.0.6 Released

Wednesday 4th of January 2017 10:49:55 PM
Redux OS, a microkernel OS written in Rust, hast just released version 0.0.6, which includes bug fixes and and update to Rust. From the project's 2016 in review post: Today, we have a pretty mature project. It contains many core, usable components. It is already usable, but it is still not mature yet to be used as a replacement for Linux (like BSD is), but we’re slowly getting there. The kernel was rewritten, a memory allocator was added, rendering libc out of the dependency chain, several applications were added, a file system were added, a window manager and display server was implemented, and so on.

TCL introduces a QWERTY Android-powered BlackBerry

Wednesday 4th of January 2017 10:46:58 PM
Ahead of CES 2017, TCL teased that they would be offering a look at the first device to come out of their smartphone software and brand licensing deal with BlackBerry and they've now made good on that, though, they're keeping a lot of the finer details surrounding the phone secret for just a bit longer. It runs Android, and it's got a keyboard. What more do you need to know? The world needs more of these types of phones.

Apple's 2016 in review

Wednesday 4th of January 2017 10:45:05 PM
This has been the winter of our discontent. 2016 was the year the tone changed. There's always been a lot of criticism and griping about anything Apple does (and doesn't do - it can't win) but in 2016 I feel like the tone of the chatter about Apple changed and got a lot more negative. This is worrisome on a number of levels and I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm used to watching people kvetch about the company, but this seems - different. One reason: a lot of the criticisms are correct. Apple, for the first time in over a decade, simply isn't firing on all cylinders. Please don't interpret that as "Apple is doomed" because it's not, but there are things it's doing a lot less well than it could - and has. Apple's out of sync with itself. Here are a few of the things I think indicate Apple has gotten itself out of kilter and is in need of some course correction. This post by Chuq Von Rospach has been widely shared and debated all over the web, and it has some great insights into Apple's 2016. Note that Chuq Von Rospach is a former Apple (and Palm) employee, and certainly has the credentials to talk about these matters.

Two old stories, more relevant today than ever

Tuesday 3rd of January 2017 10:47:52 PM
Me, almost seven years ago (2010), about the dearth of news about alternative operating systems: OSNews has moved on. As much as it saddens me to see the technology world settling on Macwinilux (don't flatter yourself, those three are pretty much the same), it's a fact I have to deal with. It's my job to fill OSNews with lots of interesting news to discuss, and even though I would love to be able to talk about how new and exciting operating systems are going to take over the desktop world, I have to be realistic too. Geeks (meaning you and I) have made a very clear choice, and it doesn't seem like anything's about to bring back those exciting early days of OSNews. Me, almost four years ago (2013), about why there are no mobile hobbyist operating systems: So, what is the cause? I personally think it has to do with how we perceive our smartphones and tablets. They are much more personal, and I think we are less open to messing with them than we were to messing with our PCs a decade ago. Most of us have only one modern smartphone, and we use it every day, so we can't live with a hobbyist operating system where, say, 3G doesn't work or WiFi disconnects every five seconds due to undocumented stuff in the chip. Android ROMs may sound like an exception, but they really aren't; virtually all of them support your hardware fully. With people unwilling to sacrifice their smartphone to play with alternative systems, it makes sense that fewer people are interested in developing these alternative systems. It is, perhaps, telling that Robert Szeleney, the programmer behind SkyOS, moved to developing mobile games. And that Wim Cools, the developer of TriangleOS, moved towards developing web applications for small businesses. Hard work that puts food on the table, sure, and as people get older priorities shift, but you would expect new people to step up to the plate and take over. So far, this hasn't happened. All we can hope for is that the mobile revolution is still young, and that we should give it some more time for a new, younger generation of gifted programmers to go for that grand slam. I sincerely hope so. I don't know, for some mysterious reason I figured I'd link to these seven and four year old stories.

FaceTime blamed for girl's highway crash death in lawsuit

Tuesday 3rd of January 2017 09:25:38 PM
Apple, maker of the ever-popular iPhone, is being sued on allegations that its FaceTime app contributed to the highway death of a 5-year-old girl named Moriah Modisette. In Denton County, Texas, on Christmas Eve 2014, a man smashed into the Modisette family's Toyota Camry as it stopped in traffic on southbound Interstate 35W. Police say that the driver was using the FaceTime application and never saw the brake lights ahead of him. In addition to the tragedy, father James, mother Bethany, and daughter Isabella all suffered non-fatal injuries during the crash two years ago. The Modisette family now wants Apple to pay damages for the mishap. The family alleges the Cupertino, California-based technology company had a duty to warn motorists against using the app and that it could have used patented technology to prohibit drivers from utilizing the app. I feel for the grieving family, of course, but this is, in no way, Apple's fault. The only person responsible for the horrible death is the driver using Facetime, and possibly - although that's probably quite a stretch - the person he was using FaceTime with, but that's it.

Making a game in PICO-8

Tuesday 3rd of January 2017 09:17:55 PM
I'm going to use PICO-8, which its creator, Joseph "Zep" White, calls a 'fantasy console', but really it's like an indie-fied emulator of the computers I grew up with, like the BBC B. When you start it, you're presented with a 128 by 128 pixel display glitching into life, this little do-do-do-do! jingle, and a command prompt. Everything you need to make games is right there: a mini Lua code editor, sprite and map editors, and sound and music editors. It's reactive, instant to test to see if things work, and generally delightful. And the stuff people have made in it is extraordinary. Little short-form games: colourful, fun, immediate, varied. Type SPLORE into the command prompt and this little browser for games posted to the PICO-8 forum comes up. Since no game, including its graphics, is bigger than a 65K text file, you're playing them pretty much instantly. It's lovely. This is just the first article in a series.

Brainfuck: code that was designed to hurt

Tuesday 3rd of January 2017 08:19:04 PM
Software is the umbrella term for computer programs and libraries, the coded logic that makes our machines tick. At the root of all software is the code, the instructions that enable a human to tell a machine what to do. This code is written in one of the hundreds of different programming languages - such as C, Java, or Python - each of which has its own eccentricities and context-dependent advantages. Yet regardless of the programming language being used, the functionality, logic, and efficiency of the language are always paramount - unless, of course, you're talking about

Harvey OS meets RISC-V

Monday 2nd of January 2017 11:53:58 PM
Ending this year, Ron G. Minnich has got Harvey running in RISC-V architecture, booting Harvey on Spike (ISA Simulator) and running rc shell on it. But he never rests and now is working on bringing it to QEMU and to FPGA. It's a big step for Harvey because we fixed some multiarch issues across the source and Ron found some bugs in timer interrupts in the hardware, so we all learned something. What is Harvey OS? Harvey is an effort to provide a modern, distributed, 64 bit operating system. A different environment for researching and finding new lines of work. It can be built with gcc and clang and has an ANSI/POSIX compliant subsystem. Two news items about alternative operating systems in a row? The year's off to a good start.

Announcing AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition, Update 1

Monday 2nd of January 2017 11:49:13 PM
Hyperion Entertainment is proud to announce the immediate release of AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 1 for all supported systems including PowerPC equipped 68K Amiga machines. Building on the existing AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition platform, Update 1 is the culmination of many man-months of work by our dedicated team of AmigaOS developers, translators and beta testers. It delivers a selection of new features and a host of bug fixes. The naming scheme still confuses me.

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Ubuntu 16.04.2 LTS Delayed Until February 2, Will Bring Linux 4.8, Newer Mesa

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Red Hat Financial News

Wine 2.0 RC6 released