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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 58 min ago

Bitrig 1.0 released

Thursday 4th of December 2014 11:30:44 PM
Bitrig 1.0 - an OpenBSD fork - has been released. Why, exactly, did Bitrig fork OpenBSD? OpenBSD is an amazing project and has some of the best code around but some of us are of the opinion that it could use a bit of modernization. OpenBSD is a very security conscious project and, correspondingly, has to be more conservative with features. We want to be less restrictive with the codebase when it comes to experimenting with features.

AmiKit 8 with MUI 4 released

Thursday 4th of December 2014 08:30:10 PM
AmiKit 8 has been released, with MUI 4. It brings the same experience as AmigaOS4 users have been enjoying for some time. Actually, MUI 4 for AmigaOS4 and MUI 4 for AmigaOS3 are built from the same source code, so any similarities between the two builds are 100% intended! Great news for AmigaOS 3.x users. The previous version of MUI is 17 years old.

Inside DuckDuckGo, Google's tiniest, fiercest competitor

Thursday 4th of December 2014 08:27:12 PM
When Gabriel Weinberg launched a search engine in 2008, plenty of people thought he was insane. How could DuckDuckGo, a tiny, Philadelphia-based startup, go up against Google? One way, he wagered, was by respecting user privacy. Six years later, we're living in the post-Snowden era, and the idea doesn't seem so crazy. In fact, DuckDuckGo is exploding.

Keep your identity small

Thursday 4th of December 2014 12:53:55 PM
Paul Graham, way back in 2009: More generally, you can have a fruitful discussion about a topic only if it doesn't engage the identities of any of the participants. What makes politics and religion such minefields is that they engage so many people's identities. But you could in principle have a useful conversation about them with some people. And there are other topics that might seem harmless, like the relative merits of Ford and Chevy pickup trucks, that you couldn't safely talk about with others. And the key takeaway: Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you. Run a site like OSNews for almost a decade, and you'll see this article come to life every single day.

Fixing PC-BSD upgrade issues

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 11:31:41 PM
A few weeks ago the PC-BSD project released version 10.1 of its FreeBSD-based operating system. While it was expected that existing users would be able to upgrade smoothly from PC-BSD 10.0 to 10.1, some community members reported problems with the project's upgrade process. The PC-BSD team has acknowledged the problem and is working on a fix. We are working on a new upgrade patch that will hopefully solve the upgrade problem for some of you who have still not been able to successfully upgrade to 10.1. What we are planning on doing is incorporating just freebsd-update to handle this upgrade for the kernel and let the packages be installed seperately after the kernel has been upgraded. Going forward we have some ideas on how we can improve the updating process to give a better end user experience for PC-BSD. Just one idea we’ve been thinking about is giving ourselves a little more time before letting RELEASE updates become available to the public. During the extra time period we can ask some of our more advanced users to go ahead and install the “beta” updates and provide us with feedback if issues come up that we were not able to find during our initial testing of the update. The project hopes to implement a simplified upgrade experience and more tests to insure smoother upgrades to future releases.

Apple CarPlay vs. Google Android Auto - comparison

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 11:31:02 PM
Interesting video comparing Android Auto with Apple's CarPlay (via Daring Fireball). The takeaway for me is clear - CarPlay looks like a mess, with iOS 6 stuff intermingled with vague iOS 7+ designs, but without any clear vision tying it all together. In short, it's ugly as sin. Android Auto looks fantastic and coherent - but it seems far too distracting to be safe to use while driving. It looks too good to be in a car in which it is very easy to either kill yourself or someone else - or both. Interesting, though, that car makers are simply putting both systems in their cars.

Thoughts on Google+

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 11:26:52 PM
When I thought about what motivated me to lob this snarkbomb, I realized I was looking for a reaction. I wanted some kind of defiant response to questions that've recently bugged me - What's going on with Google+? Where is it headed? What the fuck is it for, anyway? Good question.

24/192 music downloads and why they make no sense

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 01:48:30 PM
In the past few weeks, I've had conversations with intelligent, scientifically minded individuals who believe in 24/192 downloads and want to know how anyone could possibly disagree. They asked good questions that deserve detailed answers. I was also interested in what motivated high-rate digital audio advocacy. Responses indicate that few people understand basic signal theory or the sampling theorem, which is hardly surprising. Misunderstandings of the mathematics, technology, and physiology arose in most of the conversations, often asserted by professionals who otherwise possessed significant audio expertise. Some even argued that the sampling theorem doesn't really explain how digital audio actually works. Misinformation and superstition only serve charlatans. So, let's cover some of the basics of why 24/192 distribution makes no sense before suggesting some improvements that actually do. The article is from 2012, but it's still an interesting insight into these highly technical matters few of us understand properly.

MB Chronowing by Hewlett-Packard smartwatch review

Wednesday 3rd of December 2014 12:36:54 AM
My feelings about the Michael Bastian MB Chronowing are positive, but my larger feelings about the smartwatch segment are still reserved. I will be the first person to announce that "we have made it" with a truly appealing smartwatch that will be a good buy for most consumers. Smartwatches right now are products that do work, have some downsides, and that show incredible promise for the future. This smartwatch differs greatly from Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch - but it's an interesting approach nonetheless. It looks a lot more like a traditional watch than the aforementioned two, which could certainly have its place. The Apple Watch looks far too techy and computer-y to me (it's essentially Apple cramming an iPhone onto your wrist, warts and all - the Windows PocketPC of smartwatches), whereas most Android Wear devices still need a lot of work (the bugs!). This intermediate approach bridges the gap between a proper, classic watch and the techy stuff we see from Apple. This device sits on the classic watch end of the spectrum, whereas the Moto 360 sits closer to the modern end of the spectrum. The Apple Watch goes far beyond that, leaving the classic watch behind, trying to sell us a miniature smartphone on our wrists, just as Samsung is doing with the Gear S - with all the miniature, finnicky and convoluted controls that come with it. I bought a Moto 360 last Saturday, and while I certainly like it - it's a fascinating feat of engineering and a lot of fun to play with - I still fail to see the need for a miniature smartphone on your wrist. Android Wear allows for proper, full applications, but the display is just too small for these to be of any practical use. The notification stuff, however - the very centerpiece of Android Wear - is amazing, and you won't realise until you wear one of these for a while just how liberating it is not to fumble around for your smartphone while out and about. For someone like me, who runs his own translation business and is always available to my clients, this is just great. I don't believe, however, that a smartwatch should do much more than handle notifications, which makes the application-centric approach of the Apple Watch so incredibly puzzling to me. But then, I'm guessing Apple is a lot smarter than me, and apparently they believe there's a market for a tiny iPhone with finnicky applications and controls on your wrist. I can't wait to find out how this one pans out - which one will come out on top? Google's minimalist approach, or Apple's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach?

AnandTech's Android 5.0 Lollipop review

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014 09:08:17 PM
AnandTech reviews Android 5.0 Lollipop, and concludes: I think Google really hit the nail on the head with Android Lollipop. It evokes the same sort of feeling that the release of iOS 7 did, without some of the negative experiences that followed. Getting a brand new interface is always exciting, as it can dramatically change how it feels to use your phone. Moving from KitKat to Lollipop still provides you with a familiar Android experience, but it almost feels like getting a brand new phone in a way. There's a brand new UI, and big improvements to performance. But unlike the upgrade to iOS 7, Android Lollipop hasn't plagued my devices with application crashes and other bugs. In fact, I haven't really noticed any significant bugs at all after upgrading to Lollipop, which says a great deal about the work Google has put into testing to make sure things are stable. My experience with Android 5.0 Lollipop on my Nexus 5 have been almost entirely positive. It's still Android, and it won't magically draw people away from iOS, but as a whole, it's a huge leap forward over what came before.

More Chromebooks sold to US schools than iPads in Q3

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014 12:36:27 AM
According to the latest data from IDC, Google, for the first time ever, has overtaken Apple in United States schools. The research firm claims that Google shipped 715,000 Chromebooks to schools in the third quarter, while Apple shipped 702,000 iPads to schools. Chromebooks as a whole now account for a quarter of the educational market (via FT). IDC says that the lower-cost of Chromebooks when compared to iPads is a huge factor for school districts. Chromebooks start at $199, while last year's iPad Air, with educational discounts applied, costs $379. The research firm also says that many school corporations prefer the full keyboard found on Chromebooks instead of the touchscreen found on iPads. Some schools that use iPads, however, supply students with a keyboard case as well, but that only further increases the cost of iPads compared to Chromebooks. IT departments also tend to favor Chromebooks because they are simpler to manage when compared to iPads. The US education market is important to Apple, so it's remarkable to see Chromebooks do so well there. In the meantime, here in The Netherlands, I've still yet to see one in the wild.

The Puzzlephone is a modular cellphone

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014 12:30:33 AM
Google's Project Ara isn't the only hope for phones with replaceable and upgradeable parts. Finland's Circular Devices is developing an alternative concept called the Puzzlephone, which breaks the handset down into three constituent elements. The phone's Spine provides the LCD, speakers and basic structure, its Heart contains the battery and secondary electronics, and its Brain has the processor and camera modules." The concept of a modular smartphone seems to be attracting more attention. Interesting.

Huawei: "Nobody made any money in Windows Phone"

Tuesday 2nd of December 2014 12:28:32 AM
One area Huawei is unlikely to return to, unless the market changes: Windows Phone. Huawei produced two models running Microsoft's smartphone OS before it said it was putting its plans for future Windows Phones on hold. "We didn't make any money in Windows Phone," Kelly said. "Nobody made any money in Windows Phone." Of course nobody is making any money with Windows Phone. Why do you think Microsoft had to rescue the failing smartphone business from Nokia?

Linux Mint 17.1 released

Monday 1st of December 2014 06:20:04 PM
Linux Mint, one of the most popular desktop Linux distributions, has released the latest version in their 17.x series. Mint 17.x is a long term support series that will be supported through to 2019 and is binary compatible with Ubuntu 14.04. The launch of Linux Mint 17.1 includes a number of new features and small improvements. Software updating and kernel selection have been improved. The MATE desktop edition ships with two working window managers, Marco for basic funtionality and Compiz for visual effects. The Cinnamon edition of Mint also features some improvements, particularly more keyboard short-cuts and reduced memory usage. Both editions of Linux Mint feature a pastbin command which makes it easy to share image and log data on-line.

Chinese mobile application UI trends

Monday 1st of December 2014 06:19:40 PM
One day, for the fun of it, I started writing a list in my notebook of all the things that are different between apps here and those I'm accustomed to using and creating back in the US. When I finished, I was surprised by how long the list was, so it seemed fitting to flesh it out into a post. Very interesting for anyone thinking of developing software in or for China.

Sony's unveils e-paper watch

Saturday 29th of November 2014 12:37:30 AM
Two days ago, we heard of Sony's plans to build a watch made entirely of e-paper - one where the band and the watch face would both change in response to the user's wrist gestures. It sounded wild and provocatively different, but what we really wanted to know was what it looked like. As it turns out, that watch is already in the public eye, though Sony's involvement had until now been kept clandestine so as to judge the product on its own merits. Say hello to the FES Watch. Certainly an interesting concept, but I'm not sure I like the entire band being e-paper - it just looks kind of like those glowsticks you can slap around your wrist that were cool when I was like 6.

OnePlus responds to Cyanogen's exclusive Micromax partnership

Saturday 29th of November 2014 12:34:56 AM
OnePlus has addressed its Indian users regarding the recent announcement that Cyanogen has made a deal with Indian handset manufacturer Micromax. The deal gives exclusive rights to Cyanogen's software to Micromax in India, leaving out the OnePlus One, which is powered by Cyanogen. Naturally, OnePlus expressed disappointment in the deal. Additionally, OnePlus says they are bewildered at this move by Cyanogen. The two companies have previously cooperated on the launch of the OnePlus One in 17 countries, including India. The company does say that the One will continue to receive software updates globally, but apologizes to Indian customers who feel deceived. What a mess.

Genode 14.11 features the Intel wireless stack

Friday 28th of November 2014 04:49:09 PM
The just released version 14.11 of the Genode OS framework complements the framework's arsenal of device drivers with the Intel wireless stack. This way, Genode enables the realization of microkernel-based systems on modern laptops without relying on any kind of "device-driver OS" or "Dom0". Other highlights of the release are a new dynamic linker, VirtualBox 4.3.16 on the NOVA hypervisor, a new scheduler for the HW kernel, and networking for the Raspberry Pi. WiFi stacks are known to be extremely complex. In the Linux kernel, it is certainly one of the most sophisticated driver subsystems besides GPU drivers. From the perspective of an alternative OS, it is quite frightening. On the other hand, WiFi is an universally required feature for a general-purpose OS by today's standards. Therefore, the Genode project had to face the issue to enable a full WiFi stack on top of the framework sooner or later. In spring this year, the Genode team finally took on the engineering feat to transplant the Intel wireless stack from Linux to a user-level component on Genode. This line of work was more demanding than originally anticipated. The biggest hurdle was to get a grasp on the interactions between the various involved protocols and mechanisms such as mac80211, cfg80211, nl80211, the netlink API, AF_NETLINK, and the WPA supplicant. The actual porting work followed the approach of prior porting efforts like the Linux USB and TCP/IP subsystems. All Linux kernel threads are executed by a single user-level thread that cooperatively schedules each kernel thread as a light-weight execution context. Compared to the prior porting efforts, the driver environment for the WiFi stack is far more complex. About 8,500 lines of environment code had to be provided to bring the 215,000 lines of WiFi stack to life. However, almost no original code had to be changed, which will make future updates relatively easy. From its very beginning, Genode was designed to manage resources via a trading mechanism. For example, when a client component connects to a server component, it can provide a part of its own memory budget to the server. This way, the server does not need to perform allocations from its own resources on behalf of its client, which mitigates the risk for denial-of-service attacks driven by malicious clients. This scheme works well for memory but it had not been employed for CPU time, yet. The reason was the lack of the scheduling facilities offered by the kernels supported by Genode. However, with their custom kernel called "base-hw", the Genode developers were finally able to pursue this idea. The outcome of this line of work is featured in the new release. Besides the WiFi stack and the new scheduler, Genode 14.11 comes with an upgrade of VirtualBox to version 4.3.16 that can be executed directly on the NOVA microhypervisor, a new dynamic linker, added GUI components, and networking support for the Raspberry Pi. The full story behind all those topics is covered by the release documentation.

Debian fork promises no systemd, asks for donations

Friday 28th of November 2014 12:09:46 AM
The Debian fork website, put together by the Veteran Unix Admins (VUA) group, has annouced the VUA has decided to fork the popular Debian GNU/Linux distribution. The VUA is critical of Debian's decision to adopt systemd as the distribution's default init software and to allow software packaged for Debian to depend directly on systemd. The VUA plans to create a fork of Debian using SysV Init as the default init software and is asking for donations to support the endevor. The default init system in the next Debian v8 "Jessie" release will be systemd, bringing along a deep web of dependencies. We need to individuate those dependencies, clean them from all packages affected and provide an alternative repository where to get them. The stability of our fork is the main priority in this phase. There has been a lot of debate over systemd in the Debian community in the past few months and it will be interesting to see if this non-systemd fork of Debian gains support.

Yandex' new browser is a bold UI experiment

Friday 28th of November 2014 12:09:00 AM
Russian internet giant Yandex has launched an alpha version of its new Chromium-based browser for Windows and Mac OS X that incorporates a few interesting ideas of how a modern browser might look. The main difference from the interface of Chrome or Firefox is the ultimate minimalism and the fact that the tabs are moved to the bottom of the page. It actually looks quite appealing. More information and download links can be found in Yandex' blog post.

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