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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 59 sec ago

Facebook's new messaging app aimed at those 13 and under

Monday 4th of December 2017 09:01:55 PM
On Monday, Facebook announced Messenger Kids, a stand-alone mobile app that allows children age 13 and under to use the service. The point of the new app, the company said, was to provide a more controlled environment for the types of activity that are already occurring across smartphones and tablets among families. There's only one possible response here.

The Surface beast

Monday 4th of December 2017 08:58:19 PM
For me the Surface Book 2 was the MacBook Pro that we had all wanted/expected from Apple, it just wears a different logo. While other reviews will read off the spec sheets and talk about the 17 hour battery life and GX yadda yadda yadda processor, they sometimes forget that we (the creative professionals) use these as tools. What Microsoft has done with the Surface Book 2 is make a system void of gimmicks, because gimmicks don't hold up in the working world. Our jobs will not benefit from being able to tap an emoji on a scroll bar, they will benefit from the ability to get work done. As a photographer, it feels extremely odd to say this, but I sincerely feel that the Surface Book 2 is not only a strong contender for the laptop to own, but actually the clear cut choice of the computer to have on set. There seems to be a lot of interest in Surface from people disappointed with the recent MacBook Pros.

Ubuntu 17.10: return of the GNOME

Saturday 2nd of December 2017 12:06:57 AM
Ars Technica once again provides us with an in-depth Ubuntu review: If you've been following the Linux world at all, you know this has been an entire year for spring cleaning. Early in 2017, Canonical stopped work on its homegrown Unity desktop, Mir display server, and its larger vision of 'convergence' - a unified interface for Ubuntu for phones, tablets, and desktops. And now almost exactly six years after Ubuntu first switched from GNOME 2 to the Unity desktop, that has been dropped, too. The distro is back to GNOME, and Canonical recently released Ubuntu 17.10, a major update with some significant changes coming to the popular Ubuntu Linux operating system. In light of the GNOME switch, this release seems like more of a homecoming than an entirely new voyage. But that said, Ubuntu 17.10 simultaneously feels very much like the start of a new voyage for Ubuntu.

'Break up Google and Facebook if you ever want innovation'

Saturday 2nd of December 2017 12:04:27 AM
If the tech industry wants another wave of innovation to match the PC or the internet, Google and Facebook must be broken up, journalist and film producer Jonathan Taplin told an audience at University College London's Faculty of Law this week. He was speaking at an event titled Crisis in Copyright Policy: How the digital monopolies have cornered culture and what it means for all of us, where he credited the clampers put on Bell then IBM for helping to create the PC industry and the internet. There's quite a few other companies I'd add to those two.

Apple quickly fixes severe security flaw in macOS

Wednesday 29th of November 2017 11:45:16 PM
So there's been a big security flaw in Apple's macOS that the company fixed in 24 hours. I rarely cover security issues because where do you draw the line, right? Anyhow, the manner of disclosure of this specific flaw is drawing some ire. Obviously, this isn't great, and the manner of disclosure didn't help much either. Usually it's advisable to disclose these vulnerabilities privately to the vendor, so that it can patch any holes before malicious parties attempt to use them for their own gains. But that ship has sailed. I've never quite understood this concept of "responsible disclosure", where you give a multi-billion dollar company a few months to fix a severe security flaw before you go public. First, unless you're on that company's payroll, you have zero legal or moral responsibility to help that company protect its products or good name. Second, if the software I'm using has a severe security flaw, I'd rather very damn well please would like to know so I can do whatever I can to temporarily fix the issue, stop using the software, or take other mitigating steps. I readily admit I'm not hugely experienced with this particular aspect of the technology sector, so I'm open to arguments to the contrary.

Microsoft is bringing clever tabs to every Windows 10 app

Wednesday 29th of November 2017 11:35:38 PM
One of the most popular feature requests (more than 20,000 votes) for Windows 10 is tabs in File Explorer. Microsoft has resisted adding tabs to File Explorer and apps in general for years, after originally introducing tabs in Internet Explorer 6 with a toolbar extension back in 2005. That resistance is about to change, in a big way. Microsoft is planning to add tabs to apps in Windows 10, allowing you to group together apps in a better way. Windows 10 testers will first start testing what Microsoft calls “Sets” in the coming weeks, and the tab integration will be initially limited to Windows 10’s special Universal Windows Apps. Microsoft is planning to get as much feedback on the new feature as possible, before tweaking it and making it available to everyone. The software giant isn’t committing to a specific timeline for tabs. This is an incredibly neat idea, and I can't wait to try and see if this feature makes any sense in my workflow.

Apple Power Macintosh G5: flame on

Tuesday 28th of November 2017 12:46:53 AM
Let's have a look at the Apple Power Macintosh G5, a weighty space heater that can also perform computing tasks. Apple launched the G5 in 2003 with great fanfare, but nowadays it has a decidedly mixed legacy. In 2003 it was a desktop supercomputer that was supposed to form the basis of Apple's product range for years to come, but within three years it had been discontinued, along with the entire PowerPC range, in favour of a completely new computing architecture. The G5 puts me in mind of an ageing footballer who finally has a chance to play a World Cup match; he is called up from the substitute's bench, entertains the crowd for twenty minutes, but the team loses, and by the time of the next World Cup the uniform is the same but the players are all different. Our time in the sun is brief, the G5's time especially so. I've long been a PC person, and from my point of view the G5 came and went in the blink of an eye. I knew that it had a striking case and a reputation for high power consumption and heat output, and for being 64-bit at a time when that was rare in the PC world, but that's about it. Almost fifteen years later G5s are available on the used market for almost nothing - postage is incredibly awkward - so I decided to try one out. Mine is a 2.0ghz dual-processor model, the flagship of the first wave of G5s. Back in 2003 this very machine was, in Apple's words, "the world's fastest, most powerful personal computer". Once I move into a bigger house (hopefully soon), the PowerMac G5 (and its successor, the tower Mac Pro) are definitely high on the list of computers I want to own just for the sake of owning them. These things are beautiful, and thermally speaking, incredibly well designed. I plan on building my own dual-Xeon machine somewhere next year, and I find it incredibly frustrating that nobody seems to sell computer cases with proper thermal channels, or "wind tunnels" if you will, that physically seperate the CPU airflow from the GPU airflow, PSU airflow, and possibly even hard drive air flow. Proper workstations do this - things like the PowerMac G5, tower Mac Pro, HP Z workstations, and so on - but cases for self-built PCs just do not offer this kind of functionality.

Two Cydia repositories shut down as jailbreaking fades in popularity

Tuesday 28th of November 2017 12:39:56 AM
The closure of two major Cydia repositories is arguably the result of a declining interest in jailbreaking, which provides root filesystem access and allows users to modify iOS and install unapproved apps on an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch. Out of all the things jailbreaking makes possible, two are big issues for me that I would love Apple to implement: custom launchers (Springboard hasn't been changed since the original iPhone and is woefully outdated and restrictive) and the ability to change default applications. However, neither of these are reason enough to jailbreak iOS for me. I do wonder - do any of you still jailbreak? If so, why?

*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 in your address bar, you went to Dutch Google. If you typed, you went to English Google. If you typed, 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 or to, 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 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.

More in Tux Machines

Devices: Fairwaves, FriendlyElec, Ataribox and Tizen

  • Low-cost embeddable SDR occupies a mini-PCIe card
    The Fairwaves “XTRX” mini-PCIe SDR card is a low-cost embeddable SDR card aimed at high data rate apps including 4G/5G and “massive” MIMO. Fairwaves Inc.’s “XTRX” SDR mini-PCIe card, which launched on Nov. 30 at Crowd Supply, has earned more than 80 percent of its funding goal with one month remaining. The company claims the full sized mini-PCIe XTRX card (30 x 51mm) is the smallest commercially available SDR card. For comparison, the USB-interfaced LimeSDR Mini and RTL-SDR boards measure 69 x 31.4mm and 40 x 60mm, respectively.
  • Tiny quad-core Linux SBCs slim down and get an RPi-like carrier
    FriendlyElec has unveiled COM-like variants of its tiny, low-cost quad-core, Allwinner H3- and H5-based NanoPi Neo and Neo2 SBCs, plus an RPi style carrier. FriendlyElec’s new $8 “NanoPi Neo Core” and $25 “NanoPi Neo Core2” boards are low-profile variants of the company’s earlier 40 x 40mm NanoPi Neo and NanoPi Neo 2 SBCs, but with their large, topside USB and Ethernet connectors replaced by a third dual-row pin header. As a result, the new boards are more like computer-on-modules (COMs) than single-board computers (SBCs), in that they’re meant to be combined with off-the-shelf or custom carrier boards, such as FriendlyElec’s RPi 3-like Mini Shield (see farther below). [...] Operating system — Ubuntu Core; Armbian; U-boot bootloader
  • You Can Pre-Order Ataribox Very Soon, But The Thing Is Still Sort Of A Mystery
  • Sling TV now available on 2017 models of Samsung Smart TVs
  • Give your Gear S3 and Gear Sport a Christmas makeover with these FREE watchfaces

Security: Bolt, Updates, NIST, Starbucks

Software: Top 5 Linux Music Players, Udeler, and Thomas

  • Top 5 Linux Music Players
    No matter what you do, chances are you enjoy a bit of music playing in the background. Whether you’re a coder, system administrator, or typical desktop user, enjoying good music might be at the top of your list of things you do on the desktop. And, with the holidays upon us, you might wind up with some gift cards that allow you to purchase some new music. If your music format of choice is of a digital nature (mine happens to be vinyl) and your platform is Linux, you’re going to want a good GUI player to enjoy that music. Fortunately, Linux has no lack of digital music players. In fact, there are quite a few, most of which are open source and available for free. Let’s take a look at a few such players, to see which one might suit your needs.
  • Udeler – A Cross-Platform Udemy Course Video Downloader
    I assume many of our readers are familiar with a number of online study education centers. Some of them focus on programming and computer science related topics alone while others have a wider topic range. Some websites are completely free or paid, and other offer both paid and free courses. Just like Khan Academy and Code Academy, Udemy is no newcomer to this domain. It’s a website where you can learn a variety of courses online at your own pace with some of them being available for free.
  • Thomas – A Simple Pomodoro Timer App for Linux
    One of the best methods you can implement to be more productive is time management. It allows you to keep track of how much time it takes you to get work done and how often you exceed your deadlines. Timer apps these days seem to have chosen a favorite technique to help users stay sharp and productive as is evident in apps like Gnome Pomodoro and Take a Break. The Pomodoro technique is a common pick.

today's howtos