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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 3 min 4 sec ago

Assassin's Creed Origins will have a combat-free 'discovery tour'

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:37:20 AM
Players will have the chance to explore Assassin's Creed Origins' virtual Egypt free of combat and story constraints in a new "Discovery Tour" gamemode, developer-publisher Ubisoft announced today. Discovery Tour turns Origins' map, as the company puts it, into a "combat-free living museum, with guided tours that let players delve into its history firsthand." Given the lengths Ubisoft went to creating a large-scale as-accurate-as-possible map of the country, hiring historians and Egyptologists as consultants, this is a chance for the developer to showcase its map and the functioning virtual world it's created, rather than it simply existing as a backdrop for action. This is a great move, as it turns what is normally 'just' a game into a tool that can be used for education and learning, or something more casual as just walking around in a beautiful environment without having to worry about being attacked or killed or whatever.

EU finds Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon

Wednesday 4th of October 2017 11:06:14 AM
The European Commission has concluded that Luxembourg granted undue tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million. This is illegal under EU State aid rules because it allowed Amazon to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Luxembourg must now recover the illegal aid. Remember when Tim Cook lied about the EU only going after Apple because Apple is big? Apple's illegal deal with Ireland is just one on a long, long list of illegal deals the EU is cracking down on. Anyway, speaking of the 13 billion euro Apple stole from EU citizens: The European Commission has decided to refer Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover from Apple illegal State aid worth up to €13 billion, as required by a Commission decision. [...] Today, more than one year after the Commission's decision, Ireland has still not recovered any of the illegal aid. Furthermore, although Ireland has made progress on the calculation of the exact amount of the illegal aid granted to Apple, it is only planning to conclude this work by March 2018 at the earliest. The crackdown on these illegal tax deals hopefully only represents the first step in cracking down on the grotesquely questionable conduct of large technology (and other sectors) companies. Backroom deals between governments and powerful corporations so they can effectively avoid paying any taxes while the rest of us do our civic duty by paying our taxes to pay for our schools, roads, hospitals, police, firefighters, and so on are a travesty. If Apple, Amazon, Google, and others want to make use of the juicy fruits of European welfare states, they better start paying their fair share.

Apple and Qualcomm's billion-dollar war over an $18 part

Wednesday 4th of October 2017 10:56:18 AM
Within a matter of weeks, Qualcomm, which had been valued at more than $100 billion in December 2016, had lost a quarter of its market capitalization, an outcome that Qualcomm executives say was Apple's intent all along. "Apple's game plan is to squeeze people until they finally say, 'OK, the pressure's too hard. I'll just take a deal,'" said Derek Aberle, then Qualcomm's president and the company's chief negotiator, in an interview in July. Apple, on the other hand, presents the dispute as a matter of fairness. "It's not that we can't pay," Sewell says. "It's that we shouldn't have to pay." The case, which could go to trial in a San Diego federal court as early as next year, could have a profound impact on the mobile phone business. A Qualcomm win would hamper Apple’s efforts to cut costs and preserve margins that have allowed it to capture most of the profits generated by smartphone makers worldwide. If Apple wins and succeeds in ending the Qualcomm tax, that could marginalize one of the most powerful American technology companies and upend the balance of power in the semiconductor industry. I have zero sympathy for either of these two companies. I literally cannot find a single fournication to give.

Is Chrome OS ready to be a tablet OS?

Monday 2nd of October 2017 09:56:39 PM
The Pixelbook has a lot in common with the previous Chromebooks that came directly from Google, with a high price tag and a spec sheet to match, but the Pixelbook will showcase the two newest enhancements to Chrome OS with stylus support and a hinge that allows for fold-over convertible use as a tablet. Neither of these things is new (convertible laptop designs have been a Windows staple for ages) but both are new for Google. Including these features in Chrome and putting them on a high-priced Chromebook aimed squarely at developers and enthusiasts means Google really wants them to become a natural part of the Chromebook experience, and ultimately part of the web experience. So we have to ask, is Chrome finally ready to be a replacement for your tablet? The answer is a mixed bag. It seems like answers are always that way. And Google needs to lead by example, then get everyone else on board. Earlier this year, I replaced my aunt's aging Windows Vista (...) laptop with a Chromebook - a nice, solid, aluminium laptop with a good screen, solid trackpad, and amazing battery life. Since I set it up for her, I got to use it for a week before sending it off to my parents, who also used it for a week, after which we sent it to my aunt. All of us - my aunt, my parents, myself - were impressed with just how effortless of a machine it was. No fuss, no fiddling, no extraneous, outdated junk from 40 years of desktop computing getting in the way of browsing, e-mailing, and working with some simple documents. Chrome OS is a great platform for a large group of non-demanding users, which is why I'm baffled by Google trying to sell us these upscale, fancy Chromebooks with insane amounts of power, and now, apparently, with stylus support and tablet mode? This feels exactly like the kind of extraneous, useless features that will only confuse and get in the way of the kind of people I personally think Chromebooks are great for. Who is this upcoming Pixelbook for?

Apple open-sourced iOS and macOS kernel for ARM

Monday 2nd of October 2017 09:40:28 PM
Apple has always shared the kernel of macOS after each major release. This kernel also runs on iOS devices as both macOS and iOS are built on the same foundation. This year, Apple also shared the most recent version of the kernel on GitHub. And you can also find ARM versions of the kernel for the first time. The code was pushed to Apple's open source site, as well as to their official GitHub mirror.

Apple: Macintosh a better platform for 3D animation than Amiga

Friday 29th of September 2017 09:31:11 PM
This is quite a find by Cabel Sasser. Apparently, Apple is still hosting an article dedicated to arguing the Macintosh is a better platform for computer-generated video content than the Amiga (part 1 and part 2). It does so by explaining how easy it supposedly was to create Pencil Test, a short 3D animated video made on the Macintosh II. Some have seen non-Apple solutions that include a single, Amiga-based package with automated, three-dimensional, frame-by-frame generation of NTSC video sequences. The package also handles the problems of hiding window boarders/title bars, genlocking, and so on. Most have seen the "Pencil Test" video and feel that the quality of this video is acceptable, but they were told from one of the other vendors that Apple invested incredible resources into creating "Pencil Test" and that the process used for "Pencil Test" was very time-consuming and inefficient. What was the exact process for the creation of "Pencil Test"? How many people worked for how long to produce the video? The publish date at the bottom of the currently published version of the two-part article is 2012, but this is clearly just the result of some automated migration process from an old database to a new one. The actual publishing date of the article is probably around from when Pencil Test was published - so somewhere between 1988 and 1990. The Amiga had carved out a decent niche for itself as a 3D animation and special effects platform in the late '80s and early '90s. Famously, the science fiction TV series Babylon 5 used Amiga Video Toasters for its special effects in its first few seasons, making it one of the first TV series to move to digital special effects over the use of models. Apple clearly wanted in on this market, and the support article is part of that effort. And the article is bizarre. In it, Apple argues the merits of the open, modular system, the Macintosh, and condemns the integrated, hardware-and-software-designed-together approach of the Amiga. There are advantages and disadvantages both to the totally integrated systems and the open modular systems. Totally integrated system's advantages include having hardware and software tied directly together and having one place to get support. Disadvantages include being locked into the one company's point of view about how to do things, working only with their tools, and, often, being locked into that company's software. An integrated solution on non-Macintosh systems is most likely pieced together from a variety of third-party products. I can't value the merits all the technical claims being made about the capabilities of the Macintosh and its software at the time compared to that of the Amiga, since that's way beyond my area of expertise. Still, this article is a deeply fascinating relic from a bygone era, and I can't believe Apple is still hosting it.

FreeBSD quarterly status report Q2 2017

Friday 29th of September 2017 08:57:14 PM
Much of the development work done this quarter was not particularly visible, especially the effort needed to ensure the upcoming 11.1 release has as few regressions as possible. Planning is also well under way for the 10.4 maintenance release which will quickly follow it. Further work focused on moving the arm architectures' support closer to tier-1 status and improving documentation. In addition, large changes were made to the src and ports trees.

Apple: a semiconductor superpower in the making

Friday 29th of September 2017 08:49:57 PM
Industry sources and analysts suggest that Apple is keen to expand its semiconductor capabilities further. They say the company is interested in building core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions. Apple is building ARM laptops. The interesting question is whether they'll run iOS or macOS. My money's on the former.

Ataribox has $250-300 price point, Linux core, custom AMD chip

Thursday 28th of September 2017 10:16:39 AM
Ars Technica: The spec sheet, as announced, is still pretty vague, but Atari has confirmed a few notable things, starting with a price point between $250 and $300. In exchange for costing roughly as much as a Nintendo Switch, Xbox One S, or PlayStation 4, the Ataribox will come packed with an "AMD customized processor with Radeon graphics technology." Additionally, this will not be an Android system. Instead, the Ataribox will run Linux "with a customized, easy-to-use user interface." Open, hackable Linux-based consoles don't exactly have a great track record, so colour me skeptical. Wouldn't be the first time my skepticism turns out to be spot-on. I don't think the Ataribox is the next Commodore USA, but I'm afraid its fate will be the same, regardless.

Apple switches from Bing to Google

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 10:08:01 AM
Consistency is Apple's main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft's Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used. "Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari," reads an Apple statement sent this morning. "We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Interesting move. The only logical move, of course - Bing is terrible - but still interesting if you look at the relationship between Apple and Google.

Arcan 0.5.3, Durden 0.3 released

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 08:50:36 AM
Once again there's been a release of the "game engine meets display server meets multimedia framework" project, Arcan, and of its reference desktop environment Durden. Among the many new engine feature this time around, we find: improved crash recovery, much improved support for Wayland clients, and initial support for OpenBSD. Among the DE features, we find window slicing and overlays, input multicasting, and LED controller profiles. Refer to the full release announcement for more details and videos.

Apple releases macOS High Sierra

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 08:46:14 AM
Apple has released macOS High Sierra. macOS High Sierra is designed to improve on the previous macOS Sierra operating system with some major under-the-hood upgrades and a handful of outward-facing changes. Apple File System (APFS), a file system designed for solid state drives, is the new default for these drives in macOS High Sierra. APFS is safe, secure, and optimized for modern storage systems. It features native encryption, safe document saves, stable snapshots, and crash protection, plus it brings performance improvements. An interesting new feature in high Sierra that was only recently unveiled: the new version of macOS checks your Mac's firmware against Apple's own database once a week to see if it's been tampered with.

China blocks WhatsApp, broadening online censorship

Monday 25th of September 2017 06:51:36 PM
China has largely blocked the WhatsApp messaging app, the latest move by Beijing to step up surveillance ahead of a big Communist Party gathering next month. The disabling in mainland China of the Facebook-owned app is a setback for the social media giant, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market, and has been studying the Chinese language intensively. WhatsApp was the last of Facebook products to still be available in mainland China; the company's main social media service has been blocked in China since 2009, and its Instagram image-sharing app is also unavailable. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, which the Chinese government (and western governments) don't like. Either WhatsApp would give China a backdoor, or China would block WhatsApp. This seems to indicate WhatsApp stuck to its encryption. Let's see what happens to the other big western messaging service with end-to-end encryption still available in China: iMessage. We can safely assume that if iMessage isn't blocked soon, Apple caved, and gave China its backdoor.

iPhone 8 is world's fastest phone (it's not even close)

Sunday 24th of September 2017 12:09:56 AM
The "Bionic" part in the name of Apple's A11 Bionic chip isn't just marketing speak. It's the most powerful processor ever put in a mobile phone. We've put this chip to the test in both synthetic benchmarks and some real-world speed trials, and it obliterates every Android phone we tested. As far as SoCs go, Apple is incredibly far ahead of Qualcomm and Samsung. These companies have some serious soul-searching to do. I can't wait for AnandTech to dive into the A11 Bionic, so we can get some more details than just people comparing GeekBench scores.

Dive into the details of iOS 11: is Apple still detail-oriented?

Thursday 21st of September 2017 10:59:23 AM
The unfinished feeling in iOS 11 mostly comes from UI and animation. UI elements in iOS are quite inconsistent, mixing a variety of UI elements, which might look quite similar but introduce a disconnected feeling for UX. The inconsistency of those elements majorly stems from those UI element updated in iOS 11, such as Large Title and new Search Bar. In my opinion, those newly introduced elements, which might be unfamiliar and new even to Apple engineers, have caused many inconsistent UI experience in iOS 11. Many of you will look at this and consider it a bunch of whiny nonsense, but the problem with Apple being lax on details is that it turns into a case of monkey see, monkey do. Third party developers will become lax as well, leading to an overall degradation of UI quality and consistency. This is the last thing iOS, which has never exactly been a visually consistent operating system to begin with, needs. People go nuts because the ports on the bottom of a Samsung phone - which you effectively never look at - aren't aligned, yet, ever since iOS 7, Apple has basically been winging its iOS UI design and polish. Something about grading on a curve.

Google buys large part of HTC's smartphone team

Thursday 21st of September 2017 10:59:09 AM
Rick Osterloh, Google's senior vice president of hardware, writes: About a year and a half ago, I joined Google to pursue my dream job to create compelling hardware products, built with Google's smarts at their core. As a first step, we brought together various consumer hardware-related efforts and established a single hardware organization within the company. Our team's goal is to offer the best Google experience - across hardware, software and services - to people around the world. Last fall, we introduced our first family of Made by Google products, including Pixel smartphones, Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream View and Chromecast Ultra, and we're preparing to unveil our second generation of products on October 4. We're excited about the 2017 lineup, but even more inspired by what's in store over the next five, 10, even 20 years. Creating beautiful products that people rely on every single day is a journey, and we are investing for the long run. That's why we've signed an agreement with HTC, a leader in consumer electronics, that will fuel even more product innovation in the years ahead. With this agreement, a team of HTC talent will join Google as part of the hardware organization. These future fellow Googlers are amazing folks we've already been working with closely on the Pixel smartphone line, and we're excited to see what we can do together as one team. The deal also includes a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property. This may elicit some flashbacks to Google buying Motorola, but said purchase was more about patents than it was about the company's hardware business - and even after selling Motorola, it turned out this was actually a pretty good deal. Google's sale of Motorola supposedly was part of a series of deals with Samsung, which included a patent-sharing agreement and Samsung promising to stick closer to stock Android. It seems like Google is feeling more confident now, and is willing to risk agitating Samsung by investing in their own hardware capabilities.

More in Tux Machines

Software: Narabu, ucaresystem, Telegram Messenger

  • Introducing Narabu, part 2: Meet the GPU
    Narabu is a new intraframe video codec. You may or may not want to read part 1 first. The GPU, despite being extremely more flexible than it was fifteen years ago, is still a very different beast from your CPU, and not all problems map well to it performance-wise. Thus, before designing a codec, it's useful to know what our platform looks like.
  • ucaresystem Core v4.0 : Added option to upgrade Ubuntu to the next release
    Since Ubuntu 17.10 has just been released, I have added new feature to the ucaresystem Core that can be used by the user to upgrade his distribution to the next stable version or optionally to the next development version of Ubuntu. For those who are not familiar with the ucaresystem app it is an automation script that automatically and without asking for your intervention performs some crucial Ubuntu maintenance processes, which otherwise would be done one by one and pressing Y / N each time.
  • 10 Reasons Why I Switched To Telegram Messenger
    Whatsapp may be the best player in the game when it comes to instant messaging apps, but Telegram Messenger is the entire game itself. Because Telegram is not just an app, it is an entire communication platform. It is not bound by restrictions or limitations like other apps.

Graphics and Games: RandR and AMDGPU, Opus Magnum

  • "NonDesktop" Proposed For RandR: Useful For VR & Apple Touch Bar Like Devices
    Besides Keith Packard working on the concept of resource leasing for the X.Org Server and resource leasing support for RandR, he's also now proposing a "NonDesktop" property for the Resize and Rotate protocol. The resource leasing has already been worked out as a candidate for the next update, RandR 1.6, while now this veteran X11 developer is proposing a new "NonDesktop" property for identifying outputs that are not conventional displays.
  • More AMDGPU Changes Queue For Linux 4.15
    Adding to the excitement of Linux 4.15, AMD has queued some more changes that were sent in today for DRM-Next. Already for Linux 4.15, the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager driver should have the long-awaited "DC" display stack that brings Vega/Raven display support, HDMI/DP audio, atomic mode-setting and more. Other pull requests have also brought in a new ioctl, UVD video encode ring support on Polaris, transparent huge-pages DMA support, PowerPlay clean-ups, and many fixes, among other low-level improvements.
  • Opus Magnum, the latest puzzle game from Zachtronics, is released into Early Access
    The developers behind the challenging puzzle games TIS-100 and SHENZEN I/O are at it again and have released their latest title into Steam’s Early Access today.
  • Open your wallets, there's some great Linux games on sale right now
    It's time to throw your wallet at your screen, as we're going to take a look at some awesome Linux games on sale.

System 76 and Purism Laptops

  • POP!_OS is a developer-focused minimalist Linux distro from System 76
    There aren’t that many Linux hardware manufacturers around. Of the few that exist, System 76 is amongst the most well-known. It offers a slew of laptops and desktops, all shipping with the popular Ubuntu distro pre-installed, saving customers hours of wasted time dealing with driver hell. But it recently announced it’s changing gears and creating its own Linux distro, which will replace Ubuntu on its systems, called POP!_OS.
  • Purism’s Linux laptops now ship with Intel Management Engine disabled
    Most computers that ship with recent Intel processors include something called Intel Management Engine, which enables hardware-based security, power management, and remote configuration features that are not tied to the operating system running on your PC. For free software proponents, this has been a pain in the behind, because it’s a closed-source, proprietary feature designed to provide remote access to a computer even when it’s turned off. While it’s designed to provide security, it also poses a potential security and privacy threat, since it’s a proprietary system that can only be patched by Intel
  • Purism Now Shipping Their Laptops With Intel ME Disabled
    Purism has announced today all laptops to be shipping from their company will now have the Intel Management Engine (ME) disabled. Thanks to work done by security researches in recent years for finding ways to disable ME, especially in light of recent security vulnerabilities, Purism's Coreboot-equipped laptops are now shipping with ME disabled out-of-the-box. Those already with a Librem laptop are able to apply a firmware update to also disable it.

Ubuntu Leftovers: GNOME, Birthday and More