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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 11 min ago

Switch to Windows 95

Monday 5th of February 2018 11:08:50 PM
In November last year I wrote about the forgotten and obscure feature of early Windows 95 builds that lets you run Windows 3.1 in a window on Windows 95. Since then I was wondering if this would still work on the final build (950) of Windows 95, considering so much has changed since build 58s. I won't spoil it.

The shallowness of Google Translate

Monday 5th of February 2018 11:04:48 PM
Such a development would cause a soul-shattering upheaval in my mental life. Although I fully understand the fascination of trying to get machines to translate well, I am not in the least eager to see human translators replaced by inanimate machines. Indeed, the idea frightens and revolts me. To my mind, translation is an incredibly subtle art that draws constantly on one's many years of experience in life, and on one's creative imagination. If, some "fine" day, human translators were to become relics of the past, my respect for the human mind would be profoundly shaken, and the shock would leave me reeling with terrible confusion and immense, permanent sadness. As a translator myself, I can indeed confirm Google Translate is complete and utter garbage, but the idea that I would "mourn" the end of translators seems outlandish to me. The unstoppable march of technology has eliminated countless jobs over the course of human existence, and if translators are next, I don't see any reason to mourn the end of my occupation. Of course, it'd suck for me personally, but that's about it. That being said, I'm not afraid of running out of work any time soon. Google Translate's results are pretty terrible, and they only seem to be getting worse for me, instead of getting better. There's no doubt in my mind that machine translation will eventually get good enough, but I think it'll take at least another 20 years, if not more, to get there.

Apple prepares macOS for discontinuation of 32-bit app support

Saturday 3rd of February 2018 02:15:01 PM
When users attempt to launch a 32-bit app in 10.13.4, it will still launch, but it will do so with a warning message notifying the user that the app will eventually not be compatible with the operating system unless it is updated. This follows the same approach that Apple took with iOS, which completed its sunset of 32-bit app support with iOS 11 last fall. This is good. I would prefer other companies, too, take a more aggressive approach towards deprecating outdated technology in consumer technology.

How WeChat came to rule China

Thursday 1st of February 2018 07:29:45 PM
China's most popular messaging app, WeChat, has always had a close relationship with the Chinese government. The app has been subsidized by the government since its creation in 2011, and it's an accepted reality that officials censor and monitor users. Now, WeChat is poised to take on an even greater role: an initiative is underway to integrate WeChat with China's electronic ID system. WeChat is a remarkably clever move by the Chinese government. Everybody over there is already using it, and by basically co-opting it, they get a free statewide monitoring and control platform. Ban a few western alternatives here and there, and you're done. Western nations are toying with similar ideas - see e.g. Germany's new laws - and it doesn't take a genius to see the dangers here. While you may 'trust' your current government to not abuse such wide-ranging laws and technical capabilities, you might not be so eager with the next one. If Americans can vote for a Trump, Europeans can, too.

The Faery Tale Adventure: a personal history

Thursday 1st of February 2018 07:12:13 PM
The Faery Tale Adventure was a computer game that I created for the Amiga in 1987. It was moderately popular for its day, and was ported to a number of platforms, including MS-DOS and the Sega Genesis. I decided to write this account because, much to my surprise, there is still interest in the game - I occasionally get fan email or inquiries as to whether there will ever be a sequel. And so I thought it might be interesting to tell the story of how the game came to be, and what happened afterwards. An account by David Joiner of a game he wrote for the Amiga. One of those stories that's just fun to read, no ifs and buts. Grab a coffee and enjoy.

Essential to skip 8.0 Oreo release, goes straight to 8.1

Thursday 1st of February 2018 01:10:14 AM
Essential - the phone company led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin - has had some difficulty in getting a stable 8.0 Oreo update released. After three beta releases, the company is not quite satisfied that the update is ready for general release. Because of these protracted issues, Essential has announced plans to skip the 8.0 release entirely in favor of 8.1, which will "push the public release back a couple weeks," according to the company. Not even a phone with close to stock Android, built by the very same person who developed Android in the first place, can be updated to a newer Android release without delays, stability issues, and general problems - to the point where they're skipping a version altogether. Android is a mess.

AMD returns to full-year profitability

Thursday 1st of February 2018 01:08:03 AM
AMD reported its fourth quarter and full year results for 2017 yesterday evening. The company's financial results are easily the best its posted in five years and arguably some of the best results we've seen in a decade (this last needs a bit of unpacking, but we'll get to that). And fully deserved, too, despite the somewhat overly adulatory attitude many seem to have towards AMD.

Verizon, Apple continue to lobby against your 'right to repair'

Tuesday 30th of January 2018 11:36:42 PM
Third party phone repair shops say that phone makers like Apple and game console makers like Sony and Microsoft have effectively monopolized repair, using their size and power to drive smaller companies out of business. Verizon and Apple have worked in union to thwart such bills in several states, but traditionally don't like to publicly talk about their lobbying on this front. They now have another state to worry about, with Washington State considering their own right to repair bill, created in the wake of outrage over Apple's decision to throttle the performance of older phones to (Apple insists) protect device integrity in the wake of failing battery performance. I've said it a million times by now, but I see no reason why computers should be treated any different than cars: PC and phone makers should be forced to publicise the necessary information to allow third-party repair shops to repair their devices, all without voiding warranty.

How Apple built a chip powerhouse

Tuesday 30th of January 2018 11:35:21 PM
For several years, Apple has been steadily designing more and more of the chips powering its iPhones, iPads, Macs and Apple Watches. This creates a better user experience and helps trump rivals. Recently the company got a fresh incentive to go all-in on silicon: revelations that microprocessors with components designed by Intel Corp., Arm Holdings Plc and Advanced Micro Devices, Inc. are vulnerable to hacking. [...] That original “system-on-a-chip” has since been succeeded by increasingly powerful processors. Today, Apple packs its devices with custom components that process artificial intelligence tasks, track your steps, power game graphics, secure Face ID or Touch ID data, run the Apple Watch, pair AirPods to your phone and help make Macs work the way they do. The result: a chip powerhouse that could one day threaten the dominance of Qualcomm Inc. and even, eventually, Intel. Apple's chip business really puts the company in a unique position. No other phone or PC maker can rely on such a powerful chip division, with the exception of Samsung, but Samsung's own ARM chips are nowhere near as powerful as Apple's. Assuming Apple manages to turn their chip prowess into real-world advantages for users, it'll be hard for competitors to catch up.

Microsoft releases update to disable Intel's Spectre mitigations

Monday 29th of January 2018 11:17:48 PM
Microsoft has released an update that disables Intel's microcode Spectre mitigations. Intel has reported issues with recently released microcode meant to address Spectre variant 2 (CVE 2017-5715 Branch Target Injection) - specifically Intel noted that this microcode can cause "higher than expected reboots and other unpredictable system behavior" and then noted that situations like this may result in "data loss or corruption". Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption. On January 22, Intel recommended that customers stop deploying the current microcode version on affected processors while they perform additional testing on the updated solution. We understand that Intel is continuing to investigate the potential effect of the current microcode version, and we encourage customers to review their guidance on an ongoing basis to inform their decisions. This whole thing is a mess.

More in Tux Machines

Chrome OS may soon be able to run Linux applications in a container

Even though Chrome OS is based on Linux (Gentoo Linux, to be exact), you can't run traditional desktop Linux applications. One solution to this problem is Crouton, a script that sets up a chroot of Ubuntu or Debian Linux on top of Chrome OS. While this does allow many people to use Chrome OS who otherwise couldn't, it's a hacky solution and requires enabling Developer Mode (which turns off most of Chrome OS' security features). A new commit on the Chromium Gerrit has come to light, with the name "New device policy to allow Linux VMs on Chrome OS." The specific code adds a 'Better Together' menu in the Chrome OS settings, and allows IT administrators to turn the feature on or off. Of course, the big news is that Chrome OS will almost certainly support running Linux applications at some point. That opens up a huge range of software, from open-source favorites like GIMP and LibreOffice, to Linux-compatible Steam games like Civilization V and Rocket League. Potentially, users could even install Wine to run some Windows programs. Read more

Android Leftovers

GNOME Shell vs. KDE Plasma Graphics Tests On Wayland vs. X.Org Server

A premium member this week had requested some benchmarks of openSUSE Tumbleweed when looking at the performance of KDE Plasma vs. GNOME Shell in some open-source graphics/gaming tests while also looking at the Wayland vs. X.Org Server performance. With KDE Plasma 5.12 that openSUSE Tumbleweed has picked up, there is much better Wayland session support compared to previous releases. While KDE developers aren't yet ready to declare their Wayland session the default, in my experience so far it's been working out very well but still routinely will find application crashes in Kate and the like when testing under the KWin's Wayland compositor. Read more

Stable kernels 4.15.6, 4.14.22, 4.9.84, 4.4.118 and 3.18.96