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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 6 min ago

Why OpenBSD is important to me

Monday 9th of May 2016 09:33:03 PM
OpenBSD is an operating system that prioritizes security, encryption, and free (as in free and open) software. It's built in the open - anyone can see the code and discussions around it. That's no accident - the earliest contributors recognized that transparency and public discussion are essential to effective security. If you follow the project and the email lists for any length of time, it becomes clear that the core contributors are passionate about security and quality. These are volunteers that spend their limited, precious spare time on building a great operating system that they give away for free because they want to see secure, high quality software thrive in the world. They've been doing it for 20 years. What they've made works really well. While it's not as easy for a consumer to use as Windows or OS X, to someone more technically inclined, it's straightforward to use as a server or as a desktop for many use cases. And the big feature: it starts our very secure and if you're careful you can keep it that way as you customize it to suit your purpose. A heartfelt case for OpenBSD.

Microsoft demos hover gestures for Windows phones

Thursday 5th of May 2016 10:39:00 PM
Microsoft had been planning to introduce a unique 3D Touch feature with a flagship Windows phone back in 2014. While the device was canceled, the work behind Microsoft's Kinect-like gestures lives on. In a new Microsoft Research video, the software maker is revealing some of the features it was working on under the guise of "pre-touch sensing for mobile interaction." This is exactly the kind of cool stuff that could've given Windows Phone a very interesting edge. Unlike Apple's 3D touch, which is a completely pointless gimmick, the examples in the Microsoft video seem quite useful, and do actually streamline a number of mobile UI interactions. I hope this isn't shelved permanently.

Only 7.5 percent of Android phones are running Marshmallow

Wednesday 4th of May 2016 09:39:47 AM
Two weeks shy of Google detailing the next big revision of Android at its annual developer conference, the current Android version is still struggling to make its way out to devices. Android 6.0 Marshmallow is currently running on just 7.5 percent of active Android devices that have access to the Google Play Store. The rest of the field is dominated by 2014's Android Lollipop at 35.6 percent, 2013's KitKat at 32.5 percent, and 2012's Jelly Bean at 20.1 percent. 2011's Ice Cream Sandwich still clings on to a stubborn 2 percent and the immortal Android Gingerbread (version 2.3!) accounts for 2.2 percent of Android smartphones. Using an iPhone 6S since it came out has made me appreciate more and more just how much better Android is than iOS - but it's all for naught if Google doesn't get off its bum and fixes this long-running problem. Now that Android at 6.x is definitively better than iOS, it's way, way, way, way beyond time for Google to drop everything they're doing and somehow find a way to forcefully and resolutely address this deficit. If the latest version of Android is the best (i.e., the least crappy) mobile operating system out there, but nobody is running it, is it really the best mobile operating system?

Tim Cook's failed Apple pitch

Wednesday 4th of May 2016 09:39:40 AM
Apple CEO Tim Cook insisted last week that everything was great with his company despite its first quarterly revenue decline since 2003. He and Apple's chief financial officer used the word "optimistic" 10 times during a conference call with analysts. Then the company's share price pessimistically fell for eight consecutive market days -- something that hasn't happened to Apple in nearly 18 years. Declaring victory didn't work the first time, so Cook made a trip to Jim Cramer's therapy couch on Monday to try to soothe investors. It's unfair to compare Apple's numbers to the 2014 debut of the iPhone 6, which was a tough act to follow, Cook said. He added: Everything is great. Look at how much money we're making. The smartphone market has plenty of room to run. Customers love us so much. Then Cook attended a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Here's what Cook didn't say: 1) Apple has been misjudging its own business, and that makes it tough to believe what executives say; and 2) The company failed to prepare investors for an inevitable slowdown in growth -- even if that slowdown proves temporary. If one duty of public company executives is to underpromise and overdeliver, Apple has flopped in that job. A lot of people will just mockingly file away articles like this under the "Apple is doomed!" moniker, but what these people don't understand is that most of the stock market isn't about whether or not Apple is doomed or not - it's all about meeting expectations. You can suffer a massive loss, but if the loss is less than what you and the market predicted, your shares would go up. You could be doing incredibly well like Apple, but if you underdeliver, your shares will go down. And this article makes a strong case Cook failed at underpromising.

PocketCHIP ships this month with PICO-8 preinstalled

Tuesday 3rd of May 2016 10:23:46 PM
But most exciting, to me at least, is PocketCHIP will ship with PICO-8 preinstalled. If you've never heard of PICO-8, you have a bunch of weird little video games to catch up on. Basically it's a "fantasy console" that runs in a browser or on a desktop, but has resource limitations akin to a Game Boy Color. What's even better is PICO-8 has built-in tools for building your own game - complete with code, sprite, and sound editors - and every game someone else makes can be opened up and tweaked. PocketCHIP will include a browser for the hundreds of published PICO-8 games, turning it into an out-of-the-box handheld console. So this thing completely passed by my radar, and it's actually kind of amazing. The PocketCHIP is a CHIP in a Game Boy-like case, and comes with the aforementioned PICO-8 environment preinstalled. I immediately ordered one today, and I can't wait for it to arrive come June. This is a ton of value for what you're getting, and the built-in coding ability, while not useful to me - since I can't program - should be a huge boon for many people here on OSNews. The device's QWERTY keyboard means you can code right on the device itself. All in all, incredibly neat.

Intel abandons smartphone processor market

Monday 2nd of May 2016 10:12:40 PM
After missing the early days of the smartphone revolution, Intel spent in excess of $10 billion over the last three years in an effort to get a foothold in mobile devices. Now, having gained little ground in phones and with the tablet market shrinking, Intel is essentially throwing in the towel. The company quietly confirmed last week that it has axed several chips from its roadmap, including all of the smartphone processors in its current plans. This isn't the first time Intel tried to go mobile. It actually had quite a successful line of mobile ARM processors: XScale. These were ARM5 processors that powered a ton of devices, and I think most of us know it from Windows PocketPC devices (and later Palm OS devices). Intel eventually sold XScale to Marvell, because the company wanted to focus on its desktop/laptop and server processors, in 2006 - right before the big mobile revolution happened. I can't help but wonder if that turned out to be a really dumb move.

Microsoft 'committed' to Windows 10 Mobile for 'many years'

Monday 2nd of May 2016 09:59:35 PM
A new email from Microsoft's Terry Myerson, Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, firmly states that the company is devoted to Windows 10 on mobile for 'many years' and that they are currently working on next generation products. Whenever you have to repeatedly come out and say you're committed to something, you're probably not committed to it.

Prince's special custom-font Symbol floppy disks

Monday 2nd of May 2016 09:57:53 PM
In 1993, Prince frustrated contract lawyers and computer users everywhere when he changed his name to glyph known as "The Love Symbol." Though he never said so explicitly, it's generally understood that the name change was attempt to stick it to his record label, Warner Bros., which now had to deal with a top-tier artist with a new, unpronounceable, untypeable name. But it wasn't just Warner Bros. that had a problem: The Love Symbol proved frustrating for people who wanted to both speak and write about Prince. Writers, editors, and layout designers at magazines and newspapers wouldn't be able to type the actual name of the Artist Formerly Known As Prince. So Prince did the only thing you could do in that situation: He had a custom-designed font distributed to news outlets on a floppy disk. Lovely story.

This ancient laptop services the McLaren F1

Monday 2nd of May 2016 07:13:08 PM
This is a Compaq LTE 5280 laptop from the early 1990s, running a bespoke CA card. In 2016, McLaren Automotive - one of the most high-tech car and technology companies on the planet - still uses it and its DOS-based software to service the remaining hundred McLaren F1s out there, each valued at $10 million or more. They're finally going to replace them, because it's getting too hard to find replacements.

What happened to Google maps?

Monday 2nd of May 2016 07:11:16 PM
Browsing Google Maps over the past year or so, I've often thought that there are fewer labels than there used to be. Google's cartography was revamped three years ago - but surely this didn't include a reduction in labels? Rather, the sparser maps appear to be a recent development. An interesting article, for sure, but the final conclusion at the end of the article is a case of false equivalency; just because a classic paper map and a modern digital map are both 'maps', doesn't mean they are equivalents. There's no zooming and (easy) panning on paper maps, no search functionality, no natural language processing, no automatic route planning, no dynamic display, nothing. You can't simply apply what works for paper maps onto a static, fixed-zoom portion of a digital map and call it a day. That being said, Google Maps does have several really annoying lapses in interface judgement, such as that really annoying 'local photo's' bar that keeps popping back up no matter how often you tell it you're not interested, but that's a different matter altogether.

Google gets new hardware division under former Motorola chief

Friday 29th of April 2016 10:03:23 PM
Rick Osterloh is coming back to Google. The former president of Motorola, who left the Lenovo-led handset maker last month, has been hired by Google to run a new division to unify the company's disparate hardware projects, Re/code has learned. A Google rep confirmed that Osterloh has joined the company as its newest Senior Vice President, running the new hardware product line and reporting to CEO Sundar Pichai. I hope Google is finally getting serious about hardware. I can't wait for more Pixel laptops, tablets, desktops, and smartphones. That being said, as much as the Pixel devices generally get great reviews, they aren't exactly massive sales hits, and Google also has a shaky history when it comes to its hardware efforts. We'll have to see how this pans out, but it'll be interesting to see what's going to roll out of this 65th attempt at Google getting serious about hardware.

The secrets of medieval fonts

Friday 29th of April 2016 10:02:02 PM
One of the fundamental things in a medieval book is letters - those symbols that fill up page after page and that make up meaning. Each one of us human beings writes differently and considering that medieval books were made before the invention of print, it follows that the scripts they carry show a great variety in execution styles. This is perhaps the most amazing experience of spending a day going through a pile of medieval books in the library: the immense variation in the manner in which the text is written on the parchment pages. From monks and scribes copying books letter by letter, we have now arrived at the point where the best book ever written is just a few clicks away.

Vivaldi closes in on the cure for the common browser

Thursday 28th of April 2016 10:09:02 PM
If you miss the old Opera, the Opera of the Opera 12-era, then Vivaldi is for you. And if the current crop of browsers leaves you wanting more or you end up installing a dozen extensions to get things the way you like them, Vivaldi is well worth a look. But even if you never use this new browser directly, Vivaldi looks to have enough innovative new features that it's very likely some will end up in whatever browser you do use. Vivaldi has certainly piqued my interest - especially since I'm having major issues with browsers on OS X. I prefer Chrome on Windows, but Chrome on OS X is far too resource-intensive and sucks tons of battery. Safari for OS X is very buggy for me (nine out of ten times it will refuse to load pages after waking from sleep, forcing you to restart the browser) and I'm experiencing a ton of bugs with YouTube in Safari. So, I'm looking for a browser that I like on both Windows and OS X, and reading all the positive reports about Vivaldi, it's definitely worth a look.

Richard Stallman receives ACM Software System Award

Thursday 28th of April 2016 09:34:26 PM
Richard Stallman, recipient of the ACM Software System Award for the development and leadership of GCC (GNU Compiler Collection), which has enabled extensive software and hardware innovation, and has been a lynchpin of the free software movement. A compiler is a computer program that takes the source code of another program and translates it into machine code that a computer can run directly. GCC compiles code in various programming languages, including Ada, C, C++, Cobol, Java, and FORTRAN. It produces machine code for many kinds of computers, and can run on Unix and GNU/Linux systems as well as others. GCC was developed for the GNU operating system, which includes thousands of programs from various projects, including applications, libraries, tools such as GCC, and even games. Most importantly, the GNU system is entirely free (libre) software, which means users are free to run all these programs, to study and change their source code, and to redistribute copies with or without changes. GNU is usually used with the kernel, Linux. Stallman has previously been recognized with ACM's Grace Murray Hopper Award. Well-deserved.

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