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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 37 sec ago

A single typo wrecked Aliens: Colonial Marines

4 hours 32 min ago
In what feels like The Games Story Of The Year, during the Steam summer sale the much reviled Gearbox title Aliens: Colonial Marines was marked down to a stupidly low three dollars. A modder happened to notice that in the INI file for the game, there is a single typo that is - get this - responsible for many of the awful AI choices that the xenomorphs make in the game... Like running directly at you on their hind legs instead of crawling on the walls and using ducts to surprise you. A once horribly broken game is now... Functioning? Thanks to a single letter? Sure. That's about at 2018 as a games industry story can get. This is amazing.

Global PC shipments grew 1.4% in Q2 2018, first time in 6 years

Saturday 14th of July 2018 12:19:24 AM
The PC market has seen its first growth quarter in six years, according to research firm Gartner. The streak is over: Gartner found PC shipments were up globally in Q2 2018, the first quarter of year-over-year global PC shipment growth since the first quarter of 2012. Gartner estimates that worldwide PC shipments grew 1.4 percent to 62.1 million units in Q2 2018. The top five vendors were Lenovo, HP, Dell, Apple, and Acer. Lenovo in particular saw big gains (its highest growth rate since the first quarter of 2015), although that's largely due in part to the inclusion of units from its joint venture with Fujitsu. The economic crisis is over, and people and companies are buying PCs again.

The Andromeda journey continues

Friday 13th of July 2018 10:28:44 PM
Multiple sources have told me that Microsoft plans to overhaul the software and hardware before releasing the device. At this time, the software and hardware do not create a compelling solution that would move the needle for Microsoft and more importantly the Surface brand which is why when it came to the ‘go, no go’ decision earlier this year, it was not given the green light. [...] What you need to know about Andromeda is that the project is still alive inside of Microsoft but that it will not be released anytime soon. The company will re-work the hardware and software, see if it will move the needle, and if not, re-work again, until they find the right formula. Microsoft will not ship a project simply because the first phase is done, they are trying to get this right so that they don’t have another Lumia/Surface RT project on their hands. There's just not enough UWP applications at this point in time to support such a device.

Nintendo hid a NES emulator inside GameCube's Animal Crossing

Thursday 12th of July 2018 11:26:16 PM
Fans of the early-2000s era GameCube version of the original Animal Crossing likely remember the game including a handful of emulated NES titles that could be played by obtaining in-game items for your house. What players back then didn't know is that the NES emulator in Animal Crossing can also be used to play any generic NES ROM stored on a GameCube memory card. One has to wonder if there's any code from open source emulators in there.

Synaptics hints at "next-generation" security OS from Microsoft

Thursday 12th of July 2018 11:24:11 PM
Synaptics and AMD today announced that they're teaming up on a biometric security solution for consumer and business PCs built on AMD platforms. But for Microsoft watchers, the most curious portion of the announcement is that the biometric tech is squarely focused on a mysterious "next-generation operating system" from Microsoft. [...] It's not entirely clear what the biometric security OS is that Synaptics is referring to, as Microsoft itself hasn't announced any forthcoming releases. However, it could be related to a Microsoft project called Polaris, a more modern version of Windows 10 for desktops that Windows Central senior editor Zac Bowden reported on earlier this year. Built on an internal project called Windows Core OS, which aims to turn Windows into a modular OS, Polaris is said to focus on desktop, laptop, and 2-in-1 form factors. The goal of Polaris is to provide a shell that Windows users are familiar with, but while leaving behind legacy components in favor of UWP apps. According to our reporting, Polaris would still be able to utilize some form of virtualization to run Win32 programs. However, dropping legacy cruft would, in theory, allow Microsoft to create a more secure version of Windows 10. That's basically what I've been wanting Microsoft to do for a decade now, so I hope this is actually true. It'd be a big, bold move, but Win32 has run its course, and it needs to be contained and phased out.

Ambitious browser mitigation for Spectre attacks comes to Chrome

Thursday 12th of July 2018 09:51:59 PM
Google's Chrome browser is undergoing a major architectural change to enable a protection designed to blunt the threat of attacks related to the Spectre vulnerability in computer processors. If left unchecked by browsers or operating systems, such attacks may allow hackers to pluck passwords or other sensitive data out of computer memory when targets visit malicious sites. Site isolation, as the mitigation is known, segregates code and data from each Internet domain into their own "renderer processes," which are individual browser tasks that aren't allowed to interact with each other. As a result, a page located at arstechnica.com that embeds ads from doubleclick.net will load content into two separate renderer processes, one for each domain. The protection, however, comes at a cost. It consumes an additional 10 to 13 percent of total memory. Some of the performance hit can be offset by smaller and shorter-lived renderer processes. Site isolation will also allow Chrome to re-enable more precise timers, which Google and most other browser makers disabled earlier this year to decrease chances of successful attacks.

Nintendo's weirdest, and maybe rarest, classic console yet

Thursday 12th of July 2018 06:25:50 PM
The collectability of Nintendo's "classic mini" consoles cannot be overstated. Even after restocking the NES Classic Edition's original limited supply this year, the company has barely been able to keep up with demand for both its NES- and SNES-flavored dips back into the nostalgia pool, in the West or elsewhere. But if you thought those systems were limited and coveted enough, you ain't seen nothing. This week, Nintendo went one further by releasing a special-colored, new-games version of one of these systems, designed and marketed specifically for fans of Japanese Shonen Jump manga series like Dragon Ball, Captain Tsubasa, and Fist of the North Star. Shortly before Amazon Japan sold out of its allocation on Sunday morning, we slammed down $87 USD and placed an order to see what the Shonen Jump 50th Anniversary Famicom Classic Mini was all about. We quickly learned that this official Nintendo product is far from a slapdash release with a logo painted on. Nostalgia is one hell of a drug.

Apple partnered with Blackmagic Design on an external GPU

Thursday 12th of July 2018 06:22:08 PM
Apple finally found some time to spec bump the Touchbar models of their MacBook Pro laptops (without fixing the keyboard, so buyer beware), and alongside it, the company announced an external GPU enclosure it created in partnsership with Blackmagic. Alongside the release of new MacBook Pros, the company has taken an extra step toward embracing the tech by giving its seal of approval to a new system from Blackmagic - the simply named Blackmagic eGPU. The company does these kinds of partnerships from time to time - the LG UltraFine 5K Display being perhaps the most notable example. The $699 accessory features an AMD Radeon Pro 580 graphics card and 8GB of DDR5 RAM in a fairly small footprint. There’s an HDMI port, four USB 3.1s and three Thunderbolt 3s, the latter of which makes it unique among these peripherals. The company says the on-board cooling system operates pretty quietly, which should fit nicely alongside those new, quieter MacBook keyboards.

Writing a Game Boy emulator

Wednesday 11th of July 2018 11:28:52 PM
Eventually, I decided to write a minimalist Game Boy interpreting emulator, without support for custom mappers or sound, (and probably many inaccuracies). I called the project Cinoop. Cinoop is written in C and is open source. It can be run on Windows, DS, GameCube, 3DS, Linux based OSes, PSP, and PS4.

I used Apple's new controls to limit a teenager's iPhone time

Wednesday 11th of July 2018 11:21:00 PM
I, for one, probably have a problem with compulsively picking up my phone. So when Apple announced new software to help people restrict the amount of time they spend on iPhones, I knew I had to test it on myself. I also wanted to try it on a "screenager", a teenager who is addicted to screens - exactly the kind of person generating so much concern. Just one problem: I don't have a child, so I needed to borrow one. Fortunately, my editor gleefully volunteered her 14-year-old, Sophie, to be a test subject. So last month, I lent Sophie an iPhone X loaded with an unfinished version of iOS 12, Apple's new operating system, that included the Screen Time feature, which is set for release this fall. We set up the account so that I was a parent, with the ability to set limits, and she was my child. Modern technologies like smartphones and tablets really pose a new kind of problem for parents, and parents today are only just now finding out how to deal with these. Since I happen to be remarkably aware of the harsh way parents tend to judge each other when it comes to how to raise children, I just want to point out that there really is no one true way to manage how children use these technologies, and on top of that, not every child is the same. And, of course, a child growing up in The Netherlands is not the same as that same hypothetical child growing up in Arco, Montana. In short, there's tons of variables here, so for the parents among us - for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and all that.

ARM kills off its anti-RISC-V smear site after own staff revolt

Wednesday 11th of July 2018 08:52:41 PM
Arm has taken offline its website attacking rival processor architecture RISC-V within days of it going live - after its own staff objected to the underhand tactic. The site - riscv-basics.com - was created at the end of June, and attempted to smear open-source RISC-V, listing five reasons why Arm cores are a better choice over its competitor's designs. However, the stunt backfired, with folks in the tech industry, and within the company's own ranks, slamming the site as a cheap shot and an attack on open source. Good on ARM's own employees for speaking up.

Small computer system supports large-scale multi-user APL

Wednesday 11th of July 2018 08:08:09 PM
Another article from a very much bygone era - we're talking 1977, and for sure this one's a bit over my head. I like being honest. APL (A Programming Language) is an interactive language that allows access to the full power of a large computer while maintaining a user interface as friendly as a desktop calculator. APL is based on a notation developed by Dr. Kenneth Iverson of IBM Corporation over a decade ago, and has been growing in popularity in both the business and scientific community. The popularity of APL stems from its powerful primitive operations and data structures, coupled with its ease of programming and debugging. Most versions of APL to date have been on large and therefore expensive computers. Because of the expense involved in owning a computer large enough to run APL, most of the use of APL outside of IBM has been through commercial timesharing companies. The introduction of APL 3000 marks the first time a large-machine APL has been available on a small computer. APL 3000 is a combination of software for the HP 3000 Series II Computer System2 and a CRT terminal, the HP 2641A, that displays the special symbols used in APL. Enjoy.

How smart TVs track more than what's on tonight

Tuesday 10th of July 2018 10:14:37 PM
The growing concern over online data and user privacy has been focused on tech giants like Facebook and devices like smartphones. But people's data is also increasingly being vacuumed right out of their living rooms via their televisions, sometimes without their knowledge. In recent years, data companies have harnessed new technology to immediately identify what people are watching on internet-connected TVs, then using that information to send targeted advertisements to other devices in their homes. Marketers, forever hungry to get their products in front of the people most likely to buy them, have eagerly embraced such practices. But the companies watching what people watch have also faced scrutiny from regulators and privacy advocates over how transparent they are being with users. This is so deeply creepy.

Google may have to make major changes to Android

Tuesday 10th of July 2018 10:12:33 PM
The punishment from Margrethe Vestager, the European Union's competition chief, is expected to include a fine ranging into the billions of dollars, according to people familiar with her thinking, marking the second time in as many years that the region’s antitrust authorities have found that Google threatens corporate rivals and consumers. At the heart of the E.U.'s looming decision are Google's policies that pressure smartphone and tablet manufacturers that use Google's Android operating system to pre-install the tech giant's own apps. In the E.U.'s eyes, device makers such as HTC and Samsung face an anti-competitive choice: Set Google Search as the default search service and offer Google's Chrome browser, or lose access to Android's popular app store. Lacking that portal, owners of Android smartphones or tablets can't easily download games or other apps - or services from Google’s competitors - offered by third-party developers. Vestager has argued the arrangements ensure Google's continued dominance of the Internet ecosystem. As a result, her forthcoming ruling could prohibit Google from striking such app-installation deals with device makers, experts have said. Alternatively, the E.U. could force the company to give consumers an easier way to switch services, like search engines, on their phones or tablets. If Google illegally pressured OEMs, then they ought to be punished. I'm not sure forcing changes to the default services and apps is the right way to go, though.

Microsoft announces the Surface Go

Tuesday 10th of July 2018 10:07:39 PM
Just over three years since the launch of the surprisingly good Surface 3, Microsoft has finally refreshed this category with a new device, now called the Surface Go. The Surface Pro series has been very successful for the company, and they've decided it's time to offer an entry level Surface again. The Redmond company has been working on trying to win back the education market, so a smaller, lighter, and most importantly, less expensive Surface makes a lot of sense.

ARM launches PR attack on RISC-V

Monday 9th of July 2018 07:18:46 PM
Anybody remember Microsoft's "get the facts" campaign? Well, ARM is having its "get the facts" moment, with the British company launching a site to disparage the open source RISC-V architecture. The instruction set architecture (ISA) is the foundation of all chip or System-on-Chip (SoC) products. It is therefore one of the most fundamental design choices you will make. If you are considering using an open-source ISA, such as RISC-V, it is critical to understand the key factors you should consider as part of your go-to-market strategy. It seems odd for ARM - riding high as it is - to attack RISC-V like this, which seems to barely be making a dent anywhere.

China begins production of x86 processors based on AMD's IP

Monday 9th of July 2018 07:13:49 PM
Chinese-designed "Dhyana" x86 processors based on AMD's Zen microarchitecture are beginning to surface from Chinese chip producer Hygon. The processors come as the fruit of AMD's x86 IP licensing agreements with its China-based partners and break the decades-long stranglehold on x86 held by the triumvirate of Intel, AMD and VIA Technologies. Details are also emerging that outline how AMD has managed to stay within the boundaries of the x86 licensing agreements but still allow Chinese-controlled interests to design and sell processors based on the Zen design. Even though I doubt this will have any meaningful impact on competition, it's always good to see new x86 manufacturers. The licensing situation around x86 always feels impenetrable and mysterious to me, almost as if it was specifically designed and set up to divide up the x86 market, a huge cash cow for several decades now. With ARM use being on the rise and the architecture even making its first inroads into laptops, servers, and maybe even desktops, the x86 cash cow is starting to look mightily starved.

Android emulator: AMD processor and Hyper-V support

Monday 9th of July 2018 06:36:54 PM
Making the Android Emulator faster is one of the top priorities for the Android Studio team. Over the last few releases, we have launched quick boot & emulator snapshots for quickly starting and resuming emulator sessions in under 2 seconds. Up until now, our emulator experience has almost universally worked on macOS and Linux computers. But for users of Microsoft Windows or the Microsoft Hyper-V platform, our hardware accelerated speed enhancements for the Android Emulator only worked with computers with Intel processors. Support for AMD processors and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisor are two long-standing user requests from the Android developer community that we are happy to address with this Android Emulator update. Welcome addition with the recent popularity of AMD Zen-based processors.

MorphOS 3.11 released

Monday 9th of July 2018 11:24:06 AM
We're ending our Amiga/BeOS/Atari day (for now!) with the release of MorphOS 3.11. The MorphOS development team is proud to announce the immediate availability of MorphOS 3.11. In addition to performance, stability and security improvements, this new version also features the first more substantial update of the Odyssey web browser in a while, which improves the rendering of and general compatibility with modern websites in several ways, as well as a more refined version of the recently introduced Flow Studio, our official integrated development environment. For a more extensive overview of the changes included in MorphOS 3.11, please read our release notes. The browser improvements are most welcome, since that's definitely a sore spot for MorphOS on PowerPC machines because of the browser's underwhelming performance. While the improvements listed won't suddenly fix this problem entirely - and there's only so much you can do on outdated PowerPC hardware to begin with - they should still alleviate the problem somewhat.

The Jackintosh: a real GEM - remembering the Atari ST

Monday 9th of July 2018 11:18:01 AM
I promised you an Atari story, so you get an Atari story. How about a history of and ode to the Atari ST, the Amiga and Macintosh competitor? Surviving on its remaining video-game inventory, the new company went to work developing Tramiel's new 16-bit computer. Based on the same Motorola 68000 processor used in the Apple Macintosh, the Atari ST (the ST apparently standing for "sixteen/thirty-two" although some have speculated it stood for "Sam Tramiel" after Jack's son), was designed to be attractive to a wide variety of computer users. Like the Commodore 64, the ST could be plugged into a television for casual video-gaming, but additionally it could use a colour or monochrome monitor - the latter of which featuring a higher resolution than the Macintosh, an appeal to those in the then-emerging world of desktop publishing. It also came standard with MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) ports for controlling synthesisers, making it attractive to musicians. I actually bought an Atari T-shirt last week that I'm wearing right now, which is a tad bit disingenuous since I've never actually used an Atari, be it a console or an ST. The ST is on my wish list, though, alongside an Amiga 1200 and C64. I promise I'll earn the right to wear this shirt.

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