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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 28 min ago

Creating a Christmas card on a vintage IBM 1401 mainframe

Sunday 10th of December 2017 11:54:47 PM
I recently came across a challenge to print a holiday greeting card on a vintage computer, so I decided to make a card on a 1960s IBM 1401 mainframe. The IBM 1401 computer was a low-end business mainframe announced in 1959, and went on to become the most popular computer of the mid-1960s, with more than 10,000 systems in use. The 1401's rental price started at $2500 a month (about $20,000 in current dollars), a low price that made it possible for even a medium-sized business to have a computer for payroll, accounting, inventory, and many other tasks. Although the 1401 was an early all-transistorized computer, these weren't silicon transistors - the 1401 used germanium transistors, the technology before silicon. It used magnetic core memory for storage, holding 16,000 characters. Some people have access to the coolest stuff.

Making a Game Boy game in 2017

Sunday 10th of December 2017 11:51:18 PM
Everyone has childhood dreams. Mine was to make a game for my fist console: the Nintendo Game Boy. Today, I fulfilled this dream, by releasing my first Game Boy game on a actual cartridge: Sheep It Up! In this article, I'll present the tools I used, and some pitfalls a newcomer like me had to overcome to make this project a reality! This isn't simply a ROM you run in an emulator - no, this is a real Game Boy cartridge. Amazing work.

Qt 5.10 released

Thursday 7th of December 2017 10:57:56 PM
Great new things are coming with the latest Qt release. From image based styling of the Qt Quick Controls, new shape types in Qt Quick through to Vulkan enablers as well as additional languages and handwriting recognition in Virtual Keyboard. But wait, there is more. We fully support both OAuth1 & 2, text to speech and we also have a tech preview of the Qt WebGL Streaming Plugin. The blog post about the release has more information.

Qualcomm Centriq 2400: the world's first 10nm server processor

Thursday 7th of December 2017 10:55:07 PM
Today marks a major milestone in the processor industry - we've launched Qualcomm Centriq 2400, the world's first and only 10nm server processor. While this is the culmination of an intensive five-year journey for the Qualcomm Datacenter Technologies (QDT) team, it also marks the beginning of an era that will see a step function in the economics and energy efficiency of operating a datacenter.

ReactOS 0.4.7 released

Wednesday 6th of December 2017 08:29:26 PM
ReactOS 0.4.7 has been released, and it contains a ton of fixes, improvements, and new features. Judging by the screenshots, ReactOS 0.4.7 can run Opera, Firefox, and Mozilla all at once, which is good news for those among us who want to use ReactOS on a more daily basis. There's also a new application manager which, as the name implies, makes it easier to install and uninstall applications, similar to how package managers on Linux work. On a lower level, ReactOS can now deal with Ext2, Ext3, Ext4, BtrFS, ReiserFS, FFS, and NFS partitions. There's more, so head on over to the announcement page.

Bitcoin could cost us our clean-energy future

Wednesday 6th of December 2017 08:19:46 PM
The total energy use of this web of hardware is huge - an estimated 31 terawatt-hours per year. More than 150 individual countries in the world consume less energy annually. And that power-hungry network is currently increasing its energy use every day by about 450 gigawatt-hours, roughly the same amount of electricity the entire country of Haiti uses in a year. [...] In just a few months from now, at bitcoin's current growth rate, the electricity demanded by the cryptocurrency network will start to outstrip what's available, requiring new energy-generating plants. And with the climate conscious racing to replace fossil fuel-base plants with renewable energy sources, new stress on the grid means more facilities using dirty technologies. By July 2019, the bitcoin network will require more electricity than the entire United States currently uses. By February 2020, it will use as much electricity as the entire world does today. This is an unsustainable trajectory. It simply can't continue. Not only is bitcoin tulips, but it's also incredibly bad for our planet. These energy numbers are insanity.

Windows Phone stymied by moving goalposts, just like Symbian

Wednesday 6th of December 2017 08:15:48 PM
The problem with the tech world is, from an operating system provider's point of view, that the goalposts keep moving. These perambulating pieces of wood killed Symbian, killed Blackberry, have almost killed Windows Phone and Windows 10 Mobile, and, one day, may even kill iOS as we know it today. With hindsight, it's all too clear, but at the time OS coders were making sensible choices. Operating systems come, and operating systems go.

HP, Asus announce first Windows 10 ARM PCs

Tuesday 5th of December 2017 08:19:56 PM
HP and Asus have announced the first Windows 10 PCs running on ARM - Snapdragon 835 - and they're boasting about instant-on, 22 hour battery life, and gigabit LTE. These machines run full Windows 10 - so not some crippled Windows RT nonsense - and support 32bit x86 applications. Microsoft hasn't unveiled a whole lot just yet about their x86-on-ARM emulation, but Ars did compile some information: The emulator runs in a just-in-time basis, converting blocks of x86 code to equivalent blocks of ARM code. This conversion is cached both in memory (so each given part of a program only has to be translated once per run) and on disk (so subsequent uses of the program should be faster, as they can skip the translation). Moreover, system libraries - the various DLLs that applications load to make use of operating system feature - are all native ARM code, including the libraries loaded by x86 programs. Calling them "Compiled Hybrid Portable Executables" (or "chippie" for short), these libraries are ARM native code, compiled in such a way as to let them respond to x86 function calls. While processor-intensive applications are liable to suffer a significant performance hit from this emulation - Photoshop will work in the emulator, but it won't be very fast - applications that spend a substantial amount of time waiting around for the user - such as Word - should perform with adequate performance. As one might expect, this emulation isn't available in the kernel, so x86 device drivers won't work on these systems. It's also exclusively 32-bit; software that's available only in a 64-bit x86 version won't be compatible. I'm very curious about the eventual performance figures for this emulation, since the idea of running my garbage Win32 translation management software on a fast, energy-efficient laptop and external monitor seem quite appealing to me.

Tim Cook backs China's internet censorship

Tuesday 5th of December 2017 08:10:47 PM
Reading headlines from the World Internet Conference in China, the casual reader might have come away a little confused. China was opening its doors to the global Internet, some media outlets optimistically declared, while others said Beijing was defending its system of censorship and state control. And perhaps most confusing of all, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook stood up and celebrated China’s vision of an open Internet. Say what? Hardly surprising. This may come as a shock, but with publicly traded companies, you're not the customer; you're the product. Shareholders are their real customers.

How brands secretly buy their way into website stories

Tuesday 5th of December 2017 08:07:31 PM
People involved with the payoffs are extremely reluctant to discuss them, but four contributing writers to prominent publications including Mashable, Inc, Business Insider, and Entrepreneur told me they have personally accepted payments in exchange for weaving promotional references to brands into their work on those sites. Two of the writers acknowledged they have taken part in the scheme for years, on behalf of many brands. One of them, a contributor to Fast Company and other outlets who asked not to be identified by name, described how he had inserted references to a well-known startup that offers email marketing software into multiple online articles, in Fast Company and elsewhere, on behalf of a marketing agency he declined to name. To make the references seem natural, he said, he often links to case studies and how-to guides published by the startup on its own site. Other times, he’ll just praise a certain aspect of the company’s business to support a point in an otherwise unrelated story. (As of press time, Fast Company had not responded to a request for comment.) This is hardly surprising to anyone who has spent a decent amount of time on the web. I can confirm, however, that I've never partaken in anything like this, and the occasional request of this nature goes straight into my spam folder.

"Google's Pixel 2 XL is absurdly close to being perfect"

Monday 4th of December 2017 09:07:01 PM
With me being so down on Android, it's only fair to also offer insight into the other side of the coin - a longtime iPhone user making the switch to the new Pixel 2 XL, and loving it: This phone is extremely my shit. Google has taken the original Pixel, which was interesting but not enough to tempt me into switching, and made it into something that's near perfect. In a year where the iPhone X, which Apple touts as the future phone, only has a single interesting feature (Face ID) Google has embraced the opportunity to show a different future with arms wide open. It's the first time I can confidently say an Android device is great coming from the iPhone without constantly saying but there's this one thing. Different strokes for different folks, but that's why we're all here debating things that are, in the grand scheme of things, irrelevant.

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 www.google.nl in your address bar, you went to Dutch Google. If you typed www.google.com, you went to English Google. If you typed www.google.de, 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 www.google.nl or to www.google.com, 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...

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