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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 42 min 45 sec ago

Verizon and AT&T will stop selling your phone's location

5 hours 15 min ago
Verizon and AT&T have promised to stop selling their mobile customers' location information to third-party data brokers following a security problem that leaked the real-time location of US cell phone users. Good news for Verizon and AT&T customers, but one has to wonder who's going to pay for this. They're going to have to recover the lost income somewhere, and that's probably going to be, well, you.

What if Apple loses its Supreme Court App Store antitrust appeal?

5 hours 54 min ago
Earlier this week, the Supreme Court officially picked up the long-running antitrust case Apple v. Pepper. The court will decide whether iPhone users can sue Apple for locking down the iOS ecosystem, something the suit's plaintiffs say is creating an anti-competitive monopoly. Apple v. Pepper could theoretically affect how tech companies can build walled gardens around their products. The Supreme Court isn't going to make a call on that specific issue, but its decision could affect people's relationship with all kinds of digital platforms. Here's what's at stake when the Supreme Court case starts, which should happen sometime in the next year. Sideloading code on a computer you own should not void any warranties.

Oppo's Find X ditches the notch for pop-up cameras

5 hours 56 min ago
If there's a singular trend to point to for phones in 2018, it's the effort to cram as much screen into a device as possible. Oppo's new Find X, which is being officially announced at a live streamed event in Paris today, combines a number of trendy design ideas, plus some even newer tricks, to fit an extremely large 6.4-inch display into a phone that you can still hold in one hand. The Find X’s design is so space efficient that Oppo claims it has a screen to body ratio of 93.8 percent. And it does this without utilizing a notch, which should make at least some people happy. The most interesting aspect of the Find X's design is its camera system, which is completely hidden when the phone is off or the camera app is closed. When you turn the Find X on and open the camera app, the entire top section of the phone motorizes up and reveals a 25-megapixel front-facing camera, 3D facial scanning system, and 16-megapixel + 20-megapixel dual rear camera. Close the camera app and the whole assembly motors back into the phone's chassis. Oppo says the camera can open in just 0.5 seconds, and based on my experience, that seems fairly accurate. I have my doubts about the longevity and durability of motorized camera systems like these, but there's no denying it's a pretty neat trick.

Shortcuts: a new vision for Siri and iOS automation

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 11:28:07 PM
On the surface, Shortcuts the app looks like the full-blown Workflow replacement heavy users of the app have been wishfully imagining for the past year. But there is more going on with Shortcuts than the app alone. Shortcuts the feature, in fact, reveals a fascinating twofold strategy: on one hand, Apple hopes to accelerate third-party Siri integrations by leveraging existing APIs as well as enabling the creation of custom SiriKit Intents; on the other, the company is advancing a new vision of automation through the lens of Siri and proactive assistance from which everyone - not just power users - can reap the benefits. While it's still too early to comment on the long-term impact of Shortcuts, I can at least attempt to understand the potential of this new technology. In this article, I'll try to explain the differences between Siri shortcuts and the Shortcuts app, as well as answering some common questions about how much Shortcuts borrows from the original Workflow app. Let's dig in. Workflow was an amazing iOS application, even with the inherent limitations imposed by iOS. Now that Workflow is owned by Apple and properly integrated into iOS, it should provide an even better experience. While I'm not particularly interested in Shortcuts on my iPhone X, I can't wait to dig into it on my iPad Pro.

Microsoft ports Windows 10, Linux to homegrown CPU design

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 09:57:29 PM
Microsoft has ported Windows 10 and Linux to E2, its homegrown processor architecture it has spent years working on mostly in secret. As well as the two operating systems, the US giant's researchers say they have also ported Busybox and FreeRTOS, plus a collection of toolkits for developing and building applications for the processor: the standard C/C++ and .NET Core runtime libraries, the Windows kernel debugger, Visual C++ 2017's command line tools, and .NET's just-in-time compiler RyuJIT. Microsoft has also ported the widely used LLVM C/C++ compiler and debugger, and related C/C++ runtime libraries. The team wanted to demonstrate that programmers do not need to rewrite their software for the experimental chipset, and that instead programs just need to be recompiled - then they are ready to roll on the new technology. I had no idea Microsoft was working on its own instruction set - even if only for research purposes. The Register has some more information on what E2 is like. The Register understands from people familiar with its development that prototype E2 processors exist in the form of FPGAs - chips with reprogrammable circuitry that are typically used during the development of chips. For example, a dual-core implementation on Xilinx FPGAs exists, clocked at 50MHz. The team has also developed a cycle-accurate simulator capable of booting Windows and Linux, and running applications. Qualcomm researchers were evaluating two EDGE chip designs with Microsoft: a small R0 core, and an R1 core running up to 2GHz fabricated using a 10nm process. The project, we must stress, is very much a work in progress. It seems to be a radical departure from the norm, and I'm very interested to see where this will lead.

The EU's bizarre war on memes is totally unwinnable

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 09:48:07 PM
On June 20, the European Parliament will set in motion a process that could force online platforms like Facebook, Reddit and even 4chan to censor their users' content before it ever gets online. A proposed new European copyright law wants large websites to use "content recognition technologies" to scan for copyrighted videos, music, photos, text and code in a move that that could impact everyone from the open source software community to remixers, livestreamers and teenage meme creators. Anybody who has ever had any dealings with YouTube's Content ID system will know just how terrible of an idea this is.

What it's like to watch an IBM AI successfully debate humans

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 09:38:19 PM
At a small event in San Francisco last night, IBM hosted two debate club-style discussions between two humans and an AI called "Project Debater". The goal was for the AI to engage in a series of reasoned arguments according to some pretty standard rules of debate: no awareness of the debate topic ahead of time, no pre-canned responses. Each side gave a four-minute introductory speech, a four-minute rebuttal to the other's arguments, and a two-minute closing statement. Project Debater held its own. I'd pay so much money to see prominent political leaders debate this machine.

Today is FreeBSD Day

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 08:38:12 AM
We're pleased to announce that June 19 has been declared FreeBSD Day. Join us in honoring The FreeBSD Project's pioneering legacy and continuing impact on technology. Why today? Well, 25 years ago to the day, the name FreeBSD was chosen as the name for the project. FreeBSD formed the base of all kinds of operating systems we use every day today - like macOS and iOS and the operating systems on the Nintendo Switch and Playstation 3, 4, and Vita - and FreeBSD code can be found in the unlikeliest of places, such as Haiku, which uses FreeBSD network drivers, and even Windows, which, although information is sparse, seemed to at one point use FreeBSD code for command-line networking utilities like ftp, nslookup, rcp, and rsh.

The DEC 340 Monitor

Tuesday 19th of June 2018 08:37:39 AM
My big project this year is to get a DEC 340 monitor working. Here is a picture of one of them. The DEC 340 was a very early and rare computer monitor dating from the mid '60s used of course, on DEC computers, their PDP series. Two cabinets of rack mounted electronics. The 340 is historic and was used in some early work that pioneered modern computer graphic techniques. It is quite a bit different from Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitors used by personal computers we were all familiar with a few years ago. In comparison it is alien technology. All circuits are implemented using discrete components and there are no integrated circuits anywhere in the design. The discrete components themselves are unusual dating from the early days of transistor use. It always amazes me how fast technology has developed over the past few decades.

A broad overview of how modern Linux systems boot

Monday 18th of June 2018 11:22:48 PM
For reasons beyond the scope of this entry, today I feel like writing down a broad and simplified overview of how modern Linux systems boot. Due to being a sysadmin who has stubbed his toe here repeatedly, I'm going to especially focus on points of failure. I always find it fascinating to read about how computers boot - it's often a very intricate process, built atop decades of backwards compatibility.

x86 assembly doesn't have to be scary

Monday 18th of June 2018 11:16:08 PM
Assembly programming can be intimidating for people who have never looked into it any deeper than a glance, but giving that it underpins how the computers we use work it can be helpful having context in regards to what is actually being run by the CPU. You can run the code samples live on the webpage itself thanks to Emscription and v86. Neat.

What it was like to write a full blown Flutter application

Monday 18th of June 2018 11:11:59 PM
So I just finished my first Flutter app and I feel I can safely invest much more of my time long term to the framework. Writing a Flutter app has been a litmus test and Flutter passed the test. It’s amazing to now be able to competently write apps for iOS and Android. I also love writing and scaling backends and my wife Irina is a UX so it’s a powerful combination.

How ARKit 2 works, and why Apple is so focused on AR

Monday 18th of June 2018 02:33:38 PM
Augmented reality (AR) has played prominently in nearly all of Apple's events since iOS 11 was introduced, Tim Cook has said he believes it will be as revolutionary as the smartphone itself, and AR was Apple's biggest focus in sessions with developers at WWDC this year. But why? Most users don't think the killer app for AR has arrived yet - unless you count Pokémon Go. The use cases so far are cool, but they're not necessary and they're arguably a lot less cool on an iPhone or iPad screen than they would be if you had glasses or contacts that did the same things. From this year's WWDC keynote to Apple's various developer sessions hosted at the San Jose Convention Center and posted online for everyone to view, though, it's clear that Apple is investing heavily in augmented reality for the future. We're going to comb through what Apple has said about AR and ARKit this week, go over exactly what the toolkit does and how it works, and speculate about the company's strategy - why Apple seems to care so much about AR, and why it thinks it's going to get there first in a coming gold rush. While AR clearly has a role to play in professional settings (e.g construction work, medical settings, and so on), I still haven't seen a general purpose application that justifies the heavy investment in AR by Apple. All demos usually come down to "oh, that's neat, I guess" and "that is incredibly uncomfortable". Where's the killer app?

C gfx library for the Linux framebuffer with parallelism support

Monday 18th of June 2018 02:27:23 PM
FBGraphics was made to produce fullscreen pixels effects easily with non-accelerated framebuffer by leveraging multi-core processors, it is a bit like a software GPU (much less complex and featured!), the initial target platform is a Raspberry PI 3B and extend to the NanoPI (and many others embedded devices), the library should just work with many others devices with a Linux framebuffer altough there is at the moment some restrictions on the supported framebuffer format (24 bits). FBGraphics is lightweight and does not intend to be a fully featured graphics library, it provide a limited set of graphics primitive and a small set of useful functions to start doing framebuffer graphics right away with or without multi-core support. Neat project.

On the sad state of Macintosh hardware

Friday 15th of June 2018 08:46:48 PM
Rather than attempting to wow the world with "innovative" new designs like the failed Mac Pro, Apple could and should simply provide updates and speed bumps to the entire lineup on a much more frequent basis. The much smaller Apple of the mid-2000s managed this with ease. Their current failure to keep the Mac lineup fresh, even as they approach a trillion dollar market cap, is both baffling and frightening to anyone who depends on the platform for their livelihood. Given the incredibly sad state of the Mac lineup, it's difficult to understand how WWDC could have come and gone with no hardware releases. Apple's transparency in 2017 regarding their miscalculation with the Mac Pro seemed encouraging, but over a year later, the company has utterly failed to produce anything tangible. Instead, customers are still forced to choose between purchasing new computers that are actually years old or holding out in the faint hope that hardware updates are still to come. Every day, the situation becomes more dire. The Rogue Amoeba tea is not wrong. Apple's Mac line-up is pretty much a joke at this point, and despite Tim Cook's endless "we have great stuff in the pipeline" remarks, Apple is simply failing to deliver. The Mac is still not in a good spot.

RetroBSD: Unix for microcontrollers

Friday 15th of June 2018 08:42:57 PM
RetroBSD is a port of 2.11BSD Unix intended for embedded systems with fixed memory mapping. The current target is Microchip PIC32 microcontroller with 128 kbytes of RAM and 512 kbytes of Flash. PIC32 processor has MIPS M4K architecture, executable data memory and flexible RAM partitioning between user and kernel modes.

It looks like Google is readying the Pixelbook to run Windows 10

Friday 15th of June 2018 08:38:46 PM
Google's Pixelbook is some beautiful, well-built hardware, but its use of Chrome OS means that for many people, it will be too limited to be useful. Although Chrome OS is no longer entirely dependent on Web applications - it can also be used to run Android applications, and Linux application support is also in development - the lack of Windows support means that most traditional desktop applications are unusable. But that may be changing due to indications that Google is adding Windows support to its hardware. Earlier this year, changes made to the Pixelbook's firmware indicated that Google is working on a mode called AltOS that would allow switching between Chrome OS and an "alternative OS," in some kind of dual-boot configuration. A couple candidates for that alternative OS are Google's own Fuchsia and, of course, Windows. The Pixelbook is a nice piece of kit, but Chrome OS simply isn't good enough for me personally. The ability to run Windows would make it more desirable, but since it's not even available in The Netherlands - or in most other places, for that matter - I doubt this will attract any new buyers.

The 5G standard is finally finished

Friday 15th of June 2018 08:38:16 PM
It's been a long time coming, but there's finally a finished 5G standard. Earlier this week, the 3GPP - the international group that governs cellular standards - officially signed off on the standalone 5G New Radio (NR) spec. It's another major step toward next-generation cellular networks finally becoming a reality. Now, if you've been paying attention to the cellular industry, this may sound familiar and for good reason: the 3GPP also announced a finished 5G standard in December 2017. The difference is that the December specification was for the non-standalone version of 5G NR, which would still be built on top of existing legacy LTE networks. The agreed-upon specification from this week is the standalone version of 5G, which allows for new deployments of 5G in places that didn’t necessarily have that existing infrastructure.

Sculpt OS available as live system

Thursday 14th of June 2018 12:14:45 AM
Sculpt for The Curious (TC) is the second incarnation of the general-purpose operating system pursued by the developers of the Genode OS Framework. It comes in the form of a ready-to-use system image that can be booted directly from a USB thumb drive. In contrast to earlier versions, Sculpt TC features a graphical user interface for the interactive management of storage devices and networking. The main administrative interface remains text-based. It allows the user to "sculpt" the system live into shape, and introspect the system's state at any time. The technological foundation of Sculpt is a combination of Genode's microkernel architecture with capability-based security and virtualization. It does not resemble a POSIX system, rather it supports hosting POSIX and Unix software as an option. This way, security-critical components are not exposed to the complexities of POSIX while the system retains compatibility to existing applications. Sculpt TC features several examples of such applications, ranging from Qt-based software over a custom Unix runtime to VirtualBox. The downloadable system image with the accompanied documentation is available at the Sculpt download page of the Genode project.

Microsoft is rebuilding the Office interface

Thursday 14th of June 2018 12:10:51 AM
Office today has a whole bunch of versions - the traditional, fully featured Win32 desktop applications and their near counterparts on the Mac, along with various simpler versions for the Web, mobile, and Universal Windows Platform (UWP). Presently, these various incarnations all have similarities in their interfaces, but they're far from consistent. That's set to change. Microsoft is overhauling the interfaces of all the Office versions to bring a much more consistent look and feel across the various platforms that the applications support. This new interface will have three central elements. I use Office every day, and I just want one thing from Microsoft: the ability to open multiple instances of the UWP Office applications. The UWP version of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint are faster, smoother, and easier to use than their slow, cumbersome Win32 counterparts. I'm convinced the only reason Microsoft artificially limits the UWP versions to one instance per app is so they won't tread on the hallowed, sacred Win32 ground. It's high time Microsoft removes this purely artificial limitation.

More in Tux Machines

A look at Lutris – Open Gaming Platform for GNU/Linux

Lutris is quite the handy application I’ve discovered, that helps with organization and installation of games on GNU/Linux, even if they come from multiple sources. One of the project's goals is to support any game that runs on Linux regardless of whether it runs natively, through Wine, or other means. The main appeal of Lutris is that it provides an interface to manage all games installed on the machine regardless of source. While it is necessary to integrate the games in the application first, doing so is not super complicated. You may add local games right away by selecting them from the local system or visit the Lutris website to add games this way. Lutris simplifies nearly everything. Users can visit the list of support games on the Lutris website, choose to download and install the game (Note: If its a game that must be bought, you must own it first.) The website lists supported games and where you can acquire or download them. You can use filters on the site to display only free games, games of a genre, or use the built-in search to find games of interest quickly using it. Read more

GNOME Desktop: Flatpak and Random Wallpaper Gnome Extension

  • Flatpak in detail, part 2
    The first post in this series looked at runtimes and extensions. Here, we’ll look at how flatpak keeps the applications and runtimes on your system organized, with installations, repositories, branches, commits and deployments.
  • Flatpak – a history
    I’ve been working on Flatpak for almost 4 years now, and 1.0 is getting closer. I think it might be interesting at this point to take a retrospective look at the history of Flatpak.
  • Random Wallpaper Gnome Extension Changes Your Desktop Background With Images From Various Online Sources
    Random Wallpaper is an extension for Gnome Shell that can automatically fetch wallpapers from a multitude of online sources and set it as your desktop background. The automatic wallpaper changer comes with built-in support for downloading wallpapers from unsplash.com, desktopper.co, wallhaven.cc, as well as support for basic JSON APIs or files. The JSON support is in fact my favorite feature in Random Wallpaper. That's because thanks to it and the examples available on the Random Wallpaper GitHub Wiki, one can easily add Chromecast Images, NASA Picture of the day, Bing Picture of the day, and Google Earth View (Google Earth photos from a selection of around 1500 curated locations) as image sources.

today's howtos

KDE: QtPad, Celebrating 10 Years with KDE, GSoC 2018

  • QtPad - Modern Customizable Sticky Note App for Linux
    In this article, we'll focus on how to install and use QtPad on Ubuntu 18.04. Qtpad is a unique and highly customizable sticky note application written in Qt5 and Python3 tailored for Unix systems.
  • Celebrating 10 Years with KDE
    Of course I am using KDE software much longer. My first Linux distribution, SuSE 6.2 (the precursor to openSUSE), came with KDE 1.1.1 and was already released 19 years ago. But this post is not celebrating the years I am using KDE software. Exactly ten years ago, dear Albert committed my first contribution to KDE. A simple patch for a problem that looked obvious to fix, but waiting for someone to actually do the work. Not really understanding the consequences, it marks the start of my journey within the amazing KDE community.
  • GSoC 2018 – Coding Period (May 28th to June 18th): First Evaluation and Progress with LVM VG
    I got some problems during the last weeks of Google Summer of Code which made me deal with some challenges. One of these challenges was caused by a HD physical problem. I haven’t made a backup of some work and had to rework again in some parts of my code. As I already knew how to proceed, it was faster than the first time. I had to understand how the device loading process is made in Calamares to load a preview of the new LVM VG during its creation in Partition Page. I need to list it as a new storage device in this page and deal with the revert process. I’ve implemented some basic fixes and tried to improve it.