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Exploring the Future of Computing



Last Build Date: Thu, 08 Dec 2016 10:12:01 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2001-2016, David Adams
 



Apple engineer tried to buy BeOS from Palm for the iPhone

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:47:37 GMT

Jean-Louis Gassée: When the Apple smartphone project started, the key decision was the choice of software engine. Should Apple try to make a 'lite' version of OS X (as it was then known)? Go in a completely new direction? It appears that a new direction may have been tempting. At the time that Apple's smartphone project began, an Apple employee and former Be engineer offered Palm Inc. $800K for a BeOS "code dump" - just the code, no support, no royalties. The engineer was highly respected for his skill in mating software to unfamiliar hardware; BeOS was a small, light operating system; draw your own conclusion... Palm, which had purchased Be a few years before that, turned him down. Interesting historical footnote. This would be the second time that Apple tried to buy BeOS. I've been told that while Forstall (who wanted OS X) and Fadell (who wanted the iPod's Pixo) were battling it out, a former Be engineer then working at Apple wanted to prove BeOS was a viable iPhone candidate, and thus tried to buy it. As history knows, Forstall won out, and only after the fact did the Apple engineer inform the higher-ups of what he tried to do. Apparently, this happens more often inside Apple's culture.



A QEMU advent calendar

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 23:37:20 GMT

An amazing QEMU disk image every day! Brightening your days in the winter holiday season. This is a great idea.



Aggressive design caused Galaxy Note 7 battery explosions

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 21:03:03 GMT

What's interesting is that there is evidence in the design of an intellectual tension between safety and pushing the boundaries. Samsung engineers designed out all of the margin in the thickness of the battery, which is the direction where you get the most capacity gain for each unit of volume. But, the battery also sits within a CNC-machined pocket - a costly choice likely made to protect it from being poked by other internal components. Looking at the design, Samsung engineers were clearly trying to balance the risk of a super-aggressive manufacturing process to maximize capacity, while attempting to protect it internally. Fascinating look - with photos - at the (possible) cause of the Galaxy Note 7 fires.



Supreme Court returns Apple v. Samsung to Federal Circuit

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 20:58:24 GMT

The Supreme Court has overturned Apple's $400 million award in its long-running patent lawsuit against Samsung. Apple won the case in 2012, convincing a federal court that a number of Samsung devices had infringed upon iPhone design patents - including one for a rectangular device with rounded corners and bezels, and another for a home screen comprised of a grid of colorful apps. The Supreme Court’s decision today does not reverse Apple’s win, but does mean that the case will be returned to the Federal Circuit so that the damages can be reassessed. Yeah, this thing is still going on.



Google, democracy and the truth about internet search

Tue, 06 Dec 2016 00:13:50 GMT

Here's what you don't want to do late on a Sunday night. You do not want to type seven letters into Google. That's all I did. I typed: "a-r-e". And then "j-e-w-s". Since 2008, Google has attempted to predict what question you might be asking and offers you a choice. And this is what it did. It offered me a choice of potential questions it thought I might want to ask: "are jews a race?", "are jews white?", "are jews christians?", and finally, "are jews evil?" Are Jews evil? It's not a question I've ever thought of asking. I hadn't gone looking for it. But there it was. I press enter. A page of results appears. This was Google's question. And this was Google's answer: Jews are evil. Because there, on my screen, was the proof: an entire page of results, nine out of 10 of which "confirm" this. The top result, from a site called Listovative, has the headline: "Top 10 Major Reasons Why People Hate Jews." I click on it: "Jews today have taken over marketing, militia, medicinal, technological, media, industrial, cinema challenges etc and continue to face the worlds [sic] envy through unexplained success stories given their inglorious past and vermin like repression all over Europe." Hatred, lies, and stupidity spread easily on the internet - it's a perfect storm of the ease of technology and - very bluntly put - the stupidity of people. Most people have absolutely no understanding of the scientific method, and lack the basic mental tools to objectively assess information and its source. The end result is swaths of people believing that the moon landings were faked, man-made climate change isn't real, that witches have magical powers and need to be burnt at the stake, or - indeed - that Jews, women (try it!), and so on are "evil", because uncle Jimmy's neighbour's aunt's niece thrice removed posted it on Facebook. This is a problem that's going to be very tough to solve. Stupid people have always existed - but the internet is new.



Amazon just opened a cashier-free supermarket

Mon, 05 Dec 2016 21:08:20 GMT

Amazon Go is a new kind of store with no checkout required. We created the world’s most advanced shopping technology so you never have to wait in line. With our Just Walk Out Shopping experience, simply use the Amazon Go app to enter the store, take the products you want, and go! No lines, no checkout. (No, seriously.) Our checkout-free shopping experience is made possible by the same types of technologies used in self-driving cars: computer vision, sensor fusion, and deep learning. Our Just Walk Out technology automatically detects when products are taken from or returned to the shelves and keeps track of them in a virtual cart. When you're done shopping, you can just leave the store. Shortly after, we'll charge your Amazon account and send you a receipt. I find this absolutely fascinating and immensely desirable. I live in a small rural town in the middle of nowhere, and only very recently did we finally get a brand new supermarket with the latest self-checkout and contactless payment technologies (voted most beautiful supermarket in the country, I might add, and a 73-year old family business - we're proud of our own), and it's just so much more convenient than old-fashioned cash registers. I know a number of people prefer being served by a cashier, but honestly - to me it's just wasted time I could spend on something useful. In any event, the idea of just taking stuff off the shelves, without even having to scan them or pay for them at a terminal seems like the next logical step. I don't like the idea of online grocery shopping (I want to see how fresh my produce is before buying it), so this is an excellent compromise.



The FireBee: modern Atari clone

Sun, 04 Dec 2016 01:16:32 GMT

The FireBee is a new Atari-compatible computer. Ataris and Atari-Clones are special computers with their own hard & software. They aren't PC's, Mac's nor Amiga compatible. A FireBee is similar to an Atari Falcon and works very much like that. It will run most of the Atari compatible software that would run on a Falcon. Different to older Ataris and their clones, the FireBee is a modern computer that supports almost everything you'd expect from a today's machine, like USB ports, Ethernet, DVI-I monitor connector, SD-card reader and more. This brand-new Atari compatible is not cheap, but much like the current Amiga computers, if you're worried about the price, you're probably not the intended audience. Note that even though the order page says "pre-order", I think that's a typo - you can order them directly from the Swiss company that makes them, too. I love that people and companies are passionate enough to keep developing, building, and selling machines like this - it's a vital effort to keep platforms alive well into the future.



Improved symlink handling comes to Windows 10

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 00:36:04 GMT

The Windows' NTFS file system has supported symlinks since Windows Vista. However, it hasn't been easy for Windows developers to create symlinks. In our efforts to continually improve the Windows Developer experience we're fixing this! Starting with Windows 10 Insiders build 14972, symlinks can be created without needing to elevate the console as administrator. This will allow developers, tools and projects, that previously struggled to work effectively on Windows due to symlink issues, to behave just as efficiently and reliably as they do on Linux or OSX. Pretty sure a few developers out there are rolling their eyes, sighing 'finally'.



Case study: Sailfish Watch

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 21:43:46 GMT

Last month we did a quick exercise aiming to see how far we could get in a few weeks in porting Sailfish OS to a new kind of mobile device, an Android smartwatch. Compared to the competition, Sailfish OS’s interaction paradigm is particularly suited for small screens, it being gesture-driven and designed to maximize display estate available for the user content. We also had the watch demo with us as a teaser in Slush 2016 this week, to emphasize to journalists, partners and other people how versatile platform Sailfish OS is. And naturally an implementation like this, could fit nicely also into our licensing strategy. This looks pretty good, actually, but as an owner of the limited edition version of the Jolla Phone and the incredibly elusive and rare Jolla Tablet - what I want is not more device categories, it's applications. This has been the platform's number one weakness since its inception, and they seem unwilling to do anything about it.



Why Fitbit buying Pebble makes sense

Fri, 02 Dec 2016 00:06:19 GMT

Late yesterday it was reported by The Information that Fitbit is close to buying wearable startup Pebble, news that has since been independently confirmed by The Verge. Fitbit and Pebble have been in the final stages of the deal since before the Thanksgiving holiday; the buying price has not yet been confirmed. While it ultimately might not be as good of a deal as Pebble would have hoped for, there are a lot of reasons why a Pebble-Fitbit deal makes sense. Pebble is popular among OSNews readers, so those of you with a Pebble might want to keep an eye out for the future of this possible deal.



Genode 16.11 revisits low-level protocols

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:42:02 GMT

Following the feature-rich release in August, with the new version 16.11, Genode's developers took the chance to work on long-standing architectural topics, most prominently the low-level interplay between parent and child components. Besides this low-level work, the release features much improved virtual-networking capabilities. Originally introduced in the previous version, Genode's network-routing mechanism has become more versatile and easier to use. Further topics include the added support for smart cards, kernel improvements of the NOVA hypervisor, and a virtual file system for generating time-based passcodes. The efficient interaction between user-level components is one of the most important aspects of microkernel-based systems like Genode. The design space for this interplay is huge and there is no widely accepted consensus about the "right" way. The options include message passing between independent threads, the migration of threads between address spaces, shared memory, and various flavours of asynchronous communication. When the Genode project originally emerged from the L4 community, it was somehow preoccupied with the idea that synchronous IPC is the best way to go. After all, the sole reliance on unbuffered synchronous IPC was widely regarded as the key for L4's excellent performance. Over the years, however, the mindset of the Genode developers shifted away from this position. Whereas synchronous IPC was found to be a perfect match for some use cases, it needlessly complicated others. It turns out that any IPC mechanism is ultimately a trade-off between low latency, throughput, simplicity, and scalability. Finding a single sweet spot that fits well for all parts of an operating system seems futile. Given this realization and countless experiments, Genode's inter-component protocols were gradually shaped towards the combination of synchronous IPC where low-latency remote procedure calls are desired, asynchronous notifications, and shared memory. That said, Genode's most fundamental inter-component communication protocol - the interplay between parent and child components to establish communication sessions between clients and servers - remained unchanged since the very first version. The current release reconsiders the architectural decisions made in the early days and applies Genode's modern design principles to these low-level protocols. The release documentation contrasts the original design that was solely based on synchronous IPC with the new way. Even though the new version overcomes long-standing limitations of the original design, at the first glance, it gives the impression to be more complicated and expensive in terms of the number of context switches. Interestingly, however, the change has no measurable effect on the performance of even the most dynamic system scenarios. The apparent reason is that the parent-child interactions make up a minuscule part of the overall execution time in real-world scenarios. Even though the architectural work mentioned above is fundamental to the Genode system as a whole, it is barely visible to users of the framework. With respect to user-visible changes, the most prominent improvement is the vastly improved infrastructure for virtual networking, which is covered in great detail in the release documentation. Further topics are the added support for using smart cards, a new VFS plugin for generating time-based passcodes, and updated versions of VirtualBox 4 and 5 running of top of NOVA. Speaking of NOVA, the release improves this kernel in several respects, in particular by adding support for asynchronous map operations. Each of the topics is covered in more depth in the release documentation.



Oracle rumoured to end Solaris development

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:41:19 GMT

There's a rumour going around that Oracle is close to ending all development of Solaris, effectively killing the operating system. Solaris being canned, at least 50% of teams to be RIF'd in short term. All hands meetings being cancelled on orders from legal to prevent news from spreading. Hardware teams being told to cease development. There will be no Solaris 12, final release will be 11.4. Orders coming straight from Larry. It's just rumours for now, but they've been gaining steam over the past few days.



Nokia making a comeback in 2017, Android phones inbound

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 20:35:45 GMT

Back in May, we heard that HMD Global - a new mobile company made up of ex-Nokia staffers - is looking to use the Nokia name to manufacture smartphones running Android as well as feature phones. Today, HMD has announced that it has secured exclusive licensing rights to Nokia's branding for 10 years. The first batch of Android smartphones bearing the Nokia name will make their debut in the first half of 2017. HMD is a Finnish company staffed with ex-Nokia people, so it makes sense they'd be working together on this. Hopefully this means Nokia can focus on what it does best - the backend - while the smaller, more nimble HMD san focus on making great phones.



AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update 1 pre-release for AmigaOne X5000

Thu, 01 Dec 2016 00:43:20 GMT

The pre-release version of AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition Update #1 is an official update to AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition released by Hyperion Entertainment in 2014. It is the combined result of many many years of effort by the core AmigaOS developers, translators and beta testers and includes a number of bug fixes and updates to the original AmigaOS 4.1 Final Edition release. The naming and versioning system could use some work.



The linguistic evolution of 'like'

Wed, 30 Nov 2016 23:18:37 GMT

Like LOL, like, entrenched in all kinds of sentences, used subconsciously, and difficult to parse the real meaning of without careful consideration, has all the hallmarks of a piece of grammar - specifically, in the pragmatic department, modal wing. One thing making it especially clear that the new like is not just a tic of heedless, underconfident youth is that many of the people who started using it in the new way in the 1970s are now middle-aged. People's sense of how they talk tends to differ from the reality, and the person of a certain age who claims never to use like "that way" as often as not, like, does - and often. As I write, a sentence such as There were like grandparents and like grandkids in there is as likely to be spoken by a forty-something as by a teenager or a college student. Just listen around the next time you're standing in a line, watching a talk show, or possibly even listening to yourself. Great article. Just goes to show how complex and deep language can be. This is a good, detailed article on the changing use of the word "like", which, despite its length, doesn't even touch upon another now-common use of the word "like" that has even transcended borders and languages: Facebook's "like", which has become a noun in several languages - including my own - and carries with it a new verb meaning: to click that particular Facebook button.