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Exploring the Future of Computing



Last Build Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2017 07:17:21 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2001-2017, David Adams
 



Google adds Fuchsia support to Apple's Swift

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:56:51 GMT

Google's in-development operating system, named 'Fuchsia,' first appeared over a year ago. It's quite different from Android and Chrome OS, as it runs on top of the real-time 'Magenta' kernel instead of Linux. According to recent code commits, Google is working on Fuchsia OS support for the Swift programming language. There's a tiny error in this summary form AndroidPolice - Fuchsia's kernel has been renamed to Zircon. All this has been playing out late last week and over the weekend - Google is now working on Swift, and some took this to mean Google forked Apple's programming language, while in reality, it just created a staging ground for Google to work on Swift, pushing changes upstream to the official Swift project when necessary - as confirmed by Chris Lattner, creator of Swift, who used to work at Apple, but now works at Google. Zac Bowling, a Google engineer working on Fuchsia, then highlighted a pull request that Google pushed to the main Swift repository: Swift support for Fuchsia. He also mentioned a few upcoming pull requests: FYI, in the pipeline after this we will have some PRs related to: adding ARM64 support for the Fuchsia SDK fixing cross-compiling issues for targeting BSD, Linux and Fuchsia targets from a Darwin toolchain adding support for using lld for linking specific SDK stdlibs (part of getting a Darwin toolchain capable of cross compiling to other targets) supporting unit tests on Fuchsia Regarding Fuchsia's purpose, this is yet another little puff of smoke. Sadly, we still haven't found the fire.



Intel plans to end legacy BIOS support by 2020

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 21:42:58 GMT

Computer users of a certain age will remember BIOS as ubiquitous firmware that came loaded on PCs. It was the thing you saw briefly before your operating system loaded, and you could dig into the settings to change your computer's boot order, enable or disable some features, and more. Most modern PCs ship with UEFI instead. But most also still have a "legacy BIOS" mode that allows you to use software or hardware that might not be fully compatible with UEFI. In a few years that might not be an option anymore: Intel has announced plans to end support for legacy BIOS compatibility by 2020. This most certainly affects many older operating systems - especially older hobby and alternative operating systems that were never updated with UEFI support.



IBM Blue Lightning: world's fastest 386?

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:41:15 GMT

The Blue Lightning CPU is an interesting beast. There is not a whole lot of information about what the processor really is, but it can be pieced together from various scraps of information. Around 1990, IBM needed low-power 32-bit processors with good performance for its portable systems, but no one offered such CPUs yet. IBM licensed the 386SX core from Intel and turned it into the IBM 386SLC processor (SLC reportedly stood for "Super Little Chip"). Fascinating footnote in processor history.



Sun's Project Looking Glass debuted 14 years ago

Mon, 20 Nov 2017 20:37:25 GMT

Almost 14 years ago, way back in 2003, Sun Microsystems unveiled Project Looking Glass, a 3D desktop environment written in Java and making extensive use of Java 3D. The demo, by Jonathan Schwartz, always stuck with me over the years, and since YouTube recommended the demo to me today, I figured it'd be interesting to you remind you all of simpler times, when flipping windows around and 3D rendering in Java actually managed to get us excited (something no other project would ever manage to... Wait.). Project Looking Glass was developed for about three years, and it actually saw a 1.0 release in late 2006. It's one of those random projects exploring what we then thought could be the future of computing, right before the iPhone came onto the scene and changed everything. While nothing came out of Project Looking Glass, Schwartz' demo did teach me the phrase "arbitrarily clever", which I'm unusually attached to.



Did Microsoft manually patch their Equation Editor executable?

Fri, 17 Nov 2017 11:51:53 GMT

Really, quite literally, some pretty skilled Microsoft employee or contractor reverse engineered our friend EQNEDT32.EXE, located the flawed code, and corrected it by manually overwriting existing instructions with better ones (making sure to only use the space previously occupied by original instructions). This... This is one hell of a story. The unanswered question is why, exactly, Microsoft felt the need to do this - do they no longer have access to the source code? Has it simply become impossible to set up the correct build environment? Amazing.



How to set up a Pixelbook for programming

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 22:47:19 GMT

Well, I've really done it. I've taken a pure and unsullied Google Pixelbook, which at one time was fast and secure in all ways, and made it into a crashy mess. My crime? The desire to code. I'm going to walk you through my process for converting this machine into something that's marginally desirable for programming, but I just wanted to warn you before I begin: this isn't easy, clean, intuitive, or practical. There are rumors that Google is working on better ways to make Chrome OS a host for other flavors of Linux or Linux apps, but right now we're basically working with hacks, and hacks hurt. Because these hacks hurt, I'd implore you to read this entire guide before attempting any of the steps so you know what you're getting yourself into, and if you, in fact, desire the results. I think the PixelBook is a stunningly beautiful and fast machine, and while Chrome OS isn't nearly as useless as people often think it is, it clearly isn't the kind of operating system many OSNews readers would prefer. This is a guide to getting a traditional Linux setup up and running.



RISC-V port merged to Linux

Thu, 16 Nov 2017 21:56:37 GMT

The RISC-V port was just merged to Linux a few minutes ago. This means we will be in the 4.15 release, which should be out about 10 weeks from last Sunday. As soon as the tarballs are created, the RISC-V Linux ABI will be stable, and since we'll ideally be in a glibc release that comes out soon after that we'll be fully ABI stable by early in February. RISC-V is a completely free and open ISA that hasn't seen much adoption just yet.



Scripting the Haiku GUI with 'hey'

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 23:59:56 GMT

Haiku's GUI is in principle entirely scriptable. You can change a window's position and size and manipulate pretty much every widget in it. The tool to do this is hey. It sends BMessages to an application, thus emulating what happens if the user clicks on a menu, checkbox, or other widgets.



The Xerox Alto struts its stuff on its 40th birthday

Wed, 15 Nov 2017 23:58:53 GMT

The Xerox Alto, widely recognized as the first modern personal computer, pioneered just about every basic concept we are familiar with in computers today. These include windows, bit-mapped computer displays, the whole idea of WYSIWIG interfaces, the cut/paste/copy tools in word processing programs, and pop-up menus. Most of this vision of the "office of the future" was first unveiled at a meeting of Xerox executives held on 10 Nov 1977, which was 40 years ago last week. To celebrate that birthday, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif., brought together some of Parc researchers who worked on the Alto on Friday. They put it through its paces in a series of live demos. These demos used an Alto that had been restored to working order over the past eight months. One of the most important computers ever made.



OnePlus left a backdoor in its devices with root access

Tue, 14 Nov 2017 10:37:35 GMT

Just a month ago, OnePlus was caught collecting personally identifiable data from phone owners through incredibly detailed analytics. While the company eventually reversed course on the data collection, another discovery has been made in the software of OnePlus phones. One developer found an application intended for factory testing, and through some investigation and reverse-engineering, was able to obtain root access using it. People often tout OnePlus phones as an alternative to the Pixel line now that Google abandoned the Nexus concept of affordable, high-quality phones. Recent events, however, have made it very clear that you should really steer clear of phones like this, unless you know very well what you're doing.



Google to remove Accessibility Services apps from the Play Store

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 23:39:35 GMT

Some of the most innovative applications on the Play Store are built on using APIs in ways that Google never intended. There are apps that can remap your volume keys to skip music tracks, record and play back touch inputs on webpages or games, and even provide alternative navigation keys so you can use your device’s entire screen. All of these examples that I’ve just mention rely on Android’s Accessibility APIs. But that may soon change, as the Google Play Store team is sending out emails to developers telling them that they can no longer implement Accessibility Services unless they follow Google’s guidelines. Accessibility Services is an attack vector for malicious software, so in that light it makes sense. Of course, that doesn't make it any less frustrating that good, innovative software gets smothered like this. Luckily, this is Android, so the developers can always just distribute their applications outside of the Play Store through sideloading, but that's not exactly a secure solution for most people - and let's be honest, not being in the Play Store will be the death knell for most developers. The real solution would be to provide APIs for things like this, but I doubt Google is going to invest any time, effort, and money into creating such APIs, since they seem more concerned with shoving useless digital assistants down our throats.



How Firefox got fast again

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 23:04:55 GMT

People have noticed that Firefox is fast again. Over the past seven months, we’ve been rapidly replacing major parts of the engine, introducing Rust and parts of Servo to Firefox. Plus, we’ve had a browser performance strike force scouring the codebase for performance issues, both obvious and non-obvious. We call this Project Quantum, and the first general release of the reborn Firefox Quantum comes out tomorrow. orthographic drawing of jet engine But this doesn’t mean that our work is done. It doesn’t mean that today’s Firefox is as fast and responsive as it’s going to be. So, let’s look at how Firefox got fast again and where it’s going to get faster. I should definitely give Firefox another try - I've tried it over the years but it always felt a little sluggish compared to the competition. Chrome's gotten way too fat over the years, so I've resorted to using Edge on my main computer lately - it isn't perfect, but it it sure is fast, and places very little strain on my machine. I want my browser to get out of my way, and gobbling up processor cycles is exactly not that.



A history of the Amiga, part 11: between an Escom and a Gateway

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 22:56:46 GMT

Ars Technica has released another excellent article in their series on the Amiga. This article covers the beginning of the post-Commodore world, starting with Escom and ending with the beginning of Amiga Inc. Commodore International declared itself insolvent on April 29, 1994 under Chapter 7 of US bankruptcy law. Ordinarily, this would have been followed immediately by an auction of all the company’s assets. However, Commodore’s Byzantine organizational structure - designed to serve as a tax shelter for financier Irving Gould - made this process far more lengthy and complicated than it should have been.



Sailfish 2.1.3 released

Mon, 13 Nov 2017 21:09:09 GMT

Another point release of one of the few - maybe even only - alternative mobile operating systems still being actively updated. This update, 2.1.3 alias Kymijoki brings Sailfish X for Sony Xperia X. All Sailfish devices get fixes for some recent well-known security vulnerabilities, including WPA issues and Bluetooth Blueborne. Kymijoki contains connectivity improvements made for Qt and Android apps and fixes dozens of other issues, too. It's a relatively minor update, but still - it's good to see Sailfish progressing.



Fused video stabilization on Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL

Fri, 10 Nov 2017 23:20:44 GMT

One of the most important aspects of current smartphones is easily capturing and sharing videos. With the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the videos you capture are smoother and clearer than ever before, thanks to our Fused Video Stabilization technique based on both optical image stabilization (OIS) and electronic image stabilization (EIS). Fused Video Stabilization delivers highly stable footage with minimal artifacts, and the Pixel 2 is currently rated as the leader in DxO's video ranking (also earning the highest overall rating for a smartphone camera). But how does it work? An interesting technical look at how Google achieves these results on their Pixel 2 phones, with the obvious caveat that we're looking at story written by Google here, so take that into account as you're reading this. On a related note, overall DxO ratings are dumb.