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Exploring the Future of Computing



Last Build Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2017 12:32:23 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2001-2017, David Adams
 



New update options for Windows 10, version 1703

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:41:55 GMT

With the release of Windows 10, we simplified the servicing process by moving to cumulative updates, where each update released contains all the new fixes for that month, as well as all the older fixes from previous months. Today, most organizations deploy these cumulative updates when they are released on the second Tuesday of every month, also called "Update Tuesday." Because these updates contain new security fixes, they are considered "Security Updates" in Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) and System Center Configuration Manager. Based on feedback from customers, we are making some adjustments to the updates that we are releasing for Windows 10, version 1703 (also known as the "Creators Update"). With these changes, we will routinely offer one (or sometimes more than one) additional update each month. These additional cumulative updates will contain only new non-security updates, so they will be considered "Updates" in WSUS and Configuration Manager.



Alphabet's self-driving cars to get their first real riders

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:40:03 GMT

After almost a decade of research, Google's autonomous car project is close to becoming a real service. Now known as Waymo, the Alphabet Inc. self-driving car unit is letting residents of Phoenix sign up to use its vehicles, a major step toward commercializing a technology that could one day upend transportation. This is going to change our society a lot quicker than people seem to think.



Google rewrites its search rankings to bury fake news

Thu, 27 Apr 2017 20:30:55 GMT

Google isn't planning to rid fake news from its search results - but it's trying to purge it from the top. The Alphabet Inc. company is making a rare, sweeping change to the algorithm behind its powerful search engine to demote misleading, false and offensive articles online. Google is also setting new rules encouraging its "raters" - the 10,000-plus staff that assess search results - to flag web pages that host hoaxes, conspiracy theories and what the company calls "low-quality" content. Good - but also possibly incredibly dangerous.



Torching the modern-day Library of Alexandria

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 19:41:34 GMT

It was strange to me, the idea that somewhere at Google there is a database containing 25-million books and nobody is allowed to read them. It's like that scene at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie where they put the Ark of the Covenant back on a shelf somewhere, lost in the chaos of a vast warehouse. It's there. The books are there. People have been trying to build a library like this for ages - to do so, they've said, would be to erect one of the great humanitarian artifacts of all time - and here we've done the work to make it real and we were about to give it to the world and now, instead, it's 50 or 60 petabytes on disk, and the only people who can see it are half a dozen engineers on the project who happen to have access because they’re the ones responsible for locking it up. I asked someone who used to have that job, what would it take to make the books viewable in full to everybody? I wanted to know how hard it would have been to unlock them. What's standing between us and a digital public library of 25 million volumes? You'd get in a lot of trouble, they said, but all you'd have to do, more or less, is write a single database query. You'd flip some access control bits from off to on. It might take a few minutes for the command to propagate. You know those moments, when reading about history, where you think "how could these people have been so stupid? Why didn't drinking from, defecating in and washing in the same body of water raise a red flag? Why did people think slavery was an a-ok thing to do? Why did they sacrifice children to make sure the sun would rise in the morning? Were these people really that stupid?" A hundred years from now, people are going to look back upon the greatest library of mankind, filled with countless priceless works that nobody has access to, fully indexed, ready to go at a push of a button - this invaluable, irreplaceable treasure trove of human culture, and think, "how could these people have been so stupid?"



Apple forces recyclers to shred all iPhones and MacBooks

Tue, 25 Apr 2017 18:47:52 GMT

Apple released its Environmental Responsibility Report Wednesday, an annual grandstanding effort that the company uses to position itself as a progressive, environmentally friendly company. Behind the scenes, though, the company undermines attempts to prolong the lifespan of its products. Apple's new moonshot plan is to make iPhones and computers entirely out of recycled materials by putting pressure on the recycling industry to innovate. But documents obtained by Motherboard using Freedom of Information requests show that Apple's current practices prevent recyclers from doing the most environmentally friendly thing they could do: Salvage phones and computers from the scrap heap. Having "old" but perfectly usable products in the marketplace is a terrible place for a company like Apple to be in. Most computers, smartphones, and tablets from, say, the past 4-5 years are still perfectly fine and usable today, and a lot of people would be smart to buy one of these "old" devices instead of new ones. Except, of course, that Apple doesn't get a dime when people do that. So, they have "recycling" companies destroy them instead. Remember: profit always comes before customer. Apple is executing an environment and sustainability PR campaign right now through its usual PR outlets - don't be fooled.



Darwin 0.1 and Rhapsody DR 2 booted

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 22:40:16 GMT

So the recently recovered source code to Darwin 0.1 corresponds with the release of the PowerPC only OS X Server 1.0. However as we all found out, Darwin will still built and maintained on Intel, as it was a very secretive plan B, in case something went wrong with the PowerPC platform. Being portable had saved NeXT before, and now it would save Apple. So with this little background, and a lot of stumbling around in the dark, I came up with some steps, that have permitted me to build the Darwin 0.1 kernel under DR2. This is beyond awesome.



Is it time to break up the major tech companies?

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 22:36:53 GMT

The original headline (I changed it) is clickbaity, but the article raises good points. In just 10 years, the world's five largest companies by market capitalization have all changed, save for one: Microsoft. Exxon Mobil, General Electric, Citigroup and Shell Oil are out and Apple, Alphabet (the parent company of Google), Amazon and Facebook have taken their place. They're all tech companies, and each dominates its corner of the industry: Google has an 88 percent market share in search advertising, Facebook (and its subsidiaries Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger) owns 77 percent of mobile social traffic and Amazon has a 74 percent share in the e-book market. In classic economic terms, all three are monopolies. We have been transported back to the early 20th century, when arguments about "the curse of bigness" were advanced by President Woodrow Wilson's counselor, Louis Brandeis, before Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court. Brandeis wanted to eliminate monopolies, because (in the words of his biographer Melvin Urofsky) "in a democratic society the existence of large centers of private power is dangerous to the continuing vitality of a free people." We need look no further than the conduct of the largest banks in the 2008 financial crisis or the role that Facebook and Google play in the "fake news" business to know that Brandeis was right. Any entity which becomes a threat to the well-being of our society, our planet, or the people on it must be dealt with. I'm not quite sure if e.g. Google or Apple qualify for that, and if they do, how to deal with that, but I sure as hell do not wish to live in a society where any one corporation is more powerful than the people.



John Deere: only corporations can own property

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 22:17:33 GMT

John Deere has turned itself into the poster-child for the DMCA, fighting farmers who say they want to fix their own tractors and access their data by saying that doing so violates the 1998 law's prohibition on bypassing copyright locks. Deere's just reiterated that position to a US Copyright Office inquiry on the future of the law, joined by auto manufacturers (but not Tesla) and many other giant corporations, all of them arguing that since the gadgets you buy have software, and since that software is licensed, not sold, you don't really own any of that stuff. You are a licensee, and you have to use the gadget according to the license terms, which spell out where you have to buy your service, parts, consumables, apps, and so on. This is finally a moment where without a doubt I can be all smug and entirely unhelpful by saying I do not use any stuff made by John Deere.



Debian GNU/Linux port for RISC-V 64-bit (riscv64)

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:28:10 GMT

This is a post describing my involvement with the Debian GNU/Linux port for RISC-V (unofficial and not endorsed by Debian at the moment) and announcing the availability of the repository (still very much WIP) with packages built for this architecture.



Reverse engineering APFS

Mon, 24 Apr 2017 19:26:37 GMT

I started to reverse engineer APFS and want to share what I found out so far. Notice: I created a test image with macOS Sierra 10.12.3 (16D32). All results are guesses and the reverse engineering is work in progress. Also newer versions of APFS might change structures. The information below is neither complete nor proven to be correct.



AmigaOne X5000: first impressions

Fri, 21 Apr 2017 23:02:24 GMT

Many were waiting for the day when new and strong Amiga(One) will appear. That happened now. Currently, the X5000 can be purchased with the dual-core processor. In the future, a more powerful machine will be available. Is it worth buying the current model or wait for a four-core version? A look at the new X5000. Note that the author is Polish (I think), and English isn't her or his first language.



Google plans ad-blocking feature in popular Chrome browser

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 09:18:34 GMT

Alphabet Inc.'s Google is planning to introduce an ad-blocking feature in the mobile and desktop versions of its popular Chrome web browser, according to people familiar with the company's plans. The ad-blocking feature, which could be switched on by default within Chrome, would filter out certain online ad types deemed to provide bad experiences for users as they move around the web. Google could announce the feature within weeks, but it is still ironing out specific details and still could decide not to move ahead with the plan, the people said. An ad-blocker from Google? Something tells me this won't go down well with antitrust regulators.



Apple promises to stop mining for rare-earth materials

Thu, 20 Apr 2017 09:12:59 GMT

Apple has one of the most aggressive sustainability and recycling programs in tech, but it still pulls plenty of metals and toxic rare-earth materials out of the ground to make iPhones, iPads, Macbooks and other products. That's about to change. The company is set to announce a new, unprecedented goal for the tech industry, "to stop mining the earth altogether". Apple plans to stop mining for rare-earth materials, and exclusively use recycled materials (from iPhones and other Apple products, presumably). Incredibly ambitious goal - one among many environmental goals the company revealed yesterday - and quite laudable. They have the money to blaze these trails, and I'm glad they're using it for this.



TouchWiz is actually pretty nice

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:54:24 GMT

I challenge anyone to receive a notification on Samsung s Galaxy S8 and not be charmed by the elegant blue pulse of light that traces the contours of the phone's gorgeous screen. This sort of subtlety, this sort of organic, emotive, instant appeal is not something I ever expected Samsung would be capable of. But the company once judged to have cynically copied Apple's iPhone design has exceeded all expectations this year: the 2017 version of Samsung's TouchWiz brings its software design right up to the high standard of its hardware. I have always hated TouchWiz. It was ugly, overbearing, complex, and annoying. Keyword here is was. As per my philosophy to never rot stuck in a single brand or platform, I replaced my Nexus 6P with a Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge a few weeks ago. I was assuming I'd have to root it and install a custom ROM on it within days, so I had the proper files and reading material ready to go the day the phone arrived. But as I was using the phone for a few days, it dawned on my that TouchWiz on the S7 Edge was... Not that bad. I buy off-contract, so I didn't get any carrier crapware (as far as I know, Dutch carriers don't really do crapware to begin with), and even Samsung's own stuff was remarkably sparse, and you could hide most of Samsung's stuff anyway. I was pleasantly surprised. I was even more pleasantly surprised when it dawned on me that several parts of TouchWiz were superior to Google's stock Android versions. The stock Android alarm/clock application is a UI disaster, but the TouchWiz version is clean, simple, and much easier to use. TouchWiz' contacts application, too, sports a cleaner look and I find it easier to use than the stock version. Most of all, though, Samsung's settings application is so much better than the stock Android one in terms of looks, organisation, search capabilities, and so on, that I'm surprised Google hasn't copied it outright. Within just a few days, I thought to myself "...okay right so that's why Samsung dominates Android and has 80% smartphone market share in The Netherlands". Samsung has truly cleaned up TouchWiz, and I'm curious to see if I hit that thing everybody is talking about where Samsung phones get slower over time, something that didn't happen to my Nexus devices. CGP Grey once said, in one of his videos: The trick is to keep your identity separate from your opinions. They're objects in a box you carry with you, and should be easily replaceable if it turns out they're no good. If you think that the opinions in the box are "who you are", then you'll cling to them despite any evidence to the contrary. Bottom line: if you always want to be right, you need to always be prepared to change your mind. I try to apply this as much as possible, including here on OSNews. Any longterm reader of this site knows I haven't been kind to TouchWiz over the years. A few weeks with a modern Samsung phone has completely changed my mind.



File system improvements for Windows Subsystem for Linux

Wed, 19 Apr 2017 20:38:03 GMT

In the latest Windows Insider build, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) now allows you to manually mount Windows drives using the DrvFs file system. Previously, WSL would automatically mount all fixed NTFS drives when you launch Bash, but there was no support for mounting additional storage like removable drives or network locations. Now, not only can you manually mount any drives on your system, we've also added support for other file systems such as FAT, as well as mounting network locations. This enables you to access any drive, including removable USB sticks or CDs, and any network location you can reach in Windows all from within WSL. There's a lot of work being done on WSL.