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Exploring the Future of Computing



Last Build Date: Sat, 01 Oct 2016 19:30:29 GMT

Copyright: Copyright 2001-2016, David Adams
 



Sweden may fight disposable culture with tax breaks for repairs

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 22:42:53 GMT

How often have you taken a gadget or a pair of shoes in for repair and found out that fixing it will cost more than buying a new version? Too often, that's how often. And Sweden is trying to fix this, by halving the tax paid on repairs and increasing taxes on unrepairable items. The new proposals come from the ruling coalition of the Social Democrat and Green parties, and, if successfully enacted, would be accompanied by a publicity campaign to encourage Swedes to repair products instead of replacing them. I am a proponent of this, and feel like we should push especially electronics companies much harder to release information about parts, repairs, diagnostics, and so on, to ensure that consumers are not at the whims of the Apples and Samsungs of this world when it comes to defective products. In response to cars becoming ever more complex, lawmakers all across the United States and Europe started proposing and passing bills to ensure that independent repairs shops and dealers would have access to the same kind of information that first-party dealers get or to make sure that vehicle warranties were not voided simply because you brought your car to a third-party repair shop. We should strive for similar laws for electronics. Much like cars, if your smartphone is broken, you should be able to bring it into any repair shop to have it fixed, by forcing electronics companies, like car manufacturers, to release repair, parts, and diagnostics information, without said repair voiding any warranties. I see no reason why electronics companies should enjoy a special status. And yes, this includes forcing companies to provide software updates for a set amount of time, especially when it comes to security flaws and bugs. Software has enjoyed its special little world wherein it's treated like a delicate little flower you can't demand too much from for long enough. The failure rate of the software we use every day is immense, but if we keep letting companies get away with the shoddy work they deliver, this will only get worse.



Android Wear 2.0 Developer Preview 3: Play Store and more

Thu, 29 Sep 2016 18:32:17 GMT

Today we're launching the third developer preview of Android Wear 2.0 with a big new addition: Google Play on Android Wear. The Play Store app makes it easy for users to find and install apps directly on the watch, helping developers like you reach more users. Okay that's great and all, but where's the release and where are the new watches? We've gotten tons of great feedback from the developer community about Android Wear 2.0 - thank you! We've decided to continue the preview program into early 2017, at which point the first watches will receive Android Wear 2.0. Please keep the feedback coming by filing bugs or posting in our Android Wear Developers community, and stay tuned for Android Wear Developer Preview 4. Oh okay. Well, not that it matters for me personally anyway - I'm an early adopter and one of those idiots who bought the first generation Moto 360.



BlackBerry ends its hardware development

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 22:07:29 GMT

Our new Mobility Solutions strategy is showing signs of momentum, including our first major device software licensing agreement with a telecom joint venture in Indonesia. Under this strategy, we are focusing on software development, including security and applications. The company plans to end all internal hardware development and will outsource that function to partners. This allows us to reduce capital requirements and enhance return on invested capital. End of an era, but not exactly unexpected. This leaves the Priv as the only - ad probably last - modern keyboard smartphone, which is really, really too bad.



ungoogled-chromium removes Google from Chromium

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 10:11:44 GMT

A number of features or background services communicate with Google servers despite the absence of an associated Google account or compiled-in Google API keys. Furthermore, the normal build process for Chromium involves running Google's own high-level commands that invoke many scripts and utilities, some of which download and use pre-built binaries provided by Google. Even the final build output includes some pre-built binaries. Fortunately, the source code is available for everything. ungoogled-chromium tries to fix these things.



Mozilla ceases all Firefox OS development

Wed, 28 Sep 2016 10:06:00 GMT

By the end of 2015 Mozilla leadership had come to the conclusion that our then Firefox OS initiative of shipping phones with commercial partners would not bring Mozilla the returns we sought. We made the first of a series of announcements about changes in the development of Firefox OS at Mozilla. Since then we have gradually wound down that work and, as of the end of July 2016 have stopped all commercial development on Firefox OS. This message recaps what transpired during that period of time and also describes what will happen with the Firefox OS code base going forward. Symbian, Sailfish OS, BlackBerry OS, Windows Phone, Firefox OS.



Announcing the launch of Windows Server 2016

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 22:22:12 GMT

I'm incredibly excited that this morning at our Ignite conference in Atlanta we launched the newest release of our server operating system - Windows Server 2016! Now that we're ready to share it with the world, I want to take a moment to thank our customers who helped shape this exciting release. Windows Server 2016 is jam-packed with innovation and customer response has been overwhelming, with more than half a million devices running our final Technical Preview which we released five months ago. These customers range from large global enterprises to private cloud hosters to organizations of every size from every corner of the globe.



Andromeda, Google's Chrome OS-Android merger

Mon, 26 Sep 2016 14:32:08 GMT

Update: more confirmation! With Google's event fast approaching on 4 October, the rumour mill is in full swing. We know we're going to get new 'made by Google' phones, which will drop the Nexus brand in favour of Pixel. However, there's going to be more to watch out for - everything is lining up for 4 October being a major turning point in Android's relatively recent history. If the rumours are to be believed - and with so many different sources all pointing towards the same thing, you can probably believe them - Google will unveil not just a few new phones, but a new operating system altogether, dubbed Andromeda. And, just like we've been talking about for a long time, this is the operating system that combines Android and Chrome OS into a desktop/laptop operating system. As 9to5google reports: Why so many mentions of Nexus 9 specifically in tandem with Andromeda? We asked the same question, and from what we can gather, Google is testing the Chrome OS/Android hybrid on the tablet. An anonymous source has told us of users running early builds of Andromeda on the Nexus 9, but we have not been able to obtain direct confirmation from those users. Why would Google be testing Andromeda on the Nexus 9? We don't know. But we do know that Andromeda is aimed at making Android better suited for devices like laptops, as well as 2-in-1s (like the unfortunately mediocre Pixel C) and perhaps tablets. Another interesting tidbit to note: it seems that the hidden free form window management feature that popped up in Nougat (but isn't user-facing) could appropriately see its debut with Andromeda. "SurfaceCompositionMeasuringActivity.java" mentions "Detect Andromeda devices by having free-form window management feature." The fact that Google is working on merging Android and Chrome OS is hardly news, but as more and more details come out, it seems to indeed be the case that Google is working on not just a smartphone operating system or a tablet operating system, but a full-fledged laptop/desktop operating system, complete with the kind of freeform window management we've come to expect from operating systems like MacOS and Windows. This is further confirmed by AndroidPolice: Two independent and reliable sources have confirmed to us that Google is planning a new Pixel laptop to be released in Q3 2017. The project, known internally as 'Bison' and by the informal nickname 'Pixel 3,' will likely be the first brand-new device to showcase Google's combined Android / Chrome OS 'Andromeda' operating system in a laptop form factor. Bison, then, would be the culmination of years of work by Google's Pixel team and Google's Android and Chrome OS teams. We are extremely confident Google plans for the device to run Andromeda. We are also confident that Andromeda is a completely distinct effort from Google's current campaign to bring Android apps to Chromebooks, and that Bison would not be marketed as a Chromebook. Android apps on Chrome OS descended from the ARC project, while Andromeda is a much larger, more ambitious initiative that is being pursued via merging Chrome features into Android, not vice versa. As such, it would be more accurate to say Bison will run Android than Chrome OS, and could finally be Google's internal commitment to releasing Andromeda. Taking all this into account, a tweet that came out late last week from Hiroshi Lockheimer, SVP of Android, Chrome and Google Play, is quite telling: "We announced the 1st version of Android 8 years ago today. I have a feeling 8 years from now we'll be talking about Oct 4, 2016." Much like Apple's similar efforts, I'm excited about what's happening on the Android side of things. It's clear by now that Google has very ambitious plans about moving Android forward and scaling it up to work on not just phones and tablets, but on laptops and desktops as well. Up until relatively recently, such endeavours would've been futile, beca[...]



The Verge editor secretly joins Apple, doesn't inform The Verge

Fri, 23 Sep 2016 21:05:10 GMT

Well, file this in the "what the hell is going on" section. Chris Ziegler, long-time The Verge editor (and Engadget before that - he was part of the crew that started both Engadget and The Verge, if I'm not mistaken), had been missing from the site for a few months now - no posts, no tweets, nothing. Today, Nilay Patel revealed why. First, Chris accepted a position at Apple. We wish him well. Second, the circumstances of Chris' departure from The Verge raised ethical issues which are worth disclosing in the interests of transparency and respect for our audience. We're confident that there wasn't any material impact on our journalism from these issues, but they are still serious enough to merit disclosure. Chris began working for Apple in July, but didn't tell anyone at The Verge that he'd taken a new job until we discovered and verified his dual-employment in early September. Chris continued actively working at The Verge in July, but was not in contact with us through most of August and into September. During that period, in the dark and concerned for Chris, we made every effort to contact him and to offer him help if needed. We ultimately terminated his employment at The Verge and Vox Media the same day we verified that he was employed at Apple. So let me get this straight. One of The Verge's most prominent editors took a job at Apple - which is perfectly fine, we all change jobs - but then did not inform The Verge, continued to work for The Verge, then disappeared, still without informing The Verge, and then it took The Verge weeks to track him down and figure out what happened? This story is completely bonkers, and I can assure you - this is not the whole story. According to John Gruber, Chris Ziegler is not listed in Apple's employee directory, and I personally have had this confirmed to me as well. Something really strange is going on here.



Oracle's cloudy future

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 22:45:04 GMT

Meanwhile, a young programmer named Larry Ellison had formed a company called Software Development Laboratories, originally to do contract work, but quickly decided that selling packaged software was a far better proposition: doing the work once and reselling it multiple times was an excellent way to get rich. They just needed a product, and IBM effectively gave it to them; because the System R team was being treated as a research project, not a commercial venture, they happily wrote multiple papers explaining how System R worked, and published the SQL spec. Software Development Laboratories implemented it and called it Oracle, and in 1979 sold it to the CIA; a condition of the contract was that it run on IBM mainframes. In other words, IBM not only created the conditions for the richest packaged software company ever to emerge (Microsoft), they basically gave an instruction manual to the second.



500 million Yahoo accounts compromised

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 22:34:54 GMT

We have confirmed that a copy of certain user account information was stolen from the company’s network in late 2014 by what we believe is a state-sponsored actor. The account information may have included names, email addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth, hashed passwords (the vast majority with bcrypt) and, in some cases, encrypted or unencrypted security questions and answers. The ongoing investigation suggests that stolen information did not include unprotected passwords, payment card data, or bank account information; payment card data and bank account information are not stored in the system that the investigation has found to be affected. Based on the ongoing investigation, Yahoo believes that information associated with at least 500 million user accounts was stolen and the investigation has found no evidence that the state-sponsored actor is currently in Yahoo’s network. Yahoo is working closely with law enforcement on this matter. That's a big hack.



Don't use Google Allo

Thu, 22 Sep 2016 09:03:11 GMT

Remember when Google said they wouldn't store messages in one of the company's new chat applications, Allo? Yeah, no. The version of Allo rolling out today will store all non-incognito messages by default - a clear change from Google’s earlier statements that the app would only store messages transiently and in non-identifiable form. The records will now persist until the user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which is still fully end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement. Like Hangouts and Gmail, Allo messages will still be encrypted between the device and Google servers, and stored on servers using encryption that leaves the messages accessible to Google's algorithms. For this reason alone, don't use Google Allo. But wait, there's more! There's also the backwards way it handles multiple devices and phone numbers - another reason to not use Google Allo. Sadly, even if you don't have Allo installed, you may still be forced to deal with it at some point because of some 'clever' tricks by Google Play Services on Android. If someone sends you an Allo message, but you don't have Allo installed, you'll get a special Android notification. The notification lets you respond through text along (as opposed to stickers, photos or anything like that), or alternatively ignore it altogether. There's also a button taking you straight to the Play Store install page for Allo. How can Google do this? The notification is generated by Google Play Services, which is installed on just about every Android phone, and updates silently in the background. Don't use Google Allo.



'Microsoft isn't forcing Lenovo to block free operating systems'

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 22:55:37 GMT

There's a story going round that Lenovo have signed an agreement with Microsoft that prevents installing free operating systems. This is sensationalist, untrue and distracts from a genuine problem. With that solved, let's get to the real root cause of the problems here: The real problem here is that Intel do very little to ensure that free operating systems work well on their consumer hardware - we still have no information from Intel on how to configure systems to ensure good power management, we have no support for storage devices in "RAID" mode and we have no indication that this is going to get better in future. If Intel had provided that support, this issue would never have occurred. Rather than be angry at Lenovo, let's put pressure on Intel to provide support for their hardware. As someone who tried to move his retina MacBook Pro to Linux only a few weeks ago - I can attest to Intel's absolutely terrible Linux drivers and power management. My retina MacBook Pro has an Intel Iris 6100 graphics chip, and the driver for it is so incredibly bad that even playing a simple video will cause the laptop to become so hot I was too scared to leave it running. Playing that same video in OS X or Windows doesn't even spin up the fans, with the laptop entirely cool. Battery life in Linux measured in a 2-3 hours, whereas on OS X or Windows I easily get 8-10 hours.



ProDOS 2.4.1 released

Wed, 21 Sep 2016 22:40:16 GMT

ProDOS 2.4 is barely out the door, and we already have a point release that fixes a number of bugs and adds support for a bunch of Apple II clones - ProDOS 2.4.1 has been released.



MacOS Sierra released

Tue, 20 Sep 2016 22:39:13 GMT

macOS Sierra brings Siri to the Mac, allowing users to conduct voice searches to find files, look up information, and more, with the ability to pin searches to the Notification Center for continual monitoring. There are new Continuity features including an "Auto Unlock" option for unlocking a Mac with an Apple Watch, and a "Universal Clipboard" option for copying text on one Apple device and pasting it on another. MacOS being in maintenance mode, this isn't the most significant update the operating system's ever seen. But hey, it's free, so go get it.



Visopsys 0.8 released

Mon, 19 Sep 2016 14:58:46 GMT

It's taken a while, but Visopsys 0.8 has been released. The GUI appearance has been updated, the infamous icons have all been replaced, and touch support has been added. There are a few new utilities, and in addition to all of the usual under-the-bonnet improvements, they've added OHCI (USB 1) support, completing the set of USB host controller drivers. There's a full changelog is and new screenshots.