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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 16 min ago

Remember Zip disks? These election departments do

Friday 24th of March 2017 12:27:01 AM
You may recall that a couple of years ago we ran a piece talking about how Ada County, the most populous county in Idaho, was desperately looking for Zip disks and drives to help keep its aging voting machines running. As it turns out, Ada County isn't alone. Apparently a lot of counties are in the same boat. Once, while buying a PowerMac G4 from someone (factory-equipped with an internal Zip drive), I stumbled upon his huge collection of external Zip drives and disks, which he promptly handed over as a gift. Other than playing with them out of idle curiosity, I never used them for anything. Instead of disposing of them years later, I guess I should've sent those 15 or so external Zip drives and 30-odd disks as emergency foreign aid to America. Underfunding democracy seems like a terrible idea.

Secret colours of the Commodore 64

Friday 24th of March 2017 12:21:07 AM
This was freaky. When you owned any 8-bit computer, you became intimately familiar with its colour scheme. This simple photograph blew my mind. That blue colour just wasn't possible. According to the caption, by presenting two colours to the eye and alternating them quickly enough, a whole new colour emerged. What would this new, secret colour look like on your crappy early-90s CRT television? The screenshot was only a hint. Would it glow? Would it flicker? Twenty-six years later, I found out the answer. This article is all about colour switching on the Commodore 64. There are interactive examples to play with below. I haven't found anything else on the topic, so it's possible this is the only resource on the subject. It's amazing what talented programmers can eke out of old 8bit machines.

Maybe Android tablet apps will be better this year

Thursday 23rd of March 2017 12:38:43 AM
There's a new Android tablet you can go and buy, the Samsung Galaxy Tab S3. Here's our review of it, where Jake notes that apps freeze if they're not in the foreground. Which is a good reminder: Android apps on tablets have never really been very good. They usually end up feeling like stretched-out phone apps. Things have gotten better in the past couple years, but it's still a problem. In fact, it has always been a problem. I wonder if anybody ever told Google that it was a problem and it should try to do a better job incentivizing developers to make apps that work better on tablets. Oh, wait, somebody has. Brutal, but true. Devil's advocate take: since tablets don't matter, do tablet apps really matter?

Update on HTML5 video for Netflix

Wednesday 22nd of March 2017 10:42:00 PM
About four years ago, we shared our plans for playing premium video in HTML5, replacing Silverlight and eliminating the extra step of installing and updating browser plug-ins.   Since then, we have launched HTML5 video on Chrome OS, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Edge on all supported operating systems.  And though we do not officially support Linux, Chrome playback has worked on that platform since late 2014.  Starting today, users of Firefox can also enjoy Netflix on Linux. This marks a huge milestone for us and our partners, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla that helped make it possible. It wasn't that long ago we barely dared to imagine HTML5 video taking over from Flash and Silverlight.

Google releases Android O Developer Preview

Tuesday 21st of March 2017 11:27:03 PM
Google has released the first Developer Preview for Android O, which is probably going to be released somewhere in the Fall. There's a lot changes in this one, but the biggest one is probably the limits Android O is going to place on applications running in the background. Building on the work we began in Nougat, Android O puts a big priority on improving a user's battery life and the device's interactive performance. To make this possible, we've put additional automatic limits on what apps can do in the background, in three main areas: implicit broadcasts, background services, and location updates. These changes will make it easier to create apps that have minimal impact on a user's device and battery. Background limits represent a significant change in Android, so we want every developer to get familiar with them. Check out the documentation on background execution limits and background location limits for details. There's more - improvements in keyboard navigation, Navigation Channels for managing notifications, picture-in-picture on smartphones, wide-gamut colour support for applications, several new Java 8 features, and more. A big one for audio people: Sony has contributed a lot of work to audio in Android O, adding the LDAC wireless audio codec. It's available on the usual Nexus devices.

Nintendo approached Cyanogen for the Switch's OS

Tuesday 21st of March 2017 11:14:21 PM
In the early life of the Nintendo Switch, when it was still codenamed Nintendo NX, there were a lot of rumors floating around about the device. We saw a console with an oval shape and a screen that seemed built into the buttons and rumors that the new device would run Android as its operating system. While the product we have today resembles nothing of those early prototypes, it looks like the Android rumor may not have been far off. Cyanogen's Kirt McMaster tweeted early this morning to say that Nintendo had approached him about designing a custom Android-based operating system for their new console, but he had some choice words for the company. Add this to the list of terrible business decisions by Cyanogen and its CEO.

MiniDisc: an appreciation

Tuesday 21st of March 2017 12:02:19 AM
In this video you'll see the first machine and the last machine as well as some in-between. There's talk about MD-LP, Net-MD and HiMD. It's a personal retrospective of a format that was loved by many people around the world but one that is all too often is judged purely on its lack of performance in the US market. Great video by a great channel. I'm one of those MiniDisc people. MiniDisc was fairly successful in The Netherlands, and quite a few people around me were MiniDisc users as well. I've had countless machines over the years, and I was still using HiMD well into the smartphone era - and carried both a smartphone and my HiMD player for quite a while. Even though the world had long ago moved on to MP3 players and then smartphones, I was still using MD. I've long wondered why, and this video finally made it dawn on me: rituals. Since prerecorded MiniDiscs were rare and incredibly expensive, you copied CDs onto MiniDiscs instead. Especially before the advent of NetMD and later HiMD, you did this without the help of a computer. You'd get a new album, listen to it, enjoy it - and then, to make sure you could listen to it on the go, you plugged one end of an optical cable into your CD player, the other end into your portable MD recorder, and copy the CD in real time. Once it was done, neat freaks like me would even enter all the track information using the little dial on the recorder, track by track, letter by letter. Painstaking doesn't even begin to describe it. Even listening to your MiniDiscs - they were satisfying to hold, the loading and unloading was deeply mechanical, the spring-loading trays were a delight. It was just an endless array of rituals that, while pointless and cumbersome to others, were deeply enriching and soothing to me. I guess it must be similar to people still using vinyl today. To me, MiniDisc was one of the greatest formats - not because it was better or more advanced (even though during the 90s and early 2000s, it actually was), but because it was full of little delights and rituals. Just one of those irrational things that only few of us will ever fully understand.

Hacking Final Fantasy 1 on the NES

Monday 20th of March 2017 11:44:06 PM
I decided I wanted to hack Final Fantasy 1, one of my favorite games growing up, that I put in more than 100 hours playing. I used fceux as my NES emulator, same as in the video and followed mostly the same patterns. I kept some notes on how I did it and thought others might find the process as interesting and fun as I did. I ended up losing most of the notes from a few years ago, so I went back and rediscovered the different memory locations and values to use again.

They used to last 50 years

Monday 20th of March 2017 11:42:47 PM
Now refrigerators last 8-10 years, if you are fortunate. How in the world have our appliances regressed so much in the past few decades? I've bought and sold refrigerators and freezers from the 1950s that still work perfectly fine. I've come across washers and dryers from the 1960s and 1970s that were still working like the day they were made. Now, many appliances break and need servicing within 2-3 years and, overall, new appliances last 1/3 to 1/4 as long as appliances built decades ago. They break more frequently, and sooner, than ever before. They rust and deteriorate much quicker than in the past. Why is this happening, and what's really going on? I've been wrestling over these questions for years while selling thousands of appliances, and more recently, working with used appliance sellers and repair techs all across the country. The following is what I've discovered. This is something we've all instinctively known, but Ryan Finlay goes into detail as to what, exactly, are the causes. The article's from 2015, but I stumbled on it today on Twitter, and I thought it was a great, informative read.

Swatch takes on Google, Apple with own watch OS

Saturday 18th of March 2017 12:51:52 AM
Swatch Group AG said it's developing an alternative to the iOS and Android operating systems for smartwatches as Switzerland's largest maker of timepieces vies with Silicon Valley for control of consumers' wrists. The company's Tissot brand will introduce a model around the end of 2018 that uses the Swiss-made system, which will also be able to connect small objects and wearables, Swatch Chief Executive Officer Nick Hayek said in an interview Thursday. The technology will need less battery power and it will protect data better, he said later at a press conference. It makes sense. Unlike as on smartphones or PCs, I don't think people really want applications on smartwatches. Notifications and fitness - that's what seems to define the (admittedly, limited) appeal of smartwatches. There's no reason why a traditional watchmaker wouldn't be able to provide such limited functionality in a robust way, possibly providing anything from watches that are all-screen to mechanical watches with more limited 'smart' additions. With Wear 2.0 effectively being fake news at this point, where else is Swatch going to turn to?

Intel still beats Ryzen at games, but how much does it matter?

Friday 17th of March 2017 10:48:39 PM
Realistically, nobody should have expected Ryzen to be king of the hill when it comes to gaming. We know that Broadwell isn't, after all; Intel's Skylake and Kaby Lake parts both beat Broadwell in a wide range of games. This is the case even though Skylake and Kaby Lake are limited to four cores and eight threads; for many or most games, high IPC and high clock speeds are the key to top performance, and that's precisely what Kaby Lake delivers. In spite of this, reading the various reviews around the Web - and comment threads, tweets, and reddit posts - one gets the feeling that many were hoping or expecting Ryzen to somehow beat Intel across the board, and there's a prevailing narrative that Ryzen is in some sense a bad gaming chip. But this argument is often paired with the claim that some kind of non-specific "optimization" is going to salvage the processor's performance, that AMD fans just need to keep the faith for a few months, and that soon Ryzen's full power will be revealed. Both parts of this reaction are more than a little flawed. I'm just glad there's finally competition in the desktop processor space again. Intel started to charge some outrageous prices these past few years, but if you wanted the best performance, you really didn't have much of a choice. With Ryzen, AMD is showing the world it's back on track. It might not be there yet in every aspect, but it's an amazingly promising start.

Microsoft is infesting Windows 10 with annoying ads

Friday 17th of March 2017 10:45:31 PM
Now Microsoft is planning to preload another app in Windows 10: Sling TV. While only US Windows 10 users will get Sling TV preloaded without the necessary subscription, it will sit alongside Candy Crush and Solitaire as other examples of what will soon be described as bloatware. Thankfully, it’s easy to uninstall these unnecessary apps, but that doesn’t mean Microsoft won’t add more to the mix in the future. Microsoft used to blame its OEM partners for bundling lots of useless apps on Windows PCs, but now it has itself to blame for doing the same to Windows 10. More and more ads are coming to products you actually already pay for.

NetBSD 7.1 released

Thursday 16th of March 2017 11:14:20 PM
NetBSD 7.1 has been released. Some highlights of the 7.1 release are: Support for Raspberry Pi Zero. Initial DRM/KMS support for NVIDIA graphics cards via nouveau (Disabled by default. Uncomment nouveau and nouveaufb in your kernel config to test). The addition of vioscsi, a driver for the Google Compute Engine disk. Linux compatibility improvements, allowing, e.g., the use of Adobe Flash Player 24. wm(4): C2000 KX and 2.5G support. Wake On Lan support. 82575 and newer SERDES based systems now work. ODROID-C1 Ethernet now works. Numerous bug fixes and stability improvements.

Blocking Windows 7, 8.1 updates for Kaby Lake, Ryzen chips imminent

Thursday 16th of March 2017 11:09:20 PM
Ars Technica reports: A recently published Knowledge Base article suggests that Microsoft is going to block Windows Updates for owners of the latest Intel and AMD processors if they try to run Windows 7 or 8.1. Last year, Microsoft announced a shift in the way it would support Windows. Going forward, new processors, including Intel's Kaby Lake and AMD's recently-released Ryzen, would require the newest version of Windows. Users of Windows 7 and 8.1 would be out of luck, with Microsoft having no plans to support the new chips on the old operating systems. Take note.

Google lies about Google Home playing audio ads

Thursday 16th of March 2017 10:46:36 PM
Today some Google Home owners reported hearing something extra when they asked for a summary of the day ahead from the smart speaker: an advertisement for the opening of Beauty and the Beast. Several users on Reddit have noticed the audio ad and Bryson Meunier posted a clip to Twitter. Some Android users also reported hearing the ad through Google Assistant on mobile. And from the Total Bullshit Dpt., also known as Google PR: This wasn’t intended to be an ad. What’s circulating online was a part of our My Day feature, where after providing helpful information about your day, we sometimes call out timely content. We’re continuing to experiment with new ways to surface unique content for users and we could have done better in this case. It was an ad, plain and simple. A corporate statement like this, which is clearly, utterly, 100% a lie, should be illegal, and punishable by massive fines. This kind of callous behaviour is a disgrace.

WordStar: a writer's word processor

Thursday 16th of March 2017 10:42:38 PM
Many science fiction writers - including myself, Roger MacBride Allen, Gerald Brandt, Jeffrey A. Carver, Arthur C. Clarke, David Gerrold, Terence M. Green, James Gunn, Matthew Hughes, Donald Kingsbury, Eric Kotani, Paul Levinson, George R. R. Martin, Vonda McIntyre, Kit Reed, Jennifer Roberson, and Edo van Belkom - continue to use WordStar for DOS as our writing tool of choice. Still, most of us have endured years of mindless criticism of our decision, usually from WordPerfect users, and especially from WordPerfect users who have never tried anything but that program. I've used WordStar, WordPerfect, Word, MultiMate, Sprint, XyWrite, and just about every other MS-DOS and Windows word-processing package, and WordStar is by far my favorite choice for creative composition at the keyboard. That's the key point: aiding creative composition. To understand how WordStar does that better than other programs, let me start with a little history. An old article from 1990 and updated in 1996, reprinted, but still a good read.

The best hardware to build with Swift is not what you think

Wednesday 15th of March 2017 11:22:09 PM
Some interesting figures from LinkedIn, who benchmark the compiling times of their Swift-based iOS application. You'd think the Mac Pro would deliver the fastest compiles, but as it turns out - that's not quite true. As you can see, 12-core MacPro is indeed the slowest machine to build our code with Swift, and going from the default 24 jobs setting down to only 5 threads improves compilation time by 23%. Due to this, even a 2-core Mac Mini ($1,399.00) builds faster than the 12-cores Mac Pro ($6,999.00). As Steven Troughton-Smith notes on Twitter - "People suggested that the Mac Pro is necessary because devs need more cores; maybe we just need better compilers? There's no point even theorizing about a 24-core iMac Pro if a 4-core MBP or mini will beat it at compiling."

10 years with DragonFlyBSD network stack

Wednesday 15th of March 2017 11:15:42 PM
In this paper we are going to introduce the evolution of DragonFlyBSD's network stack in the past 10 years: what's the current state of its network stack, the important changes we did to it, why the important changes, and the lessons we learned. Finally, I'd like to list the areas that DragonFlyBSD's network stack can enjoy help hands. A detailed look at DragonFlyBSD's network stack.

Window Maker 0.95.8 released

Tuesday 14th of March 2017 07:30:48 PM
Window Maker 0.95.8 has been released. It contains a number of changes related to window snapping and quite a number of other changes for what is supposedly a point release.

LLVM 4.0.0 released

Tuesday 14th of March 2017 07:27:30 PM
This release is the result of the community's work over the past six months, including: use of profile data in ThinLTO, more aggressive dead code elimination, experimental support for coroutines, experimental AVR target, better GNU ld compatibility and significant performance improvements in LLD, as well as improved optimizations, many bug fixes and more. The release notes have all the details.

More in Tux Machines

Leftovers: Software

  • [Video] Linux Audio Programs Compared 2017
    I made this video for those that are new to, or just interested in making music on the Linux OS. I go over the features, goods and bads of Rosegarden, LMMS, Ardour, Mixbus, and EnergyXT, as well as touch on Qtractor. I don't don't go much into details of the particular versions I am using, but the video was made in the early part of 2017 and I'm running Ubuntu 16.04LTS.
  • Green Recorder: A Simple Desktop/Screen Recorder for Linux
    Green Recorder is a simple, open source desktop recorder developed for Linux systems built using Python, GTK and FFmpeg. It supports most of the Linux desktop environments such as Unity, Gnome, Cinnamon, Mate, Xfce and so on. Recently it has been updated to work with Wayland too in Gnome session.
  • Komorebi: A New Way To Enhance Your Desktop Using Animated/Parallax Wallpapers
    In past there were applications that allowed us to run videos/Gif as wallpaper on the desktop and make desktop look much cooler but than all of sudden the development of such Apps stopped and I can't name any App that exist for this purpose. Komorebi is fairly new application designed to make your desktop experience much better and make desktop cool as well, we can say it is kind of 'live wallpaper' situation here or 3D wallpaper. It is developed by Abe Masri and available under GPL license for free.
  • Stacer Sytem Optimizer: A Must Have Application For Ubuntu/Linux Mint
    There are multiple ways to optimize your Linux, the most geeky way is using Terminal, there are also applications available that performs such actions like Bleachbit, Ubuntu cleaner and so on. Stacer is simple, open-source, quick and new application designed to offer you all-in-one optimizer for your Ubuntu/Linux Mint (It's alternative to CCleaner but only for Linux).
  • Qtox: Open Source and Fully Secure Skype Replacement for Linux
    Long years ago, we've talked about a Skype alternative called Tox which was still in its early developmental stages. Tox was supposed to become the anti-thesis of Skype by being a fully open-source video and voice chat client that placed user privacy and security at its center. Well, guess what, there are now fully active and well-maintained chat clients that are built on top of Tox protocol. qTox is one of them.
  • Rclone 1.36 Released With SFTP And Local Symlinks Support, More
    Rclone 1.36 was released recently, bringing support for SFTP, local symbolic links support, mount improvements, along with many other new features and bug fixes. For those not familiar with Rclone, this is a cross-platform command line tool for synchronizing files and folders to multiple cloud storages, which supports Dropbox, Google Drive, Amazon S3, Amazon Drive, Microsoft One Drive, Yandex Disk, and more. It can be used to sync files either from your machine or from one cloud storage to another.
  • Streamlink Twitch GUI 1.2.0 Adds Support For Communities And Team Pages, Basic Hotkeys
    Streamlink Twitch GUI (previously Livestreamer Twitch GUI) is a multi-platform Twitch.tv browser. The application is powered by Node.js, Chromium and Streamlink, though it can still use Livestreamer (which is no longer maintained) too.
  • Code Editor `Brackets` 1.9 Released, Available In PPA
    Brackets is a free, open source code editor focused on front-end web development (HTML, CSS and JavaScript).
  • Terminix Terminal Emulator Renamed To Tilix, Sees New Bugfix Release
    [Quick update] Terminix, a GTK3 tiling terminal emulator, has been renamed to Tilix due to some trademark issues.

today's howtos

Games and CodeWeavers/Wine

  • A Snapshot of Linux Gamers, Just One Year Ago
    It’s about time we share the analysis of that Q1 2016 survey (fielding occured in March last year), especially as we are about to launch the Q1 2017 one pretty, pretty soon. That way we will be able to compare how things have changed over the course of 12 months. As usual, the whole disclaimer about online surveys is valid here (data is only as good as your n size, the appropriateness of your sampling, and the quality of the responses, etc…), but assuming it’s not all that bad and all that unreliable, let’s dig in the results. As a reminder, most of the respondents for this survey were recruited through the r/linux and r/linux_gaming subreddits, as well as the readership of BoilingSteam. This is not our first survey, and you can see our previous ones done in the second quarter of 2015, and the following one in the last quarter of 2015.
  • Slime-san Coming To PC, Mac and Linux
    Headup Games and Fabraz proudly announce their upcoming action-platformer Slime-san for PC, Mac and Linux via Steam & Humble Bundle. Console releases will follow soon after. Jump and slime your way through 100 levels in a unique 5-colored, pixelated world and escape from a giant worm’s innards. Get your shopping done in Slumptown, a town full of survivors within the worm. Unlock different play styles, outfits, shaders and even multiplayer mini-games! Slime-san is developed by Fabraz, an independent development studio that also released the critically-acclaimed games Cannon Crasha and Planet Diver. Slime-san was minding his own business, sliming around in a peaceful forest when suddenly…A giant worm appeared and gobbled him up! Now deep within the worm’s belly, Slime-san has to face a decision: Be digested by the incoming wall of stomach acid... Or jump, slide and slime his way through the worm's intestines and back out its mouth!
  • CodeWeavers Announces CrossOver 16.2.0
  • The Wine Revolution is ON!
    As you know Codeweavers (and other WINE contributors) have been working on DX11 support for a while – they were supposed to have DX11 support by the end of 2016, but as with all complex projects, timelines tend to slip and only very DX11 titles could run a few months ago. Since then, there was no major announcement, but it seems that the progress has been very significant in the recent WINE versions (2.3 is already out).

Leftovers: KDE