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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 35 min 11 sec ago

Microsoft releases tool to block Windows 10 updates

13 hours 50 min ago
Microsoft has been releasing updates to build 10240 on an almost daily basis since it hit RTM. Most of the patches are important security or bug fixes and rather useful but some have reported crashes occurring as a result of the updates. As we had previously reported, Microsoft has made updates mandatory and automatic, thus stopping users from opting out of unwanted updates or till the update has been checked by other users. A new troubleshooting package, KB3073930, however, allows you to hide or block Windows or driver updates. With Windows 10 being released in a few hours, bookmark the knowledge base article or download the update blocker tool mentioned in the article right away. While one can debate the merits - or lack thereof - of forced automatic updates, there's one huge, giant misstep Microsoft has taken with this: they will also force graphics drivers updates through Windows Update, and without this tool, there's no way to block them. I have had such horrible experiences with graphics drivers updates over the course of my life - from back in the 3dfx days all the way up until my current Radeon 970X Special Overlocked Whatever Edition With Kittens - that I am very careful and deliberate about these updates. I generally schedule some time for these late on Friday, but only when I know I won't have any work over the weekend so I have a few days of performing possible fixes. So, when I checked Windows Update last night and say that Microsoft secretly wanted to shove an AMD Radeon graphics driver update down my throat, I nearly panicked. To be clear: my machine is running the official AMD drivers from the AMD website, and not the AMD drivers Microsoft itself distributes through Windows Update. Had I not blocked this update, who knows what could've happend with possible conflicts or version mismatches or whatever. Luckily, I found this tool and blocked the update - and as it turns out, that was probably the right thing to do. This past weekend, Microsoft forced a completely broken NVIDIA graphics driver update to its Windows 10 users, causing a whole slew of problems. My view might be horribly jaded, but I have the suspicion that graphics driver updates are a huge source of issues with Windows. As such, who in their right mind at Microsoft thought it would be a good idea to force these update upon users?

On Hurd, Linux and cross-compiling a GNU Hurd toolchain

14 hours 4 min ago
This article is both a tutorial, a war story and a conceptual introduction to GNU Hurd in which I set up a cross-toolchain, and give a colorful tour through some rough edges of the GNU build system. My host system is Slackware Linux 14.1 (running on -current), i686 - which I find preferable due to its highly vanilla nature, running software almost entirely without distro-specific patching.

Google starts removing Google+ from its products

Tuesday 28th of July 2015 05:51:06 AM
People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we've also heard that it doesn't make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use. So in the coming months, a Google Account will be all you'll need to share content, communicate with contacts, create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google. YouTube will be one of the first products to make this change, and you can learn more on their blog. As always, your underlying Google Account won't be searchable or followable, unlike public Google+ profiles. And for people who already created Google+ profiles but don't plan to use Google+ itself, we’ll offer better options for managing and removing those public profiles. Google is getting rid of its horrible social network and all the means with which it tried to shove it down our throats. Great move, but long, long overdue.

OnePlus 2 pushes boundaries of how cheap a flagship phone can be

Tuesday 28th of July 2015 05:45:41 AM
From a specs perspective, the OnePlus 2 features a 5.5-inch, 1080p screen, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, and either 16GB of storage with 3GB of RAM or 64GB of storage with 4GB of RAM. The back-facing camera has a 13-megapixel sensor with optical image stabilization, while the front camera lets you shoot selfies at 5 megapixels. That back camera also includes a two-tone flash and a laser focusing system. While most of these specs are pretty standard fare for a high-end smartphone, the price remains anything but: the 16GB model will retail for $329, while the 64GB version will go for $389. That's more than last year's model, but after spending some time with the phone, I feel like the price increase is justified for what you get. This phone's got some standout features I really like - aside from its price - such as a hardware switch on the side to cycle between the three default notification settings in Android Lollipop (all, priority, and none), similar to the hardware switch every iPhone has had since day one. I've always wondered why Android phones never included this incredibly useful feature. The software is very close to stock, so it's got that going for it as well. There's downsides too - it's still not truly stock, so yeah, expect update problems. It'll only be sold - again - through a silly invite system, and it lacks NFC and an SD card slot. This is very close to what the Nexus 6 should have been, or what the next Nexus should be.

Plasma Phone OS, a KDE project for mobile

Saturday 25th of July 2015 05:30:52 PM
Plasma Phone OS (or simply Plasma Phone) is a complete software stack for mobile devices and includes the following libre technologies: Plasma Mobile (a Plasma-based shell), KWIN/KWayland, Voicecall, Ofono, RIL, OHM, Telepathy. It allows to run several Qt-based applications to run on top of it, for example: Plasma apps, Ubuntu Touch based apps, Sailfish OS based apps, Nemo based apps. The website is pretty minimal, but the first few comments on this Hacker News post gives a good overview.

If phones were designed to please their owners

Saturday 25th of July 2015 05:24:45 PM
BoingBoing posted a short movie by The MIT Media Lab's Knotty Objects group and noted hardware hacker Bunny Huang ask the question, "What if phones were designed to please their owners, rather than corporations?" In Southern China, where the majority of the world's mobile phones are made, there's a vibrant market for phones designed for all conceivable niches, where carrier subsidies, marketing campaigns, patents, trademarks, and other corporate-serving restrictions are ignored. If there's a possible market demand for a particular design, then someone makes a phone to meet that demand. It's a brief video, but worth a watch.

Gmail, iOS, and OS X

Saturday 25th of July 2015 04:25:21 PM
Dave Winer, like Linus Torvalds, noticed something strange was happening to his e-mail, which led him to figure out what was going on. On Wednesday I wrote about a problem I've been seeing with GMail, or so I thought. Messages that I knew I must be getting were not showing up in any of my mailboxes in GMail. But when I searched for them, they would show up. I heard from other people who had seen the same behavior. And I heard from two people from Google who work on GMail, who asked all the right questions. And gave me really detailed instructions on how to help them debug this. Creepy.

Ars' Android Auto review

Friday 24th of July 2015 10:54:05 PM
Ars Technica has a review of Android Auto. While we love the interface, we just wish there was more of it. Android Auto only covers a subset of the things you would want to do on an infotainment system. The result is an interface that - depending on what you want to do - will have you bouncing back and forth between two different interfaces. It's almost like installing Windows 8 in your car - you've got one modern, incomplete interface paired with a more comprehensive legacy interface. Android Auto can't control the AM/FM radio, CD player, or satellite radio. You also can't adjust the screen brightness, pair a device with the car, or mess with any other settings. Every time you start the car, it launches the ugly stock infotainment system, and you've got to plug your phone in and hit the Android Auto icon. Expect to switch from the beautiful-but-limited Android Auto interface to the slow, chuggy, tasteless OEM interface a lot. Can anyone with knowledge on the matter explain to me why, exactly, car manufacturers have such outdated, crappy in-car software? And why, even when we have something like Android Auto that could power everything, do they insist on only letting it do a subset, dumping you back to their own crap software for everything else? Why is the car itself running Gingerbread (yes, Gingerbread!)? Why are they so incompetent?

Firefox 31.8.0 ported to OS/2, eComStation

Friday 24th of July 2015 10:43:51 PM
Bww bitwise works has announced the fitfh beta of its Firefox port to OS/2 and eComStation. Bww bitwise works also announced that they are makking progress porting SWT/Eclipse, and that they are starting to work on porting a newer version of VirtualBox to OS/2.

'The Verge's web sucks'

Friday 24th of July 2015 10:39:25 PM
Did you know that The Verge delivers you to around 20 companies for advertising & tracking purposes? I didn't. That might foul up your web experience a little bit. Maybe we should try something different. The Verge obviously isn't alone in this. There's a reason I use an ad blocker.

Ubuntu Phone review: years in the making, still not ready

Friday 24th of July 2015 10:13:41 PM
Aside from the app void and the questionable value of Scopes, Ubuntu Phone is a bit of a nightmare to use the majority of the time. Something's often refreshing in the background, causing the phone to slow down. Apps take longer to load than they should, and even then you're probably waiting on a web app. The gesture-based navigation is unrefined; there are bugs and glitches all over the place; and in general, many core experiences are severely lacking in polish. Despite years of development, Ubuntu Phone still feels like an early beta, and I think Canonical needs to think long and hard about the implementation of Scopes and bump native apps up the agenda. There's nothing wrong with trying to be different, but there's a reason Android/iOS are so popular. Ignoring the headway they've made in refining the mobile experience is, in my mind, setting yourself up for failure. It's taking Canonical way, way too long. If the much further along Sailfish and Jolla can't really make a serious dent into anything, it's easy to imagine this won't go anywhere either.

Electronic Arts DeluxePaint early source code

Friday 24th of July 2015 10:09:03 PM
With the permission of Electronic Arts, Inc. the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use, the source code to the 1986 version I of DeluxePaint. There are 89 files of C language source, comprising almost 17,000 lines of code in about 474 KB of text. The CHM keeps on doing awesome stuff like this. Also thanks to EA for releasing this historic code.

Kepler mission discovers bigger, older cousin to Earth

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 10:01:32 PM
NASA's Kepler mission has confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the "habitable zone" around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another "Earth." All the recent successes in space - Philae/Rosetta, New Horizons, the never-ending stream of discoveries from Keppler, like this one - actually make me sad, because it makes me wonder how much more we could've achieved and discovered has we not developed this anti-science and pro-war climate we've been living in for a while now. Maybe these new achievements will reignite the hunger for space. We can hope.

Mac App Store: "half-assed"

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 09:54:01 PM
Apple needs to change its priorities for the Mac App Store or just shut the whole thing down. As it now stands, developers who are tired of being second-class citizens are making that decision for them and leaving on their own. Even as a mere user the Mac App Store is a horrible experience. It's slow, has a crappy user interface, and many developers ignore it anyway. They might as well shut it down.

Apple blocks App Store reviews from iOS 9 beta users

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 09:50:03 PM
The change should help end the annual frustration experienced by app developers when users running beta versions of iOS discovered a third party app wasn't compatible with the beta software and then left a 1-star rating on the App Store. Poor reviews on the App Store can hurt sales, and developers often can't do anything to fix the problem because they can't submit software built for the new versions of iOS whilst it remains in beta, and the bug could be one for Apple to fix, not the developer. Good move, although it ook them way too long.

"Ad-blocking is 'biggest existential threat' to journalism"

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 10:21:17 AM
Rupert Loman, owner of Gamer Network which boasts Eurogamer, Games Industry, Rock Paper Shotgun, VG247 and more within its network of sites, says that ad-blockers are a real threat to the future of journalism. "Ad blocking is probably the biggest existential threat to the future of online games journalism," he told MCV. Cry me a river.

The Amiga Was Released 30 Years Ago Today

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 06:34:26 AM
The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA is holding a two day event celebrating the Amiga, and other events will be held around the world. The museum's event will include exhibits of Amiga machines and other computers of the era from Commodore, Apple and Atari, speakers, rare artifacts and art, and a special showing of a new Amiga documentary.

Sony's 'Android concept' to preview what's to come

Thursday 23rd of July 2015 12:11:24 AM
Got an Xperia Z3 and a home address somewhere in the Kingdom of Sweden? Sony wants your help with testing its next round of software updates for Android, which the company has rounded up in an initiative it's calling "Android concept." The goal, says Sony, is to develop new software "from the ground up," meaning no additional Google Play apps like YouTube on the test build, just the core Google communications software and Sony's stack of custom apps like Camera, Music, and Xperia Lounge. Yet another random, disparate, limited, little, and utterly insignificant 'effort' to merely test bringing regular updates to Android devices. This is pointless. This is not what Android needs. At all. Android needs Google to step up and reign its OEMs in.

Apple Music is a nightmare and I'm done with it

Wednesday 22nd of July 2015 06:59:14 PM
At some point, enough is enough. That time has come for me - Apple Music is just too much of a hassle to be bothered with. Nobody I've spoken at Apple or outside the company has any idea how to fix it, so the chances of a positive outcome seem slim to none. As if all of that wasn't enough, Apple Music gave me one more kick in the head. Over the weekend, I turned off Apple Music and it took large chunks of my purchased music with it. Sadly, many of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to. Looking at my old iTunes Match library, before Apple Music, I'm missing about 4,700 songs. At this point, I just don't care anymore, I just want Apple Music off my devices. I trusted my data to Apple and they failed. I also failed by not backing up my library before installing Apple Music. I will not make either of those mistakes again. Wait, you mean entrusting your data blindly to a company without managing your own local backup is a bad idea? I am so surprised. The cloud should never be your only storage medium. It should be an additional storage medium. How on earth do supposedly tech savvy people make such a stupid mistake?

Two 1970s housewives helped create the PC industry

Wednesday 22nd of July 2015 06:42:34 PM
For its part, Vector Graphic went on to become one of the best known PC makers of the late 1970s. Like Apple, it was one of the first computer companies to go public, and like Apple, it set its products apart from the crowd with its attention to industrial design. But unlike Apple, Vector vanished from the face of the earth. It faded from our collective memory because it did not survive the massive industry upheaval brought about by the release of the IBM PC in late 1981. Very few PC makers did. But the story of how the Vector trio went from nothing to soaring success - and then collapse - is a tale worth retelling. There must be so many local computer companies in all corners of the world that have been nearly forgotten. A treasure trove of fascinating stories.

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