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Exploring the Future of Computing
Updated: 1 hour 25 min ago

Control the operating system, control the future

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:44:16 PM
My thoughts tend to go to dark places these days. And so when I watched Google on Wednesday trot out one after another of its homegrown computing devices for every task and every nook of our homes, I went straight to dystopia: R.I.P. digital competition. Nothing to add.

Lenovo's 25th anniversary ThinkPad is here

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:37:52 PM
A couple years ago, Lenovo announced its plans to build a "retro" ThinkPad that would resurrect design elements of ThinkPads past as an homage to the brand's long history. That ThinkPad is now real. Check out the ThinkPad 25, sold to commemorate 25 years of ThinkPads. I'm just going to leave this here for you lovely ThinkPad people. This isn't for me, but I'm not here to ruin your party. Do clean up after yourselves.

Bluetooth won't replace the headphone jack - walled gardens will

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:33:06 PM
Nilay Patel on the further disappearance of the headphone jack, and its replacement, Bluetooth: To improve Bluetooth, platform vendors like Apple and Google are riffing on top of it, and that means they’re building custom solutions. And building custom solutions means they’re taking the opportunity to prioritize their own products, because that is a fair and rational thing for platform vendors to do. Unfortunately, what is fair and rational for platform vendors isn’t always great for markets, competition, or consumers. And at the end of this road, we will have taken a simple, universal thing that enabled a vibrant market with tons of options for every consumer, and turned it into yet another limited market defined by ecosystem lock-in. This is exactly what's happening, and it is turning something simple and straightforward - get headphones, plug it in literally every single piece of headphones-enabled audio equipment made in the last 100 years, and have it work - into an incompatibility nightmare. And this incompatibility nightmare is growing and getting worse, moving beyond just non-standard Bluetooth; you can't use Apple Music with speakers from Google or Amazon, and Spotify doesn't work on the Apple Watch. Removing the headphone jack was a user-hostile move when Apple did it, and it's still a user-hostile move when Google does it.

A eulogy for Eudora

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:42:08 AM
Email is such a pain in the butt. We've been doing everything in our power to fight the influence it has on our lives, to minimize the spam, the marketing, the burden. That burden leads lots of folks to fruitlessly hunt for the perfect email client like I hunt for the perfect word processor. Others have followed the path of least resistance: Either Gmail or Outlook. But there was a time when we didn't feel this way, when getting email was actually exciting. The email client Eudora, named for Eudora Welty, was designed to capture this excitement - the idea that mailboxes were no longer tethered to physical space. But even as the die-hards held on, it couldn't. Tonight's Tedium ponders the demise of Eudora, and whether we lost something great. I don't have a lot of experience with Eudora personally, but I know it had quite the enthusiastic and fervent fanbase back then.

Assassin's Creed Origins will have a combat-free 'discovery tour'

Thursday 5th of October 2017 10:37:20 AM
Players will have the chance to explore Assassin's Creed Origins' virtual Egypt free of combat and story constraints in a new "Discovery Tour" gamemode, developer-publisher Ubisoft announced today. Discovery Tour turns Origins' map, as the company puts it, into a "combat-free living museum, with guided tours that let players delve into its history firsthand." Given the lengths Ubisoft went to creating a large-scale as-accurate-as-possible map of the country, hiring historians and Egyptologists as consultants, this is a chance for the developer to showcase its map and the functioning virtual world it's created, rather than it simply existing as a backdrop for action. This is a great move, as it turns what is normally 'just' a game into a tool that can be used for education and learning, or something more casual as just walking around in a beautiful environment without having to worry about being attacked or killed or whatever.

EU finds Luxembourg gave illegal tax benefits to Amazon

Wednesday 4th of October 2017 11:06:14 AM
The European Commission has concluded that Luxembourg granted undue tax benefits to Amazon of around €250 million. This is illegal under EU State aid rules because it allowed Amazon to pay substantially less tax than other businesses. Luxembourg must now recover the illegal aid. Remember when Tim Cook lied about the EU only going after Apple because Apple is big? Apple's illegal deal with Ireland is just one on a long, long list of illegal deals the EU is cracking down on. Anyway, speaking of the 13 billion euro Apple stole from EU citizens: The European Commission has decided to refer Ireland to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover from Apple illegal State aid worth up to €13 billion, as required by a Commission decision. [...] Today, more than one year after the Commission's decision, Ireland has still not recovered any of the illegal aid. Furthermore, although Ireland has made progress on the calculation of the exact amount of the illegal aid granted to Apple, it is only planning to conclude this work by March 2018 at the earliest. The crackdown on these illegal tax deals hopefully only represents the first step in cracking down on the grotesquely questionable conduct of large technology (and other sectors) companies. Backroom deals between governments and powerful corporations so they can effectively avoid paying any taxes while the rest of us do our civic duty by paying our taxes to pay for our schools, roads, hospitals, police, firefighters, and so on are a travesty. If Apple, Amazon, Google, and others want to make use of the juicy fruits of European welfare states, they better start paying their fair share.

Apple and Qualcomm's billion-dollar war over an $18 part

Wednesday 4th of October 2017 10:56:18 AM
Within a matter of weeks, Qualcomm, which had been valued at more than $100 billion in December 2016, had lost a quarter of its market capitalization, an outcome that Qualcomm executives say was Apple's intent all along. "Apple's game plan is to squeeze people until they finally say, 'OK, the pressure's too hard. I'll just take a deal,'" said Derek Aberle, then Qualcomm's president and the company's chief negotiator, in an interview in July. Apple, on the other hand, presents the dispute as a matter of fairness. "It's not that we can't pay," Sewell says. "It's that we shouldn't have to pay." The case, which could go to trial in a San Diego federal court as early as next year, could have a profound impact on the mobile phone business. A Qualcomm win would hamper Apple’s efforts to cut costs and preserve margins that have allowed it to capture most of the profits generated by smartphone makers worldwide. If Apple wins and succeeds in ending the Qualcomm tax, that could marginalize one of the most powerful American technology companies and upend the balance of power in the semiconductor industry. I have zero sympathy for either of these two companies. I literally cannot find a single fournication to give.

Is Chrome OS ready to be a tablet OS?

Monday 2nd of October 2017 09:56:39 PM
The Pixelbook has a lot in common with the previous Chromebooks that came directly from Google, with a high price tag and a spec sheet to match, but the Pixelbook will showcase the two newest enhancements to Chrome OS with stylus support and a hinge that allows for fold-over convertible use as a tablet. Neither of these things is new (convertible laptop designs have been a Windows staple for ages) but both are new for Google. Including these features in Chrome and putting them on a high-priced Chromebook aimed squarely at developers and enthusiasts means Google really wants them to become a natural part of the Chromebook experience, and ultimately part of the web experience. So we have to ask, is Chrome finally ready to be a replacement for your tablet? The answer is a mixed bag. It seems like answers are always that way. And Google needs to lead by example, then get everyone else on board. Earlier this year, I replaced my aunt's aging Windows Vista (...) laptop with a Chromebook - a nice, solid, aluminium laptop with a good screen, solid trackpad, and amazing battery life. Since I set it up for her, I got to use it for a week before sending it off to my parents, who also used it for a week, after which we sent it to my aunt. All of us - my aunt, my parents, myself - were impressed with just how effortless of a machine it was. No fuss, no fiddling, no extraneous, outdated junk from 40 years of desktop computing getting in the way of browsing, e-mailing, and working with some simple documents. Chrome OS is a great platform for a large group of non-demanding users, which is why I'm baffled by Google trying to sell us these upscale, fancy Chromebooks with insane amounts of power, and now, apparently, with stylus support and tablet mode? This feels exactly like the kind of extraneous, useless features that will only confuse and get in the way of the kind of people I personally think Chromebooks are great for. Who is this upcoming Pixelbook for?

Apple open-sourced iOS and macOS kernel for ARM

Monday 2nd of October 2017 09:40:28 PM
Apple has always shared the kernel of macOS after each major release. This kernel also runs on iOS devices as both macOS and iOS are built on the same foundation. This year, Apple also shared the most recent version of the kernel on GitHub. And you can also find ARM versions of the kernel for the first time. The code was pushed to Apple's open source site, as well as to their official GitHub mirror.

Apple: Macintosh a better platform for 3D animation than Amiga

Friday 29th of September 2017 09:31:11 PM
This is quite a find by Cabel Sasser. Apparently, Apple is still hosting an article dedicated to arguing the Macintosh is a better platform for computer-generated video content than the Amiga (part 1 and part 2). It does so by explaining how easy it supposedly was to create Pencil Test, a short 3D animated video made on the Macintosh II. Some have seen non-Apple solutions that include a single, Amiga-based package with automated, three-dimensional, frame-by-frame generation of NTSC video sequences. The package also handles the problems of hiding window boarders/title bars, genlocking, and so on. Most have seen the "Pencil Test" video and feel that the quality of this video is acceptable, but they were told from one of the other vendors that Apple invested incredible resources into creating "Pencil Test" and that the process used for "Pencil Test" was very time-consuming and inefficient. What was the exact process for the creation of "Pencil Test"? How many people worked for how long to produce the video? The publish date at the bottom of the currently published version of the two-part article is 2012, but this is clearly just the result of some automated migration process from an old database to a new one. The actual publishing date of the article is probably around from when Pencil Test was published - so somewhere between 1988 and 1990. The Amiga had carved out a decent niche for itself as a 3D animation and special effects platform in the late '80s and early '90s. Famously, the science fiction TV series Babylon 5 used Amiga Video Toasters for its special effects in its first few seasons, making it one of the first TV series to move to digital special effects over the use of models. Apple clearly wanted in on this market, and the support article is part of that effort. And the article is bizarre. In it, Apple argues the merits of the open, modular system, the Macintosh, and condemns the integrated, hardware-and-software-designed-together approach of the Amiga. There are advantages and disadvantages both to the totally integrated systems and the open modular systems. Totally integrated system's advantages include having hardware and software tied directly together and having one place to get support. Disadvantages include being locked into the one company's point of view about how to do things, working only with their tools, and, often, being locked into that company's software. An integrated solution on non-Macintosh systems is most likely pieced together from a variety of third-party products. I can't value the merits all the technical claims being made about the capabilities of the Macintosh and its software at the time compared to that of the Amiga, since that's way beyond my area of expertise. Still, this article is a deeply fascinating relic from a bygone era, and I can't believe Apple is still hosting it.

FreeBSD quarterly status report Q2 2017

Friday 29th of September 2017 08:57:14 PM
Much of the development work done this quarter was not particularly visible, especially the effort needed to ensure the upcoming 11.1 release has as few regressions as possible. Planning is also well under way for the 10.4 maintenance release which will quickly follow it. Further work focused on moving the arm architectures' support closer to tier-1 status and improving documentation. In addition, large changes were made to the src and ports trees.

Apple: a semiconductor superpower in the making

Friday 29th of September 2017 08:49:57 PM
Industry sources and analysts suggest that Apple is keen to expand its semiconductor capabilities further. They say the company is interested in building core processors for notebooks, modem chips for iPhones, and a chip that integrates touch, fingerprint and display driver functions. Apple is building ARM laptops. The interesting question is whether they'll run iOS or macOS. My money's on the former.

Ataribox has $250-300 price point, Linux core, custom AMD chip

Thursday 28th of September 2017 10:16:39 AM
Ars Technica: The spec sheet, as announced, is still pretty vague, but Atari has confirmed a few notable things, starting with a price point between $250 and $300. In exchange for costing roughly as much as a Nintendo Switch, Xbox One S, or PlayStation 4, the Ataribox will come packed with an "AMD customized processor with Radeon graphics technology." Additionally, this will not be an Android system. Instead, the Ataribox will run Linux "with a customized, easy-to-use user interface." Open, hackable Linux-based consoles don't exactly have a great track record, so colour me skeptical. Wouldn't be the first time my skepticism turns out to be spot-on. I don't think the Ataribox is the next Commodore USA, but I'm afraid its fate will be the same, regardless.

Apple switches from Bing to Google

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 10:08:01 AM
Consistency is Apple's main motivation given for switching the results from Microsoft's Bing to Google in these cases. Safari on Mac and iOS already currently use Google search as the default provider, thanks to a deal worth billions to Apple (and Google) over the last decade. This change will now mirror those results when Siri, the iOS Search bar or Spotlight is used. "Switching to Google as the web search provider for Siri, Search within iOS and Spotlight on Mac will allow these services to have a consistent web search experience with the default in Safari," reads an Apple statement sent this morning. "We have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Interesting move. The only logical move, of course - Bing is terrible - but still interesting if you look at the relationship between Apple and Google.

Arcan 0.5.3, Durden 0.3 released

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 08:50:36 AM
Once again there's been a release of the "game engine meets display server meets multimedia framework" project, Arcan, and of its reference desktop environment Durden. Among the many new engine feature this time around, we find: improved crash recovery, much improved support for Wayland clients, and initial support for OpenBSD. Among the DE features, we find window slicing and overlays, input multicasting, and LED controller profiles. Refer to the full release announcement for more details and videos.

Apple releases macOS High Sierra

Tuesday 26th of September 2017 08:46:14 AM
Apple has released macOS High Sierra. macOS High Sierra is designed to improve on the previous macOS Sierra operating system with some major under-the-hood upgrades and a handful of outward-facing changes. Apple File System (APFS), a file system designed for solid state drives, is the new default for these drives in macOS High Sierra. APFS is safe, secure, and optimized for modern storage systems. It features native encryption, safe document saves, stable snapshots, and crash protection, plus it brings performance improvements. An interesting new feature in high Sierra that was only recently unveiled: the new version of macOS checks your Mac's firmware against Apple's own database once a week to see if it's been tampered with.

China blocks WhatsApp, broadening online censorship

Monday 25th of September 2017 06:51:36 PM
China has largely blocked the WhatsApp messaging app, the latest move by Beijing to step up surveillance ahead of a big Communist Party gathering next month. The disabling in mainland China of the Facebook-owned app is a setback for the social media giant, whose chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has been pushing to re-enter the Chinese market, and has been studying the Chinese language intensively. WhatsApp was the last of Facebook products to still be available in mainland China; the company's main social media service has been blocked in China since 2009, and its Instagram image-sharing app is also unavailable. WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption, which the Chinese government (and western governments) don't like. Either WhatsApp would give China a backdoor, or China would block WhatsApp. This seems to indicate WhatsApp stuck to its encryption. Let's see what happens to the other big western messaging service with end-to-end encryption still available in China: iMessage. We can safely assume that if iMessage isn't blocked soon, Apple caved, and gave China its backdoor.

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